Friday, March 27, 2015

Spring Has Come - Time for a New Resolution by Debra H. Goldstein


The snow is melting!  The snow is melting! Spring is here!  There’s actually a jonquil popping its head up in my yard (sorry guys, we’ve had some 60-70 degree days).  As a writer, I am reborn when the sun comes out.

With rebirth comes a new sense of responsibility.  It is one that I have been sorely lacking since I stepped down from the bench.  It is the willingness to commit my time and energies where my mouth has claimed to be.  Sure, I’ve produced one sold book (Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery coming from Five Star Publications in 2016) and ten published short stories in the past sixteen months, but I’ve done that writing in spurts.  I’ve repeatedly said, I can’t discipline myself enough to write daily but I write up a storm when the mood moves me.  In the meantime, I’ve organized and executed a wedding for 326 people, gotten into a regular mah jongg game, been active on many civic boards, taken on numerous isolated projects, traveled for pleasure and writing, and been hit by the biggest continuing wallop when I lost my mother in November.

People tell me they’re amazed at what I’ve accomplished and I smile and accept their nice words, but deep down, I know I am a fraud.  Secretly, I watch with envy and astonishment the accomplishments of three somewhat early in their career authors whose work I enjoy and who I greatly admire as people – Edith Maxwell, Leslie Budewitz, and Terry Shames.  Each has produced multiple books and in Edith and Leslie’s cases, multiple series, in the same time period.  They also do a million things outside of their writing.  What’s the difference?

Don’t even go there with the obvious answer – their talent, writing skills, and wonderful characterizations.  Leaving those givens aside for a moment, it is their discipline.  Each sets a daily or weekly word goal and they reach it.  They set further goals for revisions.  Their results speak for themselves – well written, well-edited books they can be proud to put their names on and which fans, including me, can’t wait to read.

Many of us can string words together, but without self-discipline we are condemned to be writers of excuses instead of multiple works.  Spring is here and with the rebirth of the year, we all have an opportunity to start anew.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Story Starts Here

by Bethany Maines

One of the most common question a writer gets asked is "Where do your ideas come from?"

Once my brother made me lay on his floor so he could tape outlines of me all over his bedroom carpet as though his room had been the site of a mass murder; we found it was surprisingly difficult to get just the right pose so that all the limbs were showing and you didn't just have weird potato shaped outlines. (Yes, I know that was an odd transition, but I'll circle back I promise.) When was 12, I told my Dad I had a stove box to make a Halloween costume out of he got out the black and white spray paint and turned my best friend and I into Two Fools in Pair-o-Dice; our heads came out the one dots - naturally. My mom's friend once had eye surgery and had a rather large bandage, so my mom painted on an eye over the bandage and added a great set of false lashes. Why did we do these things? Honestly, the question never occurred to us. Had you asked at the time we probably would have said, "Why not?" My family has a culture of creativity and odd projects from passing thoughts are the norm not the exception. And as is often the case with cultures, I didn't think to question it until someone from a different culture asked, "So why don't you put mayo on fries?"  Or in the case of my writing, "How do you come up with your ideas?"

The people asking don't mean anything by the question, they are genuinely interested. The problem is that at any given time I'm vacillating between two of my personalities, Helpful Instructor Bethany and Diva Artiste Bethany. Helpful Instructor is usually nice, but Diva Artiste is kind of... well, I won't use the B-word as we are in a family friendly forum, but you get the idea, and sometimes it's a struggle to rein Diva Wench back in. Helpful Instructor realizes that the questioner was not raised in a culture of creativity and they are asking for help understanding the creative process. Diva Artiste imperiously demands how anyone cannot have ideas. Ideas are literally littered on the sidewalk, in the newspaper, on the radio, sleeting through the universe like a tiny meteorite looking for a receptive brain (Terry Pratchett, you are missed) and all you really have to do to have an idea is make your brain receptive. It's easy to do - read blogs by creative people (thanks), buy creative people presents (ok, maybe not really on that one, but I like books, you know, just in case), try new things. But the number one tip that Helpful Instructor or Diva Artiste both agree on, is to ask "What if?"

Any topic can work. Earlier this week there was a news story about a man who ran from the police and got stuck in mud.  What if you had been that man - up to your knees in river mud, unable to move, sinking slowly? What would you do?

What if I... What if you... What if they... The story starts there and you can decide the ending - just answer the question.

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, Tales from the City of Destiny and the forthcoming An Unseen Current.  You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, March 20, 2015

On Buying Books—Or Not

By Linda Rodriguez

A reader recently wrote to me to praise my most recent book, Every Hidden Fear, and apologized for having checked the book out of the library. I reassured her that there was no need to apologize, but I know why these readers and others have felt this way. A few authors have been very vocal on Facebook and other places about their disgust at people using the library rather than purchasing their books. When you add in the justifiable distress that most authors feel and express about actual book piracy, which is usually of e-books, it might seem to readers that there are a lot of angry authors out there. I don’t believe that’s the case, at all.

I’m always happy to have readers check out my books from their local libraries, and most authors I know feel the same way. I think the authors who’ve exploded online about library copies cutting into their sales numbers are few—and mostly new to the business. For many of us midlist authors, library sales are quite an important part of our book-sale figures. Besides, most of us were at one time nerdy kids who adored and made great use of their libraries. Many of us are still big library users. Authors tend to love libraries.

I have known experienced authors who became upset at signings when presented with books that were purchased in used-book stores. They usually are gracious to the reader, but complain about it to their fellow authors later. And they have a point. The author and publisher receive nothing from that used-book sale after the initial sale. Some readers are not aware of this. Some are, but can’t afford to buy all of their books new, especially if the book is only available in hardcover.

None of this behavior mentioned so far is piracy. Libraries and used-book stores are legitimate outlets. Piracy, which usually involves e-books, is when copies of a book are made available for free in the millions on sites usually called torrent sites. These sites violate the copyright laws and basically allow people to steal books. Aside from the damage this does to publishers and authors, which can be substantial, it is fundamentally unethical and dishonest behavior.

I don’t want my books pirated, and I don’t care how many people tell me “all content should be free” or “it’s good exposure.” People can die from exposure. My attitude is Don’t steal my books. But used-book sales are not piracy. Those books were purchased once, much as library books are, and with physical books, certainly, there’s a limit on how many times that book can be checked out or sold before it gets ragged and must be discarded and a new one bought. In the meanwhile, people are reading my books and enjoying them and recommending them to friends and eventually, I hope, buying them new. My books are only available in hardcover and e-book at the moment, and I know the hardcover’s a big expense for students and folks on fixed incomes. Libraries and used-book stores make it possible for them to find my books and read them anyway.

However, I do think readers should be aware that used-book store sales count nothing at all for the writer. Library sales do count, though they are not figured in for the bestseller lists. And the way publishing works right now, if a writer’s sales don’t continually climb—at a fairly steep rate—that author will be dropped by the publisher after three to six books. Even if all those books earned out their advances. Even if all those books had stellar reviews and were nominated for awards. So if too many of an author’s readers use libraries only and/or, especially, used-book stores to access their books, that author and that series of books will disappear. The author may be able to start a different series at a different publisher, but usually s/he will have to take a pen name, making it difficult for fans to follow. Publishers today seem to think every author should become a bestseller eventually—and remember, neither library nor used-book sales count for that—and if s/he doesn’t, the publishers lose interest in that author.

So, like the inimitable Neil Gaiman, I’ll happily sign anything from anywhere. But I’d like readers to be aware that their choices will affect whether or not their favorite authors are able to continue writing their favorite books—or at all. But if, like my correspondents, you feel bad because you simply can’t afford to buy a new book by a favorite author, don’t. Just write a brief, thoughtful  review and post it on Amazon or Good Reads or other reading community. That will mean a great deal to the author and cost you nothing but a few minutes of your time.

What are your thoughts on this thorny issue?

Linda Rodriguez’s third novel in the Skeet Bannion series, Every Hidden Fear (St. Martin’s Press), was a Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, a selection of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club, and received an ArtsKC Fund Inspiration Award. Her second novel featuring the Cherokee campus police chief, Every Broken Trust (St. Martin’s Press), was a selection of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club, took 2nd Place in the International Latino Book Awards, and was a finalist for the Premio Aztlan Literary Award. Her first Skeet novel, Every Last Secret, won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition and an International Latino Book Award Honorable Mention, was featured by Las Comadres National Book Club, and was a Barnes & Noble mystery pick. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for film.
Find her on Twitter as @rodriguez_linda, on Facebook at, and on blogs with The Stiletto Gang http:, Writers Who Kill, and her own blog

REPLIES TO COMMENTS (because Blogger hates me, and even though I managed to comment from another browser twice, now it won't let me comment even that way--huge sigh):  Gee, Ritter, thanks! I don't think I've been anyone's hero in a while. :-)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Maybe It’s Normal, but I Don’t Have to Like It

By Kay Kendall

This month I’m putting final touches on my second mystery, rushing to meet a self-imposed deadline and trying to make up for time lost with my spouse’s recent illness. The waiting period before my editor’s comments arrived was agonizing. That was when I drummed my fingers on the table instead of pounding keys on my PC.

What will my editor say? Is my second book junk compared to my first one? Is it a hopeless mess? Have I lost my touch—that is, any talent that I had to begin with? The days passed. The clock ticked. I chewed my cuticles. I waited. 

All authors who address the agonies of the writing and publishing process
mention that there are always down periods when they doubt themselves. Even those who routinely issue bestselling novels confess to having these feelings.

Okay, so misery loves company. I admit that their angst makes mine lighter by seeming normal. Usually that kind of reasoning works for me.

However! This week while I waited for my editor’s next round of revisions, I decided this was no fun at all. I didn’t care if it was normal. I didn’t care if others felt the same way. I didn’t feel good about anything, and my nerves were shredded.

Yesterday when the long-awaited documents hit my inbox, I opened them immediately, read through the general comments, and scanned the three-hundred-page manuscript that will become RAINY DAY WOMEN, the further exploits of my intrepid amateur sleuth Austin Starr.

After thirty minutes of reading, I realized I had slid into a comfortable groove. I’d been here before with mystery number one, DESOLATION ROW. I recalled enjoying this part of the process—the to and fro with my editor. She’s a good fit with me. We happily spend time choosing the right synonym or arguing about the proper way to spell whiskey. Or whisky, depending what country it comes from. Yes, I had worked through this once with the first book. You bet I could do it again. 

Since I have persevered, not given up, not thrown in the towel, I have moved on to this delicious stage of preparing my manuscript for publication. If it weren’t for the too-tight deadline, I would be having a blast. I cannot burn the midnight oil as I once did—never mind at 30. How about back when I could really tear up the track—when I was 50? <Note to Editor Beth: Yes, I've indulged my flaw--a fondness for cliches--but I usually mean them tongue-in-cheek. I'll enjoy them here all the better to rip them from the ms.>

And so it goes, as my manuscript, my editor, my publisher Stairway Press, and I tramp ever onward to that hallowed publication date. Please mark your calendars, my friends. RAINY  DAY WOMEN sees the light of day—despite its title—on Tuesday, July 7.


Kay Kendall set her debut novel, DESOLATION ROW--AN AUSTIN STARR MYSTERY in 1968. The sequel RAINY DAY WOMEN shows her amateur sleuth Austin Starr proving her best friend didn't murder women’s liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver. A fan of historical mysteries, Kay does for the 1960s what novelist Jacqueline Winspear accomplishes for England in the 1930s–present atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit of the age. She 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, March 17, 2015

My Latest Book by Marilyn aka F.M. Meredith

Though I haven't seen a copy yet, Violent Departures, the latest in my Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series is now available on Amazon.

Blurb for Violent Departures:

College student, Veronica Randall, disappears from her car in her own driveway, everyone in the Rocky Bluff P.D. is looking for her. Detective Milligan and family move into a house that may be haunted. Officer Butler is assigned to train a new hire and faces several major challenges.

I am expecting copies and hope to have them by the time this blog post appears.

As always, I have events scheduled and hoping to have books available by them.

On line, I'll be doing a blog tour, and here is where I'l be and what I wrote about the first week:

What’s Happening with Gordon Butler?

            Introduction to the Rocky Bluff P.D. Mystery Series

            My Writing Process


 What’s Up Next?

The Importance of Place

            Coming Up With New Ideas for an Ongoing Series


Because it has been popular on my other blog tours, once again I’m offering the chance for the person who comments on the most blog posts during this tour to have a character named for him or her in the next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery.

Or if that doesn’t appeal, the person may choose one of the earlier books in the series—either a print book or Kindle copy.

For those of you who haven't read one in this series, it isn't necessary to start at the first one as I've written each as a stand-alone--whatever the crime is will be solved by the end. Yes, of course, the characters grow and change through out. This has been called a cozy police-procedural though it really doesn't have the criteria for a cozy except that the setting is a small town and it is a bit milder than most police proceduarls as the members of the police department and their families are more tlike the men and women that I know.

Marilyn aka F.M. Meredith

Monday, March 16, 2015

Meet the Authors of the 2014 Agatha Best First Novel Nominees!

Each year at Malice Domestic, writing excellence is recognized by the Agatha awards. This year’s nominees for Best First Novel are:
Circle of Influence by Annette Dashofy (Henery Press)
Tagged for Death by Sherry Harris (Kensington Publishing)
Finding Sky by Susan O'Brien (Henery Press)
Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran (Berkley Prime Crime)
Murder Strikes a Pose by Tracy Weber (Midnight Ink)

Today, the Stiletto Gang welcomes Annette Dashofy, Sherry Harris, Susan O’Brien, Terrie Farley Moran, and Tracy Weber. All are not only skilled and talented writers, but also charming and caring people. Thanks, Annette, Sherry, Susan, Terrie, and Tracy, for stopping by to share your work and thoughts with us!

What was the idea or inspiration that led you to write your nominated novel?

Years ago I happened to overhear a snippet of conversation regarding a local political brouhaha. The person said, “Someone should just kill him and put him out of my misery.” No one actually did, but you can’t say something like that around a crime fiction writer and not have it end up in a story! In my case, it spun out a bunch of “what if” questions that ultimately became Circle of Influence.

My story is a little different. An editor in New York was looking for someone to write a garage sale series. Through a series of fortunate events the chance to write a proposal for him landed in my lap. I’ve always loved garage sales and the proposalsynopsis of the first three books, first three chapters, cast of characters, and marketing planpoured out of me in four days.

I’ve wanted to be an author since childhood, and I’m not sure why. I don’t remember ever not wanting to be an author! My love of mysteries grew over the years, and by the time I was ready to write one, I was a parent. My protagonist Nicki is a mom, and I wanted her to be honest about the funny, overwhelming nature of parenting—while solving mysteries that I hope parents and non-parents will enjoy. Also, I planned to donate part of my royalties to organizations that serve missing kids and their families. It’s almost surreal to have these dreams come true!

I wrote the book I wanted to read. If I could create my own world, (Oh, wait—I can) I would have my home away from home be a book store/restaurant just like the Read ’Em and Eat—all books all the time, with book-themed food served on author-themed tables. Book clubs meet there regularly, and I wondered what would happen if a beloved book club member was tragically murdered. In Well Read, Then Dead that is exactly what happens.

A homeless lady—I’ll call her Susan—used to hang out near the entrance to my neighborhood grocery store, and she always had a large Rottweiler mix in a crate next to her. Over time, I got to know them both, and I asked her about the crate. She told me that the Rottweiler would sometimes lunge at other dogs that walked by on the sidewalk. The crate—which she stored behind the building at night—allowed her to keep the dog with her, in spite of its reactivity.

Susan adored that dog and went to great lengths to take care of it, in spite of her own financial issues and living conditions. She was as dedicated to her pet as most people are to their children.

I started to wonder: What if her dog had an expensive health condition as well as its behavior issues? What would she do? What could she do? That’s when Bella and George formed in my head. Unfortunately, Susan disappeared from the neighborhood long before I wrote the first draft of Murder Strikes a Pose. I haven’t seen her almost two years, so I’ll probably never know what she would have thought about being my muse. I hope she would have felt complimented.

What advice would you give to writers?

Don’t ever give up. Keep studying the craft of writing. And finish the book.

Don’t give up and study the craft. I have stacks of rejection lettersfrom back in the day when everything was still done by snail mail. I have two and a half books written that never sold. I kept writing, went to lots of conferences, met people, and learned. When the opportunity finally came, I was ready. Also, I wish someone would have told me that maybe it was time to move on from the series that didn’t sell and to try something new.

If you believe your work is meant to be published, stay positive and don’t give up! The journey to publication can be long and difficult—yet incredibly rewarding. Keep your options open, too. I ended up working with a small publisher and an attorney (not an agent).

My best advice for every writer is: Trust your own judgment. Keep on writing. Submit. Don’t wait to hear back. Write something else. Submit that. The more you write, the more comfortable writing becomes until you can’t imagine your life without pounding the keyboard or picking up the pen.

Don’t give up, and don’t procrastinate. Write every day. Write what you love. If you spend every day working on what you love most, even if you never get published, you’ll have had a good time. That’s what matters most.

For the Agatha banquet, what kind of shoes would you (or if you prefer, your protagonist or a character from your story) wear? [This is, after all, The Stiletto Gang!]

This is such an appropriate question since it’s one I’m currently pondering. I bought a great dress, but it’s white and all my dressy shoes are black or dark brown. I was thinking of getting taupe pumps, but lately I’m considering getting crazy and going with ruby red or animal print pumps!

Ah, lovely stiletto wearing folks of the world, I envy you but I gave up heels a long time ago. I will look for a pair of snazzy flats! However my protagonist Sarah would wear something with a peep toe and a three inch heel.

My protagonist Nicki and I are both uncomfortable walking in high heels. (Her next adventure actually relates to this topic!) Honestly, I wear orthotics, so I’ll probably wear my only pair of dress shoes—with a moderate heel—that accommodates them. If you see me, please understand! Thanks!

Shoes!! Having grown up in the era where a lady’s shoes and purse must match, and heels were worn every day, I once owned stilettos in half a dozen colors. (We also wore white gloves on the subway, but that’s a story for another time.) Due to an ancient softball injury, compounded decades later by a broken ankle, I will be wearing a pair of very low-heeled pumps to the Agatha Banquet. But, never fear Stiletto Gang, I still have a pair of gray suede three-inch heels in my closet that I cannot bear to give away. Sometimes I put them on and hobble around the house, with my cane in hand for safety. They still look fabulous and I feel fabulous when I have them on my feet. Alas, my left ankle wobbles if I try to walk in them.

Given that Kate and I are both yoga teachers, we would really prefer to go barefoot. But if that won’t work, a pair of comfy Birkenstocks will work quite nicely!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Feeling Lucky - Friday the 13th by Debra H. Goldstein

FEELING LUCKY – FRIDAY THE 13TH by Debra H. Goldstein

Walk under a ladder, admire the black cat that runs across my path, and not carry a lucky penny, rabbit’s foot, or charm are all things I’m going to do today. It’s Friday the 13th, probably one of the most feared and safest days when it falls. This year, 2015, the 13th day of the month falls on Friday in February, March and November.

According to Wikipedia, my main source of factual information for today’s blog, there is dispute as to when it truly became such a superstitious day. Some say the Middle Ages, others the 19th century, but all agree that it became a popularized day of fear through literature. Although it was mentioned in an earlier published biography, the 1907 book Friday the Thirteenth by Thomas W. Lawson, in which a broker uses the superstition of the day to create a Wall Street panic, was the first bestseller to dwell on the date. More modern books to capitalize on Friday the 13th include John J. Robinson’s Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry (1989) and The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (2003).

Wikipedia references a study by the Ashville, North Carolina Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute as estimating seventeen to twenty-one million people in the United States are impacted by fear when the 13th falls on a Friday. These people avoid normal business activities, traveling, “or even getting out of bed.”

Not me. I have enough things happen on other days that Friday the 13th is simply one more day – good or bad. Hopefully, because of everyone else’s fears, I can get a discount on an airline ticket, be safer on the roads because people tend to drive more carefully on Friday the 13th, and not worry about a bucket of paint dropping on me when I walk under that ladder because my painter opted to stay home. I know already that I’m lucky – you’re reading this blog.

Tell me, are you afraid of Friday the 13th? Have any Friday the 13th experiences to share?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Genre Bending

By Bethany Maines

I read Marjorie Brody’s post yesterday “Passion Knows NoGenre” with interest. Marjorie was discussing that she hates being tied to one particular genre, but that the general industry wisdom is to do exactly that – stick to one thing! I love Marjorie’s rebellious flare, but the topic also tied into something I’ve been pondering for awhile: pen names and branding.

As a graphic designer with over a decade of industry experience I have referred to myself periodically as a “branding expert”. Branding is about capturing the concrete and implied qualities of a company or person in their visual, advertising, and on-line representations. Branding seems trivial to some, but as human beings we do it ALL the time. Only most sociologists call it “stereotyping”. Humans seem to prefer to have a short little label to stick on people. We don’t really like being forced to confront the broad spectrum of human reality – it takes too long and we’ve got better things to do with our time. What I do as a graphic designer is try to lodge the preferred stereotype in a consumers mind before they apply their (usually not as complementary) own.
Which is why I don’t usually tell my graphic design clients that I’m a writer.  It confuses my brand.  I can see the thought bubble form: If she writes, then she can’t really be a graphic designer; everyone knows you can’t have TWO talents.  Fortunately, the writer brand is equivalent with “poor” so when I tell writer friends that I also do graphic design they just nod.  But industry wisdom has the same “does not compute” problem with genre.  “But she writes Mystery, she can’t also write (fill in the blank).” 

And up until now the only way to write something different was to use a pen name. But with the online world being what it is and with lawyers being blabbermouths, keeping a pen name identity a secret is hard to do.  The other problem is that as writers have become more and more responsible for their own publicity they realize that it’s hard enough getting recognition for one name, let alone building buzz for an entirely new, second name.

Which is why I find the development of the new style of pen name so interesting.  “Wrting as” has become the marketers new favorite phrase. Such as: Laura Spinella writing as L.J. Wilson pens Ruby Ink! (I’m half way through my advance copy and it’s a fantastic, saucy romp of a book – pick it up on March 31!)  “Writing as” is now code for “I’m not writing in the same genre, so be prepared for something different.”  And I couldn’t be happier about it. At last writers have found a way to break out of the genre trap! Perhaps in a few years Pen Names will be the new industry wisdom. We’ll just have to see which pen name Marjorie chooses.