Wednesday, January 27, 2016

There’s a Double Meaning in That

by Bethany Maines

In Much Ado About Nothing Beatrice and Benedick, the worst of rivals, are set up by their friends to fall in love.  So that by Act 2, Scene 3, when Beatrice says, “Against my will I am sent to bid you come into dinner,”  Benedick believes that Beatrice is madly in love with him, while Beatrice believes him to be an ass.  After she exits, he says in all smugness, “Ha! Against my will I am sent to bid you come in to dinner. There’s a double meaning in that.”

Someone I know once asked an English teacher how he knew the author intended the symbolism the teacher was accusing him of.  The teacher replied, “It doesn’t matter.”  As an author this makes me want to poke him in the eye just a little bit.  But in the end he’s right; stories mean something to a reader independent of the writer’s intentions.  Each reader brings their own experiences to a book and a writer can’t predict them.  So how can an author prevent his readers from pulling a Benedick and seeing double meanings where none are intended? 

It’s a very secret and advanced technique called (wait for it): educated guessing.  And good beta readers.  As an author I try to learn about other points of view, so that I can write stronger more realistic characters and then I rely on my writers group to read through a piece and throw up flags around text that might unintentionally carry a subtext that’s either offensive or poorly thought out.  It’s hard to think that something I’ve written could be construed as offensive, because after all, I am I and I’m awesome and I have only the best of intentions.  But we all have prejudices or periodically spout unexamined notions that have been fed to us by society. 

An easy example is “pink is only for girls”.  This statement is both observationally false (been to the mall lately?), and historically inaccurate (pink used to be a boys color). Color is a product of light bouncing off a surface or being absorbed (we see the portion of the spectrum bounced back); any deeper meaning has been assigned to a color by humanity. So unless my character is a sexist and I need him or her to say total nonsense about gender roles, I probably shouldn’t write that and a good beta reader should flag it as a problem.  With any luck I can keep the unintentional double meanings to a minimum.  I don’t want to be a Benedick.

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, Tales from the City of Destiny and An Unseen Current.  You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Rain and Rainbows

Rain and Rainbows by Debra H. Goldstein

“Rain, Rain, Go Away. Come again another day.”  If this was California or during a summer draught in Alabama, this refrain would be the last thing coming out of my mouth.  Right now, the storms have been so intense we are in a state far from water rationing.  Sadly, during the past few weeks, tornados and floods have destroyed homes, possessions, and people.  Thunder, lightning, and sheering winds have sent people to their shelters, caused dogs to run amuck in fear, and knocked out power sources with regularity. The rain has pummeled everything.

There have been a few high points.  Gardens are still lush and green.  Flowers, not realizing that this is winter, are blooming early and those that have blossomed are retaining their beauty.  Kids are loving the abundance of puddles to jump in.

At times, my mood reflects the rain. Somber, dark, unrelenting but then there are days that the rain is constant, but soft, and I find myself curled in a chair reading, peaceful, sleepy and content.  My writing reflects the difference in these days.  The rain keeps me indoors so I am keeping my resolution of writing regularly, but in reading it back, I see the impact of the weather.  A gloomy short story, a tale with a ray of sunshine. 

I want the rain to be replaced by a rainbow, but it probably won’t happen.  At least, not in the real world, but isn’t it wonderful that as a writer we can make it happen in the world we are creating?

My wish for you this week – rainbows.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Rocking the Day Job

By Cathy Perkins

Waving from warm, sunny Orlando today. Quite a change from last month’s endless snow.

photo by Cathy PerkinsI wish I could say I’m on vacation. Instead, I’m rocking the day job, teaching at my firm’s management school and taking a (shh! really boring) mandatory class, made bearable by my peers (who also have to take it).

This week made me think about careers and balancing. I know authors who have ditched their day job to write full time. Many others are like me—working full time at a job that pays the bills and offers health insurance. Since it’s the season to count your blessings and make plans for the new year, I’ll start with gratitude I have an interesting job that sends me money twice a month. J

Layer in writing, volunteers gigs, and the rest of my life, however, and it’s a lot of balls to keep in the air. Over the past few weeks, I’ve read a number of blog posts talking about time management and work/life balance. While I try to implement some of the tips, consistently, the best advice I’ve received is "write every day." Even if it’s only a line or two, put those words on the page first thing in the morning. Otherwise, the day’s demands can catch up (and overwhelm) leaving you exhausted at the end of the day.  Creative energy? What's that? As much as I hate to admit it, I find if I get out of the “habit” of writing, days or weeks can slide past.

photo by Cathy Perkins
What about you? Are you rocking the day job? Writing full time? Balancing other commitments? 

What’s your best advice for maintaining balance or finding time to write?

Oh. And the deer came over to welcome me home to the snow.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

This is the Last Time I'll be Posting on the Third Tuesday

Am I sad? Not in the least. It will be so refreshing, not just for me, but for everyone to read thoughts from someone new. And I'll still be here for the first Tuesday. After all, it's good for this old gal to hang out with all these younger girls.

So what do I have to say on this last third Tuesday posting? I've been busy as always. I received the text blog for my next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery and spent two days searching for errors. Did I find any? Of course.

I'm also snatching bits of time to work on the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. What's taken up most of my time is working on the blog tour I've organized for the RBPD. Besides asking people to host me on their blogs, I've written something different for each one. Fun, but a challenge.

As the new year has begun, I'm receiving invitations to give presentations. This past Saturday, I joined a writer's group to talk about promotion. It was interesting, because the majority who came knew nothing about what they should be doing to let people know about their books. I had handouts and I certainly hoped it helped.

In March, I've been invited to speak to the Central Coast chapter of Sisters in Crime. I love going over there because that's one of my favorite place in California. They've asked me to speak about blog tours, a perfect subject for me. I actually belong to that chapter even though it's a three hour drive to get over there-but I've made so many friends there it's definitely worth the trip.

As the year progresses, I'll be filling my calendar with other speaking engagements, book and craft festivals.

For my fellow Stiletto Gang members, how is 2016 shaping up for you?

For the readers of this blog, what are the kind of author events you enjoy ?

Marilyn, who will see you on the first Tuesday of February.

P. S. I'd love to show you the cover of my next book, but I don't have it yet.

Monday, January 18, 2016

New Releases for the New Year!

Best wishes! I hope you are all having a wonderful new year.

How do you learn about new releases in the mystery field? One of my resources is an online newsletter from During the summer, it contained a summary about a new novel by Lee Robinson titled Lawyer for the Dog. I was so intrigued by the description that I bought the book, then, I couldn’t stop reading until I completed it. After learning that Ms. Robinson previously had been a prosecutor in Charleston, South Carolina, I contacted her and asked if she would do an interview, which became a blog post.

David McCallum
Last week, brought me another suggestion for a fascinating read. Most people are familiar with actor David McCallum, who became well-known for his portrayal of the Russian spy Illya Kuryakin in the 1960s series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Now, he can be seen each week on NCIS as medical examiner Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard. In addition, this month, at age 82, his first novel, Once a Crooked Man, is being released and excerpts of the initial chapters are in

The story, told in a voice that sounds remarkably like McCallum personally telling the tale, is about a young actor who happens to overhear a group of mobsters planning to kill their financial associate so they can go out of business without leaving any witnesses. When the actor decides he has to intervene, the fun of this crime caper starts. I haven’t purchased the book yet, but I’m captivated by what I’ve read in the excerpts and intend to get it. Why don’t you check it out, too, at this link?

Gigi Pandian
Another great read I discovered last year was Gigi Pandian’s The Accidental Alchemist, which takes place in Portland, Oregon, and features Dorian, a French gourmet gargoyle. Pandian originally wrote Dorian’s story the year she was diagnosed with cancer. The book reflects the dietary changes she made in her life and includes delicious sounding vegan recipes. Due to her fascination with gargoyles, Gigi created the Gargoyle Girl blog, with images and background information. Dorian certainly provides magical reading!

This week, The Accidental Alchemist was among the nominees for a Lefty, to be given at Left Coast Crime in Phoenix, Arizona, this year. In addition, the sequel, The Masquerading Magician has recently been released. Again, Pandian draws you into this strangely compelling world of alchemists, magicians, and gargoyles in a story that is very difficult to put down. I’m delighted to have received the new book for the holiday weekend.

What are you reading in this new year?


Friday, January 15, 2016

Of Crises, Nurses, and Other Odd Thoughts

by Linda Rodriguez

This will be the shortest blog post I’ve ever written. Primarily because it’s the middle of the night, and I just got home from many unexpected hours in a suburban hospital. A good friend was supposed to have emergency open-heart surgery at 6:00 a.m. Thursday, and I had agreed to sit and wait with his wife, an even dearer friend for many years, since the surgery was to take 8-10 hours—many arteries to bypass and a hole in the heart to repair. Only the doctors kept putting off the surgery, first until 8:00 a.m., then until 11:00 a.m., and again until 1:00 p.m., and yet again until 2:00 p.m., and finally until 3:00 p.m., only to finally take him into surgery at 5:00 p.m. Both of them went over 24 hours without food, and my friend, the wife, went 48 hours without sleep (they had at least sedated the patient to sleep the night before). And the delays were extremely stressful, causing them to run constantly on adrenaline all day as each of them geared up to be strong and brave for the surgery, only to have it delayed again and have to go through it all over repeatedly. It was a nightmare situation in the first place and soon began to take on the aspect of a psychological horror story. When I left the hospital in the wee hours of the morning, things were going well with the surgery, and my friend had wisely decided to go to the hotel next door to the hospital to try to get some sleep since it was still going to take hours to complete.

So I’m pretty brain-dead with not much blogging ability to my name. This has come on the heels of a crisis involving a death connected to my family over the holidays, and I’m kind of emergencied out right now. Any new crisis that tries to come to my house will simply have to go away and come back later. There’s just nothing left to give. But I have a few random, crisis-created thoughts to share with you.

Nurses are the salt of the earth, angels, and every other cliché that’s ever been written or said about them. They make a difference every day and night in so many lives. Why are they paid so little when pro sports stars are paid so much?

Crises and emergencies can bring estranged families back together or drive them further apart. I’ve seen vivid examples of both just recently, and I vote for bringing them back into touch with each other. Stop letting the little stuff get in the way of being with the people you love. Hug the people you love while you still have a chance.

A cosplay funeral is always a bad idea. The less said about that, the better.

And nurses—salt of the earth, angels in scrubs. Pay them more!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

New Year, New Moments

by Bethany Maines

Several years ago I realized that over the course of a year I would collect an assortment of what I would call one-off photos. Photos of memories that I didn’t want to forget, but that didn’t necessarily rate printing out and hanging on the wall.  My solution was to create a “Year in Review” photo album.  The genius of this plan is every single time I or someone else says, “When did we do that one thing in that one place?” I can look up the answer.  The problem with creating an album that tracks all the mundanities of the year is that you can see at a glance just how boring you were in a given year. 
And in looking at my most recent batch of pictures it’s pretty clear that my 2015 was pretty boring.

I blame my daughter.  My husband and I spent 2015 repeating the new parent mantra: We’re making it.  Yeah, we’re totally making it.  Nope, no, no, not making it.  No, wait, we’re back.  We’re making it. 

Any life where the bar for success is set to “just making it” doesn’t leave a lot of energy for doing new things or going new places.  Now, I know, I know, I’m supposed to be reveling in the day to day joys of parenthood and treasuring every tiny moment with my adorable baby, blah blah blah.  You know what reveling in the day to day joys of parenthood does NOT include?  A vacation.  Don’t get me wrong, I love each and every one of the the2000 pictures of my daughter I snapped over the last year, but the banner event of several months was literally a walk in the park.  Which, while lovely, is not the same as actually going somewhere or doing something.

So as with every other person who has reached the end of the year and realized that their life hasn’t been heading in the direction they would like it to, I made a resolution.  In my case, it’s to seek out new experiences and get a few pictures of things that aren’t my daughter.  Which is why I kicked off the year by testing out all of my waterproof make-up and participated in a Polar Plunge into the Pacific Ocean.  Sound cold?  It was.  But now I have a new memory and a new photo for the 2016 book.  

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, Tales from the City of Destiny and An Unseen Current.  You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Re-Awakening

by Marjorie Brody

The New Year arrived for me in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. A live band, champagne and chocolate covered strawberries accompanied a balloon drop at midnight. The cruise allowed me to escape telephone calls and the demands of emails, meetings, and deadlines. I took a speed boat ride

through the rain forest, climbed Mayan ruins, and swam in gorgeous blue, calm water. I relaxed and gained a fresh perspective on my goals for the coming year. As a guest on a cruise ship, I was treated like royalty.

The vacation reminded me of how fortunate I am—purely by accident of my birth—to belong to the privileged of this world. Even though I have at times experienced religious prejudice, my life is blessed. I live in a country where, even as a female, I can receive an education, earn a living, marry the person of my choice, and raise the number of children I choose. My cruise experience, and the countries I visited, reinforced my awareness of the difference between the haves and the have nots. Years ago I wrote a poem about the divide between the privileged and underprivileged classes in our country. I pulled it out to reread and I'm sharing it with you below.

The New Year and its tradition of making resolutions coincided for me on this cruise and I decided that this year, my commitment wouldn't be to write more regularly or submit more often. My resolution wouldn’t be to lose weight or exercise three times a week. My resolution would push me to think outside of my own little world and do something to make the world a better place for those less fortunate than I.

May the New Year be good to you.


Twisted gray weeds wrap around
rusted spikes
                                                      Manicured grass, plush, green
                                                      and well styled
where once the swings stood
                                                       under brilliant colored poles
Rats and roaches scuffle
among bottles, cans, and paper
finding their way to
                                                      Children laughing,
                                                      singing rhymes and shouting,
                                                      playing tag and statues
Termites on an endless feast
gorging themselves on
                                                      “See-saw Margery Daw”
Mosquitoes and flies hovering
around excrement and vomit
                                                      Uniformed nannies strolling flowered paths
                                                      pushing their carriages,
                                                      and gossiping sweetly
                                                      And the friendly policeman
                                                      tips his cap as they pass
a drunk beaten and robbed
lying under the bushes
blood inching down his mouth
and ear—his temple pulsing
                                                       the heavy thunder of roller skates
                                                       on cement
its redness turned brown by
an equal part dirt
                                                       “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
                                                       Humpty Dumpty had a great . . .”
“Help me,” faintly come
                                                        babies cooing as they have their
                                                        tummies satisfied with
                                                        bottles full of warm white
clouds turning black
as the chill of night sets in
                                                        And as the sun seeks the horizon
                                                        the nannies call the children
                                                        to an unappreciated dinner
                                                        and lush, warm beds
                                                        And the children laugh, and
                                                        “ . . . all the way, all the way home”
with the faint voice calling
                                                        “three, six, nine, I resign.”

Marjorie Brody is an award-winning author and Pushcart Prize Nominee. Her short stories appear in literary magazines and the Short Stories by Texas Authors Anthology and four volumes of the Short Story America Anthology. Her debut psychological suspense novel, TWISTED, was awarded an Honorable Mention at the Great Midwest Book Festival and won the Texas Association of Authors Best Young Adult Fiction Book Award. TWISTED is available in digital and print at or Marjorie invites you to visit her at 

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Fish Tale

On Friday I got a text from my youngest daughter. “Mom, we owe my math teacher a fish.” 
That didn’t sound good. 
“What?” was my witty response. 
“I killed the class fish.” 
I waited for an answer. And waited. 
Just how had my daughter murdered the class fish? 
And why? 
Had it embezzled? Stolen fish flakes? Angered her? 
I like killing people. Such is the nature of a mystery writer. 
Pets are another matter. 
Why had she killed the fish? 
Turns out she tripped over the cord to the fish tank, pulled the tank from its table, soaked herself in fish water, and jettisoned poor Sebastian into the wild blue yonder. 
For the record, my daughter’s name is not Grace. 
So, what can be said about the death of a fish? 
Sebastian was just swimming along when an act of God (or not-Grace) ended his life. 
I asked not-Grace if there was a moral to the story. 
“Watch out for cords?” she suggested. 
There has to be something more. 
Maybe it's that life is precious. And fleeting. And unpredictable. 
You can be swimming along and then out of the blue you’re flying through the wild blue yonder on your way to the big pond in the sky. 
Or perhaps the lesson is that your feet look like prunes when you spend a whole day wearing wet tennis shoes. 
Perhaps, there is no moral. Perhaps, killing people on the page has me reading too much into the death of a fish. Perhaps not. 
It's a mystery...

Julie Mulhern is the USA Today bestselling author of The Country Club Murders. 

She is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean--and she's got an active imagination. Truth is--she's an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions. 

Her next book, Clouds in My Coffee, releases May 10th.

Friday, January 8, 2016

New Year's Resolutions - Can I Keep Them?

New Year’s Resolutions – Can I Keep Them? by Debra H. Goldstein

2016 has arrived!  Anticipation of the new year has faded into pleasant memories of the ball dropping in Times Square, friends blowing noisemakers, popping champagne corks, and children peering around the stairwell to see grown-ups partying.  For writers, this is the time when excitement and happiness is replaced by the fear of keeping our resolutions.  I tried to keep mine simple this year, but I’m going to share my writer’s resolutions with you:

1) Write every day when possible – I’ve been a hit and miss writer.  I wrote when I had blog deadlines, when the muse moved me, or when I had a deadline.  Unfortunately, those days were few and far between with the result that since I became serious about writing two years ago, I’ve wasted a lot of time.  I envy the production of those who force themselves to write daily either to a word or page count or simply until they see some words on the page.

2) Don’t envy other writers – Envy is a green-eyed form of jealously.  Rather than envy them, join them by doing the work to make yourself equally accomplished.

3) Continue to learn – Read, Listen, Observe – the day you stop learning is the day they bury you.

4) Be humble – Dance for joy when something is published but don’t forget to count how many rejections you’ve received, too.  Remember, every story or book published had a lot of people who helped you along the way – whether by teaching you, offering words of encouragement, being a sounding board for gripes and ideas, or opening a door for you.

5) Extend a hand to others – you may never be a mid-lister or a NY Times author, but you can be a human being.  The only way you got this far was that others helped you so pay it back by paying it forward.

I hope I can stick to these and to one more personal one:

1) Be kind, considerate, thoughtful and loving to your family and friends…..writing isn’t everything, but they are.

Any resolutions on your end you’d like to share?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Sparkle Abbey on Downton Abbey

by Sparkle Abbey

Downton Abbey’s final season launched this past week and so we couldn’t let this major event pass without a nod to this highly acclaimed British drama.

You might remember we did a contest a while back with all the differences between Downton Abbey and Sparkle Abbey. And now, our latest book Downton Tabby offers even more entertaining comparisons. Check out our "The Pawleys: A brief episode in the British family hiss-tory of Lady Toria Cash, the feline fatale of Downton Tabby."

No spoilers here if you haven’t watched the first installment in this final season of Downton, but you can bet there will be butlers and maids, elegant frocks, fancy dinner parties, secrets revealed and problems in love, some below stairs and some in the drawing room.

Why do we (and millions of viewers) love this show so much? The twisted plots? The intrigues? The beautiful costuming? The “no-they-did-not-just-do-that” writing?

We believe the bottom line is whether it’s a book or a movie, and whether the setting is a cozy, quirky small town, a galaxy far, far away or a castle in Yorkshire; we all continue to watch or continue to read because of the characters.

The characters in Downton Abbey have become our friends and we want to know what will happen to them next. The stoic Carson, the sometimes clueless Lord Grantham, the forward-thinking Isobel Crawley, and the just-can’t-get-a-break Lady Edith. And then poor Anna and Mr. Bates who give new meaning to “when bad things happen to good people” adage. Plus the evil Thomas who can always be counted on to shake things up. And the best, the very best, Lady Violet, the Dowager, who routinely delivers the zingers we love.

Here are a few:

"At my age, one must ration one's excitement."

Mrs. Crawley: "I take that as a compliment."
Countess Violet: "I must've said it wrong."

Dr. Clarkson: You want me to lie?
Countess Violet: Lie is so unmusical a word.

Cora: "I hate to go behind Robert's back."
Countess Violet: "That is a scruple no successful wife can afford."

"There's nothing simpler than avoiding people you don't like. Avoiding one's friends, that's the real test."

"I don't dislike him. I just don't like him. Which is quite different."

"All this unbridled joy has given me quite an appetite."

"Of course it would happen to a foreigner. No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else's house."

"Principles are like prayers; noble, of course, but awkward at a party."

"Don't be defeatist, dear, it's very middle class."

And our favorite:

"Vulgarity is no substitute for wit."

What do you think? Do you watch the show? And, if so, do you agree with us that it’s the characters that have made the show such a success?

We’d like to hear your thoughts?

Comment below to be in the drawing for a signed copy of Downton Tabby.

Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of authors Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter. They write a national bestselling pet-themed mystery series set in Laguna Beach. The first book in the series Desperate Housedogs, an Amazon Mystery Series bestseller and Barnes & Noble Nook #1 bestseller, was followed by several other “sassy and fun” books in the series. The most recent installment is Downton Tabby and up next is Raiders of the Lost Bark.