Monday, April 28, 2014

A Mix Bag of Topics

Do you have auto buys? I do. I have so many; there are not enough fingers and toes to count them all. But, there are only two long-running series (and I’m talking over 20 books) that I do not hesitate in buying when their release is imminent and they are J.D. Robb and Janet Evanovich and I buy the hardcover edition but on discount. I also get the J.D. Robb book on my kindle as well. What can I say? I’m a big fan of hers and one of the items on my bucket list is to meet the fabulous Nora Roberts.

Back in the day, before I got involved with social media, the only way an author knew if I liked their book was the fan letter I wrote them. If I received a letter from them, it told me they cared to write me back and that meant all the world to me. It could a few words or sentences and sometimes I had a question about what I read and when they answered my question, again I was in heaven. With social media, it’s more about writing reviews and posting on various sites. I’ve tried, but I can’t write one for all the books I read because it would take away my reading pleasure. However, I still write that occasional fan letter to an author and still smile when they respond. I have kept all 539 fan letter responses that I’ve received. The fan letter to the right is from September 2006.

Do you have any auto-buys?

Do you write fan letters to an author after you’ve read their book?

Follow dru’s book musing on Facebook for book giveaways, contests, posting about discounted books and some of my reading musings.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Sharing Words + Evoking Emotions = Writer's Joy

by Debra H. Goldstein

Starving artists, writers, and other creators of the arts often share the sentiment that personal satisfaction is enough.  The claim is that it doesn’t matter whether or not an audience exists for the work.  As many writers explain, “I write because I have to.”  For those of you who feel that way, I tip my hat and salute you.  I am not as noble as you are.

I want an audience!  To me, a writer’s joy comes from sharing words that evoke an emotional response. Lest you think me selfish, understand the listener can be the universe of readers, a room of people, my neighbor’s pet dog, or my almost one-year-old granddaughter.  She thinks anything I write, as long as I read it with weird voices while making funny faces, is fantastic.

My Best Audience
Not all of my writing is fantastic.  A lot of my efforts aren’t even good.  Hopefully, I am the only audience for those pieces.  But, I want reaction to the ones I believe have some merit.  I want to know if I touch someone or if something in the piece doesn’t work.  Feedback is what gives me the tools to revise, to think deeper, and to grow my ability to write.

It’s truly a joy when my work hits a homerun, but as a writer I get joy even from a critique.  Perhaps I do write because I must or perhaps it simply is the way I share my feelings in a manner that connects to those around me.  What about you?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

How Norah Jones helped to make me a better writer

by Maria Geraci

The other day I was getting my eyelashes worked on (long story for another post) and while I was blissfully laying there on the table, a Norah Jones song came on Pandora. I can't remember which one exactly, but Norah Jones has such a distinct voice that you always know it's her when she's singing. I've always been a fan of Norah's but hearing her sing brings a smile to my face. Norah, you see, helped make me a better writer.

Years ago, (about 12 to be exact) when I first began writing I belonged to a small online critique group. I was new to writing and thought that a critique group would help me hone my skills. Our process went something like this: Every week a member would upload a chapter of their work and the other members would critique it. When my first time came I was nervous, to be sure, but mostly I was excited to see what people thought of my work. Because of course, I was going to "wow" them with my genius. Right?

Um, not so much.

That first critique was brutal. In a nice way, because the members of my crit group were nice people, but brutal to my precious ego, nonetheless.

I can remember opening up the crits and seeing what I perceived as negative comments everywhere. My first chapter sucked (my words, not theirs) but essentially, I needed to start again from ground zero. I spent the day driving kids around in my minivan, waiting for evening to come when I'd have some alone time to get a good cry in (because generally it's not good form to have an emotional meltdown in front of your kids). I questioned whether or not I had the chops to start another career in what was probably the busiest time of life.

That night with the kiddos (and the hubby) all tucked in bed, I opened up a bottle of wine and put on a Norah CD and reread the crits again. And again and again. While her soft voice crooned in the background, I began to see the wisdom in my crit partner's words. I didn't "suck" but I needed to learn to write. I knew I could tell a story. Like Norah, I knew I had a unique voice (like we all do!). I just needed to zero in on my voice and learn the writing skills necessary to tell my stories the way they needed to be told.

It turned out to be the best crit of my writing life. I woke up the next day and started again from scratch, because that's what writers do. They learn from their work and rewrite until they get better. And in twelve years, that hasn't changed. Even though I'm published now, whenever I hear Norah, I think back to that day 12 years ago and am inspired all over again to never give up and keep writing better.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Readers Review!

By Bethany Maines

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Help a starving author – leave reviews for the books you read today!

There’s a lot of talk these days about shopping local with the goal of supporting actual people instead of massive corporations.  Well, you can’t get much more small, local, and actual than author.  Reviews really do help authors. It’s through reviews that their books percolate through the great Google and Amazon algorithms and get recommended to other readers.  And new readers means new buyers, which translates directly to an author’s pocket book.

That being said, I don’t often leave reviews for books. An author, I know that harsh reviews can be devastating to writers.  I also think that after working on the craft of writing for more than a few years, that I’m pickier than the average reader and that can make for some rather negative reviews.  But since I truly value an honest review I have adopted a “If I can’t say anything nice, then I don’t say anything at all” policy when it comes to reviews.  Which means that my reviews on Goodreads are further a part as my life becomes busier with less time for reading, and I find it harder to find a book that I love with the same passion I did when I was younger.  Hopefully, that means that if you see a review from me, you’ll know that I truly enjoyed the book. 

So keep on leaving reviews, try not to be too mean, and definitely, definitely keep on reading. 

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, April 21, 2014

Guidebook to Murder Releases April 17th

And I'm celebrating.

What's it like to be an author? What wild and crazy things do we do when one of our books is finally out into the world?
Wild authors at the Michael Hauge workshop-St. Louis

April 17th is a Thursday. So I'll be getting up at 5am, working out for 30 minutes, playing around on the computer for another 30 minutes, then getting ready for work.

The 30-45 minute drive is made tolerable with an audio book playing in the cd player. Probably a mystery. Or a romance. Maybe I can find a Heather Graham mix up for the week.

Then I do my thing for 8 hours at a local leasing company. And, no, I won't pick you up.

Drive home - more story. Whoever invented the audio book, I'd like to buy you a beer. Or two.

Walk the dogs, make dinner, write 1000 words on my WIP, and play on social media for a few hours, including checking out my blog tour posts.

And, since I'll still be on Lent, I'll dream of chocolate peanut butter eggs and eating bunny ears.


How do you celebrate a special day?

In the gentle coastal town of South Cove, California, all Jill Gardner wants is to keep her store--Coffee, Books, and More--open and running. So why is she caught up in the business of murder?

When Jill's elderly friend, Miss Emily, calls in a fit of pique, she already knows the city council is trying to force Emily to sell her dilapidated old house. But Emily's gumption goes for naught when she dies unexpectedly and leaves the house to Jill--along with all of her problems. . .and her enemies. Convinced her friend was murdered, Jill is finding the list of suspects longer than the list of repairs needed on the house. But Jill is determined to uncover the culprit--especially if it gets her closer to South Cove's finest, Detective Greg King. Problem is, the killer knows she's on the case--and is determined to close the book on Jill permanently. . .

Lynn Cahoon’s a multi-published author. An Idaho native, her stories focus around the depth and experience of small town life and love. Lynn’s published in Chicken Soup anthologies, explored controversial stories for the confessional magazines, short stories in Women’s World, and contemporary romantic fiction. Currently, she’s living in a small historic town on the banks of the Mississippi river where her imagination tends to wander. She lives with her husband and four fur babies.

Friday, April 18, 2014

We Have a Jewish Lawn, But Where Are the Diamonds?

by Linda Rodriguez


People who have been reading my posts on my own blog, here at Stiletto, and on my other group blog, Writers Who Kill, know that I have had to battle disapproving neighbors and the city about my front yard, which is planted in native, drought-hardy plants for the most part. The neighbors and the city both would prefer that my husband and I have only bluegrass in my yard, and they’d like to force us to do that. Fortunately, we’ve been able to fight it for the past seven or eight years.

Now, along comes Pat Robertson, that ancient, uber-wealthy televangelist, to give us just the excuse we needed to stand up to the neighbors and the city. On March 31, Robertson said on his television show on the Christian Broadcasting Network that you never saw Jews tinkering under their cars or mowing their lawns because they were too busy polishing their diamonds. 

My husband, who’s Jewish, sent me the link to the video.  

He included a subject line in his email that read, “We Have a Jewish Lawn,” referring, of course, to the problems with the city.

I watched the video with the poor confused old man and emailed my husband back. “You’re right. We do. But where are the diamonds?”

And I’m still waiting, darn it!
REPLY TO COMMENTS (because Blogger still won't let me reply :-(

Marilyn, yes, it is sad, but no more than we can expect from Robertson anymore. It's a shame that he puts himself forth as representing Christianity, which is something very different and much better than what he shows the world. I would say he's irrelevant, but he has millions of viewers. I can't understand why people and cities all over the country are so insistent on the bluegrass yards when they require so much water and chemicals to survive. Yards like yours and mine are much more sustainable and eco-sensible (I think I just made up that word, but we needed one like that, didn't we?).

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mad Men, Baby Meerkats & 1969

 by Kay Kendall

In my head these days, I’m living in 1969. I call up memories from that time period—yes, I was a sentient being back then—as I write my W.I.P. (work in progress), a historical mystery.

I call my books “historical” because, even if it’s a time period some of us can remember, that world is so long gone that it is the dead past. Sure, it has ripples into the present, but it is just plain gone.

The award-winning television series MAD MEN has helped bring this era back to fictional life. The seventh and final season of this show has begun, and the year is now 1969. The very one that I’m imagining daily in my head.

Media pundits already privileged to view the closing episodes note that 1969 brought a sour end to a decade that had begun with such bright hopes. President Kennedy’s Camelot is replaced by death at Chappaquiddick. Peace and love at Woodstock progresses to death at Altamont. Campus radicals morph into the Weather Underground . . . and even more death. The year 1969 is also when the My Lai massacre comes to light. (And Nixon becomes President. Enough said.)

Only one thing slowly gets better as the decade progresses—better opportunities for women. As luck has it, women’s liberation provides the background of my W.I.P.—murder comes to women’s lib groups in the rain-soaked cities of Vancouver and Seattle. Hence the title of my second mystery is RAINY DAY WOMEN.

Participating in the women’s movement was a salient point in my life. I remember conversations and episodes clearly from that time and can inject them into my fiction. This adds authenticity to the historical detail.

There’s just one problem. A few people don’t believe how sexist that era was. For example, one man in my writing critique group keeps protesting that males just weren’t that awful back then. He won’t believe me when I assure him that I know what I’m talking about. A twenty-something female gasped when a passage was read aloud that showed a husband ordering around his wife in a preemptory fashion. She said, “I wouldn’t have put up with s**t like that.” In that case, had she lived back then, she would have been a rare bird indeed.

Now I can give people like them—doubting Thomases and Thomasinas—an assignment. I’ll suggest they watch episodes of MAD MEN. Perhaps they will believe the television show when they don’t agree that my writing is historically accurate. (Often an outside source is handy to validate what one knows to be true. I learned that in my corporate career.)

So, where do baby meerkats enter into this—as you might wonder from the title of this post? Please bear with me as I explain. 

I’m a fairly serious person. My fiction writing and my social media posts reflect that. While I admire writers who can routinely toss off witty or humorous comments, I’m not inclined in that direction. Just look at the content of this blog!

I have noticed, however, that people who post darling photos of puppies and kittens develop a devoted following online. Therefore, lately I’ve been experimenting. I salt my Facebook pages with cute photos of baby animals, and these have garnered raves. My favorite shows a wildlife photographer who had become so much a part of some baby meerkats’ life in Botswana that they happily crawled all over him and his long telephoto lens. The money shot is of a baby meerkat standing atop the man’s head in that precious pose so beloved of all us meerkat fanciers.

My hope is that the baby animals on my Facebook pages will draw people in, and then they may stick around to read my more serious musings. That seems to be happening.

But in addition, there has been an unexpected payoff.

As I increasingly dabble in the small pleasures provided by baby meerkats, puppies, and the like, there’s been an uptick in the quality of my life. It’s great to smile more, even as I dwell mentally in that fraught year of 1969.

Here for your delight are the photos and video of baby meerkats, mentioned above. The video is especially recommended:


Kay Kendall is an international award-winning public relations executive who lives in Texas with her husband, five house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. A fan of historical mysteries, she wants to do for the 1960s what novelist Alan Furst does for Europe in the 1930s during Hitler's rise to power--write atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit of the age.

Discover more about her at

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Some Tidbits About My Ongoing Blog Tour

No one ever said doing a blog tour on your own would be easy. I've done it enough to know how much work it is.

Now that I'm in the middle of it, it should be easy, but it's not.

When I sent the requested blog posts out, I asked for a reply that they'd received the material--everyone let me know they did. But, guess what? At least three people said I never sent them anything. I quickly resent.

Even though I sent reminders out to everyone the day before the tour began, a couple have forgotten.
What I don't understand is why, when someone gets the material, they don't set everything up with the proper date and time right then? If they did, they wouldn't have to rush to do it on the day or forget about it all together.

I'm not thrilled the codes that people have to read and copy--like the ones we have on this blog--but it is a necessary evil for those who get a lot of spam. Some of them are not so bad, but when I have to write the code three times to get it right and post, I know that some people will not bother to comment when it's so difficult.

Worse are the bloggers who insist on moderating every comment before it's posted. Maybe it wouldn't be too bad if the comments were moderated often, but when you are on a tour you need to reply to questions and at least acknowledge people who leave comments which is not easy to do when the comments don't show up for hours.

I know that this discourages people from commenting. One of the moderated posts had way fewer comments that any of the rest of the blogs I've visited so far.

On the whole though, things have gone well. At this point in my tour I've had nearly 60 unique commenters. Many have commented multiple times--trying for my contest, I'm sure. (The person who comments on the most blogs has the opportunity to have a character named after him/her in my next book.)

Here are the rest of the stops on my tour for Murder in the Worst Degree:

How Rocky Bluff P.D. Became a Series

How I Get My Titles


How Romance Plays a Part in the Book


Several Romances


Social Issues

How I Do My Research
Not a Hard-Boiled Police Procedure Nor a Cozy

Ways I’ve Murdered People


Choosing Names for Characters
How My Books Have Changed

My Experience with Killers

Hoping for the remainder to go smoothly.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Monday, April 14, 2014

Murder They Wrote

By Evelyn David

A few weeks ago the Internet – and the Southern half of Evelyn David – exploded when The Good Wife killed off Will Gardner. Interviews with the producers, as well as with Josh Charles who played Will Gardner, have made it clear that the actor wanted out of the series. The departure would have inevitably met with viewer disappointment because many loved the romantic storyline of Will and Alicia. But the decision to kill off Will is what enraged – or engaged – much of the audience. The producers claim that they didn't feel like they could simply ship Will off-stage, perhaps to prison, perhaps to that island where the producers shipped ER heartthrob George Clooney when he opted out of network television. But some viewers, the Southern half among them, think that the decision to kill Will cheated the audience who had supported the show and the relationship through thick and thin.

As the Southern half explained to me in an email: I do know I felt shocked, angry, emotionally manipulated because in the last couple of episodes it seemed the romance might not be done for good. In hindsight it seems the writers did that to ratchet up the angst of his death. I guess I’m more upset that after all these years we never got the “happy at least for now” scenes for that couple. Yes, they got “together” a few times – even a make-out scene in an elevator, but they never were “happy.” That’s the payoff for me – they never reached “happy as a couple” before it fell apart.

I happen to like happy endings in books/movies. Not realistic, but I go on the assumption that I have to deal with enough problems in real life. My fantasy life should be one where the good guys win, the one true couple ends up together. As I've said before, it's why I write and read cozy mysteries. I can't control what happens in the world, but I can control what I read/watch for enjoyment.

I accept that authors can do what they want with their characters – and conversely, readers/viewers can also choose to stop reading/watching if they're unhappy with the choice. Arthur Conan Doyle despised his creation of Sherlock Holmes and summarily killed him off in "The Final Problem." Public pressure and the lack of interest in any of his other writing, had Doyle bring his hero back to life. Frustrating for the author; but delightful for his audience.

Are there books, TV shows, or movies where you believe the writers manipulated your emotions? Did it affect whether you read/watched the writers again?

Marian, the Northern half of Evelyn David

Leaving Lottawatah
Leaving Lottawatah by Evelyn David is the eleventh book in the Brianna Sullivan Mysteries series. A novella-length story, Leaving Lottawatah continues the spooky, yet funny saga of reluctant psychic Brianna Sullivan who planned to travel the country in her motor home looking for adventure, but unexpectedly ended up in a small town in Oklahoma.
Things are messy in Paradise. The happily engaged couple of Brianna Sullivan and Cooper Jackson are anything but. Angry words set Brianna and Leon, her bulldog companion, off on a road trip, but it's hard to run away from home if everyone wants to come with you. Before she can leave town, Brianna is unexpectedly joined on her travels by Sassy Jackson, her maybe ex-future mother-in-law, plus Beverly Heyman and daughter Sophia, both still grieving over a death in the family. Destination: A Psychic convention in America's most haunted hotel. But they haven't reached their destination before Brianna is confronted by two ghosts demanding help in capturing the serial killer who murdered them decades earlier. Even more worrisome, another young woman has gone missing. It's up to Brianna and her road crew to stop the serial killer from striking again. Brianna has hard questions for the spirits surrounding her, and for herself. Does she want to marry Cooper? Is it time to hit the open road again and leave Lottawatah behind? Or will the ghosts of her past continue to haunt her wherever she goes?

Trade Paperback

We're also delighted to announce that A HAUNTING IN LOTTAWATAH, the fifth book in the Brianna Sullivan series, is now available as an audiobook. Once again narrated by the fantastic Wendy Tremont King, A HAUNTING IN LOTTAWATAH proves that ghost hunting can be deadly.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Juggling by Debra H. Goldstein

I’m not a writer’s writer.  If I could claim that distinction, I would follow a schedule – perhaps coffee, exercise and writing before and after a short lunch until so many words or pages are completed.  I marvel at writers who live a pre-ordained lifestyle that produces a specified number of words or pages stopping only when "The End" is typed.  Me, I’m a juggler.

Jugglers balance balls, oranges, bowling pins, or whatever comes up in life in the air.  When we watch a juggler, we hold our breath hoping nothing breaks the cycle by falling.  Invariably, at some point, there is a miss, but the juggler grins or grimaces and tries again.

My writing is exactly like the juggler’s act.  Sometimes things go smoothly and the words flow in an easy timely manner, but more often, I add one more ball and my rhythm gets out of kilter.  This week was going to be simple:  two blogs to prepare, a rewrite of the book I am working on, a couple of contest entries if I had spare time, and the beginning of a two week online course with daily homework.  A piece of cake.  That is, until I lost a few hours to a medical appointment, an old friend called to catch up for an hour plus, my husband had the audacity to want to have dinner and conversation, all of the kids checked in, I had to spend hours on the computer and phone purchasing airline tickets for some upcoming trips and wrangling with the television, TV, and internet provider because my bill took a funny jump.  My goals for the week all came tumbling down.

Frustrated, I prioritized.  1) Get homework for class done; 2) smile…this is a guest blogger week on “It’s Not Always a Mystery” and Paula Benson sent me a great piece for Monday, April 14, explaining “What the Bar Exam Taught Me About Writing” (why didn’t I think of that?); 3) Do more class homework; 4) rewrite two pages; 5) write my Stiletto Gang blog; and take a deep breath so that easing in a few extra balls marked as the distractions of life didn’t cause me to drop anything.  Will I finish all the words and pages I hoped for this week?  No.  The contest stuff may have to wait until closer to deadline, the book rewrite may take an extra week, but I’m sure managing to successfully keep a lot of balls in the air and I’m grateful for that.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Debra H. Goldstein is the author of 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue, a mystery set on the University of Michigan's campus in the 1970's.  Her most recent short stories, "Who Dat? Dat the Indian Chief!" and "Early Frost" can be found in the anthology Mardi Gras Murder (2014) and in The Birmingham Arts Journal (April 2014).  Contact Debra through her website or through her personal blog, "It's Not Always a Mystery,"

Thursday, April 10, 2014

In the Company of other Writers

by Maria Geraci

I can think of no other solitary profession that craves company more than writers. Because writers need other writers.

Let me explain.

When a writer sits down at the keyboard, they're alone. Well, except for those crazy characters running around in their heads. My husband swears I have someone stashed away in the closet of my den because he keeps hearing "voices" coming from the room whenever I'm in there writing. The truth is, I'm one of those writers who can't write dialogue unless I hear it out loud. There's more of you out there who do that right? Right?? Please tell my husband I'm not crazy. Not sure he'd believe you, but it's worth a shot.

I will admit, however, that after hours and hours of sitting alone at the computer, a person could get a little stir crazy. You begin to question whether what you've written is as good (or maybe as bad) as you think it is. You need perspective. You need fresh air. For God's sake, you need to go to the bathroom! But most of all, you need to interact with other people. Mainly, other writers. People who get the imaginary world you live in, because, let's face it, non-writers just don't get it. Try to talk to them about your plot, or the big turning point or whose pov you should put a scene in and their eyes glaze over.

Of course, there is the Internet. That place other writers can interact with each other daily and still stay in their pjs. But while the Internet is awesome, it's still no substitute for honest-to-goodness real life interaction, face-to-face conversation, hugs, laughter and tears (the stuff life is made of!). I'm fortunate enough to have a couple of venues for this. My awesome STAR chapter (a chapter of Romance Writers of America from central Florida) that meets monthly, and my more local Red Pen Writers, who meets twice a month. Both groups fill my writer's soul. They replenish my emotional well and allow me to spend those long solitary hours at the computer talking to myself. In other words, they keep my sane.

    Tallahassee Red Pen Writers

Thank God for other writers!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How Much Research?

By Bethany Maines

So I was reading a book, which shall remain titleless to protect the guilty, and the heroine tucked her revolver into the simple elastic garter she was wearing under wedding dress, and I thought, “Well, that’s the last straw.” I didn’t finish the book because I just couldn’t handle the startling number inaccuracies that were in the first three chapters. I realize that as a karate practioner and the sister of a certified gun enthusiast that my opportunities for action scene research are rather broader than the average writers, but the fact that this writer couldn’t even be bothered to test the weight limits of an average wedding garter really bothered me.  The distance between research and creative license is always a fine one.  Researching until you can write an expert level on a subject results in Michael Crichton style tomes.  And I don’t know about you, but when I got to the “expert” section of those books, I just skipped to the end.  It’s my belief that there’s a level of detail that most readers don’t care about. Not all readers of course; I’m sure there are a great many people that really care about absolute accuracies of certain topics.  But in general, I think most readers just want a tale well told with the fewest obvious blunders.  What do you think? What level of research and accuracy is required from an author?

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.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Face it. Burying our heads won't help.

by Marjorie Brody

Every two minutes. 

That statistic boggles my mind. Every two minutes. Throw in two other statistics: 1 in 4 and 1 in 6 and I’m ready to join Mariska Hagitay, on Law and Order: SVU.

Do you recognize that data? 

Here it is: In these United States of America someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes. I know this may not be a comfortable topic to read about, but before you close this screen or move on to something less intense, let me soften your expectations. I’m not going to be melodramatic or maudlin about this topic. April just happens to be Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, and since the inciting incident in my psychological suspense involves a sexual assault—

“Whoa, just a minute, Brody.” A teenage boy from my novel throws back his shoulders and lifts his chin. As if that challenge intimidates me. “You weren’t even there. How do you know what really happened behind that gym? Don’t go putting what went on into your little statistics.”

“Little statistics?” I’m incensed. “What’s so little about the fact that at some point in their lifetime one in four females and one in six males will be the victim of rape or an attempted sexual assault?“

“Look. This wasn’t Steubenville. No one posted our actions on FaceBook, or Twittter.”

“You didn’t have the right to invade Sarah’s body without permission.”

The wily smile that purses his lips replaces my blood with ice water. “Permission is a matter of perspective," he says. "If you read the articles put out by the students at Palo Alto High School in California, you’d know that girls dress slutty and drink too much and, well, expect guys to be guys.”

“Obviously you didn’t read all the articles. The students condemned that behavior.”

“Not everyone.”

I puff up with my own indignation. Damn. I hate that his statement is true. Not all young men are being taught to respect females, to accept ‘no’ as ‘no’, to realize that a minor or an inebriated female cannot legally give consent to have sex.  

“Hey look, everyone takes advantage. Don’t watch Downton Abbey?” He crosses his arms over his chest and I want to tear that smirk from his face—and I can’t believe he’s making  me so angry. 

I struggle not to get sucked into his evil thinking. No one has the right to sexually assault another. No one! I turn my back to him, remember I just wanted to make all of you aware that this month has a special purpose. He isn’t worth getting riled up about. 

“By the way,” he says, his voice now thick with seduction, “I heard TWISTED won the Texas Association of Authors 2014 Best Young Adult Book Award. How come you didn’t celebrate with me? A little thanks would go a long way, if you know what I mean. If it wasn’t for me you wouldn’t even have a book. Think you might want to show me some appreciation. In fact, you ought to get down on your hands and knees and—" 

I utilize my power and squash what he says with one press of the delete key. 

Sarah, my protagonist pops up and says, “Remind them.”

I take a breath and refocus. April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. In his speech last year President Obama said, “. . . too many women, men, and children suffer alone or in silence, burdened by shame or unsure anyone will listen. This month, we recommit to changing that tragic reality by stopping sexual assault before it starts and ensuring victims get the support they need.”

It’s a start. 

Marjorie Brody is an award-winning author and Pushcart Prize Nominee. Her short stories appear in literary magazines and the Short Story America Anthology, Vols. I, II and III. Her debut psychological suspense novel, TWISTED, delves into the secrets that emerge following a sexual assault at a high school dance and features a remarkable teen who risks everything to expose the truth. TWISTED is available in digital and print. Marjorie invites you to visit her at 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Real world or imaginary places?

One of my author loops started talking about setting the other day. Did people use real places in their stories, or made up ones? The answered varied from one extreme to another.

Some people were like me. They used real, made up places.

Confused? Let me give you an example.

In the Bull Rider series, the first book is set in fictional Shawnee. A town with as many churches as bars. Nestled in between two mountains, the town follows the river as it meanders through town. The rodeo grounds are set outside town, next to a grassy hill where observers can bring their own picnic dinner and blankets and watch the festivities in style. The descriptions mirror a real little town known for it’s easy access to salmon fishing and a rodeo weekend, Riggins, Idaho.

So the book is set with a mix of the real and the made up.

Later books in that series are set in my old stomping grounds, the Boise, Idaho area. Real town with a little fiction magic, and a book is born.

My novella, Temporary Roommates, is based on a neighborhood in St. Louis close to Forest Park. Real place, made up apartment building.

Finally, South Cove, my setting for The Tourist Trap Mysteries, is set on the central California coast. Readers may think they can guess the town South Cove is representing, but that series was all based on one old house. 

What about you? Do you like real settings? Or are you happy with a fictional world?

Guidebook to Murder releases April 17th

In the gentle coastal town of South Cove, California, all Jill Gardner wants is to keep her store--Coffee, Books, and More--open and running. So why is she caught up in the business of murder?
When Jill's elderly friend, Miss Emily, calls in a fit of pique, she already knows the city council is trying to force Emily to sell her dilapidated old house. But Emily's gumption goes for naught when she dies unexpectedly and leaves the house to Jill--along with all of her problems. . .and her enemies. Convinced her friend was murdered, Jill is finding the list of suspects longer than the list of repairs needed on the house. But Jill is determined to uncover the culprit--especially if it gets her closer to South Cove's finest, Detective Greg King. Problem is, the killer knows she's on the case--and is determined to close the book on Jill permanently. . .

Lynn Cahoon’s a multi-published author. An Idaho native, her stories focus around the depth and experience of small town life and love. Lynn’s published in Chicken Soup anthologies, explored controversial stories for the confessional magazines, short stories in Women’s World, and contemporary romantic fiction. Currently, she’s living in a small historic town on the banks of the Mississippi river where her imagination tends to wander. She lives with her husband and four fur babies.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Importance of Saying No

by Linda Rodriguez

I have always had a hard time saying “no.” I like people, and I always want to help good causes. This has led to years of low pay in the nonprofit sector, tons of overwork, lots of volunteer hours, and on the good side, an awful lot of great friends. It also leads periodically to a terrible feeling of overload, that point I get to when I have so many urgent or overdue or essential tasks to do that I’m paralyzed. How do you prioritize when everything needs to be done RIGHT NOW?

When I get to that point, I have to move into To-Do Triage. I list everything that’s demanding my attention (and get the most depressing multi-page list). Then I move down the list, asking myself, “What will happen if I don’t do this today?” If it isn’t job loss, client loss, contract violation, child endangerment, arrest, etc., it doesn’t go on the much tinier list to be dealt with right now.

The trouble is that you can’t live your life in To-Do Triage. At least, I can’t. Not as a permanent lifestyle. Sooner or later, you have to learn to say “no.” Even when it’s difficult. Even when it’s going to hurt someone’s feelings (whether it should or not). Even when it’s something you’d like to do. At least, if you want to write, you will. Sooner or later, you have to learn to guard your time like a mother eagle with her nestlings. And sooner or later, you’ll find yourself having to relearn it all over again. At least, I do. (Maybe I’m just a slow learner, and all the rest of you can learn this lesson once and for all, but it keeps coming up in new guises in my life.)

I remember the first time I learned the lesson of no. I was a young, broke mother of two (still in diapers) who wanted to write. The advice manuals I read were aimed at men with wives and secretaries or women with no children or enough money to hire help with the house and the kids. Since there was three times as much month as there was money, hiring anyone or anything was out of the question—I was washing cloth diapers in the bathtub by hand and hanging on a clothesline to dry because we hadn’t enough disposable income for the laundromat.  Yet still I wound up the one in the neighborhood who canvassed with kids in stroller and arms for the March of Dimes and the American Cancer Society.
One day someone who knew how much I wanted to write gave me a little book called Wake Up and Live by Dorothea Brande, who also wrote the wonderful On Becoming A Writer. As I read it, one sentence leaped out at me: “As long as you cannot bear the notion that there is a creature under heaven who can regard you with an indifferent, an amused or hostile eye, you will probably see to it that you continue to fail with the utmost charm.”

I began carving out time and space for my writing, and to do it without shortchanging my babies, I cut out television and most of my community involvement. This lesson had to be relearned when those babies were high schoolers, my new youngest was a toddler, and I became a full-time student and a single working mother at the same time unexpectedly. It returned to be learned again when my oldest two were grown, my youngest in grade school, and I took on running a university women’s center that also served the community. Every time it had to be learned in a different way with different adjustments. Once I’d given up television, that option was no longer open to me. At one point, I switched my writing to poetry because what time I could create or steal was in such small fragments that it made novels impossible to write.

Now that I’m writing novels again and publishing them (as well as poetry and freelance work still), one of the time-eaters is the promotion work we authors must all do to win the readers we believe our books deserve. It’s not something that can be skimped on, and yet the creative work of designing and writing new novels must go forward, as well. For a while now, each request for my volunteer time and work has had to be carefully weighed, and most reluctantly rejected. At this time, my major volunteer commitment is our local chapter of Sisters in Crime, Border Crimes. Everything else must sadly fall by the wayside—and some people are quite unhappy about that, as if they had the right to my time and skills because I’ve given them in the past. I’ve had to learn to deal with that.

What about the time book promotion takes, however? With my first and second novels (this was never a real issue with my poetry books and cookbook), I said “yes” to every opportunity, every event, every guest blog, every interview, every podcast, everything. And I managed to write books during that time, as well—and had the worst winters, healthwise, in many years, having worn my body down. This year I’m trying to be more strategic about the promotion opportunities I accept. I’m still saying “yes” to most of them—it’s part of my job, and I know that—but I’m examining them more closely and deciding against some that I don’t feel will be as useful for me, especially with travel involved. It’s hard, but once again I’m learning that lesson, which is apparently one of my life-lessons—“no” can be the friend of my writing and is necessary at times.

Charles Dickens, who was one of the earliest and most successful self-promoting writers, put it best for writers in any age when he said:

“‘It is only half an hour’ — ‘It is only an afternoon’ — ‘It is only an evening,’ people say to me over and over again; but they don’t know that it is impossible to command one’s self sometimes to any stipulated and set disposal of five minutes — or that the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometime worry a whole day … Whoever is devoted to an art must be content to deliver himself wholly up to it, and to find his recompense in it. I am grieved if you suspect me of not wanting to see you, but I can’t help it; I must go in my way whether or no.”

Do you find it difficult to tell others “no” when they want your time? If you’re a writer, how do you create ways to balance the promotion and the writing?

COMMENTS--Blogger still won't allow me to post comments on this blog or my own. (Go figure!) So I will respond to comments by editing the blog below. (I know that makes just no sense at all, but it's the way things are.)

Marilyn, I know what you mean. I read your blogs and Facebook posts and see all the things you're still doing. I actually was forced to finally take this whole concept of "no" seriously when I developed lupus, fibromyalgia, and COPD. Suddenly, I just could no longer do the work of several people as I had been doing. And the interesting thing was the number of people who wanted me to get out of my sickbed and do things for their organizations anyway. One woman tried to guilt me by telling me about another woman who had hosted an event for them even though she had had a stroke. (Of course, that woman was extremely wealthy with live-in help even before her illness and paid people to do the work necessary.)

And the books! I do review some books professionally and I try to be generous about giving blurbs because people were kind to me when I was starting out. Plus, I have students who send me their manuscripts or want letters of recommendation for fellowships, etc. Sometimes, I just have to say no to a blurb or review because my desk is already piled high with manuscripts and letters to do. Sometimes people don't understand.

Thanks, Debra! I think that trick of balance is the hardest one to manage, and even if you do, conditions change and throw it all out of whack again.

Mary, my experience is that often people don't come forward to do those things, and programs, etc., end up falling through the cracks. I've learned not to allow that to upset me and just say, "Well, if it wasn't important enough for anyone else to help, it wasn't important enough to take my time, no matter how much it seemed to be."

Warren, I'm laughing and crying at the same time when I read your comment. That is so typical. "You're at home doing nothing but writing, which is another word for nothing, so your time is completely available to me." These are the same people who say, "I might whip out one of those mysteries on my two-week vacation while shepherding the kids through Disneyworld. I mean, how hard can it be, writing?"