Friday, September 17, 2021

Three Things: With Debra H. Goldstein

 by Shari Randall

If you're a reader of the blog, you've made the acquaintance of the multi-faceted Debra H. Goldstein. Judge, litigator, author are just a few of the words that describe her. 

I thought it would be fun to play a game to learn a bit more about Debra, things you might not know. I stumbled upon a Facebook game called Three Things that was a lot of fun, so here's "Three Things With Debra!" I loved learning more about her, especially our shared love of pizza and dark chocolate.


Three Things You Might Not Know About Debra H. Goldstein

Three favorite foods:  Pizza, ice cream, dark chocolate
Three places I've lived: New Jersey, Michigan, Alabama
Three jobs I've had: Salesperson, litigator, judge
Three things I can't do without: Family, books, and it is a toss-up between pizza and dark chocolate
Three favorite places: Beach (any place with water), New York City (Broadway), almost anywhere in Europe (I love exploring)
Three favorite hobbies: Reading, Writing, Piano
Three things I'm looking forward to: my son's wedding; more grandchildren (this may take awhile to achieve); Four Cuts Too Many (Sarah Blair Mystery) was released on May 25, 2021, but I can't wait for Five Belles Too Many to come out in June 2022.

How about you, readers? What are three things about you that you'd like to share?

Shari Randall is the author of the Lobster Shack Mystery series. Yes, she plays too many games on Facebook. Three things about her? She loves to dance, can't do without cardigan sweaters, and writes the new Ice Cream Shop Mystery series as Meri Allen.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Interview with Stiletto Gang blogmate, Lynn McPherson

Interview with Stiletto Gang blogmate, Lynn McPherson

By Cathy Perkins

Let me introduce you to one of our newer blogmates, Lynn McPherson. For years, Lynn led an adventurous globe-trotting life (her adventures sound like so much fun!). Now she  channels her love of adventure and history into her writing, where she's free to go anywhere, anytime. Currently juggling family and an energetic puppy, she writes the Izzy Walsh Mystery Series.

I love the tag line for Lynn’s newest novel, The Girls Dressed For Murder:

When Izzy gets a killer dress for her birthday, she isn’t expecting to accessorize it with murder…


CATHY: What made you pick your particular mystery genre?

LYNN: I've loved cozy mysteries since I read my first one, Rita Mae Brown's classic Mrs. Murphy series. She had me at the title, Whisker of Evil. When I started writing, it was the natural choice.

CATHY: Which came first: plot, character, or setting?

LYNN: Usually plot comes first for me. It won't be completely fleshed out until I have my characters and setting, but the inkling of an idea is what gets the ball rolling.  

CATHY: I’m seeing more novels set in the 1950s. What led you to choose this time period for your books?

LYNN: I'm a big fan of I Love Lucy. My books aim to provide the same sort of humor with the added element of a murder mystery. It's all about fun. 

CATHY: Do you ever hit the wall or find you’ve written yourself into a corner? How do you turn that around?

LYNN: I have most definitely written myself into a corner. Stumped, I usually skip ahead and write a scene I'm more confident about. I can always go back to where I left off once I've figured out what to do and how to fix it.

CATHY: The opportunity to go on a surprise vacation arises. You have 90 minutes to pack and get to the airport. Where will you go and what will you pack?

LYNN: I love Thailand and have been daydreaming of the many months I spent there, years ago. I always do carry-on so I won't bring much. Some basic toiletries, sun dresses, and flip flops are all I require!

CATHY: What do you read when you aren’t writing? Any favorite authors (or snacks/beverages) to go with it?

LYNN: My go-to favorites are Vicky Delany, Elizabeth J Duncan, and Vivien Chien. At the moment I'm reading Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto. It's a hoot! When I'm reading I like to sip on tea--lemon ginger or green tea are normally brewing in the pot.

  Connect with Lynn here:

  Website: https://lynnmcpherson.net/

   Twitter: https://twitter.com/CozyMysteryLynn

   Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cozymysterylynn/?hl=en

 

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 Peril in the Pony Ring, the sequel to The Body in the Beaver Pond, releasing May 2021!) which was recently presented with the Killer Nashville's Claymore Award

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

My One-Eyed Hero: with Barbara Kyle

 by Barbara Kyle

 

Readers love book series. No wonder. We get to know the continuing characters so well, we’re eager to find out what happens to them in the next book. For the author, though, the terrain of a series can be a minefield.

 

 

My Thornleigh Saga is a series of seven historical novels that follow three generations of an English family over sixty-five years (1517 to 1582), so in writing them I would sometimes forget things that happened to characters in the previous books set years before. 

 

For example, in Book One the hero, Richard Thornleigh, loses an eye, but in writing the next book I would start to write things like, “Richard’s eyes were drawn to . . .” Yikes. 

 

The solution? I created a series “bible” that recorded important facts like characters’ ages, marriages, children, and physical details like color of hair and eyes – and missing body parts!

 

Here are three more things I learned in writing a series.

 

1 Every Book Must Stand Alone

 

An author can’t assume that readers have read the previous books in the series. So each book must give some backstory about what’s happened to the main characters in the preceding books, but not so much that it bores readers who have read them all. Getting the balance right is tricky.

 

TV writers are lucky. An episode will often start with a helpful recap: “Previously on The Crown …” I wish a plummy-voiced British announcer could give a recap at the beginning of my Thornleigh books!

 

2 Let Characters Age

 

It’s hard for readers to believe that a hero fights off bad guys like a young stud if, over the decades-long timeline of the series, he’s become a senior citizen. Author J. K. Rowling was smart. She let Harry Potter and his friends grow up.

 

I enjoyed letting my characters age slowly throughout the Thornleigh Saga series. The seven books take the main character, Honor Larke, from precocious seven-year-old child in Book One, The Queen's Lady, to astute seventy-year-old grande dame as Lady Thornleigh in Book Seven.

Likewise, her stepson Adam Thornleigh is a young seafaring adventurer in Book 3 but by Book 6 he’s a mature man, a loyal champion of his friend Queen Elizabeth I. He’s been through a loveless marriage, adores his two children, and falls hard for the latter book’s appealing main character, Scottish ship salvager Fenella Doorn. (Pic: Christian Bale, my fantasy casting as Adam!)


3 Embrace Cliff-Hanger Endings

 

Each book in a series must be a stand-alone story, with an inciting incident, escalating conflict, turning points, and a satisfying climax. 

 

But if, after the climax, the author can end each book by opening up a new, burning question for the characters, it sets up the conflict that will be tackled in the next book. Readers then eagerly look forward to that next story.

 

For any author, writing a series can be a joy, forging an enduring relationship with readers – just as long as, when creating one-eyed heroes, that “bible” is kept handy!

 

Do you have a favorite book series? 

___________________________________________________________________


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 https://www.barbarakyle.com/  

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Gay Yellen: Spotlight on Saralyn Richard

It's my pleasure to interview sister-Gangster and award-winning author Saralyn Richard today to find out more about her latest mystery, A Murder of Principal, which recently earned a Readers' Choice Award from Killer Nashville. Way to go, Saralyn!

Before her publishing career, Saralyn was a highly regarded educator. So it's only natural that her latest book is set at a fictitious high school where murder and mayhem ensue. Did her former career lead to A Murder of Principal? Read on...

Gay: How does the atmosphere at the fictitious Lincoln High mirror your experience as a high school educator?
Saralyn: I have worked in dozens of urban high schools as a teacher, administrator, and school improvement consultant. My experiences could fill thousands of books, so I have many memories from which to choose. Readers who knew me at a particular school have pegged Lincoln High as that school, but I've heard from teachers at schools unknown to me that Lincoln High is exactly like theirs. What that tells me is that the atmosphere in urban schools is universal and relatable. 

However, A Murder of Principal is a work of fiction, designed to entertain.

Gay: Would you share some teachers' reactions to the book?
Saralyn: Most comment that the setting and issues in the book are so authentic, they can actually name individuals in their own school who match my characters. But teachers are actually a small part of the book. The primary characters are administrators, school leaders, and students. Schools are a microcosm of society, and while everyone is supposed to share the common purpose of elevating students to achieve their highest potential, people have their own goals, desires, and emotions. The dynamics are always fascinating. As I like to say, there are a million stories beyond the flagpole.

Gay: One side plot in the book that piqued my interest is the conflict between proponents of the commonly used lecture as a teaching technique and those who use the Socratic method. Would you elaborate?
Saralyn: Educational research, brain-based research, and a trend toward results-driven decision-making have revolutionized thinking about curriculum and instruction. Lectures have given way to more interactive, student-centered lessons, like Melody Singer's Socratic seminar in my book. The higher level questions engaged her students to find deep meaning in the lessons of the Salem witch trials. Her lesson was so powerful, it affected the whole school.

Gay: This book is a departure from your Detective Parrott series. Are you returning to it soon?
Saralyn: I wrote A Murder of Principal in between the first two Parrott books, but I waited to submit it until I thought the time was right to talk about race relations, sexual harassment, gangs, safety, and leadership. Another stand-alone mystery/thriller, Bad Blood Sisters, is to be released in March 2022. I'm currently writing the third Detective Parrott mystery, so my pattern has been Parrott/standalone/Parrott/standalone/Parrott. I should also mention my very first book, Naughty Nana, a children's book narrated by my sheepdog. All have "mystery" in common.

Gay: Here's more about Saralyn:
Award-winning Saralyn Richard was born with a pen in her hand and ink in her veins. She loves connecting with readers. Her humor- and romance-tinged mysteries and her children's book pull back the curtain on people and settings as diverse as elite country manor houses and disadvantaged urban high schools. Her most recent release is A Murder of Principal. Look for her mystery/thriller, Bad Blood Sisters in March 2022. Visit Saralyn here, on her Amazon page, or on Facebook.


Gay Yellen writes the award-winning Samantha Newman Mysteries, including The Body Business, The Body Next Door, and the soon to be released Body in the News. She'd love to hear from you here, on Facebook, on BookBub, or via her website.





Monday, September 13, 2021

Inspiration Close to Home


I believe authors--well, most people for that matter, seek inspiration. Perhaps that's why they will stop perusing social media, or a newspaper article, and hone in on a pull quote or a funny or powerful meme. I'm certainly no different. But as a storyteller, I'm fortunate because I find inspiration each an every morning right inside my home. My husband doesn't deliberately try to be funny--he just is. He's a chemical engineer, extremely absentminded, extremely bright, and has a dry wit that people remember.

His funny "Les" stories have often made it onto Facebook where people tell me they belong in a book. I mentioned he's absentminded. Here's one that made it into a post. 

Bank Teller from the Drive-thru window: Good morning, Mr. Bell, regarding this transaction, what would you like me to do with it, sir?

Les: Cash it.

Bank Teller: Er, I can't do that. You've sent me your lottery ticket.

Oops. I used to worry when he told me things like this. But it's been that way since the day I met him. One thing that makes up for his absentmindedness is he is extremely motivated and hard working. He put so much into his career that he often travelled Monday through Friday on road trips, Road trips take a toll on the body, and when he was 50, he was diagnosed with prediabetes. His mother had it, so to say we were concerned, is putting it lightly.  

His doctor wanted to put him on medication. But Les insisted he wanted to try something else first. He's always been athletic, but there was that weight gain thing, and, along with diet, it would take a while for him to get back into shape. He didn't wait long. Suddenly, he'd be out the door and running around the block. "Where'd you go?" I'd ask. "For a quick run."

I lived a lot of years in my former neighborhood and everyone knew us. All at once, that scenario of running around the block turned into running around the neighborhood, and then into 2 and 5Ks. He joined a running club in Colorado Springs, something that wasn't always the healthiest format, because after the run, there was a whole lot of celebrating--with beer.

Fast forward a a few months, he announced he was ready to do a half marathon of 13 miles. He was so proud of himself after he'd completed it, and he walked around the house calling himself a "Marathon Man." "Not really," I replied. "Technically, you're  half a marathon man." He took my teasing well, but as he always does, he kept on trekking. 

One day he breezed into the house and announced he'd signed up for the marathon of his dreams. He'd run quite a few by then, so I said, "Where to?" "Antarctica," he replied. My mouth dropped open. "Les, you hate water. You can't swim." "There's that," he replied, "but the marathon only takes a few people per year due to environmental concerns, and you have to sign up. There's a four-year waiting list." I relaxed. He wasn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Four years passed and he got the call. "You're in, Les. You made the cut." Despite his fear of water, I drove this non-swimmer to Denver International Airport, kissed him goodbye for his 17-day adventure and left the airport. A few minutes later he called and said, "Don, (he calls me Don), could you come back? I forgot my passport in the car." (Some things never change.)

He experienced seasickness, and rough water, and even the ocean splashing into his bunk at night. This wasn't a cruise line he was on. It was a charter boat captained by a no-nonsense, serious-minded Russian captain who didn't speak much English. The phone calls were nonexistent and the e-mails were intermittent. But, darned, if he didn't finish that marathon--seasickness and all.

Les wearing his medal

Les posing with his seal friends

Couple married aboard ship by Russian captain. (Les was best man)

Majestic scenery

Antarctica peninsula 

As I close out this blog, I'd like to show you the shadow box my sister-in-law made for her brother. It has many of the full marathons Les has run after that scary wakeup call. He has a separate box filled with metals--it's heavy! He's run marathons close to home, the farthest, Seattle, New York, and as I said, Antarctica. The toughest one he'll tell you is the Bataan Memorial Death March, right here in our new home in the deserts surrounding Las Cruces.

Les's shadow box

I'm grateful for the laughter I experience in my house. More importantly I'm grateful for the inspiration.  How about you? Do you find laughter and inspiration close to home? 

About the Author:  Donnell Ann Bell began her writing nonfiction career at the Colorado Springs Business Journal and Pikes Peak Parent Newsmagazine before turning to fiction. An award-winning author, her most recent success is the 2020 Colorado Book Award for Black Pearl, A Cold Case Suspense. Currently she's doing edits for book two in the Cold Case series. To learn more you can find her at www.donnellannbell.com  Facebook, Twitter @donnellannbell or Instagram. 








Friday, September 10, 2021

Interview with The Stiletto Gang's Newest Blogger - Meri Allen

Interview with The Stiletto Gang’s Newest Blogger - Meri Allen by Debra H. Goldstein

I’m delighted to introduce you to The Stiletto Gang’s Newest Blogger, Meri Allen, through this “Three Things” interview.

Meri Allen is the author of the new Ice Cream Shop mystery series. Her debut, The Rocky Road to Ruin, stars Riley Rhodes, a former librarian for the CIA who takes on management of a friend's ice cream shop in the charming New England village of Penniman, Connecticut. When a body is discovered in the barn behind the shop, Riley discovers that she has a talent for sleuthing.

Three Things with author Meri Allen:

Three favorite foods:  Tacos, strawberry shortcake, cherry vanilla ice cream from Buttonwood Farms

Three places I've lived: Connecticut, Virginia, Massachusetts

Three jobs I've had: waitress, library page, writer

Three things I can't do without: Family, books, cardigan sweaters

Three favorite places: the beach, Disney World, Venice

Three favorite hobbies: Traveling, Antiquing, Going out to eat (I'm not a cook!)

Three favorite books (non-mystery): Jane Eyre, Harriet the Spy, The Reapers Are The


Angels 

Three things I'm looking forward to: Gathering with family at the holidays (I'm a Christmas nut), Going back to the theater, The release of my second Ice Cream Shop mystery, Mint Chocolate Murder

One Thing That Might Surprise You: Meri Allen is the pen name of Stiletto Gang blogger Shari Randall, author of the Lobster Shack Mystery series.

Follow Meri on social media:

Instagram @meriallenbooks

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Meri-Allen-110203361174899

Sign up for The Scoop, Meri's newsletter chock full of New England cozy goodness and book fun. https://meriallenbooks.com

Buy the book: https://us.macmillan.com/author/meriallen/

Are there three more things you'd like to know about Meri or Shari?


 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Interview with Debra Sennefelder

 by Bethany Maines

Bethany Maines

Debra Sennefelder
Part of being a collective blog group is that we have many fantastic members that I've never met in person and aside from the sparkling repartee on group email threads (trust me we're brilliant), we often don't get a chance to interact with each other.  So this month, I'm taking the opportunity to get to know one of my Stiletto Gang members - Debra Sennefelder. Debra has nicely agreed to sit down and answer a few questions to let us into her writing bubble. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I have.


Q: What do you write?

I write cozy mysteries. I have two series, The Food Blogger Mystery series and the Resale Boutique Mystery series both published by Kensington Publishers.

Q: Plotter or Pantser?

I’m a plotter. I like to have a detailed outline completed when I sit down to write the first draft. My working outline (it’s not as pretty as the one I send to my editor) can include snippets of dialogue, a little description, links for research. While it may be long (sometimes thirty plus pages), it’s not carved in stone, so changes can happen while I’m writing the manuscript. Sometimes I find that a scene falls flat and doesn’t move the story forward, sometimes inspiration sparks and I add or rework scenes, sometimes I add a new character.

Q: What is your go-to relaxation read?

My go-to relaxation read is a fashion magazine. Always has been.

Q: Favorite authors or your most favorite recent read?

I have way too many favorite authors to list. So, let me tell you what I just finished reading. It was Three Single Wives by Gina LaManna.

Q: And of course, I would be remiss if I didn't ask... what are your favorite shoes?

I bought a pair of Sam Edelman black leather pumps a couple of years ago and I love them. They’re a classic that pairs perfectly with jeans or a dress.

Connect with Debra!

Connect with Bethany!


BETHANY NEWS UPDATE:

The Deveraux Legacy Series will be on sale Sept. 10 - 17.  Grab Books 1 & 2 and preorder Book 3, The Hardest Hit, for .99 cents! The Hardest Hit will return to full price 24 hours after release day. 
The Deveraux Legacy Series: The Deveraux Family is wealthy, powerful and in a lot of trouble.  Senator Eleanor Deveraux lost her children in a plane crash, but she has a second chance to get her family right with her four grandchildren – Evan, Jackson, Aiden and Dominique. But second chances are hard to seize when politics, mercenaries, and the dark legacy of the Deveraux family keep getting in the way.
***

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, September 7, 2021

Deadlines

By Kathryn Lane

I love deadlines! They revitalize me. Twists and turns in my mystery novels become more exciting once I’m approaching the deadline with my editor.

Not all deadlines are equal. Some are important; others can be juggled. Then there are deadlines I gleefully ignore.

At times, I fantasize what would happen if I missed such and such important deadline. That activity takes the form of various possible outcomes, as if I lived in a quantum world where there’s an infinite number of possibilities.

Meeting a deadline!

And it reminds me of a wonderful European film from 1998 titled, Run, Lola, Run. An experimental film at the time, the lead character, Lola, needs to acquire $100,000 deutschmarks in TWENTY minutes or her boyfriend will die. The film gives three versions of what happens. Each version is predicated on the lapse of a few seconds where random, unexpected events happen that impact Lola’s ability to obtain the money. These random events change each one of the three endings.

In the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to think about random, unexpected things that happen. Some are good, some not so good.

On the return trip from the Killer Nashville International Mystery Writers’ Conference (which was wonderful) in late August, we experienced an unexpected event.

Driving through Georgia, a speeding motorist hit us a few miles south of Atlanta. Fortunately, everyone, including the motorist who hit us, walked away with only minor bruises. A different story for the vehicles – both were totaled.

Random events, good or bad, set off unexpected consequences, which ripple through already planned events, like getting a manuscript finished for your editor.

Meeting manuscript deadlines!

As in the three outcomes in Run, Lola, Run, my mind considered various scenarios: If only we had not stopped for gas when we did, if only we had started our journey a few minutes earlier (or later) that day, if only we had been in a different lane. But we don’t live in a quantum world. Nor do we live in a world where we can restart the day and get a different outcome.

Small, unplanned events can add spice to life. Large ones, like car accidents, can create havoc on deadlines. C’est la vie.

Deadlines are important to my characters too. It’s like they’re telling me “If you write it this way, it will be better”. Or they will kick my butt, saying “Go this other direction and get our story told”.

Maybe that’s a little like the different outcomes in Run, Lola, Run. In novels, only the author knows the various endings that could have taken place.

How do you handle deadlines?  

***

Kathryn’s mysteries – The Nikki Garcia Mystery series:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/bookseries/B08C7V2675/ref=dp_st_1942428944

 


Kathryn’s short story collection – Backyard Volcano and Other Mysteries of the Heart

https://www.amazon.com/Backyard-Volcano-Other-Mysteries-Heart/dp/1943306044


 All available on Amazon

 Kathryn Lane started out as a starving artist. To earn a living, she became a certified public accountant and embarked on a career in international finance with a major multinational corporation. After two decades, she left the corporate world to plunge into writing mystery and suspense thrillers. In her stories, Kathryn draws deeply from her Mexican background as well as her travels in over ninety countries.

https://www.kathryn-lane.com