Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Time to Get Serial

by Bethany Maines

This week (12/9 – 12/13) one of my short stories, Oh, Holy Night, is being serialized on Frolic – the site for all things romance.  Oh, Holy Night is a Christmas romance involving bank robbery, coffee, and best friends. And while I’m always ecstatic to sell and share one of my stories, I have to say that I’m a little more over the moon about this story because of the significance of serialized stories in the history of writing.

Most people think of Charles Dickens when they think of serialized stories.  And although A Christmas Carol was not serialized, his Pickwick Papers (1836) was written and shared in nineteen installments, each costing a shilling.  Partially, the success was due to the format of bite-size, cliff-hanger segments sold in a time when people couldn’t dash off and find entertainment on their phones.  But, let’s think about that for just a moment.  Now that we can dash off and find entertainment at any moment of the day, wouldn’t now be the perfect time for bite-size, cliff-hanger segments of a story?  The old adventure movies captured this idea in the early days of film with short movies that were meant to keep you coming back next Saturday or at the least for the next reel. Have you ever wondered why some movies (ex: James Bond) will give you a 15 minute opening adventure before cutting to the credits? Thank the early days of film when complete reels were 15 minutes long and the projectionist needed to hustle to change reels. Current television has captured this format with long story lines and cliff-hanger episodes and then broken the mold by allowing everyone to binge watch all the episodes at once. The idea of writing extended stories that leave the reader wanting more with each chapter is a unique skill that is hard to master. One that I’m sure I haven’t mastered it yet, but one that I’m excited to work on. 

If you Pop over to Frolic to read Oh, Holy Night for free and check out my effort at a serialized story!

Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, 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 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 Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

'Tis the Season

By AB Plum

A few weeks ago, a friend told me jubilantly, "The date's set."

December 3—the date for her husband's hip-replacement surgery.

They'd waited for over six weeks for a definite date …  because of Thanksgiving and the approaching year's end. A scheduled time was still up in the air.

And that detail was driving her husband crazy. He was fretting over every possibility.

  • ·        What if the hospital set the time and then changed it?
  • ·        What if they had to arrive at oh-dark-thirty?
  • ·        What if the time got postponed after they arrived at the hospital?
  • ·        Why couldn't the surgeons change their routine practice of epidurals and put him under?
  • ·        What if he became nauseated after the anesthesia?
  • ·        What if he couldn't manage the post-surgical pain?
  • ·        How would she get him from the car into their ground-floor apartment?
  • ·        What if they couldn't manage the shower without help?
  • ·        What if his adult kids didn't understand why they couldn't travel for Christmas?
  • ·        What if he was totally immobile during the holiday?
  • ·        How would he get his Christmas shopping done?
  • ·        How disappointed would everyone be because he couldn't smoke the turkey?
      Somehow, the fretting didn't drive my friend nuts. (Her patience borders on saintly). She said part of what helped her stay centered was avoiding the non-stop Christmas ads and parties and implied demands that Christmas required a nine-course dinner with twenty guests and a house decorated by Martha and a new BMW or Lincoln or Range Rover parked in the driveway as the gift du jour.

My friend's husband came through the surgery with no problems. He's exceeding expectations with the physical therapist who comes to their home twice a week. He manages the pain with a third of what his surgeon allowed.

His fretting about Christmas gifts and the Christmas dinner and decorating the apartment takes center stage fewer and fewer hours of every day. To keep my friend's stress manageable, they've agreed on thirty minutes or so of fretting-debrief after she comes home each evening. She'll unpack a few ornaments this weekend while he makes eggnog and queues up Miracle on 34th Street.

'Tis the season to fret because social and mainstream media never let us think we can finish everything that needs to be done. Stress—the noun equivalent of fret—piles up as we struggle to be perfect. Running faster and faster blocks the question: WHY?

This year I'm downshifting. I'm a reluctant shopper at best, but I'm boycotting Amazon.  Too easy to succumb to buying more stuff. I've contributed to favorite charities to honor the people on my list who really don't need more stuff.

And, I've decided on a unique gift for a couple of family members and friends. I got the idea from Through Rose-Colored Glasses, the February release of my second Ryn Davis mystery. Check out the book if you're interested.

Here's wishing one and all a fret-free season—or as close as you can get to fret free.


AB Plum lives, writes, and plays just off the fast-lane in Silicon Valley. A broken hand in October caused a bit of fretting about getting her second Ryn Davis mystery to market, but she's ready to hand [pun intended] off the ARC and feeling light as snowflake and ready to enjoy the holidays.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Brainstorming on Paper and Thinking on Paper for a More Exciting Novel

by Linda Rodriguez

The great technique of freewriting  (setting a timer and keeping your pen or fingers on the keys moving until it goes off) is one I use often as I build my novels. It helps me dive deeper into the characters to develop the often-conflicting motivations that will drive the plot. Freewriting for character work is not the only way to develop ideas and plot elements for your book, however. This same technique can be adapted to several other forms of planning your novel.  Other ways to use the basic freewriting concept are as brainstorming on paper, as a rapid listing tool, and as what I call thinking on paper, a free-form exercise in analysis, questioning, and creating possible alternative solutions.

I have stressed so heavily that you do this in writing because it is too easy to believe we are thinking our way through something, only to find, when we have to write that scene or book, that we were really sort of daydreaming about it. Writing is thinking on paper. The very act of writing out our questions and thoughts leads us to answers and new possibilities. Successful speculative fiction writer, Scott Westerfeld, has explained it the best I’ve seen yet—“You see, paper is magic: Making marks on it changes your brain. So, don't sit around trying to think your way out of problems, write your way out of them. The best place to find answers is on a piece of paper or a glowing phosphorus screen.”

For brainstorming on paper, you begin with a blank sheet of paper and the timer and a problem or question that you are considering. You set the timer, and you fill the blank sheet of paper with as many possible solutions or situations that have the potential to develop solutions as you can. Everyone is probably familiar with the technique of brainstorming in a group at work or at school. This is brainstorming by yourself on paper, but you will use the same rules. No idea should be rejected. Every idea that comes to you should make it onto your list, no matter how wild or crazy. The time to look at the ideas and sort out the usable ones comes after the timer goes off and you have finished your brainstorming.

Try your hand at brainstorming on paper. Make a list of scenes with great emotional conflict and intensity that you would like to use in your book, even if you have no idea how you could fit them into the narrative as you currently envision it. As with all brainstorming, let the ideas flow without censoring any that seem ridiculous or impossible. Get at least 15 ideas for emotionally intense scenes down before you go back and make any judgments about them

For creative listing, you will use a similar technique. Set the timer and make a list, refusing to reject any item for the list until after the timer goes off and you are in edit mode. The difference is you will have a more specific goal in mind for this list. For example, you could make a list of potential scenes, full of action, drama, and emotion, for your work. Or you could make a list of potential actions that subsidiary characters could take to help or hinder your protagonist's goals. Creative listing is a technique that can be used in many ways. It's quite simple but extremely effective.

The final technique I suggest is thinking on paper, a free-form exercise in analysis, questioning, and creating possible alternative solutions. Thinking on paper is the most sophisticated of these many ways to use the technique of freewriting. In this form, you use freewriting to range between questioning, listing, some deep character work, looking for possible solutions to problems, and developing alternatives. You want to keep asking yourself questions about the problem areas of your book.

This is a wide-ranging technique with a lot of depth and potential for you to use in many ways as you write your novel—and later as you revise your novel. It is best if you build up to this technique by beginning with basic freewriting, moving into the deep character work, brainstorming, and creative listing. Then, all of those aspects of this technique are brought together in thinking on paper.

Do you find yourself already using some of these techniques in your writing?

Linda Rodriguez's 11th book, Fishy Business: The Fifth Guppy Anthology (edited), was recently published. Dark Sister: Poems is her 10th book and was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award. 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 2020. 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. Learn more about her at

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Thankful for Readers

by Sparkle Abbey

The holidays are upon us and it's a crazy busy time of year. It's also the most wonderful time of the year and for us a time to reflect and be grateful for all the wonderful things in our lives.

That doesn't mean life is perfect. In some cases it can be anything but...and we have to say in a lot of ways this year has been a tough one. Still, as we pause to think about the end of another year, life has been good.

We are so thankful for the writing community and especially for readers. You are what keeps us going and we appreciate everything you do in support of authors. Whether buying a book, writing a review, sharing a post, or just telling a friend about our books. It helps and it makes a difference!

We love hearing from you and we wish you grace and hope for the holiday season and for the coming year.

Happy December and thank-you!
Mary Lee (Sparkle) and Anita (Abbey)

Sparkle Abbey aka Mary Lee & Anita write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series. They are friends as well as neighbors so they often get together and plot ways to commit murder. (But don't tell the neighbors.) The most recent book in the series is The Dogfather.

If you want to make sure you get updates, sign up for their newsletter via the website.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Clicking Our Heels - Dreams or Wishes for Others

Clicking Our Heels – Stiletto Gang Members Dreams or Wishes for Others
At the end of the year, people begin to think about New Year’s resolutions, but the Stiletto Gang decided to think of a dream or wish each one would have for someone in the future --- and the Gang is letting you in on those dreams or wishes.

Julie Mulhern - I have two daughters and I wish happy, healthy lives for both of them.

J.M. Phillippe - I feel like my day job as a therapist has me dreaming and wishing for people's futures all the time. I just want people to be able to feel joy in their lives--whatever shape joy takes.

Linda Rodriguez - My dream or wish for the future is for all of us. I would wish that we would become a society that values people and uses things rather than the society we have become that values things and uses people and a country where the law binds all people of all classes and also protects all people of all classes. I do believe if this dream came true we would have a wonderful country to live in.
Bethany Maines - Tricky question! Is my interpretation of what's good for someone else's future correct? I wish my daughter would win the lottery for over ten million dollars.  Then I'll move in with her when I'm old and do nothing but float in the pool and drink mai tai's and host book clubs. Too self-serving?  OK, if I'm being altruistic and wishing for someone else to truly get their dream I would wish that the Greta Thunberg is entirely successful in her pursuit of environmental change.

Kay Kendall - I fervently wish for Earth's population that the ecological damage humans have wrecked on the planet would be reversed.

Shari Randall - This is kind of out of left field, but I wish and hope, in the future, that libraries will be funded and recognized for the important work they do in building a literate world.

Dru Ann Love – I wish my mom didn’t have cancer.

Mary Lee Ashford - Oh, wow. So many wishes for so many people. I have six grandchildren and so they immediately come to mind. For them, and really for all my friends and family, I would wish health and happiness. In addition, I'll share my own life goals because these are things I'd wish for them:  #LiveBrave #LoveHard #LiftOthers

Debra H. Goldstein – “World Peace” with acknowledgements to the movies.

Cathy Perkins - Wow, where to start? So many personal wishes are crowding into my mind with friends facing tough financial or medical challenges, along with the selfish, I want my kids and their spouses to be happy. Like Debra, I'm tempted to go with the global "world peace." (Lord knows we need it!) Anybody who has peeked at my Facebook posts knows I care passionately about the environment, so my wish is people wake up to the damage we're doing to the planet.

Monday, December 2, 2019

So Long, Farewell...but not Good-Bye

By Judy Penz Sheluk

It's been a couple of years since I joined The Stiletto Gang, thanks to Debra Goldstein's efforts to recruit me at Bouchercon Toronto in 2017. While I've had an absolute blast, I'm at the point in my life where something has to give, at least if I want to keep writing books (I do).

The turning point came in June 2019, when I was elected as Vice Chair of Crime Writers of Canada. I'd been on the CWC Board since 2017, first as a Regional Rep for Toronto/Southwestern Ontario, and then as a Director for the Region, but the appointment of Vice Chair added an entirely new layer of responsibility, and the role of Chair for the 2020-21 fiscal year (eff. June 2020) will demand even more of my time and energy. Fingers and toes crossed that I do a good job for a great organization and its many fabulous members.

After careful consideration, I handed in my Stiletto Gang "blogging notice" in October. As such, this will be my final "First Monday of the Month" post, though I hope to return as a guest in future (hopefully with news to share about Book 3 Glass Dolphin, which I wrote about last month in my Do You NaNoWriMo post). In the meantime, you can always find me at and on Goodreads.

Until our paths cross again,


Friday, November 29, 2019

Welcome to the Holidays!

We here at the Stiletto Gang love our readers and hope that you're all healthy and happy this holiday season. We've put together a list of our recent works to inspire you during the gift shopping free-for-all of Black Friday.  Aside from some fantastic sales many of the gang are offering giveaways and free books. So do a little shopping, but don't feel guilty if you snag a few presents for yourself as well!

Thank you for being our friend! 

Julie Mulhern


Fields' Guide to Abduction
Poppy Fields is a Hollywood IT girl with big problems. Bodies are popping up like daisies, the Mexican police have taken her passport, and, when she runs for the border, a cartel makes her their unwilling guest. Surrounded by trained killers, Poppy will need charm, intelligence, and a killer Chihuahua if she hopes to escape. #FREE on your favorite e-reader
GET NOW: Amazon

Paula Gail Benson


Love in the Lowcountry
These 14 tales by members of the Lowcountry Romance Writers take place in Charleston, S.C., during the winter holiday season. My story, "Wisest, Swiftest, Kindest," is about Mel, an English graduate student who is better at literature than life. She is unexpectedly thrown back in time to 1936, where she meets the subjects of her thesis, Dorothy and DuBose Heyward. What she doesn't anticipate is for her fellow grad student Will to follow her. Can Mel and Will make it back to present day Charleston in time to spend Thanksgiving with Will's young daughter?
BUY NOW: Amazon

J.M. Phillippe


The Christmas Spirit
Charlene Dickenson didn't think that some minor stalking of her ex-boyfriend would lead to her untimely death. And she really didn't think that because she died in a Christmas-related accident, she would end up in the Hall of Christmas Spirits. But a Christmas death means that Charlene must discover if she has what it takes to be a Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, or Future—helping mortals transform their lives like Ebenezer Scrooge—or end up like Jacob Marley and spend the rest of her existence in chains.  Only Charlene has no intention of letting unknown forces control her life…death… after-life.  Charlene figures that with a little ingenuity and pluck, she can surely figure a way out of this situation.  But finding out how to win may just mean giving up everything she loves.  Stuck in a place where the Christmas music never ends and the holiday treats will never make you full, Charlene is going to have to figure out how to let go of her mortal life and embrace the Christmas Spirit.
BUY NOW: all locations

Barbara Plum


Crazy Daze & a Knight
Hop off the fast track. Buy a boat. Write the great American novel.
Forty-four-year old Susanna Walker knows about taking risks and dreaming big. Mother of two grown kids. Former CEO of a Silicon Valley PR firm. Ex-wife of a still present, former compulsive gambler, Susanna ignores their objections to her life and refuses to accept she may be perimenopausal. As with all well-laid plans, hers quickly derail when the hunk from the boat next door drops by and invites her to supper on his vessel, Camelot. The boat's name, his boyish appearance, and the medieval armor leave Susanna a bit dazed.
Against all reason, she agrees to inspect the armor more closely whle he puts the touches on fresh pasta, shrimp, and a cheeky Chardonnay. When she wakes the next morning, her clothes neatly folded on the chair next to her bed, she's butt naked. And mad. He suckered her with his knight-in-shining armor disguise. But does he think he can steal her underwear without consequences? Unfortunately, the Bold Knight rejects the consequences and issues his own challenge.
BUY NOW: Amazon

Bethany Maines

CONNECT AT: Goodreads

The Second Shot
A drunken mistake in college cost US Marshal Maxwell Ames the affection of Dominique Deveraux and six years later, he’s determined to fix the slip-up. But there’s just one tiny problem—someone wants the Deveraux family dead. Dominique Deveraux never expected Max to reappear in her life, let alone apologize, but as Dominique investigates the mysterious attacks on her wealthy family Max quickly becomes far more than her one time college classmate. Now, Max and Dominique must dodge mercenaries and bullets as they try to make sure that they’re the only ones who get a second shot.
BUY NOW: all locations

GIVEAWAY: Get a free Christmas ebook at...

Kay Kendall


After You've Gone During
Prohibition a small Texas town's deadly secrets are revealed by a sheltered, yet enterprising young woman. Plus puzzling disappearances and lethal grudges, twenty-three-year-old Wallie MacGregor uncovers it all. Evils of the outside world change her life when her father's rum-running brother Rory lands on the MacGregors' doorstep. Absent for decades, Rory says he's fleeing enraged bootleggers. His tales of adventure—and the natural charisma of a born ladies' man—charm Wallie. Yet, this long-lost brother appalls her father, a respected judge. Soon a family tragedy gets deemed an accident by the local sheriff. Yet Wallie believes she sees a crime scene showing foul play. Annoyed that no one agrees with her, she sets out to prove her theory. She snoops into her family's past and finds gangsters, flappers and floozies. When her daring lands her in danger, she wonders if she's really meant to be a female version of Sherlock Holmes, her literary hero. Then again, she knows she must persist.
BUY NOW: Amazon

GIVEAWAY: Win either a paperback or E-book copy of After You've Gone. Enter to win by commenting on & liking the author's page at

Sparkle Abbey


Two #Giveaways - Latest Books - The Dogfather (Sparkle Abbey) and Risky Biscuits (Mary Lee Ashford)

Who knew the world of designer purses could be such a dog-eat-dog business?

When a local, designer handbags store owner is found dead, the police first believe it’s an unfortunate accident. But the evidence doesn’t lie. Before you can say "wiseguy," Bow Wow Boutique owner, Melinda Langston’s, former fiancé and undercover FBI agent, Grey Donovan, is the prime suspect. Now the two are working side-by-side to prove Grey's innocence— nothing personal, just business. Or is it? Suspects are piling up, family secrets are exposed, and no one is who they appear to be, including Mel’s newest employee. Time’s running out. Mel better sniff out the killer before she and Grey end up sleeping with the fishes.
The Dogfather BUY NOW: Amazon
Risky Biscuits BUY NOW: Amazon

GIVEAWAY: Winner’s choice of any print or e-book Sparkle Abbey book AND a Mary Lee Ashford book.  To enter simply sign up for either Sparkle Abbey OR Mary Lee Ashford's newsletters. and

Cathy Perkins

In It For The Money
Holly Price traded professional goals for personal plans when she agreed to leave her high-flying position with the Seattle mergers and acquisition 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 car 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 increasingly shaky relationship with JC.

Debra H. Goldstein


Two Bites Too Many
Things are finally looking up for Sarah Blair following her unsavory divorce.  Settled into a cozy carriage house with her sassy Siamese cat, RahRah, she has somehow managed to hang on to her law firm receptionist job and – if befriending strays at the local animal shelter counts – lead a thriving social life. For once, Sarah almost has it together more than her enterprising twin, Emily, a professional chef whose efforts to open a gourmet restaurant have hit a real dead end…

 When the president of the town bank and city council is murdered after icing Emily’s business plans, all eyes are on the one person who left the scene with blood on her hands – the twins’ sharp-tongued mother, Maybelle.  Determined to get her mom off the hook ASAP, Sarah must collect the ingredients of a deadly crime to bring the true culprit to justice. But as neighbors turn against her family, can she pare down the suspects before another victim lands on the chopping block.
BUY NOWAmazon • Barnes & Noble

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 knew starting over would be messy, but things fall apart completely when her ex drops dead, seemingly poisoned by her twin sister’s award-winning rhubarb crisp. Now, with RahRah, her Siamese cat, wanted by the woman who broke up her marriage and her sister 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!
BUY NOW: Amazon • Barnes & Noble

GIVEAWAY: a print copy of One Taste Too Many to U.S. readers sign up for my blog via

Shari Randall

CONNECT AT: Facebook

Drawn and Buttered is the third book in a wonderfully satisfying cozy mystery series set at the Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack in coastal New England.

The Lazy Mermaid’s business has slowed to a snail’s pace—until a monster lobster claws his way onto the scene…

With high season behind them, ballerina on-the-mend Allie Larkin and Aunt Gully are finally lying low. But then an unexpected guest arrives at the lobster shack: a crustacean so huge he’s dubbed Lobzilla around Mystic Bay and on social media. Soon, with everyone showing up for a peek in their tank, Allie and Aunt Gully have more on their plate than they can handle. Meanwhile, another local establishment finds itself in hot water. In exclusive Rabb’s Point, a strange burglary breaches the elegant home of Royal Parrish. Allie takes it upon herself to help with the investigation but, before she can get to the bottom of the case, another alarm sounds: the Lazy Mermaid’s Lobzilla has gone missing and is on the loose! And bodies are beginning to pile up. . .

“Delightful…Full of New England coastal charm…and clever sleuthing [that] will keep you turning the pages.”—Krista Davis, New York Times bestselling author of the Domestic Diva mysteries
BUY NOW: Amazon

T.K. Thorne


House of Rose
When rookie patrol officer Rose Brighton chases a suspect down an alley, she finds herself in the middle of every cop’s nightmare—staring down at a dead body with two bullet holes from her gun . . . in his back.

He’s dead and now she has to explain it, which is going to be a problem because what happened was so strange, she doesn’t understand it herself. Rose must unravel the mystery of what happened and who she really is—a witch of the House of Rose. If she doesn’t figure it out fast, there will be more bodies, including her own.
BUY NOW: all locations

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Book Review of River of Love by Aimée Medina Carr, Homebound Publications by Juliana Aragon Fatula

November 28, 2019

Book Review of River of Love by Aimée Medina Carr, Homebound Publications

Oh, I wish I had a river

I could skate away on

Oh, I wish I had a river so long

I would teach my feet to fly

Oh, I wish I had a river

I could skate away on –River by Joni Mitchell

Dear Reader,

I read River of Love as a manuscript and saw many revisions. When the review copy came in the mail, I tore open the package and held the paperback in my hands with anticipation. I hadn’t read this version. I knew the author and characters well; however, my delight came with the first chapter when I realized mi comadre, Aimee, had written a best-seller novel on her very first attempt.

I swelled with pride for her accomplishment of wanting to tell a story, working hard to write it, research, edit, polish, and find a publisher. She deserves huge accolades. I know how difficult the business of publication can be, especially for writers of color who have been marginalized for centuries. Writers who have to promote their work to an audience who may not understand the culture or history of being indigenous to this country. A Chicana writer can be compared to other writers, but our stories are unique to our past. We have been struggling to be heard and finally publishers are listening and developing a place for us in their presses.

The fictional story in River of Love comes from heart and imagination but has historical facts, legends, dichos, poems, songs, prayers, and memories. The main character, Rose, loves God, family, education, music, and fights to be recognized in a white community with a history of being the headquarters of the Klan in the 20’s. Racism runs rampant, but Rose falls in love with a white boy from a Catholic Boy’s school for rich kids from far away lands. She has never lived anywhere but Colorado and her tight knit Chicano family has a no dating white-boys rule.

Rose and her sidekick, Cha Cha, her prima on her mother’s side of the family, have adventure and mischief in mind. They long for an education like the one the girls at the Catholic school receive but they are just poor Chicanas and get the generic education at the local public schools. They learn about U.S. History but not about Chicano Culture or their indigenous history of their ancestors who had been leaders and living in the land of Aztlan. They didn’t cross the border; the border crossed them.

Rose has a strict Catholic home, but Cha Cha has parents who are less religious and more into partying. The combination of the two cousins/sisters makes for interesting reading. They sneak around town to do the typical teenage tricks. They smoke marijuana referred to in the seventies as pot, weed, mota, ganja. Cannabis hadn’t been legalized and wouldn’t be for fifty some years. They didn’t belong to gangs, but they kept a close gang of friends that shared in their love of music, pot, and free love. It was the seventies, after all.

The story describes the love affair of a young woman from a tiny town in Southern Colorado and her boyfriend from Australia, who provides pot from his schoolmates who live in Denver and go home on weekends. There are parties galore down at the river, the River of Love.

Aimee, writes about the struggles during the Viet Nam War, the civil unrest of the time, the racism, the poverty, the magic that happens when people fall in love and are torn apart by distance and money. A poor Chicana and a rich white boy in love at that Romeo and Juliet age. Stars that collide and make stardust.

The story contains history, mysteries, music, dancing, family dysfunction, and healing power to rise above poverty. The power of love and family. The power of the River of Love.

I recommend this book to all young women who want to overcome the insecurity of failed romance and the longing to find what really matters in the end. Great friends. Family that loves you. And the kind of success that comes from an education and realizing that love flows in and out of our lives and we have to enjoy each fleeting moment because life is truly short and to experience the richness of this world, one must be awake and aware of their surroundings.

River of Love tells a great story about growing up Chicana in the seventies in a small town full of racism and classism. But this story also contains magical realism and poetry unlike most coming of age stories. This Chicana has what I call the power to heal with words. She healed my heart with her first novel, and I look forward to reading more of her work. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Dead Zone

by Bethany Maines

Welcome to the day where no one is on-line, but everyone is at the grocery store. Hopefully, you are successfully home from such an excursion and have yet to launch into the holiday madness of bake, travel, eat, travel, flop face first onto the pile of laundry on your bed because you didn't have time to put it away before you left. My hope for you, dear reader, is that your home with your feet up reading a good book and sipping hot cocoa, cider, or the nog of your choice. That is also my dream for myself, so let's dream the impossible dream together.

The dream starts with good books. Check this space on Friday for a Stiletto Gang book guide featuring some awesome giveaways, sales and just a general list of good things to read. But here are some of mine that you can snag for a quick, easy and cheap!

Blue Christmas - Want a hilarious romantic holiday thriller? Simply join my newsletter and get this one for free. It's as easy as that.

An Unseen Current - Murder, mystery, a hunky Sheriff's Deputy, a granddaughter / granddad detective duo, oh, and there's a dog.  The third in the series, An Unfamiliar Sea, comes out in January.  Grab book one for $.99!
Link: Amazon

Shark's Instinct - Crime, humor, and a heroine and hero that are more than they seem, the Shark Santoyo Series follows a duo that have the odds stacked against them.  Buy book one for $.99 or check it out on Kindle Unlimited.
Link: Amazon


Now let's talk Nog.  I personally do not believe in egg nog.  Too much egg.  Not enough nog.  But I do believe in cocktails.  So with that in mind I suggest the Moscow Mule.  Served in a festive copper cup (but really can be drunk out of anything) try this drink with a slice of lime as a garnish.

Main alcohol: Vodka
Ingredients: 4 oz Ginger beer, 1 1/2 oz Vodka, 1/6 oz Lime juice
Preparation: Combine vodka and ginger beer in a copper mug or highball glass filled with ice. Add lime juice. Stir gently and garnish with a lime slice.
Served: On the rocks; poured over ice.
Drinkware: Copper mug or highball glass

Good luck out there my friends. Don't let the holidays be anything less than jolly!


Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, 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 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 Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Senses of the Season

By Lynn McPherson

With Thanksgiving just days away, it’s time to kick off the holiday season. As I opened up all the boxes with lights and decorations, my festive feelings were thrown into high gear with just one whiff of a gingerbread-scented candle.
It was a great reminder of the importance of using all five senses in writing. Let’s look at how much of a difference it can make if a writer incorporates more than just what the eye can see. I thought we could use a Thanksgiving setting as our demonstration…

What could be the highlights of a Thanksgiving meal, if we were restricted to the sense of sight: a big turkey, decorative pine cones, family gathered together, a festive tree, sparking lights, a dimmed room with a roaring fire. Now, add in the smell of turkey cooking in the oven. And the scent of fresh pine of a crisp after-dinner walk. Doesn’t that start to bring the scene alive?  How about the murmur of happy chatter and the warmth emanating from the fire? With the addition of sound, smell, and touch, the reader is given a fuller experience—perhaps even initiating their own memories of holidays past. Without this, the scene may seem hollow—and that’s never good when you’re trying to entice the reader into your character’s world.
How about if we switch the scenario to a busy city street?  Other than the sights around, there might be a pungent smell of a passing garbage truck, the loud honking of nearby taxis, or the firm brush of hurried passersby. Another example could be a busy coffee shop. Look around next time you’re in one—think about what’s happening. Would you miss the buzzing of friendly chatter? The grinding sounds of a coffee maker preparing to serve fresh brew? And the delicious smell of fresh brew. All these things can help the readers set their imagination in motion. This is particularly important at the beginning when you want to hook the reader.
            So as you unpack your ornaments and prepare your festive dinner, let it be a reminder to be aware of all the wonderful sensations the holiday season has to offer and to enjoy each one.
            I wish everyone a happy and healthy Thanksgiving weekend. May you have the chance to see your loved ones and curl up in front of the fire with a good mystery—I know that’s what I’ll be doing…

Lynn McPherson has worked for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, ran a small business, and taught English across the globe. She has travelled the world solo where her daring spirit has led her to jump out of airplanes, dive with sharks, and learn she would never master a surfboard. She now channels her lifelong love of adventure and history into her writing, where she is free to go anywhere, anytime. Her cozy series has three books out: The Girls' Weekend Murder and The Girls Whispered Murder, and The Girls Dressed For Murder.  

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction

by Paula Gail Benson

Portions of this post appeared in the November 19, 2019, post for Writers Who Kill. However, this great news deserves to be shared more than once!

I was delighted to be asked by Carol Puckett and Kendel Lynn to be the contest coordinator for the Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction, debuting this year at the Dallas Bouchercon. The contest honored the memory of revered Texas writer and reviewer Bill Crider. Open to any writer in the world, stories had to be between 3,500 and 5,000 words and deal with the theme “Deep in the Heart.”

Jim Jackson, who was experienced working on anthologies, agreed to be the submissions coordinator, without knowing what that task might entail. Sixty-three stories were blindly submitted. Thirty-seven advanced to the second round and eleven were selected as finalists for the following prizes:

·         First Place:      $1000
·         Second Place:  $750
·         Third Place:     $500
·         Bill Crider Memorial Scholarship:      Registration to Bouchercon 2020

We were so fortunate to have excellent short story writers and editors to agree to judge the preliminary rounds. They were: Carla Coupe, Kaye George, Barb Goffman, Debra H. Goldstein, Tara Laskowski, Robert Mangeot, Karen McCullough, Warren Moore, Terrie Moran, and Beth Terrell. I cannot thank these folks enough for taking on the difficult task of determining which stories would go forward.

Janet Hutchings, editor of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Linda Landrigan, editor of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, graciously agreed to serve as judges for the final round.

The eleven finalists were:

“Long Overdue” by Jaap Boekestein
“Trust Me” by Douglas Dorow
“Mi Corazón, Sin Cartero, Sin Timbre de las Puerta (My Heart, Sans Postman, Sans Doorbell)” by Dixon Hill
“Resuscitation” by Ann Kellett
“Cahoots” by C.C. Guthrie
“The Texas Justice Project” by James L’Etoile
“Lambs and Wolves” by Robert Lopresti
“Death and Texas” by Lissa Marie Redmond
“Dead Armadillos Don’t Dance” by Kari Wainwright
“The Last Man in Lafarge” by Joseph S. Walker
“Armadillo by Morning” by Stacy Woodson

And, the top four prizes were awarded to:

·         First Place:      Joseph S. Walker
·         Second Place:  Jaap Boekestein
·         Third Place:     Douglas Dorow
·         Bill Crider Memorial Scholarship:      Dixon Hill

We were delighted to have three of the four prize winners (Joseph S. Walker, Douglas Dorow, and Dixon Hill) at the ceremony hosted by Hank Phillippi Ryan. In addition, a number of the participants and judges attended and we took a “class” photo.

Although publication was not part of the prize for this contest, I firmly believe you’ll be seeing these stories and their authors’ names in print. So, be watching for them.

Following Bouchercon, Joseph S. Walker attended New England Crime Bake, where he was honored with the Al Blanchard award. Way to go, Joe!

Many thanks to all who participated as entrants, judges, and planners of this contest. I hope it might be a tradition that continues to other Bouchercons.