Thursday, November 23, 2017

Holiday Gift Guide

Dear Readers,

It's Thanksgiving and that means that the commercial holiday known as Black Friday is upon us. Today we have a great list of books to give or GIVEAWAYS to snatch up for yourself. So 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 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.

HOLIDAY GIVEAWAY!! Shark’s Instinct

Fresh out of prison and fresh out of luck, twenty-something Shark wants back into The Organization. But when Geier, the mob boss with a cruel sense of humor, sends Shark to the suburbs to find out who’s been skimming his take, Shark realizes he’s going to need more than his gun and an attitude to succeed. With the clock ticking, Shark accepts the help of the mysterious teenage fixer, Peregrine Hays, and embarks on a scheme that could line his pockets, land him the girl and cement his reputation with the gang—if he makes it out alive.

Julie Mulhern

The Deep End

Buy on: AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKobo
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 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?

Cold as Ice

Buy on: AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKobo
Ellison Russell’s life resembles a rollercoaster ride. And rollercoasters make her ill. Her daughter Grace has a crush on a boy Ellison doesn’t trust and she’s taken to hosting wild parties when Ellison goes out for the evening. Worse, the bank which represents Grace’s inheritance from her father may be in trouble. When a meeting with the chef at the country club leads to the discovery of a body, Ellison can’t afford cold feet. She must save the bank, find the killer, and convince Grace (and herself) that powerful women don’t need men to rescue them.

Cathy Perkins

Buy on: AmazonBarnes & NobleKoboiTunes

Double Down

Every family has challenges. The Kaufman’s might include murder.
Murder isn’t supposed to be in the cards for blackjack dealer Maddie Larsson. Busted takes on a new meaning when her favorite customer, a former Poker World Tour champion, is murdered. His family claims—loudly and often—Maddie is the gold-digging murderer. She better prove she’s on the level before the real killer cashes in her chips.
If the victim’s body had been dumped five hundred yards up the road, Franklin County Sheriff’s Detective JC Dimitrak wouldn’t have been assigned to the Tom Tom Casino murder case. Instead, he’s hunting for suspects and evidence while dealing with a nemesis from the past and trying to preserve his own future. He better play his hand correctly and find the killer before an innocent woman takes the ultimate hit.

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?


Sign up HERE for a chance to name two characters in The Broken-Hearted Many, Book 5 in The MisFit Series, releasing in early 2018.

  • Deadline for signing up: Midnight (PST), November 30, 2017. One winner randomly selected. 
  •  Winner announced on my Stiletto Gang blog, December 12, 2017. 
  • Names submitted must avoid slandering or defaming living or dead persons, avoid racial and ethnic slurs and cannot be pornographic.
Author reserves the right to decide if submitted names meet all guidelines. One submission per reader, please.

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?


Sign up for Judy’s newsletter by November 28, 2017 11:59 p.m. EST for a chance to win an audiobook copy of Skeletons in the Attic from OR an e-book copy (Kindle, Kobo or Nook) of The Hanged Man’s Noose (Winner’s choice). Three winners will be randomly selected and announced (first names only) on my post, Monday, December 4th. SIGN UP HERE

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.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Crunch Time!

by Bethany Maines

Ack!  I should be baking. Or possibly cleaning my filthy office.  Or writing any of the multiple stories I'm supposed to be completing. It's crunch time for me.  I've got a sci-fi novella that is due back from the editor at any second (more info to come after the holidays!), a Christmas short story that needs completing ASAP, and mystery novel that is supposed to be way more underway than it is. And my business partner at my day job is about to go on maternity leave at any moment. I could use a holiday.  Oh, wait, one has just turned up.  Now I get to add baking to the list.  So excuse me, if I just complain for a minute and then dash off to put a pie in the oven.

But in the spirit of the holidays, how about a chance to win a print copy of Shark's Instinct?  Reviewers are calling it an "amazing mystery with loads of action."  Click the link below to enter!  And come back tomorrow for some instant GIVEAWAYS from the whole Stiletto Gang!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Shark's Instinct by Bethany Maines

Shark's Instinct

by Bethany Maines

Giveaway ends November 30, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


by J.M. Phillippe
Sometimes, I feel stuck. Sometimes, all I have in me is a stream of consciousness dump...
I am fumbling for words, searching my memory for rich sensory details, imagery and metaphor, a perfect picture painted with perspicacity, brought forth from my fertile imagination. 
I am new again, raw, an amateur who is just barely beginning to understand what creative writing is. I am spilling out consciousness on the page in rambling streams of poorly relayed emotion. Write what you know, but what do I know, anyway? What stories are mine to tell?
Oh, and I thought I was dark before, thought I had some sense of loss or grief, of the thousand natural shocks, but I am only a Horatio, battered witness of the twists and turns all around me. Transferred trauma, and they tell me to take care, but care has been taken to take such time away. I have no time. I have no energy to use what time I have.
I don’t take the time. I don’t spare the energy.
I sleep too much and not enough.
I fall back on the old words, the easy words. It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rings out. Once upon a time, in a land far far away. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Call me Ishmael.
In the room the women come and go, talking of Michaelangelo. And how should I presume?
All words are old, all words used so many times already. Should I dig up my vocabulary books, reacquaint myself with the archaic and obsolete, so that I may impress myself with my own prolix prose? 
And the seven (less or more?) great plot lines continue to unfold, over and over, and as Aimee Mann sings, “But nobody wants to hear this tale, The plot is clichéd, the jokes are stale, And baby we’ve all heard it all before.”

The only thing that’s mine is my voice. The only thing that can be new, the only thing that could make a story I tell different than any other.
But my voice needs words.
Words words words.
Lost in page counts, lost in deadlines, lost in pressures and anxieties floating all around me like ash, so thick it coats you, so thick it chokes you.
But even in the ash, a spark may fly, a tiny flake of potential floating on eddies, looking for the right tinder to settle on, the right wind to blow, and kindle standing by, waiting to burn.
I am a pile of kindle, ready to burn. I am waiting for my spark to find me.
J.M. Phillippe is the author of Perfect Likeness and the 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 works as a family 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 20, 2017

Plimouth or Plymouth?

by Paula Gail Benson

In school, I learned that the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620.

On the map, there is an oceanfront town of Plymouth, Massachusetts, which is a lovely place to spend a carefree summer day.

Within the town of Plymouth, Massachusetts, there is a living history Museum called Plimouth Plantation.

Why is the Plantation name spelled differently from the town’s?

According to a United States History Project webpage, the definitive journal detailing the organization of the colony by William Bradford had “Of Plimouth Planation” written at the top. “Plymouth” is considered the more modern spelling.

Visiting Plimouth Plantation gives modern guests the opportunity to immerse themselves in 17th century culture, both from the colonists’ and Native Americans’ viewpoints. The museum was established in 1947 by Henry Hornblower II (1917-1985), who worked in his family’s business of finance, but had a love for American history and archaeology that grew from his boyhood spent in the family’s Plymouth summer house. He became determined to present the story of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag People with the greatest accuracy and integrity possible.

From its humble beginnings, the museum has grown to include a replica of the Mayflower (known as the Mayflower II and now residing in Mystic Seaport being restored for the 400th anniversary of the crossing to take place in 2020--Queen Elizabeth II is expected to be in attendance for the celebration); recreations of an English village and Wampanoag Homesite; a visitors’ center (featuring a café where foods from the 17th century are served), craft center (where artisans use tools, materials, and techniques to create items that might have been used by the early colonists), barn with native and historical animals, and grist mill. All these venues are open to the public with interpreters and other guides.

This summer, I had the opportunity to spend a morning at Plimouth Plantation. As we approach Thanksgiving, here are a few pictures of the buildings and depictions of how the early settlers and Native Americans lived.

Visitors' Center

Nye Barn

Craft Center

Wampanoag Homesite
The Wampanoag Homesite features Native Americans demonstrating skills used by their ancestors. On the day I visited, they were cooking rabbit over the fire.

 Here are photos of the English village and interpreters.

The Grist Mill is at Jenny Pond. Visitors can watch the grinding and purchase corn meal.

May you all find joy in your celebration of Thanksgiving this year!

Friday, November 17, 2017

What We Really Write About--by T.K. Thorne

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.



Hi ya'll!


With my first two words as a new member of the Stiletto Gang, I have given away that I am a Southern girl. Okay, I am . . . um . . . a bit past the dictionary definition of “girl,” but where I’m from, we are still girls no matter our age.

I never thought I’d be a member of a Stiletto Gang, as I never met a pair of high heels I didn’t run from, but here I am. There is much in my life I never thought I would be or do, such as becoming a police officer after graduating college. Actually, it was an accident (that lasted over two decades), but that is a post for another day. Today, I am introducing myself.

So here are some “fun facts” about me:

  • I’m a 4th degree black belt in the martial art of Aikido.

  • At age 8, I won a ribbon for being stubborn.

  • I dove the Great Blue Hole in Belize, the largest sea hole in the world.

  • As a rookie police officer, I had to devise a different way to hold a gun because my hands were too small.

I once had an M-16 rifle pointed at me while researching a book.

  • Frogs make me smile.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to have adventures. I blame my Granny for inspiring that desire. She read Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to me long before I could read them for myself. For many years I decided the biggest adventure ev-er would be to meet aliens (the kind from outer space). Every night I checked out the back window to see if the spaceship had arrived to pick me up. I guess that is why, after life had twisted my path a few times, I picked up a gun and badge.

As you can imagine, being a police officer provided plenty of adventures and enriched my writing. I never met aliens, but I did encounter lots of strange people. Another way to say that—my experiences exposed me to a side of humanity I would never have otherwise encountered and deepened my understanding of human nature. And that, I truly believe, regardless of the genre, is the real essence of what we all write about—what it means to be human.


T.K. has written two award-winning historical novels, NOAH'S WIFE and ANGELS AT THE GATE, filling in the untold backstories of extraordinary unnamed women—the wives of Noah and Lot—in two of the world’s most famous sagas. The New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading” list featured her first non-fiction book, LAST CHANCE FOR JUSTICE, which details the investigators’ behind-the-scenes stories of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing case. Her next project is HOUSE OF ROSE, the first novel of a trilogy in the paranormal-crime genre. She loves traveling and speaking about her books and life lessons. T.K. writes at her mountaintop home near Birmingham, Alabama, often with two dogs and a cat vying for her lap. She blogs about “What Moves Me” on her website, Join her private newsletter email list and receive two free short stories at “TK’s Korner.”


P.S. After the holidays, my normal day to post will be the 4th Friday of each month. See y'all then!

Thursday, November 16, 2017


By Cathy Perkins

What's the appeal of a writing retreat? There are as many types of writing retreats as there are writers. Some are world famous organized affairs, while most are events planned with friends. Drop “writing retreat” into your internet browser and pages of links will fill the screen.

Stepping back, though, let’s look at the big picture. What’s mentioned most often as the key ingredient for a writing retreat?


A retreat reduces our usual distractions for guilt free writing time. Away from home, spouse, family, friends, pets, day-jobs, laundry, and stacks of unopened mail, we can relish the time and the freshness of a new place. When we step through the door of our temporary haven, there are no defining expectations, no history. In this place we are Writer rather than cook, chauffeur, pet walker, diaper changer, Scout leader, event planner, or any of the myriad roles layered on by our usual routine.

Of course, this giddy freedom can also produce overly ambitious goals. I’ll work day and night and crank out a hundred new pages, thousands of words!
Given how difficult it can be to carve out time away from our jobs and lives, we might feel pressured to be uber productive. We feel guilty if we’re not making every minute count. But that’s missing the other primary goal of a writing retreat – a chance to rest, renew, and refill the creative well. The goal is not to return home feeling you’ve just pulled a series of all-nighters.
Somewhere in between these two goals lives an individual balance point. I have friends whose ideal writing retreat is a hotel room with in-room dining service and a view of the roof top air-handling equipment. They are there to write. Period. End of sentence. Maybe they have a deadline to meet or that’s their personality, but the separation from the world is purely functional.
Other friends roll the retreat into a mini-vacation. Write a couple of hours in the morning and afternoon and then indulge the rest of the day with friends or, as The Artist’s Way calls it, feeding the inner child. Visit galleries, spend time with writing friends, walk on the beach or hike a mountain trail. Read in a clawfoot bathtub or bing-watch a complete season of Outlander. The writing time flies by with flowing words and the writer goes home ready to tackle the rest of the novel and the rest of her life.

I’m somewhere in the middle of these extremes. 
For several years. I’ve go to our fall retreat to write and I always get a lot done. “Done” can be words written, a story spine planned, or the minutia of an upcoming release scheduled. 
But it’s also a time of creative renewal for me to visit with friends, to talk story with people who don’t roll their eyes (cough, cough, family) and to walk for hours on the beach. 

What does your favorite or ideal writing retreat look like?

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. Her latest release is Double Down, available at major online retailers. 

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