Monday, February 28, 2011

Happy Birthday

I love birthdays. I may not want to tell you how many candles are on my cake, but I love the concept of celebrating another year of living. Comes from my childhood when my Mom, the original Evelyn, would let me invite every kid in my class for my party, with little paper cups filled with candies at each place setting. We played pin the tail on the donkey, opened the presents, ate the cake, and everyone went home fuller and happier.

But better than celebrating my own birthday, I love making merry for family and friends. I know that at times during my kids' childhoods, I was tempted to work out a deal with the party guests: I meet you at the car with a cupcake and goody bag, you fork over the gift and we call it a day. But that was my occasional cynical side popping out of hiding.

The truth is I'm a sucker for kids' birthday parties: the themes, the cake that complements the theme, the party activities, even the goody bag items. I remember baking a cake in the shape of a soccer ball for my goalie seven year old, then having the kids play a game of soccer in the local park. Treat items were all English football related. For another of my kids, I made a Pac-Man cake with little ghosts; and for a special two year old party, I created a Big Bird cake whose feathers were sliced up lemon Chuckles candies.

So after four kids and countless parties, I thought I knew the scoop on entertaining the under-8 set. If they had a little too much sugar, I was reassured by the knowledge that their parents would have to deal with them, because birthday parties were limited to 90 minutes – tops.

Little did I realize that there is now a whole industry devoted to kids birthday parties – and the amounts to be made at these shindigs is almost enough for me to give up this writing gig. A recent report from ABC News, described the over-the-top birthday party Tori Spelling gave for her son's third birthday. Now given that Tori grew up in Spelling Manor, the largest home in Los Angeles County with 123 rooms, I am not surprised that the concept of "less is more" is not on Tori's radar screen.

But apparently there are enough "normal" folks that are going bonkers and broke over their kids' parties that there is now a new TLC reality show called, appropriately, "Outrageous Kids Parties." One set of parents threw a fairytale party for their little six-year-old princess. Hey, I can imagine this. What I can't conceive of is the 42 center pieces, 2000 flowers, 300 costumes, and a spa day for the six year old before the party. Budget for this extravaganza? $32,000.

I got married for less. What are these parents planning for the seventh birthday – skydiving for the class in Hawaii? Is there no sense of proportion? Any concept that such excess teaches every self-centered lesson in the book? That even if you have the money to afford such stupidity, you need to have the good sense not to spend it this way.

I don't need to tell you, Stiletto Faithful, that this is foolish, almost immoral in terms of waste. We all want to create lovely memories for our kids – and even for ourselves. I still feel good about those special days in our kids lives. But we know that racing up and down a makeshift soccer field with ten friends, then blowing out the candles and sitting around with these same friends telling bathroom jokes as only a seven year old can enjoy – those are the memories that last and warm you even when there are ten times the number of candles on the cake.

Marian, the Northern Half of Evelyn David

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Sullivan Investigation Series
Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the Cake- Paperback - Kindle
Murder Off the Books- Paperback - Kindle
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Oscars 2011

by Maria Geraci

This Sunday night is the 83rd annual Academy Awards which means I'll be sitting in front of my television with a bag of popcorn in one hand and a diet coke in another. Or maybe instead of the diet coke it'll be a glass of red wine. I'm not sure yet. It'll depend on my mood.

I'm not a celebrity hound nor do I watch the gazillions of award shows that surround the "big show" but I'm a sucker for the Oscars and have been ever since I was a little girl. Maybe it's because I'm a frustrated actress or because I love movies. Or maybe it's because I love the gowns. And the shoes. And the hair styles. And the speeches. And the big musical numbers. Or a combination of all the above.

This year's show will be hosted by Anne Hathaway and James Franco. Have you seen the commercials? They're really playing it up. Young Hollywood does the Oscars. I think it's going to be great. My favorite movies this year were Toy Story 3 (I cried like a baby!), The Social Network, and The King's Speech (which I think should win Best Picture). I absolutely loved Colin Firth and hope he wins his first Oscar. The Brits in my opinion, always give the best speeches and I'm sure he won't disappoint.

Over the years I've collected my personal best and worst moments.

Best Oscar Speech: Roberto Benigni for Life is Beautiful (in which he jumped on top of his seat when his name was called) also BEST OSCAR MOMENT EVER!
Worse Oscar Speech: Julia Roberts for Erin Brokavich (in which she failed to mention the real Erin Brokavich and "ordered" the orchestra to stop playing when they tried to interrupt her because she'd gone over her time limit).

Best Host: Billy Crystal
Worst Host: David Letterman (Oprah Uma, anyone?)

Best Dress: Anything Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman or Halle Berry wear
Worst Dress: Anything Diane Keaton wears

Best Jokes: Billy Crystal, Steve Martin. Whoopi Goldberg
Worst Jokes: David Letterman

Best Star for the camera to "catch" in the audience: Jack Nickolson

Best Star in a tux: Hugh Jackman (drool)

Strangest/Funniest Moment: Jack Palance doing his one armed push ups and saying that he poops turds bigger than Billy Crystal (probably not his exact words, but you get the drift).

Most Awkward Moment: Jennifer Aniston presenting at the podium with Brangelina sitting in the front row.

How about you? Are you going to watch? What are some of your favorite or worst moments?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

When a Sandwich Board is All You Have Left

I read a story in the paper this morning about a mother in Florida who, fed up with her 15-year-old son’s disinterest in school, took a drastic measure to get his attention. She placed the kid on a busy street corner with a sandwich board over his head that said: “I have a 1.22 GPA…honk if you think I need an education.”

While some people applauded her last-ditch effort to set the kid on the straight and narrow, others called Child Protective Services to report her abuse of the young man.

I have to tell you, when I read the article, I had to chuckle, because as the mother of two kids, I, too, have looked for creative ways to get their attention.

Don’t get me wrong, my kids do great in school, particularly child #1, who is now looking at colleges and knows that she has to keep her grades up if she has any chance of going to some of the more competitive colleges in the country. But, as many of the moms on this blog will attest, when your kids get older, your issues with them get more complicated and it takes every last ounce of energy you have to stick to your guns and to keep them moving in the right direction. It is very easy to just give up and let them do what they want, but we all know what happens when we let the inmates run the asylum.

It’s anarchy, I tell you.

It is true what they say: “little children, little problems; big children, big problems.” I think all of us, at some point when our children are small, look at someone else’s parenting style and think “I would never do it that way.” Really? Wait until you get there. I remember when child #1 was a baby and I thought I would never lose my temper with her, raise my voice to her, or punish her. Then came the terrible twos, followed by the temper-tantrum threes, and the feisty fours. Let’s not get started on five through seven. You find yourself doing things you never imagined. For instance, child lays down on floor of the bank and refuses to move; there are eight people behind you on line. What do you do? Leave her there or laugh in embarrassment as you pick her up by the scruff of the neck like a mother cat, dragging her out kicking and screaming? Either way, she’s going into therapy first chance she gets (and her health insurance allows for free visits) so you’re doomed. My plan of attack was always to pretend I didn’t notice what was happening or that I didn’t know her, because you know that there is someone behind you tut-tutting about your parenting skills. Usually, they don’t have kids, or their kids are older than you and they have forgotten what it is like to confront a hungry toddler who acts like they are a protester during the Vietnam era. (You know what I mean…you go to pick them up and they go slack. It’s an effective protest technique whether you weigh thirty-two pounds or a hundred and thirty-two pounds.)

The problems, discussions, and issues only get more complicated as the kids get older. Apparently, as well, “EVERYONE else’s parents are letting them do it.” Like I believe that one. Yes, many parents in our small village are more permissive than we are…ok, every set of parents in our small village is more permissive than we are…but that doesn’t mean that in our middle-age we are going to succumb to peer pressure. We make decisions based on what is right for a particular child at a particular time. And sometimes that means that a particular child is not doing what other children are doing. Them’s the breaks, as they say.

But back to the lady in Florida. Judge lest you yourself be judged. She’s got a 15-year-old who won’t do his homework, won’t go to school, and probably has a one-way ticket to a life of heartache and trouble if this behavior continues. I have to say, not being in her shoes, I’m not sure what I would do, but if the sandwich board of embarrassment were my last resort, I might resort to it.

What do you think, Stiletto faithful?

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Different Time

When I read my fellow Stiletto gang's posts I am often reminded of the big generational gap between us. The majority are near the age of my children and at least one is closer to the age of my grandchildren.

I grew up in a different time period. Though I didn't grow up in a small town--Los Angeles is where I lived the first eighteen years of my life--things were certainly different than they are now. Oh, the same dangers were out there--murderers, thieves, child molesters--but I don't think our parents thought about those people.

When we went off to play, we really didn't have to say exactly where that would be. The only rule in my house was I had to be home by 5 because that was supper time. And yes, we always ate dinner together--my dad, mom, and sister and ever so often a guest or two. When it was just our family we ate at a small table at the end of the kitchen. For more classy dinners, we ate in our dining room--but that wasn't often.

I wandered all over the neighborhood--especially during the summer--to find someone to play with. I did not call my mom and tell her where I was nor did she expect it. Sometimes I rode my bike and found a nice front yard with a big weeping willow tree and settled myself in to read or write or draw. Why the homeowner didn't come out and ask me what I was doing, I have no idea.

When my cousin and I were ten years old we begged to go downtown by ourselves. To do this we had to ride the bus and transfer to a streetcar. If I remember correctly, this didn't cost much more than a dime, even with the transfer. Yes, our moms let us. However, the first time we learned later that, they followed us on the very next bus and street car. We'd been given orders that we could only shop on one block on Broadway, between 5th and 6th Streets. That was okay, there was the Broadway Dept. Store on one corner and somewhere in between a great five-and-dime. For $1.00 we could buy all sorts of treasures. We followed the rule, and after that traveled downtown without the shadows.

When I was 10 I babysat in other people's homes. My first job was with five little ones. (3 family's offsprings together.) I heated bottles, rocked babies--but I never once thought to change a diaper. Once I took care of a girl the same age as me who was developmentally disabled. I had to wrestler her to get her into her p.j.s and into bed. I was paid 50 cents for three hours of very hard work. I never went back.

My friends and I would hike in the hills behind my house. (At that time it was an undeveloped area--no houses and hobos had encampments in gullies.) There was a water reservoir at the very top of the hill. Today that area is now the Glendale Freeway. When I was in high school, I'd cut through the hills to take a shorter way to school rather than riding the bus and streetcar which seemed to take forever. It still was a long walk and I sometimes did it by myself.

As a young teen, my friends and I rode the bus, the streetcar and another streetcar to get to the beach during the summer. Sometimes we accepted rides home with boys we met at the beach. (Not sure if our parents were aware we did this.)

My girlfriends and I often took the bus and streetcar to go to downtown L.A. to the movies and special programs put on by the department stores--in fact we got to see Frank Sinatra before he was so famous at the May Co.

Frankly, our mothers had to work so hard I don't think they had time to worry about us. My mom did have one of the first automatic washing machines but she still had to hang clothes up outside to dry and iron everything. I remember she even had a mangle to iron all the sheets and pillowcases. She even ironed my dad's shirts on it.

Anything we baked (yes, my sis and I did a lot of baking) had to be made from scratch. There was no such thing as mixes. No microwaves, no prepared food.

I even remember the first Ralph's grocery store--at first it was in a big tent. What I don't remember is where we shopped for food before that.

We went to Sunday School and church and to youth group on Sunday night. Sometimes I walked home from there by myself--and it was at least two miles. Sometimes we spent the rest of Sunday at my grandparents in South Pasadena or we'd travel over the hill to visit my Aunt and Uncle and my four boy cousins.

Mother loved sales, so we went to sales downtown and to smaller stores nearby. It wasn't a good experience, the women acted horrible snatching things from one another. I don't like sales to this day.

When I was a teen we spent our summer vacations at Bass Lake. My dad let me drive our outboard motor boat wherever I wanted, long before I ever knew how to drive a car. We made friends fast and always had a group to hang out with and we went all over that lake.

I could go on, but I think that's enough to make my point. I definitely grew up in a different time.


Monday, February 21, 2011

When All the World is Protesting....

Is it just me or is everything in the world spinning and changing so fast it's almost impossible to keep up? I'm exhausted.

Dictatorships are falling in large part to their citizens' use of Facebook and Twitter to organize protests. Egyptians have toppled their government. The world is holding its collective breath as we wait for the next despot to be exiled, holding out hope that the end result will be better than the original. Libya? Bahrain? Iran? What country will be next? What will the world look like next year?

Proposed deep budget cuts in the U.S. federal government and state government services are going to affect all U.S. citizens. Congress is setting up for a government shutdown unless compromise can be accomplished. The protests in Wisconsin over budget cuts are only the first for state governments. The state agency I work for in Oklahoma is facing consolidation with another agency and massive budget cuts if our newly elected Republican Governor has her way with a Republican majority house and senate. I think her chances are pretty good! Citizens will have to decide if they really want the changes that are coming. Yes, elections have consequences. I'm just not sure everyone understood how the changes would affect them personally.

Because of my day job for a state agency I'm acutely aware that President Obama has just this past year geared up federal environmental agencies for a massive change in the interpretation of existing environmental laws. His new policies would open the door for direct federal enforcement of those new interpretations, ignoring state laws and programs. The result of the direct enforcement would be massive loss of jobs and industry. The states are pushing back, reminding the federal government that they can't change laws or create new laws via policy statements. But so far they've turned a blind eye and deaf ear to our protests and attempts to reason with them. The whole issue is heading for court. In the midst of this battle, suddenly the President creates a new White House working group to protect jobs from unnecessary federal regulations. He wants to reduce regulations that stifle business. What the [insert appropriate curse word] is going on? The President needs to learn what his right hand and his left hand are doing.

Oh, by the way, Happy Presidents Day! Sigh.

Before the year is over we'll know what government services are really important to us. The public libraries that survive over the next five years will do so because they find additional sources of funding and attract new users. They will have to add more digital content, e-readers, and many more computers. Public schools? I'm not sure what they are going to do. Class sizes will increase, teachers will be laid off, and kids won't have desks, chairs, or books.

Brick and mortar bookstores are disappering. You might not be able to find a bookstore in your favorite mall. The local independents are hanging on by a thread. The publishing giants are rushing to accommodate the ebook revolution as authors self-publish their own books via electronic platforms at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Smashwords. I was speaking with a friend who collects first editions and autographed books. She wonders if the next generation will find any value in her old fashioned "print" book collections.

And of course on top of all the other turmoil, there's the weather. Should I mention the crazy weather? Everyone has had some this year. This month Oklahoma went from a normal 6 or 7 inches a year to 20-some odd inches of snow in a two day span. Then the weather flip flopped with one town registering a -20 F. (actual temperature not wind chill) to a week later registering a very muddy 80 F.

I don't know what everyone else is going to do, but this seems like the perfect time to escape to the more rational world of fiction. I'm going to read, write, and hope next year is, if not better, at least calmer.

aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Sullivan Investigation Series
Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the Cake- Paperback - Kindle
Murder Off the Books- Paperback - Kindle
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, February 18, 2011

Books from the Heart

by Susan McBride

I'm kind of in a crunch this week with revisions for LITTLE BLACK DRESS due Friday (as you're reading this!). So I'm going to make this easy on myself by rehashing a book talk segment I did for "Great Day St. Louis" on Valentine's Day.

Since love is in the air this month, I discussed four "romantic reads," all dealing with the topic of home and heart in different ways. Only one, ANGEL'S REST by Emily March, is considered a traditional romance while the other three are novels with romantic elements--THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON by Sarah Addison Allen, THE OTHER LIFE by Ellen Meister, and THE BOYFRIEND OF THE MONTH CLUB by Stiletto Ganger Maria Geraci (yay!).

In ANGEL'S REST, Nic Sullivan is a small-town veterinarian with a broken heart. She's divorced and semi-happily single until she rubs shoulders with hunky Gabe Callahan, a loner escaping past tragedy by hiding out in the mountains. Serious sparks fly between the two, only--sigh--their pasts and the things they don't/can't talk about, keep them apart. It takes a bit of angelic intervention to bring them together.

THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON is Sarah Addison Allen's third book after GARDEN SPELLS and THE SUGAR QUEEN (and her fourth, THE PEACH KEEPER, is out next month). If you haven't read her Southern tales of home and heartache, you should. She writes beautiful prose that sucks you in, and in MOON, she gets us wrapped up in the life of a teenager, Emily Benedict, who goes back to her mother's hometown of Mullaby, NC, to meet her grandfather and find out the dark secret that drove her mom away.

Ellen Meister's THE OTHER LIFE is a tale of two lives, both of them belonging to Quinn Braverman. In one, she's a wife and mother in the Long Island suburbs, awaiting the birth of her second baby and missing her deceased mother. In the other life, she's got a high profile career and a high profile beau, a shock jock like Howard Stern, and, most importantly to Quinn, her mom is still alive and kicking. She can go back and forth to each life through a portal in her basement wall. But once the portal begins to close, she has to make a choice or risk getting caught in a life she might not want after all. (Just optioned by HBO for a TV series!)

In Maria's BOYFRIEND OF THE MONTH CLUB, a cheating boyfriend and a really awful first date lead Grace O'Bryan to forgo the book club and start a "Boyfriend of the Month Club" with her friends. Like most things in life that we start for fun and giggles, this club turns into more than Grace bargained for. She's got her heart in the right place, and she finally finds a man worthy of it, too!

Here's the video in case you want to hear each summary like I'm talking to you right from your computer:

I recently did an informal poll on my Facebook page, asking friends what their favorite romantic books of all-time are, and the top five results:


Do you agree? If not, what's your fave? Inquiring minds want to know! (At least, this one does.) :-)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What can we do to save bookstores?

I woke up yesterday morning to the news that Borders had finally done what everyone in the publishing industry knew was inevitable. The company filed for bankruptcy. They are also planning to cut 200 of their stores nationwide.

Go ahead, call me a weenie, or maybe just pre-menopausal, but I couldn't help but feel my eyes water up. And it' s not just because that as a writer, I'm petrified of what's happening in publishing right now.

One of my most favorite things to do in the whole world is visit bookstores. I rank buying books above shopping for clothes, purses, perfume and yes, even shoes (hopefully this admission will not get me kicked out of the Stiletto gang!) But with bookstores closing right and left, the days of walking into a bookstore, buying a cup of designer coffee and gleefully perusing the aisles may soon be gone. Amazon and the ballooning ebook industry is doing to bookstores what WalMart (and please believe me, I have nothing personal against WalMart) did to mid level grocery stores and small mom and pop shops against the country. It's putting them out of business. This a conundrum I have no idea how to solve.

I love my e-reader (yes, it's a Kindle) and I spend more money at Amazon than my husband would like me to. I also spend a lot of money in brick and mortar bookstores. But like a lot of writers and people who read heavily, I'm probably in the minority on this. I really can't blame someone for opting to buy a book online for 9.99 with free shipping and handling from the comfort of their home vs. getting in their car and using their precious gasoline to purchase the same book for a couple of dollars more at a store (which may or may not even stock the book).

Last October, I attended the Novelists, Inc. one day conference on the future of publishing in St. Petersburg. There were some really big names on the panel and the discussions were eye-opening to say the least. The bottom line was that publishing is in a huge state of change right now. Publishing houses are scrambling to keep up with the e-pub phenomena. E-publishing is to us what the advent of the printing press was in it's time. We know we're in for some big changes, but everyone is unclear how those changes are going to effect everyone else.

As one little person against the tide of change, my hope is that, whatever happens, people keep buying books in whatever form they come in. But I hope there will still be places (real, physical locations) that people can go to and talk to one another in person about books and peruse aisles to see fabulous covers and touch a page with their own hands. I can't save the world but I can recycle and pick up my own trash. I probably can't save all the bookstores, but I can continue to patronize my local store and buy books in person.

On a happier note, this is my first post as a bona fide member of the Stiletto Gang and I would like to thank the rest of the gang members, Susan, Evelyn, Maggie, Rachel and Marilyn for inviting me to be a part of this fabulous group. I promise, my next post won't be so serious.

Hasta luego!


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What? Me Worry?

I was reading a magazine yesterday morning and worrying about how much I had to face once I got to my office when I was confronted with an article on living longer. The article listed several key things one could do to live a longer life but one point in particular struck me. It said—get this—that people who live longer fret occasionally. Apparently, too much optimism can leave you unequipped to deal with the worst possible scenarios that you might encounter in your life. “A little worry,” the article says, “keeps you warmed up for the curveballs life throws.”

See? I knew I was on the right track.

I wouldn’t say that I’m a constant worrier but I do have moments when worrying consumes so much of my brain power that I need to use specific coping mechanisms to stop. There are a few things I remind myself when I get to worrying:

1. Worrying won’t change the outcome. There have been times when I’ve been so consumed with worry, e.g. a test will reveal more disease, a deadline will be blown, someone I love may have an accident in icy weather, that I can’t get out of my own way mentally. Worry just consumes me, eats me up, so to speak. When that happens, I tell myself that whatever is going to happen will happen whether or not I worry; I have no control over the situation. This takes some mental energy, and sometimes it works, other times…not so much.

2. I should set aside a few minutes each day to worry. Someone once told me that if I was consumed by worry, I should set aside a time—say eight o’clock in the morning—and set a timer for fifteen minutes during which time I should worry about the things that concern me. After the timer goes off, the worrying stops. There are a few problems with that plan. First, I don’t own a timer. And second, I don’t have the mental fortitude to put my problems or concerns out of my head after a set period of time. I learned that while doing the ostensibly mind-clearing exercise of yoga. Not going to happen.

3. Worrying is a giant waste of time. Now this is a coping strategy I can get behind. Why? Well, I’m what is called in scientific circles a “Type-A personality.” (In regular circles, I’m just a hyper lunatic.) When I thought about all of the times I worried about a particular situation, only to have my feared outcome never come to fruition, I calculated that I had wasted approximately a year of my life worrying about things that turned out just fine. Or didn’t turn out at all. Or had become completely irrelevant by the time there was an outcome to note. Wasting time is a concept I can get behind and when I think of wasting precious time when I could be doing something constructive or positive, I seem to stop worrying immediately.

Right now, I’m worried that a book I’m working on for my day job won’t get to the printer in time. Or that my daughter won’t do as well as she wants to. Or that my son will get hurt playing lacrosse. But then I remind myself that if the book doesn’t make it to the printer on the day it’s supposed to, it will probably go the week after. And that my daughter has been working day and night to make sure she’s prepared for the “big test.” And that my son wears so many pads while playing lacrosse that it’s amazing he can move at all. See? Worrying is a giant waste of time.

Any other champion worriers out there in Stiletto land? If so, what do you do to stop yourself from biting your nails to the quick, chewing the inside of your mouth raw, or grinding your teeth?

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Valentine

Lest you think I'm so old I've forgotten about all the romance in my life, I thought I'd go back to the beginning.

This is how my hubby looked back when I met him on our blind date. A girlfriend had called and said she and a bunch of kids were going out, but a date was needed for a sailor, would I be interested? I was a senior in high school and certainly thought I could do as I pleased and said, "yes." I left a note just saying I was going on a blind date--no other info.

The group that was going out started walking in my direction and I in theirs. We probably lived about 3 miles away from one another. My two girlfriends and their older sister all showed up with servicemen in uniform, another sailor and I believe a Marine and soldier. The extra was cute as could be, but a bit on the drunk side. I'd never seen anyone who was drunk before, but I didn't worry about it. We headed back in the direction of my friends' but when we reached the streetcar tracks, we all boarded one heading for downtown L.A. We ended up in a Chinese restaurant where they had a live band and dancing.

Unfortunately, my date said he didn't know how to dance. (He really didn't, but after we married I taught him and he became a better dance than I ever was.) The other fellows in the party all took pity on me and asked me to dance--each one saying they were sorry that my date was such a dud.

Of course as time went on, my sailor (whom I soon learned was a Seabee) sobered up and began talking more. By the time we got back to my friends' house, we'd learned a lot about one another. My date was going to school at the Port Hueneme Seabee Base and had hitch hiked to L.A. for some fun. He'd run into the other military fellows who'd brought him along to my friend's.

My friend said her mom would take me home--but she never showed up and it started getting really late--way past midnight. Of course I didn't even think to call home. My date and walked back to my house. Lights blazed which meant my parents were waiting for me. I'll say they were. After the initial interrogation, I introduced my blind date and asked if he could spend the night.

Mom conferred with my dad in the kitchen. We heard him holler, "Who? Do what?"

Next we were brought into the kitchen where my blind date was interrogated by my father. One question I remember was, "Are you a Christian, boy?" Blind date's answer, "I'm a Methodist, does that count?"

To make this story a bit shorter, blind date who I now called Hap was given a blanket and pillow and put in the den on the couch. He came to our house every weekend, except when he had the duty. He spent a lot of time with my dad who was working on a boat in the garage. He went along with us when the boat was taken out in the ocean the first time.

Most of our time was spent on family outings, but once in awhile we went on a real date to a movie. It was on one of these "real dates" that he proposed.

At the time I was 17 and Hap was 20. In California at the time, the female had to be 18 and the male 21 to get married without the parents' permission. We were not given permission. Hap finished his schooling and was sent back to Norfolk VA. Before he left, Mom promised if he got overseas orders, she'd see that I got back East to marry him.

It wasn't long before I received a call that the overseas orders had come through. Mom kept her promise and we traveled by train back to Washington DC and Hap met us and took us to his family's home. We were married by his minisiter in the parsonage on the next weekend. Mom cried when she left me behind.

There were lots of hard times after that--and plenty of good ones. The marriage survivied despite everyone's predictions of disaster, we had five children, and to date, eighteen grandkids and eleven great-grands. We'll celebrate 60 years of marriage this coming October.

And that's the story behind my Valentine.


Monday, February 14, 2011

The Takeaway

Ten days ago, I spent the morning at The Tuckahoe Public Library. It's been months since I gave one of my library talks – and I'd forgotten just how much fun they can be. For authors, what could be better than to be with readers who both enjoy the mystery genre and are eager to understand the creative process? It's an honor and privilege to share what I've learned in writing.

And inevitably, I learn as much, if not more, than my audience. They share their favorite books, as well as what they don't like about books they've read and found wanting. This group of about 10 should get a special shout-out because they braved frigid weather and icy streets to come to this discussion. I found it interesting that only one person in the group had a Kindle, and in fact, another had been gifted with one and then re-gifted it to her son within a few weeks.

Even as Rhonda and I have been busy cannonballing into the deep end of the e-book pool, this was an important reminder that not everyone is so eager to give up the heft and feel of a print book. Yes, it's undoubtedly generational. A recent New York Times article revealed that many preteens are now proud owners of e-book readers and that the market for YA e-books is literally exploding. Perhaps it will take longer for the older generation (and heck, I'm one of them!), to embrace the technology, but I suspect it will be sooner rather than later, if only because it means that the reader can enlarge the typeface of all books. If I were one of the publishers of Books in Large Print, I'd be worried about the future direction of my company.

The conversation that morning inevitably returned to the concept of collaboration. On a basic level, there's always the question of mechanics.

Literally how do Rhonda and I write a story together? Does one do the rough draft and the other do the polishing? No, we each write scenes and pass the story back and forth dozens upon dozens upon dozens of times (and that's just an estimate for a short story!)

Do each of us write certain characters? Nope, we both write all the characters. No one has a proprietary hold on Mac, Rachel, Whiskey, or Brianna.

Of course, the final question is always, when are the two of you going to meet. We used to joke that it would be on a very special Oprah, but now that Ms. W is going off the air, we need a new punchline (ideas are welcome).

When I speak to these groups, I always hope that the takeaway, beside maybe a few sales, is that it's never too late to pursue your dreams – whatever they may be. Rhonda and I had each harbored a secret fantasy that we'd become mystery writers. Didn't seem likely as the years went by. I'm not sure either of us would have had the staying power it takes to become a published mystery writer without the collaboration. That's not a reflection of talent. Rhonda could write dozens of books on her own. But writing with a partner means showing up with something when you've said you would write the next scene, even if family and work demands are pressing. It means not wanting to disappoint someone else, even if you would be willing to disappoint yourself. Of course it also means having someone to gripe to when a rejection letter arrives; and someone with whom to shriek in joy when an acceptance or good review appears.

The Stiletto Gang is a diverse group of talented women. We write different kinds of stories but we share similar dreams. These library events remind me again just how lucky I am to be a writer, to be a co-author, and to have had the opportunity to pursue my dreams. Best wishes to all of you that your dreams come true.

Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series

I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries
- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah
- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah
- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah
- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Sullivan Investigation Series

Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the Cake
- Paperback - Kindle
Murder Off the Books
- Paperback - Kindle
Riley Come Home (short story)
- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, February 11, 2011

Lori's Reading Corner

by Lori Gondelman

I never had any intention of becoming a book blogger. I had no idea where to start, what it should cover, how it should look, or more importantly, if anyone would even care. At the time I started my blog I belonged to a book swapping site called Basically you post books that you no longer want, and when another member requests your book, you mail it off to them. Once they receive your book you earn a credit, with which you can then order a book that you want. Nice and simple, right? I soon had a new group of friends, fellow booklovers. It got to a point that my friends started calling me “the book pimp” because my book recommendations would cause their wish lists to grow out of control, and their piles of books would transform from small hills to massive mountains. Several of them started bugging me about doing a book blog. I put it off because I honestly felt like I had nothing worthwhile to say. And again, would anyone really care? I finally “caved,” and Lori’s Reading Corner was born, just about three years ago. It’s taken off in ways that I never dreamed possible.

My blog started off as a way for me to share my love of reading and my thoughts on books with others. I love seeing comments that say, “I bought this book on your recommendation, and I loved it. I’ll be back to see what else you’ve got for me.” It warms my heart to know that I’ve given someone else the same joy I got from reading a book, a book they might not otherwise have read if they hadn’t seen my review.

What has really surprised me though, are the amazing contacts I have made. I know there are thousands of bloggers out there, and that I’m just one tiny little fish in a big pond. Having said that, I’ve been fortunate enough to make some amazing contacts at Harper Collins, Random House, St. Martin’s, Penguin/Berkley, and several other publishing houses. Publishers, publicists, and authors who have “stumbled” on my blog and would like to send me advanced reader copies to review. Really? Little ‘ole me? Why? Most importantly, I’ve developed some terrific friendships with some fantastic authors. Authors that have been extremely supportive of my blog. They have offered encouragement and advice. Jessica Park has been an amazing, encouraging friend to me. Whenever I find reviews that I think make mine look like they were written by a two-year-old, she reminds me that everyone has their own writing style, and that as long as I stay true to myself, my reviews are just as good, if not better, than the others out there. Jessica has also helped me get started with some editing/proofing work. Not only did she ask me for my feedback and proofing help on her latest book, she’s also mentioned me to other author friends of hers, possibly opening even more doors for me. That she thinks that much of me and wants MY feedback means more to mean than I could ever put into words.

When I first started blogging, my goal wasn’t to meet authors, make amazing contacts, or get advanced reader copies of amazing books (although those have been unanticipated bonuses). It was simply to let others know what I thought about the books I was reading. To hopefully spread the word about some amazing books and some incredible authors. And I hope (and think) that’s exactly what I’ve done.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Stupid Cupid

By Ellen Byerrum

First of all, let me thank you for inviting me on The Stiletto Gang today. I’m thrilled to be among such great writers. And now. . .

Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays. Love it or hate it. I have generally hated it. First, my birthday is far too close to Cupid’s Day for comfort, so I never received anything special for hearts and flowers day. If anyone thought about it, it was, “yeah, this is for your birthday, and. . . uh, yeah, Valentine’s Day.” Or there were the guys who went on a rant: “It’s just a stupid Hallmark-manufactured holiday and I refuse to take part in crass commercialism. I mean seriously, flowers, candy. What’s the point?”

I guess the point was “good bye, Joe.”

Before I met my husband, Bob, my Valentine’s Day traditionally featured Cupid sticking out his tongue, laughing hysterically, mocking me, flying upside down, smacking into walls, shooting arrows, and missing. Or, hitting me in the you-know-what. Before Bob, I had my more than my fair share of romantic disasters that happened on Valentine’s Day. Including, but not limited to, two regrettable boyfriends who married other people on the 14th day of the second month of the year. Different years, but still.

My history is unfortunate for Lacey Smithsonian, the heroine of my Crime of Fashion novels. Because I like to share the misery. And sometimes, Lacey has the advantage—or disadvantage—of my experience. The latest book in my series, Shot Through Velvet, takes place in February and ends on Valentine’s Day. As we all know, the course of true love never runs smooth, so I’ve given Lacey a major case of Valentine jitters.

Her past history has Lacey convinced that that this Valentine’s Day will be another disaster. She wants to ignore the whole thing, but her sexy boyfriend Vic Donovan, has other ideas. But Lacey doesn’t have time to worry about hearts and flowers when a strange and colorful murder at a dying velvet factory in Southern Virginia takes her attention. Lacey dodges Cupid’s yearly disaster attack while delving into a murder where the victim has been dyed blue.

While she interviews and follows up on possible suspects at the factory, she also dances around an invitation to attend a Valentine’s party given by Donovan’s mother. The race is on to see whether the grim reaper or Cupid captures Lacey this February.

As for me, my luck changed when I came home one night from a long trip and found my husband had chilled champagne and spread a dozen red roses on my pillow. My heart danced a jig. And it wasn’t even Valentine’s Day.

Do you have any Valentine’s Day stories to share?

Ellen Byerrum is a Washington, D.C., news reporter, novelist and playwright. She also holds a Virginia private investigator's registration. Her bestselling Crime of Fashion mysteries star a savvy, stylish sleuth: Lacey Smithsonian, a reluctant fashion reporter in Washington D.C., "The City Fashion Forgot."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Princess of Crime

by Geraldine Evans

I come from an Irish Catholic working-class background and I suppose you could say I was one of life’s late developers in the area of personal ambition. I certainly had no idea what a criminal direction I would end up in. Killing people – and getting away with it – was far in the future.

When, at the age of eleven, I took the examination that would decide which standard of secondary education I would receive, I was far more interested in winning Jimmy Smith’s prize 4-er marble than I was in taking tests. Darlings – I won the marble – but I failed the exam. So it was off to the bog-standard secondary school for me.

Unsurprisingly, after I left school at sixteen, a long list of dead-end jobs followed. I won’t bore you with a litany of them. But somewhere along the way, I found that ambition. I realized that I wanted to do something with my life, rather than fritter it away.

I’d always been a keen reader, so trying to become a published writer seemed a natural step on the road. Oh boy! Was I in for a shock!

I first started trying to become a writer in my twenties, but I never finished anything. I was an amateur, a rank amateur. I knew nothing about plots, nothing about research or creating characters. I hadn’t a clue, basically. Gradually, I learned. It was a long apprenticeship. It took six completed novels and six years before I finally held one of my published novels in my hand. That was a romance, called Land of Dreams, set in the Canadian Arctic. Unfortunately, my follow up to this was rejected. You might say I was a little peeved about this. Anyway, to vent my spleen, I turned to crime. I was a natural and thoroughly enjoyed myself killing off some of the grisly bosses I’d had during my long and undistinguished career as a temporary secretary.

This change of genres to crime novels turned out to be far more blessed than my romantic novels, for on only its second outing, Dead Before Morning, my debut crime novel, was plucked from Macmillan’s slush pile and published both in the UK and the States. There was even a sniff of interest from an LA movie producer. The latter came to nothing, of course, but it gave me a few tremors of excitement while it lasted.

More Rafferty & Llewellyn crime novels followed (Down Among the Dead Men, Death Line and The Hanging Tree), though it gradually dawned on me that I was regarded as a mid-list author and not destined for mega-stardom or mega-bucks in promotional dollars. But as it turned out, I didn’t have to worry about this, as, after they were taken over by a firm of German publishers, Macmillan dropped about a third of their list, including me, following the publication of The Hanging Tree.

It took another six years before I was published again. This is thanks to Vanessa, the lovely literary agent I approached. She placed me with Severn House and I’ve been with them ever since. They’re bringing out Deadly Reunion, my 18th published novel and the 14th in my Rafferty & Llewellyn crime series this year. And, although I’m admittedly still regarded as a mid-lister, now I’ve learned to do my own marketing. I even publish my own ebooks, too, courtesy of Kindle and the rest. Who knows what’s next? Maybe I’ll soon gain promotion and be a Queen of Crime rather than a Princess. It won’t be for want of trying.

A Rafferty & Llewellyn crime novel
by Geraldine Evans
24 February 2011 (UK)
1 June 2011 (US)

Detective Inspector Joe Rafferty is barely back from his honeymoon before he has two unpleasant surprises. Not only has he another murder investigation - a poisoning at a school reunion, he also has four new lodgers, courtesy of his Ma, Kitty Rafferty. Ma is organising her own reunion and since getting on the internet, the Rafferty and Kelly family attendees have grown, like Topsy. In his murder investigation, Rafferty has to go back in time to learn of all the likely motives of the victim's fellow reunees. But it is only when he is reconciled to his unwanted lodgers, that Rafferty finds the answers to his most important questions.

Excerpt from Chapter One:

‘Poisoned? Are you sure? Detective Inspector Joseph Rafferty regretted his rash query as soon as it left his mouth. For Dr Sam Dally let him have it with both barrels.

‘Of course I’m sure. Would I be telling you the man was poisoned if I wasn’t? I never question your professional judgement’ – which was an out and out lie – ‘so I’d thank you not to question mine. Conium Maculatum was what killed him. Or, to your uneducated ear, hemlock.’


‘That’s right. A very old-fashioned poison. Goes back to the classical Greeks, so I believe. Maybe even further back. Now, is there anything else you’d like to question while you’re at it?’

‘All right, Sam. Keep your hair on,’ said Rafferty. Which – given Sam’s rapidly balding pate - was another unfortunate slip of the tongue. But this time it brought nothing more than the testy,‘Well? Is there anything else you’d like to question my judgement about?

Rafferty felt – given his mounting foot-in-mouth episode – that a simple ‘no’ would suffice.

‘Hmph.’ Dally sounded disappointed as if he was just in the right frame of mind to have another go. ‘Ainsley had been dead between fourteen and sixteen hours before he was discovered. The first symptoms would have started after around half an hour. He’d have experienced a gradual weakening of muscles, then extreme pain and paralysis from the coniine in hemlock, the effects of which are much like curare. It’s probable he went blind, but his mind would have remained clear till the end.’

‘Christ. What a horrible way to go.’

‘Yes. Death would be several hours later from paralysis of the heart.’

‘Is the poison likely to be self-inflicted?’

‘Well, it wouldn’t be my choice.’

Nor mine, thought Rafferty. He couldn’t believe that a sportsman like Adam Ainsley would choose such a way to go.

‘But figuring that out’s your job, Rafferty. I suggest you get on with it.’

Bang went the phone. Or it would have done but for the frustrations caused by modern technology, which didn’t allow anything so satisfying.

‘Sam and Mary must have had a domestic this morning,’ Rafferty said to Sergeant Dafyd Llewellyn as he leaned back in the now shabby executive chair that Superintendent Bradley had decreed was the appropriate seating for his detectives. ‘He just bawled me out something chronic.’

Llewellyn, who had never been known to make an ill-advised remark, gave a gentle sigh. ‘Dr Dally has never appreciated having his professional conclusions questioned.’ It was a gentle reproof, but a reproof nonetheless. ‘You were talking about the body found in the woods, I presume?’

Rafferty nodded. Adam Ainsley had been found in Elmhurst’s Dedman Wood around eight in the morning two days ago by a local woman walking her dog. There had been no visible signs of injury and it had been assumed the man had had a heart attack while out for a too energetic run; the track suit and trainers had suggested the possibility. Ainsworth had been attending a reunion at Griffin School, an exclusive, fee-paying establishment for eleven to eighteen year olds situated two miles outside the Essex market town of Elmhurst, where Rafferty’s station was located.

‘Did I hear you mention Hemlock?'

Rafferty nodded. ‘I thought that would make you prick up your ears. That’s what Sam reckons killed him. Said it goes back to your pals, the ancient Greeks.’

‘Yes. According to Plato it’s what Socrates used to kill himself after he was sentenced to death. He drained the cup containing the poison and walked about until his legs felt heavy. Then he lay down and, after a while, the drug had numbed his whole body, creeping up until it had reached his heart.’

‘Yeah, Sam said it was paralysis of the heart muscle that would have killed him. Sounds like hanging would have been quicker, even without an Albert Pierrepoint to work out the drop required. Anyway, enough of this classical Greek morbidity. We’d better get over to the school,’ said Rafferty. ‘Can you get some uniforms organized, Dafyd? I’ll go and tell Long-Pockets what Sam said and meet you downstairs.’

‘Long-Pockets’, otherwise known as Superintendent Bradley, was obsessed with the budget, in Rafferty’s opinion, hence the nickname. As far as he was concerned, crimes took what they took, in time, money and manpower.

The uniforms were quickly mobilized by the simple expedient of roistering those on refreshment breaks out of the canteen. After Rafferty had gone to see Bradley, he returned to his office and rang the school to let Jeremy Paxton, the headmaster, know the results of the toxicology tests and that they were on their way; that done, he went down to reception to meet up with Llewellyn and the woodentops and headed out to the car park.

The August day was gloriously fresh and bright, just as a summer day should be, with a light breeze, to stop it getting too hot, and a deep blue sky without a cloud in sight. Rafferty, Llewellyn and two of the constables, Timothy Smales and Lizzie Green, piled reluctantly into the car, which was as hot as Lucifer’s crotch as it had been standing in the sun. Rafferty, not a lover of air-conditioning, which, anyway, would barely have started to work by the time they got to the school, wound his window right down and stuck his head out to catch the breeze.

The run out to Griffin School was a pretty one, past lush farmland, via roads overhung with trees whose leaves formed a soft green bower over the tarmac. On days like this, it felt good to be alive, though this latest suspicious death lowered his spirits a little. Winter was a more fitting season for death.

Adam Ainsworth had been staying at Griffin for a school reunion. Unusually, the reunees had opted to get back together for an entire week rather than the more usual one evening and, conveniently for Rafferty, were still put up in the school’s dormitories. He wondered if they were regretting it now. Being cooped up beyond one’s desire with old enemies, as well as old friends, was a recipe for rising antagonisms that could be helpful to their investigation. There was nothing like spite for encouraging gossipy revelations.

Buy Links for Deadly Reunion

The draw of all the comments throughout the Tour will take place at the end of the Tour (end-Feb). There will only be three winners, each of whom wins one signed copy of Deadly Reunion, my latest hardback (Rafferty & Llewellyn crime series), one copy each of two ebooks that are the first and second novels in my Rafferty & Llewellyn crime series, that is, one of Dead Before Morning and one of Down Among the Dead Men. They will also receive a subscription to my blog (which they can let lapse when it runs out).

Geraldine Evans has been writing since her twenties, though only began to get novels published halfway through her thirties. As well as her popular Rafferty & Llewellyn crime series, she has a second crime series, Casey & Catt and has also had published an historical, a romance and articles on a variety of subjects, including, Historical Biography, Writing, Astrology, Palmistry and other New Age subjects. She has also written a dramatization of Dead Before Morning, the first book in her Rafferty series. She is a Londoner, but now lives in Norfolk England where she moved, with her husband George, in 2000. Deadly Reunion is her eighteenth novel and fourteenth in the humorous Rafferty & Llewellyn crime series. She is currently working on the next in the series.

Latest hardback novel: Death Dance, A Rafferty & Llewellyn crime novel
Latest ebooks: Dead Before Morning and Down Among the Dead Men, the first and second novels in the fourteen-strong Rafferty & Llewellyn crime series, both available from kindle, iPad, iPhone, iBookstore, nook, kobo, android, etc.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Super Bowl and Me

First, let me tell you I am not a football fan, at least not professional football. I love high school football games if some kid I know is playing. We went to all of our grandson's games when he lived with us and loved cheering him and his team on.

I certainly wasn't looking forward to Sunday's Super Bowl because I'd been asked to speak to the Tulare County Historical Society after their annual meeting which began at 2 p.m. I didn't expect many would be there--and those who came I figured would bail out after the meeting part.

Well, I was wrong on both counts! The meeting room was full. Though the meeting itself was concise and over in about a half hour, no one left.

What a great audience. They all listened intently, laughed in the proper places, and asked a lot of great questions. Since it was the Tulare County Historical Society I talked about my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries since they are set in the county--though in a fictional place. In the books I use a lot of the actual history of the area, again fictionalized. I write about the Giant Sequoias, the nearby Indian Reservation and people who live around recognize what I've borrowed for my books.

And to make it even nicer, two of my biggest fans were there and raved about my books.

Afterward, many came to my table at the back of the room to ask me more questions and buy books.

On our way home we stopped at our favorite Thai restaurant. We were the only customers (though several came in for take-out) and we watched the Super Bowl while we ate. When we left it was half-time--but we didn't turn it back on when we got home.

It was a great day, far better than I expected.


Monday, February 7, 2011

The Ones Spell Check Won’t Catch

by Peg Herring

Thanks to Evelyn David for inviting me to visit your blog! Last Friday’s post, “The Dreaded Adverb” is at

The Post: The Ones Spell Check Won’t Catch

O, Moon, when I gaze on thy beautiful face,
Careening along through the boundaries of space,
The thought has often come into my mind
If I ever shall see thy glorious behind. (Anonymous poem, c. 1900)

Like the poet above, we’ve all said or written things that we would have expressed differently had we but stopped to think. As an English and speech teacher, I often found humor (which I tried to suppress for the sake of students’ dignity) in unfortunate wording and misunderstood words. For example, there was the student who did a book report on Poland by James Michener and informed the class that Poland once had a really talented piano player named CHOP-in. The girl, a talented music student, was embarrassed to learn she’d been reading about Frederick Chopin.

Lack of experience limits students as they attempt to comment on the world, but the rest of us are held responsible for what we say and write. There is no spell check for speaking, so we must think carefully before we talk. And spell check can’t help with some problems in writing, either. We all know the difference (if we’re paying attention) between the right to “bear arms” and the right to “bare arms”, but to your computer, one is just as good as the other.

Things Spell-check usually won’t catch:
1. Homonyms: Too/two/to- especially when the sentence structure allows both possibilities, e.g. “She saw two the fire.” Sales/sails-particularly bad mistake on a resume: “I increased our sails.”
2. Words easily mistyped: was/saw, form/from, friend/fiend
3. Words that are often confused: complimentary/complementary, insure/ensure, affect/effect, through/threw, then/than, further/farther
4. Pronouns and contractions: its/it’s, they’re/their/there, your/you’re (and maybe even “yore”).
5. Incorrect usage: “Would of” instead of “would have”. “I would have gone with you” is correct. “Try and…” instead of “try to…” “Try to do better next time” is correct. “Suppose to” instead of “supposed to” “We were supposed to be there by four” is correct.
6. Missing or reversed Smart Quotes. You might have half a set. You might have two facing left instead of curled around the words, or singles instead of doubles or vice versa. The computer doesn’t care.

What to do:
1. Always Use Spell- and Grammar-Check. They are not foolproof, but they make a good start, calling your attention to areas in question. If it irritates you that the program won’t let you spell “Charlie” your way (“Charley”), there’s the “Ignore all” command.
2. Use the computer’s dictionary/thesaurus to check anything you’re unsure of. It’s convenient and quick.
3. Keep a list of the mistakes you make most often. Do a word search for them when a project is finished.
4. Look up the rules/definitions/standards and make a conscious effort to learn them. Yes, it is work, but what were you doing when they taught it in high school?
5. Proofread, proofread, proofread: there is no substitute for careful proofreading, and honestly, nobody cares about your work being 100% correct more than you do—At least, that’s how it should be.

The Poser: Name three novels/series in which the protagonist works in forensics.

The Prizes-Weekly Prizes: (your choice of THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY in e- or print format) drawn from the names of those who comment on the blogs as we go. Comment once/day, but the first commenter each day gets entered twice in Saturday’s drawing!

The Pathway: The next entry, “Metaphors and Figurative Language” and the answers/comments to the Poser will be up tomorrow at

The Pitch: THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY, First in The Dead Detective Mysteries, paranormal mystery. Tori Van Camp wakes in a stateroom on a cruise ship with no memory of booking a cruise, but she does have a vivid recollection of being shot in the chest. Determined to find out what happened and why, Tori enlists the help of an odd detective named Seamus. Together they embark on an investigation like nothing she’s ever experienced. Death is all around her, and unless they act quickly, two people she cares about are prime candidates for murder. Read more about this book and the author at

The Perpetrator: Peg Herring writes historical and contemporary mysteries. She loves everything about publishing, even editing (most days). Peg’s historical series, The Simon and Elizabeth Mysteries, debuted in 2010 to great reviews. The second in the series will be available in November from Five Star.

Peg’s Blog Crawl-February, 2011

January 31-Post schedule of Blog Crawl, explain prizes, etc.
Feb. 1 Chris Verstraete-Slowing Readers—Bad Policy
Feb. 3 Melissa Bradley-He Said, She Panted
Feb. 4 Marilyn Meredith-The Dreaded Adverb
Feb. 5 Weekend-Draw for Prizes from Week 1
Feb. 6 Weekend—
Feb. 7 The Stiletto Gang-The Ones Spell Check Won’t Catch
Feb. 8 Nancy Cohen-Metaphors
Feb. 9 Kaye George-Names Into Words
Feb. 10 Lisa Haselton-Losing the Spice
Feb. 11 Chris Redding-Inventing Words
Feb 12 Weekend-Draw for Prizes from Week 2
Feb.13 Lelia Taylor Syntax and Sentence Structure
Feb. 14 Jenny Milchman-Why Do We Say That? Part II
Feb. 15 Pat Brown-Dialogue and What It Reveals
Debbi Mack-Portmanteau Words
Feb. 17 Bo Parker-Read It Aloud
Feb 19 Weekend-Draw for Prizes from Week 3
Feb. 20 Weekend
Feb. 21 Jeff Marks-And What About Contractions?
Feb. 22 Geraldine Evans-Idioms
Feb. 23 Maryann Miller-Eccentric Phrases
Feb. 24 Peg Herring Being Precise
Feb. 25 Peg Herring Open Topic
Feb. 26 Weekend-Draw for Prizes from Week 4

Feb. 27 Weekend
Feb. 29 Stacy Juba-Why Do We Say That? Part III
March 1-Final Drawing for Prizes from All Entries

Friday, February 4, 2011

Modern Romance

by Susan McBride

Ah, February, the month of love! And not only because the 14th is Valentine's Day--on which I'll be talking about romantic reads on "Great Day St. Louis"--but Ed's and my third anniversary is February 24. Seems like yesterday that we met though it was nearly six years ago. Funny how it happened, too. When I look back, I think of how many dominoes had to line up and fall before the moment we were introduced.

If I hadn't been named a 2005 St. Louis Magazine "top single"...if Ed's then co-worker, Jeremy, hadn't been selected as well...if I hadn't become friends with Jeremy at the photo shoot...if Ed hadn't decided to show up at the magazine's party at the Contemporary Art Museum...if I hadn't been talking to Jeremy when Ed appeared...if he hadn't contacted me through the magazine after I lost his card...if we hadn't enjoyed each other's company at a hockey game the next week...well, you get my drift.

I like to think that our grandmothers up in heaven plotted the whole thing. I can imagine mine saying, "For goodness' sake, she's over 40. If she doesn't find someone soon, she's going to be too danged independent to ever want to share her life with anyone but her cats." And Ed's grandma responding, "Well, he's finally got his doctorate and has a job with a start-up company, but he needs to find someone who's a bit pushy and who can convince him not to wear that dreadful Fred Flintstone T-shirt to work."

Then there was the age factor, my being nine years older. Which didn't really matter to me or to Ed (but I know it worried his mom in the beginning!). The most important concerns I had were these: could we communicate despite the fact that I'm Captain Kirk and he's Spock; and is our sense of humor on the same plane, or maybe I should make that "planet"? Luckily, the answers were "yes" and "yes."

I knew Ed was special very soon after we began dating. I'd never felt that "rightness" with anyone before. Never. I'd heard friends say, "You'll know when you find him," and I'd think, "But how?" It wasn't long before I realized they were spot on. Within three months, I was sure Ed was The One. I knew it in my heart and in my gut. Indeed, it was on Valentine's Day in 2006 that I decided I'd ask him point-blank if we were on the same page. I had to be certain we were going somewhere (and I don't mean away for the weekend). Yep, I'd become very direct in my middle-age. I just couldn't let myself go on believing "this is it," if he wasn't feeling it, too. When I told my mother what I'd done, basically giving Ed an ultimatum, she squawked, "Well, there goes that relationship! You probably just sent him running for the hills!"

But Ed showed up at my condo after work that night with a dozen red roses and said, "You are the one."

We've been through a lot since (and before) our wedding, and I can't imagine having lived even a minute of those days without Ed in my life. If anything, I love him more now than on the day we said, "I do." I feel incredibly fortunate that all those dominoes fell into place at precisely the right moment. Chalk it up to fate or the Powers that Be or even two heavenly matchmaking grandmothers. Whoever's responsible, thank you.

Anyone else want to share their tale of "How We Met?" I'd love to hear!

P.S. Welcome to Maria Geraci, the newest member of the Stiletto Gang! I recently read Maria's latest, THE BOYFRIEND OF THE MONTH CLUB, and loved it. What a perfect Valentine's Day book!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Worst Parent in the World

The Stiletto Gang is thrilled to welcome friend Joelle Charbonneau today!

Are you the perfect parent? Not me!

I am the worst parent in the world. Okay, maybe that’s overstating. I mean, I’ve only been parenting for a mere three years. There are lots of folks out there who have been doing this for a lot longer, which means they have had more opportunities to screw things up. Right?

My son is three. He’s my first and after the scares he’s given me he might be my last. Like any parent, I try to keep him safe. The thing is, my best efforts to be a responsible parent seem to end in tragedy. Kind of like the time I took him to the park and he wanted to go on the big slide. He was a large nineteen-month-old, but the really big slide looked – well, really big. It seemed irresponsible of me to let him go down alone. I mean, what parent would let their kid go down a really big slide all alone when they were only 19 months? He could fall off or worse. So, I did the only responsible, safe thing I could think of – I went down the slide with him.

And he broke his leg.

No, I didn’t fall on him, although in retrospect that would have made far more sense than what did happen. My son squealed with delight, kicked his left foot out and caught the edge of the slide for just a moment – long enough for him to twist it perfectly and cause a tiny break. All because of my desire to have perfect parenting skills.

Just yesterday when he did as I insisted and went to pick up one of his toys he tripped and fell into the corner of the coffee table. Now he looks like a boxer ready to take on the next contender. Yep, despite my best efforts I seem to be doing everything wrong.

Or am I?

I admit that I have started to look for guidance for my parenting life in my publishing journey. The first four manuscripts I wrote I did with careful consideration for the subject matter and the tone. I tried to do them perfectly. None of them sold. In fact, despite my best “parenting” of those they weren’t and still aren’t publishable. However, the fifth book I wrote I did without worrying about being perfect or even selling. I sat down at the keyboard, let my goofiest ideas take over and had a blast. I wrote for myself and forgot about the need to be perfect. That book, as wild and wacky as it was, sold.

So, I guess I’m working on learning how to stop trying to be the perfect parent, but I need help. If you have any tricks you’d like to share about how to survive the parenting experience, please do! I have a lot to learn, but the one thing I know is that like my books, the kid is going to have some rough patches and he’s going to have some fabulous moments and I hope that when I go back and look at my whole parenting story I will find that my son and I both enjoyed the ride.

Joelle Charbonneau has performed in a variety of operas, musical theatre and children's theatre productions across the Chicagoland area. While Joelle is happy to perform for an audience, she is equally delighted to teach private voice lessons and use her stage experience to create compelling characters in her mysteries. The first of the Rebecca Robbins mysteries, SKATING AROUND THE LAW (Minotaur Books) was called “Sexy and funny” by Kirkus Reviews. The second book in the series, SKATING OVER THE LINE, will hit shelves on Sept. 27th, 2011.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Our New Baby

We are proud to announce the newest member of our family: Diego.

Diego is a twenty-five pound Maine Coon cat who is six years old and needed a new home due to his former owners and their children developing serious allergies and asthma symptoms (not all related to Diego). Through the magic of Facebook, I found this adorable animal. A few weeks ago, I had put out some feelers hoping to find a Maine Coon for adoption. After having read about these wonderful animals, I realized that this large breed of cat--who is said to act more like a dog than a cat--would be perfect for us. Since we already had a dog who acted like a cat, I figured we'd break even.

All of us—child #2 in particular—have always wanted a cat but have always resisted wondering how our precious Bonnie, the neediest Westie in the world, would respond. But after seeing the beautiful Diego’s pictures on Facebook, courtesy of his former owner, we were sold. His owner described him as ‘mush,’ and we can’t agree more.

Jim and I grew up with cats and are lovers of the feline; we’re both Leos and think that might have something to do with it. I do suffer from allergies, but as I am also allergic to the beautiful Bonnie, I figure that I’ll adopt the same behavior with Diego as I do with her—we will peacefully coexist but there will be no petting from me. This has worked for the last seven years with Bonnie and hopefully it will be the same for my relationship with our new feline friend. The other members of this household are not allergic and shouldn’t have any problem showing Diego the love that he deserves and needs.

I brought him home on Monday after driving over an hour out to Long Island to pick him up from his heartbroken owner. I can only imagine how she felt as we loaded his frame into the giant pet carrier and I set off for the other side of the metropolitan NY area. I assured his owner, R., that I would give him the best home possible and drove away, my own heart breaking as I watch her wave goodbye, tears streaming down her face.

Our first night with Diego was uneventful. We went to bed with him in self-imposed exile under child #2’s bed, where I suspected he would stay for the night. Wrong. Jim was awoken at 11:30 to the feeling of a giant cat on his face and nearly had a heart attack. Seems Diego just needed some late-night loving, which Jim was more than happy to provide. After some stroking from his new owner, and to the sound of hysterical laughter, Diego plopped down on the floor and went to sleep.

Bonnie hasn’t met Diego yet, but we have high hopes for the relationship. They seem like the same animal in different bodies—kind, loving, docile, and compliant.

Photos forthcoming! Welcoming any and all advice from the Stiletto faithful on how to make Diego’s transition to his new home go as smoothly as possible.

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February Already, Goodness!

Who besides me is having trouble with how fast time flies?

Seems like it was just the beginning of January and everyone was talking about their New Year's Resolutions--now it's time to gear up for income taxes. Eeeek!

The older I get, the faster the days go by. I'm an early riser, so I do get started early. But I've found that checking my email, answering it, doing things that I have to do that comes in the email, and taking a peek at Facebook, making sure I've promoted whatever is on my own blog for the day and whatever household chores really must be taken care of, half the day is gone.

I sure don't remember the time disappearing like that back when I was raising five kids, working half day, and going to college in the evenings. Somehow I managed to grocery shop, cook, clean, do the laundry, and homework.

I'm working on a new book and though I have plenty of ideas I'm finding it difficult to find the time to actually write.

Oh, I know what you're going to say, write first, then do all the other stuff. I know that's what I should do, but what if there's something really important in my email?

This month will go by even faster because it's shorter than all the rest.