Monday, July 30, 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.

15 Seconds by Andrew Gross ~ 15 seconds can tear your life apart . . .Henry Steadman didn't know what was about to hit him when he pulled up to a red light. A successful Florida plastic surgeon, he is in town to deliver a keynote address at a conference when suddenly his life becomes an unrelenting chase to stay alive.

Stopped by the police for a minor traffic violation, the situation escalates and he is pulled from his vehicle, handcuffed and told he is under arrest. Several other police cars arrive and the questioning turns scary, but just as Henry is released and about to move on, a blue sedan pulls up and the officer is suddenly killed. As the car speeds away, there is only one suspect left behind–Henry. In that moment, his idyllic life becomes a free fall into hell as he becomes the target of a police manhunt, as well as being pursued by a cunning, unnamed perpetrator bent on some kind of vengeance.

When Henry turns to a close friend for help, and he, too, ends up dead, Henry realizes he's being elaborately framed. But in a chilling twist, the stakes grow even darker, and he is unable to go to the police to clear his name, without bringing on dire and deadly consequences.

With breakneck pacing and nonstop action, 15 Seconds shows what can happen when even the best life is turned upside down in an instant. It is also the story of an innocent man, framed for murder, who has to save the person he loves the most, all while being drawn closer and closer to an inevitable face-to-face standoff with a man determined to destroy his life.

From Miami, to Jacksonsonville, to Georgia, the race is on. 15 Seconds is the story of one man’s unrelenting desire to mete out justice to those he feels destroyed his daughter, without being able to see the real root of her problems and being unable to lay the blame at the feet of those truly responsible.  It’s the story of another man’s desire to prove his innocence, to find those that are framing him, and to find out why they are doing so, and to do it all in time to stop a mad man from destroying his entire world. Once you start 15 Seconds, there is no way you’ll be able to put it down. You are sucked in from the very first page. The writing is intense, the story fast-paced, and the action is non-stop. 15 Seconds is a spine-chilling, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that will keep you reading well into the night. 


The Playdate by Louise Millar ~ In a quiet London suburb, a group of mothers relies on each other for friendship, favors, and gossip. But some of them shouldn’t be trusted, and others have dark secrets.

When Callie moved into her new neighborhood, she thought it would be easy to fit in. The other parents have been strangely hostile, though, and her frail daughter Rae is finding it impossible to make friends. Suzy, with her rich husband and her three energetic children, has been the only one to reach out, although their friendship has recently felt inexplicably strained. Now the police have suggested that someone dangerous may be living in their neighborhood, and the atmosphere feels even more toxic. Then there’s the matter of Callie’s ex-husband, and the shocking truth behind their divorce . . . a truth that she would do anything to hide.

The Playdate will cause you to rethink each and every one of your friendships. How well do you know the woman who’s been watching your child every day after school? Will you be so quick to cast stones because of something you heard second hand from someone else? This book will not only have you questioning every single one of your friendships, but you will also make you stop and think about whom it is that you can truly trust.  The answer may very well surprise you.

It’s hard to believe that The Playdate is the debut thriller for author Louise Millar.  The writing is taut, the action slow building, the emotions intense, and the climax explosive, making it a must read for all. 


Gun Games by Faye Kellerman ~ Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus are back in this gripping mystery involving a secret cabal of some of Los Angeles’ most wealthy—and vicious—teens
LAPD lieutenant detective Decker and his wife, Rina, have willingly welcomed fifteen-year-old Gabriel Whitman, the son of a troubled former friend, into their home. While the enigmatic teen seems to be adapting easily, Decker knows only too well the secrets adolescents keep—witnessed by the tragic suicide of another teen, Gregory Hesse, a student at Bell and Wakefield, one of the city’s most exclusive prep schools.

Gregory’s mother, Wendy, refuses to believe her son shot himself and convinces Decker to look deeper. What he finds disturbs him. The gun used in the tragedy was stolen—evidence that propels him to launch a full investigation with his trusted team, Sergeant Marge Dunn and Detective Scott Oliver. But the case becomes darkly complicated by the suicide of another Bell and Wakefield student—a death that leads them to uncover an especially nasty group of rich and privileged students with a predilection for guns and violence. Decker thought he understood kids, yet the closer he and his team get to the truth, the clearer it becomes that he knows very little about them, including his own charge, Gabe. The son of a gangster and an absent parent, the boy has had a life filled with too much free time, too many unexplained absences, and too little adult supervision.

Before it’s over, the case and all its terrifying ramifications will take Decker and his detectives down a dark alley of twisted allegiances and unholy alliances, culminating at a heart-stopping point of no return.

Gun Games is an intense story that will lead you into the inner workings of the teenage minds; the minds of those in love, and the minds of those who hurt without feeling, and the secrets that they keep. For readers who have experienced forbidden teenage love you will find yourself rooting for Gabe & Yasmine to find a way to be open with their love, but you may also remember what it was like to lie and deceive those that trusted you.  Ms. Kellerman has the skilled ability to bring her readers right into the pages of her book so that you feel as if you are experiencing everything right along with characters themselves. Gun Games is an intense story that will grab you from page one, and hold you right up to the mesmerizing conclusion.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Time Management for Writers

by  Linda Rodriquez

In my former life, I ran a very successful university women’s center. I was famous for my time management and organizational skills—and not just on campus. I was fairly well-known in Kansas City because of the many public programs I organized and led and the numerous organizations with which I collaborated and partnered. People often remarked that they couldn’t understand how I could keep track of so many events and activities and accomplish so many things.

I was extremely organized, and my family and I lived and died by my DayTimer. That was part of the answer, but the other, hidden part was the number of nights I stayed up until 3:00 a.m., finishing some project before getting up again at 5:30 a.m. to put myself together and attend an early breakfast event or meeting to start my workday of 10-12 hours. Eventually, when I developed several serious autoimmune disorders I could no longer keep up that kind of schedule.

Now, I write for a living. Writing is my job, as running the women’s center once was. But I seem to have lost all those fabulous time management and organizational skills. Not only do we no longer live and die by my DayTimer in this family, I’d be hard put to lay my hands on it. After several years of serious and scary debility before doctors diagnosed and found proper treatment for me, my house has never been the same, smooth-running, well-organized place it once was. Some things I regularly did to keep it humming along I can simply no longer physically accomplish.

My biggest problem in the time management area is managing to balance the writing of books with all the online and in-person promotion of books that is required of us today. If I overdo building the “platform” my publisher would like to see, my writing time suffers, but if I don’t do enough of the promotion, my sales suffer. I don’t have an answer, but I’ve learned to make writing the first thing I do in my work hours. Once I ensure that my current book-in-progress is going well, I can schedule in promotion activities for the rest of my time. When I follow that simple principle, I feel that my writing life is in balance. When I get sidetracked and don’t, I begin to feel out of whack and overwhelmed.

What are your tips? How do you manage your writing and promotion time? How do you organize your life to keep that balance? Or don’t you?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My favorite recipe

by Maria Geraci

As I write this post, I have a confession to make. I'm all blogged out. That's because in less than 2 weeks my new release A Girl Like You comes out and I'm going on a huge blog tour, which means I've been writing blog posts galore. So in the interest of keeping it fresh, I decided to share my most favorite recipe with Stiletto Gang readers.

Now, lest you think you are getting cheated here, let me tell you whenever I make my Asian Salad I get stampeded for the recipe. Seriously. It's the best. And now it's yours to try. Plus, it's easy!


1-2 heads of Nappa Cabbage, finely chopped. Combine with 1 bunch of green onions, also finely chopped. Place in a large container. Cover and refrigerate.

Melt 1/2 stick butter in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Take 2 packages of Ramen noodles (any flavor). While package is still sealed take a rolling pin and smash the ramen noodles, crushing them into bite sized pieces. Discard seasoning packet and add smashed ramen noodles into the frying pan. Add 1 bag slivered almonds, plus one small jar of sesame seeds. Saute noodles, almonds and seeds until lightly browned (about 15 minutes). Let cool, then place in a sealed container and refrigerate.

Dressing: 1 cup canola oil, 1/2 cup plain rice vinegar, 1/4 cup soy sauce plus 1/4 cup sugar. Mix well and refrigerate.

Let the cabbage mixture, noodle mixture and dressing all cool for at least 2-4 hours or overnight. When ready to serve, add the noodle mixture into the cabbage and toss with dressing (I usually only use about 1/2- 3/4 of the dressing) and serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mimicking Life?

by Bethany Maines

A few weeks ago I posted a photo on my FB page that said, “If you were in my novel, I’d have killed you off by now.” I’d like to say that was a joke, but the unfortunate part (for everyone else) of being a writer is that I really do use a large chunks of life for my writing. I just don’t use the parts people think I’m going to… or should.

Over the years I’ve had several people offer me “really great” suggestions about what to include in a novel and I’ve taken absolutely none of them. What I have taken, or pilfered, as the case may be, are people’s stories, experience, and random bits of dialogue. Don’t tell me that pine needle basket weaving is a skill you keep up in case of the zombie apocalypse if you don’t want that included in a piece of Maines fiction. Don’t invent clever catch phrases about basic life principles if you don’t want them written down (I’m looking at you Dad aka Ray “Lugnut Rule” Maines).

But when it comes to using an actual person, I try not to do that. For one thing, I know some pretty complex people and capturing them in fiction sounds hard.  And for another… I’m mean.  I really will kill people off, or worse.  I made one of my favorite characters the villain in my first novel what do you think I’d do to someone that annoyed me in real life.  Next thing you know, snooty waitress, you’re going to be a drug mule for an incompetent Norwegian drug lord and TSA will be all up in yer bidness.

That’s not to say I’ve never done it, but it seems like those “characters” never make the final cut; they get edited out before the final draft.  I think it’s because fictional revenge might be fun, but it doesn’t make a good story. It’s hard to draft a solid plot around the impulse to bash an acquaintance in the head, unless the plot is “writer kills client who looks like Toad from Wind in theWillows.”

But that got me to thinking, if I was going to put someone in a novel, who should it be?  My grandmother? My business partner? The annoying neighbor with the miniature horse? Or the highly suspicious old dudes across the street who might be running a chop shop?  Who would you put in a novel?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


By: Joelle Charbonneau

Happy Tuesday!

If you’re like me, you’re amazed that the summer months have flown by so quickly.  How can August already be next week?  I mean…didn’t the summer just begin.  Yes, I know that summer technically ends in September, but really, the beginning of school marks the end of the summer experience even if the calendar doesn’t technically agree.  Face it--I’m not ready to see back-to-school supplies in the stores and everything that implies.  The end of summer means the beginning of my son’s first 5 day a week school adventure.  It also means 2 different book deadlines for me (eek!) and lots of work with my high school senior voice students as we get them ready for college auditions.

Those are all good things, but I am not ready for any of them to happen.  I am in a total state of denial.

However, one thing that I am eagerly anticipating after summer’s end is the release of the next Rebecca Robbins novel!  (I also need to finish writing the 4th Rebecca Robbins book…but I’m not going to think about that.  Today, I am the queen of denial!)  Since I’ve always felt that Rebecca and company are great beach reads, I am going to celebrate the fact we still have several weeks of summer left by giving away an ARC of SKATING ON THE EDGE.  It is the third Rebecca book, features the Toe Stop roller derby team, EstroGenocide, and thus far is my favorite in the series.  (Although, I might say the same when I’m done with Skating Under The Wire.  Only time will tell.)

So….here’s the deal.  If you would like to celebrate summer with a signed advance reader copy of SKATING ON THE EDGE, leave a comment on this post.  Next Monday, I’ll draw a winner and ship off the copy of Skating On The Edge to the winner so they can find a patch of sand, rub on some suntan oil and enjoy the last days of summer with Rebecca and friends.

(Oct. 2nd, Minotaur Books)
 Rebecca Robbins, owner of the Toe Stop roller-skating rink, is back, this time joined by a tough and sassy roller derby team, and she has a new puzzling murder to solve.

It’s Native American Summer Days in Indian Falls, and Rebecca is roped into taking a turn in the Senior Center dunk tank. That is, until her rhinestone-studded grandfather, Pop, needs help setting up his Elvis act. Minutes from climbing into the tank, Rebecca has to find a replacement, and roller derby girl Sherlene-n-Mean is delighted to fit the bill---until she’s dunked, electrocuted, and killed. It’s obvious that this was no accident. Someone rigged the tank, but who was the intended target? Sherlene-n-Mean or Rebecca?

With a list of suspects in hand and Pop cheering her on, Rebecca starts asking questions. Who disliked Sherlene-n-Mean enough to kill her? Could a father really be capable of murdering his own daughter for money? Why has the bowling alley owner suddenly decided to call a truce and offer Rebecca his assistance? Who
was Sherlene-n-Mean? Did her mysterious past catch up with her and get her killed or was she a victim of circumstance? Aided by a trio of self-appointed bodyguard derby girls and caught between Deputy Sean and her sometimes-boyfriend Lionel, Rebecca digs for answers, dodges bullets, and races to find a killer before the killer strikes again.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Time Flies When You're Having fun

By Evelyn David

I love Mark Twain. I was thinking of writing a blog on procrastination and found his thoughts on the matter: Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.

Of course, finding clever quotations is one of my favorite forms of procrastination, so there you have it.

When we first began The Stiletto Gang (five years next January!), I wrote a blog about playing Free Cell, It was all about procrastination, guilt, and the writer's spirit.

You'll be glad to know I haven't played Free Cell in at least three years.

But have you ever played Lexulous? It's a Scrabble-type game and I justify playing it by saying it improves my vocabulary. The problem is I now know a plethora of new words (and by the way I knew the word plethora before playing Lexulous) – but I have no idea what they mean. Za? Wo? Xi?

Anyway, I was feeling guilty again (and we all, by all I mean family, friends, and even complete strangers, agree that Guilt is Marian's middle name). Tempus Fugit, etc.

But then I had this conversation with a friend which suddenly made my playing Lexulous not only perfectly acceptable, but in fact, part of the creative process. She explained that when she confronted her husband about his playing Backgammon online (and I do think that is a classier game than Lexulous), he said that while he plays, it may look like he's wasting time, but actually it frees his mind to wander and see things in new, creative ways. She assured me that since I was a "creator," I too had permission to play Lexulous for hours at a time.

Okay, she didn't actually suggest that I could play for hours at a time -- but it did give me the permission I needed to indulge in a little wordplay. It's probably how War and Peace got written.

I then got to thinking about the larger issue. Why did I need permission in order to procrastinate? Was I worried that people would think I was a goof off? (And the answer is yes, I was worried about that). But generally speaking I'm not frustrated by the pace of my life. I get the important things done. Sure I'd like to write a new mystery in four weeks, but to a certain extent, I can't push my whodunnit muse until she's ready to move. Yes, sometimes it helps to put something down on paper, anything, and then revise. Sometimes it's just the spark you need to get things underway. But often, you need time, uninterrupted time, to let your mind explore new, exciting ways to create devilish murder and mayhem.

So if you see me tapping away at my computer, it may indeed be the next Brianna or Maggie or Mac mystery -- or it could be me letting my mind wander.

What's your favorite form of procrastination?

Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David 

Zoned for Murder - Kindle (Exclusive at Amazon this month)
Trade Paperback

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
Lottawatah Twister - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Missing in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Good Grief in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Ghosts of Lottawatah - trade paperback collection of the Brianna e-books
Book 1 - I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries (includes the first four Brianna e-books)
Book 2 - A Haunting in Lottawatah (includes the 5th, 6th, and 7th Brianna e-books)

Sullivan Investigations Mystery
Murder Off the Books Kindle - Nook - Smashwords - Trade Paperback
Murder Takes the Cake Kindle - Nook - Smashwords - Trade Paperback
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Moonlighting at the Mall (short story) - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, July 20, 2012

No Pause Button

No Pause Button
By Laura Bradford

As most of you probably already know by now, Stiletto Gang Alum Susan McBride gave birth to the beautiful Miss Emily three weeks ago. Thanks to the internet, we were able to see her first picture and feel as if we were, in some way, part of this precious little girl's debut into the world.

Likewise, over the past few months, we've been given a window into Maggie's world and the very different stage she finds herself in where her daughter is concerned. For her, the first baby picture has morphed into the high school graduation photos and the unchartered waters of college orientation.

On a day to day basis, the Miss Emily years don't seem to go all that fast. But then, somehow, you're in Maggie's stage in the blink of an eye. The very misty blink of an eye, I might add.

Honestly, I couldn't have enjoyed my girls' baby years more than I did. I didn't tv-watch the days away. I didn't waste our moments together texting. Instead, I played with them...held them...treasured to them. I was with them twenty-four/seven and loved every moment of that time. Yet even with all that time, it went fast. Too fast.

Suddenly, I find myself looking around thinking, how did that happen? How did Dear Daughter #1 get from that moment on the baby scale when the screen read: 6 pounds, 12 ounces, to where she is now--a high school student getting ready to enter her senior year?  How did Dear Daughter #2 go from running around in her little yellow Pooh Bear dress to having braces and going off to sleepover parties?

I was there.

I watched the changes happening before my eyes.

Yet somehow I'm still not sure how I got from Point A to Point B so quickly.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Writing the Fly Lady Way

by Maria Geraci

I have a confession to make. I'm probably one of the most naturally disorganized people you'll ever meet. Oh, I can fake it pretty well, but beneath my iPhone's carefully filled calendar is a field of chaos so large I can barely wrap my arms around it.

This is something I've always known about myself, but it's really struck home lately. You see, I'm in the process of filling out various Q&As for my upcoming blog tour to promote my August 7 release of A Girl Like You. One of the most common questions has to do with my writing process/routine. I shudder at the real answers to most of these questions.

Q: What is your writing routine like?

A: Oh, I like to get up in the morning, drink a cup of coffee, then get in 2 solid hours of good writing time before I start the day.

REAL A: I get up in the morning, drink a cup of coffee and immediately start looking at my email, which then takes me to a plethora of other sites that seem sparkly and distracting and before I realize it, 2 hours have gone by! 

Okay, sometimes I really do write for those 2 hours in the morning, but most times, not. My writing routine is all over the place. Sometimes I write for a couple of hours straight, but most times my writing is done in fifteen minute intervals because I have the attention span of a flea. But that doesn't mean my writing routine is wrong. It just means that it's the way I think and the way I create a story.

I guess I'm the Fly Lady of writing. Never heard of Fly Lady? Fly Lady is a fantastic site that stresses decluttering, destressing and organizing your life in Baby Steps. Awhile back it occurred to me that Fly Lady's cleaning tips could also be applied to writing. Fifteen minutes here, Fifteen minutes there, and eventually, you have a manuscript. Believe me, it works!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What I Learned at Orientation

What I Learned at Orientation

I just spent a few days at child #1’s college orientation, desperately trying to fit in with the cool kids (the other parents) so that I wouldn’t have to eat alone in the dining hall.  But this whole post begs a question:  for those of you who went away to college, did you have an orientation?  Was it three days in July or two hours before class started in late August?  Did your parents attend?  Did they even want to?

I joke with my daughter that yes, my parents did drive me to Orientation and upon our arrival on campus, slowed the car down just enough so that I could grab my belongings out of the trunk—encased in black plastic garbage bags—and head into the dorm to figure out where my room was, who my roommate was and if this was even the right school.  Yes, they waved lovingly as they drove off in search of the local steak house where they would have the last meal they would ever eat in a restaurant, at least until they got the four of us through college.

Orientation today is different, part summer camp, part boot camp.  I think it’s great for kids who have chosen a college based only on one formal tour and perhaps a drive through at a different time; there really is no way to get a feel for what it will be like to go to college and live away from home unless you do an intense dry run in which you stay in the dorms and are thrown together with a diverse group of people who you may never have met in your regular life but with whom you will now be living and learning, and hopefully playing a little bit.  (But just a little bit.  College does not come cheap these days.)  Husband and I chose not to stay in the dorms as some other parents did, as we are close enough—and far enough away—to have commuted back and forth to Orientation.  Did we learn anything we didn’t already know?  Maybe not.  But we made some good friends in the other parents, one of whom I will be having dinner with in a few weeks, and we had a chance to be voyeurs and see our kids in their new environment with their new classmates and friends.

Although it is presumably for the students, there is a strong parent component running through the program and while husband and I chose not to participate in a lot of it (parent lip-synching anyone? Can you think of a quicker way for your child to die an immediate social death?) we did stay for the important stuff, like residence life and the financial talk.  We only caught glimpses of child #1 as she processed from one activity to the other and in those few moments, we ascertained that she had 1) made friends and 2) seemed to be enjoying herself.  As far as I was concerned, Orientation was a success.

When I posted about this on Facebook, I got a variety of responses ranging from “My parents wouldn’t leave my dorm room for hours on move-in day!” to “Your parents dropped you off?  Mine sent me on the bus” which is a testament to the diversity in styles that existed in the old days when I and my friends went to school.  These days, it would seem, parents want to be involved from morning until night if some of the talks we heard were any indication.  Many of them centered around tips for dealing with separation—not child from parents but parent from child! Times have certainly changed; rather than parents longing for the day when they will be empty nesters—and we still have five years to achieve that goal—they now long for the time when their kids were still small and living at home.  I don’t know; I guess I fall somewhere in between.  I remember college being as one of the most rewarding and enriching times of my life; every wonderful thing that has happened to me can be traced back to my time there.  It was a time when the world really opened up to me and I started to figure out my place in it.  I hope the same is true for my confident, smart, and successful daughter, who clearly doesn’t have as far to go as I did at her age but will more than likely do great things.

And that’s something I already knew before I went to Orientation.

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Writers Life...and Life

Last week was both full of what would go under the heading of the writers life--and plenty under the heading of just life.

Right off the bat I have to tell you that I never ever write in my pajamas. I shower and dress first thing every morning, I'm going to be prepared for whatever happens that I didn't plan on. One big thing I've learned over the years is that the plan for the day often goes awry.

I spent the first couple of days getting ready for our trip to Las Vegas and the Public Safety Writers Association's annual conference. I'm the program chair so there are a things I need to make sure I've packed--as well as the right clothes and other necessities.

My publisher sent me the galley proof for my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, Raging Water. Of course I took the time to go over it carefully and found plenty to be corrected. (No doubt those dang gremlins will get in there and add some other stuff.)

My daughter was supposed to come over Monday a.m. to dye my hair--you didn't really think I was a natural redhead did you? (I have several in my family, but I'm not one of them.) I am holding off telling you the biggest news that comes  under the heading of Life.

At 5:30 a.m. I received a call from one of my grand daughters to let me know that her sister, Merenda, had given birth to the baby boy we'd all been expecting. Granddaughter who called, her daughter and her mom and dad were all at the hospital in Modesto--3 hours away from where we all live.

A little while later another call from my daughter to tell me the new mom wasn't doing well, the doctors were having a problem controlling her bleeding. Daughter asked for prayers. I do the church's email prayer list and put out a call for prayers for Merenda. I also put it on Facebook asking all prayer warriors on there to also pray. By the time the day was over nearly 50 people had  prayed or promised to do so.

We soon had good news, praise God, the doctors had found the problem and taken care of it. Merenda, the new mom, is doing much better.

Now that I"ve told you about all this, I'll share a photo.
Daddy, baby, and big sis.

It'll be awhile before I get to see this one in person. And by the way, he's my 12th great-grandchild.

On Wednesday, we headed by car to Las Vegas, first to visit my sis then on to the PSWA conference which lasted until Sunday afternoon. Back to my sis's, then home again on Monday. (A mixture of writing life and regular life.)

Oh, you want to know if I ever got my hair dyed? Hubby volunteered. That's a whole other story, but my hair is dyed and it looks all right.

Sometimes my writing life and regular life are such a mixed up jumble, I'm never quite sure which is which. I would say, hopefully all will get back to normal, but normal around here is always full of surprises.



Monday, July 16, 2012

Lessons from the Road

By Evelyn David

The vacation was wonderful. But I'm happy to be home. The place where the shower has real water pressure, the mattress already has lumps in the places I like them, and I have access to a refrigerator for a midnight snack that doesn't cost $20. Forgive me if I sound a bit like Dorothy when I say "there's no place like home."

We traveled over 2,000 miles, all the way to Halifax for the enchanting Tattoo, a cross between a military exhibition, complete with gunfire, and Barnum and Bailey's Circus. This year's dual theme was a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, as well as a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. A little schizophrenic, but they made it work.

Actually the Titanic was a major theme throughout Halifax, the city where they brought the victims of the ship's sinking. We even ate dinner in a restaurant that had been converted from the funeral home that had been used in 1912. You could order items from the First Class Menu that had been served on the ill-fated trip (which seemed a tad morbid). We passed and settled on fish (actually fish was the theme of the vacation, as we only ate items from the sea for the entire 10 days).

We wandered through Canada, gorgeous landscape everywhere. We visited every historic site my husband could find (the family calls him a Kamikaze tourist). But a couple of chance encounters stuck with me, reminding me again of the journey we all make in life.

To set the scene: We'd taken a three-hour ferry ride that included whale watching on deck with sea spray everywhere; driven with the windows open for hours at a time; and there had been a heavy mist in the area for two days. Result? I know I've used the metaphor before, but I resembled a Chia pet, an unkempt one at that. I had an unexpected break in the tour schedule my husband had plotted out for us and decided to treat myself to a salon visit.

I love tea and collect teacups. Was it serendipity or just a crazy coincidence that the hairdresser had a tattoo of a teapot with a stack of teacups running down her arm? She was young. She came from a small village about an hour outside of Halifax, and loved living in the "big city." I'm from New York, a metropolis of 8 million, so I know from big cities. She was now living in a municipality of less than 400,000, but since her hometown had less than 1,000 residents, it's all relative. She needed to move to the "big city," she explained, because there was no future where she was from.

But she had one regret. A major regret. She'd promised herself that she'd visit New York City before she was 21, and her milestone birthday was in just a couple of weeks, with no money for the trip. Living in a "big city," you know, is expensive. Specifically she wanted to come to New York and stay at the Chelsea Hotel, where Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and Iggy Pop used to stay. She reminded me it was the hotel where Nancy Spungen, girlfriend of Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols, was found stabbed to death. Doesn't sound like the typical Holiday Inn to me, but it broke her heart that the hotel had closed before she could get there.

And I smiled because she doesn't know that there are second, third, and fourth acts in life. There will be other Chelsea Hotels, and if she doesn't get there by age 21, with the drive she has already shown to leave her small town behind and move to the big city, I had no doubt that she'll get there in time.

A few days later, we were in Digby, Canada, a small town of under 20,000, where the ferry for Saint John departs four times a day. We had about an hour to kill before we were due to board and so looked around for somewhere to have a "cuppa." Couldn't resist the small restaurant called Mag Pyes Bakery Shoppe and Café (spelling correct) since I often refer to my darling daughter Maggie as Magpie. Plus according to Trip Advisor, this place was a gem. There was tea served in a ceramic pot, china teacups, and a strawberry cheesecake pie that was to die for. In a vacation replete with memorable meals, this afternoon delight ranks near the top.

Owner and chef Margaret Grey chatted with us, while I tried not to lick the plate. She told us that she had grown up in the area, gone off to the big city, Toronto, with her husband and worked for 20 years in marketing. She then saw an ad for a bed and breakfast for sale in Digby (, and just down the street from the B & B that they fully restored, was a small restaurant for rent. Her comment to her husband summed it up" "Why not." Margaret and her second act dream was what I wanted to tell the hairdresser from Halifax. If you don't get your dream at 21, you can have another dream at 40, 50, or more. The important point was to keep dreaming.

Before leaving Canada, we stopped at a local supermarket. I bought the brand of tea that I drank at Mag Pyes (King Cole, produced in the maritime provinces of Canada, I've already started scouring the Internet for a recipe for strawberry cheesecake pie. I suspect it's a specialty of Mag Pye herself.

As for dreams and imagination, I brought mine with me on vacation and they're even more fired up now that I'm back home.

Sweet dreams to all.

Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David
Zoned for Murder - Kindle (Exclusive at Amazon this month)
Trade Paperback

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
Lottawatah Twister - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Missing in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Good Grief in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Ghosts of Lottawatah - trade paperback collection of the Brianna e-books
Book 1 - I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries (includes the first four Brianna e-books)
Book 2 - A Haunting in Lottawatah (includes the 5th, 6th, and 7th Brianna e-books)

Sullivan Investigations Mystery
Murder Off the Books Kindle - Nook - Smashwords - Trade Paperback
Murder Takes the Cake Kindle - Nook - Smashwords - Trade Paperback
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Moonlighting at the Mall (short story) - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I'm Glad You Asked...

By Laura Spinella

My original thought was to do a post about the upcoming RWA conference and RITA awards. I’ll be on my way to Anaheim at the end of the month for their annual gathering of romantic-minded authors and accompanying soiree where the RITAs are bestowed.  However, I realized that a dress, shoes and an airline ticket do not for a blog make.
Then, yesterday, I heard from a reader. Derek first wrote me about a year ago, and we’ve been chummy ever since. He’s a voracious reader, who visits Goodreads more often than I frequent my liquor cabinet. In fact, he reads so much, I worry about his vitamin D consumption and terminal paper cuts. Derek sent me this link to an article in Publishers Weekly. For the full effect, please give it a read.  The main gist of the article is Goodreads dialogue, and not necessarily pleasant dialogue, between readers and authors. Whether you are an author, editor, agent or the most important component: a reader, the article is thought provoking.
Direct from Facebook, the other social media Kool-Aid, is my conversation with Derek.  I would however, love to hear your thoughts on the Publisher’s Weekly article. If you’re a reader/reviewer, is it license to say whatever you want?  If you’re an author, how do respond, if you respond? 
            Oh, BTW, about that RWA RITA thing… If you could all keep fingers and toes crossed on the 28th, it would be very much appreciated! 
           Derek: I know we haven't talked in awhile but I stumbled upon this article about reviewers and authors and backlash on Goodreads, and was wondering what your thoughts on it?

Me: Derek, it's always great to hear from you! And you sure picked an interesting question for me... I feel like a Miss Universe contestant in the dreaded question round! Interpreter, please! Well, interpreter if one is going to spend a lot of time dissecting reviews anywhere, including Goodreads. 

Here's my take for whatever it is worth: I don't read them. I don't read reviews anywhere, Goodreads, Amazon...  I don't read them if they're glowing or a one-star kick in the teeth. I made that rule right after BD came out. It just struck me as "awkward" to sit around reading judgments about something that could never mean as much to someone else as it does to me. I spent six years of my life with that book. It's like toting your kindergartner to school, shoving him/her in front of the student body and saying, "OK, tell me what you think?" Reading is SO subjective, and no two opinions are going to be the same. To say that an author reads a negative review looking for ways to improve their writing, I wish them luck with that. What happens when the next reviewer says the exact opposite? I don't read the good ones b/c there's always a risk I might believe what they're saying. Seems like slippery slope to me.  

Lastly, I'd never get into a dialogue with a reviewer. To what end? If they disliked my book (and I'm sure some have), is a word war with me going to change their opinion? Maybe I'm just not any good at dealing with negativity, or maybe i just think life is too short. I do what I do. I love my book/s. Are they perfect? Heck no. But they’re mine. Part of the job involves putting yourself out there for the masses to comment on, like it or not. It's a strange caveat you learn as you go. 

Well, I hope that answers your question to some extent. Ask the next author and you'll probably get a completely different answer! I hope you're having a wonderful summer!! I'm off to CA in a couple of weeks... Again, I'd probably be happier alone in my sunroom with my laptop. Writers are strange people (-;


Laura Spinella is the author of the RITA nominated novel BEAUTIFUL DISASTER. Visit her at

Philadelphia Story by Bruce Sarte

by Bruce Sarte

This is an excerpt from my latest novel, Philadelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel. In this scene, Lance receives another phone call from the mysterious young girl and gets some important information from his partner, Linc Diesel.

After Nathalie left I was able to unwind on the couch with Copper and another glass of Jack Daniels. It wasn’t until my phone began ringing did I remember that I missed a call while being accosted by the inner city version of Menudo.

Unknown. Great… my favorite caller.

“Hello?” I offered, hoping for a response but just like earlier in the day, nothing. It was actually starting to get on my nerves considering the kind of day I ended up having. “Look, I know that you are with or work for #1 Velvet Dragon Industries and I know where the warehouse is so I’d really…”

“You shouldn’t have come to the warehouse today,” she interrupted in a flat monotone.

“No? Why not? You…”

“Javier and Miguel will shoot you,” she interrupted again in the same flat monotone. So that’s what Sleeves' and Crucifix’ names were. Wonder which was which.

“Your Hispanic friends don’t scare me. I was just trying to make sure you weren’t in trouble.” I paused hoping for some input from my mystery caller. “Are you in trouble?”

“I… I…” she stammered, unsure of herself suddenly. “I should have never called you, I just want to tell you not to worry and that it was a mistake for me to call you.” Her speech pattern had increased almost to the level of panic. “Just stay away… they will hurt you and…” She stopped suddenly and let her words hang.

“And?” I prompted.

“Nothing,” the flat tone had returned, “just stay away.”

“Who is this? Why are you calling me?” No response. “Hello? Are you still there?” But the mystery girl was gone. Just like before, I didn’t have anything tangible but I felt like something was wrong and I was responsible for thisgirl. And somehow, she felt a responsibility for… me?

I looked at my missed calls and saw it was Linc who had called earlier.

“Lance. Linc. Call me. You want to know whose car that is.” He said it matter-of-factly, as if I wanted to know whose car that was. Not implying a question. So I did as instructed by my venerable partner of few words but many skills.

“Hey Linc!” I said in my best mobster impression. Linc loves it when I poke fun at his Italian heritage. “Wassa happening!” More ethnic humor.

“The car is registered to Soriano Mustafa.” That Linc, always right to the point. But this little piece of information caught me off-guard.

“Say what now?” Soriano Mustafa was one of the biggest crime bosses this side of New York City and the word was that he even had ties upthere.

“And do you want to guess who is listed at the owner of #1 Velvet Dragon Industries?” Linc added in his gravely baritone.

“Soriano Mustafa?" I wagered a guess.

“Bingo.” His gritty voice stayed steady.

“You didn’t happen to see what #1 Velvet Dragon Industries does exactly?" I took a shot.

“They are listed as an import and export enterprise. But I made some calls.” Linc is nothing if not thorough. “You familiar with Savannah’s?”

“Of course.” Savannah’s is a high-priced, elitist gentlemen’s club. It was the kind of place that had a membership fee per year, not a cover charge. Only the wealthiest people were members. Only the youngest and most beautiful women danced at Savannah’s. There were rumors that for the right price, anything could be had. “You know, I’ve heard of it.”

“Number 1 Velvet Dragon Industries owns eighty percent. They also own a stake in the Maritime Museum and The Moshulu.”

“So why does this make me want to find this girl even more, Linc?”


Philadelphia Story is available in Paperback, Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook and Apple iBookstore formats. Find out more about Philadelphia Story at my website, Now through the end of August, sign up for my newsletter and gain an entry to win an Amazon Kindle Fire!
Bruce A. Sarte
Author, Sands of Time, Towering Pines, The Star of Christmas
Check Out My New Release — Philadelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel
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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Stiletto Gang welcomes friend Tiger Wiseman

Tiger Wiseman, a friend to the gals here at The Stiletto Gang, has graciously agreed to join us and tell us about her time at the Civilian Police Academy.  Thanks, Tiger!

My Time at the Civilian Policy Academy

by Tiger Wiseman

When I decided to write a mystery I knew I'd have to take some courses.  I've trained and worked as a journalist (way back when), but knew little or nothing about body language, plotting, and all those other trade secrets mystery writers need.  What I didn't expect to study was police procedure. I mean, I watch NCIS, CSI, Hawaii 50 and all those other shows, right?

Wrong. Nothing will get you in trouble faster with your readers than miswriting police procedure.

So here I am, a new graduate of the Civilian Police Academy (CPA). CPA is a 12-week course offered by my town's Police department as a way to keep in touch with the local community, foster good relationships, and enhance townspeople's understanding of police operations and challenges. Since my only "contact" with the police to date had been smiling (or growling) as I waited to be waved through a traffic jam, CPA sounded pretty good to me.  So I, along with 14 others, signed up for the Department's 4th annual session.

At our first class, the Chief of Police talked about department workforce statistics, and some of the challenges the department faces in finances and recruiting. Our town has a force of 43, covering 165 miles of road and over 34,000 service and dispatch calls annually.  All officers are college graduates and many hold advanced degrees in psychology, administration, etc. Several speak foreign languages and one of our three female officers previously served on the Italian police force.

A tour of the police department included the indoor shooting range, the evidence lockers, and the holding cells (tiny!), as well as the fingerprint scanner and breathalyzer. And believe me, the cells and equipment look nothing like what you see on TV.

The next eleven weeks covered everything from training and recruitment to basic laws of arrest, and from technology to SWAT teams. You’d think sitting in a classroom for two and a half hours listening to lectures would be boring. Wrong. Not only are the instructors knowledgeable, but they're also humourous and incredibly open. Their war stories are every mystery writer's dream—and I now have a notebook full of them. I especially loved the "dumb felon of the year" stories, like the bank robber who ran away and hide in an unmarked police car!

I gained a wealth of knowledge, some of it just interesting and most of it useful in my mystery writing. Firsthand knowledge can't be beat. I know what a patrol car looks, feels and smells like.  Just don't check it out after they've brought in a drunk.  I learned how to throw a spike strip to stop a car and fired a 40-gauge Glock pistol and a rifleeven managed to hit the target!  I learned the true application of the fourth (search & seizure/investigative detention), fifth (double jeopardy/right to remain silent), and sixth (right to counsel) amendments, and the genesis of the Miranda Law.  Did you know that police are only required to mirandize a person if 1) you are in custody, i.e. not free to leave, and 2) the police intend to interrogate you about the crime? And that Miranda is not required in the case of a dying declaration, even if the declaration implicates someone else, or in the case of spontaneous utterance.

From a writer's point of view, I gained invaluable insight which will hopefully keep me from penning unrealistic scenes and dialogue.  I know how a photo lineup is  prepared, what actually occurs when a call comes into dispatch, the difference between latent, patent, and plastic prints, and why DNA gathered at all major crimes, but only submitted in murder cases.  Hint: it takes months to get back and is prohibitively expensive.

I watched videos of men, women and attack dogs being tasered and pepper sprayed, and heard personal accounts of both.  All officers are peppered sprayed and tasered during Police Academy training. Note: when tased, the body stops jerking as soon as the trigger is released; there is no residual shocking.
I've smelled cordite and fingerprint powder, and suited up in full SWAT gear.  My knees actually buckled under the weight.

Need some lingo?  A "damp sponge" is a habitual drinker. To "book off" is to call in sick. A "rip" is a loss in pay due to a disciplinary infraction, such as unauthorized moonlighting.

And finally, yes, NCIS's Abby Sciutto is absolutely correct when she uses superglue to raise fingerprints. Superglue is cyanoacrylate which, when mixed with heat and humidity, creates a gas that will adhere to a fingerprint, resulting in a white, dusty print.

What did this course cost? Nothing. The Police department donates its time.  What did I get? More than I expected or hoped for. Many towns offer this type of course, so be sure to check it out with your local department.  And if it isn't available, suggest it—it's a win-win proposal.