Monday, July 29, 2019

Short Story Nominees for Macavity and Shamus Awards

by Paula Gail Benson

Two more award lists, with presentations to occur at Bouchercon 2019 in Dallas, have been announced and include some familiar names and titles for short story finalists. The Macavity nominees, presented by the Mystery Readers International (MRI), subscribers to Mystery Readers Journal and members and friends of MRI, are:
Gigi Pandian

"Race to Judgment" by Craig Faustus Buck Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine Nov/Dec 2018
Craig Faustus Buck
"All God's Sparrows" by Leslie Budewitz Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine May/Jun 2018
"Bug Appetit" by Barb Goffman Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine Nov/Dec 2018
"Three-Star Sushi" by Barry Lancet Down & Out: The Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
"The Cambodian Curse" by Gigi Pandian The Cambodian Curse and Other Stories (Henery Press)
"English 398: Fiction Workshop" by Art Taylor Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine Jul/Aug 2018

Art Taylor
Art's story won the Edgar for best short story and has been nominated for the Agatha and Anthony.

Leslie Budewitz
Barb's story also is an Agatha and Anthony nominee.

Gigi's story won the Derringer (from the Short Mystery Fiction Society) for best novelette.

Leslie's story won the Agatha (a tie with Tara Laskowski, Art's wife). Another of Leslie's stories "With My Eyes" Suspense Magazine Jan/Feb 2018 won the Derringer for best long story.
Barb Goffman
With the Macavity nod, Barry Lancet's "Three-Star Sushi" also is nominated for a Shamus award, given by the Private Eye Writers of America. Here is the complete list of Shamus short story finalists:
Barry Lancet
Twist Phelan
Elizabeth McKenzie
"Fear of the Secular" by Mitch Alderman Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine
"Three-Star Sushi" by Barry Lancet Down & Out: The Magazine Vol. 1, No. 3
"The Big Creep" by Elizabeth McKenzie Santa Cruz Noir
"Game" by Twist Phelan Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
"Chin Yong-Yun Helps a Fool" by S.J. Rozan Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine

S. J. Rozan
Congratulations and best wishes to all these nominees! What a terrific group of writers and stories for summer reading!
Leslie Budewitz and Tara Laskowski

Friday, July 26, 2019

Women: Not So Mere--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.


Who knew? The women's movement to win the vote in America (which didn’t happen until 1920) began with book clubs!

In my life, "feminism" has been a word often expressed with a sneer, the struggle for equality seen as an effort to shed femininity and be man-like. Burn your bra at the peril of rejecting your womanhood. But my role model, my mother, was as feminine as they come and yet stood toe to toe with men in power. She never finished college, having to quit to care for her ill father, but she continued to learn and read and surround herself with other women who used ideas and knowledge to challenge the status quo, a legacy that began long ago.

Despite the pressure on women to focus on family and household matters, women throughout history have organized to read and talk about serious ideas, even in the early colonial days of American history. Anne Hutchinson founded such a group on a ship headed for the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634. Reading circles or societies spread throughout the 1800s, including the African-American Female Intelligence Society organized in Boston and the New York Colored Ladies Literary Society. The first known American club sponsored by a bookstore began in 1840 in a store owned by a woman, Margaret Fuller. In 1866 Sarah Atwater Denman began Friends in Council, the oldest continuous literary club in America. In the South, blacks slaves were punished if they were found even carrying a book, although some surely passed books and abolitionist tracts in secret, despite the terrible risk.

Mandy Shunnarah recently wrote about research she did on this subject in college, sharing how the turn-of-the-century women began with classical ancient history and gradually became informed about political and policy issues of the day. The clubs created opportunities for connection and community and provided a conduit for organization and action. Undoubtedly, progressive organizations like the League of Women Voters, which formed in 1920, were an outgrowth of those clubs.

My mother, Jane Katz, was a longtime League member and a lobbyist for the state League. I have memories of her sitting at her electric Smith-Corona and typing away at tedious lists that tracked status and votes on legislative bills of interest to the League—education, the environment, constitutional reform, judicial reform, ethics reform, home rule.

I remember her taking me to a site to show me what strip mining actually looked like when a coal company was finished ravaging the land. She worked hard for the Equal Rights Amendment, which had as much chance of passing in my state (Alabama) as a law against football. I followed her to the state legislature while she talked to white male senators about why a bill was important and I will never forget how they looked down at her condescendingly. It made me angry, but she just continued to present her points with charm, wit, and irrefutable logic. The experience turned me off to politics, but gave me a deep respect for my mother. I know she would be saddened that many of the issues she fought for have yet to come about, but she would be proud of today’s many strong women’s voices speaking up for the values she so believed in and fought for. She and my grandmother began my love of reading and books. Today, it's estimated that over 5 million book clubs exist and 70-80% of the members are women.

A special childhood memory of my parents chuckling over a New Yorker cartoon my father cut out and showed to friends—Two stuffy businessmen are talking quietly. One says, “But she is a mere woman!” The other replies, “Haven’t you heard? Women are not so mere anymore.”

I’m not a politician. I’m a writer. My mother died decades ago, and sometimes I feel guilty not following in her footsteps. But I think she would have been proud that the women in my books are not “mere.”

It is a gift and a closing of the circle connecting me with my mother and all her predecessors to know the heritage of feminist activism—the striving for a society where women's thoughts, ideas, and work are equally respected—began with a group of women, perhaps a cup of tea, and a book.

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 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.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Manuel Roybal, Sr, de Alburquerque by Juliana Aragon Fatula

Dear Reader,

Sicily 1995 Manuel Roybal, our tour guide, and me. 

This morning as I was surfing the internet, I came upon a familiar face, Manuel. We go way back to the 90's when we traveled together with the Latin Locomotions and our vata loca, Sherry Coca Candelaria took us with her to the Department of Defense tour of the Persian Gulf, the Azores, Sicily, and Diego Garcia in 1995. We had all three been friends and worked together in Denver at Su Teatro a Chicano Cultural Arts Center doing comedy and teatro with the veteranos: Tony Garcia, Yolanda Ortega, Debra Gallegos, and many others.

I came across a music clip of my friend singing a blues song, I hate quelitas, spinach. I laughed so hard and felt nostalgia sweep over me. I missed him and his great voice and professional guitar playing. Then I heard him sing the next song, Simplemente, and I felt like crying and dancing and I turned serious. I heard the song I'd heard several times before on stage and felt a longing in my gut. I missed my old friend, Manuel. A song made me feel happy, sad, lonely, content, and miserable all at once. His power, his talent, his strength: his ability to move his audience to tears, laugher, melancholy.

I felt like I'd heard it for the first time and I realized how much I had taken this great musician, actor, comedien for granted. All those years of performing together all across the world, I had him next to me every day, traveled the world with him, spent time eating meals, drinking café con leche...

He moved to New Mexico when he retired. I moved to Southern Colorado and we both left Denver for a chance to be near familia. We saw each other for birthday parties and book signings but our paths took different directions and if not for Facebook, pinche, Facebook, we might have lost touch. But we didn't. We stayed amigos. We are familia. He is my brother and his wife is my sister.

He makes me laugh, cry, sing, dance, and rejoice. I love him. He means the world to me. I realized I need to take a road trip and visit him. Life is short, que no? I've lost friends who've crossed to the other side and we're not getting any younger. Actually we're getting on in years, but we still have the ability to make people laugh, cry, howl, dance, sing with our words. Me with my poetry and storytelling; Manuel with his golden voice and silver guitar fingers. He is a rare mix of genius and the magic is he doesn't know how great he is and how loved he remains after all of these  years.

In 1992 I married my husband, Vince. In 1995 I left the U.S.A. for five weeks and travelled with my friends, the Latin Locomotions to the greatest places on Earth: the military bases in foreign countries. It was the happiest times of my life and I know it was because I was with two of my great friends, Sherry and Manuel. But this story is about Manuel and how he made me feel safe even though I was thousands of miles from my little casa in Colorado. He had been sober for decades. I had been sober for five  years. Everyone and everywhere we traveled the soldiers partied and danced and sang and celebrated a little Chicano musica and comedy. Manuel and I drank tea and watched the soldiers revel in a little homegrown music and comedy. If Manuel hadn't been with me, I'd have been the only sober person in all of the after parties. But we enjoyed every minute and now we share our stories with anyone who will listen.

The Department of Defense paid us to travel and do what we love. Sing and perform. But we would have worked for free for the opportunity to entertain our brothers and sisters who defend our country every day and night of the year. They are heroes. They deserve a little celebration. They deserve to party and relax after a long day.

Manuel, this post is for you. A thank you for all of the times we shared, the road trips, the rides on cargo planes, the lost luggage, the time you locked yourself in your hotel room in Kuwait or wherever the hell we were that night. The stories we shared and the tears we shed, the laughter, the music, the love. Te amo, Manuel. Never forget our adventures.

Please check his music out online. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Award Winning!

By Bethany Maines

This year has been an unusual one for me.  I set out with the intention of pushing myself into uncomfortable and new areas in my writing.  As a result, I’ve submitted short stories to publications, submitted my work to contests, and tried out different genres and formats.  As I expected, there have been rejections and a few “not quites”.  But I have been surprised to see that several of my gambles have paid off. 

I’ve had a short story published, taken a screen-writing class and subsequently won an award for my screenplay, ventured out to read my work in public and had it featured on the radio.  My most recent success came from the Book Excellence Awards where mynovella The Seventh Swan, a sci-fairy tale, was a Finalist in the Adventurecategory. I must confess that this award makes me happier than it probably ought to.  My story features alligator-men, robots, nanites, an evil queen, and of course, true love – it’s a throw-back to the Flash Gordon, Tarzan-type adventure tale that I’ve always loved and I thought that it was probably a bit too weird to win.  So to see that someone else thinks it’s a gem is very encouraging.

But, while winning awards is nice, it’s not my goal.  The majority of the places I’ve submitted to came with the promise of feedback.  My goal was to learn from the responses I got to help my writing become stronger. No one really likes hearing that something isn’t working, but it has been really helpful to hear the commentary and discover what exactly people are responding to. And of course, I can now say that I’m an award-winning author and who doesn’t like that?

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.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Thrillerfest XIV: Experience of a Lifetime

By Lynn McPherson

I have been to my first Thrillerfest conference! I have to tell you all about it and why you may want to consider attending it next year. For anyone who isn’t familiar with it, let me give you a brief introduction. Thrillerfest is multi-day event that takes place annually in NYC. It is attended by a wide array of thriller authors, industry professionals, and fans.
With so much to choose from, I decided to start with Pitchfest. It gives authors a chance to meet and pitch to literary agents actively seeking new clients. I made the wise decision to attend the practice session beginning an hour before the main event. Up until then, I thought I had done enough breathing exercises and preparation to stay calm and cool. Nope. When the doors opened and I walked in, the reality of the situation hit me—this could be the chance I’d been waiting for—the opportunity to capture an agent’s attention and interest that could alter my future writing career. Totally psyched myself out. What if they didn’t like me? They could crush my dreams within an allotted 3-minute session!
I walked shakily up to my first resident expert. I had gotten there early enough that I was first in line. I had chosen to talk to Elena Hartwell—a successful author with several books out, including a new one with Crooked Lane Books, one of my dream publishers. One look at me and she could see I was a ball of nerves. I sat down with her and she immediately reminded me that this was a practice session and not the real deal. She told me to take a few breaths and deliver my pitch. My shaky voice began with much less confidence and surety than I’d had just an hour earlier when talking to the mirror in my hotel room. I forgot some words, stumbled upon others, and began to sweat profusely. Luckily for me, Elena was kind and understanding. She began with what she liked—my story sounded fun and interesting. Then she went into her thoughts of how to improve—use comparative books to give the agent a feel for what I was aiming for, tell them my sub-genre upfront, and focus more on my protagonist. Good suggestions that made sense. Before heading off, she wished me luck.
My second attempt was even less polished. I’d tried to incorporate what Elena had said and no longer had a memorized pitch. Luckily, Gretchen Stelter, an editor whose worked on over 500 manuscripts, was patient and understanding. She told me that it is okay to be nervous. Not all authors are skilled presenters. She went over the basics of what I was trying to convey and helped me focus on the main ideas. It was extremely helpful.
From the practice session, we went right into the main event. Having gotten out a lot of my jitters, I went into Pitchfest a little calmer and with a better idea of what I was doing. I also reminded myself that these agents wanted to hear what I had to say—they were here to look for writers to represent. I knew the agents I wanted to talk to—there were about a dozen I thought might be a good fit for me. So off I went.
It was a rough start—the first agent wasn’t interested. Not even a little bit. However, by that time, I was a calmer. I left the experience unfazed. From there things looked up. I went on to talk to seven more agents. Six were interested. That doesn’t mean they were ready to sign me. But, each one asked me to submit my manuscript to them—either full or partial. A lot of them had specific suggestions to incorporate into my writing. Each one was focused and listening to what I had to say. The day whizzed by. By five o’clock, I left with a clearer picture of what I could do to make my manuscript stronger.
The next day, I was lucky enough to participate in a panel with fabulous authors and eager attendees. I did my panel and then went to several others. There were also cocktail parties and coffees meetups, where an array of accomplished authors, as well as other industry professionals, were walking around, happy to chat and mingle.
I took breaks to walk around the city. I attended a standup show at the Comedy Cellar in Greenwich Village. I took photos and ate some great food.
Overall, the conference was a success. I left with more focus, more energy, and a better sense of what I wanted to do in my writing. Before I submit my work, I am going to incorporate what I learned and do some serious revisions. You get one chance and I want to present the best manuscript I can. So, if you are looking to further your crime writing career and have some fun, start savings those pennies—Thrillerfest is worth it.

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, July 19, 2019

Our Special Guest Grace Topping on Identity Crisis

Today we have a very special guest, Grace Topping. Grace is the debut author of Staging Is Murder  from Henery Press and she has some interesting things to say about identity. Welcome to Stiletto Gang, Grace! -- Shari Randall

Identity Crisis
by Grace Topping
If someone were to ask me how I would identify myself, I wouldn’t know how to respond. I’ve had so many identities, and over my lifetime, they’ve changed so much and so fast just thinking about them makes my head spin. My response would have to be based on who was asking and the circumstances surrounding the question. Just who am I?
            Our identities start out so simply. I was a daughter, sister, grandchild, niece, etc. When I got older, I became identified by the grade I was in, the religion I practiced, the area of town I lived in. Then as life became more complex, things such as nationality, race, age group, career category, marital status, and political affiliation further identified me. The list kept getting longer. If I were to make a list of all the ways I could be identified, I would run out of paper. It also made me think of those identities I would like to add such as award-winner, bestseller, and millionaire. Why not have fun with it.
            Several things happened recently to make me think about my identities—the ones I could control and those I couldn’t. You may ask how you could have an identity you couldn’t control. Lose your parents and you become an orphan. Break the law and you become a convict. Lose your job, you become unemployed. Forced changes in identity. 
            An identity crisis I experienced recently started with my becoming a mystery writer. I became very self-conscious, worried that people would think I identified with my main character. In fact, several early reviewers asked me, “Is this you?” As a result I described my main character totally the opposite of me. She’s tall. I’m short. She’s trim and fit. I’m not so much. She’s young. I’ll leave it at that. Perhaps she became my alter ego.
            A second thing happened. Someone cloned me on Facebook—took my identity and created another Facebook page and then started sending out friend requests from this other me. This was far worse than reading about the theory of parallel universes or a mirror image of this universe, where there could be another being identical to me. At the least the other me in a different universe wouldn’t be close enough to affect my Facebook status or things like my bank account.
            The third thing related to identity happened when I gathered the paperwork needed to apply for a Real ID-compliant license. Sometime in the near future, travelers will be required to have a Real ID to be able to board a domestic flight (unless you want to carry your passport with you for travel within the U.S.). To apply for a Real ID in Virginia, I needed a passport or birth certificate, Social Security card, and two proofs of residence (utility bill, bank statement, etc.). Something official to prove I live where I say I live. I discovered that all of the utility bills only showed my husband’s name. Where was I in this picture? I suddenly felt sorry for the people who would have a hard time proving their identities.
            So how would you identify yourself? This week, I’m claiming mystery writer.

Grace Topping is the author of STAGING IS MURDER, published by Henery Press. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter or at


Grace Topping is a recovering technical writer and IT project manager, accustomed to writing lean, boring documents. Let loose to write fiction, she is now creating murder mysteries and killing off characters who remind her of some of the people she dealt with during her career. Fictional revenge is sweet. She’s using her experience helping friends stage their homes as inspiration for her Laura Bishop mystery series. The first book in the series, Staging is Murder, is about a woman starting a new career midlife as a home stager. Grace is the current vice president of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and a member of the SINC Guppies and Mystery Writers of America. She lives with her husband in Northern Virginia.

About Staging is Murder

Laura Bishop just nabbed her first decorating commission—staging for sale a 19thcentury mansion that hasn’t been updated for decades. But when a body falls from a laundry chute and lands at Laura’s feet, removing flowered wallpaper becomes the least of her duties. To clear her young assistant of the murder and save her fledgling business, Laura’s determined to find the killer. Turns out it’s not as easy as renovating a manor home, especially with two handsome men complicating her mission: the police detective assigned to the case and the real estate agent trying to save the manse from foreclosure. Worse still, the meddling of a horoscope-guided friend, a determined grandmother, and the local funeral director could get them all killed before Laura props the first pillow.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Follow Your Bliss

By Cathy Perkins 
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you
where there were only walls.” Joseph Campbell
I’ve been trying to finish an amateur sleuth mystery (the next Holly Price story) but another story keeps nagging at me. It’s one I’ve picked up and put down about a dozen times; changed the focus; the motivation; everything except the central characters and the theme.
I’m not sure why that book keeps pulling me back. Maybe it comes from the idea that each one of us has something special to contribute—maybe work we feel compelled to do. By doing it, we feel fulfilled and enrich the world. Joseph Campbell talks about finding your own path (“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it's not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That's why it's your path.”). 

How do you find that path? Some refer to it as following your bliss. Others say, find your heart’s passion.

But is that passion the broader goal or a kernel that embodies it?

For many of us on this blog, our passion is writing. Taking intuitions, snippets, dreams and moments of pure fantasy imagination. Adding overheard conversations, glimpses of a vignette as we pass by. Grabbing that nebulous possibility, and shaping and turning into a polished story. Is writing the passion we want to share with the world? Or is it a particular theme or story that we feel we have to tell to reach that bliss?

I really have no idea, so I keep putting one foot in front of the other and step-by-step find my path.
Right now, that path is strolling along with a forensic accountant who's trying to find her own path through life... You might hear a bit more about her later. But as much fun as the amateur sleuth story is to write, that other story is still there, a siren song.

Even if we take the steps to become an author, maybe we chose a certain path because we fear the stories we want to write won’t sell. We love chic lit or romantic mysteries or literary stories where the characters rule and the words flow to a different rhythm, but we read online, hear from editors, agents, creative writing texts that D, all the above are passé. We’re tempted to follow trends rather than listen to the story inside us. I think most of us have cleared that hurdle, but the doubt is always there--should I have chosen a different path? 

Overall, I'm happy with my path to "here." Sure, there have been highs and lows, joys and regrets. I'm happy our paths crossed, here on the blog, at various publishers, conferences, or any of the other places we've connected. I hope my passion for writing lives on and that I can share my joy and make a small corner of the worlds a better place. 

And in the meanwhile, I think my other story is still growing—or growing up—quietly evolving in my subconscious. I have many books still to write.

But I suspect “that story” will one day be the one I have to tell.

What about you?

 “As you go the way of life,
You will see a great chasm. Jump.
It is not as wide as you think.” 
― Joseph Campbell

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, July 17, 2019

The Magic of Fiction

by Kay Kendall

Like many authors, I am an avid reader. I also adore movies, and in both categories of storytelling I prefer fiction to non-fiction. I have loved many books and films and liked countless others. Increasingly these days, as the world becomes more and more fraught with ugliness and danger, I treasure the ability to escape into the tale of my choice, be it on the small screen or large, or on the digital or actual page. Fiction, bring it on. (Needless to say, I am not a fan of dystopian fiction.)

Two weeks ago I happened to see an online recommendation by Kate Quinn, an author of historical mysteries that I've read and admired. She enthusiastically supports the historical novel named Madensky Square. The book is set in Vienna, Austria, a few years before the outbreak of the disastrous First World War. Eva Ibbotson (1925-2010) wrote the book in 1985, and Pan Books reprinted it two years ago. The author herself was born in Vienna and moved to London right before World War II.

Those are the bare facts. What remains for me to convey is the intense feelings of joy and peace that reading this book instilled in me. Kate Quinn says she often  urges people to read Madensky Square, and now I have joined her worthy crusade.

In the preface to the 2017 edition is this sentence: "Ibbotson was determined to prove that romantic novels can be funny, well-written and even a little erudite." Indeed, with Madensky Square, she achieved all that, in spades.

For me, however, to call this treasure a romantic novel sells it short. Although it begins sweetly and lightly with descriptions of the lovely square in which Frau Susanna has her dressmaker's shop, it proceeds to deepen as the pages turn. The lives of its characters--the dressmaker and her friends and lover--go through perils and triumphs, and yet by the ending most achieve a more perfect harmony. A few receive their just deserts that are not pleasant, but the plot flows effortlessly like a stream. Nothing feels the least contrived. Susanna hides a deep sorrowful secret that burdens her throughout the book. Believe me, this is no mere piece of fluff. And Ibbotson writes like an angel.

Enchanting is one adjective that came to my mind by the fiftieth page. Then, halfway through the book, I thought, "Ah-ha. The only time I've felt this enraptured by fiction was when I saw the 1991 film called, fittingly enough, Enchanted April.  Even though I saw it only once, 28 years ago, I vividly recall the euphoria it induced in me.  I'm delighted to learn that I can stream it tonight, and I shall.

A little research today showed me that the book that inspired it, The Enchanted April, was written in 1925 by a British author named Elizabeth von Arnim. The book was set in Italy and was so successful that it caused Portofino (where four fictional British women spend a month away from their boring and/or stressful lives--and husbands) to surge in popularity as a tourist distination. The author's life is well worth Googling, and you can read her entire book online for free here:

If this blog post succeeds in getting even one person to read this novel and another to watch this film, I will feel good knowing that I've done my bit today in bringing more happiness into this dark world. Fiction lovers, I salute you!

 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. Her newest is After You've Gone.
Visit Kay at her website   or on Facebook

Monday, July 15, 2019

Mystery in the Midlands

by Paula Gail Benson

Logo by Krista Anderson

Nancy Pickard (Photo by Anita Baker)
For the second year, the Southeastern Chapter of Mystery Writers of America (SEMWA) and the Palmetto Chapter of Sisters in Crime presented a day-long mystery conference offering master classes and panels in Columbia, South Carolina. Called Mystery in the Midlands, it featured twenty-one authors, including our guest of honor best-selling author Nancy Pickard. Known for her own Jenny Cain and Marie Lightfoot series, continuing Virginia Rich’s Eugenia Potter novels, acclaimed stand-alone novels The Scent of Rain and Lightning and The Virgin of Small Plains, numerous short stories, and the nonfiction Seven Steps on the Writer’s Path written with Lynn Lott, Pickard graciously shared information about her work and her recent relocation to Charleston after spending most of her life in Kansas. She was interviewed by her good friend and fellow past President of Sisters in Crime National, Cathy Pickens.

This joint conference effort began two years ago when SEMWA brought then MWA President Jeffrey Deaver to Columbia to give a writing seminar. The following year, we organized the first Mystery in the Midlands. With each event, we have been able to have authors representing multiple states. We plan to continue the tradition during “famously hot” summers in Columbia.

Special thanks to this year’s authors: Stacy Allen, Paul Barra, Candace Carter, Tracy de Hahn, Elysabeth Eldering, Kaye George, Victoria Gilbert, Sally Handley, Sasscer Hill, Roger Johns, Terrie Farley Moran, Dorothy St. James, J.R. Ripley, Nancy Sartor, Raegan Teller, Jaden (Beth) Terrell, Brian Thiem, Maggie Toussaint, and Warren Moore. Master classes explored Hemingway’s POV, Police Procedure, and Humor in Mysteries. Panels discussed the importance of settings, writing both novels and short stories, cozy mysteries, and the journey to publication.

Midday, we had a buffet lunch and a game of “guess the author.” The first person who picked out the correct author for each description won bonus bucks to be spent with our bookseller, Books on Broad from Camden, South Carolina.

During the conference, we held a silent auction and raised $630 to benefit My First Books, the South Carolina affiliate of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which provides a book a month to registered children from birth to age five.

Each year, not only have readers been introduced to new writers, but also the authors have time to exchange information. This year, on the Friday before the conference, a local forensic anthropologist welcomed a group to visit his lab and ask questions about his process.

A local weekly paper advertised the event and sent a reporter to cover the conference. It was wonderful to have the stories available online as well as appearing below the fold on the first page. See

Article and photos by Anita Baker for the Columbia Star
Many thanks to all the people who participated, attended, and helped with the organization behind the scenes. Please come and join us next year!

Friday, July 12, 2019

Top Secret No More!

by Bethany Maines

I have been slaving away at several different manuscripts (including San Juan Islands #3, more on that later), but I'm finally able to announce that my super top secret hush-hush book The Second Shot is going to be released in October!  I've been sitting on this action-adventure , mystery laden romantic suspense novel for months and it's been sooooooo hard.  Today I am finally able to announce that it is available only on Apple Books for super secret pre-order! The coming months will have more announcements, including the cover reveal, giveaways, additional pre-order platforms (kobo, nook, kindle, etc) and a few "behind the scenes" teasers.

This novel has all the stuff I love: funny characters, tough girls, clever guys, mystery, action, and romance. My heroine, Dominique Deveraux, is a rich kid who has decided to pull herself up by her own bootstraps and start work from the bottom instead of vaulting her way to the top on her silver spoon.  The hero, Maxwell Ames, is a US Marshall who truly wants to be worthy of the title hero.  It also features the complex relationships of the Deveraux family as they attempt to overcome their past, their relatives, and their own doubts about themselves and each other in their search to find happiness.

The Second Shot: 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.

Join my mailing list to be alerted when additional platforms become available for pre-order or pre-order now on Apple!


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.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Solitary Life of a Writer by Juliana Aragon Fatula

Dear Reader:

I couldn't sleep tonight so I sat in my cat napper recliner and reclined to the beat of Marley's this a reggae music play I some music this a reggae music just like a mighty Dred roots rock reggae this a reggae music and the outdoor camera light came on and this beautiful creature peered inside my window at me and said, y que? Just like that. Y, que, vata? Like what are ya gonna do bout it, beetch. 

We literally have herds of mule deer grazing through our yard nibbling our aspen saplings and roses. This beast is a buck with a 5x4 rack. His neck muscles show he is in rut looking for a female to hook up with. That's a funny way to say have sex, or to mate, another one is knockin' boots. Who thinks of this stuff? I do. Me the writer who can't sleep at night because it's a full moon and the wildlife is in my rose garden and I'm writing about depression. Yes, I'm depressed. Most writers go through depression stages in their life. I've suffered with depression for 50 years. 

It began at five when I ate a bowl of ice cream and my cousin told me not to tell anyone about our secret. Then when I was ten I fantasized that I was Virginia Woolf and loaded my pockets with rocks and waded out into the river. I drowned in that scenario. But I heard a voice telling me, It gets better. It will get better. 

Then there were the years of living dangerously. You know the scene, sex, drugs, rock and roll and no protection. I risked my life for fun for excitement for the rush. I didn't die but my friends did. They died of alcoholism, drug addiction, AIDS, drunk driving, knifed in prison over a pack of cigarettes. I did everything I could to put my life in jeopardy by drinking to the point of blacking out.

I felt sad. I felt mad. I felt lonely. I felt crazy. I felt everyone's pain and didn't know it was a thing. I cared too much and it almost killed me. I rode the crazy train all the way to crazy town. 

I was  uneducated. I was a single mother. I worked nine to five and drank Friday to Sunday. 

I never thought someday I'd become a writer. I never dreamed I'd live to be fifty let alone sixty-two. But I am a writer. I write about my loneliness and pain. I'm a confessional poet. 

I've changed genres and now I write mysteries. I love mysteries. I love Alfred Hitchcock thrillers. I love CSI and Monk...

So in order to write I have to isolate myself from family and friends and just dive in and test the water. I do this by listening to music. I'm depressed because of genetics, diabetes, chemical imbalance, childhood PTSD, a family history of alcoholism...

The music sets the mood and allows me to escape my body and leave my reality to venture into fiction. I've discovered that I love my make believe world so much that I get irritated when someone needs me and interrupts my flow. It's usually my husband. He's a pain in the ass but I love him dearly and unconditionally. He usually gets me but sometimes he's an ass. 

So I put on my headphones and shake my head to the beat and when he interrupts me I hold up a post it that reads, Buzz off I'm working. Call my voice mail and leave a message unless this is an emergency and in that case call 911. I turn my music up and return to my keyboard. 

At first he really didn't like my new writing tool the headphones. But now he can watch sports or hunting or car shows on tv while I listen to books on tape and sit next to him so he likes it more than he used to when I just ignored him and danced away with a skip in my step. 

Listening to music while I work has become a thing for me. I pretend I'm a great dancer and I dance around the backyard while I irrigate the garden or hang laundry on the clothesline or transplant seedlings or while I load the washer, dishwasher, dryer or crockpot while I mop the kitchen floor or vacuum the living room rug. 

My life is a crazy combination of being a super mom/wife, a feminist, an educated Chicana, a writer, a poet, a performer, a storyteller. I have reached the age when I don't care what anyone thinks about my hairstyle, clothes, language, past. I'm over it. I live for the loved ones family and friends who never made it to 22, 32, 42, 52, or 62. They lived and died and they changed me. They are part of me and why I am the Crazy Chicana in Catholic City. I lived a fast life a crazy life and now I'm happy to stay home, garden, bake, write and give my loved ones unconditional love until I'm no longer on this planet. My depression hangs on but I fight back with my own home remedies like music therapy and writing my pain and anger and sharing with others so they can hang on too because it does get better. It does. It just does.