Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Only a Pawn in Their Game (Bullet Books Speed Reads #7)

by Kay Kendall

 My fellow Texan Manning Wolfe—friend, author, ace lawyer—has launched an exciting new series called Bullet Books Speed Reads.  
Bullet Books are speed reads for the busy traveler, commuter, and beach-goer. All are new original crime fiction stories that can be read in two to three hours. Gripping cinematic mysteries and thrillers by your favorite authors! Page turners for fans who want to escape into a good read. ALL ABOARD!
Manning asked me to write for her project, but there was a snag. She didn’t want historical mysteries, and that's what I write. Luckily, we compromised and settled on a time that was old enough for me but not too long ago for her.

That means ONLY A PAWN IN THEIR GAME is set in the tense summer of 1989. The Communist hold on Eastern Europe is coming apart at the seams. The metaphorical Iron Curtain is shredding and the REAL Berlin Wall is shaking. Emotions run high in international diplomatic--and SPY--circles.
Into this hot cauldron of intrigue I drop my protagonist, Ms. Sammy Strauss.

Sammy expects a carefree summer during her internship at the US Embassy in Vienna. Competing spy rings clash in desperation and threaten her life as every Viennese waltz accompanies a murder. Is the handsome stranger she meets heading for romance or using her as a pawn?

Can she figure out who’s playing the tune before the dangerous dance ends badly?

Lucky for YOU, the potential reader, you can read my new book ONLY A PAWN IN THEIR GAME to find out the answer. This book and others in this new series are available at all online book sellers in paperback and digital format. (NOTE: Keeping with my long-standing tradition, the name of my Bullet Book is also a Bob Dylan song title.)
Author Kay Kendall is passionate about historical mysteries.  She lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Her second book Rainy Day Women won the Silver Falchion for best mystery at Killer Nashville. Visit Kay at her website  
or on Facebook

Monday, October 14, 2019

No Tricks, All Treats

October is a time for treats.

Even if you're not ringing doorbells with a plastic pumpkin hooked over your arm, there are still treats available. 


These mysteries are the first in their series, and they are FREE on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

First from Elise Sax, Die Noon is the first installment in the hilarious, romantic Goodnight Mysteries series. 

Let Us Prey by Jamie Lee Scott is the first in the USA TODAY bestselling Gotcha Detective Series

Armed and Fabulous by Camilla Chafer explores what happens when a boring temp job turns deadly!

From my longtime critique partner, Sally Berneathy. Lindsay, the Death by Chocolate heroine, will make you smile, and the included recipes are to-die-for.

Wanna Get Lucky by Deborah Coonts will hook you! Las Vegas, mayhem, glamor, and laugh out loud funny!

And finally, my own Poppy Fields. If you've not met Poppy, pack your bags for big fun!
Julie Mulhern is the USA Today bestselling author of The Country Club Murders and the Poppy Fields Adventures. 

She is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean--and she's got an active imagination. Truth is--she's an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions.

Friday, October 11, 2019

The DHG Challenge by Debra H. Goldstein

The DHG Challenge by Debra H. Goldstein

I’m worried about my friends and family. Lately, even though I’ve been hearing many wonderful things like births of children and grandchildren, awards, new books, obtaining an agent, or winning a little on the lottery, I’ve also been learning about friends getting hurt, sick, or dying. Maybe it’s my age, but I don’t think that’s the only reason I’m so much more attuned to the “news.”

I think it is a conscious decision to step back from the “chatter.” Whether one is into reported news, which constantly juggles breaking political or environmental stories against touching human interest pieces, or is simply trying to balance all the things necessary in life from grocery shopping, taking kids to school, working, or doing whatever else one does, one is bombarded by noise and responsibilities.

The intense level of things happening makes it easy to get lost in the mundane. It’s hard to pause and take a breath – to smell the flowers, laugh at a joke, or curl up with a good book. Our computers, voice driven machines, and other technological devices supposedly make our lives easier, but we often seem more overwrought and rushed.

What to do about it?

I’m making a conscious decision to stop and announce, “Not me, anymore.” I’m going to go back to making time for myself – whether exercising, reading, or hanging out on the couch, I’m taking back a few hours for myself. Will you join me?

We’ll call it The DHG Challenge. Our motto will be “Time for Me.” It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, but it must be something personal to you.

There will be a guest blogger in my November slot, but I’ll report how The DHG Challenge goes on December 13th. In the meantime, go out, enjoy, and then e-mail how you make time for yourself at

I’m going to take the time to read book.  What are you going to do?

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Book Review of Frankie Y. Bailey's What the Fly Saw by Juliana Aragon Fatula

Dear Reader,

I just finished reading Frankie Y. Bailey’s sequel to the Red Queen Dies, the book titled, What the Fly Saw is so great I couldn’t put it down until I read it cover to cover just like I did with The Red Queen Dies. I gave the first mystery four stars because I was unhappy with the ending. Ha. She hooked me into reading the sequel and that’s what great writers do. They hook us into reading and not putting the book down. They call it a page turner. I call it a midnight page turner burner. I couldn’t keep my eyes open last night so I closed the book and slept until morning. I woke up made some chai and returned to the book to finish. I didn’t want to do anything else. I was hooked and hooked good. 
So, hats off to Frankie Y. Bailey. I didn’t know the author before my friend introduced me to her, but I’m a fan now. I want to read everything she’s written. She has won awards and made a name for herself in the mystery genre, but she also wrote some police crime procedurals I’m dying to get my hands on. 
So dear reader, I want to revise my original rating of four stars to five and give her sequel five stars as well. Anyone that can keep me up all night turning pages earns a five out of five stars. I look forward to reading more about her characters, Hannah McCabe and her partner, Mike Baxter. I’m patiently waiting for the next book. Until then, I’ll be reading her other books and learning more from this master writer. I suggest you do the same. She has a great style of writing and as a woman of color, and a writer, I plan on learning as much as I can from her and sharing with you, my readers.
From her book jacket: Frankie Y. bailey is a professor at the School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany/SUNY. She is not only a highly respected wrier of crime fiction, she is also recognized as the author of fascinating non-fiction titles that explore the intersections of crime, history, and popular culture. She is an Macavity Award winner and has been nominated for Edgar, Anthony, and Agatha awards. She is a past executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime.  
More information can be found at:  

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Marketing Paradox

by Bethany Maines

A funny thing happens when you begin marketing book. Suddenly a project that has been intensely personal becomes public property. And even worse, once it’s public, the public begin to have opinions about it. (The nerve!) And as much as an author wants everyone to universally love our precious baby novel, not everyone is going to. From reading while in a bad mood, to just not being someone’s cup of tea, not everyone is going to like a book.

But even if everything does go as smoothly as possible and someone does love the book, suddenly ownership becomes shared with everyone who loves it. The story takes up residence in someone else's head which, for an author who has had those characters living in her head for months or years, is intensely strange and disconcerting. With each book I write I start out wanting to share about it immediately.  It’s like falling in love.  You’ve met these wonderful, hilarious, romantic, daring people and you want to tell everyone about them. But as I move into the marketing stage I find that in some ways I become more protective of my characters and story. Please love that one even though I’ve made him annoying.  And don’t make fun of her – she has hidden depths! Although, yes, go ahead and hate him.  We all should hate him.

Except that a book needs to be shared to be successful. I want strangers to talk about it, readers to review it, and friends to share it. Those things are literally what make a book a success. It is a very strange dichotomy of wanting to shout as loud as possible while at the same time hoping nobody looks at me while I'm doing it. So nobody look at me while I say this next bit...

The Second Shot is coming out in two weeks!!! Please share the news with others. A drunken mistake in college cost US Marshall Maxwell Ames the love of Dominique Deveraux. Six years later, he’s determined to fix the slip-up, but there’s just one tiny problem: someone wants the Deveraux family dead. Now Max must make sure that the only one getting a second shot at Dominique is him.
Pre-order on all epub platforms (Kindle coming soon!): CLICK HERE

Want a chance to win a free print edition of The Second Shot? Enter to win at Goodreads!   CLICK HERE to Enter!

Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, 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 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 Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

A Love Letter to Subaru

By AB Plum aka Barbara Plum

Laughter, so goes the cliché, is the best medicine.

Some days Colbert is not enough to counteract the news headlines. Some days, despite their screams, the headlines seem to begin and end with a whimper. Some days news headlines demand a prescription for twenty-four hours of nonstop laughs.

Enter a canon of television commercials. (Okay, this statement may reach too far, but curb your disdain at the apparent oxymoron and read on).

The carmaker Subaru has been doing its part for a long time to bring a smile to our faces. They began their dog commercials around 2008. In 2013, they introduced the "Barkleys" (a canine nuclear family of four—3 Golden Retrievers and 1 yellow Lab Retriever). The dozens of 30-second shots guarantee giggles, guffaws, and outright belly laughs.

All delivered without a spoken word (nearly heresy for a writer of fiction heavy on dialogue). All with ordinary dogs placed in ordinary human situations. All presented with tongue-in-cheek humor that makes me think if the world's going to the dogs, we should let it go.

DISCLAIMER: I do not now or ever have owned a Subaru. I do not now or ever have owned stock in Subaru. I grew up with canine companions, but none of them was a Golden Retriever or Lab.


When AB Plum, aka Barbara Plum, isn't chortling over the "Barkleys," she lives, writes and pats all puppies she encounters on her daily walks in Silicon Valley. Her latest romantic comedy, Crazy Daze and a Knight is one of the very few books she's penned without a four-legged, furry companion. 

But … All Things Considered features a ferocious feline. If you have time to laugh, check out the Subaru dog commercials here. And if the commercials don't brighten your day, check out National Make a Dog's Day.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Remembering the Dead: Penny Brannigan #10

Judy Penz Sheluk here. Today is the first Monday and I should be posting but when I heard that Elizabeth Duncan was releasing Remembering the Dead, #10 in her fab Penny Brannigan mystery series set in North Wales, I had to invite her to take my spot. Today, Elizabeth joins us to answer the question, “Why Wales?” 

Why Wales? I get asked that a lot. 
Do I have family there? Sadly, no. Friends? Happily, yes, I do now.
In the spring of 2004 I fell in love with the North Wales town of Llanrwst. Situated on the bank of the River Conwy, with its thirteenth century teahouse, three-arched seventeenth century bridge, cobbled town square, and grey stone buildings with slate roofs, Llanrwst (pronounced Clan-roost) struck a nostalgic chord. What a perfect setting this charming place would make for a cozy mystery, I thought. At the time, I had no intention of writing a book, but then … a few months later, and out of nowhere, I started writing The Cold Light of Mourning, which became the first book in the Penny Brannigan mystery series. And without giving the question of where to set the story a moment’s thought, I dived right in because I knew exactly where the story would take place.
That was 15 years ago, and since then, I’ve come to know my bit of North Wales well. I now spend five months there each year, exploring those lush green hills and forests, enjoying the natural beauty of the area’s rugged good looks, and looking for the right location to hide a body or stage a murder. Although I’ve fictionalized the town as Llanelen, local landmarks, including Conwy Castle (A Killer’s Christmas in Wales), Gwrych Castle (Murder Is for Keeps), St. Gwrst Church (The Cold Light of Mourning), the Llechwedd Slate Caverns, near Blaenau Ffestiniog (Slated for Death), and Lake Sarnau (Murder on theHour), to name just a few, have all figured prominently in the novels.
I didn’t know back in 2004 what I know now. How important setting is in establishing atmosphere and mood, bringing stories to life, and captivating readers. But it’s about more than a geographic backdrop: it provides the social context for the characters -- so important in the cozy mystery genre, where the setting is usually a small town, and the characters all know one another. Llanrwst ticks all the boxes.
Literary considerations aside, it’s important for an author to like the place where her books are set because one way or another, she’s going to spend a lot of time there. Either literally, or in her head. Fortunately for me, North Wales has become not just a big part of my writing, but the best part of my life. 
ABOUT ELIZABETH J. DUNCAN: A two-time winner of the Bloody Words (Bony Blithe) Award for Canada’s best light mystery, Elizabeth J. Duncan is the author of two series of traditional mysteries: the Penny Brannigan series set in North Wales and Shakespeare in the Catskills featuring costume designer and amateur sleuth Charlotte Fairfax. A former journalist, public relations practioner, and college professor, Elizabeth is a faculty member of the Humber School for Writers. She divides her time between Toronto, Canada, and Llandudno, North Wales.
Her books are available at all online and brick-and-mortar bookstores.
Connect with Elizabeth J. Duncan around the web:
Follow her on twitter: @elizabethduncan

Friday, October 4, 2019

Cormac McCarthy Loved My Dog

by Linda Rodriguez

((This is an older blog that I am reposting for two reasons. The first is that I have been quite sick and have no voice, so am not able to write a new blog, since I must use voice recognition software to write more than a few lines, and the second is that yesterday we had to say goodbye to the thirteen-year-old dog this post is about. So this is a memorial of the dog Dyson once was.)

I’m a big rescue-animal person. I’ve had rescue dogs and cats all my adult life. When I’ve lost a dog to the cancers and other vicissitudes of old age, always a heartbreaking situation, I go looking for a replacement in the dogs on death row—those scheduled for euthanasia. I have found so many wonderful dogs in this way.

I’m thinking about this because next week is the adoption anniversary of our current dog, Dyson. Five years ago this fall, we had lost our much-beloved sixteen-year-old Husky-Sharpei, who’d been adopted at seven on what was supposed to be the last day of her life and given us so many more wonderful years. After grieving for a month, we began looking online at the adoptable dogs of local shelters. Hearing that the Kansas City Animal Shelter was overcrowded, we decided to go visit and adopt one of their desperate dogs slated for death.

I walked into the shelter the week before Thanksgiving with certain criteria in mind. I wanted an older female dog who was already housebroken and calm. I knew older dogs were harder to find homes for and figured I’d be able to choose among several older females. No stubborn, rambunctious, untrained young males for me. I was no longer the young, strong woman who had trained such dogs years before.

As luck would have it, someone showed us an emaciated, big, male dog with a
strange brindle coat, starved and sad-eyed, who was scheduled for euthanasia the next day. He walked placidly for me on the leash and looked at us without hope. My husband and I were hooked by those big, sad eyes. Even when we were informed that he had heartworm, which costs hundreds of dollars to treat, we weren’t dissuaded and signed up to adopt him that day, all the time telling ourselves how crazy this was. As we signed papers and laid down money, people who worked at the shelter began to filter into the office. “Are you the folks taking Dyson?” they would ask, and then shake our hands and thank us, telling us what a good dog he was. Then, we found out he was about a year old, big as he was—and that he was a breed of dog we’d never heard of before, the Plott hound.

Dyson, who should have weighed at least 70 pounds at that time, was so starved that he weighed less than 40 pounds. (The second photo is of him then, the other photos of him now.) He had never been neutered and never been in a house, we discovered. We would have to keep this long-legged creature crated for weeks at first because of the heartworm treatment. If he became too active, he could have a stroke. What possessed us to continue and sign up for this dog, I can’t begin to understand.

Thus began my education in the dogs Cormac McCarthy calls “the ninja warriors of dogdom” and of whom he says, “They are just without fear.” Developed by a German immigrant family (from whom they get their name) in the Great Smoky Mountains who never sold any outside of the family until after World War II, Plott hounds are the state dog of North Carolina. They were bred for centuries as trackers and hunters of bear. They are practically triple-jointed and can perform acrobatic feats while avoiding the claws of huge bears they have brought to bay. They are highly valued by big game hunters all over the world, who pay thousands of dollars for trained Plott hounds to use to hunt bear, cougars, and other large predators.

We don’t hunt. While on a leash for walks, Dyson constantly charges into the hedges and emerges with a big possum or feral cat in his mouth, which we’ll make him drop—always uninjured since he has the softest mouth. Other things we’ve discovered about Plotts are that they are extra-smart and yet goofy and playful. And so he is. Also, loyal, affectionate, protective, and he loves fibers and textiles, often in early days pulling my knitting out without harming it and lying before it confused at why he couldn’t do what Mommy does with those sticks.

Though he was the opposite of the placid, female, older dog we wanted and he truly does seem to be without fear, Dyson has been the perfect dog for us, always a source of fun and joy. And the inevitable mischief that a young, boisterous male (for once he regained his health, he regained his personality) commits is a small price to pay for the love he shows when he lays his massive head in my lap and looks at me with love in his big, now-happy eyes.

That lack of fear that McCarthy so admired and the resilience that allowed Dyson to bounce back from abuse, starvation, and potentially fatal illness are two qualities I'm trying to achieve for myself as a writer. Dyson refuses to believe that he can't take on any challenge that presents itself. He's absolutely sure that he's equal to any task. Such confidence drives out fear, and I'm trying to cultivate it in myself. I suspect that belief in self is also linked to the resilience Dyson has exhibited, that ability I desire to be able to recover from professional, physical, and financial disaster. The sad dog I rescued has become my senzei in professional matters. If Dyson had opposable thumbs, how would he handle this? has become a recurrent question.

(Farewell with all my love and a broken heart to His Majesty Dyson the Toy King Sweetie Boy Rodriguez-Furnish.)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Pets in Mystery Fiction - Partners, Props, or Presence?

Guest Post: Arlene Kay
Today Sparkle Abbey welcomes Arlene Kay to The Stiletto Gang as our guest. Her topic is Pets in Mystery Fiction, a topic that's near and dear to our hearts. Here's what she has to say...

A recent poster on a mystery blog lamented the overuse of cover art featuring pets. False advertising, she charged! Many of these novels barely mention a dog or cat yet their images are used to entice cozy readers. As a mystery writer and ardent animal lover, I offer a different perspective. Occasionally a pet may grace a cover without any connection to the novel in question but that is uncommon. Animals are and have always been intimately connected to crime fiction in different ways. Even the great Sherlock Holmes, hardly an animal lover, frequently relied on the scenting prowess of Toby the hound and in Silver Blaze, the key clue was provided by the guard dog that didn’t bark.

Some novels may feature service/military dogs, whose official job it is to help catch criminals or simply animals that further the exploits of their human partners. For instance, the late Virginia Lanier’s series featured tracking dogs, while Diane Kelly’s “Paw Enforcement” series includes an intrepid K-9 officer and his human partner. One of my all-time favorites, anchovy lover Lulu the Basset Hound, the brainchild of author David Handler, is the tireless pal of ghostwriter Stewart Hoag. Other examples abound. Rita Mae Brown co-authors the Mrs. Murphy series with her tabby Sneaky Pie Brown. Mrs. Murphy, a spunky feline, marshals her animal pals to help and occasionally save their human mama, Harry, from harm. In each of these novels, animals play an active and integral part in resolving the mystery.

For many authors, animals are a constant presence in our novels as they are in our own lives. While pets may stay in the background, they help to define the protagonist and advance the plot. For instance, Keats and Poe, (part of my Creature Comforts series), are retired military canines who join a rag tag band of rescues residing with Persephone Morgan. They may not solve the puzzle, but they sustain their human caretaker and enrich her life. Fans of Lillian Jackson Braun’s “Cat Who” series know that the contributions of Koko and Yum Yum were only vaguely connected to the mystery at hand, but they defined Jim Quilleran as a most sympathetic character.  I ask you, who can resist a man who nurtures and loves felines?

From pet salons to dog shows, our animal friends provide fans with a host of venues and plot devices that enhance their reading pleasure. Perhaps that old saw is actually true: you can tell a book by its cover!

Arlene’s Short but Sweet Bio

An artful combination of humor, satire and savagery make Arlene Kay’s tales unique. The published author of nine mystery novels, is a former Treasury executive who traded the trappings of bureaucracy for the delights of murder most foul. She wisely confines her crimes to fiction although like all mystery writers she firmly believes that most deaths are suspicious, and everyone is a suspect. Her Creature Comforts series from Kensington (Lyrical), includes Death by Dog Show; Homicide by Horseshow; and Therapy by Murder.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Clicking Our Heels - Conferences We'll Be Attending

Clicking Our Heels – Conferences We’ll Be Attending 

The Stiletto Gang is on the move! Here are some of the conferences we plan to attend.

Mary Lee Ashford (1/2 of Sparkle Abbey) - I attended Left Coast Crime in Vancouver and Malice Domestic in Bethesda this spring. And I'm planning to attend Novelists, Inc. in Florida and Bouchercon in Dallas this fall.

A.B. Plum - Going to Denmark for the summer this year.

Debra H. Goldstein – I was at Killer Nashville in August and I plan to be at Bouchercon, Sleuthfest, and Malice Domestic. Sadly, I have a conflict and won’t be able to make it to Left Coast Crime in San Diego, but I will be at the Southern Book Festival in October.

Lynn McPherson - I'm going to Thrillerfest in New York in July. I'm am extremely excited and can't wait!

Bethany Maines - Yes, but I don't think the National Public Works conference is quite what you had in mind.

Kay Kendall - In March I attended Left Coast Crime in Vancouver, Canada, and come October I will
be at Bouchercon50 in Dallas, Texas.

Shari Randall - I'll see everyone at Bouchercon in Dallas! I'm packing my red boots!

Dru Ann Love - Yes, I’ll be at Malice, Bouchercon and New England Crime Bake.

T.K. Thorne - I went to Left Coast Crime this year for the first time and had a ball. Possibly Bouchercon this year, but not sure.

Judy Penz Sheluk - Signed up for Left Coast Crime San Diego.

Linda Rodriguez, Julie Mulhern, J.M. Phillipe, and Cathy Perkins are on conference hiatus in 2019.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Lydia and the Role of Women

Guest post by author Eleanor Kuhns 

Lydia Rees, wife of my detective Will Rees, is an opinionated and outspoken woman and an equal partner with her husband as they investigate murders and other crimes. This is not so surprising for modern times but during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a woman had no legal status. She owned nothing and in fact she herself was chattel, belonging first to her father and then to her husband. The portion she brought to her marriage belonged to her husband and literally everything she had, including her children and the clothes on her back, belonged to him. In one of the primary sources I read a woman divorced one man for another and had to marry in her shift. The clothing she wore belonged to husband number one and he wanted it back. Fortunately, husband number two had clothing waiting for her and as soon as they were married she dressed. 

A woman could not inherit the family home unless her husband specifically named her in the will. If he did not, she became the burden of her eldest son. If they had a bad relationship he could, and did, at least according to some of the histories I’ve seen, put her out to make her own way on the road.  

This did not mean that women did nothing. Oh no. This was an agrarian world and a man could not run his farm without his wife’s labor. Farm wives kept a garden, made butter and cheese, cooked, sewed clothing, cleaned – and all of this at the same time they dealt with pregnancy and minded their children. Wives of printers and other professional men frequently helped in the shop. It is no wonder that many men from this time are buried with two, three or sometimes more wives. 

Lydia is a former Shaker (or The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming to give them their proper name. Shakers was at first a derogatory nickname based on their physical services – it is a combination of ‘Shaking Quakers’.) The Shakers were a faith begun by a woman, Mother Ann Lee, and the Shaker Sisters have equal authority with their male counterparts. There are two Elders and two Eldresses, two Deacons and two Deaconesses for every Family. Although the work was assigned along traditional gender roles, women and their labor were considered of equal importance. And in a time when illiteracy among woman was high (even among men it was almost 50%), the Shakers educated the girls equally with the boys. (Girls went to school during the summer, boys during the winter.) So Lydia expects to have a say. 

In Simply Dead, one of my women characters flees to the Shakers to escape a life of servitude to her family.  Obedience to the rules and celibacy, however, both come with membership in this faith. When Lydia secretly marries her first husband, Charles Ellis, and bears a baby she is immediately expelled from the Shakers. Ellis’s unexpected death causes further legal complications.  

When a person joined the Shakers, he or she signed a document called the Covenant. In it, they agreed to surrender all their worldly goods to the community. Charles Ellis is almost a member of Zion; he has not yet signed the Covenant, but everyone is expecting him to. Then he dies. Because Ellis leaves his farm to Lydia in his will, the farm the Shakers were expecting to own, she inherits.  When she marries Will Rees, the farm immediately becomes his. 

Although Lydia wishes to abide by her first husband’s wishes and surrender the farm to the Shakers, Rees hesitates. Fortunately for the family. When they are forced to flee their home in Dugard, they take refuge in the farm near Zion. (The Devil’s Cold Dish).  In Simply Dead and in the next few books after, the situation is still not resolved.  I find this a fascinating problem – and it all revolves around Lydia and her status as wife (twice), Shaker and widow.

Eleanor Kuhns is the 2011 winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel.           A lifelong librarian, she received her Masters from Columbia University and is currently the Assistant Director of the Goshen Public Library in Orange County New York.

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Twitter: #EleanorKuhns



Friday, September 27, 2019

Your Brain on Words --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.

Human beings were not designed to read.

When you think about it, the act of reading is an astonishing accomplishment. It’s a complex mix  that involves:

•    Recognizing symbols
•    Relating them to sounds and spoken language
•    Extracting meaning

And we’ve only been reading for a short time (5000 years)—too short for the brain to have evolved for that purpose. The conclusion of scientists is the area of the brain (the left occipital-temporal cortex, if you’re interested) that seems to coordinate this amazing process has reorganized itself to take on the task.

We’ve known from people who have experienced brain damage, such as from a stroke, that the brain can rearrange itself, a process called  neuroplasticity. When one area is damaged, new areas can take on a task that was previously relegated to another area. Researchers have long thought that this flexibility lessens with age. But this region changes even in adults who learn to read, showing that “this area is responsive to learning throughout life."[Italics mine.]

If you are--[clearing throat]--beyond the stage of youth, as I am, that is very cool news!

But wait, there’s more!

Reading, according to cognitive neuropsychologist David Lewis, is not just a distraction and entertainment. It’s “an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.” In other words, when you read a novel, you become the person you are reading about in a very physical way.

Photo by iam Se7en on Unsplash
Another neurologist Gregory Berns, says, “neural changes associated with physical sensation and movement systems [happen while people are reading and] suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist. . . . We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.”

So there’s a reason why when you’re reading that good book, you loose awareness of the present. Your mind is putting you in the world of the story!

Studies have found that learning new skills, including reading or a second language creates new white matter in the brains of children and adults. White matter acts as a kind of fast neural subway, connecting different regions of the brain to one another. It plays a role in language ability, memory, and visuo-spatial construction.  Diseases of white matter are linked to cognitive and emotional difficulties. (By the way, other activites also result in increases in white matter functioning, including meditation, weight-resistance training, and practicing a musical instrument.)

Since the beginning of time, stories have allowed us to test run situations and experience emotions without the real consequences of living them. Reading may even make us more human, enriching our skills of empathy. One study found that readers of literary fiction excelled at tests involving understanding other people’s feelings.

Reading makes us generally more intelligent. In fact, recent scientific studies have confirmed that reading and intelligence have a relationship so close as to be symbiotic. Reading  increases fluid intelligence)—the ability to solve problems, understand things and detect meaningful patterns. It also helps with reading comprehension and emotional intelligence.

"Reading helps you make smarter decisions about yourself and those around you."

And here’s a final thought, going back to the idea of the human mind figuring out how to see and process written words by rearranging the organization of our brain. I don’t know about you, but that puts brains pretty high on my list of amazing things. But here’s the mind-blowing part, courtesy of scholar Maryanne Wolf—that reorganization, in turn “expanded the ways we were able to think, which altered the intellectual evolution of our species.

I feel the honor and responsibility of writing something like Last Chance for Justice, the nonfiction story of the Birmingham church bombing case, an incident that changed the path of civil rights around the world. But sometimes I wonder if I am making any kind of difference when I write fiction, and perhaps fellow novelists feel this too. Now we know. As a writers and storytellers, we are helping to make minds healthier, humans more human, and advancing the intellectual evolution of our species.  That's good enough for me!

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 a dog 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.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Finishing my manuscript by Juliana Aragon Fatula

Dear Reader,

I've been studying herbal medicine and reading books on holistic healing. I want to learn as much as I can about indigenous plants where I live. I use everything I learn from reading to develop my characters. In my manuscript, The Colorado Sisters, my private investigator, LA, learns from her abuelita, her grandmother, how to use plants to make medicine. I'm learning about dosages and experimenting on myself.

I am a lifetime learner and love to read books about astronomy, climate change, politics.

I believe to write well, a person should read lots of books.

I also read books by authors on writing.

I've learned a great deal about writing from studying master writers.

Someday, I hope to be a master writer and crank out mysteries.

I feel like an amateur mystery writer and my confidence needs boosting.

I want to go on a writing vacation. I'll write all day and read all night, undisturbed.

At home, I'm picking grapes, apples, peaches and spending time in my kitchen processing my harvests.

But this winter when the snow flies, I'll be locked down, writing. I'll ignore the laundry, the dishes, the cooking and just write. I'll escape to my room of my own, my friend, Dr. Noel, lets me hide out at her house and leaves me to write. At home, I get distracted by chores.

I know I've written about this before. I apologize. I'm trying to work it out by writing about why I put off writing to garden, harvest, process the bounty from my Chicana Garden.

I could just let others pick it and haul it off and do all the work. So I've compromised and let my son and his girlfriend pick the apples. If they take the apples and bake pies for me that would be great, but I have a feeling they are too busy to do the real dirty work. So I'll be peeling, slicing, dehydrating and storing apples for the winter.

My husband is off hunting this month. He provides our meat: elk, deer, moose, that I then have to cook. I can't just let it go to waste. I have to cook every night because we have a freezer full of game.  Maybe I should just let my husband cook it since he killed it. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the amount of work I do to keep him fed and happy.

I've decided to leave home when he returns from hunting and let him deal with the apples. I've made grape juice, peach juice, pies, zucchini bread...

I'm pooped and I need a vacation. A working vacation where I can write all day, undisturbed. I've earned it and I'm going to do it.

My husband and son are going to have to fend for themselves and learn that mom has other priorities besides taking care of them.

I advise my students not to learn to cook so they don't get stuck in the kitchen. I realize it is my own fault that I'm stuck in the kitchen because I'm a good cook. Y, que?

This mystery isn't going to write itself. I have a book waiting to be born and my dedication to my craft has to have precedence. I have to set goals and deadlines and finish my story.

This is my life and I am setting boundaries.

Just saying.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

All the News!

by Bethany Maines

The last few years have been extremely busy for me in terms of writing and that means that in 2020 all of you will be seeing the results. So I thought we should do a little re-cap of everything that's happening.  Here is an update on all things Bethany.

THE SECOND SHOT- Release Date: 10.24.19

My romantic suspense novel was named a Pacific Northwest Writer's Association 2019 Finalist in the Romance category! Although, I have to admit, my love story shares it's DNA with a mystery-thriller I'm extremely excited and proud of this award.  It was also featured in Frolic - the online magazine for people who love love-stories.  And it has made it onto the Goodreads "Most Anticipated Release for October" List.  This list is voted on by Goodreads readers, so if you're on Goodreads, please go vote The Second Shot!  AND, last but not least, there's a Rafflecopter Giveaway for a $25 Amazon Giftcard.  Entering is easy, just go click a few things and follow me on social media and you're entered!

COMING 2020!

An Unfamiliar Sea - Book 3 of the San Juan Islands Mysteries will be released in January.  
Tish and Tobias Yearly are back to business finding bodies, solving mysteries and delivering death pie to the bereaved.
Shark's Fin & Peregrine's Flight - Book 4 of the Shark Santoyo Series, along with a Peregrine Hays centered novella, will be released in late April of 2020. 
Shark and Peri are finally facing down mob-boss Geier and no one is safe.
The Cinderella Secret - Book 2 of The Deveraux Legacy will be released in October.
Aiden Deveraux has a secret - he's not the Prince Charming he pretends to be and the Deveraux enemies are about to find that out.


Short Stories - I have two out on submission - stay tuned for whether or not they get accepted into their respective publications!
Galactic Dreams Volume 3 - After taking a hiatus for 2020, Galactic Dreams, the Blue Zephyr Press Sci-Fairy Tale anthology, will be back in 2021!

Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, 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 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 Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Move Over, Partner!

By Lynn McPherson

I’m in the process of developing a new cozy mystery series. Part of that is figuring out all the characters. I’ve known for a while who the protagonist is. But now I need an ally —someone trustworthy enough for her to share secrets with. How else am I going to bounce ideas off about who the murderer could be with the readers?

Today I’ve decided to share my top three characteristics in a sidekick. I’m sure there are lots of ideas. Here are mine:

1.     Good Listening Skills!
What is the point of having great insight if there is no one around to share it with? A sidekick in a mystery must be willing to indulge the protagonist no matter what they are prattling on about. It goes beyond the passive ability to hear. The character must absorb what the sleuth is saying and sometimes even help progress ideas along so they are not mere musings. The amateur sleuth can either turn them into coherent theories, or pass them off as sheer observations.

2.    Loyalty
Of all the qualities in a friend, this one always tops of the charts. The main character in a cozy needs someone to rely on through thick and thin. This is especially important in the business of amateur sleuthing since the protagonist is almost always mixed up in murder! It’s important for the reader to have faith in the friendship, as well. With so many suspects on the loose, there should be at least one dependable friend at all times—someone who will always be there, even when things go awry.

3.    Humor
Part of the charm of mysteries is the knowledge that a solution lies at the end of the book. The puzzle will be solved, order will be restored. Light mysteries require an element of joy that is brought about through close relationships within the surrounding community—most notably, with her ever-present true friend and confidante. Why not make them a funny? It’s a great way to lighten the mood and show the sleuth doesn’t take herself too seriously all of the time.

So there you have it, folks. My take on what makes a good sidekick. Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Until then, happy reading! 

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 three books out: The Girls' Weekend Murder and The Girls Whispered Murder, and The Girls Dressed For Murder.