Friday, January 26, 2018

Writing the Funny


      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, January 25, 2018

Comments on Juliana Aragón Fatula's Colorado Public Radio Interview, Chicana Writer Turns Her Stormy Colorado Past Into Poetry

link to Colorado Public Radio interview last year.

I welcome comments, feedback, critique...on my poetry and the interview in the link above. One of the comments posted to the website, infuriated my friends, who quickly posted their comments defending me. I don't need defending. I am what I am. But I appreciate that they have my back. They know my sense of humor and they know I laugh when I'm nervous, and I was incredibly nervous being interviewed for Colorado Public Radio. I have been sober for 27 years as has my husband. We met on a blind date and wala...

Let me say, I do not approve of parents getting drunk and beating their children with a belt. However, The River is my poem and I use poetic license to write whatever the fugly I want to write, after all, it is my herstory, my story, my past, my mother and if I have a sense of humor about the marks left on my thighs from 50 years ago and my mother so drunk she had no idea she was beating her children who cowered under the bed. What we did, my brother and I, did not warrant a beating; however, if we had repeated our behavior and one of our  ten siblings had drowned in the current of the strong summer waterway, we would have gotten much worse than a beating. My mother was scared to death. She couldn't swim. I can't swim. I made damn sure my son can swim and he swims like a fish; he rescues kids from drowning in the river.

The River
Remember crying yourself to sleep
when Mom didn’t come home
on Christmas Eve?
Her mestiza nose,
diamond iris eyes,
red, red wine lipstick,
her ratty hair;
Mom dressed in stilettos,
her black leather jacket
with the big belt.
Her evil-honey voice
screaming with the radio,
“What ya gonna’ do
when ya get outa’ jail?
I’m gonna have some fun!”
A bottle of Bud between her legs,
cigarette smoke filling the car,
her passed out behind the wheel,
parked at The Bird Club.
Where did we hide
when she came home borracho
and whipped us for daring
to take her young ones
to swim in the river;
the river witch
waiting to drown us;
Mom waiting for us
to come out from
under the bed?
Un gato viejo, ratón tierno;
the cocoman is an old man
who likes young girls,”
Mom told us every night—
I was ten, running wild
through Duck Park,
across the train tracks,
under Black Bridge,
in the horse field,
no longer afraid
of the cocoman.
I was never as afraid
of the cocoman
as I was of Mom’s wrath,
the crosses on the back of my thighs,
the belt buckle marks on my legs . . . still.

Lest anyone believe that I only write confessional poetry about abuse and alcoholism, here is a little poem I wrote about my Chicana Garden.

Azteca Grain
Slabs of stone line the garden
tendrils hang heavy
ready to turn—
seeds drop
low, low, low
clusters pull the plant
onto its bloody bursting head
shears sharpened sit in lull
while amaranth,
Azteca grain,
grows lush.

And this little diddy about racism and being defined by the color of your skin.

Holy Bones

starless blue-black night,
la muerte dances on the grave.
not like the funky chicken dance,
more like the conga.
hips sway, the earth shakes,
the dance of the dead
down down down.
the bones bang da da bang da da bang.
el viento breezes through tired ribs.
more funny than scary.
muertos, juntos raíces,
get along when they’re dead,
porque, las calaveras
are all the same color—bone.

Anyone who knows me, knows my writing reflects who I am, where I've been and where I'm going. I'm gathering momentum. 

Reprinted from RED CANYON FALLING ON CHURCHES: POEMS by Juliana Aragón Fatula with permission of Conundrum Press, a division of Samizdat Publishing Group, LLC. Copyright (c)Juliana Aragón Fatula, 2015.

Juliana Aragón Fatula’s, second book, Red Canyon Falling on Churches, winner of the High Plains Poetry Award 2016, and her debut poetry book, Crazy Chicana in Catholic City are published by Conundrum Press and her chapbook, The Road I Ride Bleeds, published by Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press. She is a fifth generation Southern Colorado Native and a lifetime member of the Sandra Cisneros’ Macondo Foundation. She has been a writer in residence for Colorado Humanities’ Writers in the Schools Program since 2012. Her foremost focus is education and working with at-risk-youth. She teaches cultural diversity in her classrooms and believes in the power of education to change lives. Her murder mystery, The Colorado Sisters and the Atlanta Butcher, percolates daily in her head. This will be her first novel.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

New for 2018!

by Bethany Maines

2018 is set to be a very big year for me.  I have been working feverishly through 2016 and 2017 to bring out multiple projects and 2018 is the year that many of those projects are bearing fruit. Take a peek at my upcoming releases!

February 13 - Galactic Dreams (Just in time for Valentine's Day!)

I will be part of a new series from my publishing company called Galactic Dreams featuring stories that are part science-fiction, part fairy tale, part romance and all adventure. Galactic Dreams Volume 1 will feature 3 novellas of fairy tales "reimagined for a new age—the future," including Soldier, Princess, Rebel Spy (Mulan) from Karen Harris Tully, Aurora One (Sleeping Beauty) from the Stiletto Gang's own J.M. Phillippe and When Stars Take Flight (Thumbelina) by me.  Pre-orders will be available next week, but if you want a chance two win 2 of the three stories for free, check out the rafflecopter below!

When Stars Take Flight - Kidnapped by the To’Andans, tortured by the Moliter, and rescued by Sparrow Pandion—a spy who hides a secret pain—Alliance Ambassador Lina Tum-Bel is up against a galaxy full of trouble as she attempts to rebuild the Interstellar Alliance. Her training says that she can’t trust her handsome rescuer, but maybe together, she and Sparrow can learn to fly.

April - Shark's Bite

Book 2 of the Shark Santoyo Crime Series returns to the suburban underworld of teenage drug dealers and gang enforcer Shark Santoyo as he tries to figure out what to do with a bowling alley and an ATF Agent who is out to get him.

June - Against the Undertow

The sequel to An Unseen Current will finally be available in June.  This quirky cozy mystery series features 87 year-old, ex-CIA agent Tobias Yearly and his granddaughter Tish bickering, tackling home improvement projects, and solving mysteries in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. In Against the Undertow, handsome Sheriff’s Deputy Emmett Nash, was just accused of murdering his ex-wife’s boyfriend, and Tish and Tobias must face down hippies, cops, and psychotic event planners to solve the mystery and save their friend.

October - Shark's Hunt

One Shark just isn't enough.  This time, Shark is back in the city and facing some serious problems as a gang war erupts.

December - A Christmas Short?  

Maybe.  We'll see if I make it December.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery Series, Tales From the City of Destiny, 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 view the Carrie Mae YouTube video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Full Circle for a Debut Author

by Shari Randall

Many thanks to the Stiletto Gang for inviting me to be part of the, well, gang. This year marks my debut as a novelist with the January 30 publication of the first in my new Lobster Shack Mystery series, Curses, Boiled Again! I'll be sharing the debut author journey with you here on the third Friday of the month.

As I gear up for my first author panel as a novelist, I can’t keep a verse from the Talking Heads song “Once in a Lifetime” from going through my mind: “How did I get here?”

The panel will be held at the same library in Virginia where I was a children’s librarian for more than 12 years. We’ll sit in chairs in the same room where I sang “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt” for toddlers, introduced The Reptile Lady, and dressed up as Professor McGonagle for a Harry Potter birthday celebration. Talk about a crazy journey!

Fast forward to my panel. I’m thrilled that two of my favorite authors and friends will be with me, Donna Andrews and Sherry Harris.

How did I get here?

Many writers can point to the moment they started on the road to becoming a writer – a prize for an elementary school poem, a spot on the high school yearbook, a sale to a magazine.

My road started as a voracious reader in the library of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Meriden, CT. The librarian, Mrs. Macri, was an energetic lady who wasn’t much taller than her students but tried to gain a few inches on us with very high stiletto heels. How I marveled at those heels. (And how I still marvel at those who can wear them!)

One day in fourth grade, a thick book on a high shelf caught my eye. Mrs. Macri saw me looking and pulled it down for me. “Oh, you’ll like this,” she said as she put the book into my hands. She didn’t say, “Oh, that’s too old for you” or “Try something easier.” The book was The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

I didn’t just like it, dear reader. I devoured it and started trying to write my own stories.
That started my lifelong love of mysteries.

Fast forward through unfortunate high school poetry, an English degree, work at my hometown newspaper, editing for a Boston publisher, freelancing, teaching, doing a masters in library and information science, to my job in a mid-sized library in the lower level of a shopping mall in a county of almost a million people near Washington, DC.

Deep into years of budget cuts, our teen section was looking particularly tired. I was searching for grant money to buy fresh copies of books when I came across the We Love Libraries program from a writers group called the Sisters in Crime. I did some research, got my boss’s okay, and applied for the grant.

We won! One thousand dollars with no string attached. Let me tell you, ain’t no party like a librarian party where you can buy books with somebody else’s money!

Four Sisters came to the check presentation ceremony: GM Malliet, C. Ellett Logan, Terri Bishop, and Ellen Byerrum. They told me about the local Chesapeake chapter, the Chessies, and the yearly short story anthology. Did I write? Did I know anyone who had a short story to enter?

Did I ever! Me.

The thrill of having that first short story published, and holding that book in my hands, is something I’ll never forget. I thought it would be different with this novel, but the thrill is the same with Curses, Boiled Again!

Eight years, two short stories, four novels (one published, one ready for submission, one in pieces, one in a drawer awaiting the light of day) and scores of blog posts have been part of my journey from that grant and inspirational meeting with the sisters of the Chessie Chapter.

Am I grateful? You bet. As the Sisters say, you write alone, but you’re never truly alone with sisters. My novel wouldn’t have happened without them. Thank you, always, Chessies and Sisters in Crime.

I'll send a copy of Curses, Boiled Again to one commenter - please share something that makes you feel grateful. Thank you for stopping by!

When she’s not committing murder (on the page, of course), Shari enjoys walking the beach near her house, traveling and eating the local cuisine, reading, and dancing. She’s currently trying to talk her husband into a tango class.

She's had two short stories published in the Chesapeake Crimes anthology series: "Disco Donna" in Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays and "Keep It Simple" in Chesapeake Crimes: This Job Is Murder.  A third, “Pet,” will be published in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies in spring 2018. You can see what's new with her at and check out her mermaid obsession on Instagram @sharirandallauthor.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Unifying Themes - Seven Sinister Sisters Tour

We’re the Seven Sinister Sisters and we’re on a mission: Seven mystery authors; seven new releases; seven answers to a central question at each stop on our tour. The Stiletto Gang is our second stop and our question this week is…

Is there a theme underlying or unifying your books?

Cathy Perkins’ Holly Price mystery series revolves around family and loyalty. After her father cliches a midlife brain-fart and absconds with his yoga instructor, Holly agrees to temporarily return to her hometown in order to keep the family business afloat. Clients can do the damnedest things, however, making her question all relationships. With the next book in the series, In It For The Money, Holly’s cousin is the catalyst for her involvement in another murder investigation. Refusing to believe the rumors flying around the extreme sport circuit about his alleged treachery, she follows the money – another consistent theme – to find the actual villain.   

Sue Star also writes about families in chaos. Nell Letterly is a menopausal single mom, trying to raise her teenage daughter, as well as fielding well-intended interference from the rest of the family, including Gramps and Nell's fashionista, soon-to-be ex sister-in-law. They all disagree how a teenager should be raised, but as a family they have a special bond. In Murder by Moose, Nell tries to protect her family from a killer on the loose while she teaches a self-defense class at a dude ranch in the mountains. But when the going gets tough, the family always comes together to help Nell solve the mystery.  

In Biscuits and Slashed Browns—as in the series as a whole—Edith Maxwell (writing as Maddie Day) expands this family theme to community. How do friends and family rally 'round when someone is at risk or wrongly accused? How does a country store breakfast-and-lunch restaurant serve as a focal point for the community, a gathering place? In this particular book, the father of one of her protagonist's employees is accused of murder. This motivates Robbie Jordan and others in the small town of South Lick, Indiana to work together to find out who is the killer.

As with all murder mysteries, Leslie Karst’s Sally Solari culinary series concerns issues of truth and justice. Equally important, however, are themes of family and the food movement, and how the two create a conflict between Sally and her father. The Solaris are descended from one of the original Italian fishermen who arrived in Santa Cruz in the 1890s, and Sally’s dad is fiercely proud of the family’s traditional Italian seafood restaurant on the historic wharf.  When Sally inherits her aunt’s trendy restaurant, Gauguin, her father—hurt that Sally no longer wants to work at Solari’s—becomes convinced she now looks down on her family heritage.

Becky Clark takes a different tack in her new series, the Mystery Writer's Mysteries series. Officially, all the books are set in the world of a mystery author, so with Fiction Can Be Murder, she pulls back that curtain for her readers. Unofficially, her books always have the same underlying current, that of the reluctant hero. It seems she likes to explore characters who are going about their boring, normal lives when — BLAMMO — something bizarre happens to them. They're way out of their comfort zone and flounder for a while before forcing themselves to pull up their big-girl undies and fix whatever the problem is.

Returning to our recurring family theme, a few things always show up in Shawn McGuire’s work. First, relationships – whether between family members, romance, best friends, parent and child, co-workers, etc. – are a prime element to the story. Second, there’s always humor of some kind because even in the most intense situations, humor helps. Third, an element of truth or finding your path in life often shows up. Then with each book, a theme unique to that story or series will appear. With her Whispering Pines series, while she hadn’t originally planned it, religion turned out to be a strong theme.

In the first two books in the Cole & Callahan PI series, Pat Hale says religion plays an underlying role. In The Church of the Holy Child, (September 2017) the serial killer torments a priest with information on the murders, knowing he’s bound by his holy orders not to reveal what’s heard in the confessional. In Durable Goods, (April 15, 2018) young girls are drawn into a sex trade organization under the guise of coming to a religious refuge for indigent women. The sub-theme of both books considers the confines and constructs found within religious doctrine and their use for good and evil. 

Thanks so much to The Stiletto Gang and all their readers for joining our tour. We’re happy to address any comments or questions. And feel free to contact any of us through our websites. Our next stop will be January 25th with MJB Reviewers. See you there!

To celebrate our new releases, the Seven Sinister Sisters are having a giveaway!

Seven lucky winners will receive an ebook from one of us.

One GRAND PRIZE winner will receive a signed copy from each of us!

Enter to win by leaving a comment below. Our tour runs from January 6th to April 30th and we’re answering a different question at each blog. Leave a comment at each blog for more entries! We’ll draw the winner from all the combined comments at the end of our tour.
Watch our Facebook page for the next stop on the tour.