Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Flying Flags

by Bethany Maines

I had to laugh when I read Debra Goldstein’s post yesterday about football being “only a game”.  I live in Washington State, which, in case you’re living in a hole, is home of the Seahawks, contenders the upcoming football high-holy day – the Super Bowl.  Although, even when living in a hole, I’m fairly certain that you probably felt the Beast Quake or possibly Richard Sherman dropped by to tell you how awesome he is, and then probably stuck around to make pointedly blunt statements about the corruption in the NFL.  Football may be only game, but tis the season for every football fan everywhere to lose their dang minds.

As I’m only an occasional football watcher I find most of the fan-actions a bit mystifying.  Twelfth man flags decorate every building, a local tattoo parlor is offering a 12’s tattoo special and last game against the Packers the Seattle City Council banned cheese from the premises.  Like Debra, I say, “But it’s only a game!”  Not that I say that very loudly – my husband would glare at me. 

But also like Debra, I identify with the way fans pour over every detail, dissect plays, and watch every report on the subject.  A fan, no matter the subject, wants to know all about the thing they love.  So I don’t wave a twelfth man flag, but the books on my shelf tell their own tales (pun intended).  Anyone visiting my house knows where I stand on the topic of Lord of the Rings (pro) and the work of cover artist Thomas Canty (also pro) and Tintin (highly pro). I don’t have any tattoos, but I can quote The Walrus and The Carpenter – it’s tattooed on my brain.  And as for cheese… no, sorry, I have nothing there. Cheese is never banned at my house and neither are books. 

Am I the only “12th Man” uber book fan out there?  What “flags” are flying on your bookshelf?

Friday, January 23, 2015

It's Only a Game by Debra H. Goldstein

It’s Only a Game by Debra H. Goldstein

My husband’s blood runs Crimson.  Nick Saban’s signed picture hangs in a prominent place in his man cave, which doubles as my den since we downsized. Signed University of Alabama footballs and Bear Bryant memorabilia also grace the room’s shelves.

Just as he deems these men to be G-ds, my husband religiously attends games or is glued to the television screen cheering his team on or bemoaning bad umpire calls. If the Alabama team wins, he takes pleasure in another week of bragging rights, but if, as they did on New Year’s Day, they get blown out of the water, he mutters for a few minutes and then philosophically notes, “It’s Only a Game.”

Many of our friends will be in mourning until next year’s football season.  They still spend hours dissecting the bad plays or interceptions that “lost the game.” They talk about how difficult it is to be a “marked” team because of having had a high ranking throughout the season.  Their sorrow will be tempered by verbally analyzing critical plays at parties and watching DVR’d games to relive the high moments of the season.

There are other people in our state who mourn in a more aggressive manner.  Newspaper stories of fights prompted by insults, stealing of mascots, and destruction of property are commonplace. Why?  After all, “It’s Only a Game.”

As a Johnny-come-lately to the writing world, I am in awe of many writers.  Their books are on display on my upstairs bookshelves, much as Nick Saban mementos are downstairs.  Throughout the years their works entertained, educated, and engaged me. Now, as I have met many, my respect for their repeated generosity and kindnesses to other writers constantly grows, especially while watching each struggle with juggling time to write, marketing and selling enough books to get another contract, handling today’s social media demands, and living balanced lives.  The reality is that most don’t “win” every day, but the successful ones handle their losses in a similar manner.  Rather than dwelling on the set-back or sabotaging their competition, they understand the defeat of the moment reflects that “It’s Only a Game.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Where Do Story Ideas Come From - Part Two by Debra H. Goldstein

Where Do Story Ideas Come From – Part Two – by Debra H. Goldstein

The question most asked after whether I miss my former job is how do I get the ideas for my stories and books? For me, inspiration comes from research, dreams, observing human behavior, contest or submission prompts or out of the air.  In my previous Stiletto Gang blog, I traced the evolution of one of my favorite short stories, Who Dat? Dat the Indian Chief! from the research stage to its February 2014 publication in the Mardi Gras Murder short story anthology.

Contests and open submission calls often stipulate a phrase or thematic concept that must be used. The problem is that with everyone entering or submitting writing to the same prompt, many of the stories will incorporate the identical ideas.  Again, I strive to find an unusual twist or idea.  For Mardi Gras Murder, I knew most people would consider writing about Krewe activities and parades or New Orleans charm, but I kept researching until I found information about the secretive Mardi Gras Indians and their parades.  That research led to Who Dat? Dat the Indian Chief!

The open submission call for The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fourth Meal of Mayhem required The Killer Wore Cranberry is a well-established series, I knew many writers would be competing for the few open slots.  My first decision was to find a food item fewer people would focus on.  I picked greens because I could find a way to work them into a murder; they reflected the South, where I wanted to set the story; and they felt funny to me.  Once I had the food item, I had to have people do something with it.
tying the story to Thanksgiving and using a food item.  Because the publisher wasn’t going to run all turkey stories and

I was stumped and then I remembered that Thanksgiving weekend often is used for weddings because families already are together.  Having officiated at Thanksgiving weddings and attended several (our extended family has a propensity to them), I concentrated on the guest behavior and interaction I had observed at these various functions. Taken out of context, each wedding had its own humor.  The more ideas coming from my brainstorming, I realized I would have to limit my remembered incidents to avoid overwhelming the story I was writing.  The result:  Thanksgiving in Moderation.

The key for me is to take the seed of an idea and find the odd twist.  For example, Grandma’s Garden was written for a short story contest that had a rain falling prompt.  Although I incorporated some rain, I ended up using an analogy between tears and rain and contrasting regular gardening with growing flowers in window boxes.  The story, Early Frost, features two characters attending a football game.  It is a short short story that fully addresses the rivalry of Alabama-Auburn football, but has a twist that brings in an unexpected concept.  Both stories grew out of experiences – rain at the beach, attending football games, but imagination took the tale far beyond the original idea.

Sometimes my impetus is a suggested name.  My next book, Should Have Played Poker, was prompted by wanting to incorporate the name of the first person to ever buy one of my future characters at a charity auction.  I was so tickled by her generosity and wisdom to buy my character that I wanted to put her name in a book rather than a short story.

Ideas come from all different avenues.  Most recently, a friend came up to me and said, “I have the perfect idea for your next story or book.”  Usually, when I hear these words, I run the other way, but this one was different.  He suggested, “Take the extra banana.”  No more than that, but it just might end up in a short story because it tickled my fancy.  That’s the magic of writing – becoming engaged in an idea.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My Love/Hate Relationship with Oscar by Marilyn Meredith

I've been watching the TV broadcast of the Academy Awards since the first time they came on TV in glorious black and white.

My father worked for Paramount Studios while I was growing up and he had little respect for most of the movie actors. Despite that, our family went to the movies every Friday night to see a double feature.

As a kid I collected movie star photos and autographs. The best place to get them was at radio shows and catching the stars in the parking lot behind the theater where the broadcasts were made.

Things I remember about some of the earlier Academy Award shows (in no particular oder):

Edith Head almost always won for best costume design.

When the guy streaked across the stage at the Oscars--and charming David Niven handled it in elegant stride.

The  many times Bob Hope was the announcer.

(In my opinion, no one does it as well these days as those old timers.)

When Jack Palance did one-handed push-ups.

When Marlon Brando didn't show up for his Oscar, sending an Indian woman in his place.

I saw these all, but only remember Sally Fields, "You love me, you really love me."

And here's the nominees for best picture for this year.


I've only seen The Grand Budapest Hotel, and didn't much like it. Hope to see the others.

Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette · Laura Dern · Keira Knightley · Emma Stone · Meryl Streep

I didn't see most of these performances--except for Keira Knightleys and Meryl Streep's in Into the Woods. Of course Meryl was wonderful--but I think the movie itself lacked something.

I usually catch-up on all the nominated movies eventually. Netflix makes it easy to do.

Through the years I've often been disappointed in who and what movie actually wins the Oscar--but who cares what I think? 

So, folks, what are your feelings about the Academy Awards and he nominees for this year?


Monday, January 19, 2015


Before we get to Alice's blog, we wanted to wish you a wonderful 2015!  "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." --Eleanor Roosevelt 

Dream big. And then go for it! You'll never know what you can accomplish in 2015 until you try.

And now, here's Alice!

by guest blogger, Alice Loweecey

What? Magic happens. One of my favorite magic memories is of Doug Henning on the Mike Douglas Show in the 1970s.

I realize I just aged myself.

Doug Henning
Doug Henning was the first magician I saw perform the Metamorphosis trick. That’s the trick where he tied his assistant in a bag and locked her in a trunk, then he stood on the trunk and brought up a curtain on a circular rod around the trunk and himself. Then with maybe three seconds’ delay he counted down: “One. Two.” He whipped the curtain over his head and whipped it back down—and his assistant stood there in his place and finished: “Three. It’s me!”

It’s the same way with one of my favorite table magic tricks. The magician has someone at the table take a sugar packet from the holder and write their name on it. He then performs distraction and patter while he’s doing something that also took hundreds of hours to perfect. The result: He takes a lemon, slices it in half, and the same sugar packet it folded up inside the center of the lemon, with the audience member’s name on it.

I don’t want to know the specifics of how the tricks are accomplished. I just want to enjoy the show.

What I do know is: It requires hundreds and hundreds of hours of practice to perform complex magic tricks in such a way that the payoffs appear completely seamless to the audience.

Segue to…

Writing! (See what I did there?)

Henning was colorful and happy and always fun to watch. I don’t want my readers thinking of the hours it took to learn to write believable characters. Or the hours it took to write smooth dialogue. Or especially the thousands of hours it took from the first draft of my first book to Nun Too Soon, my new mystery in stores on January 13. I want my readers to enjoy Giulia, my private investigator, and her sidekicks and their comic misadventures as they solve a case.

I want readers to have fun.
One. Two…

Image courtesy of By digitalart, at
Three! It’s book magic!

Baker of brownies and tormentor of characters, Alice Loweecey recently celebrated her thirtieth year outside the convent. She grew up watching Hammer horror films and Scooby-Doo mysteries, which explains a whole lot. When she’s not creating trouble for Giulia Falcone-Driscoll, she can be found growing her own vegetables (in summer) and cooking with them (the rest of the year).

Her newest release, Nun Too Soon  (A Giulia Driscoll Mystery Book 1) is available January 13th. To pre-order at Amazon click here.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Resolution as Metaphor

This year, I made two New Year’s resolutions. The first was to carry only the essentials in my purse.

I’m a person who delights in handbags. In particular, I like to carry totes, which accommodate lots of extra stuff. As a result, my shoulder and back are constantly aching from the weight I carry.

Hence, this year, I determined to lighten my load.

My second resolution was to drink more water. Perhaps part of this resolution came from the fact that I had the flu the last week of the year, and discovered the keys to getting better were taking the antibiotic, getting lots of rest, and keeping hydrated.

Liquids are very comforting when your throat is sore and nothing tastes good. They’re both filling and moisturizing, two very satisfying feelings associated with a comfortable, healthy lifestyle.

At some point during my recovery, I read in a writing craft book that characters should be viewed as metaphors rather than people. Interesting concept. Rather like the passion plays from the medieval times where audiences were encouraged to associate characters with good or evil.

It made me wonder if resolutions should be viewed as metaphors instead goals. Is a resolution a plan for action or a reflection of what you think about yourself?

What does it say about me that I want to carry less around and concentrate on drinking enough fluids? Are those signals that I want to shed unnecessary baggage and focus on keeping refreshed and vital?

How do those resolutions relate to my writing?

If you travel only with the essentials, you’re not overwhelmed with personal objects. You can watch what’s around you and enjoy new experiences. And if you keep hydrated, you have what’s essential to life. You are, in fact, embracing what makes up most of a human body (50 to 75 percent) and of the environment (about 71 percent of the earth’s surface and about a trace to 4 percent of the atmosphere).

Lightness and water are two ideas associated with movement and flow. They enable the journey and keep the adventurer fueled to seek new possibilities.

So far this year, I’ve been able to keep my resolutions. My shoulder and back don’t ache, and I’m rarely thirsty.

I know it’s hard to stick to resolutions. I’m sure the day’s coming when I slip that extra book into my tote or stay at the computer too long without taking a break to fill my glass.

But, maybe when I stray, remembering how much better I felt when I was following the resolutions will bring me back to them again. Perhaps I’ll read over some of my writing from a time I carried only a notebook and pen instead of my iPad or laptop and wrote at a coffee shop drinking refreshing mint tea. Maybe I’ll notice the easy movement of my prose when I was less encumbered and better lubricated. Then, I can sit down at my computer with a full bottle of water, type from my notes, and feel like I’m making progress.

And, isn’t that what resolutions are all about? Getting us started going forward into the New Year?
Have you made any resolutions? If so, what do you think they say about you and your writing?

Friday, January 16, 2015

What Makes a Friend?

Friends used to be people you grew up with or worked with or lived next door to, and of course, they still are. But friends are now also people who live across the country from you whom you never worked with or went to school with or even physically met. The internet has changed our lives in that way, connecting us closely to people we never would have met in the old days.

Some of my closest friends are people I only have a chance to see once a year or so at a national conference. Still, we are in touch all year long, and we give each other all kinds of support and real old-fashioned, loyal friendship through the internet. Some of my good friends are people I have never had the chance to meet in the flesh. We’ve done projects together, set up funds for good causes together, carried each other’s sadness during hard times, and confided secrets to each other, but our hands have never actually touched.

I think this is one of the big changes that the internet brought us—this kind of intimacy with someone  we may never have the chance to meet physically. Yet is it so strange? People are marrying people they meet online and building successful marriages and families with them, so why wouldn’t we build strong, important friendships that way also.

I’ve been thinking about this because a dear friend (whom I’ve never physically met) is going through a tough time as her husband’s cancer has come back and she has her own severe physical health issues. We have been there for each other through deaths, surgeries, disability, and various cancers. She has certainly been there for me, and I am trying to be there for her. Given her situation and mine, we may never actually meet in person, though we have spoken by phone, as well as Facebook, Twitter, and emails.

I suddenly find myself working on an anthology of poetry for a great cause with a friend I’ve never met in the flesh, although we laugh about the many things we have in common and wonder if we’re sisters somehow separated—couldn’t be twins because I’m much older. Next month, I’m going to stay with a friend whom I have met in person at a conference after making our acquaintance by the internet—and keeping in touch the same way. We’ve become closer and closer friends, even though we see each other once a year or less often.

Each of these three women are people I count as dear friends, closer than many people who live near me and whom I see often. They are heart friends. I have some deep heart friends whom I’ve known for many decades and see often, and then I have these deep heart friends whom I almost never see. Neither category of heart friend is closer or more valued than the other. It’s rare enough to make that kind of connection so I value it wherever I find it.

So here’s to good, close friends, whether we’ve known them forever and see them often or we’ve only met online. A sympathetic soul and a heart connection are what matter when it comes to friendship, after all.

Do you have heart friends whom you’ve never or seldom seen in the flesh? How do you think the internet is changing friendship?

Linda Rodriguez’s third novel featuring Cherokee detective Skeet Bannion, Every Hidden Fear, was a selection of the Las Comadres National Latino Book Club and received a 2014 ArtsKC Fund Inspiration Award. Her second Skeet mystery, Every Broken Trust, was a selection of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club and a finalist for the Premio Aztlan, took 2nd Place in the International Latino Book Award, and was selected for Latino Books into Movies. Her first Skeet novel, Every Last Secret, won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition, International Latino Book Award Honorable Mention, and was a Barnes & Noble mystery pick.

Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” which appeared in Kansas City Noir (Akashic Books), has been optioned for film. For her books of poetry, Skin Hunger and Heart’s Migration, Rodriguez received numerous awards and fellowship, including the Thorpe Menn Award for literary excellence, the Midwest Voices and Visions Award, the Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, the 2011 ArtsKC Fund Inspiration Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. She is chair of the AWP Indigenous/Aboriginal American Writers Caucus, immediate past president of the Borders Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, Kansas City Cherokee Community, and International Thriller Writers. Find her at