Thursday, June 30, 2011

Finding your Voice

by Maria Geraci

As I write this, I have no idea who will be the winner of the new NBC show The Voice. I will say, that I have thoroughly enjoyed the show and really like all four of the finalists. But hands down for me, my favorite has been Dia Frampton, the beautiful, shy, folksy indie singer-songwriter who never fails to blow me away each week.

Dia doesn't have the most powerful voice on the show. Or the biggest. But for me, it's the voice I've most connected to. And that translates into the voice I'd most likely buy an album from. And as a matter of fact, I've already bought one of her songs. If you haven't heard her rendition of Kanye West's Heartless, run to go hear it. It's absolutely fabulous.

I also love the fact that Dia wears flats on the show (sorry, Stiletto Gang!) She's not a heels kind of girl. She's not overly glamorous. She's just her and that shines through in her music. And just like musicians and any other artists, as writers, we too, have to let ourselves be who we are. We have to let our voices shine.

Voice is often defined as that unique quality that you and only you alone possess. It's your style. Your signature. It's what makes readers connect to you. It's your view of the world and how you present yourself to others. No one can teach you "voice." It's developed through frequent writing and letting one's guard down. Stripping yourself of pride and ego and all the walls we put up to hide ourselves from others. Letting your voice shine through is scary. But we owe it to our readers and to ourselves to give them the very best of us. The real us.

FYI: Today, I'll be over at Romance Divas (a free website for romance writers) doing a workshop called "Picking up your Sagging Middle." I'm dissecting the novel The Hunger Games to figure out what made it such a page turner. The workshop is being held in the forums section of the website under Workshops and Conferences- NGTCC (Not Going to Conference Conference). Best part? It's free!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Writing Schedules, Writing Setbacks

By Elizabeth S. Craig

Some days it’s tough to find time to write. But I really have to squeeze it in. I have an approach that works really well (except, well, when life happens):

The Set-Up—the Night Before:

I make a list of what I’m writing the next day. By no means can I call this list an outline because that messes with my head. :) It’s just “a list.”

I make sure that there are no social media windows up and running when I close my laptop before going to bed.

I set the coffee maker to automatically start perking at 4:45 a.m.

That next morning:

I get up and start writing. No email, no social media. Just an hour of writing. Then I feel smugly successful all day!


There’s a sick child.

There’s a sick dog or cat.

There is some horrible, unspeakable disaster awaiting me when I go downstairs.

Plan B!

For me, Plan B involves giving up on writing first thing, addressing whatever disaster has happened, then running away from home to find a suitable location for writing (i.e., a place that sells good coffee at an inexpensive rate). I will eat an egg, bacon, and grits and will consume about 4 cups of coffee…and write for an hour straight, at least. The waitresses, realizing my desperation, silently refill my coffee as I mutter to myself. I know no one there, nor am I likely to make friends, since I’m usually make-up free, haphazardly attired, and in disreputable flip flops. I tip well, knowing that I’m doomed to return and wanting my laptop and me to be welcomed back.

Unless…Plan B won’t work because there’s some place I have to be right after taking the carpools. (For you this could be work, for me it could be a dental appointment for a child or myself, the vet with the sick animal that put me on Plan B to begin with, etc.)

For that, I offer Plan C

The most important part of Plan C involves being prepared to write on the go. To implement Plan C, I’m armed with 4 x 6 notecards, pencils, and pens. At stoplights on the way to whatever thing messed up Plan B, I make notes on the tops of each notecard, detailing what scene, setting or character description, etc. will be on that card. During the day, I fill the cards with writing.

But then, some days… Even Plan C won’t work. These are truly wretched days when unexpected events leap out at you all day and wrestle the pen and paper right out of your hands.

So…you might have to get all the way to Plan Z (before Plan Zzz). Writing really late at night before turning in. This is when I call it quits after 15 minutes. If I’m not under a deadline, I might just give myself a free pass…a Get Out of Writing Free card. But I can’t do that very often because it’s ten times harder to get back into the manuscript (and meet deadlines.)

Do you have fallback plans for your writing? How often do you give yourself a Get Out of Writing Free card, or end up at Plan Z?

Elizabeth S. Craig

Elizabeth’s latest book is, Finger Lickin’ Dead, released June 7th. Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin/Berkley as Riley Adams and is featured at The Mystery Lovers Kitchen. She also writes the Southern Quilting mysteries (2012) for Penguin/NAL, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink.

Blog: Mystery Writing is Murder

Twitter: @elizabethscraig

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why I Love Facebook

Families use Facebook to keep in touch, same with teenagers, and authors use it to let people know about their books.

I've heard some say they don't understand Facebook or what the great attraction is--frankly I don't understand those people.

Here's why I love it. I have a huge family and many of them are on Facebook and I get to read what they're doing and see their latest photos. One of my friends from grammar school found me on Facebook. She read about me making an appearance at a college near her home and she met me there and we had dinner together. Never would've happened without Facebook.

Someone who friended me on Facebook made comments after a lot of my posts so I became familiar with her face. When I was giving a talk at a bookstore in her town, she came and I recognized her face immediately. It was like greeting an old friend. Recently she told everyone at another talk that she loved having me for a friend on Facebook because I shared so much of what is going on in my life it made me seem like a "real person" not just a writer. (And she loves my books.)

Other readers I've met at mystery conferences have become my friends and I love reading about what they are up to--and the same with writers I've met in the same places. Especially since Mayhem in the Midlands was cancelled at least I can keep up with the authors and fans that I loved to hang out with.

I like it when people review movies they've seen--I rely on their feelings about the movie much more than any of the paid critics. Same with books, if someone I "know" really likes a book chances are I'll like it too.

I like reading what other members of the Stiletto Gang are doing when they post on Facebook.

So, what are your feelings about Facebook? Love it or hate it? And why?

Marilyn Books by Marilyn

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lori's Book Sense

Lori's Reading Corner

Long Gone by Alafair Burke
After a layoff and months of struggling, Alice Humphrey finally lands her dream job managing a new art gallery in Manhattan’s trendy Meatpacking District.According to Drew Campbell, the well-suited corporate representative who hires her, the gallery is a passion project for its anonymous, wealthy, and eccentric owner. Drew assures Alice that the owner will be hands off, allowing her to run the gallery on her own. Her friends think it sounds too good to be true, but Alice sees a perfect opportunity to make a name for herself beyond the shadow of her famous father, an award-winning and controversial film maker. Everything is perfect until the morning Alice arrives at work to find the gallery gone—the space stripped bare as if it had never existed—and Drew Campbell’s dead body on the floor. Overnight, Alice’s dream job has vanished, and she finds herself at the center of police attention with nothing to prove her innocence. The phone number Drew gave her links back to a disposable phone.The artist whose work she displayed doesn’t seem to exist. And the dead man she claims is Drew has been identified as someone else.When police discover ties between the gallery and a missing girl, Alice knows she’s been set up. Now she has to prove it—a dangerous search for answers that will entangle her in a dark, high-tech criminal conspiracy and force her to unearth long-hidden secrets involving her own family… secrets that could cost Alice her life.

Long Gone is Alafair Burke's first stand-alone thriller that it has no trouble standing on its own two feet. It grabs you from the get go right up until its stunning conclusion. Just when you think you have it all figured out, another twist knocks you around and you need to rethink your previous conclusions. Ms. Burke has an inherent talent for bringing her readers right into the pages of the book, making you feel as if you are living the story along with Alice and everyone she comes into contact with. Long Gone is an engaging read, with a new protagonist you'll enjoy getting to know and who you will continually root for, an interesting supporting cast of characters, each with their own six-degrees-of-separation connection to the murderer,and a multifaceted plot that constantly surprises the reader. Without a doubt, Long Gone should be on every mystery reader's must-read list. An engrossing thriller that can hold its own against any other in its genre. 

Kiss Me Kill Me by Allison Brennan

KISS THE GIRLS AND MAKE THEM DIE ....Lucy Kincaid has firsthand experience dealing with deadly criminal predators, and she’s fully prepared to share her many talents with the FBI. But when her career plans are derailed, her boyfriend, security expert Sean Rogan, asks for help on his latest private investigation. Using her well-honed cyber-hunting skills, Lucy is soon on the trail of a missing teenage girl with a penchant for disappearing—and a shocking secret life. FBI Agent Suzanne Madeaux is also tracking someone: a serial killer on the loose in New York City. Dubbed by the press the Cinderella Strangler, he cruises seamy underground sex parties, where drug-fueled women make for easy pickings. As Lucy and Sean’s desperate search collides with the FBI’s hunt, Lucy isn’t about to step aside. Haunted by painful memories of her own harrowing encounters with evil, she’s determined to keep any more innocents from meeting the fate she so narrowly escaped. Delving deep into the twisted psyche of a remorseless killer, Lucy must confront her own fears—even if it means risking a future job with the FBI and future happiness with Sean.

 One of the reasons I love Allison Brennan's books so much is that she carries her characters over from book to book. While each trilogy may focus on one Kincaid or Rogan, all of the other family members are involved as well and you get to know their stories too as secondary characters. As you get to know each of these secondary characters you hope that Ms. Brennan will eventually give each of them the spotlight, give each their own book. She has done just that with this series (also see Love Me To Death). I love to see series that go on and on, book after book, and I love the way Ms. Brennan handles the Kincaid and Rogan families. The three-book arc gives us plenty of time to fall in love with each main character, to invest in their lives, without getting too sick of them. Characters that are not leads in one book are still mentioned, giving us a clue as to what they are up to now. Kiss Me, Kill Me is the perfect amount of romance mixed with the precise amount of suspense that come together to form one incredible romantic-suspense thriller. 

A Turn In The Road by Debbie Macomber 

In the middle of the year, in the middle of her life, Bethanne Hamlin takes a road trip with her daughter, Annie, and her former mother-in-law, Ruth.They're driving to Florida for Ruth's 50th high-school reunion. A longtime widow, Ruth would like to reconnect with Royce, the love of her teenage life. She's heard he's alone, too…and, well, she's curious. Maybe even hopeful. Bethanne herself needs time to reï ¬ ‚ ect, to ponder a decision she has to make. Her ex-husband, Grant—her children's father—wants to reconcile now that his second marriage has failed. Bethanne's considering it….Meanwhile, Annie's out to prove to her onetime boyfriend that she can live a brilliant life without him!So there they are, three women driving across America. They have their maps and their directions—but even the best-planned journey can take you to a turn in the road. Or lead you to an unexpected encounter—like the day Bethanne meets a man named Max who really is a hero on a Harley. That's when Bethanne's decision becomes a lot harder. Because Grant wants her back, but now there's Max….From Seattle's Blossom Street to the other end of the country, this is a trip that could change three women's lives.

 A Turn in the Road is the story of three generations of women at a crossroads in their lives. Each one must take the road that will bring them to the place they want to be, the place that will bring them the happiness they so richly deserve. Can Ruth be forgiven for her past sin? Can Annie let go of a past love and make room in her heart for a new one? Will Bethanne choose between what is safe and familiar, or what she knows in her heart is her destiny? A Turn in the Road is touted as a "Blossom Street" book due to the fact that the main character is a part of the original books. As much as I enjoyed this book, and I fully understand the meaning behind the road trip, I wish it would have (or maybe future books will) taken us back to Blossom Street - literally. I would love to know, in more depth, how all of the other Blossom Street residents are doing, instead of the little snippets we get at the beginning of the book when Bethanne stops by A Good Yarn to pick up some yarn. The writing is strong, the story flows smoothly, and the characters could very well be your own mother, sister, or daughter. This is a beautiful story of good times spent with family, forgiveness, faith, and finding the love of your life no matter what age you are.

Until next month.......

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Doing It Old School

by Maria Geraci

A few months ago while watching as I manually jotted down an important date into my calendar, a friend convinced me that I wasn't taking full advantage of my iPhone.

"What's the use of having a smart phone if you're not going to be smart about using it?" she said to me.

"Gee, I guess you're right," I said back. She then showed me the Calendar function on my phone (which I was aware of, but I confess had not really explored much).

"You just place all your appointments in the calendar and you'll never miss anything again," she said.

Maybe I should have had those words bronzed, because the fact is, my friends, as you have probably guessed by now, I've missed just about everything. And this is despite using the "alarm" function on the calendar. I'm a visual person, and by visual I mean I need to write something out and then look at it constantly for me to "get it." I need a real calendar that tucks nicely into my purse that I can pop out to look at and I need to flip pages. I like my iPhone. But I don't love it. I've had it for almost 4 years now and I think it's awesome, but it's not the be all and end all that a lot of people think it is. At least not for me.

Recently, I was hacked. All my email accounts, my Facebook account, even my website. It was my own fault really. I hadn't changed my email password in years. I stored almost all my other passwords and important information in the Saved Mail portion of my email account. Pretty dumb, huh? All this happened while I was visiting my parents and had no Internet access. By the time I was able to get into my account and change my password 4 days had passed. Four days of someone else playing with my life (in not a pretty way). I now have all my important information printed out and saved in a real time file in a real time desk.

Yes, I think the Internet is pretty awesome, but you have to respect the awesomeness and protect yourself. It's not enough to have a "smart" phone or a "smart" computer. You have to be smart too.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In Defense of Trees

or, Ah crap, just move already; I'm tired of emailing you and want to have coffee in person.
by Bethany Maines

So I’m trying to persuade my one-time college roommate, and old fiend The Hobo (not her real name), to pack up her stick and kerchief and move back to Washington State after graduate school.  The Hobo happily attends the illustriously ivy-league institute of Columbia.  That’s right, Columbia, the one in New York.  And I want her to move.  Leave.  Vamoose.  Exit that city stage right.  Yeah… I know what you’re thinking: my odds are not good. 

Manhattan has all night food delivery.  Museums on every block.  Night clubs that stay open till four in the morning.  Better zombie culture.  I’m not sure why that one’s important, but she seems to enjoy it, so who am I to argue?  Manhattan has street vendors, Broadway, fashion, and every movie that does’t blow up LA, blows up New York.  New York has EVERYTHING.

Washington has… trees.  Don’t get me wrong, we have a lot of trees.  And in a grudge match, I would bet on our trees against the trees of any other state in the Union.  (Does your state have Madrona trees?  Coniferous AND deciduous trees?  Rainforest and desert trees?  Yeah… didn’t think so.)  But let’s face it, trees and a fairly decent cultural scene are never going to stack up against New York, New York.

To put it another way, if New York were a man, he’d be Brad Pitt (occasionally the alcoholic, filthy Brad Pitt from Snatch, but still, Brad Pitt).  And if Washington were a man he’d be Jim Caviezel, the dude most well known for playing Jesus.  Just for the record, Jim Caviezel is adorable and was born in Mt. Vernon, Washington (Ok, yes, so was Glenn Beck, but there’s nothing we can do about that).  The problem is that nobody wants to date Jesus except for nuns.  Girls want date dangerous bad boys who make grand gestures.  They don’t want to have a fling with a steady guy who shows up on time and remembers your birthday.

But girls do marry those kind of guys. 

And here’s where I think I’ve got a shot.  As an established Washingtonian I’m in a position to introduce my old friend to Washington’s fun side, it’s sunny side, it’s side that already has connections in the field you want to work in and wouldn’t it be nice to get a job and settle down, not that I’m pressuring you, but you’re not getting any younger and your cat needs someplace larger to run around in than an itty-bitty studio on the Upper West Side. Not that I will be phrasing it that way.  I just want to point out, as subtly and subversively as possible, that the steady guy is worth a look.  Is that so wrong?

And also… we don’t have cockroaches.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

This is What I was Doing and Where I was Doing It

This was the pond by our campsite

One of the many gorgeous scenic views in Sedona

Sedona is one of the most gorgeous places I've ever visited. Around every turn is a surprising and mouth-dropping vista.

Besides the book events I did, we traipsed all over and even took a Pink Jeep tour into the back country.

 One of the highlights of our trip was attending a cowboy dinner and show. The food was delicious and ample--and most surprising was the talent of the performers. I couldn't help but wonder what they were doing in a small town like Cottonwood. 

Next week, I promise I'll be back to normal--whatever that is.



Monday, June 20, 2011

A Mystery Writer Watches the Casey Anthony Murder Trial

A heart shaped sticker on a piece of duct tape is a vital clue in a murder mystery. Truth is stranger than fiction.

I've been watching and/or listening to the Casey Anthony murder trial on CNN via the computer

The good thing about the computer live feed is no commercials. No talking heads. Just what is actually happening in the courtroom. Without sounding unfeeling, I couldn't help but think that the Casey Anthony trial has all the elements of a good mystery. At the same time, I can't forget that an innocent child really is dead and her killer, may or may not pay for the crime.

When Court TV first premiered back in 1991, I was fascinated. I video-taped hearings so I could watch at night when I came home from work. Memorable hearings for me included: the Rebecca Schafer murder trial, a Denver bank robbery case, and of course the O.J. Simpson murder trial. I used to get so frustrated with the commercial interruptions and the hosts talking over the proceedings. Maybe I'm the exception, but I like hearing the "boring" parts. I'm interested in the process, in the objections, in the judge's instructions. I always learn something new about evidence collection or the law in a certain jurisdiction.

For me a trial is structured much like a mystery novel. A crime occurs. It's investigated. Evidence is gathered. Witnesses interviewed. Experts consulted. Suspects eliminated. Someone is arrested. And in most cases, unless there is a plea bargain, the matter goes to a hearing. The prosecutor sets out a plot and lays out a timeline, weaving in the evidence and testimony. The defense attorney does much the same while attacking the prosecutor's theory of the crime. As a mystery writer I find the whole process as intriguing as a fiction - maybe more so.

Setting aside for a moment the real tragedy of this case, I viewed the main players in the courtroom as a cast of characters. The following are my opinions based on my viewing of the trial so far. As I write this the final witnesses for the prosecution are being called.

Casey Anthony is a young, narcissistic, unwed mother who has been proven to be a compulsive liar. She led a double life for more than two years since the birth of her daughter, Caylee.

Casey and Caylee lived with Casey's parents, Cindy and George. Cindy was a nurse. George was a retired police officer, who worked part-time as a security guard. Casey has an older brother, Lee, who was not living in the home at the time of Caylee's death. The family seems to have been enablers for Casey's irresponsible lifestyle.

Casey pretended she worked at Universal Studios as an event planner. She pretended she had a babysitter, Zanny, for Caylee. At one point in June 2008, she and Caylee left the Anthony family home. After 31 days and many lies from her daughter about where her granddaughter was, Cindy Anthony reported Caylee missing.

Casey's car had been abandoned and found with a terrible odor inside. Casey wove a tale of a kidnapping by the babysitter. The world searched for the missing child. In December Caylee's body was found a few blocks from her home, wrapped in a Winnie the Pooh blanket, and duct tape with a heart-shaped sticker on her skull.

The prosecutor's evidence:
  1. Casey lied to the police about her daughter's disappearance.
  2. Casey lied to the police about her job.
  3. Casey lied to the police about the babysitter.
  4. Casey abandoned her car. When it was towed and later retrieved by George Anthony, the car reeked of decomposition.
  5. Coffin flies were detected in the car and on paper towels that when tested had adipose materials on them.
  6. A hair was found that matched Caylee's and this hair showed root banding - a known phenomenon of hair from a decomposing body.
  7. Chloroform was found in the car's trunk liner.
  8. An examination of the family computer revealed searches for "how to make chloroform."
  9. Heart-shaped stickers were found in Casey's room. A heart-shaped sticker was found with remains.
  10. Casey worked nights as a "shot girl" in a nightclub. No one knows for sure where Caylee was when she was supposed to be with the imaginary babysitter. Speculation is that she was locked in Casey's car or car trunk - sleeping.
  11. The duct tape, baby blanket, and other items found with the body came from the Anthony house.
  12. After Casey was missing but before police were involved, Casey partied, got a tattoo, and generally did exactly what she wanted.
The defense's evidence:

We don't know yet. In the defense's opening statement, Attorney Jose Baez claimed that Caylee drowned in the family swimming pool and the body was hidden by George Anthony, Casey's father. Casey, he claimed was a victim of childhood sexual abuse and was too afraid to report the accidental death, fearing she would be blamed by the police and even more importantly, her mother. So in response, she lied about everything.

By the time you are reading this blog, the defense will be well on their way to presenting their case. As a mystery writer I can't wait to find out what tale they'll spin. As a human being, I can't wait for justice for little Caylee.

aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Sullivan Investigation Series
Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the Cake- Paperback - Kindle
Murder Off the Books- Paperback - Kindle
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, June 17, 2011

Are You Ready to Rock? I Mean, Write!

I am fiercely right-brained and numbers-challenged enough not to have balanced my checkbook in twenty years, if ever.  There’s something about math that makes my mind go blank.  How I was ever a card-carrying member of Mu Alpha Theta—the honors math club—is a freakin’ mystery, right up there with Black Holes and Donald Trump’s hair.

Not surprisingly, I’ve always gravitated toward the arts, though my attempts at expressing myself with anything other than words were less than spectacular.  As an artist-wannabe, I drew hands well but never faces, dabbled in acrylics, and produced a metal sculpture that my sister incredibly assumed was made by our very talented architect uncle.  She dug it out of a box in Mom’s basement and admired it so much that she put it on display in her apartment only to have me exclaim, “Oh, God, that’s ‘diving boy’!  I did that in seventh grade!”  I was far more excited than she.

Despite my artistic failures, I’m still a huge fan of visual arts and often attend art fairs and festivals in St. Louis. When I’m not crazed on deadlines, I love to visit the Art Museum to see the latest exhibits and pine over their permanent collection (I heart Impressionists!). 

My right brain also adores the Symphony, as there’s nothing as glorious to the ears as a Mozart piano concerto or Yo-Yo Ma on the cello.  But my biggest love is ‘80s rock.  Despite my preference for clothes that actually cover my boobs and my butt, I am a closet rock ‘n’ roll chick. 

Before I met Ed, I would have dropped everything to be Def Leppard’s roadie.  Their music feeds something inside me like nothing else does.  A few notes of “Photograph” or “Promises” pushes all the right buttons and conjures up so many moments from my past, good and bad, falling in love, breaking-up, sad times, glory days.  I will never again hear “Pour Some Sugar On Me” without thinking of a trip to Nashville with the Deadly Divas where I cracked up Letha Albright by singing aloud in an elevator filled with musicians clutching guitar cases (and staring at me, agape, presumably horrified).

My iPod is full of my favorite ‘80s tunes, and I wear it religiously on the treadmill so I can hear Van Halen belt out “Dance the Night Away” or Night Ranger harmoniously “Sing Me Away.” Whenever Kansas’s “Point of No Return” or Rush’s “Fly By Night” comes up in the shuffle, I’m in heaven, if only for three and a half minutes at a time.

The first concert I ever attended was Billy Joel and a succession of my favorites followed (no, you’re not allowed to laugh):  The Cars, Journey, Styx, Rick Springfield, Tom Petty, Night Ranger, Kansas, Prince, Clapton, Bon Jovi, Jefferson Starship, and, of course, the Leps.  I have newer stuff on my iPod, too, (I love The Script, The Fray, Gavin DeGraw, and even some Katie Perry and Lady Gaga); but I always go back to my true love.  

It might surprise you to know that I don’t listen to music as I write.  It’s too distracting, and I’m too easily distracted already.  I have a rhythm in my head when I’m putting words on the page, so I keep the music off; though if you read my books you’ll always find music in them. When I’m not writing, there’s nothing I like more than turning on iTunes and singing at the top of my lungs. Okay, yes, and I dance, too, which freaks out the cats.

So what music do you listen to?  Do you play tunes while you write?  Has any piece of music ever influenced a storyline?  Inquiring minds want to know!

P.S.  Just for fun, my Little Black Dress video, which has very cool music (reminds me of the theme from Harry Potter!).  Take a peek!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

And the Beat Goes On (aka, Our Favorite Music!)

Do you have a favorite tune that you can't get out of your head?  Or a song that reminds you of something from the past?  A beat that, the moment you hear it, makes you get up and dance?  We do!  So we figured we'd share our best "pick-me-up" music with y'all, and see what you recommend.

Maggie:  Every one of my books has a soundtrack but they all have a common thread:  they are danceable.  So, if I'm stuck, I crank up a great dance song (usually Beyonce's "Green Light"—it starts out "give it to mama," which makes the kids laugh hysterically) and let my freak flag fly until I get inspiration.

Rhonda (Southern half of Evelyn David)One of my favorite songs is, “The Water is Wide” by James Taylor. I just think it's a beautiful song and can listen to it over and over.

Marian (Northern half of Evelyn David)We're great writing partners, but unlike Rhonda, I can't listen to music when I'm working. I find it distracting—and goodness knows, I'm easily distracted and quite prone to procrastination. When I'm not writing, it's show tunes and classical music that I enjoy and often inspire some great plotting for future mysteries.

Bethany:  Picking out THE ONE most inspiring song is too difficult for my brain – it tries to sort through the entire library of beloved songs all at once and then comes up with the default answer, which is “Maybe I should have some toast.” But one song that I distinctly remember inspiring me is "Love Song" by Sara Bareilles:  It’s a clever little video and when it was brand new it got a lot of airplay on VH1. Along with the video, they frequently showed interview clips and in one Sara said that the song was actually about her record company who had demanded that she add a love song to album after it was complete. Since I was I was going through a rather difficult list of demands from my editor at the time, I really appreciated her way of giving the record company what they asked for without compromising her own vision. Interestingly, I only saw that interview clip once. Did someone at the record company have it pulled because it was unflattering to them? I’m going with yes.

Additional Bethany Playlist, should anyone be interested:

1.  Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps by Doris Day
2.  Mack the Knife by Bobby Darin
3.  Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones
4.  Paperback Writer by The Beatles
5.  The Rainbow Connection by The Muppets
6.  Mexico by Cake
7.  Rock DJ by Robbie Williams
8.  Paradise by Ana Serrano van der Laan
9.  Volcano by Damian Rice
10. Sour Times by Portishead

Susan:  I always, always turn to Def Leppard when I need a pick-me-up!  One of my favorite tunes of all-time (and I can picture the video with Joe Elliott in his fuzzy bear claw slippers at the end!) is “Armageddon It.” If you have never listened to the song before, you might say, “Whoa, sounds depressing!”  Not.  Think “Are you getting it,” which is really what the song’s about.  Yeah, and “it” can be whatever you want it to be (so far as I’m concerned!).  Just a really fun, fun song that gets me going.

Laura:  "Colour My World" has always brought tears to my eyes and made me… Okay, I just wanted to see if I could make anybody squirm.  Gosh, music. There’s a ton of it, but it’s all definitely mood oriented.  Every book ends up with its own playlist, songs I pick up along the way, some old, some new.  The Avett Brothers' "Head Full of Doubt" was my anthem going into BEAUTIFUL DISASTER’s publication. Foreigner’s classic, "Jukebox Hero/One Guitar," is the opening act for my latest effort.  That’s a no-brainer; the main character is a rock star. If a love scene needs more sizzle, I might take a walk, listening to Nickelback’s "Figured You Out."  It just depends.

Maria:  I don't write listening to music because I find it too much of a distraction, but I do pretty much everything else to the beat of a tune: brainstorming, showering, walking, housework, driving, you name it. My favorite artists are Rob Thomas, Colbie Caillat, Sara Bareilles, and Adele, to name a few. Right now I can't get enough of Adele's latest CD, 12. I think my favorite song from that track is "Turning Tables." It's so hauntingly beautiful!

Rachel:  I like "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield. The lyrics appeal to me both as a writer and as a human work in progress. They suggest that a blank page or a new day can become whatever we choose. Everything we try may not work, but either way we can enjoy the freedom and creativity of sculpting what comes next for us.

So we want to know what music gets you up and moving??? 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Redefining Infidelity (and oh yeah, stupidity, too)

I live in the greater New York metropolitan area but I don’t think I’m getting any more coverage of the Anthony Weiner fiasco than those you elsewhere.   I have been treated to a variety of salacious and ridiculous front-page headlines in my local paper, thought, poking fun at Weiner’s antics as well as his name.  I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say, sometimes I wonder if my twelve-year-old son is the headline writer for the Daily News.

The other thing I’ve been wondering about since the scandal broke is: What are we currently calling infidelity?  And why, overwhelmingly, are men at the heart of these salacious sex scandals?  Weiner has vociferously protested that his marriage to the gorgeous Huma Abedin—now pregnant with their child—will not end, and maybe that is so.  But did he really think that texting provocative pictures of himself was a minor thing?  The number of women with whom he has now been “involved,” albeit virtually, is almost reaching double digits but I think there are still some people out there who don’t think “sexting” is a breach of the marriage vows because there was no physical contact.

I heartily disagree.

A couple of rules of thumb:

-If you don’t want your spouse catching you do it, it’s wrong. 

-If you wouldn’t do it in front of your spouse, it’s wrong. 

-If you’re doing it in secret, it’s wrong. 

-If you deny that you did it, it’s wrong. 

Obviously, putting all those things together would indicate that you are either shamed by what you did or afraid of being caught.  By very definition:  wrong.

Basically, if you can’t figure out how to use Twitter, you really aren’t qualified to do many jobs, not the least of which is New York City mayor, Weiner’s aspiration.  Most kids I know are fluent in Twitter.  Most of them also know that posting pictures of yourself online, either on Twitter or your Facebook account, can lead to undesirable things happening.  Why?  Because we’ve told them.  We’ve told them to be careful and to not post anything that they wouldn’t, potentially, want the whole world to see.  So why does a politician do something so bone-headed?

I’ve been wrestling with this for the past week.  Why is it that seemingly not a month goes by that we don’t see a male politician taking to the stage to give his version of events, and his excuses for his actions?  Why is it that we rarely—or actually never—see a devoted husband standing beside his incredibly stupid and oversexed wife as she recounts what she did and how she got caught?  Sheryl Gay Stolberg tackled questions like these in her recent New York Times article, “When It Comes to Scandal, Girls Won’t Be Boys.”  A quote from Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said it best:   “The shorthand of it is that women run for office to do something, and men run for office to be somebody.”  The article went on to say that once elected, women feel more pressure to work harder, to prove themselves in a man’s world because even though we’ve made tremendous strides, let’s face it:  politics is still a boy’s club.  We’re just allowed to play sometimes.

Of course, there are women who cheat, female politicians who have been accused of adultery and other sordid actions, but they are in the minority.  And when that does happen, instead of not being surprised, we’re disappointed.  As the article points out so eloquently, we expect more from our female politicians.

Ok, so I know that this post has about three thesis statements and multiple main ideas, but that just goes to show you how hard it is for me to wrap my brain around this stupidity.  (Or just that I was having an “off” writing day.)  Men with beautiful, accomplished wives texting/sexting women they’ve never met…it boggles the mind.  Does it really just come down to the fact that these men crave sex of any kind so badly that they’ll risk everything for even a virtual encounter?  Are they still the uncool kid at the uncool table in high school, wishing a girl—any girl—would talk to them?  Or does it speak to a narcissism so great that they believe that they are invincible?  I’d love to know what you think, Stiletto friends.

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Better Late Than Never

I thought I could do this while still in Sedona but Internet access was hard to find in our campground, Sedona is a beautiful place. I heard a quote that describes it,"God made the Grand Canyon for everyone to enjoy but He made Sedona as his dwelling place."

Besides sightseeing, I gave two talks which were well-publicized and attended. The first was about promoting on the Internet, which I gave at the library.

The second was at Kris Neri's Well Red Coyote bookstore. I've known Kris for a long time and was so glad to see her. "Working with Small Publishers" was my topic. I'm always surprised by how many have published with places like Publish America when there are other independent publishers to choose from. I always give handouts and answer questions.

What does surprise me is how few bought books, not just from me but from the bookstore. Indpendent bookstores are in danger, and the only way to save them is to support them by buying books, Oh, I did sell books, but it was a small percentage of the people who attended.

Whenever I attend something like this I always buy the author's book to support them and the bookstore. Years ago, before I was published I did it to learn about the author's writing and the publisher.

Next week, photos of Sedona, I promise.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Vacation and the Writer

The good news is that you can set your own hours, wear pajamas the whole day, and not answer to anyone but yourself (and your co-author) about how much you accomplished. The bad news is that you can set your own hours – which can mean 24/7; wear pajamas the whole day – which means you can gain 40 pounds and never know it what with elastic waistbands; and you don't have to answer to anyone – which means that you can play Lexulous all day (I'm on level 8 now!) and not have anything at all to show for it.

Of course, the bottom line is always the bottom line. No work means no pay.

It's summertime and my husband is talking vacation. But does a writer ever actually go on vacation? I may turn off my computer, but not my devilishly-devious-plotting mind. When we visited the Grand Canyon last year, I saw dozen of opportunities for great, grisly murders in an incredibly scenic locale. Las Vegas? I wouldn't have to invent characters. Just people watching in the casinos and I'd have enough to populate a series. Heck, I probably was actually looking at any number of real-life killers. We got tickets to the incredible Cirque du Soleil show, Eau, and when a man dove from 50-feet up into a wading pool, I thought what would happen if his spurned lover moved the pool just three inches….the margin for error is miniscule and would the police ever suspect the clown on the right side of the stage…

When I was a kid on long car rides, I'd amuse myself making up elaborate stories. That hasn't changed. We're visiting vineyards this year and I keep expecting a body to show up in the vat of Sauvignon Blanc. Or someone to keel over after sipping a nice Merlot. Or maybe a body is found under the grapes.

Creating murder and mayhem can be an exhausting profession. I'll need some wine to keep my imagination in check. Or maybe not. If I create a mystery set in a vineyard, can I deduct this trip as a business expense?

Stiletto Faithful: What are your vacation plans?

Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Sullivan Investigation Series
Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the Cake- Paperback - Kindle
Murder Off the Books- Paperback - Kindle
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Few Good Men... Can Have a Questionable Past

By Laura Spinella
I have a thing for men. Good to know... is probably your reaction to that. Fair enough, but I was referring to male characters, the ones I cast in books. Arguably, the female character is at the heart of most romantic fiction. Her job is to drive the story and fan the flames, be someone worthy of the reader’s investment. It makes sense. The majority of novels within the genre are written by women, readers of romantic fiction are, by and large, women. So it’s a safe bet that strong women with whom the reader can identify will be at the forefront of romantic fiction.

That said, enter me. Maybe it’s because I feel the contemporary capable female protagonist is a given, especially since swooning is passé and obey falls to the category of offensive four-letter words. While it’s interesting to see a female character evolve, overcome if need be, I take it for granted that she will get there. The guy, on the other hand, him I’m not so sure about. And I do my damnedest, starting on page one, to have the reader wondering right along with me. Give me a guy who’s a challenge—a tattered past with a touch of mental anguish… precarious future with questionable motives… geez, make him an alcoholic and let me pull him out of the gutter—I’ve got his back. In my book, literally, there’s no hero like a fallen one. And I’ll take my best shot at turning him into someone deserving of your attention and/or $15.00 retail.

It took years to recognize this pattern in my writing, longer still to embrace it. In fact, I remember the moment the obvious dawned on me—kind of like getting smacked upside the head by the wayward crew from a boys’ correctional facility. Anyway, I’d attended a high-end (aka snooty) writing workshop where the instructor was a well-known author I’d never heard of and the room filled with people bearing card-carrying writing credentials. Of course, my blank resume and I were scheduled to go last. As expected, they ripped my story up one side and down the other. Afterward, in a one-on-one with the well-known author, he said, “You create very sympathetic male characters—mystifying, really.” Still stinging from my trip to the whipping post, I took this as a criticism. I asked if he had a suggestion as to how I might cure this grievous writing blunder. In reply, he looked at me queerly and shook his head. “Why would you do that? You have much to work on, but the man in your story… Well, let’s just say I fell for him—and I don’t go that way.” Viva the downtrodden man.

How about you? Are you all about female characters who win the day or do flawed men stand a chance on your bookshelf?

Laura Spinella

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Too Young for Stilettos, But...

By Lauren Baratz-Logsted

I’m just retro enough that I use a real physical dictionary when I need to look a word up and my 11th edition of Merriam-Webster defines “stiletto” as: a dagger; an embroidery tool; a shoe.

The Sisters 8, being just seven years old, are too young to go teetering around in stilettos for very long. They’re also too young to use daggers as weapons although they are fond of the spear from the suit of armor in their drawing room. As for embroidery tools, they might take up needlecrafts if only they weren’t so busy trying to solve one very big mystery.


What are The Sisters 8? They’re the eponymous octuplet heroines of a nine-book series for young readers ages 6-10. At the beginning of Book 1: Annie’s Adventures, their story begins on New Year’s Eve 2007 when Dad goes out to get firewood while Mommy goes to the kitchen to get eggnog…and neither return. The Eights, as they are known, discover a note behind a loose stone in the drawing room, stating they each need to discover their individual powers and gifts before solving the mystery of what has happened. There is one book for each Eight with a ninth to wrap up all the mysteries. Book 7: Rebecca’s Rashness was just released in early May.


How did the series come about? My family – husband Greg; daughter Jackie, who was six at the time, and I – were stranded by a blizzard for 10 days in December 2006 in Crested Butte, Colorado. So what did we do to amuse ourselves? We did exactly what you would do – we brainstormed a series of books!


Why should you care about The Sisters 8? Because like the heroines of the novels penned by The Stiletto Gang, the Eights are powerful, mysterious, adventurous, magical heroines, who – even at age seven! – kick butt. And they do it without being old enough to wear stilettos. Each of the Eights has her own personality: capable, nurturing, complaining, even-tempered, scientific, fearful, mean, greedy. Each, over the course of their nine-book journey, must learn to work with the group and stand alone, in the process becoming a little more than the person they were before. Every day, I receive emails from kids, and even their parents and grandparents and teachers, saying, “X didn’t like to read before discovering The Sisters 8.” For a writer, at least for this writer, that’s better than anything except maybe winning the Nobel. (Actually, it’s better than the Nobel too but I’d still like some of that money Sweden hands out with the awards.)

Thanks to The Stiletto Club for letting me natter on here about one of my favorite writing topics: the series I created with my family. How lucky am I?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the author of 21 published books for adults, teens and young children, including the YA Victorian suspense novel The Twin’s Daughter. All of her heroines wear metaphorical stilettos even if their age or time period prevents them from literally doing so. You can read more about the first five books in The Sisters 8 at and more about all of Lauren’s books at

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Statistical Addiction

by Bethany Maines

Hi, I’m Bethany, and I have a statistical addiction.  What?  This isn’t Statistics Anonymous?  Well, I might as well confess anyway – seeing as I’m already here and among friends.

Recently I took all of my stats on running since 2004 and collated them into one spreadsheet and then I turned them into multiple graphs.  Reading that sentence, might make you think that I’m some sort of competitive runner who’s constantly out doing races and vying for some sort of top women’s ranking in the state.  Let’s just be clear about this… No.  I’m a slow to middling runner who did cross-country in high school.  But I keep track of run distances, times, and routes.  If you wanted to know I could tell you where I was running on this day in 2007.  You probably don’t want to know though.

What I really am is stat obsessed.  I’m also running a Facebook ad for my latest novel, Compact With the Devil.  Who wants to guess how many times a day I check the click through rates on that puppy?  Yeah… a lot.

For those who’ve never attempted to advertise on Facebook, the process is fairly simple. Ads are the little squares that appear on the right hand side of your FB page suggesting that you like them or whatever.  You can target an ad to geographic areas, genders and age-range, and then select the types of things they’d be interested in.  Action-adventure movies and literature/reading were a couple of my topics.  Then the ad goes out and FB puts up statistics on how many people you’ve “reached” (individual viewers of the ad), how many times they’ve seen the ad, and how many people have clicked on your ad.  That’s what I’m interested in – the click through rate.  But I have to admit it’s not just because I’m hoping that a click equals a sale; it’s also because I’m stat-obsessed.

What if I kept track of my tooth brushing patterns for a year?  What fascinating statistics would appear on duration of brushing time, brushing location and toothpaste preference?  Probably the answer is absolutely none.  But I’ll tell you what I have learned from all my stats… just how in control they make me feel.  By carving up the world into little tiny numbers, I feel ever so much more in command.  I feel like I winner every time I run more miles than I did last month because I have totally triumphed over Past Bethany.  In the race against myself I am totally winning (as long as I’m not racing 2007 Bethany – she ran a lot, but 2009 Bethany I’m totally stomping.)  The feeling is a complete illusion of course, but I feel like if I gather up all the little numbers I will some day be able to ultimately control everything!!!  Whu ha ha ha!! <- evil laugh.

Now… somebody talk me down and tell me to stop hitting refresh on the FB stat page.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Time Management--What's That?

Anyone else have trouble managing their time and getting everything done that they wanted to do?

I used to be much better at it than I am now and that's when I ran, owned and lived in a home for 6 developmentally disabled women. Besides cooking, planning activities, doing laundry, taking people to the doctor, and tons of paperwork, I also wrote five days a week for at least 4 hours. I would edit what I wrote after I went to bed. Weekends were devoted to the women. (They went off to workshops during the week and were gone from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

I still get up early and get to work before I eat breakfast, but I can't seem to get nearly as much done as I used to. Part of the reason I think is because of blogging and other promotion on the Internet that wasn't available back then. Of course I was using the computer and the Net because it helped with what I did for my residents. I went to bed early back then (sometimes before the gals did) and I still go to bed early.

I know I spend far too much time on Facebook, but I don't want to just be promoting on it, I want people to know me as a real person. Besides, all my relatives and friends are on there too and I love keeping up with what everyone is doing.

My daughter-in-law helps with most of the housework, though I still do the laundry (only have to do it a couple of times a week these days--not 4 or 5 loads a day like I once did), and I still do a lot of cooking and have many people sitting around the dinner table. (I have no clue how to cook for only two.)

Somehow, though I should have more time, it seems the hours are no longer 60 minutes but they've managed to shrink somehow.

I still write lists as I've always done, but I don't seem to be able to get through everything I've listed before the end of the day.

Anyone have any great tips? (Oh, back in the day, I watched two soap operas in the day time, now I watch General Hospital once in awhile.) My mind is mush by evening, so I don't usually do any work then.

What I really need is the discipline to write first and then check my email and Facebook.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Whose Responsibility is this Mess?

Let me begin this with the assertion that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a pompous, two-faced, lying, sleazy idiot. Not a big surprise to anyone. In fact, most people probably thought that even before the latest love-child scandal erupted. Rumors about his misogynist behavior have circled the guy since he landed on these shores, and most certainly were big news when he began his political career eight years ago.

But what has struck me about this whole discussion about Arnold's atrocious behavior, and poor, long-suffering Maria, is the dearth of conversation about "Patty," his mistress and mother of his extra-marital child. It's as if she has no responsibility for this mess. From all news reports, she's not a victim of a sexual assault, but a willing participant in a decade-plus sexual relationship. She was as complicit as he was, lying just as easily to everyone, including her own son, as he did to his family.

So while I give no pass to the Governator, when we ignore the role that mistresses play in affairs, then we infantilize women, assume that they are unable to make their own decisions about right and wrong.

About ten years ago, Katie Roiphe wrote an article for the New York Times about the double standard of adultery. "It's as if the historical oppression of women justifies all sorts of bad behavior and self-indulgence and a whole new double standard." We are appalled at the transgressions of Tiger Woods, Jesse James, John Edwards, Newt Gingrich, but ignore the women who willingly jumped into bed with these Lotharios – and eagerly sold their stories to the press. No sooner do these affairs get revealed, that many of these women "lawyer up." As soon as I see Gloria Allred is a part of the news cycle, I know that some charge of sexism is close behind and a demand for an apology (e.g., a cash settlement) is next.

Surely the most important victims in this sordid tragedy are the children, most especially a thirteen year old boy who, if he didn't know who his real father was, now discovers a man who was willing to publicly ignore him (regardless of monetary support ) – or if he did know, was asked from infancy to join in a great conspiracy of silence. UGH.

The news cycle on this unholy mess isn't over. There's still divorce settlements and movies-of-the-week to be made. There's plenty of blame to go around – but in our fight to ensure that our daughters are treated fairly and equally – then we need to also teach them to take responsibility for their decisions and actions. Bad behavior isn't limited to any one gender.

Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David

Friday, June 3, 2011

Trust the Gut

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about instinct.  The kind of gut feeling that helps us with self-preservation.  The older I get, the more I’ve learned to trust my gut, even if someone else is telling me I’m wrong.  Because that little voice inside my head has proved right too many times to doubt it. 

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer back in late 2006, a mammogram had shown that a cyst my doctor felt was nothing.  I got a letter stating that I was fine.  “See you next year,” it said. If I hadn’t listened to my gut—and my body—in the weeks after and insisted on an ultrasound three months later, I hate to think where I’d be now. 

More recently, I went to my dermatologist for a pink spot on my upper chest.  I didn’t think much about it until it got dry-looking and bled a bit when I nicked it with my fingernail.  That spot ended up being early stage skin cancer.  There was a second pink spot, even tinier, but I had a bad feeling about it.  I asked my dermo to check that one out, too, before I went to the surgeon to have a procedure called Mohs to clear out all the cancerous cells.  She smiled and remarked that the second spot looked benign then she sent it off for biopsy.  I found out the morning of my outpatient surgery for Spot #1 that Spot #2 was also early stage skin cancer. 

"I'm glad I'm so paranoid," I told people.  But, truly, I'm glad I'm so unafraid of looking stupid that I dare to speak up when my gut tells me something.

Not only did these experiences teach me to be pro-active when it comes to my health (as with so many things in life), but they reminded me to pay attention to my instincts.  Trusting those gut feelings can sometimes mean the difference between life or death.  I know it sounds dramatic, but it’s true. And I think so many of us have been trained to depend on others to tell us what’s what—doctors, lawyers, financial advisers, whomever—that we stop listening to ourselves. Or maybe we never start.

That’s bad news if you’re a writer, particularly one who writes from her gut, as I do. It’s pretty impossible to know for sure when I’m writing a first draft if what I’m putting down on paper is good or bad, if my agents and editors will love it or loathe it. “Does this sound right?” I wonder.  “Does it move too slowly?  Is this character interesting?  Likable?”

Unless we constantly have someone else looking over our shoulder, telling us what to do (which would be paralyzing, I think!), we need to trust our instincts to know if what we’re writing is worthy or not.  When I read a book that’s well-done, I feel it inside.  Something “clicks” within me, and soon I’m absorbed in the story, along for the ride.  When I find a book lacking, I end up dissecting it rather than enjoying it (or I just stop reading it altogether). 

I find it’s like that when I’m working on a first draft.  If I don’t feel a “click” when I write a scene or chapter—or if I feel stuck—I know my gut is saying, “You might want to rethink this, Bubba.”

All writers work so differently.  Some outline. Some fly by the seat of their pants.  Some do a bit of both.  But in order to become better and stronger at what we do, we have to trust ourselves—trust our gut—and listen to that little voice that guides us. 

I'm trying very hard to stop second-guessing myself.  I’m not always right, that’s for sure.  But when that little voice inside my head speaks up, you can bet that I listen.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Guest Blog - Amy Bourret, Author of MOTHERS & OTHER LIARS

            “No mother would ever do that. Period.”
            “I wouldn’t make those choices, but I can understand why   
Ruby made  them.”
            “The author obviously has no maternal instincts.”
            “How dare you write about mothers when you aren’t one?”
            “I wonder how you would have written the story differently if you were a mother yourself.”

This is just a handful of the feedback I have received on my debut novel, Mothers and Other Liars, which was released last fall by St. Martin’s Press. One of the biggest (and most rewarding ) surprises I have found on this side of the publishing journey is that an author actually does get feedback. I have had readers write to me with very specific ideas on what they want to read in the sequel. I have had readers write to me just to tell me that they loved my book, or that they became “friends” with my characters and want to keep them around. And I have had them tell me that they hated, hated the book. One thing is clear: people feel very strongly about the choices my protagonist, Ruby, makes.

And you know what? I’m elated to hear it all, even the excoriations. I feel that it is a true privilege to be invited into peoples’ homes for the several hours that they read my book, and it is an absolute honor when my words, my story, my characters, stick with readers after they have finished the book. How many books have each of us read that we forget completely the moment we finish it. I’ve been known to check out the same book from the library several times, not realizing I had read it before until I hit around page 37 or so. You have to remember the story to have an opinion about it; it really has to stick with you (whether in your craw or in your heart) to stoke your passions.

So I’ll take them all, and I’ll even admit to feeling giddy at the idea that people are passionate about Ruby and Lark. I’m not a mother myself (the nerve!), but I think the author/character relationship is not so different from parent/child. I mean, you love your kids and think they are great and your friends might tell you they are adorable, while behind your back they are saying, “What. A. Spoiled. Brat!” So yes, I’ve felt especially giddy, call it proud parent syndrome or my own little Sally Field moment, to hear that you like them, you really like my characters.

Some of the most fun I’ve had has been meeting with book clubs. I love book clubs. I am a member of three myself (although one has pretty much devolved into a wine and whine club; the books are rarely mentioned let alone discussed, that is when we bother to choose a book at all), and the opportunity of visiting others may be reason enough to write a book. Ruby and Lark’s story makes for great debate (especially when wine is involved!) and I have enjoyed hearing the discussion first hand. I’ve been amazed at some of the insights of readers, connections and subtext that I hadn’t even recognized myself. The book club members get all excited that a “real live author” is coming to their meeting; I feel humbled just to be invited to their table. And the visits never seem repetitive: each book club has its own tenor and timbre that steers the conversation in a unique way.

So call me an idiot to my face, challenge my right to even write about a topic. Love the short chapters because you can stop at any time; hate the short chapters because you stayed up all night telling yourself “just one more.”  Like my vivid imagery; hate the “flowery” writing. Bring it on, baby. And then I’ll say a sincere thank you, for reading, and for caring, about my book.

Amy Bourret is a graduate of Yale Law School and Texas Tech University and a former partner in a national law firm. Her pro bono work with child advocacy organizations sparked the passion that fuels Mothers and Other Liars, her debut novel. She lived for several years in Santa Fe and now splits her time between Aspen, Colorado and Dallas, Texas. Learn more at

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Skin Cancer Awareness

Hi, friends: I went the entire month of May--Skin Cancer Awareness month--without reminding all of you to bust out the UV protectant clothing and sunscreen. It's not too late, though! We just had a weekend here in NY that was close to 90 degrees every day and very sunny, so I expect that we'll just bypass spring and head straight to summer. Please, please, please remember to wear a hat, sunglasses, and slather yourself with sunscreen. If you don't like sunscreen, buy yourself a lightweight UV protectant jacket (I got a nifty one at Coolibar). And if you need more of a reminder, please watch the amazing video below which includes my peeps--melanoma survivors--who tell their 16-year-old selves what to do. Happy viewing.