Thursday, June 21, 2018

In It For The Money

By Cathy Perkins

In It For The Money releases next week. After several related-world novellas, it was fun to climb back into Holly's head--and heart.

This latest addition to the Holly Price Mystery Series definitely plays to my tag line--Mystery with a Financial Twist; Trust issues, Family Bonds. A CPA and amateur sleuth, Holly gets drawn into both her family's and clients' crises. In these stories, she usually has to figure out "why-dun-it" in addition to "who-dun-it?"

The books in the series combine mystery, a touch of humor, and a chunk of relationship issues that generate some interesting emails. (Note, JC is an imaginary character, but I love that you love him.)

Holly Price traded her professional goals for personal plans when she agreed to leave her high-flying position with the Seattle Mergers and Acquisitions team and take over the family accounting practice. Reunited with JC Dimitrak, her former fiancé, she’s already questioning whether she’s ready to flip her condo for marriage and a house in the ‘burbs.

When her cousin Tate needs investors for his innovative truck suspension, Holly works her business matchmaking skills and connects him with a client. The rockcrawler showcasing the new part crashes at its debut event, however, and the driver dies. Framed for the sabotage, Tate turns to Holly when the local cops—including JC—are ready to haul him to jail. Holly soon finds her cousin and client embroiled in multiple criminal schemes. She’s drawn into the investigation, a position that threatens her life, her family and her already shaky relationship with JC.

  Amazon      Nook     Kobo     iBooks

To celebrate the release of In It For the Money, book 1 of the series - So About the Money is on sale for only 99 cents!  Enjoy the romp across Washington state!

When Holly Price trips over a friend’s dead body while hiking, her life takes a nosedive into a world of intrigue and danger. The verdict is murder—and Holly is the prime suspect. Of course, the fact that the sexy—and very pissed off—cop threatening to arrest her is JC Dimitrak, Holly’s jilted ex-fiancé, doesn’t help matters.

To protect her future, her business...and her heart...the intrepid forensic accountant must use all her considerable investigative skills to follow the money through an intricate web of shadow companies, while staying one step ahead of her ex-fiancé. She better solve the case before the real killer decides CPA stands for Certified Pain in the Ass...and the next dead body found beside the river is Holly’s.


An award-winning author of financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories.  When not writing, she battles with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.

Visit her at or on Facebook 

Sign up for her new release announcement newsletter in either place.

She's hard at work on the next book in the Holly Price series.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

May the Force Be with Me!

by Kay Kendall

Right now I need all the help I can get. So today I called down The Force to help amp up my super powers. In my case, The Force is Bob Dylan.

 Let me explain.

My second mystery published almost three years ago. Like the first one, it took its name from a Bob Dylan song title. I use Dylan to evoke the late 1960s when the stories take place. In 2013 came my first mystery in the Austin Starr series, DESOLATION ROW (see concert shirt at right). In 2015 came RAINY DAY WOMEN. And then came a lengthy hiatus.

 Now, at long, long last my marvelous editor and I are getting my third mystery ready for publication. Maybe you think I’ve been lazing around the house and doing nothing. Nope. Not exactly. Chez Kendall got hit by three major illnesses in a row. First my husband fought cancer. Then I did, and then I developed a rare bone disease from a botched dental procedure.

My third book got written along the way, but it took a super long time. As I contemplate the work still to be done, my supply of oomph feels drained. The revision I face on this continuation of the Austin Starr mystery saga seems taxing. That's why I call on Mr. Dylan to lend me some of his special sauce—just a pinch of his enormous creativity, pretty please—to prepare me for the arduous journey ahead.

Heck, I may need to wear this Dylan tee shirt every day for the next month. Well, if so, it will be worth it. I look forward to bringing my third mystery, AFTER YOU'VE GONE, to its publication date, later this year.

This third mystery is a prequel featuring Austin Starr's Texas grandmother. And wouldn't you know it, she too loves to solve puzzles. In 1923, inspired by her emersion in the Sherlock Holmes stories of her era, she chases down the murderer of a relative when everyone else believes a peculiarly awful death was merely an accident. She runs into rumrunners, bootleggers, gangsters, and genuine flappers—even floozies. Headquarters for this activity in Texas during Prohibition was the wild city of Galveston on the gulf coast. Al Capone even sent his goons down from Chicago to try to muscle in on the action. Suffice it to say, Austin’s grandmother has many eye-opening experiences.

Of course, Dylan wasn't writing songs 100 years ago so I use another song title instead, one that stands the test of time. Popular in the Roaring Twenties when this prequel is set, the song "After You've Gone" has been covered by many famous singers every decade since. I especially recommend the versions by Ella Fitzgerald and Fiona Apple. Find them on YouTube.   

And then, some months from now when Stairway Press publishes my new mystery, I hope you will read it—and then conclude that some things are worth waiting for. Just please do wish me luck in the meantime.


Meet the author

Kay Kendall is a long-time fan of historical novels and now writes mysteries that capture the spirit and turbulence of the sixties. A reformed PR executive who won international awards for her projects, Kay lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to her bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she's a Bob Dylan buff. In 2015 Rainy Day Women won two Silver Falchion Awards at Killer Nashville. Visit Kay at her website <>
or on Facebook <>

Monday, June 18, 2018

Checking Out Some Great “How To” Writing Guidelines

by Paula Gail Benson


Lately, I’ve been coming across a number of online articles that express succinctly how certain forms of genre fiction should be written. Here are a few I’ve discovered:


Dennis Palumbo wrote “Taking the Mystery Out of How to Write a Mystery” ( He lists three important elements: : “1) establishing the unique character of the protagonist, 2) making narrative use of the world in which the story takes place, and 3) planting clues (remember, only a few) that derive from the particular aspects of that world.” Palumbo recommends that writers consider what makes them unique and their own backgrounds in developing their protagonists and settings.


Chuck Wendig provides “25 Things Writers Should Know About Creating Mystery” ( He describes a mystery as an incomplete equation. Even though readers know the answer will be revealed by the end, “[a] good story traps us in the moment and compels us by its incompleteness.” Readers want to be part of the process. “[S]ometimes creating mystery is not an act of asking a question but the deed of providing a clearly incorrect answer. Let the audience seek the truth by showing them a lie.” And, it’s important for plot and character to be intricately intertwined. “Plot, after all, is like Soylent Green — it’s made of people.”


Ginny Wiehardt gives us the ten “Top Rules for Mystery Writing” ( Her article is written about mystery novels, but the suggestions are easily adapted to short stories. She points out that people read mysteries for a “particular experience.” They want the opportunity to solve the crime and they expect all to turn out well in the end. Reading many mysteries to see how “the rules” have been applied in those stories will be helpful to a writer, and understanding “the rules” in order to better meet reader expectations will help a writer craft a better mystery story. Among her recommendations are to introduce the detective, culprit, and crime early and wait until the last possible moment to reveal the culprit.


Peter Derk explains the “The 8 Keys to a Good Heist Story” ( “A good heist has a planning stage, execution stage, and an escape. They can be in different proportions, but if your story is missing one of the three, it won’t pass muster.” Derk says there must be complications and a reason to root for success. Also, he suggests taking care in putting the team together and having a reason behind the operation that is greater than monetary gain.


Dr. David Lewis Anderson gives a good description of “Time Travel in Science Fiction” ( He offers a historical analysis of science fiction stories that have used time travel, but he also explores the elements writers have developed through those stories.


In his “6 Secrets to Creating and Sustaining Suspense,” ( Steven James evaluates how to add suspense in mystery, thriller, and literary stories. He suggests the key is to give readers something to worry about, then explains how to do that.


Finally, Jan Ellison offers “9 Practical Tricks for Writing Your First Novel” ( Two of her recommendations that I found interesting were to set writing goals that are completely within your control and keep working on a poem while writing your novel. The poem allows you freedom of expression and provides a way to get started with your writing.

Have you read any writing “how to” articles lately?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Finding Your Writers Tribe

My friend Dianne Freeman visits the blog today. We met through a miracle called Authors 18, an online group of writers who are all debuting novels in 2018.  I'm so pleased she's here to talk about finding, or sometimes making, your own writers tribe. --Shari Randall

Before the ink was even dry on my book contract I had a crisis of confidence. I must be crazy, I couldn’t do this. It took almost two years to write my first book and they wanted the second in eleven months. What if I couldn’t do that? And they wanted an outline. I never wrote an outline. And publishing, and promotions, and all the things I didn’t even know about yet. How was I going to get through this? I needed help—lots of help! 
I decided to look for writers who were in the same position as me—new to publishing and not really sure what we were getting into. I didn’t know any local authors, so I turned to social media. There was already a group for authors whose books released in 2017, but so far no one had formed one for 2018. Unless I wanted to go through all these new and slightly terrifying experiences alone, I’d have to form one. 
I started stalking agents on twitter, waiting for one to announce a book deal for a new client. I poured through the deals section of Publishers Marketplace. Once I’d found a debut author, I’d have to make contact—would you be interested in joining my group to help prop each other up while we go through this publishing experience? Please? I was so relieved whenever they said yes. It finally dawned on me to post a notice on Twitter for debut authors to join us and member by member, Authors 18 was born.
That was March of 2017. Now we have 120 members in our Facebook group and I don’t know how I’d get by without them. We are one another’s fans, confidantes, advisors, and sounding boards. Those who published earlier in the year were able to share their experiences with the rest of us. When one of us finds a new marketing tool or promotional opportunity we share it with the group. If someone is having a crisis there’s always another member to talk it out. From cover reveals to launch parties, copy edits to cover blurbs, we have friends on this publishing journey who know what we’re going through, and I think we’ve all gained confidence from that.
Writing is a very solitary occupation, but you don’t have to go it alone. There are so many writing groups online and maybe even in your neighborhood. The camaraderie and support a group can provide is priceless. They can also be a source of critique partners and beta readers. If you can’t find an existing group that fits your needs, form one. It was the best thing I ever did for my writing career and my sanity. More importantly, it brought some wonderful new friends into my life.
Dianne Freeman is a life-long book lover who left the world of corporate finance to pursue her passion for writing. After co-authoring the non-fiction book, Haunted Highway, The Spirits of Route 66, she realized her true love was fiction, historical mystery in particular. She also realized she didn’t like winter very much so now she and her husband pursue the endless summer by splitting their time between Michigan and Arizona.

Her debut novel, A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder is scheduled for release with Kensington June 26, 2018.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Women Empowering Women by Juliana Aragón Fatula

A collection of photos from my writing workshops and women I admire.

Women Empowering Women Writing Workshops
this link will open to forty-nine photos and quotes on writing.

When I write I listen to music, it plays in the background, setting the mood for my characters. My writing style comes from playwriting and screenwriting and poetry. I see my characters in my head on a movie set and hear the soundtrack playing. So many great mysteries have been made into movies that began as great books. 

This morning as I write in my sun room, I’m listening to Rickie Lee Jones sing about Chuck E’s in Love. Since most of my leading characters are strong women, I listen to the great voices like: Tina Turner, Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, Minnie Ripperton, Janis Joplin, and the incredible Chavela Vargas. If you’ve never heard these women’s voices or heard of them, give them a listen.

Today I’m working on my m.s. the part I love most, the revision process. First, I write the story. Next, I polish and edit the story. I have worked on my m.s. since 2011! I also spent much of those years reading my favorite mystery writers, studying master writers and reading their “How to Write a Mystery” books.

I studied, underlined, took notes on the books recommended by master writers. When I reflect on how long I’ve been working on this m.s. I realize, first I studied, researched, learned how to write a mystery, and I realize I’ve just completed a master’s degree in mystery writing and completed my first mystery m.s.! Whew! All while maintaining my daily responsibility of being wife, mother, and teaching Bridging Borders young ladies writing workshops. Whew! I’m tired. No wonder I’ve taken seven years to finish my book!

I’ve also attended great writing workshops in San Antonio, Salt Lake City, and Las Cruces. I’ve worked with writers who have Ph.Ds. and teach writing at universities, and with writers who are starting to find their voice and writing for the first time. I fall somewhere in between. Sometimes I feel intimidated by writers with Ph.Ds. but then mi esposo tells me, “Who’s a big girl and wears big girl panties and published two books? Who? You, that’s who.” We laugh, and I realize I’m a life long learner and have been studying my entire life. At sixty-one, that’s a lot of reading books, taking notes, and teaching my students what I’ve learned. My son says, “Mom, you should have a Ph.D. by now. You’ve been studying and going to college all of my life.” Well, son, I’m proud to announce I’ve decided I have an honorary Ph.D. in life.

Great mentors have shown me the way. Now it’s my turn to light the path for the next generation of young women writers. I’m proud. I’m not only writing books, I’m creating new writers who will pay it forward etc.

I’ve lived a good life, a bad life, and a mediocre life but, today my life is frickin’ fantastic. I love what I do. When I hand one of my books to these young ladies and tell them my story they realize I was them and I survived. I made my life meaningful and they can do the same.

When one of those girls tells me they read my book, Crazy Chicana in Catholic City or Red Canyon Falling on Churches and they could relate to me, I realize I’ve been successful and my heart soars! If I help just one child to feel hopeful, I have my goal in life, but I know from feedback that I’ve helped dozens of young women and young men to dream of a better life.

If a poor Chicana from a small town in Colorado that was the KKK headquarters in the early 20’s can find her voice, if a young writer of color can tell her story and get it published, anything is possible. The moon, the sun, the stars. My riches are these young ladies’ faces, not dollar signs, but I’m richer than I’ve ever imagined I could be. I am loved, respected and that’s why I keep writing, studying, researching, mastering my craft, so I can be a master writer, so I can write not a good book, but a great book!

I have a new student t I’ve begun mentoring. It’s a special relationship. I taught her in seventh grade Language Arts and teatro and now I’m mentoring her as a twenty-one-year-old adult. I’m blessed; I’m blessed; I’m blessed and couldn’t be happier to have the good and bad experiences in my life. They made me who I am. And I’ve discovered my purpose in life. It’s not be a housewife, ha. It’s to mentor young women and pass on the skills I’ve acquired on this road called life.

When I’ve finished this book and share it with my mentees, I will be able to say, “I studied and learned how to write. I taught myself from the greatest writers how to write a great novel. I can be proud and share my tools of the trade with them and in that way pay it forward.

I don’t write for fame or money. I write because I have stories to tell and I share them with my unique voice. I write the book, only I can write. I create art. If I wasn’t meant to be a storyteller, why do I have gifts like: imagination, creativity, soulful, spiritual gifts from the Cosmos? To waste my gifts would be sinful.

When I face a deadline and feel pressured, I remind myself, “Juliana, you are exceptional, you can do anything you set your mind to do. You can help others who struggle with family dysfunction, alcoholism, drug addiction, incarceration, suicide, mental illness, sexual assault and abuse because you’ve survived all these trials in life and come out a much better person.”

Thank you, sisters: Gloria Anzaldúa, Linda Rodriguez, Sandra Cisneros, Denise Chavez, my Mother, Louise Mondragon Aragon, Dolores Alarcon, Emma Medina, Irene Aragon, Lynette Aragon, Aimee Medina Carr, Tracy Harmon, Judy Noel, Eva Balerio, Maria Melendez Kelson, Corinne Espinoza, Crissy Red, Lois Red-Elk, Debra Gallegos, Yolanda Ortega and my teachers too many to mention but especially Mrs. Durbin my seventh-grade language arts teacher who instilled in me a love of words, of books, of writing. So many wonderful women have helped create me and now I continue the mission statement: Women Empowering Women, mujeres muy mujeres!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Against the Undertow

by Bethany Maines

It's release day for Against the Undertow! I'm so excited to bring this book out into the world. The San Juan Island Murder Mystery Series is a little like Matlock went to the beach. It features a cantankerous ex-CIA agent, Tobias Yearly, and his granddaughter, Tish, as they solve mysteries from their home on Orcas Island in Washington State. It's funny, it's romantic and it's full of twists and turns. This semi-cozy series has been a joy to research (mmm... food research) and write (I <3 my characters) and I hope that all of you enjoy it as much as I have.

You never know what will drag you down.
Former actress Tish Yearly is determined to turn an old Orcas Island homestead into the premier wedding venue in the San Juans Islands of Washington, but money, skill and her grandfather, Tobias Yearly, are all standing in her way. Tobias, the septuagenarian ex-CIA agent, wants them to become private investigators. Tish might be able to ignore her grandfather’s whims, except that her one time love interest and current friend, handsome Sheriff’s Deputy Emmett Nash, was just accused of murdering his ex-wife’s boyfriend. Now Tish and Tobias are on the case, and it should be easy—after all, who could really think Nash was a killer?—but the further they investigate, the more people seem to be threatening her life: the police detective on the case, Nash’s angry ex-wife, his psychotic ex-girlfriend, and a strangely venomous group of hippies. Almost everyone on the island seems determined to stop her. Tish is swimming against the undertow, but it might not be enough to save either Nash or herself.

And this month you can also pick book 1 - An Unseen Current - for ¢.99.

You never know what’s beneath the surface.
When Seattle native Tish Yearly finds herself fired and evicted all in one afternoon, she knows she’s in deep water. Unemployed and desperate, the 26 year old ex-actress heads for the one place she knows she’ll be welcome – the house of her cantankerous ex-CIA agent grandfather, Tobias Yearly, in the San Juan Islands. And when she discovers the strangled corpse of Tobias’s best friend, she knows she’s in over her head. Tish is thrown head-long into a mystery that pits her against a handsome but straight-laced Sheriff’s Deputy, a group of eccentric and clannish local residents, and a killer who knows the island far better than she does. Now Tish must swim against the current, depending on her nearly forgotten acting skills and her grandfather’s spy craft, to con a killer and keep them alive.

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery Series, Tales From the City of Destiny, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous short stories. When she's not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some serious butt with her fourth degree black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

By AB Plum

The picture of a woman with forefinger to her lips greets me as I enter Cedar Crest Nursing Facility. Rays of sunshine slant through the dim reception area. A woman at the desk whispers for me to sign in. Behind her is a duplicate picture of the shusher at the front door. I write my name, mimic the discreet tone, and ask for Room 40.

Quiet permeates the hallway. Residents in wheelchairs or walkers congregate in doorways and near the nurses’ station. A few of the residents make low, unobtrusive noises. Air freshener—intended to mask old age, sickness, and death—screeches from the corners like a badly tuned violin.

My first and longest writing partner lies in her bed at the end of the long corridor. She is dying. 

The silence in her room is broken only by a nearly inaudible whirr of a machine next to her bed. When I approach her, she doesn’t open her eyes. Frequent doses of morphine provide a buffer against the pain.

And, the drug suppresses her tendency to shatter the silence with non-stop Wagnerian arias. She loves opera almost more than she loves reading and writing.

Close to ninety, she has written often about death—usually about the Holocaust. Escaping to England as a young child, she grew up safe. But death haunted her lovely stories.

“I do hope,” she said, paraphrasing Dylan Thomas more than once, “that I can go gentle into that long night.”

Long night versus good night, I reckon. She came to Cedar Crest more than a month ago--long enough to transfer to another room. She clings to no false hopes of recovery. Time, however, is stretching out too long.

As if reading my mind, she opens her eyes and smiles, asking without a segue, “Have you read Jane Austen, The Secret Radical”?

This question reflects how so many of our writing sessions began that I’m caught off guard. Before I can answer, the morphine claims her again. She's gone to a temporary place of silence, where I hope she remembers she lived a good, long, gentle life.

AB Plum lives and writes in the shadow of Google in Silicon Valley. She is currently working on a light paranormal trilogy. WEIRd MAgIC features witches and warlocks. No vamps, weres, or zombies.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Back to Basics by Diane Vallere

I'm delighted to have Diane Vallere, prolific writer and past-president of Sisters in Crime's national board guest blogging for me today. Diane juggles well, but occasionally even she needs to go back to basics. - Debra
Back to Basics by Diane Vallere
It should come as no surprise to learn that fiction authors sometimes have conversations with our characters. I once set up several chairs in my living room for each of the suspects in my then-work-in-progress to interview each character about his/her motives for murdering the victim. Silly? Yes. Made the neighbors doubt my sanity? Sure. Effective? Absolutely. I zeroed in on the killer and wrote the ending. But PANTY RAID gave me a different problem. I couldn’t even find the story.
A few background facts for context: 

1.     I’m a pantser.

2.     I start with a title and the loosest of concepts.

3.     PANTY RAID is book 8 in an ongoing series.
Heading into the first draft of this book, I knew it would feature the lingerie market, and it would take place in Paris.

My routine is to work Monday through Friday and write 2500 words/ day, but after weeks of working on the draft, I admitted there was a problem. I told one of my writer friends that my character was not cooperating, and my friend suggested I ask her what was wrong. I did, and details of that conversation are in this YouTube video. But the separate issue that I didn’t address there was this: I tried to plot that book.

We pantsers hear it all the time: you can write faster if you plot and know where you’re going. I’m always interested in improving how I do things, so I invested in a plotting course and gave it a shot. I even went so far as to break down four favorite movies into bullet points to better understand their structure. And still, I trudged, word by word, with a manuscript that was filled with “GO BACK AND CHANGE END OF CHAPTER 2” and “SOMETHING HAPPENS HERE—WHAT???”

I went for long walks. I dictated plot points into my phone. I deleted and rewrote and have entire sections of a manuscript that I love but that didn’t fit with what came before or after them. Of the seventeen days I spent working on that draft, I only hit my word count goal on three. 23,922 words of garbage.
On March 22, I stopped working on that draft.

On March 23, I had a conversation with my character.

On Marcy 24, I started writing a new version of PANTY RAID and bumped my daily word count goal to 3,000.
On April 15, I wrote The End.

In those nineteen days of writing, I discovered a whole story I never expected to tell. And I exceeded my new word count goal eleven of the nineteen days.

Do I regret trying to plot? No. If I hadn’t tried to, I’d never know my system works for me. Do I hate knowing I have a file of 23,922 words of a story with parts I love that may never get used? Yes. It goes against everything in my Capricornian nature to abandon projects mid-way. Is there a lesson in there? Absolutely. Sometimes you have to give up control in order to end up on top.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

After two decades working for a top luxury retailer, Diane Vallere traded fashion accessories foraccessories to murder. In addition to the Samantha Kidd Style and Error Mysteries, she is responsible for the Madison Night Mad for Mod, Sylvia Stryker Outer Space, and Lefty Award-nominated Costume Shop and Material Witness series. She started her own detective agency at age ten and has maintained a passion for shoes, clues, and clothes ever since. 



When amateur sleuth Samantha Kidd is assigned to cover the lingerie show in Las Vegas, her excitement is more visible than panty lines. Events in her hometown have made her a celebrity, and a romantic getaway with fiancé Nick Taylor is timely. But when a lingerie model—engaged to a college friend of Nick's—is found dead outside their hotel room, their escape turns brief. Cheeky designers, high class hookers, and secrets from Nick's past that don't add up make this gamble her most dangerous one yet. When push-up comes to shove, Samantha bares everything in order to save her future.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Pacing A Page Turner

by Sparkle Abbey

Over the years, one of the questions we get asked frequently is how to do we keep our pacing so tight? We jokingly like to reply, “We leave out the boring stuff.”

Some people think pace just happens organically. Honestly, we work pretty darn hard on
pacing. For us, pacing is a combination of structure, word choice, tension, action and reaction, cliffhangers, and knowing when to “show” versus “tell.” We work on pace at the very beginning. Although at times, to find the right pace for a scene or chapter, it takes rewriting many times to get it right. We thought we’d share a few techniques we use to control pacing.

When we refer to structure, we’re talking about chapters, scenes and sentence length.
Shorter chapters and scenes are quickly read and make the reader feel that the story is moving along quickly. Fragmented sentences, punchy verbs, and snappy dialogue also speed up the pace. But if you have a story of only 800-word scenes, it’s not going to have the urgency you’ve intended, just a story with short chapters. Knowing when to move between longer scenes, where the story builds with important details and descriptions creating the anticipation of what’s going to happen next, allows for the shorter scenes to stand out and move the story along.

Active verbs create action and suspense while painting a clearer picture in the reader's mind. Harsh consonant sounds such as “crash” or “kill” create more urgency than “bump” or “murder.” By selecting the right words not only will the pace change, but it’s a subtle way for mystery writers misdirect the reader by planting clues toward a suspect.

We love cliffhangers! When the end of a scene or chapter is left unresolved or with a greater
disaster than when the scene began, the pace automatically picks up, and the reader has to turn the page to find out what happens next. Just remember, don’t leave your reader hanging for too long!

Writers hear it all the time, “show don’t tell.” Most of the time it’s true, but there are times when it’s better to tell than to show. “Showing” is a play-by-play, making your readers connect with characters and to become invested in their story. There are some instances where it’s better to condense the details to move the story along.

Each scene requires a different pace. Some need to be quick and urgent while others need to slowly build and give readers a chance to catch their breath. As writers, we strive to write a story with those types of peaks and valleys, and when we do that our readers tell us the book was a page-turner. 

One of the best compliments a writer can receive.

If you're looking for a summer read, Downton Tabby is only $1.99 on all eBook formats.

Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of mystery authors Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter. They’ve chosen to use Sparkle Abbey as their pen name on this series because they liked the idea of combining the names of their two rescue pets – Sparkle (ML’s cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog).

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Clicking Our Heels - People We Respect

Clicking Our Heels – People We Respect
Last month, we contemplated our favorite royals, but what about non-royal people we respect?  Rich or poor, famous or not – these individuals are who the Stiletto Gang members most respect and why.

A.B. Plum: Michelle Obama: quintessential mother and First Lady and apparently a damned good lawyer as well. The President was lucky to have her at his side watching his back, imo. I think she’s done a lot to encourage women to speak out against sexual harassment.

Juliana Aragon Fatula: Hillary Clinton put cracks in the glass ceiling and she put up with many fools who wanted to tear her down. She taught us that it takes a village to raise a child.

Bethany Maines: Warren Buffet, Melinda Gates, and anyone who publicly admits that they have changed their mind on a topic after hearing new information. Buffet and Gates seem interested in raising up the human condition and I find that admirable. But the person who admits that they have listed to facts and changed their opinion is some sort of saint. In this world of entrenched view points and never admitting to being wrong unless you think it will prevent you from going to jail, changing your mind is some sort of sin and takes courage.

Sparkle Abbey:
Anita Carter: My Grandmother. When she lost her first husband, she uprooted her 6 young children and moved them from Homer, New York to Yuba City, California. She opened a restaurant and raised her family for many years (10+) before she remarried. She was spunky, determined, and a prayer warrior. She was an amazing lady.

Mary Lee Woods: There are so many to think about that this is a difficult choice. Someone I greatly admire is Jimmy Carter. Though he could have enjoyed a leisurely retirement, since his time as president, this man has continued to contribute to the world in a very positive way. His work with Habitat for Humanity has, I’m sure, made a difference for many families. Many families who never dreamed they could have a home of their own. To me, he seems to be the embodiment of what we should strive for – to continue doing, to continue to believe in causes we feel are important, to continue to make a difference in whatever way we can. This is one of my favorite quotes from our 39th president: We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.

Kay Kendall: I respect President Obama for his steady and intelligent hand in guiding our nation during eight years, for his withstanding racism and horribly unfair attack on his sterling character, and for maintaining a fine and loving family life despite constant and intense political pressures.

Judy Penz Sheluk: I’m going to go with my favorite Canadian – my husband, Mike. He is by no means perfect, and he doesn’t suffer fools gladly, but you will never find a more loyal friend or anyone with more integrity.

Linda Rodriguez: Dolores Huerta is an amazing leader and public servant, a charismatic speaker and gifted community organizer – who actually began what would become the United Farmworkers Movement before Cesar Chavez ever showed up and did most of the actual work for it while he was out doing the publicity – and I’ve been fortunate enough to know her and taok to her, leading to tremendous respect for her. Wilma Mankiller was the first Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in modern times (we say that because, before Europeans came and made them stop, the Cherokee always had women in leadership with men). Wilma was honored by the Cherokee Nation, the United States, and the United Nations for the work she did for may years on behalf of poor people, women, children, and other marginalized communities, and she’s been my role model for decades. My dear friend Sandra Cisneros, is one of the most spiritually enlightened people I know and a fabulous writer and mentor/organizer/benefactor of writers, plus being funny and fun. It’s hard to choose just one person. I’ve been so lucky to know so many remarkable people. And then there’s Diane Glancy, Linda Hogan, Joy Harjo, Deborah Miranda, Luis J. Rodriguez, Patricia Spears Jones, Lucha Corpi, Luis Alberto Urrea, and Marjorie Agosin, beloved friends, fabulous writers, and all doing major work for other writers and for their own communities and others. I find myself gravitating to writers of color for this answer because they not only write incredible books, but mentor other writers and work hard to build up the communities they come from and the communities where they now find themselves, as well as the country as a whole.

T.K. Thorne: Benjamin Franklin. He was certainly not perfect, but he was brilliant and prolific and eccentric, affecting the shape of our country and customs in many ways.

Dru Ann Love: Obama because he stood up to the naysayers and showed that a black man can indeed be president, something I never thought I would see in my lifetime.

Jennae Phillippe: The first names that come to mind are all the activists that have fought to make changes in our country- including the Founding Fathers, who are the original activists. Our country always seems to move ahead through an act of revolution (even if the modern ones are all political). And when I think of “American Royals” I think of our rich history of activism.

Shari Randall: So may historical figures fascinate me – I just finished Lincoln in the Bardo and would love to meet Lincoln. Also many brave women fascinate – Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman – and artists like Emily Dickinson. Too many to list!

Debra H. Goldstein: My mother, Erica Green, because she was the quintessential example of what the politicians, national leaders, teachers, writers, entertainers, and others I admire tell us America is. A Holocaust survivor orphaned at ten, she was an immigrant who came to the United States through Ellis Island. She learned perfect English and while gaining an education, worked from the age of fourteen. After marrying the love of her life and having children, she instilled in them the confidence to embrace everything our country offers, to understand one’s name and word reflects one’s integrity, that putting family and others first is necessary, and that survival necessitates thinking outside the box.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Going Home

by J.M. Phillippe

This week, I am writing from home. In this particular case, home is the last home I lived in with my parents - a lovely house with a gorgeous pool in Santa Clarita, California. It has a special place in my heart -- I even set  my first novel in this town.

But home is a complicated thing for me to define. Whenever I go back to California, I say "I am going back home." But whenever I go back to Washington, I also say (and feel) "I am going back home." And of course, whenever I fly back to New York, I very much feel, "I am going home."

I spent my early childhood in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Then we moved. So I spent my most formative years -- middle school through the end of college -- in Washington State. Many of my closest friends come from that time and place in my life.

Then I moved back to California and spent my identity-figuring-out years in various places in and around Los Angeles again. My parents bought a house there where I lived (after moving "back home" for a while), and of course all my childhood things -- boxed and moved around for decades -- reside there.

And then I moved to New York, where I currently live, and built amazing relationships there too.

Every home, of course, shaped me, and continues to shape me. Every place I have lived put its mark -- the constant sun of southern California and the heat and deserts; the near-constant grey of Seattle, and the amazing green forests; and the constant noise of New York City, and the density of buildings and people. Home is the Pacific Ocean, but also the Williamsburg Bridge. Home is watching the sunset over the water, toes in the sand. Home is walking a muddy trail among evergreen trees. Home is hard concrete and the constant noise of people everywhere.

But mostly, home is the people in those places, the friends who spent hours in book stores with me, or on hiking trails, or in dance clubs. The family who told me I could do it (even when "it" kept changing), and cheered me on. Home is the conversations that helped me figure out what I believed and who I am.

Still, it feels strange to be back in this particular home, where things are starting to be packed up or given away in anticipation of eventually selling the house. Even though this is not my childhood home, I am having many of those same feelings as I look at shelves emptying and closets cleared out. I am feeling the passing of time, feeling my age. I am going through all the emotions of holding on and letting go (and telling myself that it is okay, better even, to let go).

My head is filling with stories real and imaged -- the stories I still tell when I try to tell people about myself and my life, the stories I only remember because I have a photograph or item to anchor them to, the stories that kept me company in each place, and the stories inspired by them. 

There are a lot of saying about what home is, but I find myself drawn to this particular one over all the others:


J.M. Phillippe is the author of the novels Perfect Likeness and Aurora One and the short stories, The Sight and Plane Signals. She has lived in the deserts of California, the suburbs of Seattle, and the mad rush of New York City. She works as a clinical social worker in Brooklyn, New York and spends her free time binge-watching quality TV, drinking cider with amazing friends, and learning the art of radical self-acceptance, one day at a time.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Life Before "Author Judy": Part I

By Judy Penz Sheluk

One of the most common questions I receive when I attend author events is "What did you do before you were an author?" And the truth is...quite a few different things, none remotely related to writing mystery novels. And yet...each one influenced me in some way. This month, I'm going to talk about my very first job, at age sixteen, as a grocery store cashier.

The store was called Sunnybrook Food Market and it was located at Midland and Lawrence in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, about a mile and a half walk from my house, and a ten minute walk from school. To say Sunnybrook Food Market—long since out of business— was a discount grocery store would be putting a gloss on it,  but they were willing to train, and they paid us every Friday without fail.

Now you might be wondering how that job impacted my writing all these years later, and the short answer is, it didn't—with one exception. There was another student there, Camilla. Once Camilla knew that I liked one of the stock boys, she made it her mission in life to date him. And she succeeded.

Fast forward a few decades to The Hanged Man's Noose and you'll meet Camilla Mortimer-Gilroy. Those of you who have read the book know that Camilla is the woman responsible for breaking up my protagonist, Arabella Carpenter, and her ex-husband, Levon Larroquette's marriage. Coincidence? I leave it for you to decide.

I left Sunnybrook a year later (not entirely my idea, if I'm being honest -- it seems they actually expected me to pay for all the chocolate bars I ate). As for Camilla, I don't know what became of her, and I don't remember the name of the stock boy, but in my fictional world, they got married at eighteen and divorced at twenty. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

What was your first job? And how has it impacted your life?

Friday, June 1, 2018

Advice on Publishing Your Novel

by Linda Rodriguez

I receive emails all the time asking me how the emailers can get their own novels published. Usually, they know just about nothing of the business of publishing, which always surprises me. If you took a year or so to write a book that you hoped to publish and sell, wouldn’t you owe it to yourself to research and learn something about the business of publishing that you hope to join?

I try to answer with a detailed listing of things they can do to educate themselves about the business and to begin to connect with the professional literary community. I have a feeling that some of our blog friends and followers out there may be in the same situation, so I’ve decided to write this blog post. Here’s my resource guide to publishing a novel. It won’t get you published, but it will give you a good foundation in the business of publishing/being a professional novelist and get you started in the right direction.

Pitching a novel to a major publisher today can be very difficult without an agent. Most of the New York trade publishers won’t look at novels unless they’re represented by an agent. Smaller specialized presses, literary presses, and university presses will take unagented queries during their open submissions period, if they have one. Often they can be the best bet for a first novel that’s not necessarily a commercial novel. Poets & Writers has a database of small, literary, and university presses.

Many of these won’t do novels, so you’ll have to sort through them. Here’s a list of 16 small presses that do novels.

You can also do an internet search for small presses that specialize in your particular genre of novel, if you write in one of the genres.

For agents, I would suggest that you check the website of the Association of Author’s Representatives.

This is the professional association of reputable agents. It’s very easy to get involved with folks who call themselves agents and are really running scams to part authors from their money. Members of AAR have sworn not to do this stuff and are kicked out if they do, so you can trust them.

Another good site to educate yourself and protect yourself from scammers is Writer Beware.

This is a site provided by the SFWA and MWA as a service for all authors, science fiction or not.

But the first thing you want to do is to get current copies of Poets & Writers, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer magazines. These magazines often talk about which publishers are looking for what kinds of books at the moment. P&W focuses more on the academic and literary writer, while WD focuses more on the commercial or freelance writer. If your library has them, also read back issues of P&W, The Writer, and WD. You’ll learn a lot about the business that way.

Look for professional authors groups to join. There are groups for children’s writers, mystery writers, romance writers, sf/fantasy writers, etc. These groups are usually tremendously helpful in learning the publishing business and making useful contacts. If there is a chapter of a professional writer’s organization near you and it’s not your kind of writing, it can still be useful to you in learning the business. I once belonged to the local chapter of RWA, Romance Writers of America, though I didn’t write romance. I learned about agents, what editors want, what is and is not acceptable behavior in the publishing world, what are and are not good contracts, and tons of other things that became useful to me. Now, we have a chapter of Sisters in Crime here, and I’m active in it, but that time in RWA laid a very good foundation for me. The same goes for SFWA or any of the others. The purposes of these organizations are to help their members with the business of publishing and being a professional—and that’s very similar across the boards.

A book I always recommend to students and aspiring writers is Carolyn See’s Making a Literary Life. I’ve written about this book on Writers Who Kill before.

It’s the best book for looking at how to be a professional writer and work on getting published, how to get established within the literary community, how to make a career as a writer without living in NYC, and much else.

If I were you, friend with a book manuscript under your arm, I’d start with these resources. I’d also go to every writer’s appearance/reading/event that occurs in your town if it’s a small one or a good selection if you live in a big city with an active literary community. Buy a book, if you can. Introduce yourself to the writer. Follow up with emails or mailed notes talking about what you liked about their reading or book—not asking for help with your own. Friend writers on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter. Don’t spam them about your own book. What you’re doing is building relationships within the community of writers. These are the folks who can answer questions for you or later (if you’ve built a good, real relationship) give blurbs that will help your book sell. Basically, my advice is to educate yourself about publishing and become a contributing member of the community. Getting a novel published is a long, hard haul, so arm yourself with information and allies.

The best single piece of advice I could give, however, is this—make sure you write a good novel. Get professional feedback and revise, revise, revise until it shines before you ever try to send it out. I suspect that a certain number of folks who are looking for a publisher for their novel have never had anyone professional look at it and haven’t done much with revision. Writing is an art and a profession. Learn about publishing, the business, while you learn about writing, the art and craft. Editors and agents have long memories. Don’t stick out in theirs from sending an amateurish manuscript out. Make sure that what you send is the very best it can be submitted in the most knowledgeable and professional way you can.

Best of luck!

Linda Rodriguez's Dark Sister: Poems has just been released. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, based on her popular workshop, and The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East, an anthology she co-edited, were published to high praise in 2017. Every Family Doubt, her fourth mystery novel featuring Cherokee campus police chief, Skeet Bannion, and Revising the Character-Driven Novel will be published in 2019. Her three earlier Skeet novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, and Every Last Secret—and her books of poetry—Skin Hunger and Heart's Migration—have received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin's Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for film.

Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International Thriller Writers, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Visit her at