Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"I'm Bored!" Today's Kids and the Dearth of Activity in Their Lives

You can’t go anywhere in this village without hearing about a terrible problem that exists and that is compromising the future of young minds. It is talked about incessantly at parties, at the playgrounds, and in the gourmet shops in town. It’s the age-old problem that TEENS DON’T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO IN THE SUBURBS.

I didn’t realize what an epidemic this was or how detrimental it was to our children’s psyches. To combat this horrible situation, the village board proposed the idea of a “teen center,” location to be determined, to be constructed somewhere in the village. This teen center would show movies, have ping pong tables, host discussion groups (ostensibly to talk about one’s feelings, I’m guessing), and be a place where kids could get together in a safe, controlled environment. All of this was received with open arms from adults until the discussion progressed to where this teen center would exist. At that point, it because a classic case of suburban NIMBY or “Not in My Backyard,” which happens with just about everything in this village.

One of the suggested sites was a village-owned building that is right across the street from my house. I didn’t have a problem with it being there because the building is generally unused and to my thinking, no self-respecting teen was going to hang out in a teen center anyway. There are far more interesting things to do than play village-endorsed ping pong when you could be out wandering the streets with your fake I.D. looking for action, which from what I understand, is what many teens do on a weekend night.

The problem with a teen center, in my opinion, is that the kids who actually need a teen center, the real mischief makers, aren’t going to go anywhere near such a place unless it is to make mischief. Mark my words: the teen center will be populated by the good teens and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it doesn’t solve the problem that parents seem to think exists in small towns everywhere which is that many kids have nothing to do. As a result, they get into trouble.

I have pondered this idea of “generation whatever”—heck, what generation are we on anyway?—being forced into a life devoid of intellectual endeavors and/or fun activities and then created a list of what kids could do to make their lives more interesting in the face of daunting boredom and ennui.

1. Get a job: It seems to me that not many kids have jobs these days. Many kids play a variety of sports which make it virtually impossible to get a job that fits their schedule. However, a friend whose son is a star on our high school football team has managed to do so, working at a local bagel store from six in the morning until nine in the morning on the weekends, after which he goes to practice. Another kid I know who is very active in school plays manages to work at the gourmet grocery store in his off hours. It can be done. And it might help with the boredom. Nothing says excitement like a suburban mom screaming about the price of Land o’ Lakes yellow American.

2. Volunteer: Volunteering opportunities abound in this village and the county in which it is situated. My daughter and I volunteer every month at a soup kitchen not five miles from here. I do know that a group of kids goes to Nicaragua each year to build houses and latrines, and spend a good part of the year fundraising to offset the cost of each kid’s trip. In this village alone, we have a group that cares for the sick, homebound, and poor, and opportunities to get involved are plentiful. Our local library looks for volunteers to stack books, manage donations, and keep the library running smoothly. Our church does “midnight runs” to New York City to feed and clothe the homeless. Our Little League team always needs volunteers to play with the “Challengers,” developmentally and physically disabled kids who have their own league. There is no shortage of things that privileged kids can do to help others. Finding a volunteer program to get involved with is a perfect way to stave off boredom.

3. Study: Here’s a novel concept: take even an hour out of the time that you would be out carousing and hit the books. There is so much talk about getting into a good college these days, much more so than when I was a kid. (Case in point: I applied to two schools. Today’s kids average around eight.) Getting into a good school—or the one you have your heart set on—requires good grades and the only way to get good grades is to hit those books. Ideally, I should apply this advice to exercise, but since I’m pontificating, my habits are not up for review right now.

I grew up in a suburb and my parents grew up in the city. When remarking upon today’s kids and their lack of activities, my father said, “I grew up in the Bronx. There was nothing to do. So we hung out.” There’s another idea: just hang out. Walk down to our beautiful river and stroll along its banks. Take the dog. Take your little brother or sister. Stop and smell the roses. Sometimes, doing nothing is the best activity there is.

Thoughts, Stiletto faithful? What should today’s kids be doing to keep themselves occupied?

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Switching Gears

Known as a mystery writer, it seems really odd to be promoting my latest, a romance with a supernatural touch. Actually, I wrote this book long ago because of a tragedy that happened in our family--I think I did it as part of my grieving process. It was only available as an e-book. My publisher wanted to make it into a trade paperback and who am I to argue?

So it is now available in all the usual places. Anyone who wants an autographed copy can order it from my website; http;//

My publisher sent copies to the Public Safety Writers Association conference and I really didn't think it was the type of book that would appeal to cops, FBI and others in the law enforcement fields since it deals with the death of deputy sheriff and what happens after with his wife and kids--but it sold way better than the two mysteries I'd brought.

So, for the next few weeks I'll be promoting Lingering Spirit while writing the next in my Rocky Bluff P.D. series.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Me and My Protagonist

Diane Fanning is the Edgar-nominated author of ten true crime books and four mystery novels. She has been featured on 48 Hours, 20/20, Forensic Files and radio stations from coast to coast. She is currently under contract for two additional true crime books and has a new mystery novel coming out January 1, 2011. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, she now lives in New Braunfels, Texas.

How much of your main protagonist is autobiographical?

It seems to be a perennial question for fiction writers and I’ve heard it, too, since I started writing the series about Virginia homicide detective Lieutenant Lucinda Pierce. Simply put, in my case, the answer is not much.

For starters, Lucinda is 5’11” and I’m only 5’2”—wishful thinking? Maybe.

Our childhoods bear only the vaguest of similarities. Although I have some of my own traumas, they pale in comparison to the ones in Lucinda’s life. She was a teenager when she watched her mother crumple and die and then heard the gunshot that signaled her father’s suicide. Lucinda’s face is scarred and one eye missing as a result of her attempts to protect another woman during a domestic violence call early in her career as a police officer.

Lucinda and I have very different jobs. Although I write about crime and murder in my non-fiction true crime books and in my fiction series, I’ve never had to draw a gun and no one has ever aimed one at me. Lucinda does that and actually solves cases and puts the bad guys behind bars. I just write about it.

So where do Lucinda and I intersect? In some ways, I created the woman I want to be—a woman who stands up for her principles, empathizes with victims and lets nothing stand in the way of her ardent pursuit for justice. She’s a woman of courage who doesn’t hesitate in the face of danger—one who is ready to barge in where angels feared to tread.

But, I didn’t want to create a Superwoman—I wanted someone real, a person who screws up from time to time, like we all do. I gave her a couple of my flaws, like a constant questioning of authority and a willingness to forgo the permission process and hope to survive the forgiveness part.

Then, I gave her some faults of her own: her aversion to commitment that extended to friendships as well as relationships; an estrangement from her family; permanent impatience with process and occasionally with people; and a pathological aversion to the FBI and male drivers.

In The Trophy Exchange and Punish the Deed, Lucinda tracked down serial killers. In the latest book, Mistaken Identity, she chases the perpetrator of a double murder. The 11-year-old son of the two victims refuses to believe his father is dead insisting that his Dad gained immortal life after making a pact with the devil many identities ago.

To solve the murder, Lucinda needs to untangle the boy’s web of fantasy, unravel the lies that conceal the motive for the crime and travel to Texas in pursuit of a lead. Along the way, she breaks a few rules, irritates a number of people but gets the job done.

She feels very real to me—in fact, I even dreamed about her once, much to my surprise. I like Lucinda Pierce and I admire her. Unfortunately, I’m not really sure about what she’d think of me. Dare I insert a meeting in a future book? Do I really want to know how she’d react? I don’t know—do you?

Diane Fanning

Friday, June 25, 2010

Greatest Hits: My Kids' Best One-Liners

by Rachel Brady

Some of you know that I frequently use my Facebook status to share amusing things my kids say. A friend encouraged me to start saving those gems in a Word file too, and I was recently surprised to find that I’ve been at it now for a year. Here are their Greatest Hits of the last 12 months in reverse chronological order. From the mouths of babes . . .

June 2010

Jill and I were having a general discussion about kids and how they can be tough on furniture. She nodded toward her brother and sister. "That's why you should have stopped before you had those two."

While we were driving down the highway, Jill said, "See that place called Kids For Less? You think that's an adoption center?"

Me, to the kids: "Trust me guys. I'm old and wise." Lindsay (conciliatory): "Don't say that, Mom! You're not wide!"

May 2010

Sam unwittingly corroborated my impressions of last weekend’s slumber party: "Mom, where is that necklace that Lindsay got at her screaming girl party?"

Maybe I use my laptop too much. When asked to name a "D vegetable", Jill came up with a Dell pepper.

Me, to the slumber party: "Does anyone have to use the restroom before bed?" Visiting child, worried: "Why? Are you going to lock it up for the night?"

Sam: "Are you sorry?" Me: "For what?" Sam: "For not letting me have that piece of caramel this morning." Me: "No. I'm your mom. It's my job to make sure you have a real breakfast." Sam: "No, it's not. Your job is to push me on the swing."

Me (thinking I was alone): "Heeeeyy, good lookin'..." Sam, from the other room: "Whaaaatcha got cookin'?"

April 2010

Lullabye update. "Mom, sing that ten more times." Me: "Ten? That's too many." Sam: "How about four times because I'm four?"

My nine year old kid just "yada yada yada"d me.

Doing an art project with Jill, I got: "Looking pretty good, Mom. You should be an artist instead of a scientist or engineer or whatever you are."

Me to Jill: "Well, one reason I don't buy you more stuff is because I think it diminishes your appreciation for what you have." Her reply: "I do appreciate those things, Mom. I'm just saying I'd like to have more things to appreciate."

Sam wanted an explanation for "butt talk," and I was concerned he'd come home with some new language for rude behavior, but it turns out he'd only learned the word "buttock," pronounced Forrest Gump style.

I awoke at 3 a.m. to Jill prowling the house with her reading flashlight, searching for the Easter baskets. By 6:30 a.m. all three were in the back yard vying for the eggs. Red Bull, please.

March 2010

Fun clues I got from the girls playing Catch Phrase: "The hat of Texas" turned out to be Oklahoma, and "Those yellow people on TV" turned out to be The Simpsons.

Sam: "Mom, on your next birthday, wish to be a boy. Then you can pee standing up. Got it?"

Me: "You sure ask me some funny stuff." Jill: "We're kids. It's our job to crack up our moms."

February 2010

From Lindsay tonight, a note with MOTHER as an acronym: Mom, Outstanding, Terrific, Huggable, "Exelent," Radiant. What a great way to end my day.

Public service announcement from Sam: "If you get near a jelly fish, stay away from his tempicles."

Me: "What's so hard about being a kid?" Jill: "Having a sister." Me: "I never had one. I think that would be fun." Jill: "Well, maybe we can switch places sometime. Then you can feel my pain."

January 2010

Sam: "Is this how you spell your name? O-M-O?" Me: "Pretty close. M-O-M.":-)

Sam: "Can I have a piece of candy?" Me: "Who's the best mom ever?" Sam: "You." I gave the nod. Next it was Jill: "Can I have one? You."

I was making lasagna, radio playing, when my 4-year-old turned and quoted: "Just the two of us. We can make it if we try, Mom."

I recently asked Jill if she knew what oatmeal was good for. I was going for "your heart." Her reply: "Cookies."

Woke up snuggled next to Sam this morning, who opened his eyes and immediately said, "No singing in the shower, Mom. I want to sleep."

December 2009

Another round of Outburst with Jill. "Parts of the body that come in pairs"... Jill's answer: Butt cheeks.

Played Outburst with my girls. Jill's category was Pizza Toppings and I was trying to clue her into anchovies: "Do you know the name of those disgusting little fish some people put on their pizzas?" She snaps her fingers and her face lights up: "MINNOWS!"

Sam caught the garter tonight. Says he has to find a "yittle girl to get married with."

Sam put me on the Naughty list. No explanation was offered. The statement was: "I'm putting you on the Naughty list because you're naughty. How do you spell your name?"

Sam has been giving me stickers this morning. He just confided, "Mom, don't let Jill see these." I said, "Are these Jill's stickers you've been bringing me?" He said, "Yes, and if she finds out, it's gonna be BAD."

Me (singing): "Oh, Sammy, I love you so! Never never never gonna let you go!" Sam: "Why will you never never never let me go? Does this mean we'll be stuck here at basketball practice forever?"

Driving in the rain with Sam, a wiper blade came loose: "Uh-oh, Mom. Looks like we need a new car."

Jill: "Mom, who was the first person on the planet?" Me: "Not sure, I wasn't there." Jill: "Sure you were."

Lindsay: "I love you mom. I hope you never die." Me: "Love you too, baby. I'll do my best not to die." Lindsay: "Me too. I'll eat a lot of carrots."

Sam: "Why does the sky have to rain?" Me: "Because clouds are made of water. When they get too full of water, that's when it rains." Sam, after a thoughtful pause: "Mom? I don't know what you're talking about."

After seeing Lindsay kiss me under the mistletoe, Sam announced that "only one person has to do it," thereby absolving himself of any kissing-Mom duties. They learn to break hearts young.

November 2009

Jill, on our drive home from Target: "Mom, are there any famous singers besides Taylor Swift and Hannah Montana who aren't dead?" ...Maybe it's time for me to roll some contemporary artists into the mix.

Sam proclaimed a new allergy, this time to milk. Me: "You're not allergic to milk." Sam: "I am." Me: "Do you know what ice cream is made of?" Sam: "What?" Me: "Milk." Sam: "No. Ice." Me: "Afraid not. Milk." Sam: "Then why is it ice cream?" Me: "Cream is made from milk." Sam: "I know that mom." And I have these conversations why?

Lindsay on orbits: "It's like the sun is just sitting there, watching TV. Being lazy. The Earth wants some exercise, so it runs around the sun, around and around. And the moon wants in on it too, so it runs around the Earth."

Sam asks for the crust to be removed from his sandwich. Claims allergy to crust.

Crimebake writers' conference is having a costume banquet Saturday evening... anything from the late 1800s to mid-1900s. I asked Sam if he'd help me find a costume today, and he expressed strong feelings that I attend as a vampire.

Tough Mommy moment tonight. The note I found waiting at Jill's room: "Keep out! Don't touch! Don't donate! Stay out of our stuff! Stay out of our tareotory!" I don't think my efforts at clutter elimination were appreciated.

Watching Sam's soccer practice together, Jill was telling me about her friend's theories regarding gerbil heaven when she randomly smacked me in the side of the head: "Mosquito." And then right back to what she was saying.

October 2009

Jill's new career aspiration: "Mom, when I grow up I'm going to write commercials for food, but only for the foods I like. Oatmeal, candy, and cookie dough."

Jill and Lindsay's new way to mess with Sam: tell him he's "fired" as uncle to their pets. You would not believe how many times my shower was interrupted with complaints from a recently fired three-year-old.

Jill: "Mama, when you're a Grandma are you going to spoil our kids like Grandpa spoils us, or are you going to act to them the way you act to us?" Me: "I'll probably spoil them." Jill: (squinting at me and pointing a finger...) "Naughty."

Me: "Whose birthday is it today?" Sam: "Jill's." Me: "How old is she?" Sam: "Nine." Me: "How old is Lindsay?" Sam: "Seven." Me: "How old are you?" Sam: "Free and... a half." Me: "How old am I?" Sam: "Seventy."

All together now, to the tune of "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain": Water travels in a cycle, yes it does. Water travels in a cycle, yes it does. It goes up as evaporation then comes down as precipitation, water travels in a cycle, yes it does.

Lindsay is singing "King of the Road" in the bathtub, but her lyric is slightly off: "Two hours of pushing broom buys an eighth or twelve four do soon."

Jill asked whether there were TVs when I was a kid. That one kind of made my stomach flutter.

I was just admonished by a three-year-old. My speaking while he played GameBoy apparently caused him to die.

September 2009

On the way home from school, Jill asked, "Mom, you know how you look right now? Is that as good as you can do, or can you look better?" I replied that I was sure I could do a lot better. "What prompted that?" I asked. She described a facial product on TV that makes women look younger and finished with her hands up defensively: "Not that you need it! I'm just sayin'."

Getting ready for my lunch with some big-wigs at work, I told Sam I was going to be having lunch with some scary people. He asked, “Are they Halloween people?” Jill’s advice was simply not to order the okra since, I guess, that’s the only thing that might really make a bad impression. Lately, all of Lindsay's make-believe characters are talking with British accents.

Sam: "Mommy, can I watch SpongeBob Squarepants?" Me: "You know mommy doesn't like SpongeBob." Sam: "Then don't yook at him."

Jill turns her attention to marketing. "If IHOP changed their name to *Incredible* House of Pancakes, I bet they'd get more business."

August 2009

When Sam goes swimming he requires a “babing suit and gobbles.”

I was getting out of the shower and Jill kept talking to me through the bathroom door so much that I felt like I was being stalked. I told her to go play. "I can't," she said. "I accidentally tied myself to the door knob."

Sam, reflecting on his soft pretzel today at the zoo: "Mm. This white stuff's super good." (the salt)

I must be getting predictable. I told Sam, "I think I'll put on some music." He said, "Patsy Cline, mom?" Which I thought was fun enough. So I told him yes. And he said, "She's *Crazy*."

Took the kids to see a movie at the local *Cinema 6*, but Sam was under the impression we were going out for "Cinnamon Sticks."

Another Jill classic: "If Johnny Cash were alive would you let him sign your guitar?" "Yes." "I wish I could sign your guitar." "If you ever do I'll kill you." "What? You love me more than Johnny Cash but he could sign it and I can't? Well, that's just weird."

Jill and Lindsay asked me why Nintendo doesn't make a Gamegirl.

Me: "Why is there a soccer goal in my bathroom?" Jill: "I just felt like it."

Lindsay smoked me at air hockey. While playing, she said, "Sorry to do this to you, Mom. I'm not even playing my best game." And she meant it sincerely.

Driving home from a date with Lindsay. "We are the Champions" came on the radio. She asked me who was singing. I said, "I'm not sure but I think this is Queen." She said that no, it wasn't. I asked if she knew who it was. She said, "It's the Champions."

I asked what the best part of the museum was. Jill said the dinosaur bones. Sam... the elevator. I called Lindsay my mini-me and she responded by calling me her huge-me, which somehow seemed less endearing.

July 2009

Jill, 8, announces career plans: "First I'm going to be an actress, maybe make a few movies, and then I'm going to buy Sea World."

Night 3 at the forts disappoints. Much chit chat, whispering, and lollygagging. Also questions I can't answer, such as, "Mom, how do fish drink water?" They taunt me.

Second night for the individual living room forts. Like yesterday, they all went right to sleep in an eerily compliant sort of way. You don't suppose they are storing up energy, preparing for The Great Coup of '09?

My kids are sleeping in individual living room forts. I find this adorable.

Sam asked for Bobby McGee as his lullaby. He calls it Bobby BaGee, otherwise known as "the train song." Knows most of the words! Tonight's twist? "Mommy, sing it sixty times." Got upset when I stopped after three.

* * * * *

These guys are my greatest joys. I can't begin to imagine what they'll come up with between now and next summer. What are your best kid and grandkid quotes?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer Reading List

Lazy summer days are perfect for ready a drop dead excellent mystery. Cozies are my favorites. I definitely go through phases, and I’m in one now, devouring as many books as I can, using my time to enjoy new authors and reacquaint myself with old favorites.

Here’s a list of some great cozy mystery authors to dive into when you have a lazy summer day.

Agatha Christie = Mystery

Agatha’s the goddess of the the murder mysteries. Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot are two of the most recognizable sleuths in fiction and live on even today. Of course I have fond memories of Tommy and Tuppence, too, as my mom named two of our cats Tommy and Tuppence.

Cat Among the Pigeons was one of my favorites (I spent my entire high school career holed up in a math classroom during lunch reading Grand Dame Agatha’s books... no dances, no dates, no prom, just mysteries!).

All of her books may not be traditionally cozy, but she’ll always be my favorite.

Other authors I’m loving at the moment are:

Wendy Lyn Watson and her mystery ala mode books (book 2 will be out in September!). Ice cream and mystery, what’s not to love?

Heather Webber and Truly, Madly, not to mention Deeply, Desperately. Matchmaker mysteries? LOVE them.

Juliet Blackwell and her Witchcraft Mysteries. Now, I am in the middle of this book and I am really enjoying it. It has la Llorona in it! I wrote a romantic suspense that centered on la Llorona, so I was destined to love this.

Annette Blair and her Vintage Magic Mysteries. Vintage clothing store, ghosts, and small New England living. Just my cup of tea.

Charlaine Harris and her Aurora Teagarden and Lily Bard Mysteries. I haven’t tried Harper Connelly... any thoughts?

These are just a few of the many, many books on my tall, tall stack.

I’d love other suggestions, though, so I know what to move to the top (stiletto books excepted, as the high-heeled lady’s books already some of my faves!!).

Go ahead, help me craft my summer reading list!


And check out Word Filled Writer's Workshop Wednesday!! ( you can still play along, even though it's Thursday, now! )

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Word Count

I've been writing about "counts" a lot--pitch counts, word counts...when I get to "blood counts," cut me off, okay?

A friend of mine, Jessica Park, author of the delightful Gourmet Girl mysteries, posed a question on Facebook a few weeks back. She wanted to know what her fellow authors’ daily word count was. In other words, how many words does each author aspire to write every day? People chimed in with a variety of responses, from “1000words is a great day for me,” to “any amount as long as they’re good.” I’m paraphrasing, but you get the drift. My response?

“If it’s the week before deadline, 45,000. Otherwise, 10.”

I’m really hoping my editor, also a Facebook friend, didn’t see that confession.

Due to the fact that I work full time—or maybe because I have Attention Deficit Disorder—I have a very scattershot approach to writing. If the mood strikes, I’ll put everything aside for an hour or two and write away. For instance, I had a great idea for the current work-in-progress last week, and banged out 5000 words, some of them pretty good, the rest just okay. That’s what revision is for. To my mind right now, though, they are there and they are words and they count. Other weeks, I won’t touch the WIP at all, focusing instead on my paying work, for which I have rolling deadlines and obligations that eat up anywhere between eight and twelve hours every day.

My deadline every year for a new Alison Bergeron mystery is New Year’s Eve. Generally, by about October, I have three quarters of a first draft which I mull over between Halloween and December 1st. Then, once December hits, I kick it into high gear and write the rest of the first draft, focusing on revising while trying to Christmas shop, meet work deadlines, and decorate the house for the holidays. All in all, December is a very stressful month. I usually finish the shopping, I always finish the book, and I never decorate the house to my liking.

I wish I was one of those writers who could sit down and bang out a thousand or so words every day, regardless of whether or not they are good words. I find that the more I write, the better I become and the more I want to write. But life—and work—keep intervening and I have a hard time finding a routine that works for me.

There are things I should do in order to establish a writing routine. Let’s ignore them for the time being and focus, instead, on things I won’t do to establish a regular writing routine:

1. Get up at 4 a.m. Some things are just not worth the bother.
2. Stay up until midnight. How would I get my ten hours of beauty sleep with that bed time?
3. Write on the weekends. This will only happen between the dates December 15th and December 31st. (Remember that yearly deadline?)
4. Write during my lunch hour. Lunch hour? What’s that?
5. Write at the local coffee shop to avoid interruptions. That would involve leaving the house. And that’s just not going to happen.

What do you do to establish a writing schedule? And what is your daily word count?

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Murphy's Law

The Public Safety Writers Association had their annual writers' conference in Las Vegas this past weekend. This conference is for anyone who writes fiction or non-fiction about or for any of the public safety fields--which includes mystery writers. I've worked all year as the program chair for this event.

Right before we left for the conference, I learned that one of the board members who also serves as the m.c. for the conference had been bitten by a spider and had a terrible infection and couldn't come. His wife is the treasurer of the group and the one who takes care of book sales and of course she stayed home to care for her hubby.

My hubby, poor put upon soul who always helped the treasurer, stepped up to the plate and worked his you know what all weekend taking care of all the money that came in for books, extra lunches, and extra days at the conference. (He was too busy to fall asleep, something he's done on past occasions.)

The president of the group m.c.'d and did a great job.

I took lots of pictures--and yes, some of the women who participated, but then my iPhone died and I couldn't send them to my computers.

Two of my panels had to switch times because of a speaker having to leave early to catch a plane.

Other than that the conference really was terrific. The photos are of best selling author, Simon Wood, who was our keynote speaker and told us all about how to create suspense in our stories whether they be mysteries or thrillers. Simon also has the most wry sense of humor and is super friendly.

The other fellow is Kregg Jorgenson, who besides being Vietnam war hero, also has been in about every law enforcement organization there is including Homeland Security and the Border Patrol. He talked about how to sell articles to any kind of magazine. Terrific!

Sunny Frazier gave a presentation on how much sex is too much in a mystery--and she'd asked a lot of authors and the general consensus came down to whether or not the sex moved the plot along. Needless to say she held her audience's attention.

Michael Black gave us a demonstration on how to plot a book in an hour that was terrific--complete with all kinds of colored post-it notes.

Morgan St. James gave a terrific presentation on POV. Retired FBI agent, Mark Bouton, gave us a demonstration complete with pictures about how to tell if someone is telling a lie.

We had lots of panels on all sorts of writing topics from using supernatural elements in our books to writing for trade publications.

Unlike many writing conferences, this one has one track and almost everyone stays for the whole day despite the call of the slot machines.

I told my husband it sure was a lot more fun to go to a conference where you never know what went wrong then to be the one who had to solve all the problems.

Despite all this, everyone had a great time and as soon as I recover, I'll start working on next year's program.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Vacation Anyone?

I Know I Need a Vacation When ….

  1. I have trouble remembering what day of the week it is.
  2. I can't even tolerate listening to the politicians with whom I agree. (To my Southern ears the phrase "with whom" grates, but I'll try to dumb down the rest of my list.)
  3. I'm fascinated by reality tv – in particular Ice Road Truckers and Billy the Exterminator. (See that dumbing down thing is easy.)
  4. Book promotion feels like pulling teeth. (Okay it always feels that way to me, but at the moment it feels like having my wisdom teeth removed again - the way it was done 30 years ago – strapped down in the dentist chair with your mouth jacked open with some kind of rubber bracing. Only the dentist and the people in the adjacent buildings could hear the screams.)
  5. I'll eat my Cheerios dry rather than make a trip to the grocery store.
  6. I resent having to explain "why" more than once. (Yes, I know. That's just me getting old and cranky – taking a vacation won't help.)
  7. I'm happy when I get one item on my "to-do" list done each day. Today I changed my central air conditioning filter. I had to use a flashlight to illuminate the operation since replacing the light bulb in the hallway would have just been too much effort. Maybe tomorrow.
  8. The highlight of the week is putting all my extra red pepper flake packets from Pizza Hut deliveries into a Tupperware container instead of stuffing them in a kitchen drawer to wander and breed with the Parmesan cheese and soy sauce packets.
  9. I seriously consider stocking up on disposable plates and cups so I never have to wash dishes again. (Along with this thought was a fleeting urge to toss all the dirty dishes in the trash and start over with new stuff. Lack of money and the fear my mother would find out held me back.)
  10. Even the Gulf Coast beaches with the floating tar balls and oily birds look like good places to park a lounge chair.

On a Serious Note: I've been to the Gulf Coast several times – New Orleans, Gulf Port, Biloxi, Ship Island, etc. It hurts to think about the damage the oil is causing to the environment and to the people who are losing a way of life. I hope the leaking oil well is plugged soon and we – the nation – find a way to prevent any similar environmental disasters in the future. I know we need the oil - but we have to protect our oceans and marshes too.

aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David

Friday, June 18, 2010

In the Pink

by Susan McBride

Last Saturday, I woke up to the alarm buzzing at 6 a.m. and quickly dressed in my running shoes, yoga pants, and my hot pink T-shirt so I'd be ready at 6:30 when my ride showed up to head downtown for this year's Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. St. Louis turned pink that day, from the fountain at Kiener Plaza to pink "ribbons" plastered on the sides of buildings. It was my fourth Race since I finished radiation treatment after my diagnosis of breast cancer in December of 2006, and I felt much different than I had back in June of 2007 when I first participated. Being a survivor was new to me then. Heck, I'd never felt "sick" in the first place, even after an MRI confirmed I had a lump in my left boob. It's amazing how three little words like "You've got cancer" can change your life.

Although I'd tried to stay fit during my surgeries and rad therapy, it meant strolling on the treadmill or unloading the dishwasher so that my left arm could regain enough mobility to finally reach the top cabinet shelf. When I walked in the Race in 2007 with Ed, my good friend and fellow survivor Shelly, and Shelly's hubby Jerry, I didn't know what to expect. Would I even be able to finish the 5k? Would someone bump my left boob (I was afraid of that for a loooong time)? Would I be so overwhelmed that I'd cry?

Shelly and I did skip the "Survivors' Walk," which they do early on before the Race starts, because she warned me it was very, very emotional. I decided that I'd done enough bawling after my diagnosis, and I prefered to avoid further tears. So we ran around to some of the freebie booths (Ed thinks it's funny that women who survive breast cancer aren't afraid to trample each other to collect bags of free loot). Then we took our Race team pictures, and I hung out with some of the St. Louis Public Library team members (love those library ladies!). Music blared and people hugged, and a sense of affirmation bubbled up inside me so that I had tears in my eyes anyway!

Once the Race started, we were all business. I remember Shelly and Jerry booking so fast I wondered how I'd ever keep up! I kept downing bottled water as I walked, telling myself, "You can do this, you can do this." That was important somehow, just finishing the Race and not collapsing. People cheering the Racers from the sidewalks hooted especially loud when Shelly and I passed in our "Survivor" T-shirts. At first, that unnerved me. Why all the fuss? What had I done? I mused until I realized we stood for something to them: HOPE. If we had survived and were fit enough to briskly walk a 5k, then, by God, they could climb over obstacles, too.

This year, it was weird to imagine that I'm 3-1/2 years post-diagnosis. I felt strong as I walked--and, baby, I walked fast!--and, once again, I was initially surprised to hear the loud cheers from the sidelines. Although now it's more because I feel very ordinary compared to the many women I've met since my diagnosis who've gone through what I've gone through (and much tougher stuff, too). I am surrounded by these ladies--my heroes--on a daily basis, and I don't know what I'd do without them. When I whine about aches and pains, they make me laugh and, as importantly, they make me feel like I'm normal (or at least as normal as I'll ever be!). Because if there's one thing that having had cancer takes away from you, it's the sense of normalcy. Oh, yeah, the scars it leaves on your skin have nothing on the havoc it's wreaked in your head.

Although when you're walking in a sea of over 71,000 people, nearly 5,000 of them survivors, as I did at the Race this past Saturday, you realize how NOT alone you are. Once you're a member of this huge pink army, you're a member for life.

P.S. Speaking of being in the pink, I've got a PINK, GEEK, AND CHIC CONTEST going on at my web site. You could win a hot pink tote bag, some hot books, and a DVD of "Star Trek" (the one with Chris Pine as Capt. Kirk)! Good luck!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A New Deal

I'm so excited to announce that I have a new mystery deal. A straight cozy mystery with NAL. I'll be publishing under a pseudonym (which is actually my given name--mom and dad are SO happy about that!). Here's the PW blurb my agent sent it.

"Melissa Bourbon's PLEATING FOR MERCY, in which a woman opens a custom dressmaking boutique in a small Texas town and solves a murder with the help of the shop's resident ghost, in a three-book deal, to Kerry Donovan at NAL by Holly Root at Waxman Literary Agency (World)."

Now, I have a book due in October, so I have to get cracking!

Question: Are you a fan of the slight paranormal, hobby, light cozy mysteries? Apparently they are SELLING!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

She's a Lady!

Thank you so much for the chance to visit with the Stiletto Gang! I have to admit I’m very partial to the title of this blog. I’m a high heel fanatic. I wear them whenever I get the chance, which is rare indeed, since I spend 95% of my time sitting right here in my chair wearing my pajamas, a pair of sweatpants, slippers and a sweatshirt. When it’s time to pick up the kids from school, I switch it up a bit and take the pajamas off and even put on a bra from time to time. But when I do venture out of the cave, I like to go a little nuts, with the skirts and the earrings and the makeup and the heels.

It kind of bothered me for a while that high heels make me taller than nearly everyone around, but then I realized I was doing it mostly for me, as a reminder that there is a lady hidden deep down inside this fiction-churning machine. I don’t use that word – “lady” – lightly. As a not-too-closeted feminist, I’ve had an uncomfortable relationship with the word and its throwback overtones.

A lady carries a satchel purse to church containing pink lipstick and enough tissues for the entire congregation; she’s already put the bread on to rise and cleaned up from breakfast and ironed everyone’s shirts before the rest of the house gets their teeth brushed. A lady doesn’t have much say over anything, her politics are considered unimportant, and when she gets to be a certain age she’s expected to fade quietly from view. This word used to give me such fits, in fact, that I wouldn’t let my kids use it when they were little. I know this sounds a little deranged, but if they uttered the word in public – say in reference to the clerk ringing up their little bitty Boy Scout shirt – I would say “No, sweetie, that is not a ‘lady’ – that is a woman.”

Woman woman woman. I drilled that word into them, despite their sweet juvenile confusion; I’m sure it led to some interesting conversations at school. (“Miss Pringle? My mom says that’s a bad word….”) What changed my thinking? Why, Stella, of course.

Stella is the 50-year-old heroine of my mystery series. A BAD DAY FOR SORRY introduced her last year, a small-town woman who killed her husband with a wrench after 30 years of abuse, and then started up a business helping other women take care of their own abusers. You could say that Stella’s business is “pro-woman” to a fault. But to my surprise, as I wrote this character into life, I discovered that she was also enthusiastically, defiantly, unrepentantly a LADY. She likes her girly stuff and woe to anyone who suggests that isn’t seemly. In fact, Stella goes way past me on the girly continuum and looking back, I think I created her in my subconscious idea of what an extreme example of femininity would be (not counting the, uh, beating the crap out of men part). She is very curvy, uses a lot of perfume for special nights out, and treats every child with buckets of maternal attention. I love Stella. I do! I adore her, everything about her, including her flaws and contradictions. And while I may be heading into split-personality territory here, I think she has freed my long-buried softer side to come up to the surface a little.

I now think there’s a little bit of “lady” in every woman. I can still get a little political about it (uh, hey, idiots who are terrified of women in positions of power and have to accuse every female Supreme Court candidate of being gay to make your little limp selves feel manly, I’m sendin’ Stella after YOU) but most of the time I can celebrate it in spirited good fun. I’ve also been delighted to discover lots of kindred souls among my fellow women authors.

So tell me, what makes you feel most like a lady – in the best sense of the word? I’ll choose one commenter to receive a signed copy of A BAD DAY FOR PRETTY.

Sophie Littlefield

Sophie’s first novel (A BAD DAY FOR SORRY, St. Martin’s Minotaur) features a rural Missouri housewife-turned-vigilante. It was nominated for the 2010 Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best First Novel and won the Reviewers Choice Award for Best First Mystery of 2009 by RT BookReviews Magazine, and appeared on the San Francisco Chronicle and IMBA bestseller lists. Her young adult novel, BANISHED, will be released by Delacorte in October 2010. Sophie lives in Northern California with her family. Visit her at

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Month for Graduations/New Beginnings

As most of you know, I have a big family and come graduation time I'm deluged with graduation announcements, not so many actual invitations.

My great-grandson, Aaron, invited us to his 8th grade graduation at our little school up here in Springville. We've attended many graduations there and this was one more. Outside with the audience facing the graduates--and the sun--the ceremony never begins until the sun disappears behind the hill.

The clothing worn by the graduates is interesting. The girls wear dressy dresses, some short and some long, and one had an evening gown with a train. A girl in a darling short dress, wore cowboy boots in a matching color. My grandson had a white shirt, tie, and slacks and tennis shoes on his feet. Most entertaining.

This particular great-grandson was one of two really short boys in the class. I'm hoping he'll have a growth spurt this summer as he really wants to play basketball in high school.

I received announcements from a great-granddaughter who has moved with her family to Missouri and one from a great-niece in Las Vegas. I hope I find out what they plan to do now.

A great-granddaughter in southern California graduated from fifth grade. Seems their middle school goes from sixth to ninth. My daughter was kind enough to send photos.

I'm really proud of this young lady. At birth, she stopped breathing for a long enough time to scare everyone. For much of her pre-school years everyone feared she was autistic. She hardly ever spoke, but when she did it was a long sentence with big words that had very little to do with anything.

She began school in special education classes, but soon was changed over to the regular ones as she did so well. She excels in track and field events. She and her older sister both do shot put and discus--and win awards.

All of these graduates are on the threshold of new beginnings. And really, even though most of us have experienced our own graduations--mine were long, long ago--don't we each find ourselves at the end of one part of our lives and stepping into new beginnings at times?

Over the years, there have been many of these occasions for me: marriage, many moves to new places, the birth of children--and then grandchildren--and great-grands, getting published--and it goes on and on. New beginnings face us at many stages of our lives.


Monday, June 14, 2010

A Miracle is Born

Blessed are You Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has kept us alive, and has preserved us, and allowed us to reach this season.

I murmured the prayer over and over again late Friday afternoon, June 4. It was, for me, nothing short of a miracle. Riley Giselle, was born and poof, I was a Grandma. In some ways, the joy was greater than when I first became a mother. Then all the love and excitement was tinged with fear: Was I up to the job of taking care of a small wonderful child? Now, my only job was to love, love, love her. Somebody else would figure out how to pay for college!

Like most teenage girls, I had “issues” with my mother. I knew, heavens I was certain, that I would do things differently. As my own children reached adolescence, however, I found myself setting the same standards that my own mother had demanded. As Mark Twain so aptly put it, "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years." It took me a little longer, but ah yes, I discovered just how smart my mother really was.

But from the moment that my first child was born, I was in awe of both my mother and my in-laws as grandparents. My own dad sadly never got to meet my kids. But Grandma, Nana, and Pop-Pop had such bottomless love for each of their grandchildren. Their patience was limitless, but of course, even seven days into this grandparenting gig, I now realize that patience is easier when you can hand the little bundle back at the end of the day.

Alex Haley once said, “Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.” I like even better, and that may be the foodie in me, the quote I found, source unknown, who said, “Grandmas are moms with lots of frosting.”

But most of all, I am giddy, thrilled, and feeling so incredibly blessed that Riley Giselle is now in my life.

Just call me Grandma, the Northern half of Evelyn David

Friday, June 11, 2010

You Are There!

Writers are often asked which is more important to them, plot or character. At the risk of being difficult, but in all honesty, setting is the most important factor to me in planning my novels and in choosing ones to read. I do read, and occasionally write, in venues outside of my passion for all things British, but at the end of the day, reading and writing in England (or Scotland, or Wales, or Ireland) is my default position.

Because setting is so important to me when I read, as a writer, one of my goals is to put my reader in the scene. Since I try never to write about a place I haven’t actually visited I try to recreate the sights, sounds and smells of the place through the consciousness of my heroine. That means careful planning of my research trips, since I live 7000 miles away from the scene in Idaho. I do all the research I can possibly do from home, which entails a lot of time on the Internet and in libraries. I also have to have my story quite thoroughly outlined so I’ll be certain to go to all the places the story takes us.

Once there I try to experience the scene as if I were the heroine. And since I write mysteries that edge into thrillers, I try to imagine the danger lurking around every corner in that place. Oooh, crumbly historic sites make the most wonderful places to bury bodies. And then the building could crumble on you. Or the ground give way beneath your feet. Or a sudden rain storm wash a body out of a shallow grave. . . (Don’t use that one— it’s in my next novel. And, yes, I stood on the spot and watched it happen in my mind.)

I take copious notes and since my husband bought me a nifty, idiot-proof digital camera a couple of years ago I can now delight in taking all the pictures I want. I also buy loads of books on site, because the same tourist guide will not be available 5 miles down the road. I learned the hard way not to wait.

And then when I get home I have the fun of reliving the whole experience over again at my computer a I write whilst watching the scenes in my head. I have been told that my style is very cinematic. (Please note— any movie producers who may be reading this!) I think that’s because I was a playwright, drama teacher and amateur actress. I tend to think in terms of scenes and act everything out in my head.

This method worked particularly well for me in writing my ecclesiastical thriller A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, book 1 in The Monastery Murders because my heroine is a rash young American woman studying in a theological college in a monastery in Yorkshire. The monastery is based on one where my daughter (who isn’t nearly as rash as Felicity) studied. So when Felicity runs up the hill to the monastery from her flat just outside the walls I am retracing steps I actually took many times with my daughter.

Likewise, when Felicity’s favorite monk is brutally murdered shortly after he presents her with a journal he kept whilst on recent pilgrimage and she sets out to retrace his steps, all the sites of ancient spirituality she visits in England and Scotland are places I can call up vividly in my mind and hopefully, recreate as vividly for my readers. Because ultimately, it’s not the plot, the characters, or even the setting that’s most important, it’s my readers.

With a bludgeoned body in Chapter 1, and a pair of intrepid amateur sleuths, A Very Private Grave qualifies as a traditional mystery. But this is no mere formulaic whodunit: it is a Knickerbocker Glory of a thriller. At its centre is a sweeping, page-turning quest – in the steps of St Cuthbert – through the atmospherically-depicted North of England, served up with dollops of Church history and lashings of romance. In this novel, Donna Fletcher Crow has created her own niche within the genre of clerical mysteries.
– Kate Charles, author of Deep Waters

Donna Fletcher Crow

Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 35 books, mostly novels dealing with British history. The award-winning GLASTONBURY, The Novel of Christian England is her best-known work, an Arthurian grail search epic covering 15 centuries of English history. A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, book 1 in the Monastery Murders series is her reentry into publishing after a 10 year hiatus. THE SHADOW OF REALITY, a romantic intrigue will be published later this summer.

Donna and her husband have 4 adult children and 10 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener and you can see pictures of her garden, watch the trailer for A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, and read her international blog at


Felicity Howard, a young American woman studying for the Anglican priesthood at the College of the Transfiguration in Yorkshire, is devastated when she finds her beloved Fr. Dominic brutally murdered and Fr. Antony, her church history lecturer, soaked in his blood.

A Very Private Grave is a contemporary novel with a thoroughly modern heroine who must learn some ancient truths in order to solve the mystery and save her own life as she and Fr. Antony flee a murderer and follow clues that take them to out-of-the way sites in northern England and southern Scotland. The narrative skillfully mixes detection, intellectual puzzles, spiritual aspiration, romance, and the solving of clues ancient and modern.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Im-Perfect Game

If you want to handle something with grace and dignity, look no further than Major League Baseball umpire Jim Joyce and Detroit Tigers’ pitcher Armando Galarraga. If you have been living under a rock for the last week, you probably don’t know that Galarraga was pitching a perfect game on a balmy Tuesday night in Detroit last week. No hits, no errors, no base on balls; this feat has only been accomplished twenty times in the history of Major League Baseball. It was the ninth inning and the Cleveland Indians were down to their last out when Jason Donald hit a little grounder in the infield. Galarraga did what he was supposed to do: he ran to first to cover as the first baseman cleanly fielded the ball and threw it to him. The ball reached Galarraga, his foot on the bag, long before Donald did. Umpire Jim Joyce called Donald “safe.” The perfect game was history.

Galarraga’s teammates went crazy, as did manager Jim Leland. Joyce was confident that he hadn’t blown the call. Galarraga smiled ruefully and headed back to the mound to record the 28th out of the game and then walked off the field to the dugout. Joyce went into the locker room and watched the replay, which all of the Tigers had already seen and knew what Joyce was now discovering: he had botched the call. He had blown Galarraga’s perfect game. On a day when baseball great Ken Griffey retired after an illustrious career and six-hundred and thirty home runs, Jim Joyce was the only name we were saying. He would go down in history as making arguably the worst call in major league baseball.

You’ve got to feel for the guy. A mistake is just that. I listened to his post-game interview and he was choked up the entire time, taking the blame for something that he says will haunt him forever.

Major League Baseball gave Joyce the option of sitting out the next day’s game, but he declined. He took the field with his head held high, probably expecting the worst from the Detroit hometown fans. Instead, he was greeted by Armando Galarraga, who handed him the lineup card. Galarraga shook his hand, which drew cheers from the crowd. What could have been an extremely bad situation—have you ever seen how seriously people take their hometown sports?—was defused by the kindness and humility of one gentleman, Armanda Galarraga.

There are several things that are striking about this situation. First, Galarraga didn’t make a scene when it happened. He had just been denied the opportunity to achieve something that few men had done in the history of his sport. Yet, he didn’t throw his glove or kick the mound, or get in the umpire’s face. He returned to the mound and finished the job. Second, upon learning of his mistake, Joyce took full responsibility, turning into a grown man crying in front of a group of reporters when he learned of his error. Someone taking responsibility so honestly and forthrightly in today’s world is pretty much unheard of (BP anyone?), so to see this man reduced to tears upon learning of his mistake was truly a sight. Third, the Detroit fans cheered both men upon their arrival on the field, showing that people are mature enough to realize when something has been done in error and with no malice aforethought and can accept other’s failings. I, myself, made a mistake at my job today and my first thought was, “at least I’m not Jim Joyce.” I felt for the guy. My heart, and apparently the collective heart of the city of Detroit, goes out to the guy. He screwed up. He owned it. Hopefully, he’ll be able to move on.

Child #2 is involved in several sporting activities and the behavior of the kids on the field sometimes approaches reprehensible. Bad sportsmanship abounds. Names are called during the game and sulking takes place after losses. I hope that coaches everywhere use this situation as a teachable moment: what to do and how to behave when things don’t go your way and how to own up to and redeem yourself from a mistake, no matter how big.

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Writer's Block--Do You Suffer From it?

I just read a really good blog about writer's block and though I left a comment I really wanted to write more so thought I'd do it here.

Though I don't really suffer from writer's block, I do procrastinate about clicking on Word and my latest work in progress. Instead, I check my e-mail, read posts on Facebook and write one or two, read some blogs I'm following, and maybe write a blog or two.

Though I don't work outside the house, I do some writing jobs that bring in money and if I have one of those, it will always come first. (Yes, my books bring in money, but not right away like some other things I do.)

If there is some housework jobs I really need to do, I'll probably do them before I write. One of the reasons I do that comes from my bringing up--mom made sure we'd done all of our work before we did something fun. And since writing is something I truly enjoy, I don't feel right doing it until all the more tedious jobs are done. (Funny how moms can still influence us even when we're really old--and in my case, mom has gone on to her heavenly reward.)

Fortunately, I long ago figured out a way to not have a problem knowing what to write when I finally do open up that work in progress and that's to stop in the middle of a scene, that way I know exactly what to write next.

Another trick is to go back and read what you wrote last making it easier to just continue on when you get to the blank place.

I truly love writing and with the book I'm working on now I have so many ideas for it they are spilling out of my brain. What I should do is change my schedule completely and write first--then do all the other things that need to be done. I'll try, but I don't think my many years of training and habit will let me.

I know a lot of you do your writing at night. Wish I could, but by evening I'm done. Brain is no longer functioning well enough to do anything challenging like writing.

Do you have trouble with writer's block? If so, what's your cure?


Monday, June 7, 2010

Just Call Me Cassandra

Kathryn Lance has been a freelance writer since the early seventies. She is the author or ghost of more than fifty books of fiction and nonfiction, for children and adults. She has recently become a docent at a desert nature park, and though she still writes has learned to prefer snakes to copy editors.

Pandora's Genes, my first science fiction novel, was the result of cross-fertilization between a news story and an enigmatic dream. One morning in the late seventies I saw a short squib in the New York Times business section about a company that was working to genetically alter bacteria that naturally consume oil so that they might be used to clean up oil spills. I thought, "Great! But what if your car catches it?"A few months later I had a mysterious dream in which a good, moral man had embarked on a mission to do something he knew was wrong but was compelled to do. I was so intrigued that I sat down and started writing.

Not too far into the story I realized it was set in the world I had imagined resulting from the runaway altered bacteria. In my story, the oil-eating bacteria had mutated and spread after being set loose on a massive oil spill; they consumed not only all oil in the world, but all petroleum products, including plastics and the fail-safe seals on germ warfare experiments, releasing deadly plagues. The novel is about competition by several groups of people for control of this dangerous, nearly depopulated world. Zach, the good man from my dream, became one of the three main characters; the two other key characters, who appeared to me when I began writing, are The Principal, a well-meaning but flawed political and military leader, and Evvy, the young girl that both men love, who may hold the key to saving the world.

I wrote feverishly for several weeks, almost as if I were reading the story. The characters, who were not consciously based on anyone I knew, seemed more real to me than my friends and family. I really had no idea what was going to happen until it "happened" at the end of my typing fingers. That had never occurred before and has not since, but it was one of the most compelling experiences in my life.When I finished the rough draft, in about six weeks, it took me two years of revising to get it in shape to send to my agent, and then I had to revise it again for the publisher who eventually bought it. When my editor told me before accepting the final manuscript that I had to change the ending, I was paralyzed until I had yet another dream. In this one, I was giving birth to a child (something I have never done). The experience was not painful, but was rather extremely erotic, building in intensity until the child was born and I woke up knowing exactly how the story would end. I sat down and wrote it in one sitting.

Pandora's Genes was published in 1986 and its sequel came out the following year. It was named "Best New Science Fiction" by Romantic Times and was chosen for the Locus (s-f) Recommended List for the year. In May of this year, e-reads, the top publisher for out-of-print genre books, realized that my book was newly relevant, especially since one of the remedies currently proposed involves the use of genetically modified bacteria. My book is currently featured on the e-reads website . I had intended the story in part as a cautionary tale, and still see it that way. I just hope none of the other horrors that I foresaw come to pass.The first chapter of Pandora's Genes is available on my website, and it can be ordered from Amazon

Kathryn Lance

Friday, June 4, 2010

Q&A with Author KD Easley

Susan: I'm very happy to have KD Easley join us today. She's a fellow Missouri author and a super nice lady. She's also giving away a signed ARC of MURDER AT TIMBER BRIDGE to one of today's commenters! So comment away!

Hi, KD and welcome to the Stiletto Gang! First off, tell us about MURDER AT TIMBER BRIDGE (A Randi Black Mystery) and how you came to write it.

KD: I think Randi developed out of dreams of what I always wanted. I was in a pretty rough time in my life when I wrote MURDER AT TIMBER BRIDGE, and I think it was escape more than anything. Randi has twin boys and I always dreamed of having twins. Her kids are pretty well-behaved and I always dreamed of having well-behaved children. And, Randi has two brothers, one of them older. As an only child, I'd always dreamed of having an older brother. I mean, when you're dreaming, why not pick the one thing that you're absolutely never going to have, right? Anyway, writing Randi's story gave me a chance to have some of the things I'd always wanted, without dealing with the crappy things going on in my life. I mean seriously, tripping over a dead body is worse than almost all of the crappy jobs I'd had up to that time, so it even helped me feel positive about my own life.

Susan: Is Randi anything like you? How is she the same/different?

KD: Randi and I share a sense of humor, we're both divorced, and we both have two sons. She lives in a small town where everyone knows everything about everyone else, and we share that experience as well. I think we differ in that Randi is a bit more social than I am. She has more friends and a bigger family. She's also probably not as shy, more apt to jump into trouble without thinking, and she has much longer hair. Truth to tell, she's probably about forty pounds lighter than I am too, but we can just keep that among ourselves.

Susan: What inspired you to start writing mysteries?

KD: I'm a lifelong mystery reader, starting with Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden and moving up from there. I'm a storyteller from early childhood and had numerous imaginary friends. My Mom used to say that, when I went in to take my bath, it sounded like there were twenty people in the room with me. I can remember very clearly that some of my imaginary buddies were good guys and some were bad guys. So even though I don't remember any specific stories from those days, I think I was probably honing my mystery chops even back then. The trigger that actually put my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard was the death of my best friend. The story I wrote was more romance and autobiography than anything else, and if I'm lucky, no one will ever read it. The writing was awful and it had a sad ending (and as everyone knows, romance fans do not want sad endings); but it was very cathartic, and it gave me a chance to see how words worked on paper. I learned more from that failed manuscript than anything else I've ever done. Shortly after that I started writing TIMBER BRIDGE, bodies started dropping and I knew I'd found my home.

Susan: How do you balance your real-life and your publishing life? Any tips on juggling it all without going crazy?

KD: I don't balance them at all. I'm a bit compulsive and whatever I'm doing at the moment is the most important thing in the world, whether it's baking Christmas cookies, writing, or working in the yard. So balance is something I really struggle with. I think the going crazy part is a given. You have to be a little bit crazy to write. I seriously need to learn some time management and organizational skills. It would make my life so much easier. That may perhaps be another one of those unobtainable dreams, like the big brother thing I mentioned earlier.

Susan: What authors/books do you most love reading?

KD: I love to read. It's an addiction for me. If I don't have a book or my Kindle handy, I'll read the back of cereal boxes. I get a physical ache when I go without reading for too long. To that end I will read almost anything, but my first love is mysteries and thrillers. I love Dick Francis. He has the ability to draw you into his story with an opening line and hold you there till the end. But I also read Dana Cameron, Carolyn Haines, Lee Child, Dana Stabenow, Jim Butcher, Robert Parker, this list could truly go on and on. I don't really have a specific type of mystery. I love them all: cozies, police procedurals, amateur sleuth, romantic suspense, female protagonists, male protagonists, wizards, or vampires. I also find that I'm enjoying some of the women's fiction that's come out in the last few years. And I love to revisit old series. I find when I'm editing, I tend to read my old favorites and stay away from the tasty new books out there. I don't know if it's to keep my mind fresh for my own work, or to make it easier for me to put the book down and actually get some work done. I imagine it's the latter.

Susan: What's next for you?

KD: I'm working on book two in the Randi Black series, MURDER AT THE JOLLY ROGER. It's due out in June of next year, and I'm winding up the edits on it now. My stand-alone mystery, WHERE THE DREAMS END, came out last year and lots of readers have asked to revisit those characters, so I'm working on a new story for Brocs Harley. I'm also putting together an anthology called ONCOLOGY CAN BE MURDER to raise money for the American Cancer Society. I hope to have enough stories gathered for that to see it published next year. I’ve got some short stories in the works as they seem to help me clear my head when the work in progress isn't going well. I may try to send a few of those out and about and see what happens. And, between writing projects, I'm putting a book tour together for this summer and promoting, MURDER AT TIMBER BRIDGE and WHERE THE DREAMS END. Oh, and cooking and cleaning and all those other dreary chores that get in the way of the fun stuff. Wow, I'm tired just writing all that.

Susan: How can readers get your books?

KD: My books are available by request at any brick and mortar bookstore, or online at Amazon,, and most other Internet booksellers. Electronic copies are available from and Kindle, and signed copies can be purchased from the store page of Thank you so much for inviting me to visit the Stiletto Gang! It was a blast!

KD Easley can be found procrastinating in Missouri with her two feline co-writers, Luna and Merlin. Signed copies of her books are available at and KD can be found periodically at