Friday, March 30, 2012

Let's Hear It for the Girls!

by Mary Curran Hackett, debut author of Proof of Heaven

If you’re the only person who hasn’t heard about, read, or seen The Hunger Games then it’s safe to say you live under a rock—or probably more rightly—you don’t live with a teenage girl. If you haven’t, don’t feel badly. I am usually that “one person” (hyperbole, I’m aware) who is usually living under said rock, too. (In fact, I am notoriously late to every party—Mad Men, for example, I only just started watching. Downton Abby. Ditto. Thank God for Netflix.)  But, thanks to my daughter, Brigid, I was swept up into The Hunger Games mania early on and so, like hundreds of other moms, I was at the movie theater at 9 a.m. on the day of its release—along with a theater FULL of girls.

And yes, while the movie was exhilarating and didn’t disappoint readers and fans alike, that’s not what I was thinking about when I left the theater.  As my daughter talked 100 mph without, it seemed,  inhaling once, about the actors’ portrayal of the characters, the interpretation of the setting, scenes, and sanitization of the violence, and of course, Katniss and Peeta’s self-sacrifice and determination—I wanted to shout out to her: “YOU GO, GIRL! YOU GO! Get excited about books! Get excited about seeing your books on the big screen! Get amped up when talking about character development and setting.  You are every author’s dream, hon! An engaged, enthusiastic, passionate FAN.” As both a writer and her mother, I wanted to hug her. (But she’s a teen girl. So I knew better to wait until we were out of eyeshot of the hundreds of other girls, who wouldn’t be caught dead hugging their own moms.)

Through the entire drive home, I couldn’t help but think that my daughter, her friends, and all girls like her are the future of the reading world. They will be reading our adult fiction books five and ten years from now! It’s not very long at all. (They may even be reading our books now for all we know. I’ve seen my daughter with books I’ve only just heard about—and she and her friends were some of my first readers of my own novel Proof of Heaven.) Needless to say, they are an eager and hungry group, and there are soooo many of them. Best of all, they are a loyal, tweeting, networking lot at that. I don’t remember having the collective reading experience that my daughter has had. When I was a kid, we didn’t read long trilogies or series together and wait endlessly to see our favorite heroine to hit the big screen. In fact outside of Disney princesses, I don’t remember many female heroines at all in my favorite books or movies (leave out the obvious exceptions—Nancy Drew, Laura Ingalls, and Elizabeth Bennett).  And we certainly didn’t tweet or blog or even find out about books the way girls do now. Long story, short: If these girls are the future of the reading world, our future as women writers is a bright one. 

What our girls read, how often they do, and how they extrapolate meaning and context and apply it to their own lives is nothing less than, well, extraordinary.  My daughter’s generation was the generation born into a Harry Potter World. The first books she first read were by strong, determined, and innovative women. J.K. Rowling’s genius dominated my daughter’s young reading life, as did a quick succession of female writers whose books my daughter devoured daily. Brigid’s world has been filled with women authors writing about strong female characters—who are capable of doing so much even against so much adversity—like Suzanne Collins’ Katniss in The Hunger Games. And thanks to these formidable women writers and their memorable characters, our girls have been trained, in a way, to seek female writers with strong female leads out. If you don’t believe me, believe the ratings. The Hunger Games debuted as the third highest grossing film of all time on day one of its release. Thank you, girls. And thank you, Suzanne Collins, for creating such a memorable female lead. You, and all female writers like you, have blazed a wonderful trail for the rest of us. (Ahh, if only Mary Ann Evans could see us now! I doubt she’d ever want to change her name to George Eliot to sell a book!)

I guess without even realizing it, I’ve been thinking a lot about woman writers lately. Maybe it’s because I’ll be participating in Fifth Annual SWAN DAY International, celebrating women in the arts all over the world this coming Saturday, March 31st. On this day, we’re supposed to pause and reflect on what is women’s role in the arts now and in the future. I’ve paused. I’ve reflected, and I can safely say, as they do in The Hunger Games (sort of)…I think the odds are forever in our favor, ladies.

Mary Curran Hackett is married and the mother of two children. She received an MA in English Literature from the University of Nebraska and a BA from the University Honors Program at Catholic University in Washington, DC. Born and raised in Danbury, CT, she has traveled extensively and lived in various places throughout the U.S., but her favorite place in the world is home with her kids, husband, and her stacks of books. Like her character Colm Magee, Mary suffers various heart and brain ailments, but thanks in part to her brother, a physician, as well as her own doctors, she now has a pacemaker and a heart that beats on its own at least most of the time. PROOF OF HEAVEN is her first novel.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

New York City!

by Maria Geraci

It's been 9 years since my last (and only visit) to New York City.
Back in 2003, I went to the Big Apple for the Romance Writers of
America Conference. Although my main focus was writing workshops, I
did manage to squeeze in some sight-seeing. This time, however, it
will be all play and no work.

Stuff I did last time:

Rode the subway
Walked a lot
Stood on top of the Empire State Building
Visited The Cloisters museum
Buggy ride in Central Park
Double decker Bus tour (but I was so tired, I fell asleep!)
Shopped at Macys
Saw a Broadway show--Aida--it was fabulous!
Ate a lot
Walked a lot (did I already mention that?)
Almost got run over by a taxi (numerous times)

Stuff I plan to do this time:

Ride the subway
Walk a lot
Stand on top of the Empire State Building
Visit a museum
Buggy ride in Central Park
Double decker Bus tour (and stay awake!)
Shop a lot
See a Broadway show-- already have tickets for Wicked!
See another Broadway show- either Memphis, or Jersey Boys, or even
possibly How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Eat a lot
Walk a lot (did I already mention that one?)
NOT get almost run over by a taxi

Did I forget something?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


or How a Gas Cap Helped Me Write
by Bethany Maines
So today as I was driving to the Starbucks (because I was too lazy to make my own oatmeal) I saw a woman driving with her gas cap perched on the hood of her car. I was going to honk and try and indicate the issue when I realized that little door covering the gas hole was completely missing.  So I didn’t honk.  I figured that clearly this wasn’t the first time she had a problem like this and it might be better for her if she just rid the car of all accessories that weren’t bolted on.  Less to keep track of.

Facebook friend reaction says this was not the appropriately kind, good-Samaritan thing to do.  I should have honked and pointed, or pulled up alongside and yelled my message.  My reaction to such ideas?  Meh.  What would be the point?  She’d probably just do it again three weeks from now.  Some people are just Teflon coated against help.  And then I realized… I was the villain! Admittedly, the villain on a very small scale in a very tiny drama, but still, I was the bad guy!

Maybe I shouldn’t be so excited, but when I’m writing I sometimes I have a problem with villains. What excuse could possibly be enough to justify the villainous behavior of the bad guy? If my villain isn’t a sociopath or someone with a personality disorder of the highest degree, then they have to have a reason for doing what they do. At some point, they have to choose to do the bad things. And that where I struggle – coming up with reasons of sufficient validity to actually kill someone (or any of the other dastardly deeds they do). I remember a villain in one of my early attempts a novel writing seemed to have been cut from a Dickens novel – abused, with an evil uncle, penniless and starved as a child he set out to seek his revenge on all and sundry. He was one twirling moustache away from being Snidely Whiplash. My writer’s group told me in kind and restrained terms that just like my hero couldn’t exhibit all the traits and talents of herodom, possibly it would be more realistic if my bad guy acted like a human being.

In The Wild One Marlon Brando was asked “What are you rebelling against?” and he replied “What do you got?” Maybe that’s closer to the truth of villainy. It’s not that they’re not bad for a particular reason; maybe some villains are bad because they just don’t care.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Confessions of a non-chocoholic

Hello. My name is Joelle and I am not addicted to chocolate.

There. I said it. And even as I admit my lukewarm feelings about chocolate, I feel as if I should hang my head in shame. Why? Well, almost all my female friends adore chocolate. They can’t get enough of the stuff. Whether they need comfort, are celebrating a great event, are having a sexy night with their significant other or a ratty robe night in front of the television—chocolate factors into their day.

Me…not so much. That’s not to say I dislike chocolate. I think chocolate is a wonderful thing. Especially dark chocolate. But after one piece, I can push away the box and be satisfied. Something none of my friends understand.

Sigh. I guess it is no surprise that in the chocolate category of life I march to the beat of my own drummer. Heck, that seems to be the case in just about every other avenue of my life. I went to college for musical theater and grad school for opera performance. Being an honors student, I didn’t have to take general education classes at my college. So, my days were filled with music theory, voice lessons, acting classes and dance. Woot! Not a single English class in the mix. So naturally, as I march along to my own little drummer I end up writing books and becoming an author.

Yeah – I’m not exactly the type to do the typical. Whether it be in my food indulgence preference (Skittles and Starburst Sour Jelly Beans all the way) or in my entertainment choices—can you say Baseball, Basketball, Football anyone?—I tend to go against the grain of the women I hang around with.

But that’s okay because it means I’m…well…me. It also means that my friends love when I come over because after I eat one piece of chocolate the rest belongs to them.

Since they say confession is good for the soul - here is your chance to feel good with me! What things do all of your friends love that you have luke warm feelings about? 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lori's Book Sense

Welcome to this months edition of Lori's Book Sense.
I hope you enjoy these great titles I've chosen for you this month.

Spilled Blood by Brian Freeman (May 1st) ~ A taut thriller about two rural Minnesota towns locked in a deadly feud--and a teenage girl caught in the crossfire. Linked by the Spirit River, the two towns couldn't be more different: in affluent Barron, a powerful and secretive scientific research corporation enriches its residents, while downriver in blue-collar St. Croix, victims of that company's carcinogenic waste struggle to survive. The bad blood between the communities escalates into open warfare when the beautiful Ashlynn, daughter of the corporation's president, is found shot dead--and a St. Croix girl, Olivia Hawk, is accused of the crime. Reluctantly, Olivia's mother summons her estranged husband Christopher, a Minneapolis lawyer, to come defend his daughter. As Christopher struggles to unravel the mystery of Ashlynn's murder and save his own daughter, he uncovers some ugly truths that endanger the residents of both towns. And looming over everything are the chilling, apocalyptic threats from a murderous psychopath known only as “Aquarius.”

While I was a bit disappointed to find out that this latest release from Brian Freeman was not a Jonathan Stride novel (Immoral, Stripped, et al), I was not let down by even one word. The grab-you-by-the-throat suspense will keep you firmly planted on the edge of your seat the moment you open the book.  The characters are strong, the storyline is intense, the likelihood that this could happen to you is extremely high and incredibly frightening.   Spilled Blood is a cutting edge, tour-de-force that will rock you to your core.  

Outside The Lines by Amy HatvanyWhen Eden was ten years old she found her father, David, bleeding out on the bathroom floor. The suicide attempt led to her parents’ divorce, and David all but vanished from Eden’s life. Since childhood, she has heard from him only rarely, just enough to know he’s been living on the streets and struggling with mental illness. But lately, there has been no word at all. Now in her thirties, Eden decides to go look for her father, so she can forgive him at last, and finally move forward. When her search uncovers other painful truths—not only the secrets her mother has kept from her, but also the agonizing question of whether David, after all these years, even wants to be found—Eden is forced to decide just how far she’ll go in the name of love.

Outside The Lines is an emotional family drama that fully explores the impact mental illness has on not only the one living with it, but on the entire family. It tells of one man’s struggle to find the balance between choosing the path that make him the “happiest” or doing what everyone else considers to be best for the family unit. It’s the story of one woman (who is still a little girl at heart when it comes to her daddy) with a desperate desire to find her father and make him well. With the love and support of friends and family, Eden sets off on the journey of a lifetime. Outside The Lines is a tender-hearted story of love, loss, and the idea that maybe some things truly are better left alone.

A Deeper Darkness by J.T. Ellison (April 17th) ~ As a medical examiner, Samantha Owens knows her job is to make a certain sense of death with crisp methodology and precision instruments. But the day the Tennessee floods took her husband and children, the light vanished from Sam's life. She has been pulled into a suffocating grief no amount of workaholic ardor can penetrate—until she receives a peculiar call from Washington, D.C. On the other end of the line is an old boyfriend's mother, asking Sam to do a second autopsy on her son. Eddie Donovan is officially the victim of a vicious carjacking, but under Sam's sharp eye the forensics tell a darker story. The ex-Ranger was murdered, though not for his car. Forced to confront the burning memories and feelings about yet another loved one killed brutally, Sam loses herself in the mystery contained within Donovan's old notes. It leads her to the untouchable Xander, a soldier off-grid since his return from Afghanistan, and then to a series of brutal crimes stretching from that harsh mountainous war zone to this nation's capital. The tale told between the lines makes it clear that nobody's hands are clean, and that making sense of murder sometimes means putting yourself in the crosshairs of death.

While I miss Taylor Jackson and her crew (see All the Pretty Girls, 14, etc.), I am so happy that J.T. decided to write Sam’s story. We’ve always had glimpses into her life, but it is nice to have gotten to know her on a more personal level, to not just know her as Taylor’s BFF. The author did a great job showing how a strong, independent, hard-working woman can also be vulnerable, in pain, and struggling to find her way back to the person she used to be. Sam is flawed, like so many of us, and I think that makes her even more relatable, more human, more likeable.

A Deeper Darkness is an engaging read with a new protagonist who you will immediately empathize with, and who you will cheer on as she struggles to find her footing and the happiness that she so rightfully deserves. The author has created a diverse supporting cast and a multifaceted plot that will constantly surprise the reader, and at the end will leave you breathless.  


Friday, March 23, 2012

The Fine Print

Back yonder, when I was ten, my vision of what it meant to be a writer was quite clear...

You write.

Seemed like a safe assumption, eh?

But as is the case with lots of careers--and virtually anything in life--there's fine print under that job title. Lots and lots of fine print.

For example, I never knew my gig as a writer would have me racing towards a finish line much like a jockey. But for anyone who has had a deadline looming (Susan) recently, that's exactly what we do, isn't it?

I never knew I'd have to get in front of people (sometimes lots of people) and be a public speaker. Which, in the event you missed the "public" part, means you do this out loud (to real people). Heck, one of the reasons I became a writer is because I'm quiet by nature.

I never knew I'd be a businesswoman. But I am. I've had to learn about website promotion, the most effective forms of marketing for my books, how to read royalty statements, etc.

I never knew I'd have to be a travel agent of sorts, either. But I am. Every time I travel for a signing, I'm looking for the best deals on airfare, hotels, and rental cars, while simultaneously researching the particular city I'm visiting so I knew where I'm going.

But the one "fine print" addition to the whole writer thing that's shocked me most has been juggler. Because when you're writing multiple things all the time, juggling skills are a must. And sometimes there are a lot of balls to maneuver over your head. For me, right now, I've got six: 1) editing a book that's due out in October; 2) writing another that is due on May 1st;  3) prepping for the launch of my latest mystery on April 3rd; 4) securing events and strategizing for the brand new mystery series I've got launching in June; 5) working with my weblady on a complete overhaul of my website; and 6) writing gobs of guest blogs to coincide with the April 3rd launch.

I'm sure I'm missing a few "fine print" additions that some of you can point out and I know they'll be far funnier than mine, but I'm also curious about those of you who have a different career. Tell us about your fine print additions.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Daily Fix

by Maria Geraci

A few years ago I began doing something I thought I'd never do--the morning crossword puzzle.
Because, you know, only old people with no lives do the crossword puzzle (like my mother-in-law).

I began doing the morning crossword because I was going through a particularly wobbly time in my life, and doing the puzzle helped calm me and started my mornings off with a positive note. At first, I could barely finish half the puzzle. Then after a short while I could finish most of the puzzle. And then it was a rare day when I couldn't get 100 percent of it finished. I figured if I could finish the puzzle, then I could do anything.

Then my husband got in on the act. He started "helping" me with the puzzle, and before I knew it, the two of us were fighting to get to the curb so we could be the first one to snatch up the morning paper. I'll never forget the first time Mike Geraci woke me up with an evil grin on his face and said, "Hey, hon, I made the coffee. Oh, and I already did the puzzle." He's lucky he's still alive.

It was now time to face facts. I was addicted. I was one of those "old people with no lives." But hey, I am not old and I do so have a life! (My mother-in-law suddenly began to seem like a really interesting person too).

Like all addicts, however, I started to need more. The crossword just wasn't enough. This is when I discovered Words With Friends. Yep. You know how to play it. It's digital Scrabble! And the best part is that you can play numerous people at the same time and your game can last for days. I'm in word heaven!

So what about you? Any addictions you'll own up to?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Your "Signature" Look

I was fortunate enough to be visiting my family this weekend and one sibling was bemoaning the fact that her daughter, my adorable niece, was exhibiting some very strong opinions about fashion, particularly with regard to what she'd like to wear.  Apparently, there are stores that cater to the under-ten set yet the items that they offer are really not acceptable to a lot of parents, their tendency to sell more mature-looking items the bane of many mother or father’s existence.  Of course, at seven, like my niece, you want to wear what everyone else is wearing and if everyone is wearing sweatshirts that hint at a Flashdance flashback, all the better.  But some of us feel that our children exposing too much skin may not be the best idea, so we argue and cajole and yes, sometimes all out fight to get them to wear what we feel is age appropriate.

It is times like these that I look back fondly at the twelve years I wore a uniform.  No muss, no fuss.  Everyone looked the same, save for some personalization that manifested itself in shorter skirts or sweaters tied around necks, but really, when all was said and done, there was not a lot you could do to “mix it up” with the school uniform.

I tried talking some sense into my niece but she wasn’t having any of it.  My advice to her, which may have been about ten years too soon was “develop your signature look and stick with it.”  She responded by staring blankly at me and asking if there were any more cupcakes, an entirely suitable response for someone who is a long way away from seeing the value in adopting her aunt’s style, which is comprised of the following:

Winter:  Black turtleneck/Jeans
Summer:  Colorful tunic/Jeans

It’s foolproof.

I cannot follow the fashions.  First, I’m almost fifty.  (Almost.)  Second, I’m tall.  And third, I am what one might call “zaftig” but which I call “athletically built”—that is, if athletes had slight paunches, flabby arms, and big busts.  So, skinny jeans, tight tee shirts, and anything midriff-bearing is out.  So are mini skirts, sleeveless shirts, and anything with a v-neck.  (Remember, when you stare down into the depths of your cleavage, it looks much worse than in reality.  But who among us can’t resist looking down into our cleavage?)  I have found that sticking to my adult version of a uniform works much better and helps me avoid fashion mistakes that are almost certainly, inevitably caught on film, posted on Facebook and there for all eternity.

Subjecting my niece to my thoughts about fashion got me thinking, though:  do you follow the trends, getting new items of clothing or new pairs of shoes based on what is going on in the world of fashion, or like me, stick to a “signature” look? 

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Susan Lucci Syndrome Broken, Finally!

I've been a member of Epic the premier organization for electronically published authors. The organization began before the first e-reader came long--The Rocket eReader. The first convention was held in Omaha NE and yes, I as there. In fact, with the exception of last year's, I've attended every one.

They've given out awards for the "best" e-book in many categories at each of these conferences. And I've had an e-book as a finalist in almost everyone of these conferences. Even being a finalist is an honor as hundreds of books are entered, but I've never won.

I know exactly how the Academy Award nominees feel when their names are not called for the category they've been nominated for. Sure, I was disappointed but I always smiled and congratulated all the winners even in my category, which was usually mystery.

I finally gave up though, and decided I'd always be a "bridesmaid" and never a "bride", so I didn't even bother entering a book for the last two years. What a surprise when I leaned my publisher entered my romance (with a touch of the supernatural) Lingering Spirit in the Spiritual/Metaphysical Romance Category. I told her I wouldn't win.

I wrote the book quite awhile ago, but the publisher at Oak Tree Press published it as an e-book in the right time period to be entered in the contest. Despite my feelings, I went to the convention which was held this past weekend in San Antonio. I knew I'd have a great time, no matter what, because I have so many friends in Epic and my publisher was attending too.

And yes, I had a great time. I gave a workshop on blogging and blog tours, visited with everyone, went on the river cruise, ate some wonderful food, and told everyone I knew I wouldn't win the Eppie.

The night of the banquet I sat with my publisher and other friends, including the president of Epic and the contest chairperson.

When my turn came, of course I hoped and even felt a bit nervous though in my heart I knew there was no chance. And when the presenter opened the envelope and read my name, I couldn't believe it. I hollered, "Finally, I'm a bride!"

President of Epicon, Anne Manning, and me. The theme of the conference, Murder at the Menger (hotel in San Antonio)
 Here's a bit about Lingering Spirit:

Book blurb: After, Steve, her police officer husband is killed in the line of duty, Nicole Ainsworth struggles with the changes forced on her life. Her efforts to focus on her daughter an cope with her grief are kept off-balance by Steve’s ghostly visitations who seems to be trying to communicate with her. Eventually, Nicole finds that Steve isn’t the only one watching over her, and discovers a second chance for love.

Review Snippets:

“…Meredith is a master of characterization. She fully rounds out the facets of her protagonists’ personalities and richly develops the details of the supporting cast. She does not hit any false notes with her dialogue and builds strong relationships among her characters. She realistically describes what a young widow would go through following the tragic death of her husband.
Overall, uncovering why this spirit lingers is an incredibly moving experience.”

--New York Journal of Books--Reviewer Nicole Langan owns the independent publishing house, Tribute Books

5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Book!
“…Lingering Spirit is well worth buying and spending time with. It'll give you a lot to think about after the story is finished. I loved it, as you can tell. It's the perfect summer OR winter read. Great book, one of my favorite reads this year.” --Beth Anderson, author and book reviewer.

“I rate this book 5 Stars out of 5 Stars!
I LOVED this book I could not put it down! I am telling you all Marilyn is a FANTASTIC writer and anyone who does not read this book is missing out on a fabulous read…” – Vanessa -Ohio Girl Talks

“,,,I polished this book off in two days and you won't want to stop reading it once you pick it up.
Lingering Spirit is the type of book that romance lovers dream of finding.” –Cheryl Malandrinos, The Book Connection

Watch Lingering Spirit book trailer for a preview.

Of course Lingering Spirit can be ordered in all the usual places--and is available on the Kindle and Nook.

Lingering Spirit by Marilyn Meredith
Oak Tree Press

Needless to say, I've been floating every since. 


Monday, March 19, 2012

Sheldon's a Nerd, but Now with 50% More Nuance

By Evelyn David

I'm invariably late to the party when it comes to discovering television shows. Generally I watch the news and cooking shows. But in the last couple of weeks, I've been catching reruns of The Big Bang Theory. The basic premise revolves around four geeky, brilliant science nerds, who love Star Trek, video games, and physics. A beautiful blonde moves in across the hall, a wannabe actress who's paying the rent by being a waitress at The Cheesecake Factory. Hilarity ensues as the two worlds collide, intersect, and eventually mesh.

I started with reruns of the fourth season and it wasn't until the last few days that I caught the pilot episode. I was astonished at the differences in each of the main characters. In the first episode, they were drawn so broadly, with each one representing a different stereotype, that I almost wondered if I were watching a different show.

What has happened is that over the last five years the caricatures have morphed into characters. As a writer, I understand that sometimes an author uses shorthand to describe in broad strokes the essentials of a character. Sex and the City, another show I caught after it had ended, also had four characters. In this case, the writers used costumes from the very first scene to telegraph who each character was: Miranda, the lawyer, in grey tailored suits, white blouses, and faux ties; Samantha, the sexpot, in outfits designed to tell you all about her without saying a word; Charlotte, the preppy pretty girl, in traditional designer wear; Carrie, the offbeat writer, in tutu and mile-high Manolo Blahniks.

Julia Spencer-Fleming, the award-winning mystery author of the Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne series, said, "Ultimately what's important about the books I write and the books I read are that they create a recognizable, believable world with characters I want to spend time with."

Rhonda and I have had fun creating the characters and worlds of our two series. In Washington, DC, you've met private detective Mac Sullivan, his furry sidekick, Whiskey, his maybe-sort of girlfriend Rachel Brenner, makeup artist in a funeral home, and the supporting cast of Jeff, Edgar, and others. They've each got their quirks, but hopefully they're all grounded in enough reality that you can recognize them as the folks that you know in your real life. In a world, far, far away, but also grounded in reality, is the small town of Lottawatah, Oklahoma, where psychic Brianna Sullivan, flatulent bulldog Leon, and hunky Deputy Cooper Jackson, live and solve murders and resolve ghostly disturbances. Despite the woo-woo stuff, Brianna still has the same boyfriend problems that beset all women, still needs to do laundry, pick up after her dog – no matter how strange the circumstances, our hope is that you can identify with and enjoy the cast of characters we've created.

Next month we're introducing a brand new group of memorable characters in Zoned for Murder, the first book of the Sound Shore Times mysteries. We'll be talking about this nonstop in the weeks ahead, but our hope is to make the town of Milford, NY, and the character of reporter Maggie Brooks, welcome guests in your home.

Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David


Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle (Exclusive at Amazon this month)
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
Lottawatah Twister - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Missing in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Good Grief in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Sullivan Investigations Mystery - e-book series
Murder Off the Books Kindle (Exclusive at Amazon this month)
Murder Takes the Cake Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Moonlighting at the Mall (short story) - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, March 16, 2012

Things that Make Me Go Argh: Underwear with Bows

by Susan McBride

I'm still on deadline for my latest book (currently being called The Truth About Love and Lightning), and I'm frantically trying to get it done by next week. So when I reached in my Idea Bag for a blog topic, I realized I hadn't refilled the darned thing in a while. Which made me go, "A-ha! Why don't I write about something that makes me crazy? I could even explore another real-life irritant during the next frantic deadline, too!" Perfect. So today's rant involves, yes, underwear with bows.

As a pregnant lady with an ever-growing middle, I've had to go shopping for bigger sizes in just about everything lately. So the other day, I found a nice pack of maternity underwear that I was hoping wouldn't cut off the circulation in my thighs. They were good colors, too: standard white, gray stripes, and even a saucy leopard print. But when I opened the package, I realized the danged things had bows on the front. Those silly little bows that have appeared on my bras and panties since--oh, gosh--my whole life.

Yes, I probably appreciated them when I was eight or nine, maybe even eleven. But as I got older, I began to wonder what the point was of putting bows on the front of grown-up women's underthings. Does anyone really like them? Are they supposed to make us think back on our youth and feel like girls again? If so, it isn't working. It just irritates me, having to find my nail scissors to carefully cut them off.

And I mean "carefully." It's like a surgical operation getting those effing bows off bras and underwear without making a hole in the front and unraveling things. I think they sew them on with their super-industrial machines, certain that women everywhere would be destroyed if they ever fell off.

Back to my maternity panties with the bows. Seriously? I am in my sixth month of pregnancy. I have already gained 25 pounds and weigh more than my skinny husband. My a** now qualifies as booty and/or junk in the trunk. The increased size of said a** is not a gift to me (although I won't vouch for Ed). So I would prefer not to put a bow on it.

Okay, I feel better now. Whew! Thanks for letting me vent. But if you'll excuse me, I have surgery to perform on three pairs of new maternity underpants.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Few Dead Men by Nancy Lauzon

A Few Dead Men - a Chick Dick Mystery

Life has dealt part-time mystery novelist Darcy MacDonald a lousy hand. The men she knows are either missing, dead, drunk or demented.

Lying next to the corpse of her boyfriend, the head of Bloodhound Investigations, definitely qualifies as lousy since he’s the man who also issues her paychecks.

The doctor says her boss had a massive heart attack during an orgasm, and it wasn’t Darcy’s fault. But she can’t help feeling guilty, since his orgasms were her responsibility. Or so she believed, until his grieving widow shows up, along with a mysterious, punk rocker chick who weeps inconsolably at the funeral and claims he was murdered.

Nancy Lauzon's Blog Tour Stop #8: Character Interview - Giovanna Pescateli

My latest mystery novel, A Few Dead Men, was inspired by my youngest daughter's disastrous dating history. The 'dead men' in the novel are composites of every boyfriend and/or bad date my daughter ever had. Believe me, I had lots of material to choose from. In fact, I didn't have room for all the 'dead men', since I didn't want to go over my word count.

This book raises several questions: Who exactly are dead men, metaphorically speaking? How did they become dead? Are there more dead men than live men? If not, where do you find live men?

But the book is also about a young woman compelled to solve the mysteries around her, like her favourite amateur sleuth, Nancy Drew. She doesn't go about it in exactly the same way.

Previous stops on the Blog Tour: Character Interview: Darcy MacDonald at

N: Last week we met the heroine of A Few Dead Men, Darcy MacDonald. So today I'd like to welcome the heroine's best friend, Giovanna Pescateli, to the guest blog. Thanks for being here, Gio.

G: My pleasure, thanks for having me.

N: I think Darcy is mad at me. She got kind of snippy during our Character Interview.

G: Go easy on her, she's been through a lot. But I don't think she blames you. She knows her job as the heroine is to suffer.

N: She's not suffering anymore. The book had a satisfying ending.

G: Yes, and she was very happy about that. 

N: Tell the readers about yourself.

G: I've known Darcy since college. We were roommates for a while until I moved in with my boyfriend Jack, who's a cop. I work as a paralegal at a local law firm, and I help Darcy out whenever she has questions about the cases she's working on.

N: What do you like about your character the most, and why?

G: I love that I confront and eventually overcome the problems in my personal life.

N: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would you change?

G: I wish I could eat as much as I wanted to without gaining weight. I'm Italian, and my family spends a lot of time cooking and eating fabulous dishes.

N: Describe your perfect day.

G: Spending the day with you-know-who, since I don't want to spoil the story for your readers. Then dinner and drinks with Darcy.

N: That's funny, she said the same thing about you. Plus a Colin Firth movie.

G: Darcy and I were separated at birth.

N: Last question, Gio. What was your favourite part in the book?

G: Getting stuck in that elevator. No contest.

N: Thanks, Giovanna!

Next stops on my Blog Tour:

Wednesday, March 21st - Whimsy and Writing

I'll be guest blogging on Angela Scott's site. Angela writes contemporary YA fiction. She has a brand new Zombie Western coming out this month called Wanted: Dead or Undead. (I'll be hosting her Book Shower next week.) I'll be conducting my 3rd Character Interview, featuring Eunice MacDonald, the heroine's mother. 

Friday, March 23rd - KB Owen, mystery writer

I'll be visiting KB Owen, who loves mysteries and recently finished her first novel in a planned series, set at a 19th C. women's college in Hartford, Connecticut. I'll be blogging about what it takes to become an amateur sleuth.

A Few Dead Men - a Chick Dick Mystery is available at the following online retailers:




Author Bio

Nancy Lauzon worked nine years on a hospital ward as a cardiac nurse before the night shifts turned her into a zombie. She got a day job in health promotion and began to write health-related articles for magazines and newsletters.

Life threw out a few curve balls, and to relieve the stress, she began to write fiction part-time. Five years later she sold two different manuscripts to two separate small-press publishers, using a pseudonym. She left nursing in 2003 and began to write full-time.

Nancy lives in Ottawa, Canada.

Visit her website

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Editorial Comment Has Been Withheld

by Bethany Maines

Earlier this week Laura Spinella (Legend In Her Own Mind and author of Beautiful Disaster) posted a link on Facebook to a great 2010 blog on How To Write a Novel. The blog ended with the sage advice that we should always “revise like crazy.” But as I was working on the first act of a friend’s novel (and by working I mean “merrily hacking out entire pages, paragraphs, and characters that didn’t advance the story”), it occurred to me that an equally important piece of advice might be to “get thee to an editor.”

I remember, with that fond feeling of nostalgic rage, my own editors who told me repeatedly that a character who only shows up in the first act probably doesn’t need four pages devoted entirely to him. Oh, the foaming fits I had! How that vein in my forehead throbbed! The drinking problem I developed! OK, maybe not that one, but you get the idea. The worst part was that they so frequently turned out to be right.  Being edited turned me into a better writer.

So in the hopes ferreting out some helpful chunks of information for us writers without the pain of character deletion, I chatted up two of my editor friends, Christy Karras & and Jim Thomsen. Christy is a travel writer, while Jim prefers noir and true crime (see his short story in West Coast Crime Wave), and both have been editing for well over a decade in one form or another. 

Do you differentiate between line editing & story editing?

Jim: Big time. One of the first things I ask a prospective client in the feeling-each-other-out stage is whether they want a straight line-edit or if they want help with their story. It's amazing how often they haven't thought through that question. 

Christy: Yes. I think there's a huge difference. A person can do both at the same time, but you're looking for very different things in line editing and story editing. Also, line editing typically comes at a later stage in the project.

How do you approach editing a novel?

Christy: With delight. 
Seriously, I see the editing process as a collaboration between editor and author, and I think it's important that both parties feel comfortable and that communication is open. I send the author a written agreement, so we're both clear about the work and the terms. It's exceedingly important to me that I preserve an author's voice. Although I'm very thorough, I try not to fix anything that ain't broke, as they say. Sometimes, something is correct for that book, even if it's not correct according to the Chicago Manual of Style.

Jim: One, I make myself clear on what the client wants. 

Two, I read the whole thing without making any edits so I become familiar with the client's writing voice and thus don't take too heavy a hand in my editing. For instance, if the writer likes to use lots of sentence fragments, and has a deliberate effect in mind when using them, then I see from my read-through that I shouldn't interfere with that. It's not my job to stomp on a writer's voice, and it's only through a distanced familiarity with that voice that I can make the distinction between errors and artistic license.

Three, I dive right in and do what I call a "Hard Chicago," with the Chicago Manual of Style handy.

Favorite type of work to edit?

Christy: I love editing mysteries, probably because I love reading them. They involve another level of story crafting that I find fascinating.

Jim: Romance, by far. I'm not interested in romances as a reader, but I am interested in romance authors as clients because they almost always have their stuff together. Most are affiliated with Romance Writers of America, and as such they have studied their market and know their craft. Their characters and plots and narrative arcs are almost always well-constructed, and I find myself admiring their discipline as I do my work. The work itself is easier than it is for other kinds of clients, and almost every single romance-author client has been a dream to work with — friendly and professional and appreciative.

What is the best thing a writer can do to prepare their novel for editing?

Jim: Two things:
1. Know the scope of the job going in.
2. If you're adamant that you don't want story editing, make sure your novel has been story-edited and that full revisions have been made. Otherwise, story issues will trip me up in my line-editing, and thus make the job take longer, thus costing the client more money.

Is there anything you wish people knew/understood about editing?
Christy: People think a lot of writing is arbitrary, in a way. They say things like "a comma goes where you would pause in reading a sentence." But that's not how it works. In general, there are reasons for why doing something a certain way is correct. You, as the author, are fortunately spared knowing all of those rules and reasons, but your editor darn well should know them. If your editor can't explain the reason for a change, run away!

Jim: What Christy said. We’re here to make your work better, not to impose our wills and egos upon you. That said, appreciate that what are professionals and will charge a professional’s fee for our services. But, as a counterbalance against what may seem like a high estimate, I offer absurdly flexible payment terms. One client paid me half the fee for a job, and gave me a beautiful refinished bedroom dresser for the rest. Another has paid me $50 a month for over a year. I get what I get … but that doesn’t mean that I’m trying to vacuum out your checking account. I want to work with you as often as possible, for as long as possible.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Quote of the day

by: Joelle Charbonneau

No, I’m not going to give you wise words by Confucius or a thought from Eleanor Roosevelt. Both are fabulous people you see quoted every day on the bottom of people’s e-mails, and gracing Twitter and Facebook. Personally, I am fan all of uplifting quotes, but those aren’t the kinds of quotes I’m thinking about right now. This week I embarked upon my least favorite authorial task-soliciting cover quotes from other authors.

As a stage performer, I had no problem getting up on stage in front of hundreds, sometimes thousands of people. I sang. I danced. I cried. I laughed. Did I get nervous before a show? Sometimes. (Singing the National Anthem standing 10 feet away from President Bill Clinton scared me silly!) But the nerves never lasted for very long and the show always went on—mostly without a hitch.

No matter how nervous I might have gotten before a performance, never was I as terrified or intimidated as I am sending out e-mails to my favorite authors asking them to read my work. I agonize over every word when I send out my request worried that I have gushed too much or haven’t been glowing enough about their work. More often than not I assumed the writer I am querying won’t have the time to read my stuff. I mean, we all have deadlines. Big name writers have BIG deadlines. They don’t have lots of time to spend on reading other people’s manuscripts.

But some authors do say yes. That’s when the real panic sets in. Sure, my agent likes the book. Yes, my editor bought the book and told me she loves it. But that doesn’t mean this author that I greatly admire will enjoy reading my writing.

So, I chew my fingernails, which is better than chowing down on the bag of Cheetos sitting on my counter, and try to pretend I don’t want to check my e-mail every five minutes to see if one of the authors reading my book sent their verdict. (Ok – I confess that I often do eat the Cheetos and cave to the e-mail temptation. I can’t help it! I’m only human.)

Thus far, I’m lucky that some truly awesome authors, including our own fabulous Susan McBride, have blurbed my two mystery series. I am always humbled and amazed when an author I look up to tells me my stories are enjoyable. I’m also amazed that I haven’t gained twenty pounds or turned gray by the time the blurb process is over! So, dear Stiletto friends, please keep your fingers crossed for me as I once again embark on this cover quote quest—this time for my first young adult novel, THE TESTING. And if you see me edging for the Cheetos bag, you have my permission to take it away.