Friday, December 28, 2018

An Unexpected Dream Come True



 

  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.



It's not something I talk much about, but for many years I was in the closet as a writer. I collected so many rejections, I could have wallpapered my house with them, or at least, my bedroom. Everyone said short stories were the way to break in, but my stories kept getting turned down.  If I dared admit I was a writer to anyone, their next question dashed me down—"Oh, what have you published?" I could only imagine what it would be like to be a real author, signing books for my fans, having a best seller.  I felt like a failure, but I'm pretty stubborn, and I just kept writing and submitting. I wrote five novels before one was published.

When I held that first book in my hands, I cried tears of joy.

My fourth book recently came out and it was still exciting to open that box and hold it in my hand.



Then a few days later, it made its debut at an elegant downtown Victorian mansion. I signed copies read fromg the book, and shared my big night with friends. A dream come true.






While I was signing books, something else was on my mind. Earlier that day, I had taught a creative writing class (as a volunteer) at Maranathan Academy, a non-profit school that takes "critically at-risk students from a variety of challenging circumstancess—bullying and abuse victims, juvenile offenders, poor academic performers, and the health challenged/chronically ill. Students enter Maranathan wounded and looking for a place to belong." [website] 

I started the class three months prior, nervous, afraid I'd just taken on something else to fail at, and that I had nothing to offer these kids. I'd never taught poetry, never taught youth, let alone students with the kind of challenges these faced. That first day was hell, and I almost quit. But something made me go back. The students had no idea how to express themselves or even how to sit still. Every class was a struggle, but, gradually, the students started listening and participating.  

Something amazing had happened in class the day of my signing. The students had written poems that touched on their deepest pain, something I could not have imagined them doing when I started.  Nor, I believe, could they have imagined doing so, much less sharing it with the other students and faculty. Not only had they learned to write poetry, but they felt safe enough to open the door to their true selves.

It was wonderful to be at my long-planned book launch party, don’t get me wrong, but my mind kept drifting back to the classroom and those kids.  Then I looked up and saw three members of the school faculty in line with books and one of my students!  I jumped up and hugged her.  “You're my inspiration,” she whispered in my ear.


That gave me more joy than signing my books or making a best seller list or winning writing awards. That was a dream come true that I hadn't even known to dream.

Chinese proverb:
“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

T.K. Thorne’s childhood passion for storytelling deepened when she became a police officer in Birmingham, Alabama.  “It was a crash course in life and what motivated and mattered to people.” In her newest novel, HOUSE OF ROSE, murder and mayhem mix with a little magic when a police officer discovers she’s a witch. 

Both her award-winning debut historical novels, NOAH’S WIFE and ANGELS AT THE GATE, tell the stories of unknown women in famous biblical tales—the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot. Her first non-fiction book, LAST CHANCE FOR JUSTICE, the inside story of the investigation and trials of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, was featured on the New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading” list. 

T.K. loves traveling and speaking about her books and life lessons. She writes at her mountaintop home near Birmingham, often with two dogs and a cat vying for her lap. 

 More info at TKThorne.com. Join her private newsletter email list and receive a two free short stories at “TK’s Korner.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Learning to Write a Murder Mystery by Juliana Aragon Fatula


This year I've taken some time off from writing to be present in my home with my family. But I have that itch. I need to write and so I'm going to try sharing some great books to read with my readers. I've read so many great books in my life but the first author I fell in love with was Pearl S. Buck when I was very young. It started my love for the Asian culture and language. 

I had a spell when I read nothing but Tom Robbins. My writing has taken on a sense of humor similar to his wackiness. I loved his characters. Sissy, the Woodpecker, Julian. 

In college I read Ethnic Literature, American Literature and World Literature and fell in love with many talented women writers. Maya Angelou and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings showed me how to open my heart and share my deepest secrets with my readers.

Sandra Cisneros taught me to write from the heart and be honest. She told me once, it will be interesting to see how you write now that you've been published. I never forgot her words. She told me to be brave and write without holding back anything.

Denise Chavez moved me so much when I began reading her novels I had to drive to Las Cruces to spend time with her in hopes that she would rub off on me some her magic. It worked.

For the last four years I've been reading how to write murder mystery books. I'm going to list some of the best books and explain how they guided me and built my confidence to write a great story. 

Linda Rodriguez gave me the best resources in her book Plotting the Character Driven Novel. She has a new book and I'm going to be sure and read anything she writes. Her novels are inspiring and she has inspired me to be a mystery writer. 

I have learned more than just great writing from the Stiletto Gang. And as a member of the Macondo Foundation, I have learned to give time and energy to the community I love and to pass it on. They are activists and they have taught me to always help other writers.




Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Boxing Day

by Bethany Maines

I had a friend who was extremely disappointed to learn that the day after Christmas had NOTHING to do with boxing. I don't know if she was hoping for some sort of tale of a historical rumble at Five Points or Canadians engaging in fisticuffs, but she was quite put out to learn that it was about literal boxes and tipping.  I cannot help the history, but the tradition in our family is to loll about the house and stuff our faces while watching an entire days worth action movies selected by my brother.  And action movies frequently involve some sort of hand to hand pummelling, so, there... Boxing Day accomplished.

Watching movies at my brothers house has gotten more complicated due to babies and competing in-laws, but this year's movie theme is Time Travel.  So in no particular order we are all invited to watch the following:


  • Back to the Future - Michael J. Fox
  • Frequency - Jim Caviezel
  • Time Cop - Jean Claucde Van Damme
  • Looper - Joseph Gorden Levitt
  • 12 Monkeys - Bruce Willis
  • The Terminator - Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure - Keanu Reeves
  • The Final Countdown - Martin Sheen
Merry Christmas, happy Boxing Day, and a wonderful New Years to all!

**
Blue ChristmasAmazon - Barnes & Noble - Kobo - iTunes - ¢.99

Drunken TV news cameraman Jake Garner thought he was tackling an intruder. But no, Jake just took out the fantastically attractive dog sitter. Mortified, Jake does what any man would who has just been dumped right before Christmas would do—give the offended party all his ex's things. Meanwhile, Blue Jones is determined to do whatever it takes to get her grandmother the best cancer treatment possible, even if that means some high-rise burglary from one of her worst dog-sitting clients, the failure to walk, feed or book a pet-sitter for a three day weekend, Grace Lorra. But Blue didn't count on Grace's ex, Jake, showing up and drunkenly handing over all of Grace's belongings— including her adorable French Bulldog, Jacques. It takes no time at all for Blue to fall in love with Jacques, but Blue also finds herself wondering if it would be so bad to return to the scene of the crime to reconnect with Jake. But as Christmas draws closer, Grace pressures Jake to return the dog and Blue is targeted by mysterious assailants. Can Jake find Blue and Jacques before her stalkers do? And can Jake and Blue stop these mystery men without also getting Blue arrested for theft? For Blue, Christmas has never been quite so dangerous. For Jake, Christmas has never been quite so Blue.

**
Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery Series, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous short stories. When she's not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some serious butt with her fourth degree black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The Spirit of the Season


By Lynn McPherson

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Today is a great day for everyone to take time and reflect on what is important in life. Regardless of whether or not one believes in the religious origins of Christmas, we are all given the opportunity on this day to slow down. With almost every store and service closed, it is a perfect time to focus on family and friends. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities of a busy life. Luckily, we have this special day to take pause and look around to appreciate what we have.

Some of my favorite things to do on Christmas are activities I rarely seem to have time for these days. Board games like Monopoly or Risk—those that can take hours to play—suddenly seem appealing. And who can resist a classic game of family charades? With turkey in the oven, it is the perfect time to challenge your favourite family members to a game.

Then there is the big meal. Will there be enough gravy? Can we manage to make it thick enough to please everyone? Inevitably, each cook in the kitchen will have advice on every aspect of the complicated meal. Last but not least, who is going to carve the turkey? How much butter can those potatoes withstand?

Each family seems to have traditions that they follow. My wee ones have taken to the idea that Santa should be given some healthy snack options along with his cookies. We have left out guacamole with whole grain tortilla chips now for three years running. They are proud to tell their aunts and uncles that they are helping to keep Santa healthy and happy. Do you have any family traditions that you would like to share?

Please take the day to enjoy whatever makes you happy. Quiet or loud, busy or relaxed, I hope you have a wonderful and memorable holiday season with those you love.

Cheers to all,
Lynn


Lynn McPherson has worked for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, ran a small business, and taught English across the globe. She has travelled the world solo where her daring spirit has led her to jump out of airplanes, dive with sharks, and learn she would never master a surfboard. She now channels her lifelong love of adventure and history into her writing, where she is free to go anywhere, anytime. Her cozy series has two books out: The Girls' Weekend Murder and The Girls Whispered Murder.  



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Monday, December 24, 2018

December 24, 2018

Can you believe the year is almost coming to an end. Where did 2018 go?

For an introvert and someone with slight mobility issues, I've done a lot of traveling this year. I've been to Virginia, Maryland, Denver, South Carolina, Bahamas, Florida, Boston, and North Carolina. Looking forward to more adventures next year. It was my first time to visit Denver and Charleston.


My blog is coming along nicely. I love introducing readers of my blog to authors who they may have not known via various other sources. The notes I receive from both authors and readers lets me know that I'm doing the right thing . . . making that reader-author connection.


Other than that, I look forward to what 2019 has to bring. I'm going to these new locations I've never been before: Vancouver and Savannah.

What are you looking forward to in 2019?

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!



Dru

Friday, December 21, 2018

Bad Poetry for the Holidays!


Writing in a Mystery Wonderland
by Shari Randall


In the spirit of the holidays I thought I'd share this poem I wrote last year for Writers Who Kill. Twas the week before Christmas and all through my house, I was tearing my hair out trying to finish a Christmas novella. (sorry!) I was knee deep in a new story and after a night tossing and turning and trying out different plot twists, my mind turned to one of my favorite Christmas songs....and this happened.

To the tune of "Walking in a Winter Wonderland"

with apologies to Felix Bertand and Richard B. Smith

Slay-bells ring! Are you listening?
In the lane, blood is glistening.
A criminal sight, we're sleuthing tonight
Writing in a mystery wonderland.

Gone away is the body,
Here to stay is the bobby
As we start the chase
To solve a tough case
Writing in a mystery wonderland.

In the story we will solve a murder
And pretend that we are Sheriff Brown.
They'll say "Are you guilty?" We'll say "No, man!"
But you can arrest my evil twin when you're in town.

Later on, we'll conspire
As we dream by the fire
To face unafraid
The plot that we made
Writing in a mystery wonderland!




  Wishing you all the joys of the season!
Shari Randall is the author of the Lobster Shack Mysteries from St. Martin's Press.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Nostalgic


In this week’s hustle and flurry of last minute gifts, mailing and cooking, I find that I’m as nostalgic as I am busy. Since I suspect you’re putting the final touches on your holidays—winding up Hanukkah, prepping for Christmas, or simply happy the Solstice is tomorrow—I’ll keep this post short. 😉


I don’t miss the “good ol’ days” as much as I do making new nightgowns for the girls (and for their American Girl dolls 😊 ).






Nights of “some assembly required” and staging Santa’s cookies.  



Full body hugs.



So where are you? 


Minimizing the trappings? Frantically finishing? Happy with the whole process?






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.  Visit her at http://cperkinswrites.com or on Facebook 

Sign up for her new release announcement newsletter in either place.

She's hard at work on sequel to The Body in the Beaver Pond, which was recently presented with the Claymore Award.
 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

'Tis the Season

Now, more than ever it seems, we all need this.

 
 Author Kay Kendall is closing out a challenging year and eagerly anticipating 2019. In the month of February she will have her third mystery debut.
She lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. 
Visit Kay at her website  http://www.austinstarr.com/  
CHEERS! ONWARD TO 2019!
 


Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Grief and the Holidays

by J.M. Phillippe

Every year when the holidays come, I have to brace myself. I know that as the decorations go up and the celebrations begin, my frustration tolerance will shrink, my patience get strained. The stress of the holidays will feel heavy on me, not just because of all the prep I have to do and all the gifts I have to buy -- but because of all the gifts I won't be buying.

For those who have lost loved ones, the holidays are always bittersweet. All the joy of the season is tinged with this deep sadness, a hard nostalgia that shows up in every ritual and tradition. There are also those who are physically far from their loved ones, and those who just feel isolated and alone, not able to connect to others during the season.

Bad news hits harder at the holidays in part because the expectation for joy is so high. It's difficult to make space for your own sadness while surrounded by others' celebrations, and difficult to reach out to others when you feel like they are occupied with family and other obligations.

For me, I have to recognize why I feel tired all the time, why my energy drops lower than I want it to be, and why I struggle to connect to some parts of the season: grief is taking up space in my heart and body, and whether I acknowledge it or not, I carry the weight of loss with me in every activity I do.

So I acknowledge it, as much as I can, and make space for it along with the decorations I put up around my home. Because I don't think sadness and joy are mutually exclusive. In fact, I believe that to feel one deeply we must allow ourselves to feel the other just as deeply.

So as we head into the home stretch of the holidays and another transition into a new year, I hope those of you dealing with heartache of any kind know that you are not alone, that it's okay to be sad, and that it's also okay to do the happy things anyway. Feel all the things.

And I hope you have as good a holiday season you can have, and that the new year brings you as many joyful moments as possible.

***

J.M. Phillippe is the author of the novels Perfect Likeness and Aurora One and the newly released The Christmas Spirit, a story about a Christmas ghost finding joy even after life.  J.M. has lived in the deserts of California, the suburbs of Seattle, and the mad rush of New York City. She works as a clinical social worker in Brooklyn, New York and spends her free time binge-watching quality TV, drinking cider with amazing friends, and learning the art of radical self-acceptance, one day at a time.