Thursday, May 28, 2020

Funky Reggae by Juliana Aragon Fatula

May 28, 2020

Dear reader,

Covid 19 took my wits and sense of humor and smashed them against the wall. The societal changes brought on by the global pandemic brought racism to the headlines. I sat among the lilacs, poppies, columbines and iris and sang with the birds in the apple tree above me. I listened to the wind speak and felt the breath of mother nature blow on my brown skin with tenderness and love. The dogs barked, the train whistle blew, the prison siren gave its seven a.m. wake up blast, and I gazed at the heavens and counted my blessings.

My husband and son are my blessings. They give me unconditional love and sometimes a bit of heart ache because they worry me and anger me and make me feel very sad sometimes.
I have many friends all over the U.S.A. far and near. Most friends share the love of writing with me and we correspond about writing conferences, workshops, contests, literary panels in academia. But they also give me what my family cannot. Support for my writing.

My friends understand that if I didn’t write, my life would drive me crazy. I’ve tried not writing and I tend toward nervous breakdowns when I don’t write. I get pissy and complain about doing dishes and mowing the lawn. I realize the problem is not the dishes but me. I long to put pen to paper or fingers to my keyboard and just write without interruptions or people asking me where the can opener or spatula can be found.

My love of writing began at childhood. I didn’t know then that I would grow up to be a writer, an educator, an activist. I thought I’d be a maid like my mother and older sisters. And I spent some time cleaning toilets and scrubbing rich ladies’ floors. I knew as a teenager that my life would not be fulfilled unless I grabbed it by the short hairs and took charge of my destiny.

First, I cleaned toilets. I went to business school and learned to type. I became a telephone operator for Ma Bell in my hometown and once listened in on a famous couples’ intimate conversation about her being pregnant and not being married to the father. I kept their secret.

I moved to the city and began my career in Denver as a Central Office framer, connecting telephone lines, security systems, climbing ladders with soldering irons and pulling cables. I became a yuppy and worked for major corporations typing, answering phones, and copying documents.

I moved to Southern Colorado and went to college, graduated at fifty years old, earned a degree, and began writing.  I taught middle school language arts and teatro in my community. I published a couple of poetry books with small presses in Denver and began my life as a writer, attending poetry readings, books signings, and writing workshops.

I retired from teaching in public schools and became a writer in residency and taught writing workshops for Bridging Borders, and Colorado Humanities Writers in the Schools. I found my niche. I found happiness.

I’m semi-retired. I still perform on stage reading my poetry, signing books, teaching writing workshops, and I do the dishes and mow the lawn. I’ve found a peace. I had to experience all of the bullshit in my life to get where I am today. It made me who I am.

Friends call me a goddess. I don’t know why, but they love me with a force I can’t understand. They push met to be a better person, a goddess. They know I have the ability to rise and do something powerful with my words. I continue to write, dream, hope, and count my blessings. The world has changed. The climate has changed. The rules have changed. I believe in One World, One Love.

“Count your blessings.” I said. I moved into my new room. A room of my own.  I changed my life.
Collie Buddz sang to me, “Smoke, drink, and love to some reggae. I’ve got weed and a bottle of booze. All I wanna doooo is smoke, drink, and love to some reggae. I don’t know ‘bout you, but I can only live my life one way. Kinky reggae.”

Thirty years of sobriety in 2020. I write. I’m a storyteller.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Finding Inspiration...

By Lynn McPherson

In a time of chaos and stress, writing fiction can be challenging.  Everywhere we look, there is tragedy and loss. There are always stories of hope to be found, but sometimes the world can bring us down. Today I’d like to share some ideas about how and where to find inspiration for our creative minds.

The first one is to get outside. Leave all devices at home and just walk, or ride, or roll. Whatever your favourite way to enjoy the outdoors, now is the time to do it. What better distraction from all the heavy news and numbers of the day than bright flowers and budding trees? Taking time to feel the sun, the wind, even the rain is worthwhile. It makes you feel good and gets your blood flowing. If you want your mind to move, start with your body. I’m always a sucker for a walk in the woods. In the last few weeks, I’ve been lucky enough to spot deer, foxes, and even coyotes.  What are your best sightings?

Another way to get excited about writing is by finding some new authors that excite you. Reading great books is invigorating and fun. I’ve been reading an excellent Canadian thriller author, Shari Lapena, whose stories have kept me up at night. Another new favourite is Tana French. Her stories are absolutely gripping, leaving me amazed at the detail she puts into her descriptive and lyrical passages. What about digging out some old favourites? I’m always up for reading one of my favourite classic cozy authors, Rita Mae Brown or the hilarious and educational Bill Bryson. They make me feel good and are always fun to revisit.

My final suggestion is to get up early. Why? It’s the best time to work without distraction. My best work is always in the dark hours before sunrise. My coffee maker is set for five o’clock. I come downstairs to the only quiet time in my house, before the kids are up, the phone is ringing, and the news starts seeping in from the radio or television. It is my focus time. When the alarm goes off I’m not always excited to hear the ring, but I never regret the time it gives me to work on my writing and feel a sense of accomplishment first thing. It’s a great way to start the day. Not everyone is an earlybird like me. But it’s worth giving it a shot. After a week, if you’re still bleary eyed and no further along in your manuscript or project, give it up and hit the snooze.

I’d love to hear more ideas and suggestions for finding inspiration. Feel free to send yours in.

In the meantime, set that alarm and get to bed early.

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, May 25, 2020

An Interview with Jessica Riley Miller

by Paula Gail Benson

Jessica Riley Miller with husband Chuck Miller at her first signing. (Her short story is in The Big Bad II anthology.)
Jessica and I initially met as members of the Inkplots Writing Critique Group. I’ve always loved Jessica’s wonderfully inventive imagination and intriguing descriptions. We’ve gotten closer as roommates at two Bouchercons and working with others to develop the Palmetto Chapter of Sisters in Crime, which will virtually host its Mystery in the Midlands conference on Saturday, July 25, 2020, with Jessica’s fav Charlaine Harris as guest of honor.

This week, Jessica debuts her paranormal series with a novella followed by rapid release of three novels during late summer and fall. It’s an amazing publishing journey, but I’m not surprised. Jessica has always exhibited the drive, will power, organizational skills, and writing craft to balance teaching, marriage, motherhood, and authorship. I hope you’ll take the time to discover her work. I promise you’ll be delighted!

Jessica, thanks for joining us at The Stiletto Gang!

Tell us about yourself and why you wanted to be an author.

Sometimes you pick your passions, and sometimes your passions pick you. I’ve always loved stories, especially mysteries, so writing feels kind of inevitable.

What is your series about and who is the main character?

They are supernatural mysteries in the tradition of Charlaine Harris’s True Blood series and Karen Marie Moning’s Faefever series, with heavy doses of romance and the unexpected.

In the novella, Jade’s obsessed with reading conspiracy theory tabloids, the more outrageous the better. To the amusement of her friends, she finds them a comforting escape from her every day worries. It only makes sense when she accepts an internship at the best tabloid around, believing it will give her a carefree summer.

Unfortunately, any illusion of comfort vanishes when Anthony, an attractive young lawyer, enlists her help. He claims the tabloid’s keeping a dark secret that threatens his job. When Jade starts investigating, she learns the paper isn’t an escape from the truth at all. Suddenly, her normal life becomes eclipsed by the paranormal.

But knowing the tabloid’s secrets make her position vulnerable, and suddenly it isn’t just Anthony’s livelihood at risk. Her life is too.

The rest of the series picks up from her best friend Maggie’s perspective, ten years later.

Your series is independently published. What made you decide to take that step?

Jade's story--to be released this week!
My answer here actually starts with a conflict, as all good stories do:

This series is the main reason my fantastic literary agent and I parted ways. She was interested in a different kind of story from me, but I couldn’t let this series go.

The characters kept speaking to me, and I needed to get the drama out of my head and onto the page. It was almost compulsive. I have seven other manuscripts, several of which I will return to, but I had to get this series out into the world. By choosing indie publishing, I am able to obsess over the stories I can’t let go.

I’m also able to release them on my own schedule. I’ve been working on them for years, mainly at 5 am, or in the car, or on Saturday afternoons—and now, I’m ready to share them.

Plus, I’ve been able to build my own team. That’s been an unexpected bit of awesomeness. I adore my editor. I’m fanatical over my cover artist. They are my people, and I picked them—they do excellent, flattering work for me and my stories, making me look much better than I could on my own.

Why are you beginning with a novella, then rapidly releasing several novels?

I’m appealing to binge-watching culture, really. There’s nothing I enjoy more than diving into a world that I can splash around in, so I’m trying to give that to my readers. Come on in, stay awhile, the water’s fine.

Plus, I want to make sure readers are getting the experience they want. That’s why I’m releasing my novella first, for free. Check this out, see if you like it. If you do, I’ve got all these other books coming. If this isn’t your thing, high five and have a great day. Nothing’s lost on either side.

What has been your greatest challenge and greatest delight in writing and producing this series?

My greatest challenge has been scraping out the time I need to dream and write and work on the ever-important author platform. I’ve got a full time job, a wonderful husband, and a darling one-year-old. While I’m fortunate to have a full family life and a job I like, there are only so many hours in a day, you know?

My greatest delight has been the dreaming, or what some folks call plotting. My daydreams become reality on the page, as characters move through mazes I’ve created, solving their mysteries and unearthing secrets as old as the world. It’s empowering and fun. I love that part.

What’s next? Will this character or the world you’ve created appear in other books or stories?

Ha! I’m laughing because there’s so much more where this came from. So, this novella is Jade’s story. The next few books are Maggie’s story (Jade’s best friend), and she’s got at least three books worth of drama, y’all. One of her love interests, Adam, has a short story already written. I’ll give that to my newsletter subscribers for free later this year. I also have a tie-in series with the first book already written. I’m excited about that one. It takes place on the beach in Florida and starts with a faerie on the run. It could be looking at a 2021 release.

Thank you, Jessica, for being with us! Best wishes on all your upcoming releases. May your stories reach a wide audience and be thoroughly enjoyed!

Jessica with her precious daughter Marlowe, who already loves books!
Short Bio: You will often find Jessica Riley Miller behind a stack of books. However, she won’t stay hidden for long as her voice (ahem) carries. Jessica’s been writing stories for over a decade. In her spare time, she works with some of the best people in the world: English teachers. She lives in the land of South Carolina, somewhere between Westeros and 221B Baker Street. Her husband, daughter, and tiny elfin dog provide constant amusement and inspiration. Check out her website or sign up for her newsletter at

Friday, May 22, 2020

Wisteria Wars and Creativity in the Time of Covid—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.

Most people assume, as a writer, that I'm eating up the hours a little virus has bequeathed to us by WRITING. They would be wrong. Yes, I am working on a novel, but it's in the editing stage. That means I'm calling on some craft skills, but mostly just plain old boring, repetitive checking for errors.
This piece is the first thing I've actually tried to pull from the creativity well, and I have no idea where it will go. But that is okay. I give myself permission to ramble and see if anything worthwhile will arise. (I encourage you to do the same.)  So here we go.

I'm fortunate to live on several acres of property surrounded by beautiful woods. Our nearest neighbors are cows. For the ten years before we moved here, I lived in the city, and tried to grow on a tiny patch of land what I felt was the most gorgeous of plants—a wisteria vine. For whatever reason, the one I planted with hopes of it gracefully climbing the crosshatch wood panel on the side of my front porch and spilling grape-like clusters of blossoms—never bloomed. When we moved, I dug up a piece of the root and planted it in my front yard, determined to keep trying. The ground was so hard, I ended up cutting off most of the taproot and throwing a small piece of it into the woods on the side of my house.

Thirty years later, that little piece of discarded taproot has been . . . successful.  That is like saying a virus replicates. It did bloom, draping glorious purple curtains from the trees.

At first I told it, "Okay, as long as you stay on that side of the path." It didn't. Then, I rationalized, as long as it stayed behind the fence in the backyard. (I didn't actually go in my backyard very much, being busy with life stuff.)  But I looked one day after covid-19 hit, and it had eaten over half of the back yard.  I couldn't even walk to the fence line. Two huge trees went down, strangled, and too close to the house.

It was time for war.

This engagement, like those in the Middle East, will never end. Wisteria sends out shoots underground and periodically forms nodes that may change the direction or shoot out its own horizontal and/or vertical roots, so each section can survive independently and pop up anywhere.  Of course, I have the most pernicious variety, the Chinese kind that takes over the world (challenging even kudzu, which fortunately, hasn't found my house yet.)

My first priority was to save the trees near the house. The vines were so thick at the base, no clippers would suffice. I girded myself with a baby chainsaw and determination. It hurt to cut into those old, twisty vines, to destroy something so beautiful, but the trees were more important. I imagined that with each cut, the tree could feel the release from the vine's embrace, the reprieve.  I was taking life, but I was giving it too.

I sprayed the growth in the yard and pulled up (some of) the root systems.  If you want a mindless, exhausting, frustrating, impossible task—pull up established wisteria roots. It will take your mind off anything, even a pandemic.

One side benefit of the fallen trees was that a little more light found its way into the yard, and I decided to try growing vegetables. Another feature of my backyard is an old fashion clothesline with rusty steel posts. Periodically over the past decades, I've thought we should take them down as they are eyesores, but another part of me (the part that worried what young girls with flat stomachs would do during the famine) worried that we would have a pandemic one day or some kind of disaster that would require actually hanging clothes out to dry, so I left them, as well as the abandoned rabbit hutch in the far corner.  We would be ready, if not attractively landscaped.  And worse case scenario, maybe the hutch, in a pinch, would hold chickens.

I thought my creative well was dry, but looking at those old steel posts, the pile of wisteria roots, the vines I had pulled up and cut down, and a package of bean seeds that has been sitting in a drawer for a few years, something started stirring. Beans need something to climb.  One of the fallen trees had taken out actual wire lines of the clothesline, but the poles were set in cement. They will be there when I am dust. The pole surface might be too slick for a bean to be able to curl up, but maybe—
And so, as a product of WWI (Wisteria Wars Episode I) and covid-19, I found that the outlet for creativity isn't always words on a page. If my beans grow, they will be beautiful and feed me, and if they don't, I will at least have a couple of funky art pieces in the backyard.

Foreground: Metal pole with wisteria roots and vines. Background logs from tree felled by wisteria, the carcass of another felled tree, and old rabbit hutch.

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)? Click on image below.  Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Demanding Perfection

Demanding Perfection
By Cathy Perkins

Our old house was on a dead-end street, a nice long quiet road with trees and kids and people who mostly observed the speed limit. For the longest time, when I drove in and out of our neighborhood, I’d see a teenaged boy practicing skateboard tricks—or rather the same trick—over and over.

He’d do the set-up, launch—and fail miserably.
Image by <a href=";utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=3385370">Tumisu</a> from <a href=";utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=3385370">Pixabay</a>

But he didn’t give up and eventually I saw him nail the move. It didn’t happen overnight. It was a gradual process. Instead of succeeding once in a hundred times, it would be one in ten, and then finally, most of the time, he'd jump and spin and pick up his board. Smile. 

And practice it again.

After a while, he’d start on a new skill, a new trick. And fail miserably.

I can’t count the number of times I thought, a girl would never do that.

Not the practicing and the striving, but the public failure. Repeated failure. Where everyone could see them mess up and sprawl all over the pavement or the lawn and look like a dork.

I hadn’t thought about that kid in years, but a recent post brought it crashing back.

Basically, Hugo talked about the tragic suicide of a teen, Amanda Todd, following severe harassment after Todd’s decision to ‘sext’ a man who, it turns out, may have been a predator. Allegedly, this man tried to blackmail her and released the pictures to her classmates and life took a horrible turn for Ms. Todd. More horribly, she didn’t see a way out.

Unfortunately, Todd’s story has been hijacked and trotted out as a warning to girls about the danger of stepping ‘out of line’ with anything sexual, another ridiculous blame the victim measure. While the article initially focused on sexuality, what is most concerning to me is the way the ‘messing up your life’ message demands perfection from young—and not so young—women, while at the same time forbidding them to experiment or risk failure. As I told Nicole in our Facebook exchange, this is the broader message for me:

[Resilience and the ability to thrive] means focusing on giving them what we've given their brothers for decades: the chance to see failure –- and even humiliation -– as an opportunity rather than as a life-destroying disaster.  

I kept thinking about the implications of this message, this demand for instant perfection, on creativity. Whatever the media—visual through paint, photography, glass, fiber; performance in dance or theater; or the written word—taking a chance, risking failure if you will, is inherent in creative works. As much as we try to say, “writing is a business” or “once we finish, it’s a product,” the end result of our creative endeavor is still a piece of our soul.

And we offer it up to the world to critique.

If we aren’t “allowed” to take risks, to risk failure, if we have to be “perfect” before we attempt…anything, what does that say about us as a society? If we all have to fall in line and not push creative boundaries, there won’t be urban fantasies or paranormal entities or mysteries that make us think, not just about who did the crime, but what led those characters to make those decisions or any of the other layers we authors craft into our stories to make us think outside the expected. Outside the safe.

And failure to take the creative risk is a loss for all of us.

I don’t want to live in a white bread world, where everything is the same. Where people are afraid to take risks. Are afraid to challenge their deepest fears and embrace their highest dreams.

Instead I applaud everyone who steps outside their comfort zone and offers a piece of their vision. A piece of their heart.


PS - I have a Book releasing in June, Calling for the Money. The original inspiration for it was a different news article about the suicide of a lonely veteran caught in a sexting scheme. The internet is a useful tool, but the anonymous predators deserve a special place in hell. 

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, May 20, 2020


by Kay Kendall

I remember the very first inkling. At about age sixteen I walked into a room, spied a heavy candlestick, and exclaimed, while pointing,  "That would make a great murder weapon.” 

Lost in my fantasy of discovering a killer, I didn't notice that my friends cast furtive glances at each other and backed away from me after they heard my words.


Together with my three cousins in my hometown, I continued to play the board game of Clue on Sunday afternoons after the family lunches that invariably followed church services. I kept reading murder mysteries, too. After I finished all the Nancy Drew books, I moved on to more grown up volumes. My parents read plenty of fiction, and my father liked who-done-it's, so lots of books were available at our home.

In my last year of high school, I repeated my performance and again noted a hefty candlestick. "What a dandy murder weapon that would make," I explained while eying a massive version placed on a railing in my church sanctuary.

"What's wrong with you?" Nancy said. "Are you going to grow up to be a killer or something? You hardly seem the type." 

One other friend snickered, but Glenda came to my defense. "Don't be silly. She's just indulging in make believe."

Back then I didn't make much of these incidents. They did, however, stick in my mind, and once I began writing mysteries, I looked back and wondered if these were portents of things to come. I just had not recognized them as such at the time.

After all, I never heard one other person utter anything similar to my remarks. That is, not until decades later when I began to attend conferences for mystery writers. Not only was such talk common among those authors, but whole panels were held that discussed how to commit murder, how to get away with it, and how to find the perpetrator. Moreover, a few pathologists were always available to advise on just the right poison to fit a writer's plot circumstances. I picked up specific details too that would make a scene accurate. Did you know that if you hanged your victim, his or her head would always, always tilt to one side? If you see a corpse in a film whose head hangs straight down, that is a big mistake.

I had found my tribe. Oddly enough, the crime writing and fan community is a great bunch of people. They are kind and help one another. It is a truism that people who write about murders, day in and day out, are as a group one of the nicest you can ever meet.

How about it? Can you also look back on your life and pick out a moment that suggested what you would do "when you grew up?" I would love to hear about it.

Award-winning author Kay Kendall is passionate about historical mysteries.  She lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, two house rabbits, and spaniel Wills.

Visit Kay at her website  
or on Facebook

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Value (and the Pitfalls) of a Critique Group in These Times

by Saralyn Richard

At a time when everything seems to have been uprooted, including weddings, graduations, family vacations, classrooms, businesses, and workplaces, the one constant in my calendar has been my writers’ critique group. So what if we can’t meet in person, share snacks, or pet each other’s furbabies, we are all still writing. We are still invested in each other’s chapters and stories, and we have a lot more time on our hands to provide detailed feedback.
Our group meets every other Monday night like clockwork. The schedule keeps me writing, no matter what else is going on in my life. “Feeding the beast,” as I lovingly call it, sometimes sends me scurrying to the computer in the eleventh hour to churn out another chapter for the group’s consideration. Regardless of whether I’m several chapters ahead, or barely keeping up, the ongoing commitment to produce new writing is a major benefit of being in the group.
When it became apparent that social distancing would prevent us from meeting, my critique group didn’t skip a beat. We decided to send our chapters by email, as usual, but send our critiques back by email, as well. Maybe not as much fun or interactive as we are used to, but much better than writing for an audience of none. The critiques, when they came in, gave me lots of ideas for improving my storyline, my characters, my phraseology. I could evaluate each critique at my leisure, without rushing to fit into a designated time period.

Finding something positive to say: “I really love the new font you’re using, and you managed to use almost all of the commas in this chapter correctly.” Graphic courtesy of

I often liken being in a critique group to working with an interior decorator. Yes, you can write a novel on your own, just as you can redo your living room furniture and layout and colors without incurring the time or expense of a designer. But if you do take that extra step, in the end, you will have a living room that at least one professional person really loves. I derive that same feeling of confidence in my writing once my novel has passed through the careful inspection of other serious writers.
Sometimes I receive feedback I disagree with. Or there are conflicting opinions within the group about whether something I wrote is clearly and potently expressed. When that happens, I try to analyze the comments, separating the nuggets of truth that sparked them from the persons who gave them. I’m not one to become easily offended or take comments personally. I try to learn from the comments from these, my first readers, and to assume they are offered in the same collegial spirit in which I offer my comments to them. Their comments help me to move forward.

                  Photo courtesy of

Occasionally we have a new member in the group, or someone drops out, but even as the dynamics change, everyone comes to each meeting intending to add value to the group. When individuals come across good articles or opportunities, we share them. Along the way I’ve sought and received advice on such prickly subjects as deep point of view, flashback or chronological, and author intrusion. I can’t imagine this writing adventure without the encouragement and support of my critique group.
Tonight, after several “meetings” via email, we are going to try to Zoom our regular meeting. I’ll do my hair and put on makeup, just like in the pre-COVID days, and I’ll provide my best writing wisdom to each of my critical friends. I can’t wait to see their faces and hear their thoughts!
Do you participate in a writers' critique group? How is your group managing the challenges of social distancing?

Award-winning mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard strives to make the world a better place, one book at a time. Naughty Nana, Murder in the One Percent, and A Palette for Love and Murder, have delighted children and adults, alike. A member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and continues to write mysteries. 

I'm now doing Zoom book club meetings. Contact me for details.

My author’s website is I enjoy meeting readers through social media, as well. Here are the links: 



Monday, May 18, 2020

Discovering Maizie Albright Star Detective

by Paula Gail Benson

I met Larissa Reinhart, author of the Maizie Albright Star Detective series, a few years ago at Murder in the Magic City, in Homewood, Alabama. She impressed me immediately as someone with spunk, determination, and drive, very much like her protagonist Maizie, although maybe without the mishaps.

Just reading about Larissa’s life experiences is fascinating. She has taught high school history in the US, taught English in Japan, studied archeology in Egypt, and escaped a fierce monkey in Thailand. With her husband, she adopted two daughters from China and appeared on an episode of HGTV’s House Hunters International, profiling their quest for housing in Nagoya, Japan.

Larissa already had a successful series about diminutive, quick sketch, portrait artist Cherry Tucker, who keeps encountering crime in the small town of Halo, Georgia. In addition to Maizie Albright, she’s also developed the Findlay Goodhart Crime Capers, about an ex-con who uses her past criminal experience to help victims.

What made me embark upon the Maizie series was a Facebook message Larissa posted about writing the most recent book, 18 Caliber. Maizie is a former child and teen actress who finds herself in trouble, due to actions of companions she chose unwisely. When a judge orders that she leave Hollywood and get work outside the film community, she returns to her father’s home in Black Pine, Georgia, where she plans to apprentice to the town’s private investigator and get her own PI license. Unfortunately, the film industry, including her crafty mother manager, has already arrived in Black Pine, which creates all kinds of turmoil for Maizie and keeps interrupting her personal time with her mentor Wyatt Nash.

In 18 Caliber, Chinese action star Lili Liang, who is predicted to have a bright acting future, is in Black Pine to film a historical martial arts movie. For her preparation in writing the book, Larissa drafted not only the summary of a very interesting imaginary action flick, but also commissioned a poster for the film. I feel fortunate to have won a copy of the poster, which I keep proudly in my office. Thanks, Larissa!
Poster for the fictional Unlucky 18 Movie
While I called this post “Discovering Maizie,” what I like about the series is that Maizie keeps learning about herself. Where she sees weakness, those around her, particularly Nash and her new BFFs stylists Rhonda and Tiffany, tell her that her actions indicate strength. Here’s a little about each book in the series:

15 Minutes -- Maizie tries to secure a PI apprenticeship and has to track down a client’s missing wife while eluding her mother manager and ex-boyfriend/co-star’s attempts to lure her back onto a reality show.
16 Millimeters -- While “babysitting” a former fellow child star now into bad behavior, Maizie searches for a missing corpse and tracks a celebrity stalker.

A View to a Chill -- Cherry Tucker and Maizie Albright join forces to investigate mysterious activity in Halo before Christmas. Can they locate a missing granddaughter and learn what’s happening in the house across from Cherry’s in time to celebrate a happy holiday?

NC-17 -- Following a young man who turns out to be carrying a bomb puts Nash in a coma. Maizie tries to keep his business solvent by taking on a case with three teen entrepreneurs. They’ve made a fortune filming their searches for Bigfoot, but now their young adult leader has gone missing.

17.5 Cartridges in a Pear Tree -- While preparing for a New Year’s Eve celebration, Nash and Maizie take on a case with touches of the Maltese Falcon, only this time the prized item is a prop from one of Maizie’s cult classics.

18 Caliber -- Maizie and Nash track a missing bullet (for Maizie’s mother) and a vanished kung fu master for actress Lili Liang.

If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll check out Larissa’s Maizie Albright Star Detective books. I’m looking forward to 19!