Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Dear Readers,

It's Thanksgiving and that means that the commercial holiday known as Black Friday is upon us. If you'd prefer to stay in your jammies and read or just order books from the comfort of your own home, then we have the reading list for you! Peruse our holiday book list and pick up all your favorites!
Thank you to all our readers - we hope that you're all warm and safe and that your To Be Read pile is within easy reach!

The Stiletto Gang

Black Friday Gift List

Sparkle Abby

Buy on: AmazonBarnes & NobleiTunes

Downton Tabby

When Laguna Beach pet therapist Caro Lamont’s newest client, Internet billionaire Graham Cash, leaves his Scottish Fold cat, Kenzy in Caro’s care, she believes he’s coming right back. Not only does Cash not return, his partner, Jake Wylie, is found murdered and suddenly it’s not clear whether Kenzy’s owner is on the run from a killer or is a killer. Homicide detective Judd Malone is on the case, but suddenly everyone is sharing secrets with Caro and she finds herself in the middle of a game of cat and mouse. It seems someone let the cat out of the bag and now not even the cat-sitter is safe.

Raiders of the Lost Bark

When Bow Wow Boutique owner Melinda Langston’s assistant, Betty Fox, surprises her with a week-long canine "glamping" adventure, Mel is a little reluctant to pitch a tent in the middle of nowhere-land. Especially when Orange County's hottest gourmet pet chef, Addison Rae, will be their private chef for the week. Addison is writing a cookbook and has been pressuring Mel to sell it at the boutique. And Addison isn’t above a little blackmail to get her way. So when Addison is found dead, Mel’s just one of many suspects who had motive to snuff out the demanding chef. Mel’s warned not to get involved but as usual she’s is not one to tuck tail and run. Even when it looks like she may be next.

Sally Berneathy

Buy on: AmazonBarnes & NobleiTunesKoboGoogleAudible Audio (Audio also available from Amazon)

Death by Chocolate

Lindsay's only secret is the recipe for her chocolate chip cookies, but she is surrounded by neighbors with deadly secrets. Suddenly Lindsay finds herself battling poisoned chocolate, a dead man who doesn't seem very dead and a psycho stalker. Lindsay needs more than a chocolate fix to survive all this chaos.

Juliana Aragón Fatula

Buy on: AmazonConundrum Press
"Juliana Aragón Fatula writes histories so terrifying they feel as if they were written with a knife. She writes with craft and courage about what most folks are too ashamed to even think about, let alone talk about. Her fearlessness is inspirational. This is the kind of poetry I want to read; this is the kind I want to write. She makes me feel like writing poetry!"
-- Sandra Cisneros

Paffi S. Flood

Buy on: Amazon
Twenty-five-year-old fraternal twins, Naomi and Penelope Dotson, discover the dead bodies of their parents in the lake house on the edge of Centerville. While still in shock, the twins strive to discover the murderer and are drawn into two other related investigations—the kidnapping of nine-year-old Jamie Reed and the disappearance of Keith Evans, a deadbeat dad. When a car tries to run the twins down, they know they are getting close to the truth. In the process of chasing these criminals, they learn it’s hard to run in high heel shoes.

Debra H. Goldstein

Buy on: AmazonBarnes & NobleWalmart
Attorney Carrie Martin’s balancing of her job and visiting her father at the Sunshine Village retirement home is upset when her mother reappears, twenty-six years after abandoning her family. Carrie's mother leaves her with a sealed envelope and the confession she once considered killing Carrie’s father. Before Carrie can find answers about her past, her mother is murdered.
Instructed to leave the sleuthing to the police, Carrie’s continued efforts quickly put her at odds with her former lover—the detective assigned to her mother’s case. As Carrie and her co-sleuths, the Sunshine Village Mah jongg players, attempt to unravel Wahoo, Alabama’s past secrets in this fast paced cozy mystery, their efforts put Carrie in danger and show her that truth and integrity aren’t always what she was taught to believe.

Kimberly Jayne

Buy on: Amazon

Take My Husband, Please!

If you could teach your ex-husband a lesson, would you? After Sophie files for divorce from Will, his unexpected financial apocalypse brings him back under her roof. Awkward! And if that’s not bad enough, Sophie’s new guy—a sexy and successful entrepreneur—is not keen on dating her without proof that Will is truly out of the picture. Sophie and her best friend concoct a brilliant bet to keep Will “occupied,” but things take a surprise turn for the crazy when Sophie gets roped into sending her ex on five blind dates! You'll laugh, you'll cry. You might even want to take her husband!

Kay Kendall

Buy on: AmazonBarnes & NobleiTunes
Kay Kendall’s Rainy Day Women is the second book in the Austin Starr Mystery series. In 1969, during the week of the Manson murders and Woodstock, the intrepid amateur sleuth, infant in tow, flies across the continent to support a friend suspected of murdering women’s liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver. Then her former CIA trainer warns that an old enemy has contracted a hit on her. Her anxious husband demands that she give up her quest and fly back to him. How much should Austin risk when tracking the killer puts her and her baby’s life in danger?

Bethany Maines

Buy on: AmazonBarnes & NobleiTunes

Wild Waters

His duty. Her secrets. The mission that brings them together will tear them apart. In the steamy jungle of 1960’s era Vietnam, when a team of Navy SEALs are brought together with a pair of reporters, no one is prepared for the explosive secrets their encounter will reveal. Lt. Ben Kolley, former WWII frogman, leads one of the first teams of Navy SEALs, including the elusive point-man with an uncanny sense of the water – Catch. The reporters, a drunken writer, and Kahele, a female photographer with dark eyes and an even darker secret are the first allowed to interview a SEAL team. But neither Kahele or Catch are prepared to discover an attraction for each other that’s like nothing they’ve ever experienced. Soon, Catch is breaking all the rules to be with her, and Kahele finds herself entangled by a passion she’s never felt before. But for Ben, Kahele dredges up horrifying memories of an old mission – one where not all of his team returned. Can Kahele be trusted or is she the monster Ben fears? The clock is ticking, and soon all their lives may depend on Ben.

Julie Mulhern

Buy on: AmazonBarnes & NobleiTunesKobo

Send in the Clowns

Haunted houses are scary enough without knife-wielding clowns. Especially murderous knife-wielding clowns. So thinks Ellison Russell, single mother, artist, and reluctant sleuth.
Now death wears a red nose and Ellison is up to the blood-stained collar of her new trench coat in costumes, caffeine, and possible killers. Who stabbed Brooks Harney? And why? Money? Jealousy? Drugs?
With Mother meddling, her father furious, and her date dragged downtown for questioning, turns out Ellison's only confidante is Mr. Coffee.

J.M. Phillippe

Buy on: AmazonBarnes & Noble
Perfection can haunt you.
Quick-witted 24-year-old Allyson Smart is the perfect woman -- in her dreams. In real life, Ally has to deal with the clumsiness of her size-16 body, the good intentions of her over-achiever best-friend, and the condescending attitude of her too-cool little sister. But when the fantasized version of herself shows up in her bathroom mirror, calling herself Allison (with an i because she says it’s prettier), Ally discovers how cruel perfection can be. In this contemporary fantasy novel, Ally learns that perfection really can haunt you.

A.B. Plum

Buy on: Amazon

The Misfit – The Early Years

An eleven-year-old prodigy bullied by his older brother, rejected by his icy mother, and ignored by his absent father retaliates with the creativity of a budding psychopath.

Linda Rodriguez

Buy on: Amazon

Plotting the Character-Driven Novel

In Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, Linda Rodriguez turns her sought-after writing course on using depth of character as a springboard to a strong plot into a book designed to help the aspiring writer who wants to tell a story made compelling by the truth and complexity of its characters. She provides examples of actual documents she has used in creating her own award-winning books to demonstrate the methods she teaches. Great plot springs from character and the motivations each character has for taking or not taking action. With this book, you will learn to create an exciting and complex plot, building from the integrity of the characters you create.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Binary Pie

by Bethany Maines
 For me, Thanksgiving and the coming end of the year frequently combine to make me philosophical and prone to navel gazing. Just what have I been doing with my life? Am I grateful? Am I curating my life in the path of gratitude? Do I even want to? Why should I have to? Is this my problem? Is this my fault? Then I start humming Paul Simon’s “Gumboots” and then go shove some pumpkin pie in my face.

Tuesday’s Stiletto Gang post from J.M. Phillippe discussed the nature of gratitude, particularly in the face of difficult times – When Gratitude isn’t Easy – and struck a chord with me. I thought she expressed beautifully the idea that gratitude is not a binary thing, it’s a plus thing. Gratitude can be added like a spice to any recipe. Even if I’m feeling other things, it doesn’t mean I can’t feel gratitude.
But the very concept of binary got me to thinking about our radically non-binary human nature and how it is so very at odds with our consistently binary thinking. We all have that one relative who is “such a nice guy, except for (fill in the blank)” Fill in the blank could be anything from his random use of racial slurs, his insistence on patting the waitress on the behind, or the fact that he tells jokes about Asians. He doesn’t cheat on his wife (but maybe on his taxes), he doesn’t use drugs, he holds open doors for people. Except…

So is this character a good person or a bad person? Binary says: yes/no. Non-binary says: depends on other factors – I’ll have to really think about this. I’ll have to think about my own moral stand on multiple issues. And also, does he kick puppies? Because that’s a deal breaker.

From a writing standpoint, this is the kind of thing that’s fascinating to explore. But in real life, during an election season, it’s made Thanksgiving a cringe worthy holiday where we all go and wonder if Republican Uncle Bob is going to get more than his turkey sliced if he brings up Trump to Democrat Aunt Jane. I don’t have the answers. I’m not sure any of us do. That’s why binary is so attractive. Make the decision, yes/no, and then I don’t have to think about it anymore. Non-binary means I have to keep revisiting the topic – to keep thinking. If binary trims away the indecision, then it also trims away the additional factors – the pluses. Good/bad. Yes/no. Happy/sad. Grateful/non-grateful. Is that what we want the answer to be?

 If that’s the way it’s going to be, I’m going to call this whole thing to a halt. - Gumboots, Paul Simon
And now if you’ll excuse, I hear a pumpkin pie calling my name.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

When Gratitude Isn't Easy

by J.M. Phillippe

The common wisdom is that a daily practice of gratitude is not only good for the soul, it is also good for your mental health. As a therapist, I often help my clients focus on the positive in their life, and on their own strengths. Strengths-focus is the heart of Positive Psychology, "the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive." Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive psychology wanted to find a way to help people "to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play." He found it in practices of strength-based focus on positivity.

I am a huge fan (and amateur practitioner of) positive psychology, so I get all the health benefits of gratitude. But lately, I have found gratitude to be particularly challenging -- I am having a hard time staying focused on what is good.

Right now, there is a lot of hurt in the world. Here in the US, we have water protectors at Standing Rock getting hosed down in freezing water, and the Southern Poverty Law Center reporting a high number of incidents of hate crimes since the Presidential Election. My clinical clients are struggling -- some have been targeted by hate crimes themselves and most are afraid of what will happen next. Plus, there is still a lot of bad things happening outside our country, the most recent being yet another huge natural disaster in Japan (BIG earthquake). In the midst of all these horrible things, how do you stay focused on the strengths? How do you continue to practice gratitude?

I want to remind people that gratitude is not an absolute feeling. It's not something that requires that you feel it, and only it. Gratitude is an "and", not a "but". There are horrible things happening in the world, "and" I am thankful that most of the people I love are safe and sound. There is a lot of fear and hate floating around, and I am grateful that people are still able to come together under the umbrella of love. The "and" is not trying to eliminate, or even counter, everything that comes before. Gratitude is not about balance -- some things are so horrible a simple expression of thankfullness could never even begin to counter them. Gratitude is a practice of opening up all the parts of us that are afraid, sad, and overwhelmed just enough to let some of the good in -- and some of the good out. It is the the thing that lets us keep the words of Mr. Rogers in mind:

Gratitude reminds us that we are strong -- is the very act of focusing on strengths. It says, life is hard, and I am capable enough, talented enough, and brave enough to handle it. Life is hard, and it is beautiful, and worth living.

It is when gratitude is the hardest to find that we most need to look for it, to look for the "and" as a way to help bolster us against everything that comes before. This Thanksgiving I will be far away from family, and still reeling from the events of the last few weeks, and still worried about the future. And I will be with friends, will be eating bountiful food in relative safety, and will be able to find moments of laughter to share. Life is never just one thing. This year, I am grateful for "and."

*     *     *

J.M. Phillippe is the author of Perfect Likeness and the newly released short story The Sight. She has lived in the deserts of California, the suburbs of Seattle, and the mad rush of New York City. She worked as a freelance journalist before earning a masters’ in social work. She works as a therapist in Brooklyn, New York and spends her free-time decorating her tiny apartment to her cat Oscar Wilde’s liking, drinking cider at her favorite British-style pub, and training to be the next Karate Kid, one wax-on at a time.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thank Heavens for Booksellers!

Fran and Don Bush
by Paula Gail Benson

An author can have no greater friend than a supportive bookseller. I am fortunate to have several in my life. I especially appreciate Fran and Don Bush, who have just retired from running their brick-and-mortar Booklover’s Bookstore in Aiken, South Carolina, but are still very active in their community and in promoting writers they love.

We first met through the South Carolina Book Festival, when I brought one of the featured authors to the Aiken library for a special program Fran had arranged. Since that time, we have become fast friends, closer than family. Fran and Don have have been Aiken tour guides, helping me and another author gather information for our work; and they have introduced me to their close friends, best-selling mother-and-son writing team Caroline and Charles Todd. Take a look in the acknowledgements in the Bess Crawford mystery, A Duty to the Dead, and you’ll see Fran Bush mentioned as “bookseller extraordinaire.”

Recently, Fran worked with the Aiken Chapter of the American Association of University Women to organize a Mystery Madness Luncheon event, the proceeds from which benefited AAUW’s scholarship fund. I’m proud to say that over $900 was collected.
Richard Laudenslager, Fran Rizer, Sasscer Hill, me, and Fran Bush
Because Fran and Don are honorary members of the Palmetto Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Fran urged AAUW to showcase local authors she admired. She planned a terrific panel including Sasscer Hill (formerly of Maryland and now an Aiken resident whose multiple award nominated Nikki Latrelle series has been compared to the work of Dick Francis, and whose new series will feature Fia McKee, an agent for the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau); Richard Laudenslager (a project engineer and paranormal investigator currently writing a thriller, Wounded, and collaborator, with Fran Rizer, on an anthology); Fran Rizer (who in addition to her cozyesque Callie Parrish mysteries, about a funeral home cosmetologist, has written Kudzu River, a serial killer thriller, Southern Swamps and Ruins, an anthology of haunting tales written in collaboration with Richard D. Laudenslager, and a tenth novel, The Horror of Julie Bates), and myself (writer of mystery and other short stories).

AAUW Lunch
We had a wonderful lunch, with each author sitting at a different table and getting to know the members and guests of the AAUW chapter. The chicken salad was divine and the desserts delectable. Then, the authors gathered at a table before the audience to field questions from our moderator, Fran. While we had notice of most that she intended to ask, she threw us a few curves--a particularly good one that was suggested by her friend Caroline Todd and still has me thinking: “Tell the audience in 90 seconds why they should read your work.”

Every avid reader loves having a librarian or bookseller to consult with about the most recent releases, but to have true advocates like Fran and Don Bush in your corner is an incredible gift for an author. Thank you, Fran and Don. As our friendship grows, I discover more qualities for which I admire you. I will never forget your warm embraces, overflowing kindness, and complete confidence in me and my writing. I am forever grateful.
Audience at AAUW Mystery Madness Luncheon

Friday, November 18, 2016

An Editor's Joy

by Linda Rodriguez

I hold in my hands a beautiful book, an important book. It's been a labor of love to put this together, struggling with the herding-cats nature of organizing a number of writers to get their work, bios, and contracts in to meet deadlines. To carry a project from the first bright idea through mounds of paper and emails to the final finished book is always a thrill. Now, I hold an ARC of this anthology in my hands, cover glowing.

I'm truly proud to announce that this anthology I co-edited with the wonderful Diane Glancy, The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East, will be published in February 2017. We have a fabulous list of contributors: Joy Harjo, Linda Hogan, LeAnne Howe, Jim Barnes, Kimberly M. Blaeser, Natalie Diaz, James Thomas Stevens, Bojan Louis, Allison Hedge Coke, Travis Hedge Coke, Kim Shuck (who also did the gorgeous beadwork used in the cover design), Trevino Brings Plenty, and Craig Santos Perez. All of these highly regarded Native poets have written poetry about their experiences of the Middle East and the land and people they encountered there.

We'll have a panel about the anthology at the huge national conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs in Washington, D.C. in February 2017 and an offsite reading, as well. There will be one, possibly two, New Letters on the Air national public radio programs about the anthology, and we'll have a local launch in Kansas City with Haskell Indian Nations University and the Kansas City Indian Center involved, as well as local library systems and universities. Just the beginning of things we've got planned for this important book.

The World Is One Place will be an excellent choice for teaching since each poet has a work note, discussing the creation of the work by that poet in the anthology, plus there are informative essays at the beginning and end of the book. The book as a whole brings the reader a picture of the people of the region as human beings, not solely as victims or refugees or participants, willingly or unwillingly, in warfare. The contributors to this book underline the connection between the experience of many citizens of the Middle East and the Indigenous population of the United States.

The concept for this anthology was originally inspired by the firestorm that surrounded Joy Harjo’s decision a few years ago to honor her commitment to visit Israel, hoping to spark a dialogue, in spite of the movement to boycott Israel for its appalling treatment of the population of Gaza. Even as she flew across the ocean, people texted, emailed, and messaged her, calling names and threatening her for her decision. We wanted to gather a range of Native voices and experiences with no prior selection or restraint of what attitudes they should take to the tragic violence in the Middle East.

We could have ended up with a bunch of political screeds and rants—and we weren't sure that we wouldn't—but fortunately, all of our poets chose to focus on the spirit of the land and the people. In essays at the beginning and the end, the editors address some of the political situations and provide some facts about the United States' relationship through the decades with the Middle East. But the overwhelming focus of the book is the poems and the portrait they paint of families and individuals.

As I say in my closing essay, "Are Our Hands Clean?,"

Song has always been central to Indigenous culture and is one aspect that is found in all of the more than five hundred nations. We sing to pray because we believe the world was created to be harmonious and balanced, and we seek to bring it back into that harmony and balance. We sing to communicate with our Creator. We sing to heal and to celebrate. We sing to give honor to those who have traveled on before us. We sing to ask for their help in our own journey and to ask those whom we leave behind to remember us and what we tried to do.

“This book is our song.”

Linda Rodriguez Bio

Linda Rodriguez's book, Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, forthcoming Nov. 30, is based on her popular workshop. Her fourth mystery featuring Cherokee campus police chief, Skeet Bannion, is due in June, 2017. Her three earlier Skeet novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, and Every Last Secret—and her books of poetry—Skin Hunger and Heart's Migration—have received critical recognition and awards, such as Malice Domestic Best First Novel, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for film. Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puertorriqueña Poets Look at Their American Lives, the poetry anthology she edited, received an International Latino Book Award. Her newest anthology, The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East, co-edited with Diane Glancy, will be published in February 2017.

Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP Indigenous/Aboriginal American Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, a founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Grateful – With or Without (Horrors!) Wine

We’ve been talking (off and on) about gratitude this month. I poked around to some of the sites I routinely follow and have loved all the recognition this month that as individuals, as a community, (and totally avoiding politics here, but I’m gonna say it anyway) and as a nation, there’s a lot to celebrate. There’s so much good going on, but it’s easy to focus on the Not So Good (or the absolutely abysmal).

Tonight as I sip a glass of wine (always grateful to the people who make wine), I keep thinking about a challenge I read. The challenge is to focusing on the good things. Okay, admit it. Do you beat yourself up over the fumbles, the thing you might could’ve done better, and bring yourself down in the process? (Yeah, I might’ve done that.) Or do you quietly (or loudly if that’s your style ;) ) give thanks for the good things in your life?

I’m choosing to focus on the good. That we can reach out to each other within the writing community -- and beyond it to our local town or whatever sphere you can touch -- and make things better.

I’ll save talk about community service for another post. Tonight, rather than wallow in the Not So Good, I’m celebrating the Good Things.

This week I’m savoring that after a year and a half in a tiny apartment (which was also my day job office), we moved into our new house! I walk through the rooms and revel in the space. (I have a dining table again. A place to have friends over where they can actually sit down.) And art that’s been in storage for too long is slowly finding a new place in our home.  

I’m grateful for family. My daughter asked if she and her fiancé could have their engagement pictures taken at our house. I’m so happy for the two of them, that they found each other and that they want to include us as they forge a life together.

I’m grateful for friends on so many levels. Old friends who are helping me out professionally and new friends who are easing the transition into a new home and new options for the future.

What are you savoring this week? What are you grateful for?

And because it’s So About The Money’s book birthday, I’m putting together a present for my readers, because I’m always grateful when people choose to spend their time with my characters. 

Watch my Facebook page for details or sign up for the newsletter that I swear I'm finally going to send out. 

Cathy Perkins started writing when recurring characters and dialogue populated her day job commuting daydreams. Fortunately, that first novel lives under the bed, but she was hooked on the joy of creating stories. When not writing, she can be found doing battle with the beavers over the pond height or setting off on another travel adventure. Born and raised in South Carolina, she now lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.

You can also visit her online at the following places:  Website Facebook | Twitter Goodreads