Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Politics Then and Now

By Barbara Plum aka AB Plum

A Two-Word Story

A week later … post mid-term elections.

Are you glad you voted?
Did you imagine the aftermath?
Can you envision the days ahead?

I am delirious I voted—early. I never imagined the aftermath, and I’ve sent my crystal ball out for refurbishing. I plan to consult it many times over the next months.

In the meantime, I’m going to read, read, read for escape, entertainment, and enlightenment. Top of the list: Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Leadership in Turbulent Times.

Also, I’m looking forward to some down time from writing and some more quality time with friends and family.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Barbara Plum, aka AB Plum, writes across the gamut of light and dark (paranormal romance to dark, psychological thrillers). As always, her two latest books explore families.

Available now on Amazon:

Monday, November 12, 2018

Thrilled Beyond Measure

So, this happened! That’s me in the November 12 issue of Woman’s World.

I can safely say, this is probably the one and only time in my life I’ll be hanging out between John Grisham and Eleanor Roosevelt.

The nice-women-don’t-toot-their-own-horns part of me wanted to say nothing. The that’s’-me-between-Grisham-and-Roosevelt part of me did a little shimmy (a big shimmy). The time-to-make-a-living part of me was thrilled beyond measure.

This holiday season, give an author a gift. Take a moment to tell a friend about the best book you’ve read this fall. Encourage them to request the book from the library, hurry off to their local bookstore, or one-click. Believe me, somewhere an author will be thrilled beyond measure.


Julie Mulhern is the USA Today bestselling author of The Country Club Murders and the Poppy Fields Adventures. 

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 latest book, Back Stabbers is available at your favorite on-line retailer.

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Importance of Pre-Orders by Debra H. Goldstein

The Importance of Pre-Orders by Debra H. Goldstein

Until I became an author, the only time I thought of pre-ordering a book was when I knew a new Harry Potter was being released. Once I was published, I heard from other authors that pre-orders were extremely important. Knowing that the first book in my Sarah Blair cozy mystery series, One Taste Too Many, releases on December 18, but is available for pre-order now, I decided to research what the importance of pre-orders is.

 It turns out there are several reasons to encourage (beg) for pre-orders:

1)    If publishers see books are receiving numerous pre-orders, they will increase the print run. More books being printed means the publisher will put more advertising help toward the book because it doesn’t want to get stuck with unsold books. More promotion translates into additional sales.

2)    Pre-orders are reported in first week sales. People often have a surge during their launch parties, but the additional numbers created by pre-sales may help a book make a national or local best-seller list. Word of mouth and recognition again translates into more sales.

3)    Whether Amazon, other online sources, big box stores or independent booksellers receive numerous pre-orders, they will tend to stock more copies of the book. Often, the booksellers will check out and potentially promote a book that customers are showing an interest in.
4)    Authors want publishers to accept their next books. Publishers want to sign authors whose books sell. Pre-order numbers serve as an indicator to a publisher as to whether there is interest in additional works by an author.

5)    Pre-orders are especially important when a series is debuting its first book. Few know of the existence of the series, so it is important to use any means possible to build excitement and interest immediately. One of the best ways to do this is through high numbers of pre-orders which catch the eye of booksellers and readers.

Now that I know how important pre-orders are, I hope you will consider spending $7.99 (paperback) or $4.99 (e-book) to pre-order One Taste Too Many from one of buy links listed below.
About One Taste Too Many:

For culinary challenged Sarah Blair, there’s only one thing scarier than cooking from scratch—murder!

Married at eighteen, divorced at twenty‑eight, Sarah Blair reluctantly swaps her luxury lifestyle for a cramped studio apartment and a law firm receptionist job in the tired town she never left. With nothing much to show for the last decade but her feisty Siamese cat, RahRah, and some clumsy domestic skills, she’s the polar opposite of her bubbly twin, Emily—an ambitious chef determined to take her culinary ambitions to the top at a local gourmet restaurant.

Sarah knew starting over would be messy. But things fall apart completely when her ex drops dead, seemingly poisoned by Emily’s award-winning rhubarb crisp. Now, with RahRah wanted by the woman who broke up her marriage and Emily wanted by the police for murder, Sarah needs to figure out the right recipe to crack the case before time runs out. Unfortunately, for a gal whose idea of good china is floral paper plates, catching the real killer and living to tell about it could mean facing a fate worse than death—being in the kitchen!

Pre-Order/Buy Links:

Books-a-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/One-Taste-Too-Many/Debra-H-Goldstein/9781496719478

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Juliana Aragon Fatula And the Woman I've Become

Hello Readers:

The above photo was taken after my autumn harvest. I realized that I had been so busy with my Chicana Garden, picking, canning, drying, freezing my bounty that I had neglected everything else. I realized that I have a penchant for concentrating on one job and being obsessed by it. 

I spent the last month working on my harvest and as soon as I finished that my bestfriend called inviting me on a road trip to Denver. Perfect timing. We both needed a break from harvesting. 

We were invited to play abuela and tia abuela for her son's toddler. Day care emergency or some nonsense. The baby boy, Bennett, is learning to walk and talk and is so beautiful he draws a crowd everywhere he goes. He reminds me of one of the babies in the film Raising Arizona. There's a scene where Holly Hunter and Nic Cage are trying to kidnap a baby from the nursery and all five of the quintets are crawling on the floor towards the stairs and Nic is holding one trying to keep him quiet and the other four go in four different directions. That's how it went with Bennett. He would cry when he fell down, or was tired, or got scared by a noise and he would let out a grito. 

Luckily for us, my bestfriend and I, I brought dried cinnamon apple rings. Bennett loved them and when we needed to divert his attention, we would hand him one and he'd munch on it and ask for another. He was an apple ring addict. 

But the best part of the trip was just riding in the van to and from Denver chatting with a friend of 30 years. We've become family and she shared her grandson with me. I dream of grandchildren but have accepted I may never be a grandmother, ever. I'm cool with it as long as friends and family are willing to let tia abuela babysit and feed their babies my home made cinnamon apple rings. 

Now that I'm home, it's back to the work, writing. But sometimes you need to walk away and just take a break from home, work, the routine so you can return and feel excited to be home. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Clicking Our Heels - Diverse Women and Their Fairy Tales

Clicking Our Heels - Diverse Women and Their Fairy Tales

(The winner of our Stiletto Blog competition is  Pamela Hopkins. Please contact Debra at dhg@debrahgoldstein.com with your address)

To enter for a chance to win TK Thorne's House of Rose and Galactic Dreams: A Cosmic Fairy Tale Collection featuring novella's from J.M. Phillippe and Bethany Maines (and Karen Harris Tully) just comment on the blog with your favorite fairy tale. Good luck and happy reading! -- winner will be announced next Wednesday on The Stiletto Gang Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/stilettogang 

The Stiletto Gang spent the past two months introducing our new logo and letting you see how diverse we are over something simple:  red shoes. Not only are we different in the present, but we were raised on different fairy tales, folklore and cultural stories. Thinking back, we decided to share with you an early one we can remember and tell you why it was so impressive. 

Judy Penz Sheluk – My Mom wasn’t big on reading me fairy tales, but I remember making her read Heidi to me so many times that if she tried to skip a few pages, I’d tell her she missed something and made her backtrack.  I remember it being a story of family, friendship, hope and happy endings.

AB PlumHansel and Gretel because from a very early age I spent summers with an aunt and uncle whose house was on the edge of woods where I played with cousins and siblings. A ramshackle cabin miles from the house (really less than a football field) made it easy to imagine the witch lurking nearby.
Paula Gail BensonCinderella has a firm hold on me. I wore a Cinderella Halloween costume for years and, when I began teaching short story workshops, Cinderella was my go-to example for story structure. I guess it’s a female Horatio Alger story. Ultimately, Cindy wins when she is able to reveal herself.

Dru Ann Love – Your dreams can come true if you work hard for it. Because I knew I wanted more from life than what was dealt my family. That’s why I was the first to graduate college, the first to get a full-time job, the first to travel internationally for pleasure, and the first to own real estate (co-op).

TK ThorneSnow White and The Seven Dwarfs because I was hung up on Cinderella being blonde and the “perfect” girl, and Snow had dark hair like me. Could I be perfect too, or at least find my prince? Not very feminist fodder, but that is what we were fed and I swallowed.

Shari Randall – My Italian mom told us the story of Old Befana, the good witch who flies on her broomstick on January 8, going down chimneys to leave candy for good children and coal for the naught. Befana was known as the best housekeeper in the village, so when the Three Wise Men came through (yes, a side trip to Italy!), following the star in their search for the Christ child, they stayed at Befana’s house. The next morning, the Magi invited her to join them on their quest, but Befana wanted to finished her chores first. The Magi let and soon after Befana ha a change of heart and tried to catch them but she couldn’t find the three kings.  The story is that even today she still searches for the Child, always with her broom at her side. I’ve taken that moral to heart – if adventure calls, don’t wait – leave the housework behind!

Debra H. Goldstein – The Emperor’s New Clothes made a lasting impression on me for the way in which it mocked hypocrisy, snobbery and social class. The child’s honest cry that the Emperor is wearing no clothes versus the individuals who wouldn’t speak out, including the Emperor, for fear of appearing stupid stuck with me. It was the first time, even though I couldn’t put it into words, that I realized the importance of speaking the truth – even when it isn’t popular or goes against a prevailing rhetoric.

Linda Rodriguez – Some of the earliest tales and teaching stories that I recall came from my Cherokee grandmother, who was a huge influence in my early life. One of the most influential was the story of Stoneskin, a giant cannibal who ravaged the Cherokee, the early people. In the story, the Cherokee fought against him by arranging one menstruating woman after another in front of him, until the power of them overwhelmed him. As he lay dying, he told them all kinds of secrets and medicine lore, which became the foundation of the Cherokee traditional medicine teaching. So, much that is truly important about traditional Cherokee culture comes from a dying monster killed by a the power of women, who are capable of getting pregnant and giving birth. That story told me as a young child that there was power in the female, even though the world around me said that women and girls were weak and powerless.

Bethany Maines – I’ve recently been re-reading fairy tales and somehow I didn’t remember them being as horrible as they are. Rape, murder, incest, lots of removing of limbs and for some reason turning into rose bushes.  The one I liked as a kid were the Arabian Nights. I think it was Ali-Baba where the maid poured boiling oil on the forty thieves hidden in the oil jars. The hero seemed like an idiot and the maid saved the day. Somehow, the idea of boiling a bunch of guys in oil didn’t seem as horrific to me then as it does now.

J.M. Phillippe – Growing up, I was greatly impacted by the “Ugly Duckling” story. The message I took from it then was that if I was feeling like an outsider, I just had to wait to find my own personal “tribe” – the group who saw me for who I was and wanted me to be a part of them.

Kay Kendall – Once upon a time, when I was in first grade, my father brought home a full set of The American Peoples Encyclopedia. He also sprang for the related sets of adventure stories and fairy tales. I treasured the entries in the regular encyclopedia but fell hard for the fairy tales. The one that sticks in my mind still – and not one of the more common ones at that – is “The Princess on the Glass Hill.” I now know that this was a Norse tale. It featured handsome horses that helped the hero get up to the top of the slippery glass hill to win the fair maiden’s hand in marriage. Illustrations of the horses were gorgeous and won my heart. I was a horse-crazy little girl.

Cathy P. Perkins – I didn’t grow up on fairy tales. Instead, my brother fed me a stead diet of science fiction. I desperately wanted to be either an astronaut and explore space or move onto Pern, bond with my very own dragon, and save my people from Thread.

Juliana Aragon Flatula – I love the story of how the moon and stars were created when Huitzilopochtli slayed his sister the moon and his 400 brothers the stars and cut them into pieces and threw them to the heavens. This is why the moon has phases.

Julie Mulhern – I was an early feminist. I didn’t understand why Disney princesses’ happy endings were dependent on princes. Snow White? I did not buy into the idea of cleaning up after seven men. How stupid did she have to be to eat that apple? And how shallow is a prince who falls in love with her based on her face?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Go Vote!

by J.M. Phillippe

I have this thing where I use story telling to help my clients understand growth. It's a pretty simple formula, I say. All character growth comes from the resolution of conflict.

In every life, there is a before, a status quo, or where things are at the beginning. And then something happens, or someone wants or needs something. This creates a conflict. And this thing that happens, or that's wanted or needed? It's too big or personal or important, and that means the protagonist can't ignore it and gets locked into to the path to go out and change said big thing, or pursue said wants or needs. They have to move through the conflict (or series of conflicts) and get to the other side. And doing so helps them grow.

Conflict then is not inherently a bad thing. Almost every conflict has the potential for growth inside of it.

Right now in America, we are reaching what feels like the zenith of a conflict that has been brewing for decades. I would argue that in some way this conflict was built into the very founding of the nation, and what caused us to almost split apart in the past. The United States stayed the United States, but it has never really been united.

But while the nation has been marked by internal conflict, most of the time those conflicts ultimately pushed the nation forward, helping America progress toward the ultimate goal of a state of true equality for all. America has found a way to grow through the conflict.

I feel like this election is another chance for that type of growth--the type that comes when things are too big, too important, and too personal to allow protagonists to do anything other than move forward.

So today I'm asking the our American readers to do something truly heroic--go out and vote. And maybe America can use all this conflict to grow toward something better than it was before.

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, November 5, 2018

Eintopf or how a one-pot soup is like writing a first draft

Judy Penz Sheluk

My mother was raised in a time when you didn't waste anything: scraps of fabric left over from sewing or hemming a pair of pants, odd buttons and pieces of lace or ribbon, these went to making clothes for my Barbie (actually I had a Midge, never have been a conformist, but I digress).

When I was a kid, Fridays were grocery shopping day, probably because that's the day my father got paid. That meant Thursday was Eintopf day (literally translated to One Pot from German). Nothing leftover in the refrigerator was spared: a chicken leg, some broccoli that was heading into yellow-green territory, a eye-sprouting potato, even the [raw] turnip my dad and I had managed to avoid eating through the week—it all went into the pot for soup. Sometimes those soups were amazingly delicious; other times...well, let's just say turnip does not belong in soup.

Recently, while working on the first draft of the third book in my Marketville Mystery series, I got to thinking how much a first draft is like Eintopf. You toss all your ingredients (ideas) in the pot (page) and keep on stirring (typing), hoping it will taste good (read well). And the stuff that doesn't (turnips) finds it's way into yet another folder filled with bits and bites of stuff that didn't get used...this time.

What can I say? I am my mother's daughter. And yes, I still make Eintopf. But I never add turnips.

The Hanged Man's Noose is now in its Second Edition with a new look PLUS a four-chapter excerpt of A Hole In One. Pre-order now on Amazon, Chapters.Indigo, Kobo, Kindle, Nook, GooglePlay or iBooks for Nov. 8 delivery. $14.99 print/$3.99 eBook.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Scales for Writers

by Linda Rodriguez

Pianists know they must practice every day, playing scales and various exercises that stretch the fingers and give them the flexibility and dexterity that they will need to play complicated compositions. Long ago, I read in one of Madeleine L'Engle's wonderful journals of life and writing about this need for writers.

Nobody can teach creative writing–run like mad from anybody who thinks he can. But one can teach practices, like finger exercises on the piano; one can share the tools of the trade, and what one has gleaned from the great writers: it is the great writers themselves who do the teaching.” –A Circle of Quiet

For years now, I've created my own finger exercises, as well as borrowing from other writers who've written books about writing, and used them in my journals. I turn to these when I have only tiny stolen moments to write, such as while waiting for a doctor/mechanic/meeting, or when I find myself facing resistance on my current project, or when I've finished one thing and don't know what to work on next (this rarely happens to me anymore since I always have a long list of projects to tend to). Here are a few of the ones I've found most helpful.

Invent a character. I do this when in a public place, such as that doctor's office. Choose a stranger and invent an entire backstory, personality, name, and occupation for that person. If you have plenty of time, go on to put them in dialogue with someone.

Describe a person or a scene in detail using only metaphors.

Describe a scene through a character's consciousness, using all five senses but not one sense verb (“saw,” “smelled,” “heard,” “felt,” or “tasted”). Extend this by also omitting any pronoun referring to your viewpoint character (such as “he,” “him,” or “his”).

Write an action scene entirely in short, quick sentences to give a sense of a fast pace. Then, write it again in a few long, involved sentences so that the action builds in a reckless, headlong pace.

Write a paragraph or a scene entirely in simple, plain words that come from Anglo-Saxon (such as “walk,” “yearly,” “leaf”). Then, rewrite it entirely in Latinate words (such as “amble,” “annual,” or“foliage”), and notice the change in pace and tone.

Describe a landscape or the decoration of a room without using any color names.

Write a scene in dialogue between two people who want opposing things and who are hearing only what they want to hear and speaking to that, as if it had actually been said, instead of what the other person is saying.

Write a scene where one person in a marriage is afraid the other is having an affair while the other is actually afraid they have cancer and keeping their medical appointments secret. Each of them is trying to appear as if nothing is wrong and cannot tell the other what they're afraid of.

Describe yourself, using only specific objects or sayings and songs from your past. Do this now with a fictional character.

As you can see, I could go on and on with these writers' finger exercises, and I have through the years. They're a part of the way I keep my writing brain nimble and dexterous and develop my skills. I have used them in teaching creative writing classes, as well, and the students have found them helpful. Give them a try, and then invent your own.

Do you ever practice your writing, other than work on your current project?

Linda Rodriguez's Dark Sister: Poems is her 10th book. 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 in 2017. Every Family Doubt, her fourth mystery featuring Cherokee detective, Skeet Bannion, and Revising the Character-Driven Novel will be published in 2019. Her three earlier Skeet novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, Every Last Secret—and earlier 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 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, Native Writers Circle of the Americas, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Visit her at http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com