Thursday, December 28, 2017

Bridging Borders 2017

Pueblo, Colorado, 

by Juliana Aragón Fatula

Bridging Borders 2017 Writing Workshop
at Rawlings Library, Pueblo, CO.

The Stiletto Gang represents women who are mystery writers; I haven’t published my first mystery novel, I am writing my first manuscript. I switched genres from poetry to follow my dream of writing a mystery.

Today, I’d like to focus on a project I’ve participated in the past three years. Bridging Borders is a leadership program for young women and empowers them with skills, builds confidence, teamwork, entrepreneurship. The future of our country falls in their hands and I’m proud to be a mentor and to assist the teens with writing skills through my writing workshops at the Rawlings Library.

The El Pueblo History Museum and the Department of Social Services sponsors the teens and provides excellent mentors. I happen to be one of the mentors being honored this year at a banquet to celebrate the year 2017 and the Bridging Borders Graduates: Anysha, Cheyene, Elian, Reigna, Zoe, Alyssa, Jakiah, Jaylee, Alex, Jaden, Elena, Sophia, Amaya, Taylor, Marisol, Rhyia, Iliana, Chloe, Anika, Mayala. I know these young ladies will become future leaders, some even political leaders and I’m very proud to have been a part of Bridging Borders.

When I met the first-year participants I didn’t know what to expect. What I found that day: writers, poets, confident, intelligent, creative, high-level thinkers. The second year I met young ladies who taught me more than I taught them. They were so welcoming and eager to learn. I kept in touch with a couple of incredible ladies and followed them on their path to freshman college.

This year, the third year of my involvement, the number of ladies grew: I met a larger group than in the previous years. I met ladies ready for whatever I threw at them. They met my challenges and exceeded my hopes for a productive writing workshop. I asked for volunteers and they volunteered. I asked for million-dollar words and they impressed me with their vocabulary; they are young, at-risk, and marginalized by society.

I asked them to write for five minutes. Five minutes later they volunteered to share their poem with the group and impressed me again with their eloquence, command of the stage, their confidence in their writing. I cried tears of happiness. I laughed with them and hugged them and told them how proud I am of them.  My day was spent surrounded by young leaders who will make a difference in this country and change the way we treat women in society.

They asked questions about writing and I beamed with joy at their enthusiasm. In my experiences of teaching and conducting writing workshops with teenagers I’ve witnessed these teens have a lot to say; they are writing from their hearts about their truth: the bullying, suicide, abandonment, but also about soccer, dance, music, love, and hope.

While they wrote, I circulated the room and observed their hands and eyes. They were not given writing prompts other than to write without limitations about anything but to make it memorable; they wrote incredible poems and left me with their dreams, fears, hopes, and questions about their world in the twenty-first century.

My first book of poetry, Crazy Chicana in Catholic City, juliana-aragon-fatula bowerhousebooks was provided for them by their sponsors and if they weren’t busy writing; they were busy reading my book. The delight I felt when I watched them write for five minutes non-stop and read through the table of contents in my book gave me a sensation of being part of something. Developing the minds of these young ladies with the power of words and meaning in their lives brought me tremendous joy, honor, pride, and humility.

This has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my sixty years; I’ve had many journeys, but to share with these young leaders my past: a teenage pregnant high-school-drop out who went on to be the first in my family to graduate college, write and publish books, teach, tour with the Department of Defense entertaining the men and women in the military, travel the world, perform on stages across the country, and to end up in Southern Colorado the place of my ancestors, validated I have fulfilled my destiny to work with at-risk-youth and empower them to express themselves with spoken and written word.

They give me hope and hope is all we can ask for in this time of racism, bigotry, xenophobia, misogyny, and homophobia. Have I left anyone out? This country needs new leaders and I know these young ladies will bring it. How fortunate for us that they have been empowered to teach us what women contribute to society and how they mold the next generation of leaders. I learned about writing workshops from my mentor, Sandra Cisneros and The Macondo Foundation. I teach what I learn to the future writers of diversity: LGBTQ, and ethnic writers from the nation

Macondo Foundation Writing Workshop San Antonio, TX 
Founded in 1995 Mission:
The Macondo Writers Workshop is an association
of socially-engaged writers united to advance
creativity, foster generosity, and honor community.
Sandra Cisneros and Laurie Ann Guerrero
at Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, San Antonio


Sandra Cisneros and Juliana at Rawlings Library

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Free Turkey

by Bethany Maines

Over Thanksgiving, my grocery store was giving away free turkeys for those who spent over $100. Thinking that it would be a small turkey, my husband who was shopping at the time, said, "Sure! Who doesn’t want a free turkey!"

And really, who wouldn’t?

And then he came home with a 23-pound turkey. That didn't fit in our freezer.

We tried shoving it in six different ways from Sunday and then called up my mom and said, "Guess what? We're providing the turkey!" And she said, "Guess what? I'm cooking a roast!" So we agreed to try it again for Christmas and I called around and found a friend with spare freezer space. Only Christmas arrived and mom declared that Christmas dinner was going to be small and simple. As in... no turkey. But I had sworn to my friend that her freezer would be hers again after Christmas. So now I'm looking up how to cook turkey and inviting my in-laws over.

They say that New Years is a time for trying new things and I guess I’ll be starting early with turkey cooking. Wish me luck as I enter the world of large scale cooking.

SALE ALERT: Smashwords, the independent e-book store, is having it’s annual year end sale featuring site wide deals, including some from me.

Check out all the deals at: SMASHWORDS

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, the Shark Santoyo Crime Series, Wild Waters, Tales from the City of Destiny and An Unseen Current.  You can also view the Carrie Mae YouTube video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Reading

Dear Readers,

Merry Christmas! We know many of you found new kindles, tablets, and phones under the tree. Need to fill those devices? Or do you just need to avoid talking to your relatives for the next twenty-four hours? We have the solution for both these problems--books! Today we have a great list of books to download, including a few GIVEAWAYS! So peruse our holiday book list and pick up all your favorites!

Stay warm, stay safe, and enjoy all the books you can!

The Stiletto Gang

Black Friday Gift List

Sparkle Abbey

Buy on: AmazonBarnes & NobleKoboiTunes

Barking with the Stars

Lights! Camera! Murder! It's a star-studded event and tongues are wagging. Laguna Beach pet therapist, Caro Lamont’s, ex-husband Geoffrey is spreading rumors and snuggling up to the biggest stars, including Purple - the temperamental diva, who's the lynchpin of the celebrity line-up. All too soon, Caro is losing clients, her reputation, and patience with Geoffrey's shenanigans. More trouble is unleashed when the high-strung headliner is found dead and Geoffrey was seen leaving her hotel room. With a potential killer on the loose, Caro is hounded by questions about who had reason to want Purple out of the picture and though all the evidence points to her ex, Caro believes the police are on the wrong trail. Even if her sleuthing puts her in the doghouse with Detective Judd Malone, Caro must dig up the truth before the real killer gets away with murder.

Juliana Aragon Fatula

Buy at: Bower House BooksMany Blankets Press

The Colorado Sisters and the Atlanta Butcher (forthcoming)— Atlanta billionaire and big game hunter, Reggie Hartless is found murdered, butchered, and frozen.The Colorado Sisters work undercover to solve the homicide and to unravel the legend of the Ute curse.

In Crazy Chicana in Catholic City, Fatula writes histories so terrifying they feel as if they were written with a knife. She writes with craft and courage 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. — Sandra Cisneros

In Red Canyon Falling on Churches, Fatula’s poems are gifts from the desert: nopales, chile ristras, and coyote tricksters offered with reverence to the earth and ancestors. Aztec goddesses speak, as do memories of star filled nights, and the love that remains from those we have lost in a tri-lingual, tri-cultural Chicana Azteca voice that reveal desert ways, the men, the women, tamales, beer, y la muerte. – Adela Najarro

Debra H. Goldstein

Buy on: AmazonBarnes & NobleWalmart

Should Have Played Poker

When attorney Carrie Martin’s mother reappears twenty-six years after abandoning her family, she leaves Carrie with a sealed envelope and her confession she once considered killing Carrie’s father. Before Carrie can find answers about her past, her mother is murdered. Although instructed by the detective assigned to her mother’s case – Carrie’s former live-in lover - to leave the sleuthing to the professionals, the investigative efforts of Carrie and her co-sleuths, the Sunshine Village Mah jongg players, quickly put Carrie in danger and show her that truth and integrity aren’t always what she was taught to believe.

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?

Learn more: or follow Kay on Facebook:

Bethany Maines

Buy on: Amazon $9.99

The Carrie Mae Mysteries Boxed Set

The Carrie Mae Mysteries - 5 stars, 2 books, 2 short stories, 1 low price

Q: What do you get when you cross Avon Ladies with Charlie’s Angels

A: A world-class intelligence organization run by women who really know their foundation. You get CARRIE MAE.

These make-up ladies aren’t just selling lipstick – they’re packing heat and saving the world. Join Nikki Lanier and her team of kick-ass friends as they take on gangs, drug smugglers, arms dealers, and internal politics, all while looking fabulous or at least trying to remember clean underwear. Featuring the short stories Supporting the Girls, Power of Attorney and the novels High-Calbier Concealer, Glossed Cause.


The Christmas Season is a lot more dangerous than it used to be. Violet Harper is usually found at her local Starbucks. Roman Knox is usually carrying a gun. Tonight they’re both in a bank and there’s a body on the floor. It’s a mess, but maybe a Christmas miracle can get them out of the bank and into love. FREE DOWNLOAD!


For more free short stories, and half off deals from Bethany Maines, check out the end of the year sale at SMASHWORDS!

Cathy Perkins

Buy on: Amazon $.99

HOLIDAY SALE!! So About the Money

So About the Money romps through eastern Washington with its rivers, wineries, Native American casinos, and assorted farm animals. Add in some wicked fun chemistry between the CPA amateur sleuth & a local detective and Holly Price better solve the case before the next dead body found beside the river is hers.

.99 on Amazon through 12/29


For more free short stories, and half off deals from Cathy Perkins, check out the end of the year sale at SMASHWORDS!

J.M. Phillippe

Buy on: AmazonBarnes & Noble

Perfect Likeness

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.


Round one winner of the New York City Midnight 2017 Short Story Challenge, Plane Signals by J.M. Phillippe features a guy, a girl, and the four inches of space their arm rest shares at twenty-thousand feet. Is he interested or is it just the airline shoving him into Meagan's personal space? If only she had some...Plane Signals. FREE DOWNLOAD!

AB Plum

The Reckless Year

Buy on: Amazon

Against all reason, ruthless Silicon Valley tycoon Michael Romanov, becomes infatuated with a totally unsuitable, but bewitching woman. Her loser boyfriend leaves no doubt money and power can’t derail real love. He laughs at titles, prestige, and good looks. Threats and bribes don’t work. He refuses to step aside. Will Michael stop at murder to sweep his first love off her feet?

The In-Between Years

Buy on: Amazon

In exchange for saving you from kidnappers and probably death, what if your father grooms you to become a murderer? What if he promises to make the risks you’ll take worth a small fortune? How long would you hesitate?


Get a free e-book from AB Plum: FREE DOWNLOAD!

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.

Judy Penz Sheluk

The Hanged Man’s Noose: A Glass Dolphin Mystery #1

Buy at: Barking Rain Press

Small-town secrets and subterfuge lead to murder in this fast-moving, deftly written tale of high-stakes real estate wrangling gone amok.

Journalist Emily Garland lands an assignment as the editor of a magazine based in Lount’s Landing, a small town named after a colorful 19th century Canadian traitor. As she interviews the local business owners, Emily learns many people are unhappy with real estate mogul Garrett Stonehaven’s plans to convert an old schoolhouse into a mega-box store. At the top of that list is Arabella Carpenter, the outspoken owner of the Glass Dolphin, who will do just about anything to preserve the integrity of the town’s historic Main Street.

But Arabella is not alone in her opposition. Soon, a vocal dissenter at a town hall meeting about the proposed project dies. A few days later, another body is discovered. Although both deaths are ruled accidental, Emily’s journalistic suspicions are aroused. Putting her reporting skills to the ultimate test, Emily teams up with Arabella to discover the truth behind Stonehaven’s latest scheme before the murderer strikes again.

Skeletons in the Attic: A Marketville Mystery #1

Buy at: Audible

What goes on behind closed doors doesn't always stay there.

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville - a house she didn't know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.

Callie’s not keen on dredging up a 30-year-old mystery, but if she doesn't do it, there's a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?

T.K. Thorne

Noah's Wife

Buy on: Amazon

“. . . a novel of epic sweep, emotional power, and considerable beauty.”—Ron Gholson, The Blount Countian

Na’amah wishes only to be a shepherdess on her beloved hills in ancient Turkey—a desire shattered by the hatred of her powerful brother and the love of two men. Her savant abilities and penchant to speak truth force her to walk a dangerous path in an age of change—a time of challenge to the goddess’ ancient ways, when cultures clash and the earth itself is unstable. When foreign raiders kidnap her, Na’amah’s journey to escape and return home becomes an attempt to save her people from the disaster only she knows is coming.

Angels at the Gate

Buy on: Amazon

“A fantastic story about the mysterious woman who, until now, was simply a shadow among biblical heroes…The story is so compelling that I could not wait until I could read the next part of the adventure.” —San Francisco Review

ANGELS AT THE GATE is the story of Adira, destined to become Lot’s wife, the woman who “turned into a pillar of salt.” A daughter of Abram’s tribe, Adira is an impetuous young girl whose mother died in childbirth. Secretly raised as a boy in her father’s caravan and schooled in languages and the art of negotiation, Adira rejects the looming changes of womanhood that threaten her nomadic life and independence. With the arrival of two mysterious strangers, her world unravels. She alone can solve the mystery of what happened to her father and the abduction of one of the strangers.

HOLIDAY SALE!! Last Chance for Justice, the story of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing. 50% off from Chicago Review Press

Use code: Holiday2017

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Dreaded Writer's Block — by T.K. Thorne

      Writer, humanist,
          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,
       Lover of solitude
          and the company of good friends,
        New places, new ideas
           and old wisdom.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Focus on the Good Stuff

What can you say about a year that’s a Rooster in the Chinese calendar? Whose Pantone color of the year kinda looked like slime?

Thank goodness it’s over?

The year was the pits in too many ways, with too many people focused on the things that divide us rather than looking for common goals, values or ideas. 

So today, I want to focus on the good stuff.

2017 held wonderful times for my family – a wedding, a new baby, and I chose to retire early from a career I’ve enjoyed for years. All of these are thresholds to new adventures, new stages of life.

I can’t wait to see what 2018 holds – even if it’s the Year of the Dog and the color is purple.

What about you? What was the best thing that happened during 2017?

To celebrate all the good stuff, So About the Money will be on sale next week. Book one in the Holly Price series, the story romps through eastern Washington with its rivers, wineries, Native American casinos, and assorted farm animals. Add in some wicked fun chemistry between the CPA amateur sleuth and a local detective and Holly better solve the case before the next dead body found beside the river is hers. 

       Amazon       Nook        Kobo        iBooks      

An award-winning author of financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories.  When not writing, she battles with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd. 
She's hard at work on the next book in the Holly Price series, which might be Still About the Money. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Bringing Light and Love to the Darkest Day

By Kay Kendall

Today is December 20, and so, just as the night follows the day, tomorrow will be December 21. In the Northern Hemisphere that marks the winter solstice. This date will bring the shortest day in the year and its night the longest. During the solstice, the sun's position relative to Earth seems to pause--the word solstice itself means "stationary sun." The winter solstice serves as a turning point in many cultures and midwinter as an occasion to celebrate and bring light into the vast darkness.

To speak metaphorically, I write here to urge that we bring light into the lives of those around us at this darkest time of year. Mental health professionals tell us that sadness and depression are rampant in December during the holidays. Expectations are often high for fun and warm feelings--and also often dashed. If we are mindful of this, and if we care about our fellow human beings, then just think what a kind remark or thoughtful gesture can do to bring light and hope to a scarred or lonely soul at this treacherous time.
The association of light with hope and love seems to be true across cultures. The thought that it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness is variously attributed to Confucius, the Old Testament of the Bible, Eleanor Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy. No doubt there are more associations that I did not find in my brief online search.

One substance that flashes brightly and brings light is gold. Gold is usually seen as precious and a good thing. Hence the word "gold" is attached to the basic tenet of many faiths, for what Christians call the Golden Rule. Here again we find this across many religions. The graphic below shows a good summary.

Being kind to one another, bringing light and cheer to others' lives--these seem like gifts that we can all give that will mean so much both to ourselves and to our neighbors. In the darkest hours we all need light. As long as I can remember I have loved sitting in my blackened living room and gazing at a lit Christmas tree. I still love doing that and also driving around neighborhood streets that are brightly lit for the season. This all comes full circle for me, both symbolically and literally. Do spread the light and the joy. Please do. We all need these things.


Meet the author                                                                 
Kay Kendall is a long-time fan of historical novels and now writes atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit and turbulence of the sixties. A reformed PR executive who won international awards for her projects, Kay lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to her bunnies, she loves them anyway! Rainy Day Women  won two Silver Falchion Awards at Killer Nashville in 2016. Visit her website

Monday, December 18, 2017

Special Gifts for the Holidays

by Paula Gail Benson

During the holidays, there is a lot of emphasis on gift giving. For most of us, it means online or in store shopping and figuring out the heart’s desires of those nearest and dearest to us.

Sometimes, the gifts of the holiday season are more subtle. The joy of hearing and singing traditional music. The quiet realization that comes from a special moment while watching a holiday program. The chance to see and reminisce with family and friends.

This year, I received a special gift while talking with my friend Margaret Davis, who works with the children and handbell choirs at my church. Probably, Margaret didn’t realize she was giving me anything. She just told me about a story that had been very meaningful to her. And, for the first time, I heard about “Why the Chimes Rang.”

Barnes and Noble Edition
In 1909, Raymond MacDonald Alden wrote the story. The Baldwin Project (“Bringing Yesterday’s Classics to Today’s Children”) provides an online version.
Several other versions are available through Amazon, including a dramatized version.

The story is about a town with a large church that has impressive Christmas chimes. Unfortunately, the chimes have not been heard for many years. Every year, the townspeople would lay their offerings to the Christ child on the church’s altar. They believed that when the greatest and best offering was placed on the altar, the bells would chime.

One year, Pedro and his younger brother decided to go to the church on Christmas Eve, to attend the service. On their way, they came upon a poor woman who had collapsed in the cold. Pedro decided to stay with the woman and help her keep warm until his brother could bring assistance from the people leaving the service. He gave his brother a coin and cautioned him to place it on the altar when no one was looking.

The brother arrives at the service and sees many gifts being placed on the altar, including a book an author had been writing for many years and the crown the king took from his own head. None of the gifts caused the bells to chime. As the service was concluding, no one noticed the brother quietly placing Pedro’s coin on the altar. Only when the chimes rang out did those closest to the altar see the little brother creeping silently down the aisle.

Raymond MacDonald Alden was the son of author Isabella MacDonald Alden (who wrote many Sunday School books) and Reverend Gustavus Rossenberg Alden. Raymond became an English professor, writing books of literary analysis. His “Why the Chimes Rang” has been compared with two similar holiday stories, “Le Jongleur de Notre Dame” (a miracle story about a juggler who becomes a monk and has no gift to offer the statue of the Virgin Mary except his ability to juggle--when the other monks ridicule him, the statue comes to life and blesses him) and “The Little Drummer Boy” (who plays his drum as a gift for the Christ child). The Wikipedia article on Raymond MacDonald Alden provides information about his work and links to articles about the related stories.

I’m so grateful that my friend Margaret told me about this story, for now it will become part of my holiday celebrations. It’s good to remember in the hustle and bustle of the season that sometimes the smallest offering can have the most significant effect.

May you all be looking forward to a wonderful holiday!