Monday, October 28, 2013


By Dru Ann Love

One of the things I love about living on the East Coast is we get to celebrate all four seasons. My favorite are Spring and Fall. It’s not too hot like Summer and it’s not too cold like Winter. Spring and Fall seasons give you the nice in between.

What I like most about Fall is the changing of the leaves. A walk in the part will have you staring at the lovely colorful leaves as they fall to the ground. When I was younger, I loved when they were all gathered in a pile and we got to jump smack dab in the middle of it. Did you do that as a youngster? Could I do that now, no way, first I couldn’t jump in in and second I would not be able to get up. But I do remember the freedom it gave me.

Fall is also good weather to sit in a chair, wrapped in a blanket and read the next scintillating mystery that have you in goose bumps, especially if it’s the latest thriller set at Halloween.

Speaking of Fall, there’s the two holidays: Halloween where there is no excuse for eating that Snicker bar, that Hershey kiss, that Dove bar, that jawbreaker (yeah, like that’s going to happen), that tootsie roll pop and especially Brach’s candy corn (accept no substitution, because Brach’s is the best). Best of all, you can also dress anyway you want and not be criticize…a mummy, sure; a superhero, sure; a Agatha Christie, solve that puzzle; a zombie, go for it; you can be anybody and have you fill of it.

Then there is Thanksgiving where you are given permission to eat all the food that the dieticians and/or nutritionist say you shouldn’t eat during the rest of the year. Want that turkey leg? Have at it. Want a thick slab of baked ham? Go for it. Want some dressing with gravy? Pour it over your food. Some macaroni salad? Put that scoop on your plate. Rice? Yep. Collard Greens? Put it right next to the white rice. Cranberry Sauce? Put it in that spot, right there. Candied Yams? Make sure to give me a slice of that pineapple. Baked macaroni and cheese? You betcha.

Then there’s dessert. Apple pie? Slice it up, please. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting? A thin slice, please. I don’t know where I have the room to eat it. Ice Cream? Right between my pie and cake. And don't forget the pumpkin pie to go with my cup of hot beverage. And then Thanksgiving is over and now I can sleep for a week.

What’s your favorite thing about Fall?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Another Year Older and Counting Blessings

Yesterday was my birthday. The week leading up to it was full of chaos and turmoil caused by one of those people who have no empathy or conscience and walk around making life difficult for everyone. In the past, I would have tried to convince this person how wrong it was to do the things she was doing to others. I’m older and wiser now. These folks just don’t care, and they will bend the very shape of reality to avoid admitting they were wrong or made a mistake. Now, I pick my battles and try to keep all that toxicity away from myself. I did everything I could to help the victims and then moved on.

In this past year, I have noticed a growing sense of hostility and aggression out in the world around us—in politics, in traffic, in most places I look. The only way I know to truly combat it is to try to counter it with loving, peaceful acts and thoughts. But when so many around us are acting out, it’s hard to keep thinking and acting in a positive manner.

One technique that helps me is to focus on gratitude and the many blessings I’ve received. The angry people I know have received multitudes of blessings, but somehow they remain oblivious to them and filled with resentment and rage. Every day, I make a conscious choice not to be like them. Sometimes all I can do to follow through on that choice is to avoid taking out my irritation on everyone around me. Other days, I can contribute some peace and joy to the atmosphere around me.

This year, all of my three children are living in their hometown with me for the first time in fifteen years. That’s a huge blessing. I have well-received novels that are selling well. This is a dream come true. I am making a living (of sorts) by making up stories and writing them down. That’s another great blessing.  The year began with health scares for me and included more for two of my children, all of which came to nothing—another blessing of major magnitude. And the list goes on and on.

I believe that, if those cutting off people in traffic or committing hostile or underhanded acts against others in the workplace or attacking others viciously on the internet would take a moment to look at their lives, they, too, would find reasons for gratitude. As my grandmother used to say, “Any day I can suck in breath and stand up on my own feet gives me reason right there to be thankful.” It’s when we live blind to the miracles of our daily lives that we turn sour and mean.

So I’m beginning this new personal year with gratitude and recognition of the blessings that surround me, and I hope to continue in that vein for the entire year. One thing I truly appreciate is this blog—the wonderful women who are part of it with me and the great people who visit it and connect with us.

What about you? Have you noticed the rise in uncivil behavior lately? How do you deal with it? What are the things you’re grateful for? What are your blessings and little and big miracles?

NOTE: Something I’m not happy about is my inability to comment on this blog or reply to others’ comments right now. I’m trying to get answers to this problem from Blogger, but until then, please note that, if you leave a comment, I will respond to it on The Stiletto Gang Facebook page, which does recognize my existence—at least at this moment.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Finding your story

by Maria Geraci

People (as in readers and fellow authors) always ask me how I find my stories. If you're a writer, then I'm sure you get asked this question a lot as well.

My answer is always the same. I don't find my stories. They find me.  Now, lest you think this is some kind of woo-woo post, let me assure you. It most certainly is :)

By woo-woo, I mean something that I can't readily explain. As in mystical. Or magical, for want of a better word. Stories come from deep within us. They're extensions of how we think and how we experience life. Kind of like dreams. Only dreams that manifest themselves during our waking periods in such vivid detail that we're able to write them down in 300 or so pages.

That's also the way theme works. Theme evolves from story. Not the other way around. So when someone asks me what the theme of my current wip is, I can honestly answer I don't know. Not until I finish writing my story, that is. Maybe not even until I finish a second or maybe even third round of revisions. But I digress...

When I begin a new story, I open up my word doc to a blank screen and one tiny idea. Usually, it's  a character in some sort of situation. And that's it. No outline. No character sketches. Nada. It's me, my laptop, and that one idea for the next 90,000 or so words. Kind of scary. But also kind of exhilarating. I write hard and fast and yes, I have to revise. Sometimes a little, but more than sometimes, a lot.

I love how characters I thought to only give a couple of lines to, become major secondary characters, sometimes taking over an entire scene. I love how I think my character will react in a certain situation, only to write the scene to discover something entirely different. I love how I think I know how my story will end, only to discover that's not the way it will end up at all. And how that ending was the way it was supposed to be from the very beginning, because all the time I was writing, my subconscious knew what my story was.

I know. I said this was going to be woo-woo. I hope I didn't disappoint.

How do you write your stories?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


by Bethany Maines

It seems like I’ve been thinking more about structure and organization lately.  From trying to tame my husbands hoarder tendencies, to how to enhance the drama in a novel, everywhere I look it feels like everything needs more structure. 

To solve my husband’s “issue” I’ve decided that some of his things need to go live out in the carport.  Which is a bit like telling a writer that some of their favorite parts need to get axed from a manuscript.  First, you lead them along the path of logic and hope that they decide for themselves that something has to go, and then eventually you just blurt it out – “That doesn’t fit.”  In my husband’s case, I mean, quite literally, we cannot fit anymore in the spare bedroom.  In the case of a manuscript it’s more like, “This doesn’t sound anything like the rest of your book and it’s a bit of a tangent from the plot.  Do you really need it?” 

But some things do belong in the house.  It’s just that being buried in the closet doesn’t exactly display them to their best advantage.  I’ve got this pretty well figured out in my house.  I know what I like and I have a pretty good idea of what would be useful to us.  (Hint: it’s bookcases, MORE bookcases.) But in a book, it’s a little more difficult. Do I need this part about the narwhal?  (Hint: Yes, when it comes to narwahl’s the answer is always yes.)  Ok, so I need the narwhal, but would it look better over here?  Or maybe it would look better if I removed this part about the teakettle that’s sitting next to it?  What makes for the biggest dramatic reveal of a narwhal?  This is where editors, beta readers, and interior decorators come in extremely handy.  With an educated eye they can tell you what will create a focal point and what you should blur over.

But I suppose an “educated eye” is the key phrase there.  Five years ago, I couldn’t tell you with any certainty, what belonged in a book and what was something I just happened to like.  The more I read, the more clarity I get on what creates dramatic continuity and what pieces, while possibly beautiful, funny, or perfect in their own right, don’t belong in the manuscript.  Each book is it’s own learning process, but each book does teach me something.  Hopefully, by the time I’m oh… say 95, I’ll have this whole writing thing figured out.

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 and Facebook.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Taking Chances

By Evelyn David

I'm not much of a risk taker. I like sure things. I tend to err on the side of caution. I hope I'm not a fuddy-duddy, but I tend to stick to the familiar. That extends to my reading habits.

As you might imagine, I like mysteries. I tend to prefer traditional mysteries or cozies because as legendary writer Carolyn Hart once said, in the worlds she create, "the good guys always win."

But I just finished a three-book historical romance series that I adored. The only mystery was whether the couple I was rooting for would be together at the end – and the answer was a resounding yes. Hardships and complications were rampant, but believable, but the good guys and gals did win.

Maybe it is the difficult times we are currently in, but it was heartening to read about joint efforts, compromise, and a fundamental belief that love can triumph. Maybe I just needed some "happily ever after."

Thanks to Serena B. Miller, the author of the trilogy I just finished: The Measure of Katie Calloway; Under a Blackberry Moon ; and A Promise to Love. (Read them in that order, even though book 3 was published before book 2.) Besides the lovely romances, I learned a little history about life in Michigan in the post-Civil War years.

But besides delighting in these stories, I also found myself tempted to try a new genre in my own writing. We've always included a bit of romance in the Mac Sullivan and Brianna books. But as I finished Ms. Miller's tomes, I wondered if we might shift the emphasis in a new Evelyn David book, with more romance and less mystery.

We've got a lot on our plates right now. We're finishing a new Brianna mystery (that definitely has some romance). But maybe it's time to take a chance on something new. Kind of exciting – which is what I often forget about risks. Sometimes they're just fun.

Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David (off to find a roller coaster?)
Evelyn David's Mysteries 

Audible    iTunes

Audible    iTunes

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
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)

Sullivan Investigations Mystery series
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

Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, October 18, 2013

Actually, You Can Go Back

By Laura Bradford

"You can't go back."

That's an expression I bet we've all heard at one point or another. But, honestly, other than the obvious time travel back into the past (where I'd revisit every moment of my daughters' lives all over again if I could), I don't think that statement is entirely true.

Four years ago, I moved to New York from my beloved St. Louis. I've been back to visit several times since and I pick back up with my friends as if no time has passed.

Eight years ago, I released my very first mystery in my very first series. Two years later, I released what I thought was the final tale for those original characters.

I was wrong.

After hearing from fans of that first series (which got a second lease on life last year when I got back the rights and re-released them with new covers/titles/prices on E-book), I finally decided to sit down with Elise Jenkins and Mitch Burns and see if they had more story potential.

They did.

And so, I went back.

Today's official release of DEADLY AMBITION (book # 4 in the Jenkins & Burns Mysteries) givesnow, five years after we left them.
those fans a chance to see what Elise and Mitch are up to

They're still living in Ocean Point, New Jersey (my fictional beachside town). Elise is still a reporter for the local paper, and Mitch is still a police detective. Oh, and they're married now.

When it came time to consider a plot for the novella, I found the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy (Hurricane Geraldine in the book) a believable place to begin.

And the rest? Well, it all just fell into place like it does when I get together with old friends.

So if you're looking for something quick to read this weekend, you might enjoy visiting with my old friends. They're easy to get to know.

But in case you need a little more information, here's a closer look:

In the aftermath of the most destructive hurricane to hit the Jersey Shore in a century, Elise Burns and the other residents of Ocean Point are doing their best to recover and rebuild, which is why the recent string of robberies hits everyone especially hard. Fuming to catch the thief preying on those who have already suffered so much, Detective Mitch Burns will stop at nothing to solve the crimes.

When another robbery turns to murder and a college student who’s interning at Elise’s newspaper is caught with the murder weapon in his hand, Mitch is convinced it’s an open-and-shut case. Elise knows the brash and ambitious aspiring reporter would go to any lengths to get a story, but was he a killer? Following clues from the intern’s notebooks and her own reporter’s gut sense, she sets out to track down a thief and a killer and exonerate a suspect she doesn't even like—even if she has to put herself in harm’s way to do it.

DEADLY AMBITION is available for 99 cents wherever E-books are sold.

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Better Late Than Not Getting Here at All

Yes, I did forget this was my day to post--but I had a sort of good reason.

I've been on a blog tour--one I planned myself--and things have been a bit chaotic.

Though I asked each blog host to email me when they received my post to email me back--and they did--when the time came for me to be on their blog--several had forgotten. One host couldn't figure out how to post everything.

Right when the tour started, I traveled to Woodstock with my publisher. It was a road trip, from Central California to Portland OR. Beautiful scenery but not an easy drive. We arrived on the second day in time to set up our booth--not easy and probably more than I should have been doing. The next day we manned the booth, talked to a lot of people and sold a few books. That evening I had a big problem with my heart. It finally settled down and I was able to sleep.

The next day, more manning the booth, then at 4 we broke it down and hauled everything back to the car. We had a nice dinner, spent the night and got up early and headed back down through Oregon and he long, long state of CA, finally stopping for the night. We finally arrived home in mid-afternoon.

All during that time, I promoted my book tour as best I could on my iPad when I was able to get a wifi connection.

The following Friday I spoke to a book club and on Saturday hubby and I drove to Fresno (about an hour and 45 minutes way) for a book event in a really nice bookstore. That was fun. Sold some books. Had a great dinner and came home.

Last night I had some heart issues again. Went to the doc's this a.m. Had an EKG and some blood tests, waiting on the results and have another doc apt. on Thursday.

Was supposed to do a big event on Saturday, but I've decided this old gal needs to slow down. I've always been used to going like a house afire--but it's time to recognize that I can't do that anymore.

I'll have to think of some tamer things to do to promote the latest in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series: Spirit Shapes.

If you like tales about haunted houses, ghosts and evil spirits--and even angels and demons, you'll enjoy Spirit Shapes.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Change Ain't Easy

by Evelyn David
For the past six months I've kvetched, whined, worried, and conversely delighted in and even laughed at all the changes in my life. All were for the good in the long run, but that's not to say, that most didn't involve serious hard work.

To recap the last six months:

We prepped, put on the market, and sold our home of 24 years

We bought another home, after a ragged month of haggling over minor details (them, not us)

We moved on a day that topped 95 degrees

We had the house painted and a few minor repairs completed while we lived in this new house

Son number two announced that he'd gotten a fantastic job opportunity. Only downside, at least for this devoted grandma, is that no longer will adorable grandkids be 45 minutes away. Instead they were moving to…wait for it…Paris. Yes, I know, I shouldn't whine about Paris, but do you know how far away Paris is and how much I loathe flying? They move after the first of the year.

Son number three also announced that he had gotten a fantastic job opportunity, only downside is that instead of living 25 minutes away, he would now be living in Seattle. See objections above.

Then there were the glorious moments:

In May, adorable grandson was born. He is the child of son number one and his wonderful wife.

In September, son number three announced his engagement to a wonderful woman.

And ten days later, adorable granddaughter #2 was born (to son number 2 and his wonderful wife who are moving to Paris).

Seriously, can you keep up? I can't.

So, with all this change in my real life, I am now faced with another move, this time a virtual one, in my mystery writing life. The Stiletto Gang, of which we are proud founders, is moving to Facebook. It's an easier way to connect to readers.

Writing this blog has been a lovely way to memorialize some special moments in our personal and professional lives, as well as to get off our chests some issues we feel need addressing. And you know what? We still plan to do that – just on Facebook. If you haven't already, please "like" our new page, The Stiletto Gang. Stop by, chat, and catch up on all that's happening with our gang.

All best wishes,

Marian, the Northern, frazzled half of Evelyn David

Evelyn David's Mysteries 
Audible    iTunes

Audible    iTunes

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
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)

Sullivan Investigations Mystery series
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

Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Thursday, October 10, 2013

An Exception to the Rules of Perfect Timing

By Laura Spinella

Amazing how the second Friday of the month (my high-heel post day) sneaks up on me! A quick blog, as
Clarabel and Robert, September 24, 1949
Mother is visiting this weekend. If you know Mother, you also know that my hands are filled with dust mops and disinfectant, and that I have no time to devote to cleverness or chatty banter.

So I will keep this blog simple and relevant, noting first and foremost that the Stiletto Gang has expanded their social media horizons by creating a Facebook page!  I’m excited about this new venture, and hope it will offer greater opportunities for us to interact with Stiletto Gang followers, as well as with each other.  Please come by and “like” us!

If you haven’t heard, I have a new book out in a few weeks, PERFECT TIMING! As excited as I am about the Stiletto Gang’s new digs, I’m maybe a hair more stoked about this. Honestly?  I believe the book's existence can be traced to blood being drawn directly from a vein—one in my neck. This is my second published novel, and I am excited to share it with readers. One-thousand-and-one iterations later, the back cover blurb goes like this:

There’s rock, there’s a hard place, then there’s Aidan & Isabel

What’s a Jersey Girl to do when she moves to Catswallow, Alabama? Isabel Lang finds the answer in friendship, an unlikely bond with the musically gifted Aidan Roycroft. The two share everything from a first kiss to startling family secrets. But when Aidan is accused of a violent crime these inseparable friends flee to Las Vegas. The move seems like a jackpot win as a long-awaited romance ignites and a major recording label offers Aidan a deal. But Vegas luck doesn’t last when circumstance interferes and Isabel’s future comes tumbling down.

Seven years later the past is history. That includes any yesteryear bond with Aidan Roycroft—an entity better known as Aidan Royce, Alabama’s own Springsteen. Isabel is busy running a radio station and closing in on a commitment with Nate Potter, a guy who defines ideal. Life seems cozy until new station management demands a sudden-death ratings grabber, putting everyone’s future on the line. What should be a simple solution leads to a stunning revelation as Isabel is forced to call on the past and the only rock star she knows.        
If that tickled your reading fancy, you can pop over to Goodreads where there’s a giveaway going on, courtesy of those nice folks at Penguin.  If you’d like to read a little more now, you can find the first chapter on my website 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Perfect Timing by Laura Spinella

Perfect Timing

by Laura Spinella

Giveaway ends November 09, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win
Wishing you all a wonderful fall weekend! Many thanks for visiting with us at the Stiletto Gang while I visit with Mother!

Laura Spinella, a RITA finalist, is the author of the award-winning novel, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER. PERFECT TIMING is available November 5th!  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Literary Genome Project?

by Bethany Maines         

As I was furiously hitting the “thumbs down” on Pandora this morning, I wondered just how their stupid blankity, blank, blank, algorithms could get my musical tastes so wrong. Pandora, for those unaware, is a free music service that plays “stations” based on songs you select or “like.” I doubt that I have ever “liked” an Audio Slave song, and even if I have, at no point in my entire life, will I ever feel like Audio Slave at eight in the morning.

An internet search reveals that Pandora algorithms ignore such things as genre, artist, or what other members also like those songs. Instead, they run of Music Genome technology that analyzes each song and suggests songs that have similar characteristics. Which, in theory, is awesome.  At eight in the morning, it sucks major hind tit.

But isn’t that the problem with algorithms? There is always one more factor you wish the algorithm had been programmed to consider.

I used to read the newspaper movie reviews and I became attuned to interpreting the reviewers taste to mine. A one star comedy was really a two star comedy. A two star action movie was really four star awesomeness. And a three star drama was a three star drama. The man really did not fully embrace the action movie ethos. 

Finding a book to read is another exercise in mental jujitsu. We all do it - weighing what we know about the author, the person recommending the book, the book blurb, and any reviews, all before buying or borrowing. All I really want is a book with minimal plot holes that makes me laugh, fall in love, and thrill to moments of action. We need a Literature Genome project! Something who can tell us all about the tone, the writing quality and the basic je ne sais quoi of a book. Although, now that I think about it – that may just be currently known as “a Librarian.”

The Stiletto Gang is now on Facebook!  Please come join us!

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, October 8, 2013

A brave new world - FACEBOOK!

by: Joelle Charbonneau

Okay, Facebook has been around for a while, so it isn't exactly brand new. Each of us have our own social media pages for us to socialize, post cat photos and talk about what we had for dinner, but as of this week we now have combined forces and have a page dedicated to all things STILETTO GANG!

Hurray! Throw confetti!  Dance!  Eat cake!  Take a nap!

Hmmm...well, the last suggestion might not sound all that exciting to some, but the idea of a nap sounds like a wonderful way to celebrate to me.  I guess that's the late night writing sessions and the hectic conference and travel schedule talking.  But hey - we all have different things that make us happy, right?

Which is why a group Facebook page is such a fun concept to me.  Instead of one person blogging every day - which is we can all chat and yammer and give stuff away all on the same days. It's an every day party hosted by a bunch of ladies in high-heeled footwear.  (Or wedges and flats....I can't help it.  High heels and I don't always get along!)  We are still working out all the details on how the Facebook page will evolve and much of that depends on you and what kinds of parties you like best....cake eating?  Confetti throwing, dancing or napping?  However it grows and changes, I can promise you one thing - it's going to a fun adventure.   But of course, for the adventure to really begin, we need you!  

Here's the link:

Like the page.

And let the fun begin!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Through the Evil Days - Julia Spencer-Fleming

The Stiletto Gang is delighted to welcome Julia Spencer-Fleming!  We are huge fans so this guest appearance has us all a-twitter...if you haven't checked out Julia's books featuring minister Clare Fergusson and police chief Russ Van Alstyne, now's the time. Through the Evil Days, the seventh in this fantastic series, is on sale this November.

Dos and Don'ts of blending Mystery and Romance

I clearly remember the moment when I realized that the romance subplot/second story of my mysteries had become the plot/primary story: I had just given a talk to an enthusiastic group at a bookstore,  detailing how I work out the twists and turns of the murder, how I use the harsh weather and rural landscape to echo conflicts within the book, how the crimes highlights social issues I feel strongly about. The it was time for questions. A well-dressed woman's hand shot up. “What I want to know is,” she stood up for emphasis, “when are they going to Do It?”

Well, then.

The tradition of including a romance within a mystery goes way back – who among us hasn't swooned when Peter Whimsey finally got his proposal to Harriet Vane right: “Placetne, magistra?” “Placet.” Or when Deborah Knott finally realizes Dwight Bryant has been waiting for her for years. Or when art thief John Smythe, battered and bruised, admits his love for art historian Vicky Bliss? Can you recall the crimes in Gaudy Night, Rituals of the Season and Trojan Gold? I can't. But, boy, I remember those scenes.

So what have I learned in seven – soon to be eight – books about the tortured, tempestuous relationship between Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson and chief of police Russ Van Alstyne? Glad you asked. Let me share with you my dos and don'ts of blending the genres:

DO take advantage of the long story arc. In a straight-up romance, the hero and heroine need to find their “Happy Ever After” by the end of the book (in the same way that the mystery has to be solved at the end in crime fiction.) But in a series, readers get to follow the couple, sometimes for years, as they get to know and love each other. When Russ and Clare meet in In the Bleak Midwinter, he's contentedly married and she's a brand-new cleric in a brand-new parish. How they struggle and resist and succumb to their feelings becomes a story that spreads out over seven books (and counting!)

DON'T play it safe. There's a lot of crime fiction where the amateur sleuth meets the detective in book one, dates him in books two through four, is engaged in book five and married by book six. Their big conflict is usually that she's nosy and he's overprotective. Nice enough, but it doesn't tend to make the heart race. A good romance has complications and obstacles and hurdles galore for the lovers. In Hank Phillippi Ryan's Jane Ryland books, her eponymous heroine and Detective Jake Brogan are passionately in love right from the start. But if he's dating a reporter, he'll be suspected by the department anytime anyone leaks a story to the press. And if she's dating a cop, her hard-won career as a crime reporter becomes tainted be perceptions of favoritism. They literally can't be seen together. But they yearn to be together! What to do? Obviously, you have to keep reading to find out.

DO use danger as an aphrodisiac. In Out of the Deep I Cry, Russ and Clare are locked in the pitch-black  cellar of a derelict building. They have no weapons, no phone and the place is flooding with freezing cold water. (It sounds a little bit like the Perils of Pauline as I describe the scene, but trust me, it works.) Isolation and the fear of imminent death break down their barriers and they kiss. Who wouldn't? If the hero and heroine are going to be rubbing shoulders with bad guys and putting themselves in harm's way, take advantage of it!

DON'T mess with reader expectations. When someone picks up a mystery, she has a reasonable expectation that there's going to be a crime (usually a murder) a series of clues, and a solution. When someone reads a romance, she has a reasonable expectation that there will be a couple, they will change and be changed by each other, and they will reach a Happily Ever After (or at least a Happy-For-Now, with an option to upgrade.) There's not much more disappointing than getting to the end of a mystery and not learning Whodunnit. Or how. It's equally infuriating to root and cheer for a couple only to have one of them die or leave town at the end. Elizabeth George, I'm looking at you, here.

DO It. When readers have anguished and yearned and hoped along with a couple for two, four, six books, they want to experience the payoff. You don't have to have a play-by-play book with diagrams, but let's see a few fireworks! Readers want to experience the big emotions in the other parts of the characters' lives – anger, frustration, triumph – so it's natural to want to be there for one of the biggest emotional events of all. And, after all, unlike killing someone, it's something most of us have actual experience with...

Julia Spencer-Fleming's New York Times bestselling books have won multiple awards, including the Anthony and Agatha, and have been Edgar and RT Reader's Choice nominees.  The next Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne novel, Through the Evil Days, comes out on November 5th. You can find Julia at her website, her readerSpace, on Facebook and on Twitter as @jspencerfleming. She also blogs with the Jungle Red Writers.