Monday, April 29, 2013

Home Sweet Home

By Evelyn David

I've been humming that old Dionne Warwick song, "A House Is Not a Home."

After years of discussing it, hubby and I finally decided it was time to downsize. The house where we've lived for 24 years was perfect to raise four children. But now, it's too big and too much to maintain, and for my husband with bad knees, has way too many steps.  But of course, deciding to move from the house where you've lived longer than any other place on this earth, is so emotionally complicated that, at least for me who is the poster child for never changing anything, the decision was tough to swallow, even as I knew it was right.

Still, I put on my big girl panties, limited myself to occasional bouts of tears, and started getting the house ready for market. The marching orders from our realtor were simple. "Get rid of everything that has any relationship to you and your family." Okay, I exaggerate a little, but the principle was that we were to move our house to Neutral Zone, USA. No bold colors on the wall; no clever cartoons on the refrigerator door; and for heaven's sake, no photographs of the family anywhere. Take out most of the coats and clothes from the closets so that now each appears large enough to rent as efficiency apartments. Dishes, pot, pans, flatwear were to be reduced to the bare minimum, but that's okay because as long as the house was on the market, I wasn't cooking anyway.

What broke my heart? When the paint crew transformed the sponge-painted yellow bedroom of my daughter, with her initial that had been carefully painted over the bed, and the door of stickers and signs that said "Keep Out," into what essentially looked like a beige motel room. Sigh.

We gave away or stored multiple pieces of furniture and decorative accessories. Despite being a sentimental wuss, I became ruthless, constantly keeping the goal in mind that we wanted buyers to see the beautiful bones of this old house. With everything cleared out, the house painted from top to bottom in Navajo White, the closets, drawers, and basement a testament to my husband's organizing ability, and after countless trips to thrift stores to donate and landfills to dump – the house was ready to sell.

And it did. It opened on a Friday morning and by Monday night we had an accepted offer. Nice couple who are going to raise their lovely family in this house that has been our home, our embracing shelter.

And this past week, we started a new chapter. Our bid for a new, smaller home, a mile from our current location, was accepted. Doesn't have the sprawling comfort of our old house. But also doesn't have three full flights of stairs! And I am reminded that while our old house is architecturally just what I like, it is the people I love who have made it a home. And Thank God, that hasn't changed. Family and friends can still gather around for important and not-so-important occasions – and in the end, that's what makes a collection of bricks a home.

Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David
Sullivan Investigations Mystery
Murder Off the Books Kindle - Nook - Smashwords - Trade Paperback
Murder Takes the Cake Kindle - Nook - Smashwords - Trade Paperback 
Murder Doubles Back Kindle - Nook - Smashwords - Trade Paperback
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Moonlighting at the Mall (short story) - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

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
A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Lottawatah Twister - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Missing in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Good Grief in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Summer Lightning in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Ghosts of Lottawatah - trade paperback collection of the Brianna e-books
Book 1 - I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries (includes the first four Brianna e-books)
Book 2 - A Haunting in Lottawatah (includes the 5th, 6th, and 7th Brianna e-books)

Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, April 26, 2013

Things I’ve Learned Along the Way

I’ve been around for a lot more than a few years. And, stubborn as I can be, I’ve learned some things along the way. Oddly enough, it’s not the big lessons that have made a difference in my life, but a series of small rules for happy living that I’ve learned to make a part of my daily life.

1 Do at least one thing a day that gives you pleasure.

2 Live your life in chapters. Focus on the chapter you’re in now. You don’t have to do/have/be it all now!

3 Don’t get overwhelmed. Break everything into baby steps. One page a day is a book in a year. Fifteen minutes a day on any overwhelming or distasteful task adds up and eventually will lengthen on its own. The ordinary kitchen timer is your friend.

4. Always clean up your messes.

5 Be kind to yourself and others.

6 Give something back.

7 Use it, appreciate it, or lose it. Your body, mind, belongings. Remember, unapplied knowledge is wasteful (f not tragic).

8 Make time to do often what you do well and enjoy. Spend time with people who think you’re great. When the world isn’t noticing you, notice and reward yourself. Give others recognition, in turn.

9 Make quiet time for yourself alone every day. And a corollary is have a place, even merely a spot, that’s just for you. Use it for devotions, meditation, journaling, or just reading. Give yourself 10 minutes of silence every day.

10. Pay attention to your breath. Conscious breath control can help you control stress, worry, and fear and replace them with calm and peace.

11. You create the path you’ll walk on in life with your words. Think before you speak. Remind yourself that, to a great extent, you are creating your reality when you speak.

12 Pay attention to your own emotional needs and desires.

13 Decide what you want your life to look like. Write it down. In detail.

14. Act “as if.” Imagine if your desired life were here now, if you could not fail. What would you do? Do it.

15 Conserve your energy. Rid your life of energy thieves—negative people and habits.

What about you? What rules would you add to my list?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Writing from my Happy Place

by Maria Geraci

Before you begin to snicker, I'm not talking about that happy place (mind out of the gutter, please!), I'm talking about writing from a place of internal happiness.

Happiness is something I've thought about a lot lately. We all strive to be happy. But how many of us can define what it is that makes us happy? Sure, we all want good health, a healthy family, financial security, success. These are the things we've programmed to think we need to make us whole. But those vague definitions aren't enough to show us the way to happiness. How well do you need to feel to be healthy? Is the absence of disease enough? Or is it losing those last elusive twenty pounds? How much money do you need in the bank? How many possessions?

Once upon a time (eleven years ago, to be exact) I began writing on a lark. More an epiphany, to tell the truth. I never really expected to be a multi-published author. I dreamed about it, of course. But it seemed like a fairy tale. Something out of my reach. I was happy writing (as bad as those early stories were), and learning, and going to conferences. And yes, even rejection could make me happy. Because after a while, the rejections became better. And then some of those rejections became requests, and then finally offers, and I thought I had made it. I reached the pinnacle of writing happiness.

Are you shaking your head at my foolishness, yet?

By the time my first book came out I was a hot mess. Happy and hopeful one day. Shattered and depressed the next. I spoke in a language that was almost as foreign to me now as it was back then-- Print runs, sales, reviews. I thought being a published author would make me happy. But it didn't. Not really. Writing my stories is what made me happy. But everything else? It stressed me to the point that I hardly knew myself. And then came another book. And even though my sales were hardly impressive, I was fortunate enough to land a third book deal. The pressure was on me to produce. So I did the best I could and hoped beyond hope that this third book would be my break out novel. I wrote, but I wasn't happy.

And then I waited. No more contracts until my numbers came in. Which probably meant no more contracts from my publisher (since I'd seen my previous sales numbers and they were dismal). My agent and I met and I told her I wanted to write a story in first person. And this time I wasn't going to hide what it was. I didn't care that chick lit was "dead". I had a story I wanted to write and I was determined to write it my way. She told me to go for it. To write the kind of story I wanted to read with no expectation of ever getting it published.

So I did.

I went back to my early writing roots and wrote for the shear joy of writing. I poured my heart and soul in the story and half-way through the writing, my agent called. My publisher wanted to see what I was working on, so I reluctantly sent in the first 60 pages. Reluctantly, because those pages were rough, but I already loved them. I didn't want anyone raining on my parade or discouraging me from finishing that novel. Miraculously, my editor loved it too and offered me a contract. And now that novel A GIRL LIKE YOU is nominated for a RITA, one of romance fiction's highest awards. 

This is what I have written on the bulletin board above my writing desk:

If you don't love what you write, then neither will anyone else.

Have I achieved a grand success in my writing? Certainly not from a business stand point. But I now know that I have achieved something more important to me, and that is personal success. I may not be a New York Times best selling author and I may never be. I might never receive six figure contracts or be even be able to live off my writing alone. But it doesn't matter. Because writing makes me happy again.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Just Keep Running

by Bethany Maines

I was going to use this blog to announce the publication of my short story.  Two weeks ago readers voted on the name - Spells of Murder, Murder & Magic, or The Law of Magic and selected Spells of Murder as the winner.  And in the interest of self here is the announcement: Spells of Murder on sale now!  It’s only a buck and I sincerely hope you enjoy it. 

But here’s what I really want to say.

I run.  I’m not a very fast runner.  I will never win races, but that’s not really the point. The point is that I run.  But last week in Boston, someone tried to stop runners, and people who support runners, from running. I know in the coming weeks the motives and every move of the Tsarnaev brothers will be examined and discussed, but to me the details don’t really matter. The bottom line is that someone was filled with enough hate to try and kill lots of people. And I think anyone who has ever done race understands that the injured in Boston could have been me, could have been my family.  Race days are chaotic, crowd filled, and stoked by the little dramas of each, individual runner who battles the clock and the road, striving to find out if they put in the miles. Every race day big or small has that same feeling. Every race day is The Boston to someone. Even though each runner is alone, or perhaps because we’re alone, runners love the communal spirit of race day. And to have someone attack that… it stabs at the heart. I wish I had some sort of words of wisdom that would bring healing and help to the people that were injured.  I don’t.  All I can say is that I run.  And I won’t be stopping. 

Bethany Maines is the author of Bulletproof Mascara, Compact With the Devil and Supporting the Girls, as well as a new series of paranormal short stories: Tales from the City of Destiny. You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her at  

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Birth Announcement

By Evelyn David

This has got to be the longest pregnancy on record.

But finally the collective Evelyn David is proud to announce the arrival of the newest member of the family: MURDER DOUBLES BACK. The third book in the Sullivan Investigation Series.

And we're just like many new parents who have very carefully picked out a name for their little one and once he or she arrives, realize that the name doesn't fit. So too we had been talking about this mystery for years, had a title that seemed perfect – but when we finally got into writing and editing the book, just knew that the title had to change.

So for those of you who have so kindly encouraged us, supported us, gently harangued us to finish a new Mac and Whiskey book (and we really appreciate the small kick in the butt you administered, we needed it!) – please enjoy MURDER DOUBLES BACK.


For 10 years private detective Mac Sullivan has been haunted by the case of Amanda Norman, a teenage girl who disappeared into thin air during a class trip. But someone is determined to stir the embers of that cold case. Each year Mac receives a postcard that asks a simple question: Where is Amanda Norman? 

This year, Mac decides he will answer the question once and for all.

Join Mac Sullivan, Rachel Brenner, JJ, Edgar, and of course, Whiskey, the adorable and adored Irish wolfhound, as they try to uncover the mystery of a long missing girl. As Mac and his team investigate, a dark trail of murder and deception follows. If Amanda Norman is still alive, will Mac's efforts inadvertently lead to her death? If Amanda Norman is dead, who keeps sending the postcards and why?

Murder Doubles Back is the exciting third book in the Sullivan Investigations Series.


Chapter 1
He'd never forgotten his failure, even without the annual postcard reminder.

Mac Sullivan turned the card over and scanned the message. He recognized the scratchy handwriting. Over the past 10 years he'd received a similar card every December. They had arrived along with the holiday cards at the police station. But this year was different; the postcard was addressed care of Sullivan Investigations. Someone's address book had been updated.

The picture on the front of the card varied, seemingly random tourist locations – around the DC and Virginia area. No pattern other than all depicting famous visitor or vacation spots. The postmarks changed each year but all came from Virginia. This year's card featured the Smithsonian.

The mystery had come full circle–back to where it had all begun.

The message on the postcard this year was the same as it always was. Block printing. A simple question. "Where's Amanda Norman?"

Mac's first thought; his mental response to the sender was always, "Dead." The second was a warning to himself not to ever say that word aloud. Technically Amanda was only missing. The fourteen-year-old went on a class trip to the Smithsonian and didn't come home again. The foster family didn't believe the teen was a runaway. There was no ransom demand. No reports of sightings. No actual body was ever found. He was the first and, as far as he knew the last detective on the case. He hadn't solved it.

A decade later, the Amanda Norman disappearance was a cold case, but not a closed one. The United States Post Office and a very persistent pen pal saw to that. It was only two months after Amanda went missing that the postcards had started arriving.

Now that he was retired from the police force and had his own detective agency, he was thinking that maybe it was time to warm up the Norman case. His holiday plans had included some quality time with his…He wasn't sure what to call Rachel Brenner. His girlfriend? Significant other? Rachel worked for his best friend Jeff O'Herlihy. At Thanksgiving the O'Herlihy Funeral Home had burned to the ground. Jeff had kept Rachel busy the last month helping him set up shop in a leased building and file mountains of insurance claims, but even workaholic Jeff had arranged for his staff to have a couple of weeks off from the middle of December until after the New Year. Jeff had kept a skeleton staff to handle any funerals, but Rachel was for all intents and purposes, on paid vacation.

Mac had already canceled two dates with Rachel during her down time. He had a feeling that last-minute trip to visit a distant cousin was actually her raising the dating white flag in surrender. She was a little vague on the telephone about when she was returning.

Determined to make a real effort, Mac stepped up his game. He made dinner reservations for New Year's at what Jeff had assured him was the trendiest spot in DC. Meanwhile there were several cases he needed to wrap up and a security job at a government contractor's office that started in a week. His calendar was full.

The timing of the arrival of this latest postcard couldn't have been worse. His staff of two was on vacation. He had a payroll to meet and bills to pay. His concentration was needed on the work in front of him and not the mistakes of the past.

Still...he hesitated to bury the postcard in the file with the rest. After all these years, why was this one of the Smithsonian? Was there a special significance that this year's card depicted the place where Amanda had disappeared? Had something changed for the sender?

He must have asked that question aloud, since Whiskey, his Irish wolfhound sidekick, felt free to vocalize her opinion.

Mac glanced at the dog, who'd taken over the dark green futon in his office, then back to the postcard in his hand. "Yeah, this time is different. It's not just about keeping Amanda's case active. Someone wants to tell me something."

Murder Doubles Back
Trade Paperback

Sullivan Investigations Mystery
Murder Off the Books Kindle - Nook - Smashwords - Trade Paperback
Murder Takes the Cake Kindle - Nook - Smashwords - Trade Paperback 
Murder Doubles Back Kindle - Nook - Smashwords - Trade Paperback
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Moonlighting at the Mall (short story) - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords


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
A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Lottawatah Twister - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Missing in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Good Grief in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Summer Lightning in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

The Ghosts of Lottawatah - trade paperback collection of the Brianna e-books
Book 1 - I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries (includes the first four Brianna e-books)
Book 2 - A Haunting in Lottawatah (includes the 5th, 6th, and 7th Brianna e-books)

Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, April 19, 2013

Getting the Hang of Me-Time...Slowly

By Laura Bradford

A few months ago, my husband purchased one of those Amazon specials that forced me to take the yoga class I've been contemplating for well over a year.

So, finally, I went, despite having no idea what Yoga was really like (I'd simply heard it was good for balance and balance--thanks to my MS--isn't one of my strong suits these days).

It didn't take long to realize it's also about quieting your mind, which, if you know me, is almost comical. I'm always thinking.

Week one, it was more about looking around, trying to figure out what the heck I was doing. During the quiet time at the end (can't remember the actual Yoga term for that part of the class), instead of clearing my head, I was thinking about the manuscript I'd turned in before I left the house and the fact I needed to tie up one little part.

Week two, I was a wee bit late thanks to what was supposed to be a routine mammo (but wasn't). I don't think I got the full effect of that class, either.

Week three, I did a little better. Almost fell asleep during the quiet time at the end (progress, I think).

Week four, I missed on account of a biopsy related to week two (all came back fine--yay!).

Weeks five-ten, I began to get the hang of the mind-clearing thing and shed any and all guilt I was feeling over taking an hour away from my writing. And, believe it or not, I found myself looking forward to 12:30 on Friday afternoon for the peace and calm that hour-long class brought me. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I bought a 10-week class pass when my special deal ran out.

Of course, silly me, added a Pilates class to it last week that kicked my backside! I didn't think it did anything for me on account of the fact I couldn't do half the exercises, but my abs hurt for six days afterward so it must have done something.

And today? I'm going back. For the Pilates and the Yoga.

Crazy? Maybe. But I'm realizing I need this time for me. Time to work out and time to quiet my thoughts.

How about you? What's something you do for yourself?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Two Days Later

I had just finished work on Monday when I turned on the television, hoping to catch a few minutes of “Ellen” before starting dinner, walking the dog, putting on a load of laundry, picking the car up from the gas station.  (New tires in anticipation of a trip to Malice were in order.)  I saw the news.  I got that feeling in the pit of my stomach again, the one that told me “my family lives in the Boston area…my aunt and uncle took the kids into the city today…I wonder where they are now?...god, I hope they are safe.”  A few texts to my cousin assured me that while they did go into the city, they were at the ball game and on a train on the way home.  Yes, they had been asked to exit the train and were stranded somewhere but a family member was on the way to get them.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

But as the evening wore on, the news got worse and worse and the dread returned.  I focused instead on the people who went into harm’s way to help the fallen, those who gave rides to grievously injured victims, those who had run the marathon themselves but who then turned into first responders when they saw people on the route who needed help.

Mr. Rogers said that in times like these, when trying to explain to children why evil people do horrible things to innocents, we should “look for the helpers.” I grew up with a “helper,” a father who was a police officer and most likely saw terrible things happen to innocent people, and I have always found comfort in that, the idea that my father traveled along side someone in their darkest moment, helping them come out on the other side, wherever that might have been.  When I scanned the news footage and saw all the people helping one another—the cops who looked like younger versions of my dad, the onlookers who looked like my family who lives in the area, the kids who reminded me of my own—I just kept reciting “look for the helpers” and that made the images a little easier to watch.  Not much, but a little bit.

New York was never the same after 9/11 and I had hoped that that feeling of camaraderie and togetherness would live on forever.  Maybe it has in some small way but after time passes, life returns to “normal”—whatever that is after something like this happens—and people forget that we’re all in this together, that we are all each other’s “helpers,” letting someone merge in on the road when you’re in a rush, holding open the subway doors for a mom pushing a stroller, holding someone’s hand after something catastrophic has brought you both together.  I don’t think we can stop this insanity—it will always be an undercurrent in our society—but we can try to hold onto the feeling of what it was like to see the helpers on those Boston streets and know that that is what triumphs over evil every time:  helping.

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

More About Titles

Bethany's post about title made me think about my own titles.

For my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries, I've used a lot of quotations from Native Americans and plucked a couple of words out of them for titles such as Invisible Path, Wing Beat and Dispel the Mist. The one that I'm working on now has a title from an Indian quotation, Spirit Shapes. However, I don't always do that, last year's was Raging Water which came from the fact that most of the troubles going on in the little town of Bear Creek were because the river had swollen to flood conditions.

This series I write as Marilyn Meredith.

F.M. Meredith is the name I use for my Rocky Bluff P.D. series.

I never seemed to have any problem coming up with title for my Rocky Bluff P.D. series because the story itself seemed to create it.

Final Respects The story of the death of a popular police officer, a mortician and a mortuary, and a funeral.

The many bad tidings that police officers must deliver was easily named Bad Tidings.

A bad cop uses his job for nefarious means in Fringe Benefits.

Smell of Death has three gruesome murders and is the beginning of the romance between Officer Stacey Wilbur and Detective Doug Milligan.

Two churches, two ministers and two wives and murder made No Sancturary  a logical title.

An Axe to Grind besides being a play on words also refers to the murder weapon.

And Angel Lost is also a play on words and refers to two plot threads.

The reason for the title No Bells isn't revealed until the end.

The latest book in the series was harder for me to name--in fact, one of the members of my critique group came up with the title Dangerous Impulses.

I am working on the latest and I had the title before I really had an idea for the plot. One of my fans suggested it, and it's a great title and immediately let me know what my Rocky Bluff P.D. detectives would be faced with. No, I'm not going to tell you what it is just yet.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Monday, April 15, 2013

Oh, My Word!

The Stiletto Gang wecomes guest Gretchen Archer!

By: Gretchen Archer 

Words play a huge role in my life. Word count. Word documents. Eating my words. So, as I gratefully thank my first blog hostesses, the fabulous Stiletto Gang, for having me, I’d like to share a few words I’ve learned as I’ve traveled the exhausting road from first words I typed that would become a full-length manuscript till today, anticipating the release of my first mystery, DOUBLE WHAMMY, by Henery Press, on May 14, 2013. 

Here are a few words I’ve learned along the way. 

Query. I’d never heard the old clunky word used in conversation. Ever. I learned it by practical application. I blanketed NYC, NY, 10001, with queries, and learned a new meaning for query’s best-friend word—rejection. Happily, I dropped both words from my vocab when I finally jumped over them. I have one souvenir query left, the one I wrote to Stephany Evans at FinePrint Literary Management. (Dear Ms. Evans…) 

Blurb. (What?) Here’s one I’d at least heard, not that I’d used it in any way, shape, or form. I soon found out it had two meanings, and I was totally responsible for both. “Gretchen, we need blurbs,” meant go out and get successful, accomplished writers to gush all over my book, but the next day, it meant compress my 80,000-word story into two sentences. Wouldn’t there be someone more qualified for this blurb business than me? Both were gargantuan scary assignments, responsibilities I didn’t have the social circle, résumé, or skill set for. I learned. I blurbed. I got blurbed. I wrote blurbs. One day maybe, I’ll get to blurb the next guy. 

Blog. Who’s responsible for this one? Wouldn’t Digital Diary be better? Before Henery Press picked up DOUBLE WHAMMY, I confess to having never entered a blog site on purpose. Ever. After learning the power of blogs, I went the other way, reading and following—writer blogs, publishing blogs, fan blogs, blogs focused on the craft of writing—as if it were my job. For months, I bloggeled around, lapping up everything everyone had to say about all things pub, and now look at me! I’ve come full circle. I’m blogging! 

Social Media. Good grief and good luck. I knew these words separately, but the explosive combination of the two, so necessary in today’s market (3,000 other books have the same birthday, hopes, and dreams as DOUBLE WHAMMY), with proper Social Media being one of the strongest weapons in today’s book-selling arsenal. I used to lead a very private life. Very private. (Don’t most writers?) (As it turns out, no.) I thought Facebook was for chatting with my cousins and posting cute baby pig pictures. Twitter made me a nervous wreck, because it felt like a room full of people screaming at the same time. Goodreads. Really? A site devoted to millions of readers, with writers elbowing each other for front of the line? Pinterest. Pinning images into a collection. (To what end?) LinkedIn. (Why?) Yet, I’ve learned all these words. Yep. I’m all over them, pasting my fabulous cover, pointing people to my other social media sites, annoying my friends and family night and day, day and night, and I learned, by crisscrossing all these social media lines, that everyone likes pictures of cute baby pigs. 

I have more new words. Beta readers are people you hope will tell you you’ve written something with no plot before you hear it from your editor. Moderating a forum is something I’ll be doing at the Romance Writers of America Convention in July. Tospy is the fastest way to obsessively watch your Social Media (see above) impact, gauge how your book is being received at any given moment, but do it again in an hour, at red lights, and between salad and entrée, because the tables turn quickly. Rank is a word that pops into a writer’s brain before their feet hit the floor, isn’t the least bit quantifiable, and is oh, so protean. (Look it up.) 

So, in other words, happy writing and happy reading.


Gretchen Archer is a Tennessee housewife who began writing when her daughters, seeking higher educations, left her. She lives on Lookout Mountain with her husband, son, and a Yorkie named Bently. Double Whammy is her first Davis Way mystery. Stay tuned for Davis’ next crime caper, Double Dip. (Henery Press, November, 2013) Double Whammy (9781938383366): Gretchen Archer: Books


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Fun & Name-Games

By Laura Spinella

Imagine if Dickens had penned Otto instead of Oliver, or Jane Austen found herself smitten with Doolittle before Darcy ever crossed her mind.  Would these grand works of literature have been influenced by something as basic as a name? Fast forward to modern times and it’s clear that name choice is no less critical. Had Margaret Mitchell been in more of a Susan mood, Scarlett might not have resonated in quite the same manner. And what about Scout? Her name feels like a fingerprint on Harper Lee’s character, a curious tomboy through whom the reader views the world. While all the parts have to come together, nothing cues the music or gets us on board like a character’s name.  It’s one of my favorite parts of the writing process, and something I stumbled on by accident… or error.
Years ago, my staple income was writing for a regional magazine in Salisbury, Maryland. After yet another yawning interview with hospital’s latest CEO, or maybe it was the manager of a restaurant in town, I did what I always did. On the drive back to my desk, I recast the subjects. Along with savvier bios and backgrounds, I gave them far more illustrious names. They weren’t necessarily exotic or catchy, just a better fit for the personal history I’d embellished. This was all fun and games until an intriguing alias ended up in the piece I’d been assigned. I told the proper story about the new director of parks and recreation, but I'd accidentally given him the name I conjured up. Yeah, it wasn’t good. You can misspell someone’s name, an unprofessional but forgivable faux pas. But dish up a Sunday spread, photos included, and call him something other than the name his mama gave him and, well, it’s an embarrassing clue that maybe you’re not cut out for real news
      It’s all good now as I’ve traded those tarnished credentials for the kind of writing that embraces a bad habit. Deciding a character’s name is one of the perks of the job and, I think, one of the most critical elements.  I don’t revisit a character’s name once I’ve handed a story over to my editor or filed a wannabe book in a drawer, but in the moment nothing seems quite as important.
 In BEAUTIFUL DISASTERwas fortunate to have a Madonna moment—no, not an epiphany, just a character strong enough to stand on one name: Flynn. He actually has a first, middle and last name, but Flynn’s single call sign ended up being as integral to his character as his dark past and questionable psyche. There’s an interesting footnote here and why I mention it, perhaps highlighting how deep the name process goes. Flynn’s name was fashioned after a professional baseball player I admired as a teenager. The book’s protagonist and real-life Flynn have about as much in common as a Kardashian and Supreme Court Justice, but that just demonstrates how something so small can trickle down to the heart of a novel.  
With my current WIP, the name hunt is no less intense, as if I might have to swear to it on a bible. Some of those names—Levi St John, a surname my husband suggested over burgers at the British Beer Company, Aubrey Ellis, swiped from an author I admire, and Frank Delacort,  guttural and obstinate—floated in on a breeze. Others, like Dustin Byrd, had to be coerced and cajoled. It was an effort to capture the right combination of syllables and sounds to attach to his quirky character. Curiously, Violet Byrd, Dustin’s mother, also plays a part in this book. As I wrestled with this task, casting and deleting a dozen possible choices, it occurred to me how much easier the name-game would be if I could have just asked her.  

Laura Spinella is the author of the award-winning novel, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER and upcoming novel, PERFECT TIMING. Visit her at       

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Your Vote Matters!

By Bethany Maines

The good news: I have a new short story coming out on Tax Day!  Yes, that is an infamously black day, but I thought I’d give people something to look forward to.

The bad news:  I’m having serious second thoughts about the story title.

Up until now it’s been known rather blandly as Cops & Robbers.  The story – part of my Tales From the City of Destiny series – features Sam Roseberry, a Tacoma Detective and Native American shaman in training, as he hunts down a killer who’s been murdering people for their magical powers. Not only does Cops & Robbers sound like the wrong genre, it sounds about as boring as butterless popcorn. The truth is that when I’m writing, the name of the story is the farthest thing from my mind. When I call a story something initially, it’s usually something like, “The One With Sam.”  Which is an even less sellable name than “Cops & Robbers.”  Once my writing group insists on a name (apparently, “The One With Sam” doesn’t clarify things for them), I slap a working title on the thing and move forward. Sadly, my working titles are frequently extremely literal with a dash of cliché for easy memorization. Sam is a Cop and people are Robbing magical powers.  One title – check. 

My first novel was called something hideous like “Espionage Purple” and my agent delicately suggested that perhaps that maybe… er… that wasn’t the best title for the book and maybe… er… it could be changed. To which I said, “Oh, yes.  That’s a terrible name.  I’d love to change it.”  And she said, “Great, so you should come up with some alternate titles!”  I was so crestfallen. I was really hoping she would tell me what to call it. What do you mean I have to name my own book?!! The horror! The suffering! I ended up mass emailing my friends and listing out words that connected to the themes of my book. Then we all played MadLibs until we’d arrived at the far more appropriate and fun Bulletproof Mascara.

But I have to admit that the horror of naming my own stories remains. Toward that end I have narrowed down the field of names to a top three and I’m hoping that you – my internet friends – will help me pick.  What’s your vote?  Which one would you want to read?

Bethany Maines is the author of The Carrie Mae Mysteries, as well as Tales from the City of Destiny. You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her at  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Confessions of a sort of ill, but totally in denial writer

By:  Joelle Charbonneau

I’m sick.  For those that follow my twitter feed or are Facebook friends for me, I doubt this comes as a newsflash.  In the last three months, I have managed to come down with a sinus infection, bronchitis, pneumonia and pleurisy.  (Who gets pleurisy???)   I’m now on my third course of antibiotics (this one is also used for anthrax) and my third inhaler. (Go steroids.)

Yep.  I’m sick.

The one thing I’ve learned over the course of this three-month odyssey is that I suck at being sick.   Not because I whine or cry or pout.  (Well, okay, the pouting thing might have happened when the steroids wore off this last time and my breathing stopped working so well.  Sue me!)  My problem is that I’m stubborn.  I don’t want to be sick so I try to pretend that I’m not.  I mean, there are still pages to be written, pages to be edited, books to be promoted, dinners to cook, an entire house to be moved, a five-year-old to run after and…

You get the point.

Perhaps my real problem is that I like work.  (Yes, I’m deranged.) And really, when you think about it, writing a book involves a lot of sitting.  That’s rest—right?  I mean, how much better would it be if I were to just sit in a chair and do nothing as opposed to typing away on my keyboard?

Okay, I know I have a problem.  But I can’t help it.   So many people that I know hate their jobs. 
When they’re home sick, they love the excuse to get away from their typical daily grind.  I LOVE my job.  Never in my wildest imaginations did I think that someone would ever pay me to make up stuff or that readers would want to spend time with the characters I’ve created.  So when someone suggest that I stop writing in order to rest….I can’t!  I just can’t. 

But I’m trying.  And if you have any suggestions as to how to best do that (without giving up the fun stuff like writing), I’m listening.  And I’m pretty sure my mother is, too!

Oh – and in case you missed it – END ME A TENOR came out last week!  Hurray.  Also, the trailer for my first young adult novel- THE TESTING – debuted on in case you want to check it out.  See…who has time to be sick when such fun stuff is happening?  (Sigh…back to resting….)