Friday, January 22, 2021

Behind the Magic Curtain - 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.



Four men who loved the city of Birmingham, Alabama asked me to write a book. I look back on that day when I met them in the high-rise office of a prominent attorney. They were all strangers, decades older. They had lived through "pivotal nation-changing days." Three of them had been in the thick of happenings.  

As I sat at the polished hardwood table, I thought possibly they assumed I was a scholar of civil rights because I had recently written a book about the investigation of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four young black girls in Birmingham in 1963 (Last Chance for Justice), but to my surprise, the gentleman who invited me to that meeting said he had done so because of a totally different book, a historical novel set thousands of years in the past in ancient Turkey (Noah's Wife). I had to ask him why he thought that qualified me. He said, "If you could write a book about Noah's wife and make me believe that was what really happened, then you can tell the true stories of what happened here." 

To say I was reticent was an understatement. What they were asking me to do seemed a huge commitment, and so much had been documented about the era, what could I possibly add? Then one of the men sent me his notes about a day in 1962 when he pushed through the double glass doors of The Birmingham News, weary from an all-night stakeout with police, and his eccentric, powerful boss shouted for him to join him for breakfast. What was said at that breakfast changed a young reporter's life and affected the tangled web of history.  

I was hooked.

After the better part of a decade, it is done. Regretfully, three of the fine gentlemen who trusted me to write this did not live to see it. I only hope I have been true to their vision.



What folks are saying:

Behind the Magic Curtain: Secrets, Spies, and Unsung White Allies of Birmingham’s Civil Rights Days is a remarkable look at a historic city enmeshed in racial tensions, revealing untold or forgotten stories of secret deals, law enforcement intrigue, and courage alongside pivotal events that would sweep change across the nation.

T. K. Thorne has hit another home run with Behind the Magic Curtain. For five and a half decades we have read accounts of the civil rights era in Birmingham and Selma written by those with a particular ax to grind. Thorne is an excellent reporter, recognizing the nuances that “outsiders” or opinionated writers could not see or chose to overlook. Her reading and especially her interviews over the past several years have been remarkable, allowing her to give far more accurate details than we have seen before. For those who want to know the secrets of what really went on behind the “magic curtain” in those pivotal nation-changing days, days that brought the Civil Rights Bill in 1964 and the Voting Rights Bill in 1965, this is an important book to read.
—Douglas M. Carpenter, Retired Episcopal minister and son of Alabama’s Episcopal Bishop, C. C. J. Carpenter.

In Behind the Magic Curtain, T. K. Thorne introduces us to those who operated behind the scenes in the civil rights movement in Alabama, shedding light on the individual moral complexities of these participants—some firebrands, some reluctant players, and some predators who worked for their own gain. This journalistic exploration of a complicated time in Alabama’s social history will sit comfortably on the shelf next to histories by Dianne McWhorter, Glenn Eskew, and Taylor Branch. — Anthony Grooms, author of Bombingham and The Vain Conversation

Deeply engaging, Behind the Magic Curtain tells a forgotten part of the Birmingham story, prompting many “real time memories” for me. The lively and descriptive writing brought the characters and settings to life, while diving into the white community’s role in all its complexities. This is a treasure trove of stories about activities and perspectives not well known to the general public. In particular, journalist Tom Lankford’s sleuthing and the machinations of the Birmingham Police Department, along with the risk-averse role of the local newspapers, and a full blown portrait of the inscrutable Birmingham News VIP, Vincent Townsend, make for a fascinating read.
—Odessa Woolfolk, educator, community activist, and founding president of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

“T.K. writes like a seasoned news editor, meticulously hunting down facts and laying out the context in a colorful, intriguing way. Behind the Magic Curtain documents many untold stories and faithfully relates my own personal, unforgettable memories of a time of racial transition in Birmingham.”
—Tom Lankford, journalist for The Birmingham News

 “Novelist and former Birmingham Police Captain T.K. Thorne demonstrates there was more to Birmingham of the Civil Rights Era than Bull Connor, Klansmen, and African-American protestors.  Behind that “Magic Curtain,” an ethnically diverse group from downtown to the surrounding bedroom communities of ministers, priests, rabbis, newspaper reporters, and housewives comprised a community belying monikers like ‘Bomingham’ and ‘Murder Capital of America,’ and fighting for justice in the Magic City.”
—Earl Tilford, author of Turning the Tide: The University of Alabama in the 1960s

 Available for Pre-order now!

NewSouth Books

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

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Create Some Mayhem!

Create Some Mayhem!

By Cathy Perkins

Malbec Mayhem has joined the world!

Usually when an author releases a new book, it’s nerves and excitement and a ton of planning and nerves…

Did I mention it can be nerve-wracking? Will people like the book I spent however many months writing? Will they “get” the characters, the theme…

Will they hate it?

Will my publisher look at the numbers and tell me to go away?

Malbec Mayhem is nerve-wracking for me because it’s a little different. It’s a novella, revolving around one of the secondary characters in the Holly Price series. Alex had been bugging me for ages to give him a second chance—and this story is his opportunity to grow up and get things right. The mystery takes a back seat to the grown up version of coming of age. 

Whew! Most readers enjoy it:

5 Stars: “Alex get a second chance at love, but in fighting for what matters most he discovers his truest self.

5 Stars: “Perkins … successfully develops her characters and put more than enough twists and turns into its pages.

Double whew! 

Now to tamp down the rest of those nerves!

Malbec Mayhem

Successful restaurateur Alex Montoya’s charmed life has hit a snag. His trusted business partner turned out to be not exactly trustworthy, and Alex could be facing jail time over some of his partner’s shady financial deals. As if that weren’t bad enough, creditors are calling in loans he didn’t know he had and he’s desperate to prove his innocence before all his businesses are repossessed.

After a career-building stint in Napa Valley, Sofia Pincelli has returned home to eastern Washington to take over the family’s winery. Running the family business, however, means dealing with her ailing father’s constant micro-management—and his disapproval of Alex. Her father’s condemnation of Alex’s rumored involvement in his business partner’s schemes runs so deep, it threatens Alex and Sofia’s blossoming romance…along with the Pincelli family’s signature red wine. Sofia needs Alex’s crop of Malbec grapes to show her father she has what it takes to make award-winning wine—and save the reputation and finances of the Pincelli winery.

When the Malbec grapes go missing, Alex and Sofia must join forces to find the fruit before it spoils—or risk destroying both of their businesses and their hearts.


Want a copy? Get it from your favorite retailer:







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

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

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

Tuesday, January 19, 2021


Let’s Hear It for Virtual Everything!

by Saralyn Richard 

The year 2020 will go down in history for a lot of negative things, but one silver lining for me has been the proliferation of virtual meetings. Prior to 2020, I had used FaceTime to visit with far-flung family, but in the past year I have elevated virtual meetings to a regular staple on every day’s menu of activities, both personal and business.

Here are a few of the ways I have used FaceTime, Zoom, Microsoft, Eventbrite, and other platforms to stay connected with important people in my life:

  • ·         I teach my classes in creative writing and literature for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
  • ·         I attend meetings and conferences sponsored by writers’ organizations.
  • ·         I meet with book clubs all over the country.
  • ·         I meet with readers who subscribe to my monthly newsletter.
  • ·         I attend classes to improve my craft.
  • ·         I participate in writers’ critique group meetings.
  • ·         I meet with my publisher and other authors.
  • ·         I attend religious services and funerals.
  • ·         I attend birthday parties and other celebrations.
  • ·         I have certain medical appointments.

Most of these events have had more participation from people located all over the world than ever would have been possible in person.

Earlier this month, I had a new book released, A MURDER OF PRINCIPAL. Thanks to Rachele Baker at  Authors Live! Online, I was able to have a celebratory virtual book launch party that was almost as good as being there. (If you're interested, contact Rachele at A few bookstores have offered to host virtual book events, too. Except for autographing and giving hugs, there isn’t much the virtual events leave out compared to in-person events. And there are advantages in being able to attend from the comfort of home, both for attendees and hosts.

I often think of how isolated people must have been during pandemics prior to the internet. I’m grateful, if I had to live through such a long time socially distanced, that I can talk face-to-face with people as easily as clicking on a link.

Whenever we go back to in-person meetings, I’ll be among the first to kick up my stilettos, but for some things, I hope we are able to keep our virtual meetings, as well. Meanwhile, I wish each of you a happy new year with good health, much joy, and lots of personal connections, virtual and otherwise.

Want to connect with Saralyn virtually? Subscribe to her monthly newsletter or contact her at



Monday, January 18, 2021

A New Story for the New Year

by Paula Gail Benson

I felt very privileged and humbled last year when I learned my “Cosway’s Confidence” had received second place in the Bethlehem Writers’ Group’s 2020 short story contest. I have a special fondness for this Group. Seven years ago, my first published story appeared online in the Bethlehem Writers’ Roundtable. That same year, my “Long in the Tooth” placed third in the short story contest, with Hank Phillippi Ryan as the celebrity judge.

Currently, “Cosway’s Confidence” is one of the featured stories in the online publication, the Bethlehem Writers’ Roundtable. Debra Goldstein’s “Wabbit’s Carat,” an honorable mention winner in the contest, also appears in the issue.

Submissions for the 2020 contest had to be about animals. My friends’ ferret Maggie was the initial inspiration for my story, but I wanted to distinguish the ferret I wrote about, to give that animal an unexpected quality.

I remembered having a discussion with a student who worked in our office about her difficulty in obtaining the paperwork she needed to have an emotional support animal in her dorm. I wondered, what if a person with a support animal tried to get a job with a restaurant? Would there be any way that person could bring the animal to work?

Thus was born Cosway, an imaginary emotional support ferret. And, thus also arose the dilemma for my protagonist, Arleen Schuster, a private cook opening her own café: how could she refuse to hire her best catering customer’s nephew who carried his imaginary emotional support ferret in his backpack?

If you would like to see how Arleen handles this problem and several others, here’s the link.

While writing the story, it occurred to me that imaginary creatures had provided opportunities to demonstrate courage and build confidence throughout the ages. Here’s a list of ten that I’ve found intriguing:

(1)    Dragons: I’d hope they might be more friendly than ferocious, but they certainly have offered challenges from St. George to Harry Potter.

(2)    Unicorns: Gentle, yet elusive, these creatures have graced tapestries as well as poems. Unicorn horns and blood are strong protectants, but harming a unicorn may cause a person to be cursed.

(3)    Hippogriffs, like Buckbeak in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, can be arrogant, but, if treated with courtesy, are great allies for a quick getaway.

(4)    Gremlins originally took the blame for mischievous malfunctions in WWII aircraft, but they now have infiltrated more mechanical devices, particularly computers.

(5)    Leviathans are mentioned in biblical passages as well as ancient sailors’ tales. These sea serpents, sometimes associated with whales or crocodiles, have a more ominous presence than their cousin Nessie in Loch Ness, Scotland.

(6)    Bigfoot, Sasquatch, King Kong, the Abominable—large, ape-like, wild, and hairy—yet in so many stories, they convert from menace to semi-friend. Sort of and sometimes.

(7)    Phoenixes have long lives that end in flames before miraculously regenerating from the ashes. A phoenix is featured on San Francisco’s flag, in commemoration of rebuilding after the 1906 earthquake.

(8)    South American legends describe encantados, or shape-shifting dolfins, also called dolphin men or weredolphins. Reminds me of a scene from Sharyn McCrumb’s If I Killed Him When I Met Him.

(9)    The jackalope, a rabbit with antelope horns, is familiar throughout the American west, but the Swedish Skvader was constructed by a taxidermist in 1918 and is on display in a museum in Sundsvall. It is part hare and part wood grouse, a semi-reality of a creature from a hunting tale.

(10)Sobek, the mythological Egyptian crocodile god, who was powerful, yet unpredictable. Anthropologists have studied small, sealed messages left for Sobek to understand ancient Egyptian culture.

Do you have an imaginary animal that’s intrigued you?


Friday, January 15, 2021

Has the Pandemic Changed Your Reading Habits?

 By Shari Randall

Mystery is my genre of choice, but lately I’ve noticed a change in my reading habits. Maybe it’s the pandemic, politics, or the general ragged state of the world, but I’ve found solace in another genre: Horror.


Yep, horror.  It says a lot about the state of the world that I’ve found escape in a vampire saga and a ghost story/serial killer novel: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires and The Sun Down Motel. Why is this? Maybe it’s the satisfaction of closing the book, trapping the frights within the covers. There’s no such thing as vampires, right? Though to be honest, the dread and suspense created by The Sun Down Motel did cost me more than a few hours’ sleep. 


Both books are bestsellers but The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires included violence toward children, which is a nonstarter for me, and I wish the book had struck more of the sprightly tone of its title.


The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James, on the other hand, delivered more than promised by its prosaic title. Twenty-year-old Carly Kirk’s beautiful Aunt Viv went missing in 1982, and Carly retraces Viv’s steps thirty years later to appropriately named Fell, New York to discover what happened to her. Carly believes that by following in her aunt’s footsteps, working the night shift at the seedy Sun Down Motel, she’ll find the answer. She finds the answer and much more.

Has the pandemic changed your reading habits?

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Accent Mark Goes Here

 by Bethany Maines

You know how Madonna now talks with a British accent?  And everyone kind of mocks her?  It is annoying to have someone you know grew up in Michigan try and sound all posh, but at the same time… I would be the same way.  I once realized that I had been watching twenty minutes of a cooking show with an Australian host and I had no idea what was being made.  I’d spent the entire time watching her mouth trying to figure out how she was murdering pronouncing her vowels that way.  I sounded like a monkey on the couch as I clenched and unclenched my teeth trying “ehhh-oooh-uh” my vowels.  I was two seconds away from throwing a shrimp on the barbie when my husband came home and gave me the look that implied that while our marriage was a joy and a blessing, it was also occasionally weird.

The unfortunate thing is that, just as I’m addicted to copying other people’s accents, I find that I’m also prone to picking up the language of whomever I’m reading.  I’m sure my writing/reading group can tell when I’ve been reading Regency Romances.  One cannot help but be addicted to the opulent turn of phrase.  And if I could work some sort of line about puce satin and a cravat into the paragraph all the better.  What if I’m reading fluffy chick lit?  Pretty sure that my character needs to mention her thighs and a cupcake in the next sentence.  Taut thrillers? Sentences get shorter.  Characters become brutal. And adverbs?  Kill ‘em.  Kill ‘em all. 

The brutal snuffing out of “suddenly” aside, this habit does real damage to my narratives.  Characters don’t sound like themselves (why does that Texan sound English?) and plots can veer wildly off course as I spend a page (or three) describing clothing.  So when I’m writing I have to take a bit of a hiatus from reading unless I can find that wondrous book that matches the tone that I’m writing.  I think it’s incredibly unfair that my reading has suffered as a result of my writing, but currently it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.  Of course, if I could just figure out how to retire with a million dollars so that I could segregate my year into reading quarters and writing quarters life would be awesome.


Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, San Juan Islands Mysteries, The Deveraux Legacy 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.