Friday, September 30, 2011


by Rachel Brady

I can't remember where I read the idea of a Not-To-Do List, but it amused me enough to give it a try.

The idea wasn't to make a list of things you aren't going to do. Rather, the challenge was to stop living by our To-Do lists, which often unnecessarily perpetuate the busy-ness cycle that for many of us never seems to end.

The gist, as I recall, was that necessary things will get done whether we list them or not. We will remember to go to the grocery store. We will have clean underwear. We will pay our bills. We will clean the bathroom. We will pick up that birthday gift . . .

These things are probably going to happen on time whether we write them down or not. How likely are we to let necessities and responsibilities lapse? "Senior moment" and forgetfulness jokes aside, my guess is that for most of us, it's really not going to happen.

I think that habitual list people (like me) are actually using our lists to organize thoughts and feel productive. But, much as I like those things, my opinions on clutter are well documented, and lately I'm not so sure that the itemized tasks I've been putting on lists all these years are anything more than visual clutter -- reminders of things I "should" be doing. Nevermind that they will all be finished one way or the other, listed or not, because I'm not going to starve, wear dirty clothes, forget my mortgage payment, overlook that my bathroom is dirty, or fail to acknowledge someone's special day.

Like parsing through a closet during spring cleaning, I'm taking a long look at what I'm willing to put on a To-Do list now. Doing away with them entirely wouldn't work for me. But I've stopped putting low-to-moderate importance tasks on them because of reasons already mentioned. Why make the busy-ness appear any worse than it already is?

My lists are much shorter, my stress level diminished.

I read another thing a while ago that I loved, loved, loved: If it takes less than a minute, do it now.

Since reading that I've discovered (to my embarrassment) that many things I was listing -- either on paper or in my mind -- don't deserve to be on any list because they can be done in less than a minute. I kid you not: clean a toilet, organize my kids' shoes, refill a bird feeder, wipe counters, pay a bill, sort mail . . . I could go on but I don't really like lists anymore. :)

The inspiration for this blog came recently when I was feeling overwhelmed and decided to "organize some thoughts." My To-Do list was three items long, and judging from the noise in my mind, severely deficient at capturing all that was bugging me. I stared at the short, non-menacing list for a while, confused. Then I took a deep breath, felt grateful that I only had three important things to do, and was kind of happy for that perspective.

I'm smiling as I close this, wondering what your thoughts are on To-Do lists. Is their value real or artificial?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Moonlight and Magnolias

Tomorrow I'm headed to Atlanta to attend the Georgia Romance Writers of America Moonlight and Magnolias Conference. I'll be signing copies of my latest novel, The Boyfriend of the Month Club at the Literacy signing on Saturday from 4-5:30 pm, so if you live in the Atlanta area, please stop by! There's a whole slew of us who will be signing books, and profits go to Georgia literacy, so you'll be helping out a great cause.

Things I am most looking forward to:
Having breakfast with my editor and agent.
Workshops by fabulous authors, like Wendy Wax, Haywood Smith, Eloisa James, and Karen White, to name a few
Reconnecting with people I only see once a year or so
Quiet time in my own hotel room (where maybe I can actually finish the edits on my current manuscript--hey, a girl can dream, right?)

Things I am not looking forward to:
Driving in the Atlanta traffic
Washing clothes and trying to figure out what to pack
Kicking myself in the buttkiss because I wanted to lose 10 lbs before tomorrow and have failed miserably. Ah well. I must console myself with the fact that if I looked too fabulous, then no one would recognize me.

What about you? What do you enjoy/dislike most about writing conferences?

Maria Geraci writes contemporary romance and women's fiction. You can connect with her on website here.
The Boyfriend of the Month Club is immensely sexy, immensely satisfying and humorous.”
Portland Book Review

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How Much is Too Much?

By Bethany Maines

My brother is what my family kindly (sarcastically?) refers to as a “verbal processor.” There’s a thought in your head? Then of course it must exit the mouth. Not that I don’t occasionally suffer from that genetic disorder, but mine seem to be of the one off variety. My brother’s are more of a constant stream. One of my finest moments was when, at a movie, I strategically positioned my friend Jennae between him (Why is he doing that, do you think?)and another friend who liked to narrate (And now he swings his coat on symbolizing the battle between good and evil.) I sat on the end of the aisle and enjoyed the spectacle, the movie, and my popcorn in a comment free zone. Ah, bliss!

Interestingly, his talkativeness generally comes as a surprise to 90% of people who meet him, since the perception of him is as strong and silent type. Possibly he saves up all his words for those of us who are close to him, or maybe he just doesn’t like 90% people he meets. But either way… he’s a difficult character to write in third person. At this point my lawyer recommends that I state that all my characters are fictional and are not based on real people. Yup, that’s definitely the case. Nothing to see here. Move along. You, yes, you – no lollygagging.

But regardless, the point remains that certain character types are easier in certain formats. I’m working on a manuscript currently and one of my readers pointed out that the love interest was behaving inconsistently. Her major bone of contention was the same as the heroine's – does he like her or not? And the answer is… Yes, but he just finalized his divorce and he’s kind of bitter about women right now. In other words, he’s conflicted and behaving inconsistently. And he’s not the kind of guy who’ll give you a tidy paragraph of exposition on the subject. If it were first person and he was the main character, then it would all be explained. But it isn’t. Having set myself to write third person, I can’t just change my mind half-way through.

Which brings us back to what I’m beginning to think is the central problem in writing… Just how much do I have to write? That’s a bit of a flippant way to put it, but there’s a definite quality difference between a book that states “he just finalized his divorce and he’s bitter about women” and a book with character details sprinkled here and there that let the reader come to that conclusion on her own. We’re all told to “show don’t tell,” but no one tells you where, how, and how many clues to leave for a reader. I’m not sure anyone can tell you exactly how to do that. Which means that all of us writers are hacking into our own literary jungles of discovery – finding our own paths among the words. Some days that’s fun, and some days I just want a map.

Happily for me, today is not one of those days. Tomorrow… well, that’s always another story, isn’t it? And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go revisit a certain conversation and have a character mention that the love interest just got divorced.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Skating through the fear

by: Joelle Charbonneau




Abject fear.

Over the moon delight.

Yep – stir those up in a bowl, add some sugar and bake at 350 degrees. When the timer dings you’ll get exactly what I’m feeling at this very moment. Today is release day for SKATING OVER THE LINE, the second of the Rebecca Robbins mystery novels from St. Martin’s Minotaur. Which means I should be doing….nothing.

Well, not nothing. I mean, I’ll be around on facebook and twitter and doing some book signings. (If you live in northern Illinois, you can come watch me skate counterclockwise at the book’s release party tomorrow night!) But after all the nail biting and waiting there is nothing I can really do but wait, and hope and wonder if anyone is reading the book. More important, I will be wondering if anyone liked the book. Will Pop make them laugh? Will Rebecca’s antics keep them turning pages?

I hope so.

So much of a writer’s life is spent in a state of hope. I hope an agent will like the book. I hope an editor will want to buy it. I hope readers will enjoy the story. There is fear, too. Fear of being rejected. Fear of a bad review. Fear of no one picking up the book you spent so much time and care on.

So I sit here today with equally combinations of fear and hope buzzing through my veins and I will pretend there is no fear. I will focus on the hope that someone will see the cover and pick the book up off the shelf. That they will read the jacket story teaser, smile and walk up to the counter. And that when they are done reading, they will still be smiling.

And in case you are curious, here is the jacket blurb about SKATING OVER THE LINE.  I hope you like it.

Rebecca is desperate to sell her inherited roller skating rink in small-town Indian Falls, and--finally--she has a buyer. She can't wait to head back to Chicago, especially now that her long delinquent father has blown back into town. But Lionel, her large-animal vet boyfriend, thinks she should stay put. And the gang at the Senior Center wants her to track down the thief who's been hot-wiring rusted-out classic cars. Unable to resist, Rebecca soon has the Sheriff's Deputy threatening to arrest her for obstruction and strange, scary men threatening her life. Then cars start exploding, with people in them, and Rebecca's father goes missing. With the help of her Elvis-impersonating grandfather, Rebecca must find the pyromaniac car thief and put a stop to him--before he stops her first.

Monday, September 26, 2011

I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries - Excerpt

I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries, Vol. 1 of the Brianna Sullivan Mystery series by Evelyn David, contains two novella length stories - the title story, I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries and Buried But Not Dead in Lottawatah. The following is an excerpt from the first story.

I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries
Just say "no," especially to ghosts.

Sometimes the voice in my head is mine, sometimes it's not. Today it's not.

There he goes again.

"Trust everybody, but cut the cards. Trust is a two-lane street and you're on a one-way path. Love all, trust a few."

"Shakespeare?" I took my eyes off the road long enough to glance around the cab of my motor home. So far my guest was just a voice. "Shakespeare. Who was the first one from? Kenny Rogers? And I think you just made up the second one."

Silence reigned.

"So that's all I get? Some quotes about trust?" That's my lesson for today from beyond? The old geezer doesn't have to tell me about trust. I try not to trust anyone who is still inhaling oxygen on a regular basis. Of course, ghosts aren't saints either. They generally don't lie outright; just stretch the truth to suit their purposes.

Who was my messenger today? And who didn't he want me to trust?


It was late and I was tired. The lights from a diner flickered in the distance. "Good EATS…World Famous Apple P…rust Me."

It took me a second to realize that some important lights in the sign had burned out. It took me another second to wonder if I was getting another message. Regardless, I needed a break.

I slowed down and pulled into the parking lot. Plenty of potholes and ruts and an old flagpole flying a tattered flag. It was Fourth of July weekend and I was happy to find anyplace open. Judging from the empty lot, it didn't look like many people shared the owner's belief in the tasty delights he was offering.

That was okay. Gave me more room to park Matilda, my 30-foot mobile home. I know. No need to name your mode of transportation, but I like to personalize things. I call my television, Burt; my cell phone, Juliet. Yeah, quirky is my middle name.

After I got sick a few years ago, I quit my job with the airlines. Let me tell you, those last few months, no one, and I mean no one, was better at finding lost luggage. My supervisor actually cried when I left. Cried. Big rolling tears and everything. Didn't matter though. I'd made up my mind to travel and use my new skills to benefit more than the roaming public. A permanent vacation. But one that involved keeping both feet on the ground, or rather pavement.

I packed my bags, sold my house, cashed in some stock I'd inherited, and bought this home on wheels. Am I rambling again? Probably just hunger.
The diner hadn't had any glory days, even in its glory days. The linoleum was butt ugly when it was first installed, maybe 30 years earlier. Flecks of brown on a tan background. Maybe the idea was to hide the dirt…it wasn't working. I slid onto the cracked red vinyl stool at the Formica counter and looked expectantly at the guy with a stained t-shirt, standing behind the counter.

I ordered a cheeseburger, fries, and a piece of their world famous pie, then surreptitiously rubbed the grease from the menu on my jeans. I briefly wondered if they sold wine, but decided that a healthy glass of Maalox would be the perfect beverage to accompany my dinner.

Scooting across a couple of stools, I grabbed some copies of the local newspaper, which were stacked next to a Lions Club recycling box for used eyeglasses. It had been a long time since I'd seen one of those. There was a Kiwanis banner hanging on the wall. I'd also noticed a March of Dimes jar near the cash register when I'd entered. Small towns were notoriously big on civic groups and charities and writing about who was doing the most good works.

I loved reading these weekly journals. Fresh, honest journalism about the things that really matter to people. Reading the local papers was the quickest way I'd found to get to know the people in the communities I was traveling through, up close and personal. I mean if I just wanted to see things from a distance I would be flying my way across country, if I didn't hate to fly, which I do. If God had wanted me to fly with the birds he would have pasted a few feathers on my ass.

Traveling in Matilda lets me stop where I want whenever anything of interest strikes my fancy. And Lottawatah, population 1,452 according to the sign I passed a half mile back, was a hotbed of…drive-by mailbox graffiti, if the lead editorial in last week's newspaper was any indication. In a strongly-worded statement, the editors decried the lack of respect being shown the postal service by defacing the mailboxes. Damn straight. There was also a full listing of the holiday activities planned for Sunday, which was actually Independence Day.

I glanced at the headlines just as the counter guy flung my dinner down in front of me. The cheeseburger actually bounced a little, not a bad way to drain off some of the grease. I patted the rest off with my napkin.
"Blood, Body, But No Booty Found." I liked this editor. He had a righteous sense of indignation about mailboxes and a good sense of the dramatic about what I gather was the town's first bank robbery. I dipped my fries into the mountain of ketchup I'd squirted on my plate. Ketchup can fix just about any dish.

The crack police department of Lottawatah had already solved the murder case, although it appeared that the bank's $200,000 was still missing. They'd arrested Dwight McIntyre, 24, son of the President of the Lottawatah Farmers Savings and Trust, Frank, and grandson of the bank's founder, the late Victor McIntyre. A photo spread of the three men at a charity golf outing was splashed across the bottom half of the front page.

Savings and Trust. Damn. The photo told me more than I wanted to know. I threw some money down on the counter and headed for Matilda. It was time to get the hell out of Dodge, or rather, Lottawatah. I didn't know Dwight or his dad, but I sure knew Victor. He of fortune cookie wisdom. I needed to get out of that town before my heartburn kicked into high gear or Victor had any more advice.


I backed Matilda out of the parking lot and headed down the highway. I fiddled with the radio until I found a classic rock station. A little sweet baby James Taylor always soothed my nerves.

"Golf is a game where the ball always lies poorly and the player always lies well."

"Get out." I knew it was stupid to tell a ghost to get out because they're pretty much out already. But I was tired of listening to Victor and his cryptic comments. And I hated golf.

"The uglier a man's legs are, the better he plays golf–it's almost a law."
"Okay, that can't have anything to do with your grandson and the murder, right? Now you're just trying to annoy me."

"He didn't do it." The voice of doom echoed off the insides of Matilda.
He was trying to intimidate me with the Charlton Heston act. He'd have done better with a telemarketer spiel. I have the hardest time hanging up on them. Just doesn't seem polite.

"Are you listening to me? HE DIDN'T DO IT!"

"Dial it down a notch, will ya? Why should I believe you?"

"Why not?"

Good question, because I did believe him. I wondered if I would have believed him if he sounded like Daffy Duck. Yeah, it was the voice that closed the deal. Like Moses coming down from the mountain.

"Okay, but I'm going to need a little information." I figured it was time for Victor to be practical. If he wanted to help his grandson, he was going to have to give me something to work with.

"Tell the police not to trust the big cat."

"Cat? Sure, that'll go over well. Nothing like a psychic talking to the police about cats."

"Tell them."

I could barely hear him.

A cold wind came rushing through the cab of the motor home.

"Wait! Victor! Damn. What do you expect me to do with that?"


"Okay! Just be that way. See if I care. It's your grandson."

I was at the edge of Lottawatah. A peeling sign bade me farewell. I could just keep moving down the highway and nobody would know any different. If Dwight McIntyre was innocent the police would figure it out–without any help from me. The traffic light turned red, then green, but still I didn't move. Nobody would believe me. I'd get laughed out of the police station.
I let out the clutch and started forward, then braked. The photo from the front page of the newspaper was stuck to Matilida's dash, with …. I looked closer. Some kind of…Blackberries. It was blackberries from my untouched pie–or at least untouched by me.

Lucky nobody else was on the road. Otherwise those 180-degree maneuvers get tricky. I headed back into town. I'd pass on the info about the big cat, then leave. I'd give Victor that much. He'd saved me from at least 300 calories.


I rubbed my forehead. It was late and I was tired. The chair seat was like a rock and my thirty-five-year old tailbone was protesting the abuse. I glanced at my watch. Almost two hours since I'd walked into the police station. Most of that time I'd been sitting on this torture device. It was my own fault though–I've never been able to say no to a ghost.

Okay, that's a lie. I have said no to several whose idea of a good time was scaring the you-know-what out of some of their relatives–a high-spirited sort of revenge from beyond the grave thing. I'm smiling. Yes, I know you can't see me.

By the way, I'm five ten, long blonde hair, and I have a model's figure.
Okay. Some of that's not true.

Don't laugh.

Maybe most of that's not true. But that's how I see myself and that's the important part. It's all in your attitude. And hey, I do have blonde streaks in my hair. I put them there myself.

Like I said, or maybe like I intended to say since I'm aware that I have a tendency to ramble, I've never said no to someone who needed my help, not if they stuck around long enough to hear my answer.

Are you still there? Of course you are. I've also been told I'm fascinating. Maybe not as often as I've been called irritating, but I prefer to dwell on the positive. I have certain abilities that are in great demand by people in transit–the ones who got off the outbound bus because they have unfinished business and those stubborn ones who never intend to purchase a ticket.

By the way, I'm Brianna Sullivan and I'm a psychic. And this chair is a pain in the butt.

For More - check out the Brianna Sullivan Mysteries e-book series. 
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
***New - Lottawatah Twister - 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, September 23, 2011

Teen Idols as Television Stars

by Sally Carpenter

The modern era of teen idols exploded when a young Rickie Nelson sang “I’m Walkin’” on his parents’ TV show and the young girls across the nation watching the program that night fell in love with him.

Record executives realized they could quickly and easily promote their singers by starring them on a weekly TV show, a more efficient process than the occasional five-minute guest spot on a variety show.

Every teen idol of the 1960s and 1970s had his own TV show. The idol was generally paid little for his acting job, but he later reaped financial rewards through the record and concert ticket sales generated through the TV exposure.

The teen idol’s boom years coincided with his TV program. After the show was cancelled, the star’s album sales fell drastically and his career was over.

See if you can match the teen idol below with his TV show. Hint: one of these is a trick question.

1. David Cassidy
2. Bobby Sherman
3. Ricky Nelson
4. Davy Jones
5. Sandy Fairfax
6. David Soul
7. Shaun Cassidy
8. Donny Osmond
9. Leif Garrett
10. The Bay City Rollers
11. Michael Jackson

A. The Monkees
B. Kroft Superstar Hour
C. The Andy Williams Show
D. Starsky And Hutch
E. Buddy Brave, Boy Sleuth
F. The Jacksons
G. The Partridge Family
H. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
I. Getting Together
J. The Hardy Boys Mysteries
K. Three For The Road

If you don’t remember watching “Buddy Brave, Boy Sleuth” in your youth, don’t panic. I created “Buddy” and its star, Sandy Fairfax, for my debut mystery, “The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper.”

“Buddy” is an affectionate send-up of the “personality cop” shows of the 1970s. That decade was filled with cops and detectives with loaded with gimmicks: “McCloud,” “Columbo,” “Kojack,” “Baretta,” “Cannon,” “Rockford Files,” and many others. Most of these shows were short on plot and logic, but heavy on style and charm.

American television from 1975 through 1980 is called “the fantasy era” due to the highly imaginative and entertaining but unrealistic programs of that time. “Buddy Brave” would certainly fit that mode.

Buddy Brave was a teenage undercover agent who worked for a secret government agency and had his own underground laboratory in the back yard. Not even his guardian knows of his ward’s detective work. On each episode Buddy managed to juggle his schoolwork and chaste girlfriends (he never got further than a closed-mouth kiss) with saving the world from dastardly crooks.

Each week the campy plots had Buddy and the pretty young female guest star trapped or tied up and facing certain death. When the girl wondered who would rescue them, Buddy always replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll think of something!” And sure enough, after the commercial break, Buddy found a clever way to escape.

Many TV shows of the ‘70s era had a pattern to the episode titles. “The Man from UNCLE” called each episode, “The So-and-So Affair.” “Wild, Wild West” used “The Night of the Such-and-Such.”

Likewise, each episode of “Buddy Brave” uses alliteration and ends in the word “caper.” Some of the episodes mentioned in the book are “The Different Drummer Caper,” “The Sultan’s Silver Caper” and “The Gruesome Gang Caper.” I’m using this same pattern for the book titles in the series as well.

“Buddy Brave” ran from 1975-79, a healthy run for teen idol show. In an effort to counteract “Buddy’s” popularity, ABC network premiered “The Hardy Boys Mysteries,” along with “The Nancy Drew Mysteries,” in January 1977. “Buddy” always earned higher ratings than the “Hardys,” which folded in only two years. Despite the on-air rivalry of the two shows, Sandy Fairfax was a good friend with the Hardy co-stars.

Like most successful TV actors, Sandy found himself typecast as his wholesome, loveable TV persona. My book is set in 1993 when Sandy is 38 years old. The fans still see him as Buddy Brave. In fact, when Sandy is making a guest appearance at a Beatles fan convention and a member of the tribute band is shot, the fans expect Sandy to solve the crime.

Sandy says, “I’m not a detective! I just played one on television!”
But as he starts mulling over the Beatle-ly clues and the police finger Sandy as the prime suspect, the schoolboy shamus is back in action to solve the case.

“The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper” is available on and

Quiz answers: 1-G, 2-I, 3-H, 4-A, 5-E, 6-D, 7-J, 8-C, 9-K, 10-B, 11-F.

Sally Carpenter is native Hoosier now living in Southern California
She has a master’s degree in theater from Indiana State University. While in school two of her plays” were finalists in the American College Theater Festival One-Act Playwrighting Competition. The plays received staged readings and productions in New York City. Carpenter also has a master’s degree in theology and a black belt in tae kwon do. She’s worked a variety of jobs including actress, freelance writer, college writing instructor, theater critic, jail chaplain, and tour guide/page for a major movie studio. She now works for a community newspaper. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles Chapter. Contact her at .

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The communion of other writers

 by Maria Geraci

I had a completely different idea for this post today, but yesterday's wonderful post by Maggie got me thinking about the writer's life.

When I think of the public's perception of the writer's life I always think of that wonderful romantic comedy starring Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson, Something's Gotta Give. You know the movie? The one where Diane Keaton is this famous playwright (so famous that Keanu Reeves who plays a hunky doctor in the film recognizes her name instantly). She lives in this gorgeous beach house somewhere in the northeast,. The house is decorated all in white and is never dirty. She sits at her desk (which faces the ocean) sipping on red wine and types words into her computer that instantly flow from one page to the next. Of course, there is conflict in the film, but it doesn't stem from the fact that she's behind on her deadline (or her mortgage payments either).

This is the kind of the writer's life I want, damn it.

Unfortunately, I have the other kind. The kind that Maggie talked about yesterday that involves a day job, dirty laundry, and hoping behind hope that maybe one day someone will recognize your name because they have actually read your book.

So why keep writing? Why do we stay up way past our bedtime, give up watching tv at night or going to the park on Saturday to stay glued to our computer screens? Simple. Because we have to. If we wrote simply to get rich or become famous or live a glamorous life, no one would ever do it, because the writers who achieve that sort of level are few and far between. We write because we love writing. We love creating stories and characters that resonate with our readers. But writing is a lonely profession (even Diane Keaton looked a little forlorn sitting in that beautiful white chair facing the ocean) and I couldn't help thinking at times that what she needed was a writing buddy. Or maybe several. Because let's face it, if it wasn't for the friendship of other writers many of us would have given up long ago.

That's why I belong to RWA (Romance Writers of America) on the national level as well as a couple of local chapters. I belong to several online writing groups, and blogs (like this one). I Twitter with other writers, interact with them on Facebook and ask for their advice when I need it. I also try to be there when they need advice from me. The simple plain truth is that writers need other writers. Not just for networking (although networking is important) but we need the daily interaction of other writers to keep up our morale, improve our writing and to stay current in the business.

John Donne wrote "No man is an island..."  And neither is any writer. The writing life we envision (whether it's Diane Keaton's life in the film or the fantasy of writing in a secluded cabin in the mountains) is for the most part, just that, a fantasy. It's not the reality for the majority of writers in America. And if you wait until you have the perfect environment or the perfect situation in which to write, you'll never get it done. Writing is messy work. It's done on the kitchen table, in the car waiting for kids to finish soccer practice and yes (as one writer in my local chapter told us today in our writers loop) while waiting on the gyno table for her annual pap. It's done in spurts or long segments in the wee hours of the morning. It's solitary work, but it's celebrated by other writers, our friends and comrades in paper who understand that life is messy and that we need one another to keep going. So thanks, friends! I write because I love doing it, but I keep doing it because I have your support.

Diane Keaton's kitchen from Something's Gotta Give. Sigh. Maybe one day!

Maria Geraci writes fun, romantic women's fiction. You can connect with her on her website at

The Boyfriend of the Month Club is immensely sexy, immensely satisfying and humorous.”
Portland Book Review

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Living the Dream

Time was, long ago, before I was published, that I thought that once I had a book out, everything would be perfect. (It’s the same thought process that tells me that if I just weighed twenty pounds less, well, the laundry would do itself, I would always have on the perfect outfit, and my kids would do their homework the second they walked through the door.) I would have attained my dream and the birds would sing and all would be well. It wasn’t until I was on my third book, or maybe closer to my fourth, that I realized that living the dream meant something completely different that what I had envisioned.

I was at lunch the other day with a large group, sitting alongside a woman who is writing her memoir. She asked me, “so what is it like now that you’ve achieved your dream of being a writer?” I looked at her, and very thoughtfully said, “Here’s the thing. When you have a dream and you achieve it, you have to live the dream in the context of your reality.” And then I wondered why nobody from the Oprah show had ever called me to be a guest because that sentence alone a) sounded like something I had heard on one of her “Live Your Best Life” shows and b) didn’t sound like me at all.

But the more I thought about it, and what a horse’s rear end I sounded like, I realized that there was a kernel of truth there. It’s putting all of the pieces together around the achievement that’s hard. It’s living day to day when you think things should be a certain way and they’re not that’s challenging. That’s why a “dream”—a word whose synonym is also “vision”—is exactly that: it is never what you think it’s going to be. Fortunately, while living this dream, I’m not naked and I’m not being chased by people with no heads, two situations that dominate my regular nocturnal dreams.

I have dreamed of being a writer for as long as I can remember. I wrote stories and novels and poems from the time I was small. Curiously, they all had dead bodies at the center, but that’s a post for a different time. And now that I am a writer—and those of you who read this blog regularly know that it has taken me far too long to admit that I actually am a writer and not just a “freelance college textbook editor”—I run into people all the time who ask me what it’s like to be a writer and how I feel about attaining what has long been a dream for me. They are often surprised to find out that I still work full time or that I don’t have a regular writing schedule. Writers, it would seem, don’t have regular jobs and spend every day, from eight to two or some other reasonable time frame, writing.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works in the real world.

I was at a family party a few weeks ago and a relative of my husband asked me why I continued to work full time if I was a “successful writer.” I bit my tongue and resisted the urge to say, “because my kids like to eat” because she was genuinely interested and not passing judgment on my doing both. So, I explained the vagaries of the publishing world and e-books and royalties and advances and such until her eyes glazed over and she was sorry she ever asked. (That’ll learn ya.) Thing is, we live in an expensive part of the country and we’ve got a kid going to college in a mind-numbingly close eleven months and those textbooks don’t come cheap. Just ask me—that’s my day job. But the truth is that the joy I get from writing can’t be measured in dollars (thank God) and despite not having a “writerly existence,” I am still living the dream of putting pen to paper every day (or fingertips to keyboard, as the case may be) in between dealing with smelly soccer socks and a garbage bin that smells suspiciously like death and water that seeps into the basement at the first sign of drizzle.

None of this is a complaint. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But the older I get, the less wise I seem to become, and the more surprised I am on a daily basis. I wonder if I’ll ever be that full-time writer who labors in my attic, only to emerge at a decent hour to continue thinking about plot, structure, and characters while drinking a whimsical white Rioja, but then I remember that if I did that, no one would have clean soccer socks.

And we don’t want that.

Tell me, Stiletto readers, what dream have you attained in your life and how has it been different from what you imagined?

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Off On Another Promotion Adventure

Yep, have another new book. This is another Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, Bears With Us.

I have two different series with two different publishers--but small independents. Which means most of the promotion for my books is up to me.

I've had some people ask why don't I go the route that some authors are doing and publish myself--doing the Kindle etc. thing. The answer is I don't want to--that part is done quite nicely by the publisher(s).

I barely have time for everything else in my life without attempting to figure out how to do all the stuff that makes a book a book. Like most of you, I have a life too. A husband to spend time with, meals to fix, lots and lots of relatives to enjoy, and I want to write.

What I am doing for promotion are all things I like to do--online it's blogging, Facebook, a bit of Twittering, and I'm going on a couple of blog tours. In person, I'm giving talks at libraries, teaching at writers conferences, book festivals and craft fairs, and going to LCC in Sacramento in 2012. (This one's close so I'm already signed up.) What I like best about doing the in-person stuff is that I often run into author friends I've met over the years and fans who've faithfully been reading my books.

I'm just beginning to get reviews for Bears With Us and I've been a bit nervous because I've broken a big rule of mystery writing--to have a murder within the first 50 pages. Yes, there is a murder--but it doesn't happen right away. Bears dominate the first pages--and the last ones too.

To me, a great-grandma, all this promotion is an adventure.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Coming to a Television Near You

Today's blog is a perfect example of why everyone should write with a partner. This is Marian writing about Rhonda's interest in the upcoming television season.

Why, you ask? I mean there are really two questions. Why don't I, Marian, write about my own interest in the upcoming television season? That answer is easy. I don't watch much television other than cooking shows, old movies, and the news (and yes, I tape Extreme Couponing, but I'd prefer that not to get around). It's not that I'm averse to TV. I watched it nonstop for years. It's just lately, I haven't found a "must-see" show. When I do, I promise to put it on my DVR list.

Second question. Why is Marian writing about what Rhonda wants to watch this Fall? Again, easy answer. Rhonda's Mom is coming for a visit so there is whirlwind, power cleaning going on in Oklahoma. No time for writing blogs about television, let alone watching any.

Sooooo – the new television season begins this week. First, another question. Why do the television powers that be feel that the nation needs to watch a new version of Charlie's Angels? Have we not already goine through a half dozen Angels in its first incarnation, and then suffered through two movies of the same name? Is there nothing new that appealed to ABC?

Also, let me ask another question of those ABC television execs? Pam Am? Really? A show that focuses on pilots and airline stewardesses – when pilots were only male and stewardesses were only female? I'm all for retro, but can we skip some of the gender stereotypes?

Or how about the new show entitled The Playboy Club? Need I say anything??

Alright, back to Rhonda's list.

She's looking forward to some old favorites:

NCIS – which has a strong ensemble with smart women and as she points out, what can be bad about a show that has Mark Harmon?

The Good Wife – again, strong, smart women, but Rhonda's complaint is that they have drawn out the will they-won't they relationship of Good Wife and handsome co-worker. Rhonda's no longer, pardon the pun, passionately interested in if they do or don't.

Parenthood – the writing and acting feels fresh to her. The Northern half of Evelyn David, who may not watch television but does follow the gossip columns, pointed out that Peter Krause and Lauren Ambrose are dating, and they play brother and sister on the show. Rhonda didn't know that little tidbit, nor care.

Harry's Law – it's all about Kathy Bates, who according to Rhonda, "I'd watch her eat."

As to new shows, Rhonda mentioned:

Terra Nova – dinosaurs and time traveling humans, a perfect combo.

American Horror Story – think Dark Shadows, couple buys a house with a creepy creature living in the basement (in this real estate market, they're going to have problems with resale).

Hell on Wheels – think The Fugitive set in the post-Civil War era while building the transcontinental railroad. Confederate soldier searches for Union soldier who killed his wife (don't know if Union soldier has only one arm).

So Stiletto Faithful, what are you watching and what are you hoping to see in the new television season?

Marian and Rhonda, the collective Evelyn David

Check out the Brianna Sullivan Mysteries e-book series. 

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
***New - Lottawatah Twister - 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, September 16, 2011

The House Guests That Don't Want to Leave

by Susan McBride

I was talking with Maggie earlier in the week, and she kindly reminded me that this Friday was my blogging day.  I'm heading out of town for the Southern Indie Bookseller's trade show in Charleston--um, like right about now--so my mind has been focused on that (what to bring, what to wear, if I'll miss my connecting flights) and on getting more work done on Little White Lies, which I've barely started.  Little White Lies is my next women's fiction book due on December 1 (yes, you heard right).  It's been quite a juggling act this year, revising Little Black Dress in January and February, getting a first draft of Dead Address done by the end of July (my young adult mystery for Delacorte also due December 1, and it still needs a rewrite!), dealing with Little Black Dress promotion during most of August (with plenty more ahead of me), and now writing a draft of Little White Lies for HC/Morrow.  Needless to say, the days and weeks are going by WAY too quickly. 

I tell myself to stay cool.  I've had to write two books in a year before, most notably during the latter part of 2006 and the first part of 2007 when I was diagnosed with my boob stuff and had to undergo surgery and radiation therapy while working on Too Pretty to Die and The Debs.  I've previously mentioned how going to my computer everyday in my jammies helped maintain my sanity and gave me an outlet for all the crazy emotions I was feeling.  But it was also tough.  I wanted to do the best job I could under the most stressful of circumstances at a time when I was supposed to be taking care of my health and NOT stressing out.  But that's life, I think, and I did what I had to do, although both manuscripts were turned in about a month late.  Somehow, despite my fears, the world didn't stop spinning. 

Thank goodness, I'm not dealing with any major health crises (knock on wood!) as the deadline for two very different books rapidly approaches.  Regardless, I've found myself in a sticky situation.  I need to be able to move from one project to the next without carrying a lot of baggage.  Only, I've come to realize I have unwanted house guests.  No, not real ones.  Imaginary ones. The kind of house guests that do not require clean linens or three square meals. They have no desire to visit tourist attractions or sit in my favorite spot on the sofa at night, watching TV.  They don't even muck up the guest bathroom or drop their dirty socks on the floor.

Instead they intrude upon my mind.  When I started Dead Address late in the spring, I still hadn't shaken my revision of Little Black Dress from a few months before.  It had been an intense period of about two months where I worked every day (and night), rewriting every page, moving things around, adding new chapters, and otherwise fully immersing myself in the world of Anna and Evie Evans and the magical black dress from the gypsy's shop in Ste. Genevieve.  I could not get them out of my head.

When I needed to focus on Katie, Mark, and Lisa and their boarding school in Dead Address, I was still back in Blue Hills, Missouri, worrying about the sisters and Toni (okay, and whether the back cover copy did the story justice, or how the font on the cover would look). Somehow, I managed to send Evie, Anna, and Toni packing for long enough to write what happened to Katie after opening up the mysterious box with the severed hand.  But now it's time to get my head into Little White Lies (and into the heads of Gretchen Brink, her daughter Abigail, and a mystery man from Gretchen's past), and I've still got Katie, Mark, and Lisa hanging around, wondering when I'm going to start paying attention to them again because I haven't quite finished with them yet.  Oh, and Evie, Anna, and Toni, won't go away so easily either, not as long as I still have LBD events to do (throughout September and October).


If anyone knows a successful method for removing unwanted imaginary house guests, I'd sure appreciate hearing it.  For now, I guess I'd just better keep the sheets clean, the fresh towels handy, and the fridge full (um, figuratively speaking).  One of these days, perhaps, they'll all go back from whence they came, and my house--um, my head--will be unnaturally quiet, at which point I'll have to start inviting new imaginary house guests in.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Six Ways to Strengthen Your Street Credibility in Police Procedurals

by Tom Adair

Speaking the Language:
I don’t know why this gets under my skin the way it does. Perhaps it’s because the mistakes are so simple to avoid. Maybe it’s the fact that words really do matter. Standing in an author’s shoes I completely understand why they may be totally unaware of their error. But it doesn’t make it any less annoying. First, an example from the “culture” side of law enforcement. Sheriff’s offices and Police Departments are different organizations. They have different cultures and while any rivalries are usually trivial and harmless they do in fact exist. Referring to Deputies as Officers, or vice versa, is akin to saying Navy SEALS are part of the Special Forces Community (Special Forces refer to the Army Green Berets). They are both elite soldiers but they each have tremendous pride in their designations and distinctions.

Terminology is important when talking about evidence too. Firearms terminology is probably the most commonly misrepresented in storylines. Some authors like Stephen Hunter, Tara Janzen, or Cindy Gerard take great pains to get it right and it shows. Example #1: guns are not loaded with bullets, they are loaded with cartridges. The bullet is simply the projectile separated from the cartridge case when the gunpowder ignites. Example #2: People who wear shoes leave behind shoeprints and people walking bare foot leave footprints. I know this sounds trivial but they are totally different and can have very significant inferences for your story. If in a story I read “the detectives followed the suspect’s footprints through the snow for over a mile…” my first thought as a reader is “why was this person not wearing shoes?

Realistic Job Assignments:
You know those stories where the murder is investigated primarily by the Lieutenant, Captain, or Medical Examiner? Some writers seem to think that because a person has a high rank they are better suited to investigate a crime than the detective or criminalist. Now I have known some high ranking officials (A lieutenant in Denver PD comes to mind) that were excellent investigators but he is the exception not the rule. It’s not that these people are dumb; but as a person rises in rank they also garner more responsibility. Their days are filled with meetings, personnel issues, budget writing, and a million small fires that need to be put out to keep the agency running smoothly.  If they were the ones fleshing out all the details of a case and chasing down every lead there’d be no reason for a detective or CSI.  It reminds me of another common misconception related to defense lawyers. Public defenders are sometimes viewed as “lesser” attorneys because they are assigned to those suspects who can’t afford a “real” attorney. The fact of the matter is that these folks are some of the best attorneys out there because they are in court each and every day trying cases, not swinging at a little white ball on a golf course.

Getting the Right Source:
I can always tell when an author has talked to a reliable source. I can also tell when they haven’t. One way to select a reliable source is to make sure that they actually perform the duties you want to write about. I may know things about forensics but I wouldn’t be the best source to tell you what it’s like to breech a doorway in a SWAT team. I’ve never done it. Sure, I can recount stories as they have been shared with me but it’s nowhere near the same thing. Police officers may have been to hundreds or thousands of crime scenes in their careers but that doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to process them correctly.
Limiting Possible Conclusions:
It’s not uncommon to have multiple interpretations to forensic findings. More often than not, reconstructionists speak in terms of what is most probable (i.e. which scenario has the greatest support from the evidence). When you are writing a scene and discussing evidence be sure that the conclusions your characters reach are reasonable. For example, just because a suspect’s fingerprints are not on a gun doesn’t mean they didn’t shoot it. Conversely, just because their prints are on the gun doesn’t prove they shot the gun either. In fact, depending on where the print is it may have no weight as to the shooter identity. Obviously there are times when reaching an unsupportable conclusion is okay (if your character is a keystone cop for example). The best advice is to do some research on the evidence you’re describing and talk to some experts to see what other possibilities might account for the evidence found.

Talk Science, Not Science Fiction:
Forensic science has made tremendous advances in the last few decades. However, just because something can be done doesn’t necessarily mean it will be done.  For example, if your characters work for a mid-sized law enforcement crime lab chances are they don’t have access to a scanning electron microscope or a DNA lab in their building. These examinations are probably done at the state level or laboratory in the state capitol city. These are expensive items and smaller agencies can’t justify the cost.  Similarly, not every agency has an expert in every field. You won’t find experts in sciences like anthropology, entomology, botany, etc. in every agency. The FBI doesn’t even have a full time employee in these fields. You can certainly have one of these experts employed in a lab but treat it as the exception, not the rule.  

Propagating Unfounded Stereotypes:
This is something I hear a lot about from others in law enforcement. The most common one is the demonization of hunters as serial killers in waiting. This is common on shows like Criminal Minds. Great show. The writers don’t like hunting or hunters, I get it. But forcing a causal relationship between hunters and serial killers is false and takes away from the characters and the story. There is much more empirical evidence linking medical doctors with serial killing yet you never see that (and it too would be wrong). Remember, an awful lot of cops/military hunt. Adding in unnecessary and insulting stereotypes takes away from the whole of you work.

Tom Adair is a retired senior criminalist with 15 years of forensic experience. He has served as the president of the Association for Crime Scene Reconstruction, Rocky Mountain Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts, and the Rocky Mountain Division of the International Association for Identification. He is triple board certified in forensic related fields and one of only 40 board-certified bloodstain pattern analysts and 80 board-certified footwear examiners worldwide.  In addition, Tom has worked as the editor of the Journal of the Association for Crime Scene Reconstruction, been interviewed by and consulted for television, books, magazines, and newspaper articles including documentaries on the Discovery Channel and National Geographic. Visit his wonderful blog at for answers to loads of forensics-related questions!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Letters From the Road

Dear Stilettoites-

Joe & Kato say hi! We hope that you’re enjoying the tail end of your summer.  We have been having very exciting times on our road trip. The husband (Joe), dog (Kato), and I left Washington last Wednesday, popped over to Idaho, dropped down into Salt Lake City, and then even further down into St. George, Utah. For the today’s purposes, “popped” means “drove ten hours, stopped at the Idaho Border, ate food from a sketchy taco stand, and got bitten by giant mosquitoes, all before arriving at my friend Sarah’s house at 10pm due to the fact that I forgot Idaho was an hour ahead of us.”  Don’t worry, I’ll send Sarah a big Christmas present.

In Salt Lake, we stopped for a speaking engagement for the Salt Lake City Library system.  (That’s right, tax deducted vacation here I come.)  We met some librarians for dinner and then I talked at people about writing and my books for about an hour.  It was a fun evening and I have to say that I just love librarians – book people make me feel at home.  Sadly, they also kick my butt in the So What Have You Read Recently Olympics. The worst part was that I was tag teaming with my husband against one librarian; we haven’t been that soundly trounced since the last time we visited my agent. 

From Salt Lake we drove down to St. George to visit one of my husband’s groomsmen.  “Men” being a misnomer in this instance, since, with a pair of double D’s leading the way, Lee Ann is very clearly woman.  Lee Ann, in case you are thinking about doing crime in the St. George area, is a parole officer, carries a Glock, and is six feet tall.  Basically, I don’t recommend doing crime in the St. George area.  If it weren’t for a bum knee, she’d probably be wearing spandex and leaping tall buildings in a single bound.  Lee Ann has been graciously taking us hiking, showing us some amazing scenery, telling us tales of Colorado City (where the polygamists live) and Cane Beds (where the crazies live) and the difference between LDS (Church of Latter Day Saints) and the polygamist cults – and yes, there are big differences.  But, from my own observation, the most obvious thing about the LDS population is that they appear to be… preppy.  That’s right, they are an Izod loving people.  I had no idea.

On Sunday we climbed up to Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park.  It’s a two-mile mostly vertical hike up Walter’s Wiggles (a series of 21 switchbacks), and then another half mile that takes you out a long a spine of rock to spectacular view of the park from 5785 ft above sea level.  The last portion of the trail is a scrambling route lined with heavy metal chains.  These are not guardrails – they are so you can hold onto them and climb your way up.  It’s got the highest death rate in the park.  Also, it was having a wee bit of a rainstorm while we there.  It should be noted that today “wee” means “deluge.” But we triumphed, did not get struck by lightening, and even made it back down for some Oscar’s carrot cake the size of my head.

Today we’re heading for the Valley of Fire.  I’m sure nothing could go wrong there – not with a lovely name like that.  We’ll send you a postcard!  And don’t forget to leave the light on for us.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I don’t know how to do this!

by: Joelle Charbonneau

First off, let me apologize to you all for unloading, but I have to talk to someone. You are the lucky folks! So here’s the deal. The tot started preschool last week. YAY! He was excited to go. I was delighted to see him walk into the classroom without a backward glance. Honest. I couldn’t have been happier. Which is why I’m having a dilemma now.

I think I’m doing this parenting thing wrong.

Okay, I know parenting isn’t a science. There are hundreds if not thousands of books on the subject of parenting and most of them probably disagree with each other. Still, most of my friends profess to have been weepy when their child started school. My lack of tears makes me feel as if I’ve blown this mother gig. Was I supposed to cry? It’s not like I don’t love having him home with me. He’s a happy child. He can entertain himself when I need to take a phone call or get some e-mails written. When I go off to Bouchercon this week I’ll miss him terribly.

But I didn’t cry. Not one tear. I wasn’t worried about whether he’d like preschool. Clearly, he was delighted to be going. I wasn’t worried if he’d miss me or if he was growing up to fast. The teachers are lovely ladies and the parents who know and have worked with them in the past love them, so the care and attention my son would receive didn’t worry me.

No. My only worry was for the stress level of the teachers themselves. Particularly when faced with my very active and cheerful child. Because he deals with me day in and day out, he listens to me. (Well, as much as any child of 3 listens to anyone.) However, for those he does not know as well – all bets are off. If he likes to do something, he’ll be attentive. If not…he cheerfully goes about entertaining himself in another way. Which is probably why instead of shedding a tear for the growing up of my precious and highly precocious child, I wished his teachers well and ran for the hills. When I picked him up – all was well. My son loved school. His teachers were in one piece.

Today is his second day of preschool and once again I am delighted to walk him to the classroom and leave him explore the world around him. No sadness. Still, no tears. (Still a little worry for the two instructors, but the tot and I are having a dialogue about listening to his teachers.)

I cry at Hallmark commercials. I weep through books and movies. And yet not a single tear for my son’s first adventure into schooling. And I can’t figure out why. So tell me Stiletto Gang friends—am I doing this parenting thing all wrong?

***And in case anyone is keeping score - SKATING OVER THE LINE launches in two weeks.  I plan on dry eyes and lots of happiness on that day, too!***

Monday, September 12, 2011

Letters from Home

I'm a Model-T in a Maserati world; a propeller plane in a SST universe; in plain language, I'm a dinosaur, and if the news is right, I'm about to be extinct.

The U.S. Postal Service is going under, maybe as early as next year, and I, for one, will miss it.

The speed and cost (free) of email is hard to resist. In fact, I don't. I communicate with many family and friends via the Internet. You may find interesting that until we had completed the first draft of Murder Off the Books, I had never spoken to the Southern half of Evelyn David. We wrote that mystery, as well as a handful of short stories, through email exchanges, eventually moving to instant messaging.

But, perhaps like live theater which is personalized in a way that can never be duplicated on the tiny or giant screen, there is nothing quite so touching as a hand-written note, in the childish scrawl of a little one or the well-practiced penmanship of an adult. I treasure the letters from my parents, both now long gone. I find a glance at their handwriting is a perpetual comfort. I've kept the birthday and Mother's Day cards from my children, smiling at the crayon scribbles when they couldn't yet write moving on to the shaky, backwards letters that accompanied first attempts to print the word "Love" and their names.

I even have love letters, yes, romantic letters sent by my then-boyfriend (now husband) the summer he spent in Africa. That period apart, and those thoughtful letters that described what he was seeing and what he was feeling, were a critical part of transforming a burgeoning relationship into one of commitment.

Surely, the thoughts could have been typed using two thumbs onto an i-Phone or twittered in 140 character transmissions, and then sent through the ether to me. Alternatively, we could have Skyped and talked, albeit with the inevitable 2-second delay. But letters, with his distinctive penmanship, were a treasure during the long days we were apart, and a comfort to be reread each night. My mother-in-law kept the letters her husband wrote her during World War II, when they were apart for 3+ years, until shortly before her death. She chose to destroy them, intent on keeping those moments between them secret and sacred. Unlike computer files which seem virtually indestructible, paper letters, worn thin from years of being reread, do succumb to destruction should the owner opt for that.

With no postal service, does it mean that the annual Christmas card letter will go the way of the dodo? Many folks hate those missives, but I enjoy catching up, if only once a year, with friends from long ago. Or those ubiquitous holiday catalogues? I know that they are ecologically wasteful, but I can remember perusing them and dreaming for weeks of gifts that might come.

I've got nothing but good things to say about our local post office and most especially about Ernie, who has been delivering our mail for 20 years. He knows the people on his route so well that when an elderly lady failed to pick up her mail one day, he called the police to check on her. Turns out that she had fallen and his kindness was a life-saver. When the first three of my kids were awaiting college decisions, back when you got a fat envelope or thin one depending on the result, when the wait for the morning mail was endless to an anxious high school senior, Ernie would arrange to meet us behind the post office, before he began his rounds, to personally deliver the sought-after mail. And certainly not to be discounted, for the writer living as a hermit in her garett churning out murder and mayhem or even a new mom home alone all day with a wailing infant, waiting for the mailman to come is often the highlight of the day

I understand the economics of the post office no longer make sense. I've no doubt that there is waste and inefficiency and a new business model is needed. And like many other things - and people - the post office will have to reinvent itself in order to survive, much less prosper.

In the meantime, drop me a line.

Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David


Check out the Brianna Sullivan Mysteries e-book series. 

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
***New - Lottawatah Twister - 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, September 9, 2011

Those Scenes...

By Laura Spinella

Whatever the genre of a book, I’m sure the writer has an interesting post publication story to tell. Author is a curious job that leads to people you would not otherwise meet and questions you wouldn’t ordinarily be asked. Some of the more common queries being: Where do you get your ideas and how long does it take to write a book? Depending on the person’s knowledge of the publishing industry, they’re impressed by your imprint credentials or simply by the fact that you have a book in print. Either way, it’s flattering. When you write a novel that includes love scenes, fairly detailed love scenes, invariably, always, eventually the question comes around. And here, at The Stiletto Gang, I’m guessing I own that one.

Those scenes, those scenes, those scenes… Truth be told, I didn’t think much about them while I was writing the book. Well, not their reader impact. But from book club gatherings to library chats to emails from readers, clearly, my love scenes are on their minds. I was a bit dense to it at first. It wasn’t until I attended a library event, where I was the guest and BEAUTIFUL DISASTER the book du jour, when I finally got a clue. People were gracious and polite, some having read the book, some not. However, there was a woman who sat in the back row, very silent, very sober. Now, sober is bad for me at given event, and I can tell you that they don’t serve wine at library functions, so my senses were sharp, absorbing her penetrating stare. Finally, toward the end of the chat portion, she raised her hand.

“Yes?” I said, suspecting I was about to receive a verbal flogging.

“Your book, I read it. All of it. And, well, I want to know something. Did your publisher demand that you include those scenes… embellish them like that? You know what scenes I mean…”

While the urge to play dumb was overwhelming, I have no angst over my love scenes so I answered, “Yes! In fact, they said they’d double the advance if I agreed to double the page count on those scenes.”


But I wasn’t about to justify any part of my book to her, especially not for the express purpose of gauging publisher influence versus something I obviously felt passionate about while writing the book. I will not be judged, not to my face anyway, on those scenes because that, to me, sounds a whole lot like censorship.

Not every email mentions Mia and Flynn’s steamier moments, but some do. My favorite is from a young man who, apparently, found BEAUTIFUL DISASTER a profound and stirring read. It was really a beautiful letter, telling me how the book graduated him from the world of YA into adult fiction. He went on at length, conveying how those scenes resonated, explaining that my book was a first for him in fiction. Okay, if you’re feeling a blush come on, don’t feel bad, I did too. I wrote back, thanking him for the lovely note and signing my name: Mrs. Robinson. Well, I suppose we all have to learn somewhere.

Book clubs have been the most fun when it comes to the discussion of BEAUTIFUL DISASTER’S love scenes. About an hour or so into each gathering, as the wine flows, so does the conversation. After discussing Roxanne’s motives and if Mia will salvage their friendship, moving onto Flynn’s psyche and how he was pushed to the brink of redemption, we get around to those scenes. I think my reaction to their reaction is my most profound moment from this side of published author. While I believe my love scenes are an integral part of the story, I don’t take them so seriously that I can’t have fun with them. And we do have fun. In addition to playing an important role in the story, they provide an invigorating indulgent escape for the reader. At least that’s been the majority of opinions to come my way. Some readers want to know how I go about the process of writing a love scene, and for that I have a very simple answer. I’ve never intentionally set out to write one. It has to grow organically out of the characters and plot. Any other scenario would be forcing it, and I suspect it would show. I get that sex in a book is a matter of personal preference; some people seek it out while others like to leave it at the bedroom door. Whatever floats your boat, I’m okay with that. Personally, I think the best romantic scenes are those that exist because they’re a natural part of the story. Overall, it’s nice to know, that in many circles, in addition to telling a good story, I’ve been able to provide a little escapism. Call me crazy, but I thought it’s why we read.

Come visit me at BEAUTIFUL DISASTER was recently chosen by the University of Georgia for their annual Alumni Author Showcase. If you're in Athens, GA November 3rd, see you there!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Denise Hamilton Does A Little DAMAGE CONTROL

The Stiletto Gang is thrilled to have award-winning crime novelist Denise Hamilton with us today, talking about her latest novel, Damage Control, which is a departure from her series featuring Eve Diamond. Damage Control is already earning accolades from the publishing trades, including a starred review in Publishers Weekly, which called it "Excellent!"  So I thought I'd pump Denise for some information about her intriguing new book.

Susan: Damage Control is a standalone political thriller. That’s a new direction for you. Were you inspired by Weinergate or Arnold Schwartzenegger’s love child scandal?

Denise: Damage Control was already heading to the printer when those scandals broke. But if there’s one thing besides taxes and death that is eternal, it’s political sex scandals. I researched a bunch of them and it seems that powerful people are also risk takers. Add a gigantic ego, money, power and minions scurrying around doing your bidding and it’s no wonder they feel invincible. One book I found fascinating was The Politician: An Insider’s Acount of John Edward’s Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal that Brought Him Down by Andrew Young. He was the aide who took the fall for his boss and claimed he’d fathered Rielle Hunter’s love child.

The book had all sorts of great inside details that found their way into Damage Control. My faves:

(1) The ‘bodyman’ is the guy who travels with the politician, checks into the hotel, drives the car, holds the suitcase, takes all the letters and notes that people give the politician at public appearances and hustles him away afterward.
(2) Politicians often have groupies. Edwards had male as well as female groupies.

Susan: But it’s not all politics. Tell us about Maggie Silver’s love life.

Denise: My heroine is an ambitious young PR executive at a crisis management firm. They’re the folks that actors call when they caught with a hooker at 4 am on Sunset. They’re the number that celebrity athletes have on speed dial when a hotel maid accuses them of rape.

Maggie’s divorced and there are sparks flying with three guys: a co-worker, an old childhood crush and a doctor. But Maggie’s a slave to her 24/7 job. She’s always on call and keeps having to cancel her dates. Those big clients don’t pay $750 an hour to be kept waiting.

Susan: So is that really how much they charge?

Denise: Some do. It’s on par with what celebrity lawyers. Another route is to keep the PR firm on a retainer. Say $10,000 a month. Whether or not they clean up any messes that month.

Susan: Back to Maggie’s love life. You’ve been known to write some steamy sex scenes.

Denise: Actually, I often pare them back. It makes me blush too much when I re-read them.

Susan: So will Damage Control make readers blush?

Denise: Hmmm…there’s a nighttime scene in an infinity pool with a great view high in the Hollywood Hills. A little Laphraoig has been consumed. And well, some people forgot to bring their bathing suits.

Susan: Ha!  Love it!  Maggie’s also a big fan of perfume. Stealing from life there, are you, Denise?

Denise: It’s true! I got a day job last year – as perfume columnist for the Los Angeles Times. ( ) It’s monthly, which leaves me plenty of time to bludgeon, stab, poison, run over and shoot people.

Susan: That is so cool! What sparked this perfume interest?

Denise: I’ve always had a keen aesthetic appreciation for smells. My mom had a shelf of classic French perfumes, and I’d amuse myself for hours as a child, sniffing them. Putting on perfume for me was always part of getting dressed. But I tumbled down the fragrant rabbit hole into obsession when I bought a bottle of Donna Karan’s Chaos at a thrift store for $29.95. It was discontinued and selling for $250 on ebay so I kept spritzing it to see what made people go nuts for this blend of spices, incense and woods. The fifth day, I suddenly got it. And then I began collecting. I find perfume online, at antique shops. Friends give me their grandmothers’ old bottles. Half-century-old perfume can still smell divine if it’s kept away from heat and light. So then I made Maggie Silver a budding perfumista. And that sniffer of hers comes in handy by the book’s end.

Susan: Will you ever bring back your series sleuth Eve Diamond?

Denise: I’ve got three projects in the works. It depends on what Scribner would like next. Thanks so much, Susan, for giving me the opportunity to be an honorary Stiletto-for-a-Day. Y’all are very kind.

Denise Hamilton’s crime novels have been finalists for the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity and Willa Cather awards. She also edited Los Angeles Noir and Los Angeles Noir 2: The Classics, which spent two months on bestseller lists, won the Edgar Award for “Best Short Story” and the Southern California Independent Booksellers’ award for “Best Mystery of the Year.” Denise’s new novel, Damage Control, was published by Scribner on September 6, 2011 and has already received a starred review in Publishers Weekly, a rave advance from Kirkus, and kudos from James Ellroy who called it "A superb psychological thriller."

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