Friday, November 28, 2014

The Gift of Promotion

Erica Green

The Gift of Promotion by Debra H. Goldstein

When I was a child, I believed in fairy tales where everyone lived happily ever after.  With age, I learned that no matter how hard one wishes, life isn’t always perfect.  In fact, sometimes it simply sucks. This week was one of those times – my mother died.

My mother was my greatest promoter.  From personal experience as a Holocaust survivor who came to America at age ten with her nine-year-old brother, she understood the power a single word of encouragement has. Whether I wanted to be a singer, even though I can’t sing four notes in sequence, or a comedienne like Carol Burnett, she never dashed my hopes.  Of course, she later admitted relief when I opted to be a lawyer and then a judge. I was afraid she would be upset when I stepped down from the bench to pursue writing full-time, but she became my largest promoter.

Mom loved giving people a copy of my novel, Maze in Blue, whispering how a new book has been acquired but its contract isn’t finalized yet, or showing them various bound anthologies that contain one of my short stories.  She wasn’t quite as vocal about the short stories or essays appearing in e-publications or magazines.

This week, sitting in the hospital with my mother, I only had access to my smart phone and I found it interesting that a list serve I follow was having a heated discussion that exactly reflected my mother’s novel vs. short story behavior. The upshot of the discussion seemed to be that authors and readers don’t promote short stories and short story anthologies with the same oomph as full-length novels or novellas. 

With a tip of my hat to the memory of my mother and the success and happiness she knew I found in my first year of writing instead of being on the bench, here’s to the short stories and essays that have appeared this year:

A Political CornucopiaBethlehem Writers Roundtable featured November 2013 story reprinted on November 24, 2014 by King’s River Life.

Thanksgiving in Moderation – a family fun Thanksgiving tale included in The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fourth Meal of Mayhem published by Untreed Reads. Note:  on December 1, Untreed Reads is running a CyberMonday sale!!!

Hot and ColdKing’s River Life  (November 2014)

Bake, Love, Write – one of 105 authors providing a dessert recipe and essays on romance and writing

Early FrostThe Birmingham Arts Journal (April 2014)

The Rabbi’s Wife Stayed Home Mysterical-E  (April 2014)

Who Dat? Dat the Indian Chief!  - my favorite mystery story of redemption included the short story anthology - Mardi Gras Murder (February 2014)

Two other short stories won competition prizes, but have not yet been published and my 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue was reissued by Harlequin Worldwide Mystery in May 2014.

The list serve discussion highlighted a problem with promotion of our works that all writers can easily remedy by awareness and simple actions. Although I have tried to promote equally, I know I can better use the tools of my mother’s legacy for myself and for others.

My mother gave me the confidence through words of encouragement to believe I can succeed at new endeavors. I am so glad she had the opportunity to share in the happiness of my new writing career. Although there will be no more telephone calls with words of empowerment or declarations to her friends of how wonderful my writing is, even when it is not, the gift of using words to encourage, engage, promote, and live life to its fullest will always stay with me and be something I can share with you and pass on through my children and grandchildren. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Erica Green – a survivor, a role model, and my heroine – 4/8/29 – 11/20/14.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Free Book! Free Recipe! Free Time?

by Bethany Maines

Ok, it’s the day before Thanksgiving and that means that you are either baking like a mad fiend or you’re kicking back while someone else bakes and wishing that you could be done with work so you could go home and get your holiday on.  My mom does the hosting for Thanksgiving and that means I skate by making the easy stuff like cookies, pies, and the cranberry sauce.  Only I make cranberry relish because it’s easier, and far, far tastier than the gelatinous glop that comes out of a can.  (See below for the recipe!)

Hopefully, you’re in a similar position when it comes to the holiday cooking and you’ll have a little free time to read something new this weekend. And because I’m feeling ever so thankful for readers like you, the first 5 people to comment get a free e-book version of my short story collection Tales from the City of Destiny. I will also be drawing one name after the five person cut off, so leave a comment no matter what, and then hop over to the Girlfriends Book Club for a second chance to win on my second blog of the day!  I will contact all winners by Friday 11/27.

Cranberry Relish:
  • 1 bag cranberries (the bags usually have holes, so a quick tip is to rinse them while they’re still in the bag and let the water drain out)
  • 1 orange (don’t forget to remove the sticker)
  • 1 cup white sugar (use less or more depending on taste)
  • Optional: pinch of cinnamon 
Directions: Rinse everything.  Chop orange in quarters.  Put orange and cranberries into food processor and chop.  Add cup of sugar.  Chop until everything is of relish consistency.  Put in bowl.  Pretend you slaved for hours.  Eat.

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, November 25, 2014

Stephen King and I

by Sally Berneathy

A couple of weeks ago one of my local writers’ groups went to see Stephen King in person. I’ve been hooked on his books since The Shining in 1977. I got the book in the mail from my book club just before my husband-at-the-time and I went on vacation. Of course I took it along. I never want to be caught bookless. During that trip I spent more time with Stephen King than with my future-ex-husband. I made the right choice. That ex is long gone, but I still enjoy spending time with Stephen King.

When I heard he was coming to town, I was a little dubious about seeing the wizard behind the curtain. I am pleased to report that the reality is every bit as wonderful as the fiction. Who knew someone who writes about such dark subjects could be so funny and charming?

Though his talk was geared toward readers, as a writer I got a lot beyond the entertainment. His comments about his writing process validated my own process.

He said every book begins, of course, with an idea. That idea is the best one he’s ever had. The new book will be the best book he’s ever written, maybe the best book anybody has ever written. Then he begins the writing process and along about the third or fourth chapter realizes it is the worst book he’s ever written, maybe the worst book anybody’s ever written. But he continues to labor, cranking out the pages until the misbegotten book is finished. Finally, after four to six months of writing, he puts the book in a drawer and leaves it for a few weeks. Then he goes back to begin revisions…and wonders who put all that good stuff in there!

I finished Fatal Chocolate Obsession, my fifth book in the Death by Chocolate series, four days before attending King’s presentation. The excitement, self-doubt, trauma and exhaustion of creating that book were still fresh in my mind, and I could totally identify with what he said.

Once I get past the initial luminous idea and start creating the bones of the book, I realize it’s a terrible book and I have no idea what possessed me to try to write it. Fortunately, two things keep me plodding along: My critique group assures me the book is not horrible, and I have a history of going through the same traumatic process for twenty-three books (twenty-five if you count the two that never sold but we don’t want to talk about them).

Do I love to write? Absolutely! It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.

Is it difficult? Absolutely! I’ve been a legal secretary, paralegal, real estate agent, and computer programmer. Writing novels is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Well, getting rid of the most recent ex was right up there in difficulty, but that nightmare wasn’t fun. Despite the difficulties, meltdowns and hair pulling, writing is also the most fun of anything I’ve ever done.  

Knowing that Stephen King shares my trauma may make my next process of “It’s wonderful; it sucks; I can’t write this; I have to write this; will this stupid book never end?” a little easier. Or not. But at least I will know I'm in the best company!



Monday, November 24, 2014

Bouchercon 2014 redux

It's been a week since Bouchercon ended and I miss the fun times hanging out with my friends.  For a recap of my trip, click HERE.

While in Long Beach, I went to the Hollywood Walk of Fame; saw the Hollywood sign; saw Steven Spielberg's compound, and saw the house on stilts that was featured in one of the Lethal Weapon movies.  I also saw many, many, many authors, which you can read about on my blog post.

Sometimes it's all about the food...

and sometimes it's about other things

and that was my Bouchercon. What was the last author/reader convention you attended? A book signing?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Why I Can’t “Get a Sense of Humor” about Racist Jokes

by Linda Rodriguez

UPDATE: Handler has come out with a real apology that acknowledges the racist content of his remarks and is now matching the next $10,000 donated to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks fundraiser.

I congratulate him on actually dealing with what he did.

Wednesday night, the National Book Awards took place, and a multiple-New-York-Times bestseller and hugely successful white male author of children’s books, Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), was the host. During the course of the night, he made several racist jokes, including bemoaning the fact that he hadn’t won a Coretta Scott King Award (for African American children’s book writers or children’s literature showcasing African American life--both categories together make up less than 3% of the field), calling two African American nominees for the award in poetry “probable cause,” and topping off his whole night of micro-aggressions with a major watermelon joke directed at African American writer, Jacqueline Woodson, winner of the award in children’s literature.

Here’s the entire event on C-Span. You’ll find the watermelon joke just after the 40-minute mark.

The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, NPR, and a number of other mainstream news outlets covered the awards the next morning and complimented Handler’s performance as emcee without ever mentioning any of these remarks. Just as the overwhelmingly affluent white audience laughed and applauded.

Not surprisingly, people of color and white people of good conscience were upset by Handler’s behavior at one of the most prestigious book award ceremonies in the United States. Articles and blogs were written. Twitter came alive over it. Finally, Handler apologized on Twitter with the usual non-apology—“my failed attempt at humor.” People rightly asked, “In what world are these things supposed to be funny?”

Then, the defenders came out. Online comment after comment after tweet after Facebook post after blog post of “What’s the big deal?”, “race-baiting,” “Get a sense of humor.” I’m used to them. We all are. Every time someone wealthy, famous, and white (and usually male) says or does something racist or misogynist, the defenders come out in force with these same comments. The comments include many that are much worse and sometimes downright foul, but I won’t detail those here because they’re from real trolls, while I think the comments I have listed are sometimes, at least, from people who genuinely don’t see or understand the racist or misogynistic content of the controversial remarks.

People try to explain why these remarks are a problem. I know I have many times. Usually without success. Perhaps it will help if I spell it out this time, looking at the watermelon joke, which caused the most uproar because Handler dragged it out for several minutes and included Cornel West, Toni Morrison, and Barack Obama. Woodson is a gifted young writer who has twice before been a finalist for this ultimate award. Winning it should have been a pinnacle point for her entire career. At that moment, this wealthy, successful, white male writer in her own specific field (children’s literature) reminded her publicly that, no matter how much she achieved, she would always be Other and lesser in his and everyone else’s eyes.

When you face these kinds of insults and injuries in little and big ways every day—even if the people who say or do them are truly unaware of the offense (and let’s be honest, they usually know quite well)—it takes a toll on you. Then, if you object, if you try to say, “This is wrong,” others who share the offender’s views tell you not to take it so seriously—“Get a sense of humor.”

I want to turn that back on them. To all those people who think it’s funny to insult and stereotype people of other backgrounds and genders, you get a sense of humor. Learn what’s really funny and not just cruel and embarrassing and referencing for fun traumas that have been inflicted on whole peoples. Grow some intelligence and wit, instead of making watermelon jokes when someone wins one of the highest awards in the American literary world.

REPLIES TO COMMENTS (because Blogger hates me):

Thanks, Pam. Aren't you getting tired of these idiotic things, too? 

Mary, when they call me 'humorless,' I just ask them how something like this can be called humor.

Yes, Kay, it was very belittling. And one would hope that we were further advanced than that by now. Unfortunately, not.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Remembering The Good

Remembering the Good
By Laura Bradford

Isn't this a lovely idea?


I think I just might try this, this year...maybe even make a jar (with these instructions) and give them to friends for the holidays.

Have you ever given a homemade gift for the holidays (as an adult)? Tell us about it...


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Sneak Peek at My New Mystery

By Kay Kendall

Today marks a red letter day for me. I sent the manuscript of my second Austin Starr mystery to my publisher, Stairway Press of Seattle. Part of my celebration is sharing with you a short excerpt from the book, RAINY DAY WOMEN, to be published in June 2015.

The tale is set in 1969, when my amateur sleuth Austin Starr is now the harried young mother of a three-month-old son. Despite her family duties—to husband and son—and the demands of her grad student career, she rushes to the aid of her best friend, Larissa. She is a prime suspect in the murder of the leader of her women’s liberation group in Vancouver. Soon another member of a women’s group in Seattle is killed. Austin must find the real killer before her friend is jailed for murder.

In the excerpt below, Austin questions Mia, a friend of the dead women’s liberation leader, Shona. I hope you dig the sixties atmosphere, when in my book the Pacific Northwest is drenched in blood, not rain, for a change.

 “I’m busting to know what you think of him. Tell me.” I guess my voice got loud because two passersby gawked at us.

Mia rolled her eyes to the heavens. “More questions.” A heavy sigh escaped her lips. “Jack always said I was ballsy. Of course, I took that as a compliment. He doesn’t like wimps. The problem with Jack and me, however, was that we were competitors.”

“At what?” I said.

“We competed for Shona’s time, attention, and affection. Jack and I never talked about it, but my sense is we both knew what was going on. He worked at getting under my skin, and he succeeded. Jack belittled everything I did, called me ‘poor little rich girl.’ He was jealous of my wealthy family, but I wouldn’t let Shona tell him how I’d been sexually abused.”

“Sounds tricky for you to put up with. What happened when he succeeded in getting under your skin. How did you react?”

She ran her hands through her short hair and gazed across the street at the tall trees on campus. I let her drown in her own thoughts for a while, hoping she’d come out with something useful in solving the puzzle of two deaths. Or, at the least, one—Shona’s.

After a few moments, she turned to me and took off her sunglasses. “Once Jack and I came to blows at a party, and I was the one who ended up throwing the first punch. He was a drinker, and I did dope. In my experience, our two types don’t mix well. That night he was ragging on me about being rich, and I had reached my limit. I drew back my arm, aiming for his arrogant mug, but Shona jumped between us. I pulled the punch, and it hit her shoulder instead, but not a hard blow. Jack cackled in triumph and started pushing my buttons again, making nasty taunts. With Shona there, I pulled my punches in general and just stomped off.”

“Then I guess you won’t have an unbiased answer to my next question.”

“Go ahead,” she said. “Shoot.”

“Could Jack have murdered Shona, and perhaps Bethany, too?”

“My honest opinion?”

“Yes, please.”

 “Jack could be the murderer.” Mia stopped and put her sunglasses back on. “Absolutely, and there is no doubt in my mind.” 
Kay Kendall set her debut novel, DESOLATION ROW--AN AUSTIN STARR MYSTERY in 1968. The sequel is Rainy Day Women, will be out in 2015. Her amateur sleuth Austin Starr must prove her best friend didn't murder women’s liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver. A fan of historical mysteries, Kay wants to do for the 1960s what novelist Jacqueline Winspear accomplishes for England in the 930s–write atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit of the age. Kay is also an award-winning international PR executive who lives in Texas with her husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to the bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she’s a Bob Dylan buff too. 


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A New Type of Book Event by Marilyn Meredith

Recently I received an email from a woman in a neighboring city who is planning a book event in her home. She mentioned the writers she'd invited and asked if I'd like to be a part of what she and another author were planning.

Of course I said yes.

The plan is that there will be advertising in the local newspaper and cards about the event spread around the city and the various towns we writers come from.

On the day of the event, she'll have a banner in her front yard that says, Neighborhood Book Store.

Inside her lovely home, the authors will be situated in various rooms in her house--there are many.

Because I can't attend the meeting she's having with the various authors, I stopped by to meet her and see her home.

In her large kitchen will be wine and snacks which we writers will bring. A couple of husbands will supervise this part.

The event will be held the first weekend in December and sounds like a lot of fun. Whether we'll have many customers remains to be seen.

Has anyone tried anything like this?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Wearing Cinderella’s Slippers

This is my first post for The Stiletto Gang. I feel fortunate to be asked to join the group. Already, the other posters have sent me warm welcoming messages, which I very much appreciate. A grand thing about the writing community is the support offered and received. Maybe there is an enabling factor that urges authors who work so much in solitude to reach out to others who aspire to follow their path. An overwhelming generosity of spirit flows from writers who have made their mark to those toiling to achieve success.

From looking at past posts, I see that I’ll be filling a spot long held by Evelyn David, one of the founding members of the blog and a very prolific writing team of Marian Edelman Borden and Rhonda Dossett. I’m humbled by the opportunity and know I have large shoes to fill. And, I’m grateful to my fellow posters for handing me Cinderella’s slippers. I just hope I don’t lose one or, if I do, that it’s returned by a prince!

As I considered my first message, I kept thinking about shoes. Shoes often seem to have been used in literature to define women. Consider the epic battle that ensues when Dorothy gets the witch’s ruby red slippers. Yet, eventually, those shoes become the vehicle that transports Dorothy home, on her own power.

When I was young, after school, I would wait in my mother’s classroom while she attended teachers’ meetings. I would listen to the footsteps coming down the hall and learned to recognize hers returning.

Later, when I went out into the workplace, I saw women navigating the sidewalks in high heels, their staccato tapping emphasizing their focus and determination as well as their rushing to the next appointment. The sound of their steps signaled a giddy assurance that they were in the right place and making important contributions through their work.

When I visited New York City, I walked along the streets, feeling a stronger connection with the place as my sneakers trod its thoroughfares. I had read that Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco, who loved to travel, adored having someone stop and ask her for directions in a location she was visiting, because that made her feel as if she were part of the place. I remember my own thrill when I advised a tourist on a New York street corner. A sense of belonging is so reassuring.

I guess my favorite shoe image comes from To Kill a Mockingbird, when young Scout realizes Atticus is correct in telling her we never truly understand a person until we have a chance to walk in his shoes. To me, the scene where Scout stands on Boo Radley’s porch envisioning all that had happened in their town through his eyes is a truly powerful piece of writing.

So, thank you, Stiletto Gang, for including me among your posters. Thanks for your encouragement and for believing in me, a short story writer who strives to be a novelist. And, thanks for providing this forum for those of us who love mystery, romance, suspense, thrills, and good writing.

A legislative attorney and former law librarian, Paula Gail Benson’s short stories have been published in Kings River Life, the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, Mystery Times Ten 2013 (Buddhapuss Ink), and A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder (Dark Oak Press and Media, 2014). Her next short story, “Moving On,” will appear in A Shaker of Margaritas: That Mysterious Woman, an anthology due to be released by Mozark Press in November or December 2014. She regularly blogs with others about writing mysteries at Her personal blog is, and her website is