Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Am I paranoid if somebody really is out to get me?

I am convinced someone has posted a large bounty to anyone who will take out me and my car.

I drive a little red sports car, a Honda Civic SI with 6 on the floor and VTECH acceleration. It’s a fun car, and I have fun driving it, especially since I got the radar detector and don’t have to worry so much about those pesky cops who like to give tickets to innocent speeders when they should be out looking for guilty murderers.

But now other drivers are out to get me, and not to give me a ticket!

One evening I was coming home from critique group, thinking about my book in progress and how to fix the egregious errors my critique partners had pointed out, in the zone as I sped around a long exit from one highway onto another. It’s a fun exit/entrance that curves sharply and is really fun to zip around.

My left brain suddenly exclaimed, “There’s a car coming toward you in your lane!”

Right brain: “Impossible. So my heroine finds another gift on her front porch…”

Left brain: “I swear! White car! Coming toward you!”

Right brain: “Leave me alone! And the gift has another note…”

Both sides of brain: “OMG! There’s a car coming toward me!”

I swerved, thwarted his evil purpose and eluded him. This was a blatantly deliberate attempt to take me out. There’s no way that driver could have accidentally turned onto the entrance ramp of the highway. He was after me.

I drove on, and in a couple of miles my heart rate and blood pressure returned to normal. Almost home, I was driving in the right lane, going past a huge U-Haul truck towing a car behind. All of a sudden the driver decided she wanted to be in my lane…while I was still driving in it.

I slammed on the brakes and slid around her with inches to spare, ending up in the left lane, the one she’d been driving in. I straightened, hit the gas and prepared to get past the second threat to my life and car that evening.

But the U-Haul driver was determined to complete her assignment. She came back over into my lane. I went into VTech mode, sped away with inches to spare, and managed to escape with my body and vehicle intact. I hope that Kamikaze woman was awake all night, obsessing about how she failed to complete her mission.

Having established that my car is fast and easy to maneuver, THEY switched tactics. One evening four Kamikaze drivers waited on side streets then, when one saw me approaching, he eased out into traffic in front of me and slowed to a crawl. Fortunately I have quick reaction time, very good brakes, a good horn and a large vocabulary of curse words. I can only imagine how much money must be offered to induce someone to look up, see a red sports car driven by a crazed redhead barreling down the street, and decide it would be a good idea to pull in front of her.

Then one afternoon I turned onto my home street and saw a car approaching from a side street. I was wary by that time, but the car stopped at the stop sign in front of her. Whew! Not one of the potential assassins. However, as I approached, she gave me an evil look and started to pull in front of me. I slammed on my brakes and twisted my wheel, turning to the side of the street. Thus thwarted, she stopped, smiled grimly and surged past me before I could get her license number.

I believe these events prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone with a lot of money has it in for me. But who? I realize I can be a little irritating upon occasion, though never without good cause. Well, sure, it could always be the evil ex who hates me and has plenty of money, but he’s too stingy to pay to have it done.

How long can I evade these people? How many more will come after me? What cunning tactic will they employ next?

I can see only one recourse. I will put all of them in a book, expose them, and kill them. Thank goodness I have the power of words and a VTech engine behind me!



Friday, April 24, 2015

My Husband is Living With a New Woman

My Husband is Living With A New Woman by Debra H. Goldstein

My husband thinks he’s living with a new woman.  He isn’t sure who I am. Suddenly, I’m doing things and talking about subjects that are absolutely foreign to what he associates with me.

The fact is that we’ve been married long enough that he thinks he can predict what I like or dislike. Ask him and he’ll tell you that I love him, our children, books, eating out and theater (although he’s not sure what order, at any given time, those things fall in) and that sporting events, exercise, and cooking top my “forget it” list. Lately though, he thinks his wife has been replaced by a “foodie.”

Not only does he keep finding the television tuned to the Food Network, but he’s noticed that I keep coming home with cookbooks and new food gadgets. Even weirder, I’ve been turning down the option of going out to dinner to try a number of new recipes out on him. Of course, not all of them have been successful. For example, I made chicken soup from scratch for our Passover Seder, but I didn’t realize that the wide noodles I added a few minutes before the service would soak up all the soup during our short service. You can imagine my face when I peered into the pot to ladle out portions and could actually see my soup evaporating. The good thing, as we all agreed, was that the matzah balls, noodles, and chicken ended up being very well seasoned.

At least those things sans soup were edible. Recently, I made a fish dish that not only looked beautiful in the picture in the cookbook, but also on our plates. The only problem was that I got distracted when I was measuring some of the ingredients. Take it from me, 2 tablespoons of black pepper make a dish a lot spicier than ¼ of a teaspoon. Thank goodness we had plenty of water with that meal.

Last night, I dragged my husband to a new type of dinner experience - Dinner Lab. Young chefs come into town and serve a meal in a pop-up restaurant. Although the diner knows the chef and menu in advance, the location isn’t revealed until the day before dinner. The dinner itself is more like a tasting menu in that each course provides a different eating sensation. I liked the warehouse used, thought the menu novel, and enjoyed each course. My husband had the same reaction he had when he saw The Blue Men Group – “that was different.”

The reality is I haven’t changed. I still prefer to eat out. What has changed is that my newest work in progress (about 51,000 words so far) is a cozy with recipes. Writing accurately and interestingly requires research. Whether it is the voice, setting, or characterization, accuracy counts. So, I’ve become addicted to food shows, cookbooks, and cooking (okay, make that attempted cooking) for the sake of my craft. Can you possibly think of a more fun way to get the story right – even if it means my husband is living with a new woman?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Mystery Novel Seeks New Home

by Bethany Maines

As the release date for my newest mystery (An UnseenCurrent) approaches (April 28th – ahhhhhhh!!!) I find myself once again pondering the cruel irony of nature that crafts writers to be introspective sorts and then pits them against a task to which they are monumentally unsuited.  That is to say: marketing. The woman hours spent lovingly crafting characters, settings, and events leaves the writer more than a little in love with their own book. To then have it heartlessly thrust into the public where some reviewer will crassly thumb through it and declare it to be passable is like being gently stabbed with needles by someone who doesn’t really care about your problems.  We all want to be bestselling authors.  I mean, who doesn’t want to be RichardCastle? (I really am ruggedly handsome!)  But in all honesty, I think most writers would rather have their books treasured and loved than consumed like soda and disposed of.

I remember the first time I saw one of my aunt’s books at Half-Price Books. My aunt, Linda Nichols, writes beautiful Christian fiction with snappy plots and characters you want to hug. I had not yet, published any books and I personally thought that seeing her books on the shelf of a used bookstore was cool.  But Linda did not think it was cool – there was wincing and the sad look of “ohh, I wish I didn’t know that.”  Someone sold her book down the river – the heathens, the Philistines! The bastards with not enough shelf space!  After I had been published I realized her pain.  How could someone not love my book?! Why would anyone give my book away?  My books are awesome.  All right, yes, I recognize the shelf space issue is a real thing – even libraries don’t have ALL the books.  But as each baby book flies out into the world, forgive me if I hope that it will find at least one home where it will be treasured.

And on that note – who wants a free digital copy of An Unseen Current?  It’s looking for an awesome home (and someone who will leave a review).  Leave a comment here or on Facebook to be entered to win.  I’ll draw names on Friday morning.

When Seattle native Tish Yearly finds herself fired and evicted  all in one afternoon, she knows she’s in deep water. Unemployed and desperate, the 26 year old ex-actress heads for the one place she knows she’ll be welcome – the house of her cantankerous ex-CIA agent grandfather, Tobias Yearly, in the San Juan Islands. And when she discovers the strangled corpse of Tobias’s best friend, she knows she’s in over her head. Tish is thrown head-long into a mystery that pits her against a handsome but straight-laced Sheriff’s Deputy, a group of eccentric and clannish local residents, and a killer who knows the island far better than she does. Now Tish must swim against the current, depending on her nearly forgotten acting skills and her grandfather’s spy craft, to con a killer and keep them alive.

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.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What I've Been Up to Lately by Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

The photo is of the last event I participated in--The Jackass Mail Run. Since it's in the little town where I live, I decided to participate again. This is a wild day, beginning at noon when we set up, with the help of our son, and lasting unitl 6 p.m.

Riders on horses and a wagon with mail and a load of people start in the morning from Porterville (17 miles away) and trek up the highway toward Springville. They make a stop at noon at a local watering hole for lunch and beverages and then continue the ride. Many of the horses end the trek at the rodeo grounds, but othere who are protecting the mail wagon ride into twon around 4. Bad guys with guns are waiing, and the gunfire explodes. Very loud and the kids love it. The mail always get through to the post office.

At 2, when the event begins in town, craft and food booths are set up in the park and across the street (where I was). Bands and singers performed in the park, raffle prizes given out, and the Jackass Mail Queen crowned. People did wander across the street to check out the booths and some bought my books, many took my cards, and a lot of folks talked to me and my husband.

I've also given a presentation at the Porterville Library as part of Library week. I talked about my Rocky Bluff P.D. series, how it began, and what inspired me to write each subsequent book. It was part of my promotion gof the latest in the series: Violent Departures.

I've also been busy with my blog tour which ends today with two posts.

A final interview here: http://blog.jamesmjackson.com
and http://kathleenkaskawrites.blogspot.com/  where I answered the question who influenced me the most.

People always want to know if I think blog tours help-- I know they do, I can see by the uptick in sales--not huge, but enough to know people are trying my book.

In May,

The biggest thing I've got going is starting May 1, the first book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, Final Respects, will be free on Kindle. Of course I'm hoping that will tempt some folks to try out the series.

So far, the only other plans for May as far as book promotion is a neighborhood bookstore--something several of us did in the fall and worked out quite well. Because I'm a real person, my calendar has many other things that I have to do just like everyone else.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Monday, April 20, 2015

Meet the Authors of the 2014 Agatha Best Short Story Nominees!

Each year at Malice Domestic, writing excellence is recognized by the Agatha awards. This year’s nominees for Best Short Story are:
“The Blessing Witch” (PDF) by Kathy Lynn Emerson, Best New England Crime Stories 2015: Rogue Wave (Level Best Books)
“Just Desserts for Johnny” (PDF) by Edith Maxwell (Kings River Life Magazine)
“The Shadow Knows” by Barb Goffman, Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays (Wildside Press)
“The Odds are Against Us” (PDF) by Art Taylor, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Nov. 2014
“Premonition” by Art Taylor, Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays (Wildside Press)

Please enjoy the opportunity to read these stories, if you haven’t already. We are so fortunate to have with us today Kathy Lynn Emerson, Edith Maxwell, Barb Goffman, and Art Taylor. All are not only fabulous writers, but also delightful people. Thanks, Kathy, Edith, Barb, and Art, for stopping by to share your work and thoughts with us!

How do you compare short story writing with novel writing?

Writing short stories is much harder. In quite a few cases, it took me longer to finish a short story than it did to write an entire 80,000 word novel. With at least one story, it took me years to get it right. When I write novels, they get longer with each revision. When I revise a short story, it almost always ends up even shorter.

A heck of a lot shorter, for one thing! When I had two-thirds of a novel in the drawer twenty years ago and then reentered the paid work force while raising two sons, there was no way I could carry the plot and characters of a book around in my head and fit them into the tiny snatches of time I had available to writer. But I could manage a short story, and wrote nearly a dozen, five of which were eventually published in juried anthologies. Short stories are simpler. They’re not necessarily easier, but they don’t take as much time or brain space to complete.

For me, writing a novel is like the long con. I start in one place, and I know that eventually I’ll bring the reader to another place. But in the middle there will be detours and red herrings and subplots. I want to keep readers from seeing where we’re going. I want to fool them. To surprise them. I might set something up in chapter two that will pay benefits three hundred pages later. That’s the long con.

With a short story, there’s no space for the long con. I’m writing the equivalent of a bank robbery. I get in, get the cash, and get out. No detours. No subplots. It’s a quick ride. Sure, short stories and novels both should have a great beginning and ending and hopefully a surprise or two, but the way I approach the middle is different.

Each time I’ve tried to write a full novel, I’ve struggled with structure and pacing to the point that the results have always been bumpy at best, dismal at worst—and none of them has seen the light of day. With my upcoming novel-in-stories, On the Road with Del and Louise (coming out this September from Henery Press), I’ve tried to capitalize on what I think I do well: manage the narrative arc—the structure and pacing—of a short story, and link those stories together in contribution to a larger narrative arc featuring the bigger story of these characters. To some degree, I think I just understand short stories better, for better or worse.

What advice would you give to short story writers?

Keep it simple. In a short story there is no room for subplots, information dumps, or complicated relationships. I’d say limit the number of characters, but that would be a tad hypocritical since I’ve never managed to follow that piece of advice myself.

Don’t send it in too early. Get the first draft done and let it stew for a while. Then work to eliminate everything unnecessary, whether a description that doesn’t move the story forward or a character you can do without. And then work it over again, polishing, trimming. I’ve seen a couple of beginning writers dash off a short and send it in (well, I did the same myself when I was starting out) when it wasn’t quite ready.

Read. Read novels. Read short stories. Read, read, read. It gets your brain moving. It teaches you technique, even if you don’t realize it as it’s happening. It helps you learn what works and what doesn’t.

And when you write, keep two things in mind: (1) Everything in the story should move the plot forward. If a scene or character can come out without affecting the plot, it doesn’t belong in the story. (2) But don’t make your plot move so quickly that your main character doesn’t have the time to react to what’s happening. Reactions are interesting. They bring the character to life and add richness to the story. So show us her thoughts, and then move that plot along.

Write the biggest story you can and then cut and fold, cut and fold, cut and fold until the only words left are those that are key to the story—that’s the ideal for me, even I personally feel like I’m always falling short of that goal. The novelist’s art strikes me generally as one of accumulation, where the short story writer should ideally focus on subtraction—the most effect in the fewest words—and training yourself to see where to cut and combine and condense is a challenge. Beyond that, read widely in the short story form. There are so so many great short story writers out there, each of them with different stylistic and structural approaches, and there’s so much to learn from them and then maybe apply in your own way to your own craft.

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

The same ones I wear every year—black SAS sandals with one-inch heels. Definitely no stilettos. I have trouble enough walking in the sandals. By rights I should be wearing old-lady-with-arthritis orthopedic lace-ups!

I’m so shoe impaired in terms of what’s conventional. I’m trying to come up with a pair of party shoes that aren’t either stilettos or some version of little-girl shoes. I have short wide feet and refuse to wear heels, so it isn’t easy! You’re going to have to wait and see what I find. Maybe we can do a follow up post with a picture of all our Agatha banquet shoes...
[Edith sent her picture early, so I wanted to share it. I’ll see if I can get shots of the shoes actually worn at the banquet!—Paula]

Gus, my main character from my Agatha-nominated story “The Shadow Knows,” wouldn’t go to a banquet. It’s way too fancy for him. But if he were forced, Gus would wear plain, comfortable shoes. I’m similar in that respect. My shoes will be black and nearly flat and above all else, comfortable. I want to enjoy the evening, which means doing what I can to avoid aching feet.

I’ve got a pair of suede saddle shoes that I regularly want to wear (khaki green panel over off-white), but my wife Tara says they don’t ever match what I put them with, so…. We’ll see if I can ever come up with a good combination! [Here are Art’s shoes for your viewing pleasure!—Paula]

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Seven Things

Seven Things
By Laura Bradford

I have to admit, I'm so copying off Marjorie's post idea from Tuesday (though, technically speaking, I, too, was tagged on this 7-things-you-might-not-know-about-my-writing thing by the Stiletto Gang's own Lynn Cahoon a while back).

So here we go..

1) My first book was written in twenty-minute increments over a five year time period thanks to having two little ones under the age of four. That first book, JURY OF ONE (now called DEADLY READINGS in its resurrected E-book persona) went on to be an Agatha Nominee for Best First Novel at the 2006 Malice Domestic Conference despite being with a small press publishing house.

2) The first cover of that first book (a mystery, mind you) was pink...with a green sun. And no, you can't make that stuff up.  The second cover of that first book (the book club version put out by Harlequin's Worldwide Mystery) was better...although when I saw it for the first time in thumbnail form, I thought it was the Hamburger Helper Hand (again, can't make this stuff up).

3) I've wanted to be a writer since I was ten. One of my first attempts was O'CASEY'S WISH. Which I still have to this day. Thanks mom. :)

4) That Agatha nomination at the 2006 Malice was not my only award nomination. Two of  my romances--KAYLA'S DADDY (I didn't pick that title) and MIRACLE BABY (I soooo did not pick that title) were both nominated for the 2010 RT Reviewers' Choice Award for Best Harlequin American.  To have two titles in the 5 nomination spots was pretty cool.  Even cooler?  Having MIRACLE BABY land the award!

5) The hardest book I ever wrote was STORYBOOK DAD (Harlequin American 2012) as the story's heroine had Multiple Sclerosis (like me) and I wanted to get it right. To date, that is one of the books I am most proud of.

6) I once got to talk to Mary Higgins Clark on the telephone. Thanks to Harlan Coben. 
Dream. Come. True.

7) My 20th (SUSPENDERED SENTENCE) and 21st (WEDDING DURESS) traditionally published novels came out last month and this month, respectively.  Pinch me now.

Well, there you go, my 7 things.

Comments? Thoughts?


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

7 Things You May Not Know About My Writing

by Marjorie Brody

My dear friend and colleague, Kay Kendall, author of Desolation Row and Rainy Day Women, challenged me to post 7 things people may not know about my writing. I accepted her challenge and told her I'd share my behind-the-writing information here and now.

1. My first novel (the one prior to TWISTED) was written from 10:30 PM to 2-4:00 AM. I was working full-time as a psychotherapist and often attended the San Antonio Spurs basketball games at night so couldn't write until I got home.

2. I enjoy listening to music while I write. Soft jazz or Spanish ballads are my go-to music, quiet enough to keep in the background. Sometimes I don’t even hear the music, but when I start a writing session, music keeps me focused.

3. When I don’t write for any period of time I get grumpy—okay, that’s more about me than my writing, but it’s the truth. I imagine it’s like a runner who must run regularly. Writing is something I have to do for my mental health—and the mental health and happiness of my family and friends.

4. I tend to drink a lot of decaf coffee with hazelnut cream while I write. (In the Spurs mug my critique partner, Rita Derbas, gave me.)

5. My short story “In the Underside” (later produced as a play) was the only piece of writing that just flowed from my fingertips and came out in one complete, finished, piece. I remember staying up the entire night writing that story, sometimes my eyes blurring with tears. I had two thoughts in mind while I wrote “In the Underside”: the 28-year-old mother who died after drinking an abundance of water during a radio contest. Remember that situation? She wanted to win a Wii for her three children. The second thought: there is a lot that goes on inside people that doctors—and mental health specialists—can’t possibly know. I hadn’t intended “In the Underside” to be written with limited sensory awareness, (the protagonist can only hear and smell) but I’m glad the story wrote itself that way. I learned a lot.

6. I struggle to write non-fiction. Blogs are difficult for me. I blame it on having to write a dissertation. That might not be the core the reason, but I’m too busy to try to figure it out. I’ll just need to write through my discomfort.

7. I tend to write with a lot of dialogue. Sigrid Nunez, award-winning author and Literary Fellow to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, encouraged a group of us at the Vermont Studio Center “not to be afraid to use narrative” in our fiction. So I experimented with a short story, “It Was Said,” written predominantly in narration. To my surprise, that story received a nomination for the Pushcart Prize. The positive reception to that story doubly surprised me because I work hard to avoid “to be” verbs in my fiction. Yet here was a story where the passive voice almost becomes its own character in the tale.

So there you have it, seven bits of information you may not have known about me and/or my writing. Thank you, Kay, for prompting me to share aspects of my writing life. You know, perhaps another reason blogs are difficult for me (#6 above) is they go counter to my training against self-disclosure. Whoops, didn’t I say I would stop trying to figure that out? I guess just because I’ve become a professional writer doesn’t mean I can stop being a psychotherapist. But I must admit, it’s kind of nice to let others know a little more about me.

What 7 things would you include on your list?

Marjorie Brody is an award-winning author and Pushcart Prize Nominee. Her short stories appear in literary magazines and the Short Story America AnthologyVols. 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 http://tinyurl.com/cvl5why or http://tinyurl.com/bqcgywl. Marjorie invites you to visit her at www.marjoriespages.com.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Summer's coming. Are you ready?

This weekend was swim team sign-ups--an annual exercise in chaos.

There are forms to fill out. There are team suits to try on. There are cookies and lemonade and countless kiddos zipping around as if they've never had sugar before.

Soon, swim practice will begin and initial excitement (yeah, pool!) will give way to Do I have to go?

In June, there will meets. Not my favorite. Think competitive parents, vodka and overheated concrete mixed with over-excited, over-tired kids...*sigh* There are no high-tech touch pads for country club swim. Nope. Instead, parents with stopwatches endure blazing heat and intermittent splashes.

I was not a swimmer (you're welcome, Mom). I did play golf. Badly. Mom had to spend her Thursday mornings walking the back nine. So much better than swim team...

The summers of my childhood were filled with Tab and limes, peeling shoulders, playing kick-the-can until the evening news came on and my parents called me home. Idyllic, nostalgia inducing days. Days that inspired The Deep End.

As summer approaches I wish you lightning bugs and cicadas, Bomb pops and Bombay and tonic, at least a few days with low humidity and many days that will have you remembering them long after their gone.

Swimming into the lifeless body of her husband’s mistress tends to ruin a woman’s day, but becoming a murder suspect can ruin her whole life.

It’s summer 1974 and Ellison Russell’s life revolves around her daughter and her art. She’s long since stopped caring about her cheating husband, Henry, and the women with whom he entertains himself. That is, until she becomes a suspect in Madeline Harper’s death. The murder forces Ellison to confront her husband’s proclivities and his crimes—kinky sex, petty cruelties and blackmail.

As the body count approaches par on the seventh hole, Ellison knows she has to catch a killer. But with an interfering mother, an adoring father, a teenage daughter, and a cadre of well-meaning friends demanding her attention, can Ellison find the killer before he finds her?

Julie Mulhern is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean--and she's got an active imagination. Truth is--she's an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions. She is a 2014 Golden Heart® Finalist. The Deep End is her first mystery and is the winner of The Sheila Award.