Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Thrillerfest, Here I Come!

By Lynn McPherson

I am absolutely thrilled to let you all know that I am going to Thrillerfest XIV in New York City this July. Now, I am a cozy mystery author so some readers may be wondering why I have chosen this particular conference to attend. There are so many reasons that I decided to share a few of them here.

First of all, it’s held in New York City. As a big movie fan, it’s hard not to love New York. From Goodfellas to Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Desperately Seeking Susan, it’s a place that always makes a good movie great. When I finally got to see New York in person, it did not disappoint. The energy and atmosphere make it a world-class city I’m always happy to visit. Inspiration is around every corner.

Secondly, Thrillerfest is an enticing conference for anyone who is looking for a literary agent. There is something called Pitchfest, where authors get the chance to pitch their work to agents looking for new clients. It’s a fantastic opportunity to try to find a good match for me. I’m working on a new series and I’m hoping to find a good agent interested in a long-term relationship. There is nothing else like it—Pitchfest is a unique event. If nothing else, it’ll be great experience and practice for the future.

Finally (and most importantly!), the line-up at Thrillerfest is top notch. The participating authors are exciting and will be really fun to see—including John Sandford, Harlan Coben, Lisa Unger, and James Rollins, among others. There is also the huge number of panels to attend—so many panels, so little time. I’m absolutely delighted to let you know that I won’t only be an audience member—I’ll also have the chance to participate in one. It is called Squeal, Panic, or Chill? Turn Off Your Job and Turn on Your Life. Led by Panel Master Bryan Robinson, and I can’t wait to be a part of the action.

So, there it is folks.

How about you? Where are you headed next and why have you chosen to go?

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.  

Friday, May 24, 2019

The Rose Wars, a Life Lesson--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.

A one-armed elderly man I knew long ago gave me a rosebush. To call it a bush was a stretch—three thorny sticks attached to a ball of dirt. I planted it in the yard along the pasture fence and forgot about it.

It grew. I was hardly a good shepherd, basically leaving it to live or die on its own. Profusions of delicate pink blossoms rewarded my neglect. The rosebush and I did our own thing as the years passed, unaware of a growing menace. It crept from the pasture, just a green background at first and then suddenly, without warning, the honeysuckle vines invaded, wrapping over and around the rosebush, smothering it. There was little I could do, as the other side of the fence was a hillside too steep to bush hog, protected by masses of thorny blackberry bushes.

It saddened me to see the roses smothered. I felt helpless. What kind of person was I to let my roses die? Yet, I like honeysuckle too. To breath in its presence is to inhale the summer's prelude; to pull a drop of nectar onto my tongue sweeps me back to barefoot wanderings, to days of magic unraveling without care of time. It wasn’t the honeysuckle’s fault; it was just doing what honeysuckle vines do. The world is like that.

For a couple of years, I missed seeing the rich fountain of spring and summer roses and figured the rosebush was dead. It had its day, as do we all.

Then one year, I noticed a thorny spike thrusting through the mass of honeysuckle like a drowning man raising one arm above the water. Not dead. But no flowers. I’d almost rather it just went down and stayed down than to have to watch this.

The next year, a few more spikes appeared.

Well, good for you, stubborn old rose bush. Never give up. Who knows? Maybe it doesn’t have to be roses vs. honeysuckle; maybe they can coexist, find a peaceful way to drink the same sunlight and flourish.

Indeed they did. Not only is my fence line a mass of intoxicating blooming roses and honeysuckle this spring, but the strangest thing has happened. There, in the the sea of satin pink and honeysuckle gold, thrusting up and over in a delicate arch is a tendril of blood red roses! What? I never planted red roses there. Did a bird drop a seed into the dark mass of honeysuckle vines? Did a section of my pink bush somehow revert genetically?

I don’t know. I’m treating it as sort of a miracle, a message—maybe from my one-armed friend—to never give up, to remember that out of darkness and conflict and not having things come easily, a beautiful, unexpected thing can happen.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Speechless by Juliana Aragon Fatula

Dear Reader,

I'm at a loss for words. A poet without words. Let me try to explain why I am speechless.

Roe vs. Wade

Roe vs. Wade history

Today I struggle to understand why men make laws that hurt women. Why they take away our human rights to control our own bodies. If my rant upsets you, good. Let's discuss it. Let's debate why any man has the right to tell any woman what she can do with her body. 

I wrote a story once about overpopulation. In  high school I wrote a fictional story about the planet being so crowded that people were literally pushing each other off of the planet Earth. 

Maybe I'll write a new story about how women take over the world and become world leaders and make the laws for everyone and give everyone the rights over their own bodies. Maybe a woman pushes a man off a cliff. I don't know who that man might be, but I know today that the world has one man too many in control of the laws that govern citizens in this country. Maybe I'll write a murder mystery and kill off some billionaire that likes to grab women by the pussy and laugh about it. Maybe he'll be murdered by the owner of the tanning-bed parlor turning up the tanning-bed and burning his ass to a nice toasty orange. Maybe a pack of she wolves will hunt him down and eat him. The possibilities are endless. 

I've never felt so strongly about writing a murder mystery and killing a greedy, lying, cheating, corrupt human being as I do today. But I'm only speaking figuratively, not literally. No one deserves to be eaten by wolves. 

My Poppies from my Chicana Garden in Southern Colorado 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

San Juan Mystery Series

by Bethany Maines

I am currently working on book three of the San Juan Island Murder Mystery series – An Unfamiliar Sea.  In the San Juan series, Seattle native, Tish Yearly found herself fired from her day job and evicted from her apartment all in one day. Desperate, the 26-year-old ex-actress, heads for the one place she knows she’ll be welcome – the house of her cantankerous, ex-CIA agent, grandfather, Tobias Yearly, in the San Juan Islands of Washington state.  And of course, upon her arrival on Orcas Island in An Unseen Current, Tish is thrown head-long into a mystery that pits her against handsome but straight-laced Sheriff’s Deputy Emmett Nash, a group of eccentric and clannish local residents, and a killer who knows the island far better than she does.  Tish and Tobias band together to solve the mystery and Tish settles into what she thinks is a temporary stay on Orcas.  But in Against the Undertow, Tish is considering making her stay permanent, while she and Tobias are facing down Nash’s angry ex-wife, his psychotic ex-girlfriend and a strangely venomous group of hippies as they try to solve the mystery of who killed Nash’s ex-wife’s boyfriend.  And finally, I’ve arrived at An Unfamiliar Sea and Tish is trying to build a business, a relationship and solve the mystery of who killed a local waitress.

Writing a series is fun, but there is a lot of organization that has to be done to make sure that storylines and characters stay consistent across the series. I use a spreadsheet that tracks not just character names, but ages, descriptions, and affiliations, as well as what book they were mentioned in. While this tool is invaluable, I have found multiple instances where I did NOT make notes on a character and then have to go back and look them up! If I could go back and kick my past self in the shin, I would! Past Self is very spotty about note taking and could really use a little more diligence.  Fortunately, I have been graced with a Beta Reader who has read the entire series and will hopefully pick up a little of Past Self’s slack. Please send thoughts and prayers to my saintly Beta Reader as she cracks open An Unfamiliar Sea.

An Unseen Current - .99 cents – Amazon Barnes & Noble Kobo iTunes

gainst the Undertow - $3.99 – Amazon • Kindle Unlimited

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

Monday, May 20, 2019

May is Short Story Month!

by Paula Gail Benson

Since 2013, StoryaDay.org has declared May Short Story month and has set up a website (http://shortstorymonth.com/) to recommend short stories and recognize their authors.

Indeed, May has been a month where short stories have been celebrated.

During the first weekend in May, at Malice Domestic in Bethesda, Maryland, a tie-winner was announced in the short story category at the Agatha Banquet. Leslie Budewitz and Tara Laskowski’s stories were honored.
Leslie Budewitz and Tara Laskowski
Photo by Robin Templeton
That weekend also saw the announcement of the winners of the 2019 Derringer Award sponsored by The Short Mystery Fiction Society.

Best Flash Story (up to 1000 words)
“The Bicycle Thief” by James Blakey (The Norwegian American, September 21, 2018)

Best Short Story (1001 to 4000 words)
“Dying in Dokesville” by Alan Orloff (Malice Domestic 13: Mystery Most Geographical)

Best Long Story (4001 to 8000 words)
“With My Eyes” by Leslie Budewitz (Suspense Magazine, January/February 2018)

Best Novelette 
“The Cambodian Curse” by Gigi Pandian (The Cambodian Curse & Other Stories by Gigi Pandian, Henery Press)

And now, we have the Anthony awards to anticipate for October.

Anthony Nominees for Best Short Story:
“The Grass Beneath My Feet” by S.A. Cosby, in Tough (blogazine, August 20, 2018)

“Bug Appétit” by Barb Goffman, in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (November/December 2018)

“Cold Beer No Flies” by Greg Herren, in Florida Happens (Three Rooms Press)

“English 398: Fiction Workshop” by Art Taylor, in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (July/August 2018)

“The Best Laid Plans” by Holly West, in Florida Happens (Three Rooms Press)

Have you read a short story lately?

Friday, May 17, 2019

Five Things I Learned at Citizens Police Academy

by Shari Randall

For the past three months, I’ve been taking a Citizens Police Academy course in a neighboring town. Once a week for ten weeks, officers have met with our class to explain a different aspect of their work. It’s been a fascinating peek behind the badge.

Of course, as a writer, I wanted to learn about police procedure so I can depict it accurately in my books. But as a citizen, I also wanted to see how police do what they do. We see so much on the news – with every newscast there is Monday morning quarterbacking about what police do and how they do it. Sometimes police deserve their bad press. But I know that news is “Man bites dog” and not “Dog bites man” -- most of the time, police serve their communities admirably and newscasts show us the exceptions.

 The classes have been eye-opening and many of my preconceived notions went out the window.

1.    The first thing I learned? My major assumption about police training was wrong. I’d assumed that all police are trained according to a national standard but I learned that every state trains officers differently. In Connecticut, officers go through an intense training program at the Police Academy before they can start working, and then only under the direct supervision of a veteran police officer. They have ongoing training to keep their skills sharp.  One of the most sobering things I learned was that some states offer minimal training for their officers before they are handed a badge and a gun.

2.    Police, especially school resource officers, feel the same way about social media that parents do – it’s too much, at too impressionable an age. In our session about juvenile crime, I learned that lots of bullying takes place through social media apps. The calculator on your kid’s phone may be an app commonly called a “nudie locker,” where young people stash photos they don’t want you to see.

3.    One assumption that was correct? K9s are incredible. We watched a K9 go through his paces and I was amazed not only at his abilities, but also at the strong relationship he had with his officer. Police prize the hard working dogs for all they can do – searching for drugs, missing persons, explosives – plus their usefulness in apprehending criminals.

4.    Police chafe at the depiction of their work on television. Mention the “forensics” on shows like NCIS and they roll their eyes. Good police work takes time and most labs are backed up to an alarming rate. 

5.    Police officers have to be good communicators. One concern for the police is that new recruits are from a generation that would rather look at their phones than talk with other people – they have a steep learning curve in working with the public. 

A few weeks of classes and I’ve only skimmed the surface of what the officers in my community do. I have more questions, but now I feel that I have a better grasp of what officers face every day.

Have you ever taken a citizens police class?

Thursday, May 16, 2019

When Writers Travel

Who else loves to travel?

We just returned from Southeast Asia. I’m not sure if this was a bucket list trip or simply an area of the world we were curious about. Both my husband and I were too young for what we call the Vietnam War, but I remember the protests and the horrors of the war shown on the nightly news. Soldiers being spit on and called “Baby Killers.” The MIA bracelets. Four Dead in Ohio. (My blogmate’s books are set in the era, by the way.) The guys in the deli where I worked during college with their bravissimo: “I was stoned the whole time,” and our church youth advisor, a then, newly-minted lieutenant, who would not talk about his time in Vietnam. My brother-in-law, a medic during the war, who also does not discuss his experiences there.

I could go on, but I think you get the drift. Or maybe you remember.

Then there’s Cambodia. A close friend’s daughter served there with the Peace Corp and kept me intrigued with a running series of Facebook posts. And who isn’t moved by the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge?

So we went.

And we loved Saigon. 

The locals call District 1, which is the old town, “Saigon” while the sprawling city is referred to as Ho Chi Min City. There’s energy and optimism, friendly people, and 6 million scooters (mostly being driven by young, texting locals). 

One of the things we did was a street food tour – vendors set up, legally or not so much, wherever there’s an open spot of pavement. Hygiene may be optional for some of those vendors. 😉

Our guide for the tour said Saigon is in to “Capitalistic Communism.” They relate to Cuba, consider Russia a socialist country, and think North Korea is a disgrace. By the way, they still don’t like the Chinese, even as China pours investment money into the country, and the French… well…the south doesn’t hate them as much as the north. But you know, we never ran into anyone who openly disliked Americans. Instead they all wanted to practice their English on us.

Go figure.

Although the War Remnants Museum, chronicling the “American War,” was a sobering reminder of what a horrible war this was for both sides.

We worked our way north with stops in Hanoi where we checked out the Hanoi Hilton and learned it was a massive torture prison built by the French (see “they hate the French” above, along with the 95 years of French oppression). 

Ironically enough, the Vietnamese have huge respect for John McCain and his decision to stay with his men rather than using name and position to bail himself out. (cough, cough, bone spurs.)

But damn, the coffee and cheese were French and amazing.

On to Halong Bay, which was awe inspiring. Seriously. I thought it would be water, a small bay, with a few of those rock monoliths. A picture may be worth a few words here.


And on we traveled, through Cambodia and down the Mekong, back to Vietnam. So many glimpses of a different lifestyle. A third world country struggling to move ahead. Pride in the remnants of a kingdom in the past. Something beyond tolerance for the religious practices embodied by hundreds of temples. The quiet serenity of sunrise at Angkor Watt. 

Terrifying safety issues in manufacturing. Health and hygiene issues that made us cringe and wonder why we obsess over plastic straws. 

The sadness of the long-term impact of the Khmer wiping out every person in the country who could read and write and the current struggle of the Cambodians to find their footing. 

The search for foreign investment in the face of those struggles. Quiet disdain for the puppet government put in place by the Vietnamese, who also installed 8 million landmines to keep the Khmer out of Vietnam. (There are roughly 4 million mines still hidden in the ground. They pay children $1 for each turned in mine – people also use the explosives to blast fish in ponds, but that’s a separate story – and many bear the missing feet and hands as a sickening reminder of how dangerous those devices are.)

What can a writer learn? 

A sensory overload? That iced Vietnamese coffee is wonderful? An appreciation for friends and a zest for life? A sobering realization three generations of Vietnamese live in an area roughly the size of my living room. An appreciation for air conditioning (gah, I grew up in the South and yeah, Robin Williams had it right. Vietnamese weather? Hot and damn hot.)

Maybe it’s getting outside our own heads for a while. Trying new things. New experiences. Learning about a new-to-me ancient culture. Meeting new friends and recapturing a curiosity about the rest of the world.

Whatever you want to call it, I’m glad I went. And I’m already eyeing another area of the globe…

What the most interesting place you’ve visited lately?

An award-winning author of financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories.  When not writing, she battles with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.  Visit her at http://cperkinswrites.com or on Facebook 

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

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

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

What’s Goes on in My Writer’s Lair

 by Kay Kendall
While I would happily write in a garret—as nineteenth-century authors often did—instead I only use our third bedroom that was originally intended for guests. Since these days I don’t even open the lair’s door and let our cleaner inside, you can guess just how many guests have stayed in it recently. That’s right. None.

I began to call the room in which I work the writer’s lair before I looked up the precise definition of the word. I thought it conveyed the sense that I wrote in a dark, secretive place. For purposes of this little essay, I decided to consult dictionary.com:
1.    a den or resting place of a wild animal: The cougar retired to its lair.
 2.    a secluded or hidden place, especially a secret retreat or base of operations; a hideout or hideaway .
     3.    British. a place in which to lie or rest; a bed.
      Meaning #2 is the closest to how I use my room, although the other two meanings make me giggle. Sometimes I do indeed feel like a raging wild animal, and other times I feel like I need a kip, as the Brits would say, which is to say a nap!
When I enter my writer’s lair, I shut the door against the world. Only my cavalier King Charles spaniel Wills is allowed to enter, and he always sleeps on my feet. When he can’t have my lap, then my feet are second best. His breed was purposely developed 500+ years ago to sit on the laps of royalty. So I guess my feet are sort of royal.
I am not one of those authors who can write while listening to music with sung words. The words fight with those in my head that are trying to make their way out to paper. Moreover, if the tune has a strong beat, my attention goes in that direction. So, bottom line, for me a quiet space is best. Listening to Mozart, Bach, Vivaldi, and their like can sometimes be a good thing. The volume has to be subdued though so I don’t get drawn too far down into those glorious melodies.

I edit as I go along. I cannot bear to rush through a first draft, leaving ugly sentences in my wake. Of course, after a sort-of first draft is done, I return and do umpteen swings at editing all over again. All the while, I berate myself for not writing perfect sentences the first time through. I need to post a sign on my cork board in front of me that says ALL GREAT WRITING COMES FROM REWRITING. In short, I am not a fast writer. Wish I were though. Sigh….. 

 My three bunnies Midnight, Bella, and Precious Junior are jealous of Wills and his ability to join me in what could as aptly be called The Happy Hovel. The bunnies would have a fine time tearing into the books and papers that lie all around, turning my space/hovel/lair into a bigger mess than it already is. When I worked with others, nine-to-five (or so) prior to my writing fulltime, I coined a motto for myself, one which I live by religiously. NEVER TRUST ANYONE WITH A CLEAN DESK. That means, in short, that you really, really can trust ME.
So now how about you? What is your work space like? Do you manage to keep it tidy? If you do, all kidding aside, I do salute you!


 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 http://www.austinstarr.com/