Monday, July 28, 2014

To sign or not to sign

I was talking with a friend about how when I first started on the reader/fan convention circuit, I created my own little black book filled with pages of authors and images of their books. I stood on line with all the other fans and gathered my autographs. I was in heaven.

The following year, again I had my black book and stood online, but this time, not as many as the authors that I was standing in
line for had become my friends and you really don’t ask your friends for their autograph. However, I wasn’t done because I got one autograph that I had to be gently coaxed into getting and that one made my day. My friend can tell this story better than I at my reaction.

The third year, I left my black book home because, once again, more and more authors have become my friends. The only time I stood in line for an autograph was when I had a book to be signed or it was an author that I longed to meet.

Now in my fifth year of attending this conference, I did stand on the line to say “hi” and get a picture with my friends. However, the coolest part was that someone came up to me and asked me to sign a page in their copy of the Malice Domestic's First 25 Years book. How cool was that?

So as I attend my next reader/fan convention, will I or will I not stand online for an autograph.

When was the last time you stood on a line for an autograph?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Twenty-One Days Does a Habit Make by Debra H. Goldstein

Twenty-one Days Does a Habit MakeExercise has always been an anathema to me. I hate the idea of glistening, smelling, or messing up my hair. My idea of joy tends to be sedentary: reading, writing, talking or watching a show. Unfortunately, recently I was forced to embrace the concept of exercise. I shuddered at the thought and then wondered if I should buy some cute clothing to make it palatable.I rejected the idea of spending a penny on something I knew would be a temporary activity. Instead, I went to a shoe sale at my favorite store that carries a wide selection of 6.5 Ns and spent my clothing budget on something I would enjoy. You may recall, in my earlier blogs, I have admitted my “I’m not going to buy anything” resolve slips for two things: shoes and books. Nothing I purchased resembled a sneaker. My logic was simple – why waste money on something that would soon be relegated to a back shelf. For twenty-one gym sessions, I groaned, made jokes, and thought about ways to avoid the treadmill, free weights, and recumbent bicycle, but on the twenty-second day something funny happened. I woke up looking forward to wasting my time at the gym. By the thirtieth day, a Sunday, I felt something was lacking when rain forced me to cancel my plans to take a long walk. Who would have thought I would be the poster child for “do something twenty-one times and you’ll develop a habit?” Not me. The reality is that I think exercise has become a habit. The problem is that it is encroaching on other elements in my life.Exercising and allowing for recovery from it cuts into my “hit and miss when the mood moves me” writing style. This type of writing style requires waiting for the muse to strike. There is no predictability of what project will be undertaken or when. Excuses and other activities leave few hours for writing, but there are even fewer available because of the amount of time taken up by exercising.What to do? The answer seems simple enough. If twenty-one days produced a desire to exercise consistently then, perhaps, the same method can be used to make my writing efforts more balanced.  I’m three days into the experiment and so far, I’ve finished a novel (keep your fingers crossed), wrote and submitted a short story, and tackled this blog. I don’t expect years of work habits to be discarded overnight, but I have a funny feeling that eighteen days from now I will be boasting two new habits. If so, expect me to report that I’ve bought a pair of real exercise pants (and maybe a new pair of sneakers) plus written something I’m pleased with. In the meantime, I’m curious. What have you done for twenty-one days that has resulted in a sustained new behavior? Do you think I’ll make it? 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Case for It's

By Bethany Maines

Recently, I was ranting on Facebook about my hatred for the periods in a.m. and p.m as well as the comma between city and state in addresses (see what you miss by not being my Facebook friend?) and one of my friends posted a link to Weird Al Yankovic’s new song "Word Crimes.”  As a long time Weird Al enthusiast and a Facebook friend to several editors and writers I had already seen the video (click here if you haven’t).  The video parodies “Blurred Lines,” Robin Thicke’s insanely catchy hit from 2013.  If you haven’t heard that one, then you probably weren’t living in America all of last year, but here you go – Blurred Lines.  (Warning: may not be suitable for work and my cause you to get in arguments with your feminist friends over whether or not the song is “rape-y”.  Double Warning: If you use the word rape-y at me, I will smite you.)  But back to the story, as I watched the Weird Al version again (because why wouldn’t you?) I was caught by the line “You do not use “it’s” in this case!”

But why don’t we?  Yes, yes, the current rules state that “it’s” is a contraction.  “It” is not possessive; “it” cannot own anything.  But I say, “Listen up English – if you’re not going to provide me with a gender neutral pronoun, why can’t I use the defacto pronoun already in use in conversation – it?”  Clearly, the language is lacking such a word. English should stop being stuffy and allow this clearly needed possessive to enter the dictionary.  I’d willingly delete "tweep” from the Oxford-English Dictionary if I could have “it’s.”  Who’s with 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 video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, July 21, 2014

San Antonio Bound....

Each summer, 2000 romance writers invade a different city, a different hotel chain.  This year, our annual get together is on the River Walk in San Antonio.

I've been to 2 Nat'ls. The last one being held in NYC. I loved the energy of being in the city. Since my friend and I stayed off site, we road the subway. Once I navigated it on my own and felt like Mary Tyler Moore in the opening credits when I emerged in the middle of Times Square, totally lost, but loving it.

This year, I've been invited to a dinner, two parties, and a lunch for one of my on line groups. And I'm having breakfast with my editor. The last time I went to a conference, I snuck into my one and only party as a plus one.
Stiletto Gang at NYC - me and Laura Bradford

But it's not all party time. I'll be signing at the Literary Signing and signing MISSION TO MURDER at the Kensington signing. Must order signed by author stickers.

And there's the workshops. And I'll have to hit a few of the signings and drag a new bunch of books home to share with my MIL. And see a few local sites, like the Alamo.
The Dakota

I'll be home soon, tired and back at the day job. But the memories from Nat'ls will bode me over until my next conference in October.


11 days away from release date for the digital version of MISSION TO MURDER! Can't wait? Buy your paper copy here.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Out of Character

by Linda Rodriguez
My husband and I have been binge-watching Prime Suspect on Netflix lately. Helen Mirren is awesome, as always, but the ensemble cast is of extremely high quality, also, and the writing is superb. Until. (You knew there had to be an “until” hanging around there somewhere, didn’t you?)

Suddenly, one episode begins with Mirren’s character DCI Jane Tennison doing something so out of character and just plain stupid (for a very smart, savvy character) that both husband and I are screaming, “What? Jane would never do that!” This out-of-character action she has taken is an obvious set-up to provide lots of conflict later for Jane, but between us, we came up with four different ways the author could have set up the exact same conflict without having Jane commit an action totally wrong for her character.

Normally, I don’t even worry about this in movies or TV shows because I usually simply can’t hold them to as high a standard as I do books, but this series is so well-written that I do expect that kind of intelligent writing. It’s happened before in books by excellent writers, as well. I can understand the impulse behind it because I think there are times we all are frustrated in our plotting and tempted by the lazy way to put our protagonists where they need to be.

The writer of one of the strongest, best-written mystery series around (who shall remain nameless because she’s never done it again) did this in one of her books, causing her protagonist to violate the essence of the character the writer had spent four books building up in order to allow that protagonist to learn something the author needed the protagonist to know and to create conflict for the protagonist. It was darned near a throw-the-book-against-the-wall moment for me, and if this author hadn’t already built up so much respect, I would have.

I finished that book, in which the character went right back to being the person delineated in the previous books, and have continued reading that author. Although we stopped midway in the Prime Suspect episode, the others have been so good that we will probably give it a chance and finish it. But I have stopped reading some less-stellar authors’ series when they’ve pulled that kind of boner. If you can’t believe in a character’s reality, it pretty much blows the whole show, I think.

How do you feel about a major character making a move that’s not just a surprise but completely wrong and out of character? Do you just shrug and move on, or does it bother you as it does me?

REPLIES TO COMMENTS (because Blogger):

Mary, yes, a good editor will catch these moments, so if they show up, they're a failure in editing, as well as in writing. It can be a temptation to force your character to do something s/he's too smart/ethical/whatever to actually do, simply because you need it to happen for plot purposes. But there's no sense in working your butt off to create a realistic character to turn her or him momentarily into a cardboard cutout for convenience's sake. 

I know just what you mean about that itch, Mary S. The right motivation can make anyone do just about anything (Sophie's Choice, anyone?), but you've got to show me the motivation. My Skeet Bannion is not a hot dog/cowboy cop like so many protagonists and wouldn't normally charge in alone after an armed murderer with a child hostage, but in Every Last Secret, she does just that because the antagonist has started hurting the child.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Maybe It Was the Water?

Maybe it Was the Water?
By Laura Bradford

Honestly, I have no idea what's come over me the past two and a half months, but whatever it is, I like it. A lot.

Something about this year's Malice Domestic Conference lit my reserve tanks like no conference has ever done before.

Sure, I'm been "motivated" after other writer events over the last almost 10 (gasp!) years, but it's a fire that usually runs for a week (at best) before procrastination rides to the rescue with its trusty extinguisher.

This year's fire started at the conference (May 1st) and it's still burning bright. In fact, since I rolled my suitcase out of the hotel and hoisted it into my car on the last day of the conference, I've written (and sold!) a new mystery proposal, and typed "The End" on a 75 K because-I-want-to manuscript I started plotting in my head two years ago (yet, prior to May, had only written one chapter).

It's almost like there was something in the water that chased away all signs of anything resembling procrastination lurking inside my brain.

Neat, huh?

In fact, it (whatever "it" is) has worked so well, I almost wish I could bottle it and sell it (you know, in case the 75 K because-I-want-to manuscript turns out to be the what-the-heck-were-you-thinking manuscript during the re-read phase...).

Oh, and in case you think heavy doses of chocolate has had something to do with this 2 1/2 month long phase that just might not be a phase at all...I can honestly say, no.


So hip, hip hooray for the motivation and the added helping (or fifty) I got at this year's Malice Domestic Conference! 

And hip, hip hooray for the upcoming release of TAKEN IN--the 9th book in my Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries--on August 5th. I'm officially excited for my readers to get a hold of this installment. It's a hoot!


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Vampire Lestat’s Mom and Rambo’s Dad

By Kay Kendall

Last week the organization International Thriller Writers (ITW) celebrated its tenth anniversary. The star power of authors present at the celebratory conference, ThrillerFest, ran the gamut from supernova to red dwarf. Last year when I went to my first ThrillerFest as a debut author, I was stunned by the numerous super stars in attendance, and also by how kind and generous they were. This year’s meeting was even more jam-packed with sparkling talent.
Anne Rice is in center, with her son Christopher the tall man over her shoulder. Others left to right are R.L. Stine, David Morrell, and Scott Turow. 
Anne Rice wrote her first novel about the vampire Lestat in 1985—she was present. David Morrell wrote his first Rambo novel in 1972, followed by 28 more novels of various kinds—he was there. Ditto Lee Child, father of Jack Reacher, who first appeared in 1997, with his nineteenth tale out next month. Scott Turow dropped by to pick up his award, Thriller Master 2014. His novel Presumed Innocent put the legal thriller on the map in 2000, and eleven more novels followed. Other luminaries who spoke at ThrillerFest (whose books you no doubt either read or at least recognize) include David Baldacci, Steve Berry, Michael Connelly, Lisa Gardner, Heather Graham, M.J. Rose, and John Sandford.

Here I am with T. Jefferson Parker.
When you’re in such company, you can either feel insignificant—or you can choose to be inspired. I picked the latter. The atmosphere was so supportive, of any writer at any level, that it was easy not to be intimidated. One of the main purposes of the ITW organization is to provide a way for successful, bestselling authors to help debut and midlist authors advance their careers. Judging from the two conferences I’ve attended, the contacts I’ve made, and the networking that is ongoing, I can only conclude that this goal is being met brilliantly.

Ian Rankin with Steve Berry in background
Helping to put the international in the conference was one of my favorite authors, Ian Rankin. He flew in from his home in Edinburgh, Scotland, to participate on several panels. He has written nineteen installments in his bestselling crime series featuring Inspector John Rebus. Another of my favorites is T. Jefferson Parker. His twenty crime novels are set in southern California, and his next book is due this October, called Full Measure.  

I have met Rankin and Parker at previous book events and corresponded with both of them. They recognize me as both a super fan of their work and an aspiring novelist. It is heartwarming and encouraging to be treated nicely by one’s literary heroes. Now I can’t wait to return to ThrillerFest next year.  (By the way, I participated on a panel but forgot to ask one of my pals to shoot the photographic evidence. Darn.) 

Cheers to ThrillerFest!
Kay Kendall set her debut novel, Desolation Row—An Austin Starr Mystery, in 1968. The Vietnam War backdrop illuminates reluctant courage and desperate love when a world teeters on chaos. Kay’s next mystery, Rainy Day Women (2015) finds amateur sleuth Austin Starr trying to prove a friend didn’t murder women’s liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver. Kay is an award-winning international PR executive living in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Very allergic to bunnies, she loves them anyway! 
Her book titles show she’s a Bob Dylan buff too.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Just Back From My Favorite Writing Conference

When this appears, I will be home one day from going to Las Vegas and attending the Public Safety Writers Association's annual conference.

It has always been a favorite of mine for several reasons.

I joined this group years ago when it was called The Police Writers Club--and the only members were active or retired police officers. They voted on whether or not to let me (a mystery writer) join them. Fortunately for me, they let me in. I attended several conferences, the last one was right after 9-11 and held in Orlando.
A problem arose right after the conference and the group fell apart. A few members decided to resurrect it, and I was one of them, and the rebirth.

The new name chosen was Public Safety Writers Association and the decision made to include anyone in the public safety fields (Fire, FBI, Police, etc.) and those who write fiction or non-fiction about them.

I became the conference chair. Our first one was held in a funky hotel on Fremont St. in Las Vegas and we had 12 attendees which included our board members. We spent some of our time discussing the association and what we could do to make it better.

The next conference was held in the same hotel with 16 attendees.

We moved to a different hotel in Las Vegas and have had our latest conferences at the Orleans. With the moves we've also gained many new members and conference attendees. It is still small in comparison to other writers' conferences--we hover around 50 attendees. We have many more members.This is also one of the reasons I like it so much--there is only one track so most people stay for everything. Because of this, people have the opportunity to connect and share.

Last year I handed the job of conference program planner to Michael A. Black, a prolific writer, and retired police officer. He'd been helping me the last couple of years and I knew he had what it takes to do the job.

While being a member and attending the conference, I've made many friends in the law enforcement community, friends I can ask research questions and get the answers I need.

Experts in different phases of law enforcement present though sometimes it might be an expert in some phase of writing, but there are also many panels about various writing topics as well. Anyone who wants to be on a panel has that opportunity--something the mystery writers love. They are able to share what they know about writing and promoting.

For me, attending the conference is much like attending a family reunion because I've made such good friends.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

(Some shots of the attendees)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hot, Bothered, & Feeling a Little Constrained

- by the Southern Half of Evelyn David

Today was Evelyn David's turn to post a blog here at The Stiletto Gang. Most of you are aware by now that "Evelyn David" is the pen name for two of us. We try to take turns writing the Evelyn David blog, but I have to admit that usually Marian ends up doing it. But this week, I'm determined to hold up my end of this partnership.

Blog Topics -
It's difficult for any writer to know if, or how many, personal thoughts and opinions to share with readers. The general rule of thumb is to avoid anything of a serious nature or anything that could possibly be controversial. No overtly religious posts. No partisan politics. Which, as everyone knows, can now encompass just about everything. Health care? No. Border security? No. Military? No. Foreign relations? No. The last thing an author wants to do is alienate his/her readers. Of course you also don't want your readers to think you live in a fantasy bubble and have no thoughts on anything beyond your next novel, food, favorite television shows, and vacation spots.

Issues -
I believe that it's becoming harder and harder to have open discussions about issues because people have become so polarized in their opinions – and I'm no exception to that problem. I have some strongly held beliefs and I do have a tendency to "judge" others when their beliefs differ from mine on some fundamental topics. But I try very hard not to express that judgment or allow it to prevent me from continuing to "hear" what the other person is saying. I know that if I try hard enough I can find common ground with just about anyone. The collective "Evelyn David" absolutely can. Between the two of us we have a wide range of opinions, politics, religious experiences, education, and lifestyles. I live in a very "red" state – Marian resides in a "blue" one. We manage, without too much push and pull, to get along despite, and maybe because of those differences. No matter your beliefs, you have to admit that being around people who constantly agree with everything you say or do (as comforting as that can be) is boring.

No Labels -
I can, with all confidence, tell you that although I'm a Democrat, I vote Republican about half the time. I've never voted a straight party ticket in my life. I don't want a political party telling me what to think. I don't need talk show hosts spinning the news. I believe in God, but not so much in organized religions. I like some federal programs and despise others. I support states' rights but am continually embarrassed by some of my own state's elected representatives. I believe in being responsible for yourself, supporting family and taking care of your own first. I believe in the death penalty as a concept, but find it too problematic in practice. I believe we have to protect the environment, but not at the loss of individuals being able to support their families. I want clean air but I also want affordable electricity. I think we need to spend more money on public education, subsidize daycare for the working poor, make sure that each community has a public library, ensure equal pay for equal work, establish a fair minimum wage, and we should find a way to make college affordable for everyone who wants to attend. I believe the President of the United States should do his/her job and follow the law. I believe Congress should do theirs and follow the law. And it's probably time to consider whether or not Supreme Court appointments should be for life – or maybe just consider a better way of determining who gets to sit on that highest bench in the first place. There are at least a couple there now who I wouldn't trust to water my plants over a long weekend.

If I've offended anyone by telling you my opinions, I'm sorry. Next time I'll be back to talking about mysteries and fictional worlds where problems can be solved with careful plotting.

Check out our new mystery – MIND OVER MURDER. It's one of our best.


MIND OVER MURDER by Evelyn David

The last time the police knocked on psychic Valentine Zalmanzig Cohen's door they ignored her advice and the wrong man ended up in prison for murder. Five years later the knock comes again. Another couple killed in the same house. A copycat killer? Or has the original killer struck again? The police are willing to consider that perhaps they'd been wrong, but is Val willing to risk her marriage, career, and maybe even her life to try again?

Trade Paperback

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Meaning of Life by Debra H. Goldstein

The Meaning of Life by Debra H. Goldstein
Recently I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the meaning of life and its other alternative. This isn’t a new topic for me to explore. I first started thinking about it shortly after my fiftieth birthday when I woke one morning to find my arms had turned to flab and I had become my mother. The thoughts were generated by a discussion with a friend who was in the last stages of cancer. She was questioning what purpose living in her debilitated state had and whether after we die, we are remembered or the life we lived fades away.
I couldn’t answer her questions. I was too focused on reaching outside my comfort zone to find ways to ease her journey. When she died, I decided her purpose was the seed of herself planted in others through charitable doing, mentoring, and touching people at the right time. Her nourishment of others left ideas, feelings, and values to reseed the next generation.
Time went on and I didn’t spend much time dwelling on the meaning of life. I was too busy enjoying the life cycle events that constantly were occurring in the lives of my friends and my own family. Trips to visit and cuddle new babies, writing events, the coming of age Bar Mitzvah ceremony of a nephew, graduations from pre-school through professional school, and the joy of watching my daughter walk down the aisle to be with the man she has chosen to spend the rest of her life with consumed my waking hours. Why dwell on life and death when so many things were going on?
I was attending a writer’s conference being held on a property in Disneyworld when I glanced down at my smartphone and noticed an email entitled “OMG.” Above “OMG” was an endless string of responding e-mails. A friend who was a wife, mother, respected professional, devoted kayaker, and person who was taking me out for a birthday lunch the next week had had a cerebral bleed and died within minutes the night before. Everyone, including me, was in shock that this young and healthy vibrant woman was gone. No “why” made sense.
My other friends and I went on living. At one of the other planned lunch celebrations for my birthday, one of our lunch bunch mentioned she was celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary. Knowing she had married a much older man and that part of his proposal had been he would be hers for at least twenty-five years, we asked what he had given her for their special anniversary. The answer: the promise of trying for another twenty-five years as wonderful as the first. Last week, our lunch bunch held our breath when this man who never gets sick was hospitalized with pneumonia and a low blood count. We all feared he wouldn’t be able to keep his promise. Happily, his positive response to medical treatment has given them the opportunity to share many more years together.
In Jewish tradition, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it is decided who shall live and who shall die. At the time of Yom Kippur, one’s fate hopefully is inscribed in the book of life. I don’t know how or why the final decision is made. I cannot venture a guess as to our true purpose in living or if there is an existential meaning of life, but I do know I value every moment of it that I share with my family, friends, and those individuals I will meet in the future.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
P.S.  I try to keep my personal blog "It's Not Always a Mystery" - or found through my website, by clicking DHG's Blog - separate from what I post on The Stiletto Gang, but the reaction to the recent posting of The Meaning of Life convinced me that it might be an interesting piece to share The Stiletto Gang's readers, too.  After all, we are all searching for The Meaning of Life. I look forward to hearing your personal reactions to this post.  Debra

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ode to Girls Night Out

by Maria Geraci

I just finished the cutest book--Neanderthal Seeks Human. It's a romance but it's also got a small undercurrent women's fiction plot going on. The main character belongs to a knitting group, you see, although, technically she doesn't knit (the other members of the group do). Still, it's a great excuse for the characters to get together and drink wine, which, let's face it, is the basic premise of most book clubs, or Bunco groups, or any other girls night out group.

Last night I went to my writing group. There's about 9 of us and we're all writers and female. The first 2 hours were dedicated to eating and catching up on gossip. The last hour? Well, we did talk about writing. Some. And to be honest, a lot of time the focus IS on writing. But not until we socialize and get the niceties out of the way. Do men do this? I'm not sure since any men's- only-outing is limited to men. I suspect they do some small amount of socializing, but I also suspect we, as women, have that covered much more nicely than they do.

Recently, I ran into an article about a new game called Mommy Tonic. It's a card game you play with other women (moms, I guess) and there are four different versions of the game. There's even a website.  So, being a lover of all things party and girly related I ordered a game. I haven't hosted a Mommy Tonic party yet, but it's in the works. How about you? Do you participate in a Girls Night Out? And if so, what's the theme?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Gremlins - Don't Feed at All

By Bethany Maines

The premise of my Carrie Mae Mystery series is that in the sixties, while other ladies were burning their bras and inventing Tupperware, Carrie Mae Robart founded a door to door / friend to friend cosmetic selling empire – Carrie Mae Cosmetics. Her goal was to give women financial independence without having to work outside the home. However, the more women she met, the more she realized that there were some problems that couldn’t be solved with just money ­– some problems needed a fist in the face. So Carrie Mae set up the Carrie Mae Foundation. Financed by proceeds from the cosmetic sales, the foundation is part non-profit - working on pro-bono legal cases and lobbying government on women’s rights issues - and partly a women only, black-ops, elite fighting force. The heroines of my stories Nikki Lanier, Ellen Marson, Jenny Baxter and Jane Rozmarek are part of that force and they travel the world, fulfilling the Carrie Mae mission statement: helping women everywhere.

Now the thing you’ll notice about this premise is that it’s only partially based in reality.  I mean, sure, it’s possible for a woman in the 1960’s to found a peer to peer make up sales company.  Not that I know of any… ahem.  But sadly, it has apparently never occurred to anyone to found an elite fighting force for women as part their non-profit. (If someone knows of one, please email me immediately; I would like to join up.)  The problem with all of this lack of reality is that I have to make it sound plausible when writing. And that means all the other bits have to sound real. I have to research the guns and the locations and I try to make sure that my characters emotions feel authentic.  But if I spend too much time in reality, I suddenly look at my own premise and think, “That’s ridiculous!  I can’t write that.” 

That’s right; I tell myself, “I can’t.”  Those are some of the worst words in the English language.  (Although, they’re still not as bad as, “We need to talk.”) I’m two books and two short stories, and half a manuscript into a series, and… I can’t?  How does the Can’t Gremlin sneak into so many places?  I thought I was well fortified behind the Walls of Fantasy; girded by the Armor of Gumption; defended by the Holy Force of Imagination.  And yet… I can’t.  Why is it so hard to get that jerk of a gremlin out of the house? Can’t have an elite fighting force?  You might as well suggest that a woman can’t write books. The cycle of Can’t can be extremely hard to break, so when I get too down in the Can’ts, I like to read other people’s books.  There’s nothing like a good trip through someone else’s imagination to leave the Can’t Gremlin in the dust.  But still, I know he’s just waiting around the corner to trip me up.  Which is why I prefer to visit reality infrequently and for only brief periods of time.  Feel free to visit me any time, but leave your gremlins at the door – I can’t be bothered with Can’t today.

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, July 8, 2014

A Different Kind of Dues

"Pay your dues." I'd certainly heard enough of that in my prior career as a psychotherapist. Interns had to do grunt work or work 24/7 to be considered accepted. Clinicians had to give up family life if the bachelor head-of-the-hospital demanded that staff be as workaholic as he. If you didn’t comply, your professionalism was maligned and your job was in jeopardy. The belief was you had to go through all the pain and struggles that those who “made it” went through in order to earn respect.

There may be something to say about the personal growth that emerges from overcoming obstacles and encountering difficult experiences (we writers are always throwing roadblocks at our protagonists), but in real life, the philosophy of making others suffer because one's own road up the career ladder was not smooth never sat well with me. As a clinical supervisor and eventual CEO, I wanted those who were coming up in the ranks to have a wide range of experiences, to learn as much as they could, and to take on challenges. But to purposely make their journey difficult so they could pay their dues? Or, more covertly, not to offer a hand to make things easier for those who followed? Not my style.

Thankfully, not the style of the writing community. One of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring characteristics of the people who write fiction as a career is that they have substituted the “pay your dues” mentality with “be a stepping stone” for those who follow. Oh sure, I can imagine there are exceptions—as there are with anything, including the generalization I made about people’s philosophy in my prior career—but overall, writers tend to be generous, supportive, encouraging people.

This past weekend I volunteered at the Writers League of Texas Annual Conference and had the privilege of talking with aspiring writers and offering all sorts of professional guidance to make their journey into the publishing world easier. It was my way to give back and I loved it. Next week I’ll be at the International Thriller Writers (ITW) conference in NYC. ITW has as one of its main purposes “to provide a way for successful, bestselling authors to help debut and midlist authors advance their careers.” The idea being: If you’ve made it, offer a helping hand. There is success enough for everyone. Hmm.

What have you done to spread success? Did you share a terrific recipe that you'd developed? Did you take the time to teach a personal skill to someone? What random act of kindness could you perform, say once a week, to lighten someone's load?

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, was awarded an Honorable Mention at the 2013 Great Midwest Book Festival and won the Texas Association of Authors 2014 Best Young Adult Fiction Book Award. TWISTED is available in digital and print at or
Marjorie invites you to visit her at

Monday, July 7, 2014

Cause of death – Researching?

So, yeah, I’m writing a new mystery for the Tourist Trap series.  And I've got this dead guy in the middle of the floor, playing, no being, dead.

I know who kills Kent. I know why he has to die.

It’s the how.

I had a great idea that I started researching and ran into some controversy over whether or not a stun gun can kill someone.  So now I’m mulling over the but what if… additions.

I’m trying to make the story interesting without delving into the world of science fiction or fantasy.  My Google search history would make a serial killer proud.

Meanwhile, I've got a dead guy in the middle of the stage. Literally. 

So this question is for the cozy mystery reader – How realistic do you like your murder facts?  I don’t want to make people throw the book across the room. (grin)

To gather more information, I've joined a crime writer yahoo group and am busy searching the files for relevant entries. I've searched out blogs from former police officers where they post about the effects of different weapons.

In the past, I met two guys who owned a lot of guns (prior military dudes) in a bar. When I said I’d never shot a gun before, they offered to take me to the desert and teach me to shoot.

I went.

Luckily, I also came home, but I started to get a little nervous when I thought about how isolated the spot they’d chosen for the shooting lesson. 

When we were driving to our favorite ATV riding site with my husband’s best friend, I brought up the question of guns. I think the friend thought I was a bit off, or at least until my husband asked if this was for one of my books.

So writers, what have you done in the name of research?  Know any great murder sites you’d like to share?


If you like your mysteries in paper format, MISSION TO MURDER is now available -e-book July 31st.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Pre-Surgery Rant

by Linda Rodriguez

By the time you read this, I’ll be recuperating from some major surgery, but at the time I’m writing it, the surgery hasn’t taken place yet. So I’m nervous. Aren’t we all in such a case?

Scary as surgery is, however, dealing with health insurance companies has become even scarier. Between the time I left my surgeon’s office and the date my surgery was scheduled, my insurance carrier had been bought by another huge insurance company. Doctors who were approved providers on my original plan but not on the buying company’s plan were instantly dropped from coverage and told they must re-apply to be accepted. 

Guess whose surgeon was one of these? She went between supper and breakfast from being an approved surgeon under my insurance to being out of network, which means I’d have to essentially pay for most of this surgery entirely out of my own pocket. One of the partners in her practice had been approved under both plans, so rather than wait the months it could take to get her approved again—since that really is not an option for this surgery, which is not elective—or pay about $20,000 that I simply don’t have, I agreed to have this older man I’ve never met be my surgeon while the young, smart woman who met and examined me, impressed me, and developed a rapport with me will only assist. And my follow-up care and treatment plan will also have to be with this man, who is probably an expert surgeon and a lovely person but is totally unknown to me. As the internet cats would say, I haz sad.

Over the years, I’ve heard many arguments against nationalizing health care to make sure that every citizen can have the health care he or she needs. They usually fall back into “Do you want the government to decide which doctor you can have or which medicine you can take?” pretty quickly. 

Although the government has never yet made those decisions for me, health insurance corporations have done so again and again. They have decided that medicines my doctor prescribes will not be covered. They decide which doctors I can see and which specialists, and all tests prescribed for me must first be cleared with them. Now, they have changed their minds midstream and told me I cannot have the surgeon I want and have been seeing with their approval. I know people who have died because their insurance companies, to which these people had paid hefty premiums for years, decided they could not have the life-saving treatments their doctors, who were approved by their insurance companies in the first place, said they needed.

So, how are we any better off with what we have than with a national single-payer healthcare system? As I wait to go into surgery at the hands of a complete stranger and read of the Supreme Court decision privileging the personhood of a major for-profit corporation over the personhood of actual, living, breathing, individual women, these issues suddenly become immensely personal.