Thursday, June 17, 2021

A Tribute and a Review

 Hi, folks. Today is Cathy Perkins day to blog with The Stiletto Gang. She’s ill, and not up to blogging, so I volunteered to take her day. Since it is her day, I thought I’d tell you a story about Cathy, then do a review of her latest, “The Body in the Beaver Pond.”

Years ago, I judged an unpublished mainstream entry called, “The Professor” in the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense contest. That entry did very well and led to her publication with Carina Press. What I didn’t know then was that entry, and the subsequent connections surrounding it, would lead to the start of a decades-old friendship.

From that point, if Cathy had a release, I bought the book. Mainly because I enjoy her first-person voice, dry wit, and love a good mystery. In addition to writing, she also has an eye for graphic design. When getting ready to publish, Calling for the Money, her fourth Holly Price financial mystery, she was at my house, sitting at my kitchen counter trying to draft a design idea to give to her artist.

 “Something like this,” she said, showing me her handiwork on her iPad.

After I regained my voice, I said, “This is so good! Why are you paying a cover artist?”

But I digress.

Some time ago, Cathy contacted me and said she wanted to do a spin-off of her Holly Price series--this one featuring Holly's half-sister Keri Isles. Cathy already had the setting. It was the property she and Chuck had bought in the Cascade Mountains in Washington state.

She asked me to do a beta read. I did, and told her in my subjective opinion the manuscript was ready for publication. Obviously, others agreed. At Killer Nashville in March of 2020, Cathy won the Claymore Award for “The Body in the Beaver Pond.”

 It’s been a while since I read the unpublished version, so I bought the published version. Trust me, "The Body in the Beaver Pond" was just as much fun reading the second time around. 

What's the book about? Here goes: 

Newly divorced Keri Isles has left her home and event-planning job in Seattle and moved on to a property she acquired in the divorce. Problem is the division of assets is far from equitable as her ex is on friendly terms with the judge. While a Christmas tree farm, rustic cabin, and beaver pond sound idyllic and look good on paper—in reality the acreage includes a 1940s cabin with poor plumbing, an ancient tractor, constant treating of trees as well as back-breaking work to keep the place operational and out of the red.

What’s a woman to do in this situation? Spiff up the place, keep it running, hire a realtor and hope it sells!

Cathy’s internal narrative and dialogue are so witty and so much fun to read. She places you firmly in the head of a down-and-out protagonist—one you are rooting for from page one. If running a Christmas tree farm isn’t laborious enough for a single thirty-two-year-old woman, imagine an archeological dig  next to the property. One in which dimwitted students park a van on Keri’s newly planted Christmas trees. When Keri complains to the excavation head, a pompous academic who inasmuch tells her to get lost, Keri has no intention of standing down.

Great secondary characters and a yellow lab named IRA who has a penchant for digging up bones, you can see where this is heading, right? 

This is a terrific start to a series, and call it a hunch, I think Keri may just learn to love her little tree farm, her zany neighbors, new friends, and potential love interest. I know I  enjoyed spending time there and can heartily recommend “The Body in the Beaver Pond” a Keri Isles Event Planner Mystery by Cathy Perkins.   

Finally, a note to my friend. Thinking of you, Cathy. Get well!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Characters Who Break Our Hearts

by Barbara Kyle

A recent fascinating post by Lois Winston on this blog asked: “Are there characters that you wish the author would kill off? Or characters you wish an author hadn’t killed off?”


I thought I’d dig deeper into Lois’s topic with another question: What character’s death broke your heart?


I once asked that of my Facebook friends and the replies were extraordinary. People recall with vivid clarity how a fictional death left them feeling bereft.


Beth March in Little Women. Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two CitiesNed Stark in A Game of Thrones. Charlotte, the valiant spider in Charlotte's Web.


Pic: "Sydney Carton" painting by Ralph Bruce

Characters' deaths that broke my heart include Mariko in James Clavell's Shogun, Robbie and Cecilia in Ian McEwan's Atonement and Gus in Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove.


                                  Pic: Yoko Shimada as "Mariko" in the 1980 TV series "Shogun."


That affecting experience as a reader applies with equal force to an author. Every time I've killed a beloved character in one of my books, I wept. The poet Robert Frost said it eloquently: "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader." I must be shaken by a character's death myself if I am to render it faithfully to my readers.
Three kinds of characters' deaths shatter us the most:
1. The Innocent Friend

The most dangerous relationship a character can have is being the best friend of the hero. If the hero has been reluctant to accept his destiny, or his responsibilities, the death of his friend is often the turning point that galvanizes him to take the next steps and the necessary risks. By his friend's death the hero is changed, made stronger, grows up.
2. The Victim of a Wicked World
When we shudder at Fantine's death in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables we shudder at the hellish poverty that killed her. In Atonement Robbie and Cecelia lose their lives pitifully in the gruesome grind of war. In A Game of Thrones Ned Stark is executed in a naked political power grab.
3. The Self-Sacrificing Hero
When Mariko, the courageous noblewomen in Shogun, goes to Osaka Castle to obtain the release of innocent hostages, she knows she is going to her death. She sacrifices her life to save Lord Toranaga from his enemies, and restore peace.
In A Tale of Two Cities, Sydney Carton takes his awe-inspiring walk to the guillotine with selfless resolve, sacrificing his life so that Lucie, the woman he loves, can be reunited with her husband.
These are deaths of valor – to me the most poignant of all – in which the character accepts death as the price of saving someone they love. That's powerful stuff. What reader is not moved to ask in admiration: Could I do the same?


And, speaking of killing . . . 


I hope you’ll enjoy my new video: “What Makes a Killer Mystery? in which I outline the essential elements of the genre and show interviews with five acclaimed mystery writers, including Denise Mina and John LeCarr√© (below).  Watch the video here.





Barbara Kyle is the author of the bestselling Thornleigh Saga series of historical novels and of acclaimed thrillers. Her latest novel of suspense is The Man from Spirit Creek. Over half a million copies of her books have been sold. Barbara has taught hundreds of writers in her online Masterclasses and many have become award-winning authors. Visit Barbara at 


Tuesday, June 15, 2021



What’s Happening to the English Language?

by Saralyn Richard

I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. My parents encouraged me to be an English teacher, instead. So, I spent several decades reading and grading other people’s writing. I even taught journalism and creative writing—to teenagers and later to seniors (aged 50+). Although teaching kept me way too busy to write, it also kept me in the universe of writers and writing. I was like a frustrated chef who had all the best recipes and ingredients but couldn’t enter the kitchen.

            Several years ago, I came to a crossroads in my education career. By then I’d moved into administration and school improvement consulting, and the constant travel had become too much. I stepped back from on-site consulting and began doing what I’d always loved, writing. In this case, it was technical writing—curricula, white papers, articles, proposals, and grants.

            It was a joy to flex my writing muscles. I had a blast selecting the best words, sentence structures, and arguments. The rules of grammar and mechanics rolled back into my frontal lobe as if they had never left.

                                            Photo courtesy of

            Soon I was ready to try my hand at fiction, and I took great delight in practicing other tools of the trade, such as imagery, figures of speech, and dialogue. Grateful for a traditional education in grammar and composition, which even included diagramming sentences, I forged ahead with fulfilling my dream deferred.

            What I didn’t realize is how much the English language had relaxed while I was busy doing classroom duty. When had the Oxford comma controversy reared its ugly head? When had use of “their” as a singular possessive pronoun come into acceptable use? How had adverbs, those lovely -ly descriptors, become persona non grata? I began seeing non-words like “supposably” and “irregardless” cropping up in articles that had supposedly been edited and vetted for publication. And when did “blonde” become an adjective?

            Fortunately, my first publisher was as picky as I was, and the few times we clashed over how to punctuate something, we let the Chicago Manual of Style serve as referee, and most of the time, Chicago sided with me. I did go to the mat a few times over such things as where the apostrophe should go in a possessive of a proper name ending in “s.”

                                            Photo courtesy of

            If I sound like a hundred-year-old spinster schoolteacher, let me assure you that is not the case. I can waltz and fox trot, but I can also hit the whoah. I’m sure everyone reading this post has certain pet peeves regarding the English language. What are yours?


Saralyn Richard is the author of A MURDER OF PRINCIPAL, the Detective Parrott mystery series, and the children’s book, NAUGHTY NANA. Follow her on social media and on her website here.



Monday, June 14, 2021

Crossword Puzzles or a Writer's Research


by: Donnell Ann Bell 

“What’s a three-letter word for expert?” my husband asks as I’m getting a glass of water before returning to my office. I stiffen. Here it comes, where I should be concentrating on three letters my brain turns into a giant mushroom cloud and I think of every word under the sun meaning expert, including, adept, proficient, and skillful, sans one with three letters.

“You know,” he says, reading glasses perched on his nose, “Daily mind games keep your mind sharp.”

I swallow some of my water and say, “So you’ve said. See you later, you know where I’ll be.”

What he doesn’t get is that while he works crosswords, Sudoku and other puzzles our doctors insist keep our minds sharp, I work mind games all day long.

I do research!  What’s more the research I do has to. . . you guessed it . . . fit into a puzzle.  Further, that research has to appear seamless and relevant, or you can come up with a pacing problem or worse, tell the reader you’re DOING research.  As a new writer years ago, my critique partner laid a dreadful accusation at my feet, saying, “Your research is showing.”

Talk about red-faced. You never ever want your research to show. It’s akin to a plumber’s crack or a piece of toilet paper clinging to your shoe.

Here’s something that puzzles me, and I’ve often asked myself why I don’t write less complicated books. The only answer I’ve come up with is I love suspense, police procedure and want to address the topics that interest me in my writing.  I want to understand more divergent topics that I normally wouldn't come across in my ordinary world. I love thwarting my protagonists, then watching THEM work to outwit the antagonist.

Wouldn’t it be incredible to hold all the answers in our heads as we wrote our novels? Certainly would be simpler and imagine the productivity. But then, what fun would that be? And how would existing knowledge stretch our imaginations? I love discovering new avenues, further knocking around the plot with Lois Winston, my very smart critique partner, then brainstorming with experts.

One thing my husband and I are fairly equal at is Jeopardy. We watch it most evenings at 6 p.m. What’s a three-letter word for expert? Try ACE.  Do you love puzzles? Research? Both? Something else that keeps your brain churning? I’d love to know.

About the Author:  Donnell Ann Bell gave up her nonfiction career in newspapers and magazines because she was obsessed with the idea she could write a mystery or thriller. Years later, she is an award-winning author, including a 2020 Colorado Book Award finalist for her latest release Black Pearl, a Cold Case Suspense. Donnell’s other books include Buried Agendas, Betrayed, Deadly Recall and the Past Came Hunting, all of which have been Amazon bestsellers. Currently she’s submitted book two of her cold case series to her publisher and is hard at work researching book three.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Better Than Christmas! - Mystery in the Midlands is coming!

 Better than Christmas! – Mystery in the Midlands is coming!  by Debra H Goldstein

 Mystery in the Midlands is coming virtually, and I can’t wait! 


Last year, over nine hundred (you read that right – over 900) readers and authors attended the virtual four and one-half hour Crowdcast conference co-sponsored by Southeast Mystery Writers of America (SEMWA) and the Palmetto Chapter of Sisters in Crime. The line-up, led by Charlaine Harris was phenomenal ---- but in some ways, for me, this year is even more exciting.


Why?  Because I’m a die-hard fan of every panelist and I’m getting to interview the keynoter, Dr. Kathy Reichs. Who hasn’t seen Bones, the television show that was based upon her books and her life? As if it wasn’t a thrill to be interviewing her, I’ve been given the extra treat of being able to read an advance copy of her upcoming book, The Bone Code. You can bet it will be one of the things we’ll be discussing.

Dana Kaye will be moderating Mystery in the Midlands’ steaming three panels: Searing Suspense, Hot for Historicals, and Scorching Short Stories. How can you go wrong with hearing Robert Dugoni, Yasmin Angoe, Alex Segura, Laurie R. King, Caroline Todd, Lori Rader-Day, Barb Goffman, Michael Bracken, and Frankie Y. Bailey – especially when the entire cost (merely to defray expenses) is $5 (once again, yes, you read that right – simply five dollars)? Look at their pictures below, but don’t close your browser. Hurry and guarantee your spot by registering now!  #Mystery in the Midlands

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Roses are Stealthy


 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.

Roses are following me around. 

In my first mystery/thriller/crime/urban fantasy, I named my police officer-witch, "Rose." 

Names are a funny thing. When you give one to a character, it can instantly color them and lead to interesting places.  I don't know why that name popped into my head at the critical moment of creation. I've tried to figure it out:

Was it a subconscious play on my last name, "Thorne"? 

Was I thinking of my grandmother whose name was "Rose"? 

Or was it just that it was fun, because as Rose herself says, 

"'Rose' is a difficult name. For one thing, it made me a target throughout childhood for “smells the same” taunts. For another, it sets up an assumption that fails to describe any part of my nature, conjuring an image of a tiny gray-haired woman. I am neither tiny—standing barefoot at 5’8”—nor gray-haired—dark curls minimally tamed per Birmingham police uniform regulations—and I’m more prickly thorns than soft petals."

A one-armed man gave me the climbing rose in my yard (not that one-armed man, if you are of an age to have watched "The Fugitive"). It is in full bloom as we speak. That rose bush taught me valuable lessons (See "The Rose Wars.")

Rose (the police-witch) got this for a cover:


All sorts of roses seem to show up in my life—a painting from a friend, a favorite scarf I never noticed had a black-and-white rose pattern, the two dozen long-stemmed roses my ex-husband (#2) sent me when he wanted to make up. That last one may be cheating since it was long ago. If my current husband sent me roses, I would definitely freak out (you have to read House of Rose to know why.)

Book two of the Magic City series is finally making its debut as House of Stone.


Just want to be clear, that is a red diamond in there—in case the universe wants to do that "Law of Attraction" thing, I'm good with it!

Here's a  promo moment for the new novel:

Witches and warlocks abide in Birmingham, Alabama in three ancient Houses—Rose, Iron and Stone. They arrived over a century ago to draw their powers from the abundant ores beneath Red Mountain. Rose Brighton, a Birmingham police detective, is the last witch of House of Rose and possibly the most dangerous thing since the hydrogen bomb. A terrifying encounter with House of Iron has mentally crippled Becca, her best friend. While Becca struggles to find herself, Rose battles to control her own abilities and the supernatural attraction that pulls her to a mysterious, handsome warlock.


When magic kicks in at the scene of her first homicide, she learns that her partner—the mentor and friend she depends on—is lying to her, and she is on her own. Unraveling the murder entwines Rose in a web of greed and profit involving a promising new medicine. Someone is willing to kill to keep a cheap drug from the market. Not only do countless lives depend on Rose’s skills as a detective, the fate of a unique race of people facing extinction also rests on her shoulders . . . and some of them are determined to kill her.



“Thorne delivers a spellbinding thriller, an enthralling blend of real-world policing and other-world magic. It’s a wild ride of high stakes that pits the warm humanity of Rose and her friends against chilling powers of darkness in a battle that is both ages old and totally of today.”

—Barbara Kyle, author of The Traitor’s Daughter

“A deftly crafted and riveting read by an author with an impressively deft ability to hold the reader’s rapt attention with her original fantasy novel “House of Rose.” Readers new to her will look eagerly forward to the next title in her new Magic City Stories series. While very highly recommended for personal and community library Contemporary Fantasy Fiction collections, it should be noted that “House of Rose” is also available in a digital book format.”

Midwest Reviews

“Rookie cop Rose Brighton never imagined that a simple suspect chase into an alley would lead her into dark passages where she would question her definition of reality, her own identity, and whether she was pawn or prey. HOUSE OF ROSE is a gem.”

DP Lyle, award-winning author of the Jake Longly thriller series

“The life of Birmingham, Ala., rookie cop Rose Brighton, the narrator of this promising paranormal series launch from Thorne (Noah’s Wife), veers into the extraordinary one night. . . . Thorne, a retired captain in the Birmingham PD, grounds the fantasy with authentic procedural details and loving descriptions of the city and its lore. Readers will look forward to Rose’s further adventures.”

Publishers Weekly

“T.K. Thorne is an authentic, new voice in the world of fantasy and mystery. THE HOUSE OF ROSE blends the realistic details of police work with magic. The result is an explosive story that will keep you on the edge of your seat as Rose learns of her true heritage…and the dangerous powers that are her birthright. Pick up this story—you’ll thank yourself over and over again.”

Carolyn Haines, USA Today bestselling author of the Sarah Booth Delaney, Pluto’s Snitch, and Trouble the black cat detective mystery series.

“Although “House of Rose” is speculative fiction, a kind of fantasy, T.K. Thorne is so knowledgeable about Birmingham and law enforcement that it is also, truly, a police procedural and a thriller—something for everyone. House of Rose” is the first of a series which should be a hit.”

Don Nobles, reviewer for Alabama Public Radio

T.K. is a retired police captain who writes Books, which, like this blog, go wherever her interest and imagination take her.  More at