Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Open Mind

I had a friend, years ago, who hosted a lovely jazz brunch every Sunday to which she would invite her neighbors, young and old.  One Sunday, one of her elderly neighbors asked her if he could bring a friend and of course, she said yes.  She told me that she expected an elderly friend of her neighbor, someone retired and who lived in her neighborhood but who she didn’t know.  What she didn’t expect was the man who entered—young, single, Italian, gorgeous—who later on became her husband.

They have been married for almost twenty years.

I think of this story often not just because I see her pictures on Facebook and marvel at the life she is living now—sophisticated, continental, international—but because I have been known to jump to a conclusion or two myself and I respected my friend’s ability to keep an open mind, to meet new people in spite of age.  What they all had in common, this group that got together, was a love of jazz and of my friend's buffet spread. She thought she’d be setting another place for a new older friend--someone she had yet to meet--not a single Italian national only too happy to meet a nice girl.  

Like my friend, I try not to make judgments about people and/or situations before I have all the facts or before I have the tools to make my own assessment but I have failed occasionally. (Well, more than occasionally but shy of “often.”) I have met many people over the years about whom I have heard not-so-great things, things that lead me to believe that they weren’t worthy of my time or friendship only to find out that not keeping an open mind—and listening to gossip—had robbed me of the chance to make my own opinion or to forge a new friendship, devoid of others’ impressions.  Many of these people have become my friends.  (It also begs the question:  just what is being said about me?  But that’s a blog post for another time.)

It’s a hard thing to do, to be open to every person and experience, to not bring any preconceived notions to bear but I’m slowly training myself. As I told a friend once, “I can only go by my own experience in how someone treats me.  They may be the village idiot, but as long as they nice to me and my family, I will accept them.” 

I try to do the same with my writing.  Sometimes I think things are going to go one way—or that a character will act a certain way—only to find out that they (or more to the point, my mind/imagination) had other plans.  They had their own preconceived notions about how a scene was going to go, how they would react.

Who they would like.  Who they would loathe. What they would do.  Where they drew the line.

In these cases, though, I’d be foolish not to listen.  They are telling me what they want, what they like.  In the case of my work-in-progress, the second Maeve Conlon book, I’m two-thirds of the way in the manuscript and still getting to know some of my characters.  One who I thought I loved I have grown to despise.  Another who I thought I wouldn’t like has become very sympathetic.  But I’m keeping an open mind.  Because like my friend, there is a single woman in there and if the time is right, a handsome Italian may come her way.

Maggie Barbieri

Monday, July 29, 2013

Family Reunion

By Dru Ann L. Love

I recently attended my first family reunion ever. We gathered in North Carolina to meet my mother’s paternal family that still resides in the area. My mom went up north when she was 18 years old and hasn’t been to her father’s hometown ever since, until 6 years ago when by chance we met two of my cousins who live in the same town where my niece attends college.

Then last year, the cousins started prepping for a reunion on Facebook and that’s where I discovered all these lost cousins and relatives I’ve never known. I was determined that both me and my mother would be attending this reunion and what a joyous time we had.

I learned the history of my family – and saw the house where the matriarch grew up and raised her 12 kids. Eight descendants of the twelve children were there from over ten different states. The oldest person attending the reunion was 95 and the youngest was two. I learned that we have an author in the family, educators, events planner, philanthropist and entrepreneurs to name a few.

I feel truly blessed that I have found and reconnected with my family.

Have you ever attended a family reunion? What was the outcome?

Friday, July 26, 2013

When Mystery Meets Romance

I write traditional mysteries with a darker edge. I don’t write romantic suspense, much as I enjoy reading it when done well. I write mysteries with a strong female sleuth, Skeet Bannion, who has no time for men, except as colleagues, friends, and relatives, who’s protective of her freedom and doesn’t want to sort out the messy entanglements that romance and sex bring with them. Skeet prides herself on not being a cowboy cop who’s always taking stupid chances, so what’s she doing falling for a bad boy? Talk about taking stupid chances!

What is all this romantic mess that walked in and tangled up my current WIP? Skeet’s practical and sensible, and she learned a hard lesson in the failure of her marriage to a charming, flirtatious hunk. She prefers to keep her heart under lock and key. So how did this dangerous, probably criminal mercenary slip into its inner recesses?

As a reader, I prefer my mystery straight. A little sexual tension maybe, but let’s keep the focus on the important thing here, which is finding the killer. As a writer, I prefer the same. Yet, in my last Skeet Bannion book, Every Broken Trust, a minor character walked in and decided he liked Skeet and would become a major character—and to my shock, Skeet developed an attraction for him that she’s done everything but drop a nuclear bomb on to destroy, all without effect. Now, in the WIP, Every Hidden Fear, Skeet is losing ground in this battle against this new guy who’s probably going to rip her heart out. How did this happen?
Yes, there’s a murder to solve and a killer to catch. Yes, there are innocent and not-so-innocent people to save. Yes, Skeet’s as busy as ever with no time for silly attractions. Yet, there they are, staring into each other’s eyes and breathing heavy. It’s enough to make anyone sick.

Like most authors, I have to stay true to my characters and honor their choices. But honestly! Yes, he did look kind of hot when he showed up in the last book, all kitted out like an assassin, ready to rescue Skeet from danger. Of course, Skeet wasn’t having any of it, thank you very much. She’s quite capable of rescuing herself and any number of others from danger and did. So why didn’t he just go away?

Such are the dilemmas authors face.

Do you like romance mixed in with your mystery? Do you prefer to keep them separate? What do you think of characters who take over and grow beyond what they’re supposed to be? 

And would you fall for a dangerous guy with a classified background and a nice sense of humor who looks kind of like Johnny Depp?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What's in a Name?

by Bethany Maines

First off, a shameless plug. The third City of Destiny short story has been released - The Devil's Invitational!  Only a buck and my personal favorite short story to date.  And now back to our blog...

One of the best parts of being a writer is inventing characters and places. I have to admit that this is also one of the hardest.  It’s difficult to find a name for a character that sounds both authentic and memorable. The temptation is to give a character a name that is memorable simply by the power of its sheer awesomeness, like Colt Savage.  For the record, Colt is a real person. I really know him. But if I named a character Colt Savage would you believe in that character? It’s possible that I might be able to squeeze him in as a rodeo cowboy and have it feel authentic, but unless this the twenties and I’m writing Tarazan novels, I’m fairly certain that a hero named Colt Savage would make you roll your eyes. Just because a name is real doesn’t mean it sounds real (Yeah, North West, I looking at you). 

I learned this lesson the hard way. The villain in my second novel, Compact with the Devil, was named Brandt Dettling because I saw the name on a “Battle of the Bands” poster for a local pub. I had assumed that Brandt Dettling was a band name, and therefore fair game to repurposed into a character. After all, who would actually name their child that?  It just didn’t sound real. How was I supposed to know he was a real person and that my cousin actually knew him? Party awkwardness ensued, and from then on I have attempted to give my character entirely fictional, but realistic names.

In the pursuit of real sounding the names, the hardest part, for me, are last names. They are littered around us – everyone’s got one.  But when I’m sitting at a computer with a first name on the page, coming up with a last name is pure torture.  In the past I’ve used author names (text books are especially helpful for this one) and movie credits, but both of those mean I have to get up and move away from the typing place. And once I leave the typing place writer ADD sets in and I won’t get back for another hour.  These days my favorite tools are IMDB and the wonderful interactive surname map of the US at National Geographic – it shows the most common last names by geographic area. is a website that list the cast, crew, and a synopsis of virtually any movie and TV show. So now instead of picking a movie and squinting at the credits, I pick a movie and click the “full cast and crew” button.  I usually ignore the actors (too well known) and head straight for the crew.  There’s a wealth of wonderful names just waiting for my character to try on. And of course when I’m really desperate I turn to the random name generator.  I like, but there are several others. They rarely give me an entire name that I will actually use, but it will spark an idea and give me at least a starting point. No more Brandt Dettling moments for me.

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery series and Tales from the City of Destiny. You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her on Twitter.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Am I just crazy?

by: Joelle Charbonneau

So last night my mother, grandmother and I had an unexpected adventure at the ER.  Okay, my grandmother probably wouldn't refer to that particular trip in such positive terminology, but hey--I'm the one writing this so I get to label the trip to backless gowns and gurneys as I wish.  Right?  Technically, I can't blame my grandmother for her lack of enthusiasm for the journey to the hospital.  She was sick.  So far, it looks like a pesky viral infection was causing her issues.  Here's hoping that she'll be on the mend and avoid any other ambulance trips in the near future.

But while we were waiting for doctors and nurses and admitting staff, CT scans, blood work and all sorts of other tests, I found myself looking at this concerning situation with rose colored glasses.  I mean, needles and vocally unhappy patients (and there were a great number of those when we first arrived) aren't really my cup of tea but WOW was it all interesting.  I couldn't help looking at the people around me and wondering what their stories were.  I also found myself taking note of all the interesting gadgets in the place.  Heck, I've been in ERs before, but this was the first time I saw the cool flat screen monitor that listed every room number and displayed icons next to that room to show the treatment the patient was undergoing.  My personal favorite was the purple spaceship with the word ZOOM! above it.  The teddy bear was also cute, but made my heart ache a little since it was the symbol for a pediatric patient.  There were symbols for blood draws, Fall risks, various types of doctors and a whole lot of other things that made zero sense to me, but helped the staff know exactly what patient needed what when.

I was impressed and desperately wanted to ask dozens of questions.  How was the system developed?  How often is it updated?  Is that the main way the staff communicates in the ER?  How easy would it be for someone to bribe a staff member to update the board with the wrong test in order to learn something incriminating about the patient?

Oops...the writer in me is showing.

The thing is, while the ER adventure wasn't on my agenda tonight and clearly wasn't what I was interested in doing with my time, I found myself engaged by that world and the energy within it.  I couldn't help looking at it with fascination and instead of being irritated at the SLOW passage of time (and really--time does seem to pass at a turtle's pace in that place) I chose to look for the interesting things happening in those hours.

Which makes me I just nuts for thinking that way or are other people wired the way I am? When stuck in a less than desirable situation do you look for the interesting and quirky in the adventure?  Do you think about what makes the place you're in tick and wonder at the personal stories of the real life characters that surround you?  If so, what's the last place you remember doing unexpected research or finding yourself entertained when you probably should have been tearing out your hair?  And if not - feel free to tell me I'm crazy.  Trust me, I won't be offended!

Monday, July 22, 2013

What Do You Hear?

One of my favorite lines from the television series Battlestar Galactica is when Admiral Adama, wanting to know the status of the fleet, asks Starbuck, "What do you hear?" Her standard answer when conveying the message that all was well was, "Sir, nothing but the rain."

Well Stiletto Faithful, we've been hearing nothing but the rain too. All is well in Evelyn David's world. This spring and summer we've held the Cylons at bay and managed to produce two new mysteries, and just this past week, an audio book. All is going very well!

I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries, the first book in our Brianna Sullivan Mysteries series, is now available as an audio book at Amazon through and at iTunes. We were very lucky to obtain the services of a wonderful narrator, Wendy Tremont King. We're keeping our fingers crossed that Wendy will be available to be the voice of Brianna Sullivan for the entire series. We've discovered that Brianna's adventures in Lottawatah, Oklahoma, are perfect for the audio book format!

Hell on wheels or a psychic in a travel trailer? Brianna Sullivan gave up her job finding missing luggage for the airlines in order to seek the freedom of the open road. Her first stop? The small town of Lottawatah, Oklahoma. Using her psychic abilities, Brianna takes on a multitude of jobs to earn gas money, help out the local police detective, and direct some troubled souls towards the light.

The tenth book in the series has just been published in e-book and trade paperback. Lottawatah Fireworks continues the spooky, yet funny saga of reluctant psychic Brianna Sullivan as she solves mysteries, romances the local police detective, and directs ghosts towards their final destination. A little darker in theme than previous books, Lottawatah Fireworks takes Brianna on an emotional journey that stretches the bounds of friendship and love.

In Lottawatah Fireworks, Brianna's fiancé surprises her by buying a ramshackle hunting lodge, ready to call it home. The cabin comes complete with no plumbing, no electricity, and the ghost of a recent murder victim. It's up to Brianna to find the truth of who killed the man and why.

Lottawatah Fireworks (The Ghosts of Lottawatah, Volume 3) is a paperback compendium of the three most recent adventures including: Good Grief in Lottawatah, Summer Lightning in Lottawatah, and Lottawatah Fireworks.

Not to leave out the news of our other mystery series - you know the one with the "big" dog? Yes, Mac and Whiskey are back! Don't miss Murder Doubles Back! An old cold case heats up for Mac and his team as they search for a teen who has been missing more than ten 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 in Murder Doubles Back.

Admiral Adama's standard response to Starbuck's "Nothing but the rain" was, "Then grab your gun and bring in the cat." Cat and gun aside, we hope all is right in your world and that you are enjoying your summer reading! Leave a comment and tell us "what you hear."

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 - Audio Book
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
Lottawatah Fireworks - 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)
Book 3 - Lottawatah Fireworks (includes the 8th, 9th, and 10th Brianna e-books)

Zoned for Murder - stand-alone mystery
Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords