Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Clicking Our Heels - Looking Forward - Seasonal Preferences


Clicking Our Heels – Looking Forward – Seasonal Preferences

As we practice social distancing and are limited in our interactions outdoors, we thought we’d tell you which seasons we love – and are thinking about. We also want to tell you how much we care about you, our readers, and hope you are staying safe and well.

Julie Mulhern – I adore autumn-the colors, the crisp air, the bright blue of an October sky.

Juliana Aragon Fatula – Spring because of gardening and growing plants from seeds gives me a kickstart on life. Seeing baby deer being born on my front yard under my Aspen grove opens my eyes to the mystery of the circle of life. Rain, wet earth, birds singing, the magic of creation.

Debra H. Goldstein – Summer. The warmth of the weather; the fact that people want to get together; the joy of being at the beach or in the water; the fun of seeing children learning to swim; the relaxation everyone feels.

Dru Ann Love – I like Autumn – because it’s not that cold nor too hot and no allergies to deal with.

Robin Hillyer-Miles – Summer! I like it hot. I love to have a dribble of sweat slipping down the center of my back.

Debra Sennefelder – Hands down, autumn is my favorite season. I love the child in the air, cozy sweaters and comfort food. It’s a beautiful time of the year.

A.B. Plum – I love spring because of the rebirth, literally, of the natural world. I don’t mind the rain because it feeds the plants and around here, ensures the racoons and possums and other critters won’t die of thirst or come into my backyard looking for water.

Kathryn Lane – Spring is allergy season for me. Fall, especially in the mountains, is sheer beauty – the golden foliage, wildlife passing through on their way to lower, warmer territory, and the warm days and cool nights. Pure bliss.

T.K. Thorne – I love spring, but it doesn’t love me. One of my favorite writing places is my front porch, and I love when it gets warm enough to do that. Nature things happen there, and I can spend hours in my rocking chair, but I pay the price with allergies.



Friday, March 27, 2020

A Moss Walk--by T.K. Thorne







Writer, humanist,
          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,
       Lover of solitude
          and the company of good friends,
        New places, new ideas
           and old wisdom.





About 35 years ago, on a trip to Japan, I had the opportunity to visit a Buddhist monastery. I’m sure there were many beautiful objects there, but what has remained in my memory over all those years was a moss garden off a patio looking down the forested mountainside. Made of many different types and shades of moss, it was perfect, not a leaf, a stick or a non-moss plant disturbed the emerald carpet. “How does that happen?” I asked.

“It is tended by hand every morning,” was the reply. 

There is something about moss I find calming and, hence, I’m reluctant to clean it off the old bricks of our walkway. But it is far from perfect. Today, with the coronavirus raging through our world and lives, I decided to put on my monk hat and tend the walkway. It was very slow going because if you just rip out the plants growing in the moss, you rip out chunks of moss as well.  It usually requires two hands, one to hold down the moss and the other to gently extract the opportunist clump of grass or florae.

As I worked, I didn’t think about anything but the patch in front of me, getting satisfaction as each one cleared. I have no idea how long it took because it wasn’t about time.

I say I didn’t think about anything. Not quite true. It occurred to me—not for the first time—that in order to bring about my goal, I had to destroy what was not wanted. Moving toward what we want in life requires dedication, patience, and being willing to pull out the unwanted, even when its roots are wrapped deep.




T.K. is a retired police captain who writes BOOKS, which, like this blog, go wherever her interest and imagination take her. Want a heads up on news about her writing and adventures (and receive two free short stories)? Go HERE.  Thanks for stopping by!


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Review of A Very Stable Genius by Juliana Aragón Fatula


Here is a link to a review by the Washington Post writer, Joe Klein, the author of seven books, including Primary Colors” and, most recently, “Charlie Mike.”

washingtonpost.com/outlook/losers-dopes-and-scum-inside-trumps-war-with-his-own-advisers/2020/01/16/9037564c-3312-11ea-91fd-82d4e04a3fac_story.html


Dear Reader,


I admit, I've been doing more reading than writing lately. I've taken a break from writing to read some really great books on Audible. I love books read to me by great actors, journalists, or the author.

In order to keep up with the politics of the nation during this historic time in our lives, I've begun listening to books about the leader and very stable genius, Donald Trump. I try to keep an open mind and listen and learn. I've learned a great deal about this man and I have to report, I don't like him.

If he invited me to the White House, I'd have to respond, with thanks, but no thanks, I'll wait until a make America united president comes into office. The books I've read have led me to make a judgment about a man I've never met and never want to meet. He's a pussy grabber after all.

The journalists who wrote A Very Stable Genius, Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, are both Pulitzer Prize Winners for their previous work. I respect them and their dedication to telling the facts about the state of the union. I enjoyed the book very much, but I kept asking myself, "who told them that?" or "where did they get that information?" questions like, "if you weren't in the room with the President, how do you know what he said?"

I admit, I fell asleep a couple of times but only because I put on the headphones and went to bed and set the alarm for thirty minutes and fell asleep after fifteen. If I didn't set an alarm, I'd wake up and be way ahead and have to rewind a few chapters. I find it very relaxing to read books and they also put me to sleep if I get too comfortable. But during the day I can listen while I do housework and use Bluetooth technology to go wireless. I love the freedom.  It's a tough choice between listening to Reggae and dancing while I cook and clean, or listening to a historical political book. I try to balance between getting some groove on and learning something new.

I'd recommend reading A Very Stable Genius if you are interested in hearing about the Mueller Report if you haven't read that, but I had read the report and found the information redundant. I enjoyed being a fly on the wall while Trump's kids bullied their way into the oval office and into the nepotism of having national security information clearance.

I'm concerned about the good ol' USA and the world for that matter, Climate Change, Global Warming, Corona Virus, but I know that everything is going to be ok, or not and there's only one thing to change the outcome and that is to vote for change.

The young people are becoming of age to vote and they will have to vote in droves to make a dent in society and the way politics are being operated out of this White House. I dare say, the world is in their hands and it's up to all of us to make sure we are well read and educated about the world before we vote. So I continue to read these books written by journalists who are covering the stories and I suggest you do the same so that we vote with the knowledge of history and what this country was built on and by, immigrants who came for a better life.

I want a president who doesn't grab pussies or cage babies or fire CDC officials or lie to the public about everything and hides his secrets like a mafia king. Not everyone agrees with me. Some of my readers might be upset that I write about Trump this way, but my readers are like me, educated, well read and hopeful for a bright future.

My father always told me the root of racism is ignorance. Reading for fun is relaxing, but reading about our country's history and politics can be illuminating.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Is My Life That Bad? (Asking for a friend)

by Bethany Maines


Originally I had planned on a post about how technology has impacted my writing, but COVID-19 has a way of derailing things. My long journey from Apple iMac in 1998 to laptops to ipads to composing huge swaths of a novel on my phone has been a constant evolution in an attempt to remove roadblocks in the process of creating stories. One such roadblock was born six years ago and we named her Zoe. She’s charming, but she does slow down the process and specializes in making it inconvenient to sit at a desk for extended periods of time. In fact, her birth escalated my search for technological shortcuts in the writing process.  I no longer have the luxury of futzing with finding the perfect moment to write. I get the moments I get and I’d better make them count because they won’t be coming back.

Which brings us to COVID-19, social distancing and sheltering in place, pausing or whatever else they’re using to mean “don’t leave the house.” All the social media is going on about how tragic it is to not leave the house and how they will at least be able to catch up on all their TV watching, write a novel and learn French because everyone will have so much MORE time. To which I say…


I work from home.  Grocery shopping is ALREADY my big going out event. Now I just have a child at home with me as I try to work. Staying at home didn't magically give me more time. I have monumentally LESS time.  So basically, my sheltering in place is the same as always except that the crazies have bought up the toilet paper I actually do need and now my child wants to steal all the phones to facetime her friends. Also, now I have to put on make-up in the morning because all the extroverts need to compensate and want to do video chats.  

I realize that my complaints are minimal in the greater scheme of things and I will happily wear mascara to ensure the continued health of my fellow human beings, but sigh…  could everyone either stop complaining about having to live my life or stop assuming that I’m going to roll out a novel next week? That would be great.

Although, I am working on a novel. On my phone.  Because I can “watch” Ducktales with one arm around Zoe and compose one handed. You know... during all my "free" time.


**
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, March 24, 2020

Spring forward!

By Lynn McPherson

Spring is emerging and I couldn’t be more grateful for it. No matter what is happening in the world, seasons change and time moves forward. Daffodils and tulips are coming up. Beauty surrounds us in spite of the dark days.

It is a great time to discover a new book, a new series, or a new author. Have you been looking? There are so many great new stories emerging, it may be time to peruse your local bookstore—online, of course.

Independent bookstores have been working hard to meet the demands of social distancing. You may be surprised to find that many are temporarily delivering right to your door.

My local independent book seller, A Different Drummer, has closed its doors, but is providing free delivery. As a big supporter of local authors like myself, it is important to keep them in mind.

Not sure what to read? Why not check out some of The Stiletto Gang members’ new books?  With so many fabulous options, it could take a whole day trying to choose which one.

We can all do our part to help each other. If staying home and reading a book is a start, you will not hear me complaining.

Take care of yourself and be well.



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, March 23, 2020

An Interview with the Authors of the 2020 Agatha Short Story Nominees!

by Paula Gail Benson

Each year, it is such a delight for me to welcome the authors whose short stories have been nominated for the Agatha award, presented at Malice Domestic. This year, the event may have been postponed, but that's no reason not to celebrate the authors and their nominated stories! These authors are not only expert at the craft of short story writing, but also dear friends. Their nominated stories offer the depth and emotion that fine storytelling always evokes. Please take time to read each of the stories at the following links:

"Grist for the Mill" by Kaye George in A Murder of Crows (Darkhouse Books)
"Alex’s Choice" by Barb Goffman in Crime Travel (Wildside Press)
"The Blue Ribbon" by Cynthia Kuhn in Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible (Wildside Press)
"The Last Word" by Shawn Reilly Simmons, Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible (Wildside Press)
"Better Days" by Art Taylor in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

Welcome Kaye, Barb, Cynthia, Shawn, and Art to the Stiletto Gang!

How do you decide the point of view or who will tell your short story?

Kaye George
Kaye George:
The theme of the anthology was animal group names. You know, those odd ones, like a Murder of Crows (not coincidentally, the name of the anthology)? I looked up a bunch and discovered a Grist of Bees. I got the go-ahead to use that group and so my MC had to be a beekeeper.

Barb Goffman:
This is usually an organic issue for me. I don’t come up with a plot and then think about who would be the best person to tell the story. My stories are character driven, so once I know a character’s story—his/her situation that I want to tell—the point of view to use has already been decided. This was true of my Agatha-nominated story “Alex’s Choice.” That said, sometimes for a story to work, I need to tell it from multiple perspectives, so I do so. (You may be thinking, stories with multiple POV from Barb? I don’t recall those stories. That’s true. They haven’t been published—yet!)

Cynthia Kuhn
Cynthia Kuhn:
Seems to depend on the story—some require access to the protagonist’s perspective and some require more distance.

Shawn Reilly Simmons:
For me every story is different, but I do tend to focus on one POV of a character with a strong motivation to move the story forward. For this particular story, the character driving the story has a strong motivation to take inventory of his friendship with one of his oldest acquaintances.

Art Taylor:
I’ve used a variety of points of view across my stories—both in terms of prose point-of-view (I, you, he, she) and in terms of character (a detective’s perspective, a criminal’s, whoever’s). The narrator of “Better Days” is a journalist who was downsized from a major newspaper and has picked up a job at a small coastal North Carolina newspaper—in the same town where his father now lives, father and son both trying to build better relations in the years since the narrator’s mother died. That father-son relationship is core to the story, and it was important for me to show that relationship through the eyes of the son—both some of the frustrations about the relationship and also some redemption too. While the narrator sets out to investigate the crime here, the dad is the one who steps forward as the detective solving the case—not quite a Watson-Sherlock relationship, but certainly echoes of that, and there are many reasons that Watson is the narrator of the Sherlock stories, of course.

Each of your stories take place in a unique “universe” that becomes an important part of the plot. Which came first, your characters or the setting, or, if they were somehow melded, how?

Kaye George:
My characters were first, and the setting is just their homes and yards in Anywhere USA. I think people have backyard gardens and keep bees in a lot of places, so I didn’t specify where it is, exactly. I’d love for the reader to imagine this is their town.

Barb Goffman
Barb Goffman:
Combo for me. Sometime in the year before I wrote my story, I read a newspaper article about a tragedy involving a California family. They had been on the beach, and after their dog went into the ocean and didn’t come out, the father went in to save him. When he didn’t come out, another family member went in after him, and it went on and on until they all were gone—only the dog survived, eventually crawling out from the water. It was a horrendous occurrence, and I wished I could change things for those poor people. And then my beloved dog Scout died, and I wanted to bring him back. Both of these terrible events were the springboard for my story “Alex’s Choice,” which involves a couple who die in the ocean after their dog is swept away. Thanks to time travel, their child has the chance to go back and change what happened but is unexpectedly forced to make a choice that no one—let alone a child—should have to make.

Cynthia Kuhn:
For “The Blue Ribbon,” the setting came first—in fact, the moment that I read the description of the anthology project, the bakery and competition popped into my head. It doesn’t usually happen that vividly; typically I only get a wisp of an idea that has to be coaxed out of hiding.

Shawn Reilly Simmons
Shawn Reilly Simmons:
It was both in my case—for “The Last Word” I wanted the setting to be a high end restaurant in New York City, a location I can picture very well from my own experiences of living and working there, and a chef who is seasoned enough to have been through the ups and downs of a culinary career—praise, wealth, hunger, professional jealousy, failure. Maybe it’s because I wrote this story very quickly, but the setting and characters came to me simultaneously, I think!

Art Taylor


Art Taylor:
“Better Days” is the sequel to an earlier story that was also set on the North Carolina coast: “A Drowning at Snow’s Cut.” To that end, characters and setting both were already in place for the new story. But I will say that setting helped to determine to a great degree what happens here: a coastal town, a newcomer on a big yacht, the cocktail bar where this newcomer begins to move in on one of the local women, and then the narrator interested in the same woman—relatively new to the area himself and still trying to make peace with his life after having been laid off at the big-city newspaper. Character, plot, and place come together here in key ways.


If you had a spirit animal, what would it be?

Kaye George:
Some kind of beautiful bird. I’m afraid of heights and would love to be able to soar like they do. Maybe a hawk or an eagle.

Barb Goffman:
I had to look up what a spirit animal is. I’ll go with the badger, whose attributes apparently include focus on the task at hand, self-reliance, persistence, and strategy.

Cynthia Kuhn:
One psychic told me that my spirit animal was a butterfly; another said it was a giraffe. Still confused.

Shawn Reilly Simmons:
I had no idea so I just took an online quiz! The result: I’m a Turtle: The turtle totem wisdom teaches us about walking our path in peace and sticking to it with determination and serenity. Yeah, that sounds about right. While I do have a lot on my plate, I do keep a Zen attitude about it, and am always seeking balance in all things….I’ll take Turtle any day.

Art Taylor:
I took two quizzes to try to figure this one out. The first determined that my spirit animal was a whale, because I listen to inner voices and embrace my emotions. The second said that it should be a snake, because I’m “powerfully connected to life force and primal energy.” Also, my sign is Pisces, and my Myers-Briggs is INFJ. Somewhere in all that, that’s where you’ll find me.

What shoes will you (or if you prefer, would a character from your nominated short story) wear to the Agatha Banquet?

Kaye George:
Hmm, Kevin isn’t much for dressing up. He’ll probably wear leather tie shoes and slacks, though, after I stress to him that we are being honored there. If Vivian, the protagonist, shows up, she’ll wear low heels and a dress, I’m sure. These are not young, stylish people, see.

Barb Goffman:
I wear the same shoes every year. They are black. They are flat. They are comfortable.

Cynthia Kuhn:
Are flip flops allowed? If so, that would be my first choice.

Shawn Reilly Simmons:
Most likely something way more fancy with a higher heel than I normally wear, which is no shoes at all when I’m writing or doing yoga, or trainers when I’m running or lifting weights at the gym….yeah, I’ll have to acquire something more appropriate for an elegant event!

Art Taylor:
I’ve leaned toward more formal or more flashy in previous years—black wingtips, white bucks, this pair of hand-crafted blue-and-tan suede shoes from Portugal (no lie). But I’ve got a new pair of brown Clark’s—which my wife Tara says looks like every other shoe I wear on regular basis—and I think I’ll wear those. My character would appreciate too: down-to-earth, nothing flashy, just who he is.  

Thank you all for taking the time to be with us and answer questions. And, many thanks for all the wonderful stories you have written! During this time of social distancing, it’s grand to have terrific reading material!

AUTHOR BIOS:
Kaye George:
Kaye George is a national-bestselling, multiple-award-winning author of pre-history, traditional, and cozy mysteries (latest is Revenge Is Sweet from Lyrical Press). Her short stories have appeared online, in anthologies, magazines, her own collection, her own anthology, DAY OF THE DARK, and in A MURDER OF CROWS. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Smoking Guns chapter, Guppies chapter, Authors Guild of TN, Knoxville Writers Group, Austin Mystery Writers, and lives in Knoxville, TN.

Barb Goffman:
Barb Goffman edits mysteries by day and writes them by night. She’s won the Agatha, Macavity, and Silver Falchion awards for her short stories, and she’s been a finalist for national crime-writing awards twenty-eight times, including thirteen times for the Agatha (a category record). Her work has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery MagazineBlack Cat Mystery Magazine, and the 2019 anthology Crime Travel, which Barb also edited. To support her writing habit, Barb runs a freelance editing service, specializing in crime fiction. She lives with her dog in Virginia.

Cynthia Kuhn:
Cynthia Kuhn writes the Lila Maclean Academic Mysteries: The Semester of Our Discontent, The Art of Vanishing, The Spirit in Question, The Subject of Malice, and The Study of Secrets. Her work has also appeared in Mystery Most Edible, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Literary Mama, Copper Nickel, Prick of the Spindle, Mama PhD, and other publications. Honors include an Agatha Award (best first novel), William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant, and Lefty Award nominations (best humorous mystery). Originally from upstate New York, she lives in Colorado with her family. For more information, please visit cynthiakuhn.net.

Shawn Reilly Simmons:
Shawn Reilly Simmons is the author of The Red Carpet Catering Mysteries featuring Penelope Sutherland, an on-set movie caterer, and of several short stories appearing in a variety of anthologies including the Malice Domestic, Best New England Crime Stories, Bouchercon, and Crime Writers' Association series.

Shawn was born in Indiana, grew up in Florida, and began her professional career in New York City as a sales executive after graduating from the University of Maryland with a BA in English. Since then she has worked as a book store manager, fiction editor, mystery convention organizer, wine rep, and caterer. She serves on the Board of Malice Domestic and is co-editor at Level Best Books.

Shawn is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers, and the Crime Writers’ Association in the U.K.

Art Taylor:
Art Taylor is the author of the story collection The Boy Detective & The Summer of ’74 and Other Tales of Suspense and of the novel in stories On the Road with Del & Louise, winner of the Agatha Award for Best First NovelHe won the 2019 Edgar Award for Best Short Story for "English 398: Fiction Workshop," originally published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and his other awards have included the Agatha, the Anthony, the Derringer, and the Macavity.  He is an associate professor of English at George Mason University. 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Things Change

Things Change

By Cathy Perkins

Hi there from New Mexico, where Covid-19 caught up to us and changed, well, everything. 

I hope you’re hanging in there as life changes moment by moment. I don’t know about you, but I feel thrown for a loop by a global pandemic that involves a virus which seems to have even the most learned scientists unsure what to expect next.

Things certainly have changed as a result, though! 

(That's Dripping Springs in the picture.)

We’re lucky to be healthy, so our changes seem minor compared to what other people are facing. Our kids are working from home, but one son-in-law is a small business owner. He’s struggling to balance the needs of customers and employees, while maintaining financial stability in the chaos. 

Our bucket list trip to Ecuador with National Geographic has been cancelled and we have all our fingers and toes crossed that the rumored domestic travel lock-down doesn’t happen until after we get home tonight. Okay, that’s a bit selfish but after a week in a rented condo where everything in the region is closed, including even the state parks for taking a walk, I’m not sure how people are managing this for fourteen days!  

I don’t have any words of wisdom (other than wash your hands!). The only thing I can say is we’re all in this together. I may be an optimist, but I believe we’ll all hang in there and do the best we can. Keep everyone healthy and the medical community will have a chance to catch up and deal with the most serious cases. Grit and determination go a long way—and here’s hoping the grocery stores restock soon! 

How are you doing? Shoot me any suggestions I can use or that I can share with others. (Add it to the comments below!) 

If you’re sick of television, a group of authors got together and set up a heavily discounted sale (my Kindle has saved my sanity the past few days!). Go HERE

I included CYPHER, an award-winning  suspense that I’ve never put on sale before. Go here for CYPHER.


Blessings to all. Hang tough! 




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 http://cperkinswrites.com or on Facebook 

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

She's hard at work on sequel to The Body in the Beaver Pond, which was recently presented with the Claymore Award.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Thoughts to Send Around the World and Into the Cosmos

From Kay Kendall

 

Award-winning author Kay Kendall is passionate about history so she's aware of many pandemics Earth has suffered over the centuries. Too distracted and/or befuddled to put coherent thoughts together right now, she offers up this fine prayer by Anonymous that she found on the internet four days ago. If you don't believe in a deity, then she suggests you substitute the word Love for God in the prayer above. Kay lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Visit Kay at her website http://www.austinstarr.com/  or on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/KayKendallAuthor

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

What Makes Excellent Writing?





What Makes Excellent Writing?
by Saralyn Richard

I’ve taught creative writing off and on for years. It was an elective for upper class students in a large suburban Chicago high school. Part of our curriculum was to produce a literary magazine each year, and we entered our work in a National Council of Teachers of English contest. Oftentimes we won awards for our content or layout, and quite a few of my students went on to become successful writers.
Now I teach creative writing to adults aged 55 or older at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. I’m finding the learners to be extremely motivated. The problem for them is not choosing what to write about, but choosing which of many ideas and experiences to write about first. My learners are serious, thoughtful, observant, experienced, and well-read. Their responses to assignments are creative and clever, worthy of being submitted for contests or publication.
I’m often asked what makes excellent creative writing, and when I consider possible replies, I find the same things apply to both high school writers and adult writers.




The first element of fine writing, in my opinion, is the ability to imagine and bring to life one or more relatable characters. These characters do not have to be alter-egos of the author who creates them. They don’t even need to be the same gender, race, creed, or age. They don’t need to be perfect; in fact, perfection would be a detriment to being relatable for readers.
How do authors come out of themselves enough to paint a realistic word-portrait of characters who are unlike them? The process for me is similar to what an actor does in assuming a role for a play. When I’m writing about a character, I immerse myself into the body and mind of that person. I lose my own identity as I write the scenes where my character speaks and thinks and acts.


Another fine point of excellent writing is awareness of theme. I use the term “theme” to mean the overall purpose for the story. When the author consciously crafts the writing based on a specific purpose, all of the narration, exposition, description, and dialogue fall into place, unifying the readers’ experience. I’ve read many sagas that took me across generations and geographical locations without tying the chapters and sections together, and they’ve left me wondering about the author’s intent. My favorite tales lead me to some truth, some higher awareness about life or people.

Of course there are many other important strategies and methods in a writer’s toolkit. As a creative writing teacher, I encourage my students to practice them all. As a writer, myself, I strive to do the same. The two books in the Detective Oliver Parrott Mystery series, Murder in the One Percent and A Palette for Love and Murder, have thoroughly imagined characters and (hopefully) articulated themes.

I’m excited to discuss these and other topics with the Stiletto Gang readers. Whatever questions you have about creative writing, I’m interested. 



 


Award-winning mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard, is a writer who teaches on the side. Her books, Naughty Nana, Murder in the One Percent, and A Palette for Love and Murder, have delighted children and adults, alike. A member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and continues to write mysteries. Reviews, media, and tour schedule may be found at http://saralynrichard.com.

Follow Saralyn at:


 “A compelling story of worlds in collision, A Palette for Love and Murder plumbs the depths of love and the human heart.”
                                                         --William Kent Krueger, author of This Tender Land

“Delightful! Saralyn Richard weaves a deeply twisty mystery around vibrant characters that will leave readers looking forward to more.” —LynDee Walker, Agatha Award-nominated author of Front Page Fatality

“Smart, stylish and sexy, this art world caper delights with its verve and wit. The character studies are wonderful, and Oliver and Tonya Parrott are an irresistible pair.”                                           – Ausma Zehanat Khan, author of A Deadly Divide


Monday, March 16, 2020

Inspiration for Worrisome Times

by Paula Gail Benson

During this time of uncertainty about the corona virus, it’s good to hear messages that encourage. Yesterday’s reading from my worship service (although the actual gathering was cancelled, the devotional materials were shared via email and social media) is a particularly relevant passage to consider. From the book of Romans, Chapter 5, Verses 3 through 5: “we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.”

The words made me think about the situation the world now faces. The recommended progression is a good path to follow. When confronted with suffering, we find means to endure, which builds character and creates hope. And, hope is uplifting, relieving us from the suffering.

As I consider that process and realize it empowers us to deal with crisis, I can’t help but notice that it also is what I expect of a good story: that I’ll encounter fictional individuals who face challenges, figure out ways to overcome them, and, in doing so, become different individuals. For me, the story is best if it ends hopefully.

On Facebook, an author friend Warren Moore, posted a newspaper article from 1918 informing the citizens of Newberry, South Carolina, that all churches, schools, public meetings, and soda fountains in Newberry County were closed until further notice due to the Spanish influenza. Who could have imagined that just over 100 years later, we would be dealing with a similar situation?

While we socially distance and self-quarantine (would you have expected those words to be common place a month ago?), my hope is that we invest ourselves in the wonderful access we now have through the internet to remain in the world without exposing ourselves and others to harmful conditions. Let us find ways to learn and create while the health care professionals discover the answers to address this virus. And, let’s use our current means of maintaining contact at a distance to make certain all those we know are safe and not in need.

Read, write, and stay safe and healthy.