Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Weather Factor

By Lynn McPherson

There are so many aspects to consider when writing a book, today I’m going to tackle an area that doesn’t often get much attention—weather. If a book is set in a place with year-round sunshine, or during a season with a comfortable temperature then it may never come into play. And that’s okay. No need to complicate something when there’s no reason for it. However, sometimes weather cannot be overlooked. It can have a direct or indirect affect on the story. Let’s look at some ways that weather can become a factor.

1.     Increased Danger.
Weather can up the stakes or heighten the tension in a story if it provides imminent danger. For example, the threat of an impending hurricane, or a tornado can force the story or its characters to move quickly and quicken the pace of what might otherwise be a slow-moving plot.

2.     A Closed Set.
Sometimes weather can have a direct effect on the setting of a story. If an author wants to have a isolated location, where characters cannot easily come and go, weather is one method to provide it. For example, a Nor’easter in Maine may prevent characters from coming and going to a place that might normally have fluid movement. It can be a great way to limit the number of people who are involved in the story, or give an automatic set of suspects.

3.     Time of death.
When a body is discovered, time of death can be a critical piece of information. This is especially true when the cause of death is murder.  If a body is discovered outside, temperature is a key factor that comes into play when calculating time of death. If it’s cold enough outside, the accuracy of pinpointing it is much more difficult to determine, often leaving a big range of time that can be frustrating for investigators who are unable to narrow the parameters within a day or more. 

There are so many elements of a story, setting is important. Weather can provide a fun way to change it up and completely alter the pace, the surroundings, and the complications your characters must face. 

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, July 27, 2020

Short Story Update

by Paula Gail Benson

The Palmetto Chapter of Sisters in Crime and the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America were delighted with the response to Mystery in the Midlands. We started off with a terrific panel on short stories featuring John Floyd, Tara Laskowski, and Art Taylor. Among them, those talented writers have been nominated and are recipients of the Agatha, Anthony, Derringer, Edgar, Macavity, and Thriller for their short stories. All of them have been involved with editing anthologies and preparing collections of their own work.

Listeners had many questions for this panel and links were left in the chat line to a number of excellent sources for short story writers.

Clockwise from upper right: Dana Kaye, Moderator, John Floyd, Tara Laskowski, and Art Taylor
The Short Story Panel from Mystery in the Midlands
Photo by Kathryn Prater Bomey, shared by Tara Laskowski
 A number of folks have asked to see a replay of the session. Here's the link where you can access the entire program from Mystery in the Midlands:

Coming up in August is another great event for short story writers. Agatha winner Gigi Pandian is presenting "The Art and History of Locked Room Mysteries," on Saturday, August 15 from 1:00 to 3:00 PM Pacific Time for the Sacramento-based Capitol Crimes Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Here's the link to register:

Gigi Pandian

I hope you'll be able to access these programs and enjoy!

Friday, July 24, 2020

The Eye of the Beholder —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.

Some things have confused me for a long time, such as why flowers are beautiful and spiders are not. 

What is beauty anyway? And is there any importance in asking or answering that question?
Obviously, there are some people who find spiders beautiful (yes, really), so the quality is not inherent in the object. I lost my father  after a long illness and was thinking about my loss while walking to the mailbox. A crop of slender blue wildflowers on the road’s edge caught my eye, their beauty an instantaneous salve to my grief.

How? Why?

Somewhere in the heart of a forest, an exquisite orchid is blooming, and no one is there to see it. Is it beautiful? No. Beauty is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder. Without the eye, it does not exist. The orchid exists, of course, but it is not “beauty” to the creatures that see or smell it. (I should caveat with "as far as we know," because we are learning that our ideas of awareness and even intelligence may extend in some manner to the plant world and certainly to the animal world, but let us assume that the concept of "beauty" is a human construct. )

This means if no human notices the wildflowers and deems them beautiful, they are just wildflowers doing their thing.

A sense of responsibility follows this thought. 

Nature is harsh relentless change. It is "eat and be eaten." A frog makes no distinction between a caterpillar and a butterfly as far as lunch is concerned.In our stellar neighborhood, two galaxies are colliding, gravitational forces ripping apart whatever life may have painstakingly evolved. Our own galaxy is destined to collide with another, our sun to die, our loved ones, ourselves, our species unless we figure out how to move to another galaxy.

We may learn that whales or elephants or other animals share our awareness of mortality, but again, as far as we know now, people are the only creatures to seek meaning to life, perhaps because of that awareness. It is a burden. It is a privilege. In this chaos of change we call life, humans seek meaning, personal meaning. 

The concept of beauty may be one of the unique perceptual structures of the human brain. Why did it evolve? Of what evolutionary value is it? Is it just that spiders pose a threat, so we instinctively recoil from them, while flowers pose no threat and may signal a source of food? Perhaps, but some people truly find spiders fascinating and beautiful. There are spider enthusiast groups. Honest. And I have to admit I found one that gleamed with gold on a spectacular web yesterday. So beauty is a learned thing.

Perhaps the concept of beauty is just an odd byproduct of the complexity of our minds, our thought processes. Or perhaps not. Perhaps it came into being to give us something we crave—meaning. 

I have been told that my book, Noah’s Wife, was “beautifully written.” This was welcome feedback, but puzzling. The story is told from the unique perspective of a young woman with what we now call Asperger’s Syndrome. She sees the world in literal terms. Looking at her straightforward words on the pages, I was befuddled at how they could be considered “beautiful.”

But perhaps it is not the words themselves, but the fact that they create meaning for some readers, truths about being human and that renders them beautiful in the same way that Picasso’s art is beautiful to some eyes. His paintings force us out of our typical perceptions, whispers in ways we may not be able to voice, even disturbs, but speaks the language of meaning and (some) find that beautiful, even in the harshness or starkness of his lines, just as some find beauty in abstract art or different types of music . . . or spiders.

Woman with Mandolin

Beauty is observable by all our senses, including our ability to see a beautiful act of kindness or a beautiful scientific formula. If we are uniquely capable of determining beauty, then we have a responsibility to see it, to open our eyes to it, to find meaning in it, our uniquely human meaning.

 T.K. is a retired police captain who writes Books that go wherever her interest and imagination take her.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

A Book Review written by Juliana Aragon Fatula of A Taco Testimony Meditations on Family, Food and Culture by Denise Chávez

photo from new mexico magazine Photographs by Jay Hemphill.



Dear Reader,

     I met Denise in Pueblo, Colorado many years ago at a Latino Writer’s Workshop. She was the headliner for an audience of Latino writers and the community of Pueblo. I admit, I had not remembered her name nor that I had read a story she had written in an anthology in my Ethnic Literature course. She introduced herself to me at my table at the workshop.  

      I had set up my books to sell and had decorated my space with fresh flowers and vegetables from my garden. She explained to me that my table would draw more attention to book buyers if I used a colorful tablecloth instead of the white cloth and if I used varying heights with boxes to elevate my visual of decorations. She showed me how to utilize my space and made it more colorful and festive. She worked the room meeting and greeting everyone with grace. I will never forget the kindness she showed me and her generosity. I knew I had just met someone I would love and admire all of my life.

      I was mesmerized by her mastery of the stage. Most writers read from the books they’ve written to the audience. Denise recited from memory excerpts from her novel like a Shakespearean actor. I didn’t know at the time her list of accomplishments included acting, directing, and writing plays.

      A Chicana icon helping me, a Chicana poet, with my table to sell my books. She graciously allowed me to take a photograph with her. A photo I treasure. As we parted that day, she extended an invitation to visit her bookstore, Casa Camino Real, in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I went home and felt rejuvenated and began to plan a trip to visit her.

     I attended a writing workshop she offered the next summer and asked permission to interview her for the writer’s blog I write for The Stiletto Gang. She agreed and I arranged a road trip to drive to the border with my dear friend/sister, Dr. Judy Noel. It was an epic road trip that had many adventures and made me realize that I can do anything I set my mind to do. I drove ten-hour days from Southern Colorado to Southern New Mexico.

     As I read this memoir, I felt happy/sad. I missed my parents and the memories came flooding my brain with both good and bad times. Her memoir reveals her past, her childhood, her parents, and their beauty and grace as well as their humanity. It’s a story I related to.

     Denise’s family stories took me to my childhood to my memories and made me appreciate my parents and all the love they had given me. The lessons they taught me. Both my parents were excellent cooks and gardeners and have handed down their family recipes to me. I plan on writing my memoirs and including those recipes like Denise did in her memoir, A Taco Testimony. Denise gave her mother’s taco recipe the title of Tacos a la Delfina.

     There are many cultural differences between Southern Colorado and Southern New Mexico recipes. Her mother’s tacos are not my mother’s tacos. But I gave the recipe a try and understand why she raves over her mother’s tacos. They are very delicious.

     Other writers have praised this book: Luis Alberto Urea, author of The Hummingbird’s Daughter wrote, “Muy sabroso? There is much on the menu in this feast of a book…good eating, a warm meditation on family and identity, and a darker tale nimbly suggested between the bright lights and happy music. Denise Chávez is a national treasure, and this volume will delight her fans and entice new readers. Buen gusto, amigos.”

     The New York Times Book Review wrote simply, “Spicy storytelling.” And Sandra Cisneros author of The House on Mango Street said, “Delicious!”

      My review of her memoir comes from the heart. After meeting Denise that fateful day and visiting her and interviewing her for an hour in the sweltering heat in July in her adobe bookstore, we met at my motel and she introduced me to her husband, Daniel. I introduced her to Judy my dear friend who rode with me on this adventure. We had a lovely time chatting in the lobby and laughed and shared stories.

      Since that day, I have kept in touch with Denise and she has mentored me in my writing and in my life. She works at the border with asylum seekers and also raises money for feral cats in her hometown. She has the strength and energy of someone much younger than her age, but she has something magical in her spirit: love, joy, sympathy, and determination to make the world better. She does this quietly, but if you google her you will find that she has been an activist all of her life. She has worked with the great writers and playwrights, directors, and still takes time out of her busy schedule of attending workshops, speaking engagements, writing, selling books, helping immigrants at the border, feeding and providing healthcare for feral cats, to mentor someone like me, a pocha from Southern Colorado. A pocha is a Chicana who doesn’t speak Spanish.   

     She included photos of her family in her memoir and the resemblance of Denise and her mother, Delfina, blew my mind. I had to read the list of photographs to tell her and her mother apart. They are easily two of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. But the beauty is not superficial it is a radiance from within that shines off the page and into your heart.

      Denise tells a captivating story of her family including the heartaches and the joys. The recipes and photos bring an element to her story of family tradition and culture. She writes about the border as well and educates the reader to the plight of the immigrants. “I know borders, real and imagined. I know what it is to have the rabia/anger, the unmitigated rage well up and then subside, wondering how I will enunciate my rights yet another time. Will I be waved away, dismissed or interrogated? ‘American citizen,’ I hear myself say in a faraway voice. ‘I am an American citizen.’ There are so many things I hate about borders. I can’t begin to articulate the disgust and sadness when I see the ever-changing sign at the immigration roadblock that tallies the yearly count, ‘1,457 alien removals.’ I hate the poverty and the class structure that cause men, women and children to cross the border in desperation.”

      She works tirelessly to help those less fortunate and gives me hope for human beings. She writes about her mother’s social activism, “She was civic minded, caring about the least important person and as a result of this, we were always going out of our way to help strangers. She helped drunks come in from the cold; she picked up hitchhikers at all hours of the day and night; she brought strangers home to stay with us. There were too many old ladies in our lives, and we were always visiting one nun or another…My mother’s goodness was bothersome to me, a spoiled, restless girl. And now, in retrospect, I wouldn’t trade for anything those days of wandering the streets and cerritos of Juárez with my over-zealous Mother as we carried seemingly endless bags of clothing up little hills and inside dark houses.”

     I understand why Denise cares so much for others. Her mother taught her to always take care of the less fortunate and share what you have even if it’s only a taco. This memoir spoke to me about love, family, culture, and social activism in a time of a deadly global pandemic when the world could use a little love and kindness for each other. I hope you enjoy her book as much as I did.

      I purchased copies for my nieces so they could read about a real Chicana icon, a social activist, a kind and loving woman who shares her stories with us and reminds us to be kind to one another. I hope you order her books and try her recipes and enjoy them both as much as I do. You can reach her at 
Casa Camino Real
Las Cruces, NM, U.S.A. 88001
314 S. Tornillo Street
+1 575-523-3988

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Money, Treasure, and... Love

by Bethany Maines

One of my 2020 goals was to read more books. You would think that with pandemic shut downs that I might have made headway with that goal, but instead I had to pivot to homeschooling, fire-drill mode for several of my firm's clients, and just generally trying not to freak out.  Fortunately, along came Cathy Perkins my fellow Stiletto Gang member with a brand new book - Calling for the Money

Calling for the Money is the fourth book in the Holly Price mystery series, but doesn't require reading the first two (there's plenty of quickie recaps to bring a reader up to speed) and the mystery is self-contained. Holly is a top flight accountant who is quick-thinking, analytical and on the run from a devastating break-up.  But as Holly digs into her new job, her personal life and caring heart cause her to get involved in a missing persons case.  As Holly struggles to figure out if the perfect job she's always wanted is what she wants now that she has it, kidnappers, extortion schemes and a father who needs a quick punch in the face keep her from being able to have a moment to herself. 

This mystery was exactly what I needed to keep me turning pages and avoiding the dishes. Holly Price with her financial wizard mind was a smart heroine with tons of moxie that makes you root for her all the way through the book.  Calling for the Money was a fun, smart read, and I recommend the entire series.

UPDATE:  Love & Treasure is now available!

Buy Links:

🏴💖 All retailers:  https://books2read.com/LoveTreasure

🏴💖 Amazon: https://amzn.to/2UGfWuG

Chase Regard is captain of the nearly-historically-accurate pirate ship Cupid’s Revenge, a pirate-themed restaurant and dinner show, and the mountain of debt that came with both. But Chase has an ace up his sleeve: his ancestor left a heap of treasure somewhere on the coast near Ashville, Oregon. All Chase needs to find it is the help of the red-headed, fiery, and occasionally forgetful, academic Dr. Jenna Mackenzie, the director of the Ashville Museum. But when Chase and Jenna team up they must face the town’s history-buff bully, accusations of theft, and an oncoming storm before they find out that X marks the spot for love and treasure.


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, July 20, 2020

Lessons From My Garden
By Saralyn Richard

I’ve always loved to plant flowers and vegetables and watch them grow, but never, until now, have I had the time to nurture, weed, water, and admire the horticulture. For all of the things the pandemic has taken away, the joy of gardening is one thing it’s brought to my life in technicolor.

            During days when time inside seems to stand still, when one day pours into the next, so it doesn’t matter whether it’s Monday or Saturday, the ever-changing splendor of my garden provides something new. In March, I planted the caladium bulbs kept in the garage all winter. Even from the first day after planting, they were pushing up shoots that turned into buds, that opened into showy broad red and green leaves. The progress was rapid and almost magical.

            The caladiums reminded me of the book release process. When I published my debut mystery novel, MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT, in 2018, I experienced that creative push of final edits, review blurbs, pre-publication hype, and, voila! The book was “above ground,” out into the world. As the book was nourished by reader reviews and a dizzying book tour schedule, it opened up to book clubs, new readers, and beautiful new connections.

            The fig tree in my back yard, however, has taught me patience. The sequel to MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT, A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER, was released in February of this year. I had no idea that a pandemic would wreak havoc with every launch party, book talk, and book club I had so enthusiastically planned. Like the new mystery novel, the fig tree burst forth in a passionate profusion of fruit. Once the first crop was picked, though, the tree slowed down. It’s still full of potential. Hundreds of green buds remain, patiently awaiting their natural time to explode into luscious purple fruit. Though the book launch for PALETTE was not what I expected, the joy of the first crop of readers and the early reviews has been gratifying. Now I need to nurture the green buds, knowing that, if I’m patient, they will produce fruit.

            A final parable comes from the enclosed planter on my front porch. I’ve never been able to grow anything in this shady area. Too little sun, too little water, and too little attention from me were all to blame. I had literally given up on having anything there, except an air plant, a few aloe vera plants, and a touch of tradescantia zebrine (wandering jew). I decided that this was the time to experiment. I took a cutting from a healthy ginger plant in my back yard, and I planted it in the planter. I decided to keep the porch light on all night to give it extra light for growing, and I water it every day. At first the leaves turned brown and I was sure the plant was dying, but after a few more days, baby shoots started popping up in the soil. Now the plant is thriving, and the planter is a source of pride.

            So many times in writing, the easy path would be to give up. I might blame a lack of time, a dearth of creative ideas, a busy calendar, family demands, even a pandemic—innumerable excuses for not writing. The truth is, however, that an author with a creative spirit can produce a story to be proud of. Yes, there are obstacles, but obstacles can be overcome, as long as the passion and will are there.

            Those of us who read and write, who love books, have likely learned many lessons during these months of social distancing. Here’s hoping all of our lessons bear the sweetest fruit.

Award-winning mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard strives to make the world a better place, one book at a time. Her books, 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. Look for A Murder of Principal to be released in January, 2020. Reviews, media, and tour schedule may be found at http://saralynrichard.com.

Mystery in the Midlands ONLINE and FREE!!!! Saturday, July 25, 2020

by Paula Gail Benson

For the last two years, the Palmetto Chapter of Sisters in Crime and the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America have sponsored a mid-summer conference for readers and writers in "famously hot" Columbia, S.C. While we had to cancel our in person gathering due to Covid 19, our third venture as an online conference, to be held on Saturday, July 25, 2020, looks to be a charm with a terrifically HOT lineup and a program offered free of charge (thanks to Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America for generous support). Anyone can attend. You don't have to be a member of Sisters in Crime or Mystery Writers of America to join in the fun!

All you have to do is register at this link, then click through to the Crowdcast link to save your spot.

Here's the link again:

Today, Monday, July 20, 2020, is the last day to register! You don't want to miss this fabulous program hosted by Dana Kaye with books available through Jill Hendrix's Fiction Addiction Bookstore in Greenville, S.C.

Here's the schedule for Mystery in the Midlands, on Saturday, July 25, 2020:

10:00 am to 10:15 am EST   Welcome
Dana Kaye (moderator), Debra Goldstein (SEMWA), and Paula Gail Benson (Palmetto Chapter SinC)

10:30 am to 11:15 am EST   Slip into Some Shorts
Dana Kaye (moderator) - John Floyd, Tara Laskowski, and Art Taylor

11:30 am to 12:00 pm EST  Mystery Writers Are Always Hot! Keynote
Charlaine Harris

12:15 pm to 1:00 pm EST       Spectres Rather Than Heat Mirages
Dana Kaye (moderator) - Alexia Gordon, Toni L.P. Kelner, and Gigi Pandian

1:15 pm to 2:00 pm EST      Pages Burning Their Way to the Screen
Dana Kaye (moderator) - Dana Cameron, Jeffrey Deaver, and Charlaine Harris

2:15 pm to 2:30 pm EST      Everybody in the Pool!
Dana Kaye (moderator), Debra Goldstein (SEMWA), and Paula Gail Benson (Palmetto Chapter SinC)

Here's some information about our fabulous authors:

Charlaine Harris is a true daughter of the South. She was born in Mississippi and has lived in Tennessee, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Texas. After years of dabbling with poetry, plays, and essays, her career as a novelist began when her husband invited her to write full time. Her first book, Sweet and Deadly, appeared in 1981. When Charlaine’s career as a mystery writer began to falter, she decided to write a cross-genre book that would appeal to fans of mystery, science fiction, romance, and suspense. She could not have anticipated the huge surge of reader interest in the adventures of a barmaid in Louisiana, or the fact that Alan Ball would come knocking at her door. Since then, Charlaine’s novels have been adapted for several other television series, with two in development now. Charlaine is a voracious reader. She has one husband, three children, two grandchilden, and two rescue dogs. She leads a busy life.

John M. Floyd’s short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, The Strand Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, and many other publications. Three of his stories have been selected for the annual Best American Mystery Stories anthology (the 2015, 2018, and 2020 editions) and another was recently optioned for film. A former Air Force captain and IBM systems engineer, John is also an Edgar nominee, a four-time Derringer Award winner, a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a recipient of the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer Award for lifetime achievement, and the author of eight books. He and his wife Carolyn live in Mississippi.

Tara Laskowski’s debut novel, One Night Gone, won the 2019 Agatha Award for Best First Novel and was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark, Anthony, Macavity, and Lefty Awards. It was hailed by Tana French as “a subtly but relentlessly unsettling novel.” Tara is also the author of two short story collections, Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons and Bystanders, which The Guardian named a best book of 2017. She has had stories published in Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazines and has won both an Agatha Award and a Thriller Award for her short fiction. She was a longtime editor of the flash fiction journal SmokeLong Quarterly. Tara earned a BA in English from Susquehanna University and an MFA from George Mason University and lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, writer Art Taylor, and their son, Dashiell.

Art Taylor is the author of the story collection The Boy Detective & The Summer of ’74 and Other Tales of Suspense and of the novel in stories On the Road with Del & Louise, winner of the Agatha Award for Best First NovelHe won the 2019 Edgar Award for Best Short Story for "English 398: Fiction Workshop," originally published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and he has won three additional Agatha Awards, an Anthony Award, three Macavity Awards, and three consecutive Derringer Awards for his short fiction. He is an associate professor of English at George Mason University.

Virginia native, physician by training, author by passion, Alexia Gordon writes the award-winning Gethsemane Brown Mysteries, with Book 5, Execution in E, being released March 24, 2020. She is a member of MWA, SinC, ITW, and CWoC; blogs at Missdemeanors.com and with the Femmes Fatales (femmesfatales.typepad.com/my_weblog/); and hosts the podcast, The Cozy Corner with Alexia Gordon. Find her on social media (Facebook: AlexiaGordon.writer, Twitter: @AlexiaGordon, Instagram: DrLex1995) and visit her website (www.alexiagordon.net) to sign up for her newsletter.

Toni L.P. Kelner/Leigh Perry is two authors in one. As Leigh Perry, she writes the Family Skeleton Mysteries. The sixth, The Skeleton Stuffs a Stocking, was released in Fall 2019. As Toni L.P. Kelner, she wrote eight novels in the Laura Fleming mystery series and three “Where Are They Now?” mysteries. Kelner also co-edited seven urban fantasy anthologies with New Your Times best-seller Charlaine Harris. Under both names she writes short fiction, including recent publications in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and a forthcoming story in Shattering Glass. Kelner has won the Agatha Award and an RT BookClub Lifetime Achievement Award and has been nominated multiple times for the Anthony, the Macavity, and the Derringer.

Gigi Pandian is a USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award-winning mystery author, breast cancer survivor, and accidental almost-vegan. The child of anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India, she spent her childhood traveling around the world on their research trips, and now lives in California with her husband and a gargoyle who watches over the garden. Gigi writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries, Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and locked-room mystery short stories.

Dana Cameron writes across many genres, but especially crime and speculative fiction. Her work, inspired by her career in archaeology, has won multiple Anthony, Agatha, and Macavity Awards, and has been nominated for the Edgar Award. Dana's Emma Fielding archaeology mysteries were optioned by Muse Entertainment; the third movie, based on More Bitter Than Death, will premier on the Hallmark Movie & Mystery Channel in January, 2019. When she's not traveling or visiting museums, she's usually yelling at the TV about historical inaccuracies.

A former journalist, folksinger and attorney, Jeffery Deaver is an international number-one bestselling author. His novels have appeared on bestseller lists around the world, including the New York Times, the Times of London, Italy’s Corriere della Sera, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Los Angeles Times. His books are sold in 150 countries and have been translated into over twenty-five languages. He has sold 50 million books worldwide. The author of over thirty-five novels, three collections of short stories and a nonfiction law book, and a lyricist of a country-western album, he’s received or been shortlisted for dozens of awards around the world. His book A Maiden’s Grave was made into an HBO movie, his novel The Bone Collector was a feature release from Universal Pictures, and in 2019, NBC picked up a series called “Lincoln,” based on his books. Lifetime aired an adaptation of his The Devil’s Teardrop.

We hope that you'll all join us for Mystery in the Midlands, Saturday, July 25, 2020!


Friday, July 17, 2020

A Salute to Mildred Wirt Benson, the first "Carolyn Keene"

by Shari Randall

When I was a little girl, I rarely noticed the authors’ names on the books I gobbled up like penny candy from the corner store.  The only exception was the author of my favorite books. Even though we referred to them as “Nancy Drews” my friends and I knew the author of the yellow covered books we traded was Carolyn Keene. 

Imagine my shock when I learned there was no “Carolyn Keene” and that it was a pen name for a stable of ghostwriters from the Stratemeyer Syndicate (is there a more terrifying corporate name?)

 As the years passed, I occasionally stumbled upon articles about the authors who made up that group, especially the first ghostwriter, Mildred Wirt Benson. Mildred and the other “Carolyn Keenes” inspired generations of young readers, especially girls. These authors gave us an independent female protagonist without parental interference or control, plus a jazzy blue roadster. I believe Mildred and her co-ghosts were one of the most influential groups of women in America (and if my FB feed is any indication, the world). Many women who broke glass ceilings have spoken of their hours reading Nancy Drew, women including presidential candidates and Supreme Court justices. My years as a children’s librarian have taught me that children’s world views are shaped by the stories they read.

Every July 10 on my Facebook author page, I commemorate Mildred’s birthday. As “Carolyn Keene,” she ghostwrote 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drews, creating the template for the determined girl detective who has inspired millions of young readers.

Here are five fast facts about Mildred:

  • Her typewriter is in the collection of the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History.
  • She was an avid traveler and adventurer who trained as a pilot, traveling to South American archaeological sites before they were opened to tourists.
  • In 1927, she was the first student, man or woman, to earn a master’s in journalism at the University of Iowa.
  • She worked as a journalist for 50 years, mostly on the courthouse beat for the Toledo Blade.
  • Her role as Carolyn Keene was kept under wraps until researchers uncovered the story in the 1980s.

Raise a glass with me to Mildred. She opened the door for so many of us to the joy of reading mysteries. To Mildred!

Shari Randall is the author of the Lobster Shack Mystery Series. It's possible that her protagonist, Allegra "Allie" Larkin, and her chums, Verity Brooks and Bronwyn Denby, were inspired by Nancy, Bess, and George. You can see what she's up to on Facebook

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Top Ten Writing Tips

I can’t believe it’s already the middle of July! This year seems never ending--and conversely to be evaporating in an endless blur.

Remember an eternity ago (ie pre-pandemic) when you made New Year's Resolutions? How are you coming with yours? 

One of my resolutions (the only one I actually remember and am still attempting) was to transfer the organization I always implemented in my day job to my writing life. Since my writing space and habits were a bit (cough, a lot) disorganized, I got together with some author friends. What quickly evolved was a set of writing tips. Many of these I’ve done without conscious thought. I’m attempting to be more mindful, however, and plan to use this structure as additional motivation to, as one friend puts it, finish the damn book.

Yes, as the launch activity for Calling for the Money wraps up (see below) I'm back at work on another story.

So, without further fanfare – the writing tips:

Ten – Make lists. Every day I make a list of the things I want to accomplish that day. (I’m not sure what it says about me that I love drawing a line through an item when it’s done.) The first line (every day but Sunday) is always, Write. Long-term-goals are listed on my white board: things I want to be sure I don’t forget, but I don’t have to do today.

Nine – Sprint.  A group of us grabs our first, or next, cup of coffee and checks in, then we all ignore each other, turn off the internet and the phone, and work steadily for an hour. It’s a writing club, a mutual support group, and a fabulous technique for working without interruption. I write until I meet my word count goal for the day. (Thank Steven King for this one.)

Eight – Work on one series at a time. I try my best to immerse myself in one setting, one set of characters, one story, whether I’m working on a first draft or revising a draft. Avoiding the “new shiny” keeps me focused.

Seven – Finish what’s due first. Except #8 blows up sometimes. I’ll be in first draft mode on Pony Ring and edits will come in from Beaver Pond. Then there was all the activity around the launch of Calling for the Money. Whew! I operate on the First Due principle. I knock out the edits, because they’re due in a week or two, then get back to the longer work. The problem with doing that, of course, is getting back up to speed with the work-in-process, so I can re-immerse myself in that world.

Six – Take time away from the desk. By the end of a writing session, my creative brain is mush. I usually go for what I call my plotting walk, especially if I’m writing a first draft. There’s something about the rhythm of walking that brings the next scene or a plot problem into focus. It makes the dogs happy to get out of the house, too.

Five – Separate creative time from admin time. I’m most creative in the early morning, so I do my writing then. A corollary is, Keep creative time sacred. I don’t schedule anything else for mornings. I try to keep writing blog posts, scheduling author events, record-keeping, and all the other business stuff for the evenings.

Four – Work ahead. Know what you want to accomplish. I’ve written my goals for the year and set up a time table to implement them. That means I work now on upcoming items instead of waiting and scrambling at the last minute.

Three – Outsource what I can’t do. While I tinker with art and photo-editing, I know my limits with graphic design. I hire a wonderful cover artist. I like formatting my books, but it’s something I can do in the evening while my husband watches TV. The key point is identifying what I’m good at and enjoy, versus what I can outsource. Why waste time on things it would take me forever to do and rob me of the hours I need to do what I’m good at – writing stories?

Two – Stay healthy. I always have a full flask of water on my desk. Fluids in, fluids out. It makes me get up and move around every hour or so. And if I forget, my Fitbit buzzes at me with a reminder. I try to eat lean fresh foods, and I get regular exercise even if it isn’t always a sweaty gym workout. And the exercise doubles as creative time – see #6!

One – Butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard. This is really the most important one. If I get distracted, schedule other things, or simply don’t do the writing, then…I’m not doing the writing. And that’s my job. Of all the varied jobs I’ve held, I’m lucky and blessed to have this one I love.

What tips can you add?

The launch tour for Calling for the Money is wrapping up, but there are still several ongoing giveaway signups. The entire tour is listed on my website (https://cperkinswrites.com) with assorted post, giveaways, reviews, and interviews.

Here are the remaining tour stops:

July 17 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT
July 18 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – SPOTLIGHT  
July 19 – eBook Addicts – REVIEW  

Stop by, and leave a comment!
You can download your own copy here (all vendors):



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 

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