Friday, February 28, 2020

Of Mice and A Girl –– 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 mouse propelled me into crime. I was twelve years old, and I didn’t like what I was seeing . . . or smelling. Most sixth grade science classes use frogs to dissect, but for whatever reasons, our teacher decided on mice, little white mice to be exact, with pink noses, tiny paws, and bright eyes. The mode of demise was to drop them into a large, acrid jar of formaldehyde and watch them drown in the awful stuff. Then we got to cut them open, a nasty business, but by then they didn’t feel anything.

By José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro, CC BY-SA 4.0,

It was the jar thing that got to me. It never occurred to me to confront the teacher.  I was way too shy. Most of the time, I felt disconnected from my classmates who viewed me as a bookworm, and therefore, suspect and strange. I failed cheerleading in the second grade, not able to comprehend why I was waving a pompom and jumping up and down. Reading and horses were my passions. The lone friend from third grade who fit that bill had been sent to a private school.

Boys were simply alien creatures, far beyond my ken or reach. Not so for the girl who sat behind me in science who opened my astonished eyes to the existence of a new world. Science was definitely not Sheryl’s forte. She majored in boys. In exchange for science homework answers, she let me read the carefully folded, passionate letters from one of her multiple boyfriends. One, I recall, left me breathless, if not from the content, simply that he wrote it in the middle of the night inside a closet by candlelight.

Sheryl was as disgusted at the mice, both the dissection and mice in general, as I was impressed and awed by her romantic exchanges, but I didn’t have the chance to plot with her. Instead, I debated internally with my discomfort, eyeing the box that held more victims waiting for torture in the following class periods. Not acting would make me an accomplice to more killings. But stealing was wrong, right? I balanced on the edge of a moral dilemma.

With the ringing of the bell signaling the end of the period, I made my decision. The teacher stepped outside into the hall to take up his monitoring duties. I dithered with my books and papers, nothing that would arouse suspicion since I always seemed to be the last person ready to go anyway. The rest of the class poured out, eager for the next period (the end of which they would just as eagerly await). Heart kicking in my chest, I casually walked behind the teacher’s wooden desk, squatted, opened the case, snatching the first ball of squirming white fur that came to hand.

The rest of the day, I sweated, certain my theft would be uncovered, but the plump little guy curled up in the pocket of my sweater and slept.  I didn’t dare share my crime with anyone, even Sheryl, maybe especially Sheryl, who was a node in the school communications network.

When I finally got home with my illegal gain, I officially named him Copernicus—after the 16th Century astronomer who proposed the radical theory that the planets revolved around the sun—giving homage to his science origin, and put him in an old birdcage. My father, as usual, was oblivious, and any objection could have been easily overcome by claiming mother had already approved, a tactic I had perfected on both of them. But my mother only raised her eyebrows at the new pet. I glibly lied, telling her the science teacher had purchased too many and didn’t mind me taking one home, and she didn’t ask too many questions.

Copernicus spent happy days crawling from one hand to the other, his tiny paws tickling; or curling up at the back of my neck under my hair for a nap while I read; or exploring the vast landscape of my bed. My dog, Samson, a collie mix, was fascinated, watching him down his long nose without blinking as long as the mouse was in eyesight, seeming to understand that any overt move would break the spell. Gradually, Copernicus seemed to lose his fear. At once point, they actually touched noses. I watched Samson almost as carefully as he watched the mouse, but Sam never gave any indication of aggressiveness. In fact, I think he was in love. 

Then one day, things went terribly awry.

Copernicus was missing from his cage. I saw movement in the corner under some scraps of newspaper he had torn from his bedding. To my surprise, it was a nest containing several tiny, naked things, and I realized that Copernicus had been Copernica all along.  With the births, she had lost her girth and squeezed through the bars of the cage.

Alas, I found her under the bed. Cause of death was a mystery. Other than being wet, there was no sign of any wound or broken bones, not even her neck. She was just dead. She had to have crawled there on her own, because Sam was too big to fit under the bed. I suspected at some point, however, he had put his mouth on her, perhaps to try and bring her to me. She may have had a heart attack or a problem related to giving birth. I will never know and only hope it was a better death than drowning in formaldehyde.

The episode was life changing. Although I liked science, I opted for Latin to avoid having to kill and cut on animals. The following year, I required major surgery to take out an appendix that had grown around my spine. It took two weeks to recover, and I did poorly on a Latin test. I did well in Latin, but it wasn’t because I could translate. Instead, my classmates and I were the recipients of a fellow student’s translation copies. Not sure where he got them and highly doubted he translated them himself. He would never say. In any case, since we knew in advance what excerpts of Julius Caesar’s The Gallic Wars we would be tested on, I simply memorized the hard parts and was a consistent “A” student in class. The hospitalization and recover period, however, cut off my access to the translations.

Whether the teacher knew what was going on or just put my poor performance off on my illness, I never knew. For whatever reason, she offered me an independent reading project as extra credit, which I eagerly agreed to. The book was A Pillar of Iron by Taylor Caldwell, a historical novel about the Roman philosopher, orator, and statesman, Marcus Tullius Cicero, who stood up to the corrupt politicians of his day, refusing to be bought off or to dishonor his beloved country or abandon his ideals.
He was assassinated. The story and its ending, which occurred while I was sitting on my bed—still my favorite reading spot—sent me into a bout of hysterical weeping that scared even my little sister. She ran upstairs for mother, who was not available. Reluctantly, I am sure, my father responded to the crisis.

Sitting on my bed, he approached the problem logically.  “What is wrong?”

I was unable to answer.

“What is wrong, baby?  Whatever it is, we will fix it.”

More crying. Probably snot running.

Becoming more and more concerned at my tears, my gasping for breath, and inability to respond as to the source of the problem, my father’s worry was evident. Being an engineer by education and mental alignment, he was ill equipped to handle his daughter’s distraught emotional state. Finally, he gave voice to the worst disaster he could think of, the nuclear option. Although I had just turned thirteen, he asked, “Are you pregnant?”

I shook my head and managed to say in halting gasps, “They . . . killed . . . him!” 

Appalled that the worst scenario he imagined might, in fact, not be the worst, that we might be dealing with a murder, possibly in my presence or, at the least, of someone I knew, he demanded, “Who?  Who was killed?

“They  . . . killed . . . Cicero!” I sobbed.

“Cicero?  Who is Cicero?”

Eventually, I was able to explain, but I never forgot the power of words and story. It sparked within me a desire to be a writer, a flame that has continued to burn for many years. Now it is a habit and passion I doubt I will ever forsake.  And if not for a mouse, I might have never have realized it, or perhaps I would have chosen another path, hopefully not a life of crime, but you never know.

Still, the mouse episode remains an illustration of life’s complexity and mystery.
Copernica had good days, days she might not have had. But maybe she was lonely without her fellows, in spite of her rescue and Sam’s attentions. I also don’t know why she decided to try a jailbreak.  Perhaps she wasn’t ready for motherhood. Who can know the mind of a mouse?  But she died because of me. I wasn’t able to save her newborns. I couldn’t decide if I had done the right thing, stealing her and being the proximate cause of her death. With all good intentions, sometimes things go wrong. Does the end justify the means or nullify the intent? Is a good deed still good if the consequences are not? Is a crime a crime, or is it—as everything else seems to be—entirely relative?

I’m still pondering, a fact that works its way with regularity into my writing.

T.K. is a retired police captain who writes Books, which, like this blog, roam wherever her interest and imagination take her.  Want a heads up on news about her writing and adventures (and receive two free short stories)? Go here.  Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, February 27, 2020

To Err is Human by Juliana Aragon Fatula

Juliana and Bennet revising her m.s. 2019

Dear Reader,

I've made mistakes in my life. Many mistakes. But the fact that people, loved ones, friends, have forgiven me taught me a lesson. To forgive is divine. Recently, I made a mistake and sent an email that was confusing and so the recipient mistook my message. It was not her fault. The fault was mine. This happens because we are so busy texting, tweeting, posting, and emailing and we forget to reach out and talk to each other like we used to do prior to the internet and the technology that has enveloped our lives.

I used to write letters to my family. I'd send cards, photos, and keep in touch with friends. Today, we have slipped into a new kind of communication and it has taken out the human element. I say we return to decency and begin talking to one another even if only for a moment. There is nothing like the sound of your loved one's voice to calm you when you are sad, or mad, or glad. The tone of one's voice conveys more than just words, it sends emotions. Our emails and tweets are void of emotions and can be confusing on the other end with no idea how to take the message. Was she kidding? Did he mean it when he called me a snob or was he joking? Is she mad at me or just annoyed. What did I say or write that has them so upset? I'm sure you've been in a predicament where you just didn't understand the message or the sender? So you send a reply and it gets worse.

I email hundreds of people and don't have their phone numbers. I don't remember phone numbers if I do have them because they are saved in my contacts and I type their name and their phone number appears.

One time, a family member sent me a text late at night and when I read it the next morning I was stunned. What had I done or said to make them so angry with me? Fuck, if I know. I decided to ignore the text and go on with my life. I suggest the same to you, dear reader. I've seen countless posts where people are arguing over bullshit and calling each other names because the personal touch has been removed and cyber bullying has taken over.

In the future, I plan on writing more letters sending more greeting cards filled with words of encouragement, hope, and wisdom. I save all the letters sent to me and when I read letters from those who have passed, it takes me to that moment when I last heard their voice. As a writer, I love hearing from readers who like my work and so I write to other writers to tell them how much their writing has made me feel. I think we should sit down once a month and write a letter to a writer and tell them how much their writing has influenced our lives. 

Writing letters instead of tweeting, texting, and posting might just be the answer to solving some of life's problems. World Peace and communication with kindness are on my to do list. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

By Genre!

By Bethany Maines

One of the best parts of the Stiletto Gang is hearing about the spectrum of genres that our authors work in.  I work in several and I know that can get confusing for readers, so here’s a primer of genres and how they apply to me.

Mystery – A detective either professional or amateur must attempt to solve a mystery, usually a murder.  In my San Juan Island Mystery series amateur detectives Tish (an ex-actress) and her grandfather Tobias (an ex-CIA agent) solve murders in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. 

Crime – The main plot revolves around some form of crime. There can be elements of deduction and mystery, but the main elements involve some sort of criminal behavior.  In my Shark Santoyo Series, Shark is attempting to navigate his way out of the criminal life, but faces enemies on both sides of the law. 

Thriller – While a mystery detective finds a crime and steps in to solve things, the thriller protagonist has the crime happen to them and must fight their way out to simply get back to his or her ordinary life.  In my Deveraux Legacy Series, the Deveraux family must face a series of antagonists who seek to bring them down. 

Romance – A book where the relationship between the two protagonists takes center stage.  The best part about Romance is that like a good wine, it pairs well with anything.  Most of my novels contain an element of romance, but not all of them push the romance to the forefront.  But in the Deveraux Legacy series, each of the cousins will find love while battling the baddies, making the series genre “Romantic Thriller”.  
Want a free romantic thriller from me?  Get Blue Christmas today:

Science-Fiction – Sci-fi explores the future of science and humanity as they intertwine.  I participate in an anthology series called Galactic Dreams that translates fairy tales to science-fiction.  Each author in the anthology assists in building the shared universe of Galactic Dreams, meaning that each of our stories share the same background, timeline and rules.

Fantasy – Fantasy stories contain elements of magic and wonder.  My mother read us The Hobbit when we were quite young and so I always assumed that fantasy was something that everyone enjoyed. Then I grew up and realized that some people think that it’s not “real” literature (what does that even mean?!) and sometimes hate it for appearing to have no rules if magic can simply make things happen.  So fantasy is my little secret.  I don’t write a lot of it, but I periodically dabble to make myself happy.   

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

Tuesday, February 25, 2020


By Lynn McPherson
Some say writing is a lonely profession. There is an assumption authors sit solo in a quiet room day after day, typing away on a computer as the rest of the world carries on around them. There are days I’ve felt like this—after a long stretch of typing, getting up and walking outside, my eyes squinting at the bright sunlight coming down from above. Writers need a space where they are not distracted and can focus on transferring their thoughts into words.

Outside of writing time, however, I would argue that being involved with the greater community is a valuable and important part of being an author. We no longer have to toil alone in a dark corner lit only by the flame of a small candlelight. With the connectivity of the world today, it is almost essential to get outside of one’s comfort zone and interact with others. I’m not talking about random conversations at your local coffee shop—I mean joining established groups who have dedicated themselves to helping authors connect. There are several groups like this. I will highlight a few that have helped me build my community of support and fostered relationships that have become an important part of my life.

First of all, there is Sisters In Crime. SinC is an international network made up of thousands of authors, readers, and associated professionals from around the globe. It was founded in the mid-eighties. Since then, they have never lost focus on their mission, “to promote the ongoing advancement, recognition and professional development of women crime writers.” They have been instrumental in helping to develop many authors careers through their network of mentoring, online and local chapter communities, as well as education and promotion.
There is also Crime Writers of Canada (CWC), akin to groups such as Mystery Writers of America and The Crime Writers’ Association in the UK. I am the Toronto representative for CWC and have had many friendships develop as a result of my participation in the group. The mission is “to promote crime writing in Canada and to raise the profile of the genre’s established and aspiring authors.” Through my time as a member, I have made valuable connections and had a lot of fun.
 I would encourage writers at any stage of their career to reach out to their peers. It is a great way to meet like-minded people and throw about ideas about the industry, their career, and their work-in-progress, too. Who else are you going to find with so much enthusiasm when listening to ideas about how to kill off a fictional character?
There is so much fun to be had and always something to learn. Go ahead and see what you can find. The writing community is there for you!

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, February 24, 2020

2020 and J.D. Robb by Dru Ann Love

2020 is here and we are already in the second month and with this post heading into the third month also known as my birthday month.

When 2020 starts, it means reader/fan conventions will soon be upon us. For the first time in several years, I’m not going to Left Coast Crime. I had planned to take an action, but the alignment that I needed wasn’t in the cards, so I’ll be missing LCC.

The next reader/fan convention I will be attending is Malice. This is by far my favorite event and 2020 is my eleventh year attending. It’s great to see friends you don’t see for a year and meet new ones that you meet via social media.

But before that, my first event of the year was attending a book signing with the one and only Nora Roberts aka J.D. Robb. The book signing was for Golden In Death, the 50th book in the In Death Series. The main reason for my attendance was for her to sign my book, and to see my photo in the inside jacket of the book cover. So how did that happen?

Her publisher put out a call for her J.D. Robb readers to submit a selfie with one of her book covers. When I first came on Facebook, I took a selfie of me wearing shades sitting in front a bookcase holding her book. I did not suspect I would win, because I never win a contest, but lo and behold, I got an email saying my photo made it in and I could not wait to see it.

So, my friends and I trekked to Boonsboro, MD and Turn The Page Bookstore and bought our book before it hit the shelves. It pays to own the bookstore and other properties in the area. I opened the book, scanned and gave out a yelp, because I found my photo. While waiting our turn to get our book signed, we dined at Vesta, yes, another location owned by Nora. But the best part was as I got closer to Nora, it was decided that she would stand, do I got my picture taken with a standing Nora.

The photos below tell the story of a wonderful adventure.

Turn The Page Bookstore

The signage

The tribe. Photo courtesy of Eleanor Cawood-Jones

Inn BoonsBoro

Vesta Pizzeria and Family Restaurant

Golden In Death

Inside jacket cover of Golden in Death featuring collage of selfies with a photo of a J.D. Robb book

Nora Roberts and ME!

A photo within a photo. Courtesy of  Eleanor Cawood Jones

My photo within the collage. Courtesy of Michael G. Mueller

What adventures do you have waiting for you?

Friday, February 21, 2020

PLA here I come!

by Shari Randall

Next week I’ll be at the Public Library Association conference in Nashville, Tennessee. I’ll be signing at the Sisters in Crime booth 1745 on Thursday, February 27, at 3 pm. I hope you’ll stop by to say hello!

Writers have to evaluate each conference they attend, carefully consider how precious time and money will be spent. Attending library focused conferences, especially one geared to librarians who work in public libraries, is a no-brainer for me.

Public librarians, like booksellers, have a unique relationship with readers. In polls of most trusted professions, librarians always top the list. They know what we read, what we say we read and don’t finish, and which books come back tattered, water stained, and well loved. They know which books have waiting lists and which award winners are returned time after time unfinished.

Librarians have a sharp eye for breakout writers and popular titles. A year before the whole world went crazy for vampire books, librarians were sharing news of a book called Twilight that they couldn’t keep on the shelves.

That’s why I’m eager to go to PLA – I can’t wait to see what books are on the librarians’ radar for 2020 and beyond. I know I'll come back with a suitcase full of ARCs and ideas.

What conferences do you enjoy?

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Technology and Moving with the Times

by Kay Kendall

Historical mysteries are my favorites among all crime fiction. When plotting my own books, I like to show how patterns of human nature repeat down the decades, no matter what historical age one reads about. I also confess that I relish the details that show past eras—the changes in language and attitudes, in styles of dress and architecture. Also, by not setting my stories during the present day, I can focus more on character. Not for me the world of high tech and CSI tricks. I prefer to delve into people’s personalities—to discover what makes them tick—and what causes them to murder.

But last summer I had to write about more modern technology than I like to do in my plotting. I moved from writing a storyline set in 1923 (AFTER YOU’VE GONE) to a novella that takes place in 1989. Yikes. In the Bullet Book named ONLY A PAWN IN THEIR GAME, we had to introduce a few cell phones. This put me into shock.

When author Manning Wolfe asked me to write for her Bullet Book Speed Reads project, there was a snag. She didn’t want historical mysteries. Luckily, we compromised and settled on 1989—a time that was old enough for me but not too long ago for her.

That’s how ONLY A PAWN IN THEIR GAME landed in the tense summer of 1989. The Communist hold on Eastern Europe was coming apart at the seams. The metaphorical Iron Curtain was being shredded, and the REAL Berlin Wall was quaking. Emotions ran high in international diplomatic--and SPY--circles. Into this hot cauldron of intrigue we dropped our protagonist, Ms. Sammy Strauss.

Because this was a joint project with Manning, we had to agree on most everything, and at least from my point of view, the project went along smoothly. Toughest for me to cope with though, I must say, was how much new-fangled stuff to decide to add to the plot. Manning remembered more digital gizmos than I did for the time period. That difference intrigued me. The only reason I came up with to explain that difference was that in 1989 she lived in Austin, Texas, and I lived in Ottawa, Ontario. She had a cell phone, and I didn’t until 1991, and by that time I too lived in Texas. (On the other hand, ATMs were widespread in Canada in 1983, well before they became ubiquitous in the US.)

The story of the unexpectedly exciting—and dangerous—summer of 1989 shows Ms. Sammy Strauss flying from her home in Houston, Texas, to Vienna, Austria. Although she expects a carefree time serving a summer internship at the US Embassy in Vienna, that’s not what she ends up with.

I’m not used to writing about instantaneous communication, and fortunately, in 1989 the digital revolution had not yet gotten into full swing. Sammy mentions that her cell phone doesn’t work in Europe, and so she puts it away. Good, it doesn’t figure into the plot. She uses hotel phones and receives notes from the handsome stranger she meets on the plane ride from Texas to Austria. These written notes play an important role in the plot as competing spy rings clash in desperation and encroach and then threaten her life. Is the attractive man interested in her because he is headed for romance—or is he really trying to use her as a pawn?

Plotting on my next mystery is now underway. Again I must face more advances in technology. Although I'm not terribly happy about that, I'll have to deal with it. The story begins a year after the conclusion of Sammy’s red hot summer in Vienna, when she meets up with the cast of characters from my Austin Starr mysteries. And thereby hangs my next tale, TANGLED UP IN BLUE. (Maybe I will give Austin or Sammy a cell phone with a blue case.)

Yes, that’s another song title by Bob Dylan, and it's perfect for one of the crimes I have planned. The year is 1991 with flashbacks to 1970. At least there won’t be cell phones in those flashbacks.
Award-winning author Kay Kendall is passionate about historical mysteries. She lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Visit Kay at her website
or on Facebook

Monday, February 17, 2020

Love and Presidents are in the Air

by Paula Gail Benson

This year, the two mid-February holidays--Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day--happen to border a long celebratory weekend. As part of the “love fest,” I’ve been encouraging folks to consider a recent anthology to which I contributed.

Love in the Lowcountry features stories that take place during the winter holidays, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, but the location of each story, Charleston, S. C., is well worth a virtual vacation during any time of the year. The anthology includes stories from experienced as well as debut authors, some sweet and others for mature audiences, some present day while others take place in historical periods. My story, “Wisest, Swiftest, Kindest,” allows two English graduate students to time travel back to Charleston of 1936 to meet DuBose and Dorothy Heyward at the new Dock Street Theater following the year that Porgy and Bess failed on Broadway. Some of the stories have paranormal elements. All provide delightful couples finding their own happy endings.

If you would like to do a little combination reading for the holidays, why not check out some books about Presidential love stories? Here are a few you might want to consider:

Mount Vernon Love Story (2002), first issued as Aspire to the Heavens (1969), was Mary Higgins Clark’s first novel. It was inspired by research she conducted for a radio program about George and Martha Washington’s relationship.

My Dearest Friend: the Letters of Abigail and John Adams (Harvard University Press, 2010) features correspondence from forty years between the second President and his wife.

Irving Stone’s The President’s Lady (1996) and Patricia Brady’s A Being So Gentle (2011) survey the romance between Rachel and Andrew Jackson.

Courting Mr. Lincoln (2019) is Louis Bayard’s novel told in alternating voices by Mary Todd and Lincoln’s roommate Joshua Speed to reveal the complex, often misunderstood relationship between the President and his wife.

Kristie Miller’s Ellen and Edith (2014) explores the lives of Woodrow Wilson’s wives and their influence on the President and the country.

George and Barbara Bush: A Great American Love Story by Ellie LeBlond Sosa (the President and Mrs. Bush’s granddaughter) and Kelly Anne Chase, with a Foreward by President George W. Bush, tells about the seventy-seven year love story between the 41st President and his beautiful bride.

What are you reading for the Valentine’s Day/Presidents’ Day weekend?

Friday, February 14, 2020

10 Days of Promotion by Debra H. Goldstein

10 Days of Promotion by Debra H. Goldstein

Writing is often referred to as a lonely or introverted activity. Successful promotion, on the other hand, requires one to be gregarious, friendly, and “on.” If you hand me a microphone, I can take on the characteristics of a comedienne, but the reality is I’m shy. So, why did I recently take on a four city in ten days promotional tour? Insanity? A personal challenge? Stupidity? A detour side trip addition of one city to meet my son’s girlfriend?

Probably, for every reason cited above.

On Friday, January 3, I flew to Houston for a book discussion and signing with Kay Kendall
at Murder by the Book on Saturday, January 4. We planned this gig months in advance – months
before we knew that at the exact time we scheduled the event, Texas would be in the playoffs. Kay and I were very thankful to the 30 plus folks who obviously weren’t sports fans who came to the store and for the over 1 million who dropped in on the live stream. It was my first-time live streaming and it was great to hear from people all over the country who watched it. What a great signing…. and if you aren’t aware, what a wonderful store.

I caught the last plane out of Houston to Denver. Boy, was I sweating considering Denver had snow a day or so earlier. I had visions of the plane being cancelled, but it wasn’t. Got to Denver, saw my youngest son close to midnight, and by noon I was at The Book Bar for a signing. A combination bookstore, coffee and other items bar, I fell in love with how they’ve pulled off the   (yes, I liked her)
concept. Also appreciated all the friends of my son who gave me a standing room only audience. This was one time I’m glad he’s never met a stranger. Of course, meeting his girlfriend and her mother while trying to do a book talk about my life was an eerie feeling, but again, all went well.

Tuesday morning, I left snow on the streets Denver and flew to Scottsdale for a dream come true. When I began writing, a friend told me that if I could get a signing at The Poisoned Pen, my career would have credibility. I don’t know about that, but I can tell you that I’m a super fan of The
Poisoned Pen. Not only are there books galore and a warm and engaging staff, but the hanging pictures of authors who have spoken there sometime in the past thirty years was wonderful to see. (Some of the authors still had hair when they made their first visit to The Poisoned Pen). I also appreciated some special people coming out to join the audience.

That night, or should I say morning, it was red-eye time. I landed in Birmingham on Thursday morning, did laundry, slept, and jumped
in the car to make Memphis before a predicted storm blew me off the road.

Not only was it fun visiting friends, but the Sunday book discussion and signing at Novel was with a friend, Beth (Jaden) Terrell. Always fun to play off each other (we were on a panel together at the Southern Book Festival) and we both adored the story of Novel. When this local bookstore was going to have to close, people in the community raised the money to take it over and keep it going. And that’s an understatement. The store is full of books and people who love books.

The tour finished the next morning with an appearance on Live at 9 on Memphis television station WREG-TV. Marybeth Conley is very generous to authors --- and a great reader of our books. You can watch the interview here .

I drove home and was tired, but I’d do it all again in a moment. Do you like attending bookstore events? Leave a comment and have a chance to win a copy of One Taste Too Many, the first in Kensington’s Sarah Blair mystery series.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Author Events

by Bethany Maines

Like the Olympics author readings are cause for applause (from the audience), tears (usually from the author over their story), and gasps of surprise (like when someone literally falls out of their chair).  Unlike the Olympics, these events usually go better with alcohol. 

I recently participated in Noir at the Bar Seattle a quarterly reading event that brings together a variety of authors to share their work.  The entire purpose of the evening is to delight the audience with tales of crime, murder and debauchery.  And the latest event was no exception.  From serial killing teenagers to con men and a very threatening masseuse each tale took the listeners down a different dark alley.  Located at the aptly named Alibi Room at Seattle's Pike place market (near the gum wall, for those who have been) the venue provided excellent atmosphere.

I enjoy the opportunity to read in public, but this wasn't always the case.  It's nerve wracking to reveal any artistic work to the judgement of the public, but then having to be the vehicle for that art, whether it's dance or some other type performance, puts the judgement not just on the work itself, but on the performer.  Or in other words, you're all staring at meeeeeeeee! 

What has helped me is to realize that the act of reading is separate from the story itself.  I can have the perfect story, but if I biff the performance then no one will know.  In order to present my beautiful baby story to the world in the best way I must ovary up and give it a proper introduction.  Fortunately, my introduction for Tammy Loves Derek, a happy-go-lucky tale of gold-digging and revenge went well.  Perhaps in the future I will be able to find it a nice publication to match it up with.  But I will definitely be looking forward to the next opportunity to share my words with an audience.

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

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

A date with TED

by AB Plum aka Barbara Plum

Between the ages of 4 and 6, I spent every Saturday night with either my grandmother or my cousins. I loved stayovers at both places because reading the Sunday newspapers occupied us from seven to bedtime at nine on Saturday!

First, though, we went "uptown" to the local drugstores and bought 3 different sets of big-city newspapers--depending on whether it was cousins or grandmother.

Times change.

A lifelong newspaper reader, I find myself turning more and more to other sources for news or ideas to satisfy my "fix". In addition to news magazines, books, NPR, and PBS, I read select articles and op-ed pieces online.

Come every Sunday, though, I open my weekly TED app and settle back.

The tactile experience of reading a newspaper and inhaling the smell of ink and paper is offset by the great graphics nearly every outstanding speaker brings to her seven to twenty-minute talk. The visuals bring back happy memories of lying on my stomach as a four-five-six-year-old on Saturday evenings and devouring the comics. There were enough "funnies" to carry over to Sunday after church.

Almost all of those classic strips have disappeared. Dr. Morgan still runs in my local paper, but Mary Worth got axed some years ago.

And what happened to Brenda Starr, model for millions of young girls on the cusp of grasping the idea women could have careers? Brenda and Little Orphan Annie ended in 2011—Annie despite the phenomenal Broadway hit.

My current favorite comic, Red and Rover, may appeal because it feels like the strips I recall from my childhood. Red runs daily in some newspapers, but since it appears only on Sundays for me, it is not addictive.

TED, for me, is addictive, but I limit my dates to 1 hour weekly. Otherwise, I could spend a full day—as I did long ago every Sunday reading my newspaper—listening to TED talks on every topic imaginable and many subjects beyond my imagination.

Hard science, social science, art, history, interpersonal relations, math, brain research, business, education, economics, technology, creativity insights delivered by often humorous but always informed speakers open up a world rarely explored by newspapers.

The only drawback with TED is I don't get the day's headlines. And probably not yesterday's current events either. So, I'm not ready to cancel my newspaper subscription. 

When AB Plum and her alter-ego, Barbara, aren't writing about murder, mayhem, and romance, they live, work, and read in Silicon Valley--just off the fast lane. AB's latest mystery novel, Through Rose-Colored Glasses, appears on March 6 but is now available for preorder at a discounted price.

Through Rose-Colored Glasses: A Ryn Davis Mystery (Ryn Davis Mystery Series Book 2)

Monday, February 10, 2020

Falling in love with Dylan Thomas

From our archives …a blog about the impact of words ... Julie Mulhern's December 14, 2015 memories of

Falling in love with Dylan Thomas

One night, very soon, I will escape to the living room with a glass of wine. The lights on the Christmas tree will glimmer and I will turn on the CD player.

No music.

At least not music as my teenagers understand it.

I will listen to Dylan Thomas recite A Child’s Christmas in Wales. I will listen to the music of words strung together like pearls, perfect and shining brighter than the lights on my tree.

I remember the first time I heard A Child’s Christmas in Wales. I was a child, left in a running car (cut my father some slack—it was the seventies and I was nine or ten, old enough to lock the doors). The day was gray and foggy. My seat was warm. My father needed to speak with a mechanic…I think. At any rate, I was left alone.

I sat in the Oldsmobile, listened to Dylan Thomas, and fell in love with language.

Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed. But here a small boy says: "It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea."

"But that was not the same snow," I say. "Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely -ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards."

Maybe one of these days, I’ll tell my father the greatest gift he ever gave me was leaving me in the car with Dylan Thomas.

Happy holidays to all!