Monday, April 29, 2019

A Pre-Malice Domestic QUIZ!

by Paula Gail Benson

At the end of this week, many of us will gather in Bethesda, Maryland, to celebrate the best of the traditional mystery. It will be a homecoming, family reunion, and all round party blast--wonderful in the anticipating and attending, yet over far too soon.

Let's get the party started early with this quiz. Can you match the following words (from their stories or novels) with the authors in the Best Short Story and Best First Novel categories? Answers at the end!

1. Harvard

2. Speed Dating

3. Mermaid

4. San Juan Hotel

5. Teen-aged Brother

6. Syllabus

7. Homeless Person

8. Mission

9. A Royal Blue Gown

10. Nancy Drew
A. Art Taylor
B. Shari Randall

C. Tara Laskowski
D. Keenan Powell

E. Barb Goffman
F. Aimee Hix
G. Susanna Calkins
H. Edwin Hill

I. Leslie Budewitz

J. Dianne Freeman

Answers: 1. H.-- 2. E. -- 3. B. -- 4. G. -- 5. F. -- 6. A. -- 7. D. -- 8. I. -- 9. J. -- 10. C.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Einstein, Oz, and Ms. Poppins 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.

This glorious spring, scientists finally took a "real" picture of a black hole. All the ones we've been seeing have been artists' renditions because black holes are really not visible. They swallow light. Creative astrophyicists used a multiple array of telescopes hooked together to get an image of light bending around the massive gravity pit, just as Einstein predicted!

Einstein was right about so many things—space/time, gravity, quantum physics, even a big something scientists of his day scoffed at and he decided he was wrong about—the cosmological constant. Okay, he was a little off, but the concept was not, and modern physics has gone back to it. Albert used math, but first he used something we all have and think too little of—imagination.

Einstein visualized what-if's.  What if I could ride on a wave of light? What if I were inside a plunging elevator? All in his mind.

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”—Albert Einsten

It makes you wonder if we are so busy stuffing knowledge into children, we neglecting to teach them to use their imagination. But Children are born with creative genius. The better question is, what are we teaching them that stiffles that creative thinking and problem solving?

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution."—Einstein

I'm not going to admit how old I was when I finally accepted that I would never be able to coss the Deadly Desert and find Oz. I wept, believing that I had lost something precious and irreplaceable.

But I was wrong. 

What was the Deadly Desert really, but that pesky voice that says, "No you can't," or "That's impossible."

 If anyone ever told Einstein it was impossible to ride a beam of light, it's an awfully good thing that he didn't listen. And neither did the scientists who took a picture of nothing. Maybe they both listened, instead, to Mary Poppins, who said:

"Everything is possible, even the impossible."

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Shark's Hunt

by Bethany Maines

Yesterday was the release day for the third novel in my Shark Santoyo Series – Shark’s Hunt.  The series is a cross between Veronica Mars and Goodfellas. It’s got violence (but no gore, I don’t do gore), humor, mystery and a hero and heroine who might be smarter than everyone else, but still might not be smart enough to get themselves out of trouble.  While each book follows a new adventure there is an overarching plot through the series that has been tricky to plot and fulfill in each new book.  The document that tracks my timeline is now multiple pages and the spreadsheet of characters is extensive as I have to track who lives and dies (and when) as well as their various affiliations. Writing this series has been an adventure and I hope that the readers enjoy it with me.

SHARK's INSTINCT (#1) - $1.99:
SHARK'S BITE (#2) - $2.99:
SHARK'S HUNT (#3) - $2.99:

Also available to be read on Kindle Unlimited.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

For the Love of Librarians...

By Lynn McPherson

I was lucky enough to participate at a library panel in Toronto last week. The panel was made up of five authors including me. We were invited to come in and talk about crime fiction and writing. The sub-genres ranged from thriller to cozy, and between us, there was a lot to talk about. The library set up a nice long table for the panellists with a wireless microphone for each, and a numbers of chairs for the audience to sit comfortably. The evening went well and the audience seemed engaged. Afterwards, the librarian thanked us for our time and efforts.

Since then I’ve been thinking about the role of librarians in our culture. Librarians are unsung heroes of learning, education, and literacy. Ever adapting to a changing world and the technological advancements introduced almost daily, librarians are fearless. Plus, these real-life superheroes are there to help writers succeed—they champion authors and books and imagination.

For a writer, there is no better friend than a librarian. They can introduce readers to your books. They can include your books in clubs, conversations, or displays. They can help you succeed with encouragement, support, and enthusiasm.

I’d like to send out a big thank you to all the librarians whose efforts do not get recognized or celebrated enough. My favourite librarian worked at the small elementary school in Edmonton, Alberta I attended in the 1980’s named Sweet Grass. She taught us the history of fine art, dared us to push ourselves, and gave us the freedom to explore and enjoy the library and everything in it. There was no better place to be.

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.  

Monday, April 22, 2019

Writing and Quilting

--by Dru Ann Love

I love to read. Mostly cozies, but I always add in a thriller or a suspense title to add a little variety to my reading entertainment.

My other hobby I enjoy is quilting. Now you are probably wondering what does that have to do with writing. Well, when you write a novel, you have to have an idea, a premise or a concept, then a beginning, a middle and an end. Well the same analogy can be applied to quilting.

First you need the fabric that you want to use

Second, cut out the pieces

Third, build the quilt block

Fourth, add the sashing, the border and this is your top quilt

Next is you add the batting and the backing material and this becomes your quilt sandwich, which you stitched and put a binding on it and you have a finished quilt to be enjoyed by the recipient, just like a finished book.

Can you equate another hobby or activity with the same steps as a book?

Friday, April 19, 2019

National Poetry Month

By Shari Randall

Spring arrives slowly in New England, with frustrating fits and starts. There are usually a few unnaturally warm days in March when the optimistic splash through the melting snow in shorts and t-shirts. April’s saturated sunlight has me wondering if it’s time to put away the wool sweaters and bring out the cotton sweaters, pack away the grays and navy blues and bring out the pink and yellow. I've been fooled before.

Then Nature reminds us who’s in charge and it snows.

Still, the blue crocus push up through the dark earth and the forsythia isn’t far behind.

The forsythia always brings to mind these lines of poetry from
William Wordsworth’s “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”:
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.

Does the change in season bring to mind any favorite poetry? April is National Poetry Month. Feel free to share a bit of your favorite poem in the comments. Happy spring!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

International Beaver Day!

April 7 is International Beaver Day, a day aimed at celebrating and raising awareness of these furry, dam-building rodents. (Bet you didn’t know that!)
Photo Credit: Michael S. Quinton National Geographic
I swear I’m not quoting my BeaverSav protesters, but beavers really are remarkable creatures. (BeaverSav is a completely made-up organization protesting the destruction of beaver habitat by the archeologists in The Body in the Beaver Pond. I might’ve had a bit of fun with one of the protestors in the story, but they really are dedicated to restoring the beaver’s habitat.) 
Anyway, given a chance, beavers could serve an important role in solving many of our planet’s major environmental problems. Their dams help create one of the Earth’s best life support systems. The dams flood the land upstream of the dam, restoring wildlife habitats for a number of species, protecting and filtering our drinking water, storing flood waters to reduce property damage, and maintaining surface water flow during drought periods.
Sadly, beaver numbers declined—the current population is roughly 10% of what it was before European settlers moved in—and the majority of wetlands were drained, disconnecting waterways from their floodplains. Eventually, rivers became more like canals—or sewers—contributing to our current problems with water pollution, erosion, and escalating damage from regional floods and droughts. 
Really bad photo by Cathy Perkins
Beavers have made a remarkable comeback over the last century. I can personally attest to several families in our neck of the woods. They keep trying to turn our river and its side streams into a giant wetland, but the river floods every spring, sweeping the dams away. Industrious critters, the beavers simply gnaw down more trees and start over.
Beavers: Wetlands & Wildlife or BWW (a for-real group dedicated to protecting the species) declared April 7 International Beaver Day to honor Dorothy Richards, also known as the “Beaver Woman,” whose birthday fell on that day. Before her death in 1985, Richards studied beavers for fifty years, had two consecutive beaver families living in an addition to her house (that might be taking your passion a bit far) and wrote a book called Beaversprite: My Years Building an Animal Sanctuary.
Okay, she kinda mighta been the inspiration for the woman from BeaverSav, but I’m sure Ms Richards is much more fun to hang out with.
To celebrate International Beaver Day, here are seven facts about these industrious rodents provided by
1. Beavers can stay underwater for 15 minutes without coming up for air.

2. The beaver is Canada’s biggest rodent and the second-largest on the planet.

3. Beavers’ transparent eyelids work like goggles, by protecting their eyeballs as they swim underwater.

4. The beaver has been Canada’s national symbol for more than 300 years.

5. Beavers’ ear openings and nostrils have valves that can be closed when underwater.

6. The world’s largest beaver dam is 850 meters long and located in Wood Buffalo National Park.

7. Beavers sharpen their incisors (teeth) by grinding them against one another.

Ever see a beaver where you live? 

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 sequel to The Body in the Beaver Pond, which was recently presented with the Claymore Award.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Finding Calm in a Fraught Time

by Kay Kendall
Originally I planned another subject for today's blog post. Then more and more things began hitting me. Not personally, you understand. The damaging stuff is happening out in my world, and yours too. But the last straw was the dreadful conflagration two days ago at the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral.
So when I saw this Pueblo Indian prayer on a friend's Facebook page, I was relieved when it brought some peace to my soul. Here it is. I hope it will also soothe you, just in case you need it as I did.
Hold on to what is good,
Even if it's a handful of earth.
Hold onto what you believe,
Even if it's a tree standing by itself.  
Hold on to what you must do,
Even if it's a long way from here.
Hold on to your life,
Even if it's easier to let go.
Hold on to my hand,
Even if someday I'll be gone
Away from you.                                   

In the frantic lives too many of us in North America lead these days, it's hard not to feel pushed by modern priorities. But the wisdom of the ancients can still stand us in good stead. We should never forget what the beauty of nature, of a friendship, of a tiny perfect moment in time can bring us. And this prayer reminded me. I'm now breathing more deeply, and slower too. Of course I'll need to be reminded often. Thus the prayer is now pinned to the cork board that faces my PC.
Here's wishing you peace and a slower pace, y'all.

(To see more of this nature photography that helped cure a man's clinical depression, go here:
He writes, in line with the Pueblo prayer above, "Depression had stripped my life of its color but looking through a lens was slowly painting it back. Places and objects I once walked right past were now standing out to me....My life hasn't been the same since.")


Author Kay Kendall is passionate about historical mysteries.  She lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Visit Kay at her website   or on Facebook 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Practicing Being Brave

by J.M. Phillippe

Last night I had the great joy of helping take over Creative Colloquy in Tacoma, Washington's monthly open mic night with fellow Blue Zephyr Press authors Bethany Maines and Karen Harris Tully in order to celebrate the release of our newest collaborative effort, Galactic Dreams Volume 2.

I struggle a lot with public speaking. I have a theory that people tend to be better at either prepared presentations -- creating a script and practicing it over and over again until they get it just right -- or spontaneous presentations -- getting the gist of an idea down in your head and then winging in more of an improvisation way. I developed this theory after taking an improv class in my 20s. It took a little while, but then I felt super comfortable getting up in front of others and making things up. But in that class we also had to prepare and perform a monologue. I had spent weeks being able to throw ideas out in front of this class of people and feeling comfortable with the idea of failing. But preparing something ahead of time gave me time to get nervous. Really nervous.

I thought of this again as I sat in the room waiting for my turn to read from my newest book, The Glitter of Gold. I had practiced reading it a few times. I know I have a tendency to talk fast (and read fast) due to years of being told that, so I had to sit and continue to take slow deep breaths to try to calm myself down.

And then I got up, and I started read. I'd like to say that I magically felt better and the words just flowed. Instead I kept losing my place on the page as I looked up at the crowd (something I was told was better than just keeping my head down and reading) and stumbling over words I'd read perfectly several times before. I found myself spontaneously rewriting sentences as I read, skipping words or changing the order for the sake of my poor twisted tongue, and I could feel sweat pooling on my upper lip.

I was fortunate enough to have family and friends come and support me, and I switched from face to face in the crowd, looking for a lifeline, and trying not to speed up as I got closer to the end of my prepared section.

When it was over, I was very happy to drop the paper down to my side, take my applause, say thank you, and get off the stage. It did not feel like a graceful exit.

And then my cousin told me later how proud he was of how brave I was -- not just for reading in public, but for writing and putting my words out there for others to see. I of course started to tear up.

Both improvisation and presentation take bravery, and perhaps doing the one you are least comfortable with takes the most.

In the end, like anything else, they both take practice. Being brave takes practice.

And last night, my fellow authors and all the folks who participated in the open mic got a chance to practice being brave.


J.M. Phillippe is the author of the novels Perfect Likeness, Aurora One, The Christmas Spirit, and The Glitter of Gold and the short stories The Sight and Plane Signals. She 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.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Can Writing Motivate Writing?

by Paula Gail Benson

When your day job requires extensive writing, can the well run dry? Do you come home from work and avoid the computer or laptop, just ready to let the words flow over you from the closest television or other viewing or listening device? Do you wake reserving your word skills for the workplace rather than spending an early morning hour on a fiction project before heading to the office?

As a legislative attorney, I’m constantly working with language. It’s always fascinating to try to explain a concept with brevity, clarity, and comprehensiveness. Like working on a puzzle, it’s usually a matter of figuring out how to put the pieces together to create a picture everyone can see, appreciate, and understand.

However, after a full day of writing and rewriting, sometimes it’s difficult to convince myself that I need to put in a few more hours at home, even if it’s on a project I’m truly devoted to completing. I convince myself I need a break. And, once I give myself permission to relax (to be ready for what tomorrow brings), then it’s easy to keep depending upon that rest period.

So, I began thinking about how to use my work writing to energize my fiction writing.

Last year, I started “bullet journaling” to organize my schedule and keep notes. I wrote a message about it here at The Stiletto Gang. The official website was established by Ryder Carroll, who now has a book called The Bullet Journal Method. Because bullet journaling is adaptable to each practitioner, the ways to set up a journal may differ. I have used my bullet journal not only to track appointments, work projects, and daily accomplishments (like a mini-diary), but also for fiction. With everything in one easy to carry notebook, I can capture ideas, phrases, bits of dialogue, and other things I want to remember to explore in a story. For example, at dinner one night, I had an incredible view overlooking the city. I wanted to capture what I was seeing and wrote a description while I waited for the meal. Now, I have the words to remember the image I found so intriguing. Maybe I’ll use it in a story or maybe it’s just for my benefit, but it exercised those writing muscles and that is always a good thing. Having the bullet journal made the writing possible.

The hand-written aspect of the bullet journal allows me to “think on the page” in a different way from typing. In addition, because the bullet journals I use have a “dot grid,” I’m not restricted by lined pages. I can write at an angle if I want or use drawings to help illustrate what I mean. (I wonder if I should try drawing legislative concepts?)

Another “exercise” I’ve found myself using lately is to retell familiar stories from a single character’s perspective. In particular, I’ve worked on a series of fairy tales, starting with the prince’s viewpoint, then progressing to secondary characters, and finally villains. I write examples on my personal blog, where I limit each entry to 100 words (a drabble), forcing myself to make every word count and meaningful, just like with writing legislation. It’s been a good motivator, allowing me to focus on character traits and motivations rather than plot. For one group (the villains), I used rhyme, another variation from my day job.

What I’ve concluded is that filling that blank page, whether with a to do list or a story idea, helps lead to more writing. In the bullet journal, I give myself the freedom to let thoughts lead me. Sometimes, the road is a dead end. At other times, it’s a great adventure. That’s the life of a fiction writer with a writing day job!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Taking a Deep Breath by Debra H. Goldstein

Have you ever lost a week? Been so busy that the days run together? Watched time fly, but felt good as you ticked off each item from your to-do list?

That’s been me this past two months. Between baby showers (yes, we have a new family member coming next month), book babies (One Taste Too Many was published in January 2019, proofs had to go in on Two Bites Too Many, and I am days away from submitting Three Treats Too Many), promoting One Taste Too Many, and getting stuck in airports (24 hours to make a 7 hour trip was the winner), I’ve simply been turning the calendar pages and doing the next task on my list.

For me, it all came to a stop last week. I forgot to post Clicking Our Heels (it was in draft rather than scheduled because of one last change being made), tried to post on the first Monday of the month (which is Linda’s day and on which she already had a marvelous post about Dark Sister: Poems, her nominated book and the awards ceremony she was going to), had my traveling plans from Vancouver extended as previously noted, barely promoted a signing I did in Atlanta two hours after the wedding brunch, and with a day to spare finished and submitted to my agent the draft of my third book in the Sarah Blair series.

Whoa! It was time to take a deep breath. I did. And like a plane coming through the clouds on a day after a heavy rainstorm, everything below me cleared (in the South that means the land was as red as Margaret Mitchell wrote about). There still are many tasks to take care of, but they’ve fallen into place. I’m even reading a book for fun. Best yet, I’m smiling.

How about you? Do you ever plan too much? Ever get overwhelmed without realizing you are in that state? If so, let me know how you handle things because you’re now in my world.