Friday, September 28, 2018

Stiletto Heels, a Witch and a Deadly Dinner--TK 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.

I love the idea of vicariously wearing stiletto heels because that is the only way that will ever happen!  What Rose Brighton discovers, however, is they might very well be good for something else.

Rose is a police officer who discovers she’s a witch of House of Rose. She’s received an invitation to dinner from a devastatingly handsome man, a warlock of another House of Iron. All she knows is that someone from his House has been trying to kill her and wipe out her family.

So, of course, she goes—

The Club (pronounced with emphasis on “The”) is a private dinner club atop Red Mountain overlooking the city. Very posh. I wear my black dress and a pair of heels I bought, which are killing me. How do women walk in these things? I let the valet park the car, because I don’t think I could make it all the way across the parking lot.
In spite of the fact that she is dead, I can hear Aunt Alice in my head protesting how dangerous it is to meet Jason Blackwell anywhere. I wonder if any of my family members were prone to do dangerous or impulsive things. If so, I inherited it, and it’s not my fault, right? Besides, I’ve got to have info, and I’m not going to get any sitting on my butt.
So, for the sake of gaining intelligence about House of Iron, which I know nothing about, I am practically standing on my toes trying not to fall on my face. My sympathies to the Chinese girls whose feet were bound in ancient times to keep them small for the aesthetic taste of Chinese men. Thinking about that horrid practice makes me angry. Why am I torturing myself on these stilts for the pleasure of men?
By the time I make it to the private dining room, I’m scowling.
Ciao, Rose!” Jason Blackwell greets me, rising from his chair at a table by the expansive window. “You are beautiful even when you look ready to eat the first person in your path.”
“I look like that?”
“It’s the shoes.”
“Ah.” He pulls out my chair, and I sit . . . gratefully.
A bottle of wine chills in a bowl on a small stand by the table. I’ve seen setups like this in movies, but this is way out of my comfort zone. Jason gestures at the wine. “I took the liberty of ordering. It’s a fine year. Would you like to try it?”
He lifts a finger and a waiter I didn’t even see glides to our table and opens the bottle, pouring a small amount in Jason’s glass. It would be nice to have a touch of James Bond sophistication with wine at this point, but I can see it’s a French white from the label, and that’s about the extent of my wine knowledge. Fortunately, Jason seems at home with the requirements and takes a sip, savoring it on his tongue for a moment before nodding assent at the waiter, who pours my glass first, then his. I watch all this with fascination, and because I am afraid to look at my date. He almost hurts the eyes.
Suddenly Becca’s voice is in my head: Oh my God, Rose. Does he have a brother?
That breaks the spell and I smile. Thank you, Becca.
“So, has anyone tried to kill you lately?” Jason asks, turning his attention to me.
I laugh and chastise myself for being so easily charmed. This man, I remind myself, may have lived a lot longer than I, despite his youthful looks.
“Actually, I have managed to outwit a sniper since we last saw each other.”
His face, which I am now watching carefully, hardens. “I didn’t know that. He missed, I assume.”
“How do you know it was a ‘he’?”
Now it is his turn to laugh. “Be easy, detective. I do not know that. It was a chauvinistic guess.”
The waiter sets down a basket that smells heavenly. Jason folds back the white linen to reveal the warm breads inside. “You must try an orange roll, house specialty.”
I bite into it and close my eyes. After I swallow, my tongue finds the bits of crystalized sugar on my lips.
Jason clears his throat. “I’m not sure if I wish to eat or simply watch you eat.”
I open my eyes, my earlobes burning, and snatch at the menu.
I order fish, and he orders lamb. Appropriate. I feel like a lamb stalked by a wolf and wonder if I used enough deodorant to last through dinner.
Jason’s gaze drifts to the huge window that looks down into the valley. “It is a beautiful view, isn’t it?” Below us, the lights gleam like multicolored gems.
“It is.”
“Sometimes,” Jason says, “when I cannot sleep, I look down on this from my bedroom window.”
Warning bells ding in my head. This personal revelation is a bit of intimacy meant to make himself appear more human, a little bait thrown out to gain my sympathy.
 I can play the game as long as I know there is a hook beneath the bait . . . right?
“You have trouble sleeping?” I ask.
“More often than I’d like.”
I wonder what his nightmares are about.
I take another swallow of wine and decide it is time to stop flitting around. “I have a question.”
He arches a brow.
“Who is trying to kill me?” I ask.
For a swiftly passing moment, his face tightens. Anger? Then the lines smooth and he considers me.
“I do not know.”
“You have no idea?”
Was there the slightest hesitation before that answer? He takes my hand and lightly rubs a thumb down the inside of my wrist. My pulse jumps. ‘Jump’ is the wrong word, more like catapults.
. . . I take a deep swallow of wine and feel it burning into my chest. “Are we going to have an honest discussion?”
His mouth crooks again. “That would be novel.”
“Answer the question,” I demand.
“Yes. Yes, we are going to have an honest discussion.” He is amused again, which is irritating.
“You know more about who might have tried to kill me than you are telling me.”
“What makes you say that?”
“I’m a detective, remember?”
“I think you are prejudiced against the House of Iron.”
He leans back. “I honestly don’t know. At times I’ve thought it could be someone in my House, but I’ve no proof of any kind. Most of my youth was spent in Italy where my father had a villa and a mistress. After his death, I remained there. It is still my primary residence.”
“So who comes to mind when you think that?”
“Let us not play this game. I have no knowledge that my family is involved. If I ever have, I will tell you. I find I have a desire to keep you alive.  Frutti proibiti sono i più dolci.”
“Which means?”
“Forbidden fruit is the sweetest.”
My ears burn again. “Is that a promise, Mr. Blackwell?”
“It is a promise.” He smiles. “Enough of that. Now, let’s talk about you.”
My defenses rear up. “What about me?”
“I take it you are not a social butterfly.”
“Was it the shoes thing?”
He laughs. “In part. You are intriguing, Miss Brighton, though forbidden fruit.”
I sip my own wine. “Forbidden? In what way?”
“House of Iron and House of Rose never . . . intermingle.”
“Really? Why is that?”
“Let us call it a strong cultural tradition. Both Houses must marry outsiders.”
His reaction makes me suspect this prohibition is more along the lines of prejudice, and my jaw tightens. “Them” and “us” exist even among the witches and warlocks.
. . .Our food comes at that moment. It is beautifully presented, with a small sprig of cilantro and a lemon wedge cut artfully in a spiral design, and I realize I’m starving. While he talks, I eat, feeling his eyes on me again. I want to believe he had nothing to do with my family’s murder. I can’t explain why. I just do. Maybe because his eyes are so blue.
When our plates are whisked away, I excuse myself from the table to powder my nose and wobble my way down the hall. “If I ever try to wear heels again, just shoot me,” I mumble aloud.
A platinum-haired lady exiting the women’s restroom gives me an odd glance. I smile and point to my ear. She sniffs in disapproval of the concept of people talking on invisible phones in public and walks on with her nose in the air.
Once inside, the first thing I do is kick off the shoes, sit on the toilet seat and rub my arches. I linger just long enough to give my feet a reprieve, wash my hands, and reapply lip gloss. Lipstick requires far too much aim and control. My hair is curling wildly from the moisture outside, but there’s not much I can do about that. I wash my hands and dry them in the curls, a temporary taming technique. Reluctantly, I slip the heels back on.
In the hall, a girl with freckled skin and bony elbows steps carefully around the corner, balancing a tray of glasses. Unbeckoned, a surge of living-green sweeps into me. The girl freezes, and a shadow girl steps ahead of her, slightly out of focus, moving in my direction. I am seeing the future, moments from now.
A portly shadow man exits the men’s room, which is next to the women’s room where I stand, and bumps into the girl, spilling her tray. He turns on her, angry and wobbly, probably drunk. I can’t hear anything he says to her, but it isn’t necessary. The slump of her shoulders reflects his abuse. The whole thing fades, and the girl in my universe or time-line resumes walking toward me.
Without thinking about it, I step to the men’s room and lean against the door. Someone on the other side pushes to get out, but I set my weight into it.
“What the hell?” he slurs from inside.
When the waitress is safely past, I move away from the door, and it bursts open. The man staggers out like carbonated foam pent up in a can. At that moment, the headache that seems associated with seeing into the future hits me, and I just happen to step on his foot with my heel. “Oh, I am so sorry,” I say and leave him cursing and limping in a circle.
These shoes might be good for something, after all.

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A retired police captain, T.K. has written two award-winning historical novels, NOAH'S WIFE and ANGELS AT THE GATE, filling in the untold backstories of extraordinary, yet 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. Coming in November: HOUSE OF ROSE, the first 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. More info at Join her private newsletter email list and receive a two free short stories at “TK’s Korner.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Three “Red” Short Stories

by Paula Gail Benson

During this time when we are celebrating our new red stilettos logo, I thought it might be fun to seek out some “red” mystery short stories. Thanks to the internet, I quickly located three--two familiar and one new to me--with the word “red” in the title.

The earliest is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Red-Headed League,” a Sherlock Holmes adventure, which, according to Wikipedia, was published in The Strand magazine in August of 1891 and ranked by Conan Doyle as his second favorite Holmes story. The person who instigates this investigation is “a florid-faced, elderly gentleman, with fiery red hair.” This gentleman, Mr. Jabez Wilson, a pawnbroker by profession, responded to an advertisement for “the Red-Headed League” and was hired to fill the opening, to write out portions from an encyclopedia for four pounds a week (again, according to Wikipedia, that’s currently equivalent to 400 pounds a week). Mr. Wilson’s job ended as abruptly as it began and he came to Sherlock Holmes to find out why his stream of income had vanished. Holmes begins by laughing at the situation, then considering it in earnest. The answer was: Mr. Wilson had been diverted from his ordinary business so he would not notice some pending criminal activity.

Second, is O. Henry’s “The Ransom of Red Chief,” published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1910, and now known more for its parodies than the actual story of thieves who kidnap an important man’s son, but end up paying to have the father take him back. The “red” comes from the kidnap victim’s hair color and the fact that he refers to himself as “Red Chief.”

The last is a new story to me, but one Raymond Chandler fans will recognize as a Philip Marlowe tale. Initially published in 1938, “Red Wind” begins with Marlowe having a drink at the bar across from his office and watching a man enter, then be killed by another man.

Often writers are advised never to open with the weather. Not only does “Red Wind” break that rule (“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”), but uses the wind throughout the story as a symbol of the unrest in the characters’ lives.

Finding Doyle’s and Henry’s stories is easy with versions available on the internet. Chandler’s is in an anthology that costs $30 plus or in an audio version read by Elliott Gould for just under ten dollars. I downloaded a Kindle version that had been translated into Korean, but also had the English text. Marlowe’s narration is so absorbing, I hurriedly skipped over the interspersed translated portions!

What “red” stories have you read lately?

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Red Shoes

by Shari Randall

You may have noticed that the Stiletto Gang has an updated look. We’re celebrating our new logo with a giveaway! Readers who comment on one of the Red Shoes blogs in September and October are entered to win either an Amazon or Starbucks $10 gift card. Join in the fun! The winner will be announced on our November Clicking Our Heels blog.

As a dance lover with a former ballerina as a main character, for me there is only one pair of red shoes that matters - The Red Shoes, a classic British film starring Moira Shearer.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about the film but a recent viewing revealed how well the film has aged. The Red Shoes has even more to say now than when it was first released to great acclaim, two Oscar wins, and several nominations in 1948. Directors as different as Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma have named the film one of their favorites. If these directors of some of the grittiest, hardest hitting films of all time declare a ballet movie one of their favorites, there must be something more to it than a simple backstage drama.

The film is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fable about a girl who yearns for dazzling red shoes she sees in a shop window. The shopkeeper gives them to her, but they are no ordinary shoes. She begins to dance, but discovers that she cannot stop dancing. The girl dances across fields, across cities, for days, exhausted, bruised, terrified by what’s happening because no matter how she tries, she cannot take off the enchanted shoes, cannot stop dancing. She begs a woodcutter to cut off her feet. He complies and she’s finally freed of the cursed shoes but at a terrible cost.

The directors of The Red Shoes used the fable as a springboard to an emotionally sophisticated and rich story. By setting the fable in the world of theater, the film’s central motif, the shoes, become a symbol for the artist’s gift.

The film centers around Vicky Page, a gifted young dancer. When she meets charismatic Boris Lermontov, a dictatorial ballet impresario, he asks her why she dances.
“Why do you live?” she responds.
We meet Julian, a young musician whose music has been plagiarized by his music professor. Boris asks Julian to compose music for a ballet version of The Red Shoes. With Vicky in the starring role the ballet is a sensation and Vicky is hailed as a great new talent at each stop on a glamorous European tour.

Two beautiful young people, each gifted artists, each passionate about their art – you can guess what happens next. Vicky and Julian fall in love. 

Against the pleadings of Lermontov, Vicky marries Julian and returns to England, leaving her career behind while Julian’s star rises.

But the pull of dance is too great. Vicky goes to visit her aunt in Monte Carlo, just as the ballet pulls into town. Lermontov begs her to return to the stage. She does. Did Vicky really simply wish to visit her aunt or did she intend to meet Lermontov? The film suggests but does not tell.

Just as she is preparing to take the stage for a revival of The Red Shoes, Julian storms in, begging her to return to England with him. Lermontov offers a counter argument, begging her to see that she is an artist, that she is born to dance. Vicky, forced to choose  between the man she loves and the art that keeps her alive, is torn from reality. As if her own red shoes are enchanted, she begins to dance, and….

I don’t want to give away the ending, because this film is so enjoyable on so many levels. The directors hired a painter to be in charge of art direction - it's one of the most gorgeous, color drenched, Technicolor films ever. The costumes by French house of Fath are spectacular. But most importantly, the film has surprisingly modern things to say about art, artists, and relationships. 

Do yourself a favor and rent it. The Red Shoes raises so many issues about the nature of art and the sacrifices artists must make to honor their gift. It’s the perfect film, and the perfect shoes, for a group of writers who understand Vicky’s answer to Lermontov’s question.
Why do you write?
Why do you live?

Have you seen The Red Shoes? What do you think of Vicky’s situation? And what about those costumes?
Remember, if you comment, you are entered to win a gift card.

Shari Randall is the author of the Lobster Shack Mysteries from St. Martin's Press. Book One, Curses, Boiled Again, has been called "Delightful! A fun whodunit full of New England coastal charm and characters who feel like friends. Warm humor, a delectable plot, and clever sleuthing will keep you turning the pages."

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Power Heels

By Cathy Perkins

Aloha from Kauai, where none of us have worn shoes this week other than swim fins! 😊

This month on the blog we're celebrating friends, fellow authors, and a fun new logo—a red stiletto high heel. We’ve considered themes from fashion, to movie tie-ins and dancing, with numerous steps in between. Scroll through the posts if you’ve missed one.

I’ve thought about heels a lot over the past few weeks while I considered what they represent to me. While many images came to mind, my first impression is the suits and high heels that were part of my professional personae for so long. A west coast transfer changed the heels requirement—telecommuting tends more to fuzzy slippers and flip-flops. The professionalism expectation, however, never wavered.

I think that professionalism is one of the things that drew me to this blog. Each member of The Stiletto Gang approaches her stories in a different way, reflecting our personality and experiences, as well as how we want to tell a story. All of us are committed to bringing the best possible experience to our readers.

Holly Price, the protagonist in my amateur sleuth series, knows her heels and suits are excessive in her hometown, but to her they represent professionalism and commitment to clients—and to her family. (She’s saving the family business.) We'll leave political discussions of powerful women for another day. Of course, part of me just loves the red high heels on the cover of So About the Money, book one in the series.

To celebrate the newest book in the series—In It For The Money—book one (So About the Money) is on sale this weekend!


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.

 Amazon   Nook   Kobo   iBooks   


We’re celebrating our new logo with a giveaway! Readers who comment on one of the Red Shoes blogs in September and October are entered to win either an Amazon or Starbucks $10 gift card. Join in the fun! The winner will be announced on our November Clicking Our Heels blog.

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 or on Facebook 

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

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Red Stilettos? Not with MY Feet!

By Kay Kendall

Darned good thing I’m not required to wear stilettos to be part of this magnificent gang of writers. I’m tall, two inches shy of six feet, and have no need whatsoever for sky-high heels. And to boot (hee hee) I don’t wear red shoes—or any other bright color. Nature gifted me with rather large feet (ahmm) in order to balance my height.

Nancy, my pal since kindergarten, always teases me about my foot size. I reply I'd tip over if they were small, or average, in length. That's a sensible view—all of me should be in proportion. But recently I saw actress Brooke Shields interviewed on TV when she divulged an odd factoid. Though she's six feet tall, her shoe size is a seven. She concluded, “Therefore I often fall over.” I raced to phone Nancy to tell her that my opinion had been validated. (Inquiring minds might like to know my own size rhymes with the number seven.)

Despite my flippant answer, I'm not fond of my feet. They often don’t even seem to belong to me, lurking at such a far distance from my eyes. My feet seem almost alien. This probably relates to the fact that I once had difficulty finding shoes to fit me, back when larger sizes for women were uncommon and I would end up buying ill-fitting footwear. Consequently my feet always hurt.

Style wise I also took what I could get. My shoes were never stylish and always in somber colors. In my first job after grad school, my employer was hosting a fancy dinner. One of my coworkers wanted to know what I was wearing—answer: blue—and then what color shoes I would wear. When she heard I could choose either black or brown shoes, she was stunned, insisting I had to do better than that. She set to work on me, getting me to upgrade to fancier footwear. My fascination with more interesting shoes dates from that point in time—30 years ago.

 These days the range of sizes for female feet has grown—and my feet have not, hallelujah! Now my shoes spread all over my closet and creep into my husband’s space. The colors range more widely—showing a partiality to gold and blue. Nevertheless, you still won't find a heel higher than two inches, or a pair that is red. Some things never change.

Meet the author

Kay Kendall is a long-time fan of historical novels and now writes 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! Her book titles show she's a Bob Dylan buff. In 2015 Rainy Day Women won two Silver Falchion Awards at Killer Nashville. Visit Kay at her website <>or on Facebook <>


Monday, September 17, 2018


by Paula Gail Benson


My dear blogging partner, Linda Rodriguez, I’m thinking of you and the lessons in courage you have taught me as I write this post.


It’s always fascinating when the universe seems to have found a common thread, sending multiple messages along the same wavelength.


Carl Jung called the idea “synchronicity.” Wikipedia explains it as “a concept . . . which holds that events are ‘meaningful coincidences’ if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related.”


Take for example some recent events that happened just as, this month and next, the Stiletto Gang celebrates its new logo, featuring bright red stilettos. (Thank you, Bethany Maines!)


In August, Aretha Franklin’s body lay in state in Detroit. She had several outfit changes, but according to the New York Times, “For the first open-casket viewing, Aretha Franklin was dressed in a lacy crimson gown and towering scarlet Christian Louboutin heels, with cherry-red lipstick and nail polish to match.”

At the beginning of September, the FBI revealed that a stolen pair of ruby red slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz had been recovered through a sting operation. These were the shoes worn for “close up” shots, the “clicking your heels” sequences. (Does that remind you of a segment we feature here at the Stiletto Gang on a regular basis?)


I think it’s interesting that red (and pink, if you’re a Legally Blonde Elle Woods fan) signals and symbolizes empowerment for women. Aretha’s ankles were demurely crossed, but those red shoes made their statement. She was a lady to be reckoned with. Dorothy’s red slippers started her on her journey to self-awareness and brought her home to the knowledge that she had the power within herself.


This year, I’ve had my own experience with red as a fashion statement.


My main make-up is lipstick. Previously, I’ve stayed with more neutral and natural looks. Then, a friend of mine, the lovely Cortlin Collins, began selling LipSense products by SeneGence. She posted the bright reds on her Facebook page, Your Face First with CortlinPlease check it out if you have an interest. Cortlin’s a sweetheart.


I was intrigued by the deep garnets and how the appearance could be changed by combining colors or applying a gloss. Fly Girl was my first purchase, quickly followed by Roseberry. I remember wearing the colors for the first time at church, fearing I had perhaps been a little too bold. Three gallant gentlemen independently stopped me to compliment my appearance. The next week, my female co-workers told me they admired my new look. I was sold and haven’t looked back.


Speaking of synchronicity: as Hurricane Florence aims for the Carolinas, what is my new lipstick for this fall? Hurricane.


And, to further validate the power of red lipstick, here are a few words of wisdom from women who know:


Andie MacDowell
“During my forties, I thought I couldn’t wear red lipstick. I thought it was too much and I couldn’t do it anymore. I don’t know why. But now, I’m going to wear red lipstick for as long as I want.” -- Andie MacDowell


Chloe Sevigny
“I discovered red lipstick when I did the Oscar season: Chanel sent me one and I realized how classic and glamorous it can be.” -- Chloe Sevigny


Gwyneth Paltrow
“Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That, or a kick-ass red lipstick.” -- Gwyneth Paltrow


Taylor Swift
“You got that James Dean daydream look in your eye. And I got that red lip classic thing that you like.” -- Taylor Swift


“If you’re sad, add more lipstick and attack.” -- Coco Chanel


Coco Chanel
So, let’s celebrate our new logo with a signature vermilion shade for the lips. Display your inner femme fatale!