Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Character Development: The Protagonist

By Lynn McPherson

January is a great time for new beginnings, in life and in writing. Today I’m going to focus on the importance of writing a good protagonist in a mystery series. It is an essential part of a story and one that should be considered carefully.

There are a number of characteristics that must be decided about a central figure in a book. As a mystery writer, I always consider the sleuth first. Who am I going to be working with on a daily basis? Big question.

First of all, a writer must decide if their character is going to be a professional detective. If the crime solver is a police officer, they must follow official protocol. There are specific methods used by the detective, subject to the laws of the particular location where the story is based. It would belong to the sub-genre known as a police procedural. A great example is Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Series. If you are interested in writing one, read these. They are fabulous.

If the detective is not a professional, the books fit into the Amateur Sleuth category. Do you want to create an insightful character who stumbles onto mysteries? Like Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote, or Joanna Fluke’s Hannah Swensen Series? These are typically light-hearted whodunnits that incorporate fun into murder. The trick is to be mindful of how and why the sleuth is able to solve the mystery as opposed to the police. Amateur Sleuth books are my favourite. Mine fit into this category. My amateur sleuth, Izzy Walsh, is a busy 1950's homemaker who has great intuition and a knack for trouble.

Other considerations to consider are strengths and weaknesses. No one is perfect so it is important to create a likeable yet flawed character. Are they observant but clumsy? Perceptive yet disorganized? You must decide how to give your character a leg up on others around them so they are successful in their quest to solve the crime. But make sure they are worth rooting for. If the main character is rude or arrogant, it’s a tough sell and makes it difficult to pull the reader into the story. Make sure you create someone who fans can cheer on and invest in.

Finally, you need to make sure there is a reason for the protagonist to be in the story. What is their motivation? If you are writing a police procedural, this is less of a concern, other than to have an understanding of what compelled them to become a police officer in the first place. For the Amateur Sleuth, we need to know why they are there. Has their friend been wrongly accused? Do they have a personal connection to the crime? Or, do they have a natural curiosity that drives their determination?

There are so many choices and decisions to consider when creating your protagonist. These are just a few suggestions of where to start.

Good luck and, most importantly, have fun with 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 three books out: The Girls' Weekend Murder and The Girls Whispered Murder, and The Girls Dressed For Murder.  

Monday, January 27, 2020

Remembering Earl Staggs

by Paula Gail Benson

When I became serious about writing short stories, I started seeing the name Earl Staggs mentioned frequently. From his website, I learned that he devoted himself to fiction writing after moving south from Baltimore, Maryland, finally settling in Fort Worth, Texas. As a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, he served as Vice President and President as well as twice receiving the Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year.

Sadly, Earl passed away on January 3, 2020. He left a significant body of work, including a collection of his short stories and two novels, which received a list of 5-star reviews. He had been Managing Editor for Futures Mystery Magazine and contributed to the blogs Make Mine Murder and Murderous Musings.

I never had the chance to meet Earl in person, but I experienced his kindness on two occasions. First, in November 19, 2013, I wrote a blog message for Writers Who Kill comparing Christmas mystery stories that he, Barb Goffman, and B.K. Stevens had written. All had used similar elements, yet come up with very different plots and characters. Here's Earl's comment to the post: "I'm honored, Paula, to see my story included with Bonnie's and Barb's. They're two of the best short mystery writers around. I love writing the short stuff and if--make that when--my novels sell in the millions, I'll continue to write short stories. Thanks for this mention and best regards to you."

The second occasion occurred a few days later, November 26, 2013, when my story "Only the Sacrifice Knows" was published online in Kings River Life. Earl gave me this comment that I still treasure: "Good work, Paula. I had several ideas as to how it would end. All of them wrong. I love it when that happens. Thanks for a fun and interesting read."

I remain grateful for Earl's wonderful stories and kind words of encouragement. He has left an enduring legacy.

Friday, January 24, 2020

The Forgivenss of Whales 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.

Until recently, scientists thought humans were the only species with the specialty brain neurons responsible for higher cognitive functions like self-awareness, a sense of compassion and language.

They were wrong.

Fifteen million years before humans, whales began evolving these special cells*, and now a strange phenomenon is occurring off the Baja coast of Mexico.

Humans have been slaughtering Pacific whales there for a long time, first with harpoons, now with sonar from Navy ships. Whales live a long time, up to a hundred years. Some whales alive today still bear the scars of harpoons. Many scientists believe that it is implausible to think the whales do not remember this or associate humans with death and anguish.

Yet, in the same area where humans hunted them nearly to extinction, then tortured them with sonar, whales are approaching humans and initiating contact. A  N.Y. Times article detailed the experiences of the reporter and the stories of locals who tell about mother whales approaching their boats, sometimes swimming under it and lifting it, then setting it gently down. Almost all the stories involve the whale surfacing, rolling onto its side to watch the humans–reminiscent of the surreal moment in the movie, Cast Away, when a whale rises from the night sea to regard Tom Hanks with an eye cupped with starlight, an eerie intelligence, and a gentleness that moves us, for we know the massive creature could kill the castaway with a nudge or a flick of a tail fluke.

These real grey whales off Baja swim close enough that people invariably reach out to touch them, and they allow it. One person, reflecting on the experience said, “I have never felt more beheld.” It seems reasonable–given the position the whales place themselves in–that they seek the contact. In many cases, a mother whale will allow her calf to do the same. There is no food involved in these exchanges, only a brief interlude of inter-species contact and rudimentary communication:  I come as friend.


Where will humans be in another hundred years? I suspect we will be technologically advanced, but emotionally pretty much the same, even in a thousand years or ten thousand. But what about a million years? Can we evolve (if we survive) to a more sane, more rational, more loving species with a broader sense of our place in the universe and in life itself? Is it possible that these creatures with 15 million years of intelligent evolution on us, might regard us as a young species, children who don’t really know better,  and grant us leeway for our mistakes? Grant us . . . forgiveness?

If we humans could only do such a thing!  Beat our swords into ploughshares, at least among ourselves. It’s unlikely, but we might yet be targeted by alien invaders, so we shouldn’t throw away all of our weapons. Even whales have enemies, and they do not hesitate to defend themselves when attacked and even take the battle to the enemy! Recently, there are increasing reports of whales, specifically humpbacks, who are defending not only their own against attacks of orcas, but other mammals, such as other whales, sea lions, fur seals or walruses. They only attack mammal-eating killer whales, not orcas that primarily feed on fish. They feed and fight in a coordinated manner, communicating with each other.

There is proof that we humans are capable of realizing the power of peaceful cooperation and partnerships. Not long ago, for example, a team of over 2,000 scientists representing six countries worked to determine the human genome, all 3 billion parts, and then made that data freely available on the Web.

Perhaps one day we will stop slaughtering the fellow creatures on this blue-and-cream jewel that is our world; perhaps we will make friends and share discoveries, meeting whales on the mutual ground (or sea) of respect.

Our survival may depend on it.

*New research is indicating that glial cells may be responsible for imagination, creativity and probably play a role in consciousness. Einstein’s brain had an abundance of these cells, especially in the area responsible for spacial awareness and mathematics. Mice injected with human glial cells became 4x smarter. Glial cells can communicate with each other (via calcium waves) and with neurons, even signalling neurons to fire. Although whales don’t have all the “levels” of a human brain (and so their thought processes are probably distinctly different), whales have a much higher ratio of glial cells to neurons than humans in the neocortex, the area thought to be responsible for intelligence.

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

Thursday, January 23, 2020

I Probably Shouldn't Tell You This by Juliana Aragón Fatula

colorado encyclopedia poet Juliana
check out some of my poetry

January 22, 2020

Dear Reader, 

I’ve been struggling with writing a synopsis for my mystery novel. I’m a novice novelist. I lack the confidence of say a Linda Rodriguez who is a master writer and has successfully written several novels and a book on writing mysteries. And even though I read her book, Stephen King’s book On Writing, and Ernest Hemmingway’s book on writing, I am just learning what they have been doing for decades. 

I have many writer friends and they all write great books, poetry, screenplays, non-fiction, memoirs, even songs. They inspire me. So does Shakespeare. I want to be dead for hundreds of years and still being read and loved.  I named my first character in my first novel, Shakespeare. I adore him. He is the giant, Rock Hudson, character only her has long hair, a beard, tattoo sleeves, and rides a Triumph. He’s sexy. And I named the other male character, Tony, and thought about killing him off, but all my beta readers begged me not to kill him and to write a love story, instead of a homicidal murder who dunnit. I settled for both.

My sisters, L.A. and Eva are not super-heroes but they are sheroes of sorts and I modeled them after compilations of chingonas I’ve known in my lifetime. Some are friends, relatives, strangers, and women like Gloria Anzaldüa. I tried to give them attitude and strength but also human flaws like we all have. One is scarred for life, the other exercises and kick boxes her angst away and hacks computers. The private investigators, L.A. and Eva, are the best Chicana P.I. team in the U.S.A.

I added gay uncles, a transgender woman, an Asian and Jamaican Detective because I love Asian and Jamaican culture, religion, language and the LGBTQ community. I want my characters to represent the world and country I live in and my friends are anything but straight, narrow, or conservative. My friends are the rabble razzers, the misfits, the irrerverent, the mystical, the curious, the bipartisan, liberal, educated, and compassionate humans that inhabit the planet.

So, if my writing offends you, you are not my audience and I did not write this book or poetry or plays or letters or emails, or texts, or tweets fo you. So, don’t buy this book. Don’t buy copies to gift to your friends and colleagues because they won’t read my book either. They don’t want to hear what I have to say. My mom said if you don’t have anything good to say… 

Synopsis for The Colorado Sisters by Juliana Aragón Fatula

The love of money, sex, revenge, jealousy, and a border wall divide our humanity from the most important kind of kindness. This love story reveals secrets, mysteries, crimes, sins, and memories for two Chicana Private Investigators, sisters, L.A. and Eva, who love each other and their uncle, T.O. Eddie and his husband Lawrence who love and supervise the girls’ adolescence when their parents die and leave them orphans in Denver. And the two white boys, Tony and Shakespeare, who love the two Chicana sisters, L.A. and Eva, through grade school, high school, college, grad school and follow each other’s careers into adulthood and life’s adversities and celebrations. And the love story about a transgender woman, Dotie, who saves lives and rescues suicidal teenagers who are discarded and forgotten because they dare to sashay out of the fucking closet and into the daylight. And the love story of two therapy pets, Border Collie puppies, Wesson and Smith, and their undying devotion and loyalty to their pet parents.

Denver, Colorado and Atlanta, Georgia are worlds apart and the Chicanas, L.A. and Eva, and the white boys, Tony and Shakespeare, keep their long distance love romances from blossoming until the Atlanta Butcher murders the playboy billionaire and Tony attends the wrong party at the wrong time and is the last person to see his boss alive, but not the only suspect: the escorts, the wife, the ex-wife, the neighbor, and the mystery night-stalker top Detective Chan’s and Jones’ list of possible homicidal maniacs capable of decapitating and mutilating the body of Reggie Hartless. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Release Day for An Unfamiliar Sea!

by Bethany Maines

An Unfamiliar Sea officially launches this week! An Unfamiliar Sea is a classic mystery with two sleuths: 28-year-old Tish Yearly and her 79-year-old grandfather Tobias.  Tish and Tobias navigate the rocky waters of living together in Tobias's house on Orcas Island in the San Juan Island of Washington state, solve murders, and try to keep their dog Coats from getting diabetes.

This series was inspired by the time I spent assisting my grandmother before she moved out of her house, my childhood trips to Orcas Island and by those enduring one hour mystery shows like Murder She Wrote, Matlock, and Psych.  For me those shows were always about enjoying the quirks and foibles of the characters as much as the mystery. I enjoyed the puzzle of working out how someone died, but I loved seeing how the strengths and weaknesses of the detective would play out each week and how they would triumph in the end. And if you ever read any of my books, you'll quickly realize that I like books with lots of chuckles and quick banter and these books are no exception. From Tish and Tobias arguing about condolence pie to the neighbors and who all have opinions on Tish's dating life I try to keep readers laughing too hard to figure out the mystery (but good for you if you do!).  So if you want a mystery that makes you smile and feels like an island vacation between two covers, then please take a trip to the San Juan's with Tish and Tobias Yearly.


In a storm, you never know which way is home.
Tish Yearly is about to open a wedding venue on Orcas Island, in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. All she wants is to sail through her first wedding, figure out why her best friend isn’t talking to her, and tell her grandfather she’s dating someone he doesn’t approve of. But before she can get to any of that, Tish’s favorite employee turns up dead—apparently drowned in four inches of water. Now Tish, and her grandfather, former CIA agent and current curmudgeon and licensed P.I. Tobias Yearly, are wading through the suspects including a meth-cooking uncle, a brother with anger-management issues, and the mysterious island drug kingpin, who may or may not be going straight. Tish is attempting to navigate this unfamiliar sea, but she may not be able to weather the storms to find her way home.

Learn more about Tish Yearly: Dru's Book Musings Character Interview
Buy the book: Amazon


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.

Monday, January 20, 2020


by Paula Gail Benson

For my first Stiletto Gang post of 2019, I wrote about how I wish I had not delayed reading two books, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Quiche of Death. In particular, I found that M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin series taught me about writing craft and structure.

Marion Chesney Gibbons (also known as M.C. Beaton and a string of other pseudonyms under which she wrote romance novels) lived a prolific writing life. She began working as a book store clerk. When given an opportunity to write a review for a local paper, in place of a reporter with a relative in the cast, she thought it was a mere substitution, then was handed tickets to another show and became the paper's critic. When she told her husband she could write better romances, she rose to the challenge and produced them. In each instance, from what might have been dismissed as inconsequential, she made careers.

In preparing this message, I looked at her website: www.mcbeaton.com. It contained notice of her passing, but directly above that was the message her latest book was available for pre-order. In addition, there were announcements about the Agatha Raisin television series being renewed. Along with several mystery series, her biography estimated that she wrote around 100 Regency romances. What an incredible body of work and what a wonderful memorial for a writer, that one's website would be active with word of forthcoming publications at the time of one's passing.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to hear National Sisters in Crime President Lori Rader-Day address our local chapter through Facebook Messenger. She spoke about the inspirations for her most recent work The Lucky One, which came from a conversation with a new neighbor over a fence, and her work in progress, which came from a line in an Agatha Christie biography. Her remarks reminded me that the idea pool is literally all around us. We just have to be open enough to listen to and receive the suggestions.

What are you working on this New Year? How did the idea come to you? Is a new idea swirling nearby, just waiting for you to reach out and grab it?

Best wishes for your happiest reading and writing year ever!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Killing Your Darlings

RIP Darling!
By Shari Randall

Of all the writing rules out there – and there are a lot – the one every writer knows is “Kill your darlings.” Stephen King expanded on this advice from William Faulkner (at least he did according to Google) and said “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” 

Darlings. Those lines of dialogue, those descriptions, those witty one liners that we writers love, that make us proud. That make us think, “that’s a good one. That’s writing!” The chapter that makes us laugh, or shudder as we sit at the keyboard. The character we enjoy so much we’d like to take him out to lunch. 

The problem is, well, there could be lots of problems, and the biggest is my reluctance to hit the delete button on those darlings. Stephen King is right – killing my darlings does break my egocentric little scribbler’s heart. I find myself arguing with, well, myself about the fate of those darlings:

The dialogue doesn’t ring true to the characters. But it’s funny…
The description is too long. But it’s sheer poetry!
That chapter is so exciting. But it doesn’t further the plot…
That character is so much fun to write. Does the world really need another homicidal prom queen?

But, but… I love my darlings, especially some of my characters. So I’m going to bid them a fond farewell here before I hit DELETE.

A fond pat on the head to Spumoni, the loveable mutt from Fairweather Farm.  Scrappy and loyal, tail always wagging, Spumoni was a little too good for his own good. I needed a farm pet that would get into trouble. So bye-bye Spumoni and hello Hairy Houdini, an irascible miniature goat who never met a pen he couldn’t escape.

The police department of my tiny Connecticut town had too many named characters, so thank you and farewell Officer Moskovitz, enjoy your retirement in Florida.

Ah, Lu Fairweather, slender and dark, with a strip of gray highlighting your artistic brow (probably because I was reading that biography of Susan Sontag while I was writing you). Au revoir. ! I will miss your feminine mystique, your dangling Elsa Peretti earrings, your French press coffee and no filter cigarettes, your air of disdainful sophistication. 

Have you had to kill any darlings lately? Feel free to give them a shout out below.

Shari Randall is the author of the Agatha Award winning debut, Curses, Boiled Again. Her latest book is Drawn and Buttered.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

New Way of Thinking

New Year, New Way of Thinking

By Cathy Perkins

I've been thinking about New Year’s Resolutions this week. Making them is ingrained in us, isn’t it? New year, new leaf, fresh start and all that. This year will be different! Everything is new and shiny!

Okay, confession: I only made a couple of vague resolutions. You know, “I’ll finish that online course I started, cough, cough, last year” ones.

So many people swear they’re going to change, to start doing the good for you stuff. Go to the gym. Eat healthier. And writers? This is the year you’re finally going to finish that, fill in the blank. Novel screenplay, memoire. You hear echoes of “work hard” and “sacrifice” and, if you really want it…

Why do our expressions for going after what we want to pursue—our goals, for heaven’s sake—come across as something negative? Why do we make them about things we clearly don’t want to do?
And what happens? Here we are, barely three weeks into January and mine are already headed for that big dump station in the sky.  

Then I stumbled across a post by Jennifer Crusie.

Jenny is a fantastic teacher. I met her several years ago when she taught a masterclass at the beach. I think my head exploded, I learned so much that week. So, when she says something, I tend to listen and think about it.

Her proposal is instead of choosing tasks that you know you aren’t going to carry through, focus on what makes you happy. Won't that be a better way to appreciate the good things in life? 

I’ve been thinking about happiness this week (instead of that class I’m not listening to). What makes me happy?

I love to travel, so I took advantage of Alaska Air’s sale and booked a few flights. And art. I’ve been playing with my kiln and fused glass for a while, but those pencils and watercolors are calling. There’s a shiny new book I want to write and this may be the year to screw up my courage and tackle the book that nearly made me quit writing.

So, what about you? How are your resolutions going? Did you make any?

Or would you rather jump on board my Happiness Train?

Image courtesy of Gross National Happiness USA organization. Find them here.

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.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

In with the new, out with the old

by AB Plum


Not a birthday.

Or anniversary.

Or personal celebration.

But … a memorable personal event. (Personal, versus of world import, namely the end of the Vietnam War). Following up on my non-NY's resolution to clean out 3 boxes of old manuscripts, I found the prologue to the first novel I ever composed directly on a typewriter.

An artifact, I know. An IBM Selectric, to be specific. (Affordable only because my husband worked for IBM and got a discount).

Before that momentous undertaking, I'd written thousands of words in cursive and then transcribed the manuscript to a typewriter.

That prologue, six typed pages, lay on top of eight legal pads with the story handwritten on the front and back pages. With no margins.

What amazed me—more than how bad the historical romance sucked—was how legible my handwriting was. I'd once taught adolescent boys and often wrote on another artifact—the blackboard (green, in my school). I also wrote in a diary and kept legible notes on my daily planner.

Today, my longhand is worse than when I copied that first Palmer cursive letter in early third grade. My keyboard skills, on the other hand, have increased my manuscript output to a level of proficiency and efficiency I'd never have achieved writing by hand.

Still, I miss placing pen to paper and producing elegant handwriting. (I possess zero visual artistic talent, but I am in awe of beautiful penmanship). Sometimes, when I am at an impasse at my keyboard, I take out an array of pens and free write until the Muse comes back from her break.

Or until my fingers cramp.  

Embracing my Luddite heart, I did a little research. Is cursive still taught in elementary schools? If so, what has replaced the Palmer method? Is printing easier to learn than script?

As with so many forays into cyberspace, I had to stop "researching" and resume pounding the keyboard. But the handwriting is on the wall …

"As we have done with the abacus and the slide rule, it is time to retire the teaching of cursive." (Morgan Polikoff, Asst Prof of the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education, May 2013, New York Times).

In other words, in with the new, out with the old.

What about you? Do you write or print notes on paper? Or do you prefer to text?

*** AB Plum, aka Barbara Plum, lives, works, and plays without an abacus or slide rule in Silicon Valley. Her next book, Through Rose-Colored Glasses, scheduled for release on February 17, is the second book in the Ryn Davis Mystery Series. 

Monday, January 13, 2020

Happy New Decade

We've dipped our toes in a new decade. So far, the 20s seem fine.

Decades are defined by food, fashion, politics, music, and media.

If you're familiar with my work, you know I write a series set in the 1970s. Officially fifty years ago (feel like yesterday--there's no way I can be this old).

I love writing about the 70s. It was a simpler time. No cell phones. No video games (yes, I remember Pong--but nothing blew up). Cars had actual keys (when she climbed into a car without a push-button start, my 18-year old had no clue how to turn it on). There were a limited number of television stations and everyone watched the same things (the playground wasn't a fun place to be if you missed Happy Days).

Granted, the 70s preference for polyester isn't my favorite. I get the no-iron idea but I've embraced the notion that linen is supposed to be wrinkled.

I visit the 70s most days on Facebook. Think JellO salads (what were they thinking?).

Also, questionable fashion (again, what were they thinking?) and general craziness.

I hope you'll join me in some historical silliness, and I wish you a happy new decade!

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.

Her newest book, Stayin' Alive, releases February 25, 2020.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Valuable Writing Advice from Other Writers - Heather Weidner

Debra here:  I'm a big believer in learning from others -- here's an example of writing advice that another writer, Heather Weidner, believes has helped her career.  I'll be back next month!  

Valuable Writing Advice from Other Writers - Heather Weidner

Thank you so much for letting me visit. I’m Heather Weidner, and I write the Delanie Fitzgerald mysteries, Secret Lives and Private Eyes, The Tulip Shirt Murders, and Glitter, Glam, and Contraband. I’m so excited about the third book in the Delanie Fitzgerald series. In this one, my sassy private investigator is hired to find out who is stealing from the talent at a local drag show. Delanie gets more than she bargains for and a few makeup tips in the process. She also uses her skills to track down missing reptiles and uncover hidden valuables from a 100-year-old crime with a Poe connection.

I have been writing for a while and a published author since 2014, and I have found that writing is often a lonely endeavor. I treasure my writer friends who are so generous with their time and advice. I am extremely grateful for all the authors who have shared their ideas, advice, and successes with me through the years. It is so helpful as you begin or move along your writing journey. Here are some key items that I’ve learned.

When I’m working on a new novel, I plot out a simple outline. I learned from Donna Andrews to color-code the different kinds of action in your outline, so you can see it over the course of the book. For example, I mark all romantic elements with pink, humorous items are orange, clues are green, etc.

I learned from Mary Burton to keep a running list of over-used words. Add to it as you write, and then at the end of each revision cycle, search your document and remove the culprits. She also calls your first draft the “sloppy copy.” This isn’t “the end” of your project. It’s the beginning of the revision cycle.

I learned from the late Kathy Mix to keep a list of character names for each book. Her rule was to name each character with a different letter of the alphabet. If she already had a Krissy, then she couldn’t have another character whose first name started with a “K.” I build a chart of characters for my books in a series. I create a column for each book and update where the characters appear. I also create a list of key locations. I enter all the important facts, so I can keep track of the details.

Mary Miley gave me some great advice about honing dialogue. She recommends cutting out the unnecessary pleasantries and chitchat that don’t move your story forward.

Elaine Viets said to know your genre and who is publishing in it. Do your research and know the conventions.

Lynda Bishop, my long-term editor, recommends that authors keep a timeline for each book to make sure all events are in order and make sense. This helps with pacing.

In one of her talks, Tina Glasneck told the group to create a calendar for each book launch. Mine starts three months before the launch and runs three months after. Plan all events, interviews, blogs, and media campaigns.

Jane Friedman tells writers that their platform grows from their body of work. An author’s website and blog should be at the center of this. Also, the website and blog should be on the same site.

Frances Aylor and Alan Orloff gave me the best advice for writing. Butt glue (Frances) or BICFOK (Alan). They’re essentially the same. If you want to be a writer, put your Backside in the Chair and Fingers on the Keyboard.

And my advice to writers is to cultivate your relationships with other writers. Join writer or critique groups. Build your network, share in their celebrations, and share writing and publication information that helps everyone learn and grow. 

Author Biography

Glitter, Glam, and Contraband is Heather Weidner’s third novel in the Delanie Fitzgerald series. Her
short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 Shades of Cabernet, and Deadly Southern Charm. Her novellas appear in The Mutt Mysteries series. She is a member of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, Guppies, International Thriller Writers, and James River Writers.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.

Heather earned her BA in English from Virginia Wesleyan University and her MA in American literature from the University of Richmond. Through the years, she has been a cop’s kid, technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager. 

Synopsis of Glitter, Glam, and Contraband

Glitter, Glam, and Contraband features a strong female sleuth with a knack for getting herself in and out of humorous situations like helping sleezy strip club owner, Chaz Smith on his quest to become Richmond’s next mayor, tracking down missing reptiles, and uncovering hidden valuables from a 100-year-old crime with a Poe connection.

Contact Information
Amazon Authors: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00HOYR0MQ

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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Review for Myriam Gurba's Mean by Juliana Aragón Fatula

Dear Reader,

My first post of 2020! Wow! I have a book I'd like to review for you. It's written by Myriam Gurba. Heard of her? She's one of my favorite writers. 

Myriam Gurba, author of Mean, a New York Times editors’ choice. O, the Oprah Magazine, ranked Mean as one of the best LGBTQ books of all time. 

“Gurba’s ‘queer art of being mean’ is a triumph of deadpan humor in a timely and thrilling voice. Stop everything and read this brave and tender book.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

Her novel blew my mind. I read it in 2018. It was sent to me by another writer, mi comadre, Aimee Medina Carr who wrote River of Love. I am reading Mean again. I read it when it first arrived. It was a surprise, unexpected, but not just because I wasn’t expecting a gift, but because the person sending the book to me knows me better than anyone knows me, and she chose me to send the book and when I read it, I felt so good, I wept, I laughed, I had serious conversations with myself and I gave in to my desire to write again. What I love about her writing is her sense of  humor, but also her ability to make me cry about life's injustices. She makes me laugh and cry and anyone who can do that by writing words deserves my praise. 

I’ve set a goal for myself to write to my favorite authors an tell them how their work impacted my life and my writing. I fell in love with Myriam and sent her a friend request on Facebook. I let her know how much her book moved me. She responded immediately. I've made it a habit to write to authors who inspire my writing. The authors who write back are so appreciative and some become friends. 

Her first chapter named "Wisdom" comes on strong to weed out the weak readers. If you can't handle that first story, you  can't handle Myriam. She's tough, a chingona, a badass.  So be warned. She's not light reading. She's serious about her writing and you better take her fully aware. She's mean. She writes, "The post-traumatic mind has an advanced set of art skills." That explains my passion for writing. I'm suffering from PTSD and I have an advanced set of art skills. So you know, of course I dig her.

Reviewers have said her book is true crime, memoir, ghost story, hybrid in form. She is confident, intoxicating, inspiring, queer magic, heartbreaking, intelligent, mesmerizing, and her sense of humor, there is no one like her. 

She inspired me to keep writing when I was about to quit. I thought I was wrong about my style of writing. She made me believe again that I'm right and have something to contribute. She made me realize that we have to tell our stories, no matter how heartbreaking because they heal others. She healed me. She is a literary Curendera, a healer. 

Myriam Gurba has a voice and energy meant to wake us up and move us to share our stories. They teach the next generation and someday the world will be a better place because of writers like Myriam. She gives us permission to be mean. 

She writes, "When was the last time you were mean for fun? When was the last time you were mean in the name of politics? Have you ever been mean for Jesus? When was the last time you tried to kill someone rather than let him into your club? When was the last time you wanted to kill someone but chose to be a bitch instead of a murderer?" 

I hate being mean, but for politics? Mean instead of killing someone with my stiletto? Hell, yes. Let's all be kinder to each other this year but be mean for fun. 

You have to read this author because if you don't you'll never know what I mean when I say be mean. Que no? 

Also, I want to write a poem to Myriam about her book Mean. Here it is. 

Your writing is magical. You found my heart, broke it, mended it with words, and made me laugh until I peed. Your work has a true place in this world. I want to shout to all the girls, read this book. It will make you a better person. I want all the boys to read Mean. I want gay boys, straight boys, trans boys, bi boys, all the boys to read your magic words, and go tell someone what they read, and how it made them feel. It should be required reading in high school. The libraries should have a waiting list to check out Mean. I wish my parents could have read Mean. I wish I could have read it to them on their deathbeds, so they could leave this world, and know I would be ok. I wish my younger self had met you in California and we could have talked about books, music, movies, life. I wish for you and your people a long life full of magic. Thank your for writing Mean.

reviews for Mean

purchase at Coffeehouse Press