Monday, September 28, 2020

Elaine Viets and the Art of the Short Story

 by Paula Gail Benson

Photo: Elaine Viets from Type M For Murder Blogger

Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore, located in Delray Beach, Florida, has been offering an excellent series of online Zoom workshops called the FL Authors Academy. Over the past few months, the store has featured such terrific writers and teachers as John Dufresne (storytelling), Debra H. Goldstein (conflict), Reed Farrel Coleman (character), and Charles Todd (point of view). The series is very economical and sometimes provides a copy of the author's work.

Recently, as part of the FL Authors Academy, Elaine Viets presented a program about writing the mystery short story. Author of four series of mystery novels ranging from dark to cozy to humorous, Elaine has won the Agatha Award for her short story "The Wedding Knife," featured in her 2018 short story collection Deal with the Devil published by Crippen & Landru.

Elaine's presentation offered great advice for moving forward with a stalled story (think small/more than four characters may be too many) as well as advice about what editors want: (1) a fresh voice, (2) an unusual location, (3) offbeat characters, and (4) an appealing opening. She provided online references and a list of publishing venues.

In particular, I want to try one suggestion Elaine offered. She said, if you're having trouble getting your story on paper, try telling it to someone. Stories originated as tales told around campfires. Sometimes, telling a story frees the author to locate the true focus and theme the author wants to convey.

That might work for longer stories, too.


Friday, September 25, 2020

Watch Out for Falling Heroes—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.



The past few months, heroes have toppled under the sledgehammer of truth. I’m not talking about the confederate statues; I’m taking about personal heroes. Among the fallen are L. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz books, who advocated exterminating native Americans; John Wayne, who made disturbing remarks about blacks and Native Americans: J.K. Rowling, who has made remarks some interpret as transphobic; and Dr. Seuss’ —of all people—whose cartoon art included racial stereotyping.  Classics like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and Gone with the Wind are coming under scrutiny for racial stereotyping. 


This is really nothing new. Gertrude Stein, an American poet and literature icon, sympathized with France’s Vichy regime (a puppet state for the Nazis). Ezra Pound, a major American poet, became a fascist collaborator in Italy during World War II. T.S. Eliot, a famous British essayist and poet was an elitist, writing that “a large number of free-thinking Jews is undesirable.” He did not espouse tolerance or even traveling widely and thus, presumably, exposing oneself to other cultures. 

One of the real angsts about the historical book I am writing now is that one of my heroes stumbles on his pedestal. When he visited Birmingham sometime in 1963, his brother set them up with prostitutes (both were married). I worried about putting in that chapter, but the story was true and germane to the book. I grappled with whether to cut it or leave it. In the end, I decided it was true, and the truth was more important to tell.  Is he still a great man? A man to be followed and listened to?

I stopped drooling over actor Sean Connery when he said he thought it was “absolutely right” to hit women when they wouldn’t “leave things alone.” The “father of our national parks,” John Muir, had no place for indigenous peoples in his “pure” wilderness and was clear about his racist opinions about them and about blacks. Bill Clinton led record job creation but sullied the office of president with his shenanigans. John F. Kennedy was just as bad in that department, yet his words still inspire. Nixon created the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and opened China, but also dishonored the office he held. Thomas Jefferson had slaves. Abraham Lincoln plainly said he had no intentions of freeing slaves. And the paragraph above regarding prostitutes refers to Martin Luther King. Even Mahatma Gandhi, surely an icon of peace and civility, said the Jews under Hitler’s heels “should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife.” 


What, indeed, are we to do? Everyone has flaws. No one is perfect. If you think someone is, you just don’t know about theirs. And one person’s “flaws” is another person’s “strengths of character.” Judging people is simultaneously harmful (“Judge not, lest ye be judged”) and necessary. We can’t choose a better path without acknowledging and turning away from ideas and behavior that will harm our social, cultural, and personal evolution . . . or our world.

Should we separate the person from their creations (art, writing, leadership) or do we turn away and disregard their accomplishments or creations because of the creator’s flaws? Is it a matter of strict lines in the sand? Should we make allowances for time, context, and culture?  Is justice  about punishment or mercy? Does it matter if the theft was a loaf of bread and the thief was hungry?

I suspect dealing with this is akin to the concept of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not about forgetting, turning from what is true, or acting like something didn’t happen. It is about letting go of the grip wrongs have on us; letting go of our own emotional angst and moving forward.

So maybe the answer is not to ban books or art (because ideas are next) or even to shun the art, works, or accomplishments of the flawed (because ultimately that is everyone), but to be aware and negotiate the complexity. What young children with forming ideas are exposed to may need to be more strictly scrutinized than what adults read. It’s important they be exposed to material that reflects the diversity of the world. Confederate statues are still art and reflect historical people and events, but do they belong in public squares as “heroes?” Can we appreciate the beautiful and charming aspects of Southern culture while remaining clear-eyed about the racism that dominated that way of life? Can we admire the stunning culture of the Japanese, while rejecting the blood thirst of feudal rulers and war mongers? Can we accept and understand structural racism can exist along with good, decent police officers?

This is hard. We are not wired to do this very easily. We are wired to want simple choices—good/bad, dangerous/not. We want (need?) our heroes to be perfect. And if they aren’t, we want to put our hands over our ears and shut our eyes. But they aren’t perfect. We aren’t. Our country isn’t. We can be patriots and criticize. In fact, we must if we are to continue making things better and stay true to the ideals that  many have given freedom and blood for. At the moment, we are so polarized, that one side cannot imagine saying anything good about the other, no matter what it is. Picking a path through this jungle is hard. It is much easier to stay divided, to cheer only for our team. But life is not like that. Life is change. It is complex and contradictory, even our heroes. We must make decisions as we pick our way through stony, thorn-filled paths. We must make choices. Sometimes they are obvious, but often they are not clear or perfect.

Sometimes they will just be the best we can do.

 T.K. is a retired police captain who writes Books which, like this blog, go wherever her interest and imagination take her.




Thursday, September 24, 2020

Aimee Medina Carr's River of Love Ebook Winner of International Latino Book Awards by Juliana Aragon Fatula

Dear Reader,

The global pandemic took its toll on my mental health. I grew depressed and sank into a period of feeling sorry for myself. My therapy cat, Chong, had died at 18 years. I had raised her from a kitten. She slept with me every night. I grieved her making biscuits in my lap. 

Every year at the end of the month of September I begin the preparations for the autumn harvest in October. This year Mother Nature threw a snow storm in my garden and made my life twice as difficult as usual. My corn, squash, beans, chile, tomatoes, herbs, hollyhocks, chamomile, cilantro, marigolds, geraniums, phlox, roses were all covered in four inches of snow and the temperature dropped to 29 degrees. 

Then the wind came. The storm blew over trash cans and sent them flying down the street. I grabbed sheets, trash bags, string, scissors and headed to the garden fighting the wind and snow blowing in my face and soaking my clothes. I fought hard and I won, but the wind kept howling and blew the sheets and bags down the ditch. The weight of the snow bent the trees still in leaves and broke branches, the plants leaned to the ground and bowed to the storm of mother nature. 

It technically was still summer in southern Colorado in September. The weather changed from scorching hot to frigid cold. I feared for my Chicana garden. But, I prayed, I smudged, I cursed, I fretted, I got into my survival supershero suit and I tackled the job and I saved the garden from frost and devastation.  

I watched the International Latino Book Awards on Zoom and held my breath for my sister, Aimee Medina Carr. Her book, River of Love was nominated for two awards. She won for best Ebook. I felt elated for her incredible prestigious award. And I felt proud of her because I had seen her through all her  hard work and edits and revisions, and countless hours of coaching each other to carry on and finish her first novel and my first mystery. It all began at the sea side in California's beautiful Dillon Beach. We spent two weeks there enjoying each other's company and writing our first novels. 

Her victory snapped me out of my state of numbness. I had been watching the world crumble on CNN. I felt it couldn't get any worse, then it did. The next day it got worse, and worse. I turned the TV off and went back to work in my garden in the sunshine and blue skies. I pruned, I transplanted, I watered, and I fed my garden. 

As crazy as it sounds, my garden had been damaged by the storm, however, with a little love and care it sprang back and continued to bloom into Autumn. And the joy I felt for Aimee's award filled my heart with pride and I got back to work on my novel. She has supported me in my writing and kept me going when I felt like tossing it all in. I came out of my funk and got busy. 

I have to finish my novel, The Colorado Sisters. I have to plunge in deep and discover what I have left in me after all of this depression. I'm going to succeed and no matter what happens I can get on with life and count my blessings. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Waffle House

by Bethany Maines

So, I forgot that I was supposed to blog today and instead used my few minutes of writing time to write a scene where two of my characters go to a Waffle House.  But as a west coast resident, I’ve never actually been to a Waffle House.  As a result, I spent way too much time looking at the Waffle House menu on line and now I want hashbrowns and waffles.  Sometimes we hear authors say that their characters speak to them.  My characters wouldn’t deign to do that.  They’re too busy talking to each other. And honestly, if I left them to their own devices they would talk until my fingers cramped up from trying to transcribe.  I frequently have to cut off the conversations so that the story goes somewhere.  That’s part of the editing process, but these conversations are excellent at helping me understand the characters.  When I discover what they find funny, what they hate, what annoys them, and what their hard line stance is on Christmas decorations after New Years, I can plunk them down in any situation and know how they’ll react.  Which is how I know that Jackson Deveraux would be quite happy at the Waffle House, but that he would be shocked that his hoity toity grandmother Eleanor Deveraux knows to order Waffle House hashbrowns scattered, smothered, and covered, but not chunked.  The Deveraux family is full of secrets and surprises, but when I started writing about them I never would have thought that hashbrowns would be one of the surprises.  The Deveraux family, from my Deveraux Legacy, has become one of my favorite group of characters.  They’re a very fractured family that is struggling toward reconciliation while attempting to overcome the periodic interruption of mercenaries, bank robbers, and greedy CEOs.

If you want to find out what the Deveraux family thinks about Christmas décor you can check out book 1, The Second Shot, and pre-order book 2, The Cinderella Secret (both currently ¢.99).  Or you can…

Enter to win a paperback copy of The Cinderella Secret on Goodreads!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Cinderella Secret by Bethany Maines

The Cinderella Secret

by Bethany Maines

Giveaway ends October 17, 2020.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway
Or you can join the Bethany Maines / Blue Zephyr Press Newsletter mailing list and get a free copy of the prequel novella, The Lost Heir in October! 


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, September 22, 2020

What's Next?

 By Lynn McPherson

September is one of my favourite months. The weather is glorious, the kids are excited to be back at school, and it's time for me to start a new book. I've had a few ideas for a new story floating around my mind and have pondered which one, if any, I should choose. A few are quite dark. I've stuck with cozy mysteries so far and have enjoyed every minute. Could it be time to try something new? With my mind flip-flopping around, I've decided to outline a few criteria to help me decide. Sometimes choosing a project is the most difficult part. Anyone out there in the same dilemma? Let's do this together and see what we find out.

1. Does it excite you? This may seem obvious but sometimes I get so caught up in the planning of a story that I fail to think about if it's something I really want to write. Considering the hundreds of hours that go into each book, it's important to feel passion for each project. If it's not there, you might run out of steam before it's done.

2. Does it have a hook? To grab a reader's interest, it's important to have a quick and easy way to describe your book. You need to be able to sell your story to an audience in one of two sentences. 

3. Are you a fan? One of the best ways to decide what to write is to think about what you want to read. Chances are, you won't be the only one.

4. Does the story have strong characters? A big project requires a good team. Make sure the characters you choose are interesting enough to hold a reader's attention. Are they smart? Funny? Unique? Choose the qualities you deem important, just make sure they stand out from the crowd.

5. Give it a try! Sometimes writers begin a project to see if it feels right. If you're unsure, give it a week-long trial to see if it's working for you. Read what you wrote and, if you like it, keep going!

There you have it. My ideas of what to consider when writing a new book. If I've left anything out, please let me know in the comments. As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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, September 21, 2020

Meeting Yasmin McClinton: Winner of the Eleanor Taylor Bland Award

Yasmin McClinton

by Paula Gail Benson

Each year, Sisters in Crime presents the Eleanor Taylor Bland grant to assist an emerging writer of color in that writer's continuing journey.

Born in Boston on December 31, 1944, Eleanor Taylor Bland spent a good portion of her life in Chicago where her husband served in the military. Bland wrote a series of novels about Marti MacAlister, an African American police detective whose big city methods clash with those of her partner Polish-American Vik Jessenovik when she transfers from Chicago to a small town police force. The Wikipedia biography about Ms. Bland quotes Ms. Bland as saying that "the most significant contribution that [African American women writers] have made, collectively, to mystery fiction is the development of the extended family; the permanence of spouses and significant others, most of whom don't die in the first three chapters; children who are complex, wanted and loved; and even pets."

On Saturday, September 19, 2020, the Palmetto Chapter of Sisters in Crime was pleased to welcome the 2020 Eleanor Taylor Bland award winner, Yasmin McClinton, as a guest speaker and new member of the chapter. Readers and authors from England, Canada, New York, and California joined the chapter for the Zoom presentation. In particular, it was lovely to have Frankie Bailey in attendance. Frankie worked to establish the Eleanor Taylor Bland award when she served as President of Sisters in Crime.

Yasmin McClinton grew up in Virginia and began writing as an only child, whose companionship was from reading. She came to South Carolina as a military spouse. Following a divorce, she and her two daughters remained in Columbia to make a new start. She has since remarried and has two step-sons.

Throughout her life, she has continued to write. Her first novel was the story of four friends. Her second was a thriller based on background she learned from her parents who are immigrants. She said an agent asked why her thriller's protagonist didn't smile more, making her realize that agent was not the person to represent her. Our group agreed Lee Child probably did not field questions about Jack Reacher smiling more.

At the end of her presentation, Yasmin was asked what advice she would give to writers. She said to never give up, even if you feel as if you can't go farther, try one more time. She said, that was where she was when she applied for the Bland award.

In the Sisters in Crime press release, Yasmin was quoted as saying, "Authors like Ms. Bland show me that women of color--writers of color--can be authors in any genre they want and really bridge gaps. I shared with my daughters that I won this award. My daughters have been through the hardest times of my life. And I wanted to show them that their overly protective, annoying mom has dreams from her childhood coming true, even today. And, she can be chosen for prestigious awards like the Sisters in Crime Eleanor Taylor Bland award. So, Girls, no giving up. Ever!"

Congratulations, Yasmin! We're looking forward to reading your novels!   

Friday, September 18, 2020

Five Things You Might Not Know About Agatha Christie

 By superfan Shari Randall


September 15 marked the 130th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s birth and I've been celebrating all week. Please join me in raising a cup of tea in a toast to Dame Agatha, one of the most influential and successful novelists of all time. Her genre, the traditional mystery, has remained popular with readers since she published her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in 1920.


Most are familiar with the biography of Agatha Christie. The mega-selling (over two billion copies) author’s work is rediscovered by every generation and celebrated with a splashy, star-studded movie (the latest, Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile, is slated for October). Born to a wealthy family in Torquay, England, she was homeschooled and taught herself to read at age five. She had an ill-fated whirlwind marriage to Royal Flying Corps aviator Archie Christie and her disappearance when she discovered his affair caused a sensation. Her work in pharmacies during the war gave her a wonderfully deep and useful knowledge of poisons. Her happy second marriage to archaeologist Max Mallowan, and their travels, inspired some of her most popular books.


Her work continues to delight, inspire, and yes, confound 44 years after her death – from natural causes - in 1976 at age 85.

Here are a few lesser known facts about the Queen of Mystery:


Dame Agatha had a rose named after her: “Agatha Christie” is a “Beautiful rich, pink Hybrid Tea shaped blooms that are lightly fragrant. A strong growing disease-resistant climber with outstanding dark-green, glossy foliage. Repeat Bloom.”


She is the only female dramatist to have had three plays – Spider’s Web, Witness for the Prosecution, and The Mousetrap - running simultaneously in London’s West End.


She owned many dogs and her favorite breed was the terrier. Her first dog was named George Washington. Her favorite was a short-haired terrier called Peter that she wrote into Dumb Witness as “Bob.”


In 1922, Archie was asked to tour several areas of the British Empire to promote the British Empire Exhibition. He and Agatha stopped in Hawaii and the couple learned to surf, possibly becoming two of the first Europeans to master the sport.


Her daughter Rosalind, fiercely private like her mother, had one son, Matthew Prichard, with her first husband. Mathew received the sole rights to The Mousetrap for his ninth birthday.


There’s a misspelling on her gravestone. See if you can spot it.



What’s your favorite Agatha Christie book? Mine’s Murder on the Orient Express.

Shari Randall is the author of the Lobster Shack Mystery series. Her debut, CURSES, BOILED AGAIN, won the Agatha Award (yes, named for Agatha Christie) for best first novel. You can see what's new with her at or see her mermaid obsession on Instagram @sharirandallauthor.




Thursday, September 17, 2020

Smoke of a Distant Fire

 Smoke of a Distant Fire

By Cathy Perkins

Wildfires continue to devastate large swaths of California, Oregon and Washington, leaving death and destruction of lives, towns, and forests behind them.

I started to open this post with bullet points, such as:

  • Climate change is real
  • Science is real

But I generally leave the politics to my blog mate, Kay.

Here at The Stiletto Gang, we try to entertain and educate. Sometimes the posts are about books and sometimes about whatever subject inspired our latest story. But sometimes, the post is simply to inform.

Today, I want to tell you about smoke and the dangers of smoke inhalation. In a burning building, smoke inhalation overwhelms most victims, but with wildfires, smoke can be a widespread, more subtle danger. While the type and amount of particles and chemicals in smoke varies depending on what’s burning, how much oxygen is available, and the burn temperature, all smoke contains carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and particulate matter.

In very broad terms, these are the effects of those three components. Inhaling carbon monoxide decreases the body's oxygen supply. (It attaches more tightly to the red blood cell, preventing oxygen from reaching tissue in your body.) This can cause headaches, reduce alertness, and aggravate a heart condition known as angina. Fine particles can travel deeply into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs. Inhaling fine particles can cause a variety of health effects, including respiratory irritation and shortness of breath, and can worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. During increased physical exertion, cardiovascular effects can be worsened by exposure to carbon monoxide and particulate matter. Once exposure stops, symptoms from inhaling carbon monoxide or fine particles generally diminish, but may last for a couple of days.

The CDC has a one-page information sheet that you may find interesting or helpful.

On a personal level, I’m surrounded by three major wildfires. Cold Creek to the northeast, Evans Canyon to the southeast and smoke from the Oregon fires pushing in from the south and west. So, the air quality here has been in the “very unhealthy” zone for a week. It occasionally topples over into “hazardous” territory, which basically means don’t go outside if you can help it. We’ve kept the house closed up, but inevitably smoke comes in every time we do go outside, so it’s less of a sanctuary now.

The view looking out my door: 

Yeah, there's normally a forest and a mountain visible out there. 

Staying home, limiting the social bubble, was tough enough when we could get outside and hike or golf or just sit by the river. After a week inside the house, I have even more sympathy for my friends in Brooklyn and other large cities, where “getting outside” might mean sitting on the front steps of your building. I’m also battling burning eyes, swollen sinuses, a headache and a general feeling of, can I just curl up on the couch?

Pray for rain and offer thanks to the dedicated firefighters who are slowly containing the fires.

And now I have that song as an earworm…

You left me here...

Girl your eyes…

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 the sequel to The Body in the Beaver Pond, which was recently presented with the Claymore Award. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Two Truths and a Lie

by Saralyn Richard


When I was a high school administrator, one of my favorite ice-breakers for meetings was the game, Two Truths and a Lie. If you’ve never played it, each person at the table comes up with three facts about herself, one of which is not true. The others at the table have to guess which fact is the lie.

            This game is particularly fun for people who love mysteries. The participants have to put on their sleuth hats, use clues about what they already know about the speaker, and, once the lie is announced, praise or chastise themselves for their deductive wisdom.

            Since this is Back to School month, I thought I’d write a version of Two Truths and a Lie, and let you guess. Are you ready? Here goes…

            Fact #1: After decades of living in a totally different area of the country, I returned to my hometown, and I live in the house I grew up in.

            Fact #2: I started thinking of myself as an author when my sophomore English teacher told me that’s what I should do for a career.

            Fact #3: I’m married to a police detective, and that’s who my series protagonist, Oliver Parrott, is patterned after.


            Before we get to the solution, let me tell you a little about A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER, which is my latest release. Second in the Detective Parrott mystery series, the book takes you back to the beautiful, serene Brandywine Valley in Pennsylvania, where the landscape is lush, the mansions are huge, and the secrets are deep. Two valuable paintings, taken from the artist’s own studio, start Parrott on his next case. Soon theft turns into murder, and Parrott is thrust into a complicated case that becomes all-too-personal.

            Here’s what novelist, William Kent Krueger, author of THIS TENDER LAND, has to say about it:

“In the Brandywine Valley, a delicate balance exists between the very wealthy and those who serve them, but the murder of a famous artist threatens this tenuous equilibrium. In her second outing featuring Detective Parrott, author Saralyn Richard offers readers a compelling story of worlds in collision. A Palette For Love and Murder probes more than the mysteries of the art world and the motives for murder. Satisfied readers will discover that it also delicately plumbs the depths of love and the human heart. This is another winner for Richard.”

            A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER has been honored with the Silver Medal in the category of Mystery/Sleuth in the 2020 Readers Favorite contest and the finalist status in the 2020 International Book Fest contest’s mystery/suspense category. You can purchase the book at your indie bookstore or online at



Back to the ice-breaker—if you chose Fact #1, you didn’t guess that I might have returned “home” in 2005 to the house that I grew up in. That’s true, and I love being surrounded by wonderful memories of family and friends and good times.

If you chose Fact #2, you didn’t guess that my English teacher, Mari Allmond, inspired me to become a writer (and a teacher), and, she continues to inspire me all these years later. By the way, one of the main characters in A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER is named after Mari.

If you chose Fact #3, you solved the case with the best of them! Congratulations! I’m married to a wonderful guy, who is my alpha reader and adviser in many topics, but he has never been a police detective.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for playing along. I hope Back-to-School month brings you good health, lots of interesting activities, and much joy.





Friday, September 11, 2020

My World is Upside Down

My World is Upside Down by Debra H. Goldstein

I should be promoting my new book, Three Treats Too Many, the third book in the Sarah Blair mystery series that was released last week, but I’ve been busy. We moved.

Moving is not for sissies. Moving is not for anyone. It’s exhausting – especially if you sell the house you lived in for fifteen years in seven hours and need to move into temporary housing ten days later. This translates into moving everything you own into 3 storage bins. Six weeks later, everything came out of storage and was brought to the house.

The kitchen alone had just under 40 boxes to unpack, but we got them done.  Other than needing to go through some more books and get a stand for my printer and a record player, the boxes downstairs are gone.

Anyway, I’m going to cut myself some slack this week and ask you to consider doing three things:

1) Join me and other members of Booklovers Bench  (Maggie Toussaint, Nancy J. Cohen, Cheryl Hollon, and Anna Gerald/Diane A.S. Stuckart) for our Fall Cozy Mystery Party on September 14 

2)    Think about purchasing or having your library purchase Three Treats Too Many – or read it and pass it on to a friend. Remember, it is a standalone, but for one day, today, September 11, you can get a kindle or e-book copy of One Taste Too Many for only $1.99 -

3)    Grab a book, mine preferred, curl up somewhere and enjoy a few hours of respite.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

A Charleston Alley

- Today I share a short-short story while I'm finishing up my newest novel. I hope you have a fantastic September and all those in school have a lovely experience this year. My son's currently a high school senior and taking virtual high school and college courses. 

A Charleston Alley

I ducked into the alley and squared my shoulders. I didn't trip on the cobblestones, even though I wore three-inch stiletto heels that had hurt my ankles and made the balls of my feet sweat. I didn't watch my steps closely either, I never looked down. I gazed straight ahead, head held high, shoulders back and down away from my ears, not hunched over and tilted sideways due to the heft of my tote bag stuffed with notebooks, journals, novels, and dreams.

I ran my right palm across the centuries-old brick lining the alley instead of pounding my fist into it. I didn't turn my head when I heard steps gathering speed at my rear. My heart didn't clinch as the man's baritone rumble evoked a soft laugh from a woman's throat. My chest didn't seize, my pulse stayed steady, my palms might have become damp and caught slightly on the bricks, but I charged on.

I liked the swish of the fringe of my silk purse brushing my thigh as it swung on my left wrist. I did hold my hands up to admire the shell pink of my nails that I hadn't bitten to the quick in two weeks. Fourteen entire days!

As I closed in on my destination, I didn't think my ample bosom, as my mother described it when she'd zipped up my sheath dress, pressed too tightly against the seams. I could breathe and still had a gap between the cleavage, even though fifteen pounds had crept up on me and I'm not a college freshman.

I didn't try to open the door first when the gentleman in the laughing couple rushed to grab the handle. I smiled at him instead and thanked him, surprised that my voice didn't quiver or shake but sounded gentle and southern to my ears and inside my head.

I didn't stop at the host station to ask for a table for one, or dash into the ladies room to throw up or give myself a final pep talk. I continued my journey directly into the well-lit bar.

It didn't take long for me to spot him. Dark hair glistening, the back of his neck newly shaved and begging for a kiss. He ran his finger around his starched collar, and then straightened his tie. I could almost catch a whiff of his aftershave, a musky, manly scent that had lingered on my porch swing cushion for hours after he'd left the evening before.

He thanked the bartender, paid a generous tip, and glanced toward the door. His smile spread across his face, causing wrinkles around his eyes. I enjoyed the long, silent whistle, the nod of appreciation, the way his body leaned toward mine. I reached him in five steps. Watching him, watching me. I had control. I had hope. I took the chardonnay glass from his hand, a shock of electricity coursing through us so violently it made the laughing couple stop and stare.

I didn't care. After the ultimate ten year dating dry patch, I wasn't looking back.


Robin Hillyer-Miles is close to finishing her next novel, "Cathy's Corner" and she can't wait to share it with the world. She lives in the South Carolina Lowcountry with her husband, son, and three dogs. Robin works for the YWCA Greater Charleston with the mission to eliminate racism and empower women. She's currently published with a short story in an anthology that's soon no longer going to be available to purchase.

Robin's also a certified tour guide for the city of Charleston, has 300 hours of yoga instructor training, and is currently super tired of hearing/seeing political ads (and it's only September!). :D

Keep in touch with her via her Facebook page at

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Fall! Bombs Away!

 by Bethany Maines

Does anyone else feel like Fall just hit with a sledgehammer?  The weather shifted, everything started getting colder and book release dates started cropping up faster than weeds in my lawn. Our own Debra Sennefelder put out the fashion / Halloween themed mystery What Not to Wear to a Graveyard (see her post here) and we're celebrating the late summer releases of Debra Goldstein's latest Three Treats Too Many and our new author Gay Yellen with Body Business.

My next book releases in October, but that just means that all the marketing is happening now, now, now (use your used car salesman voice for the last part). Marketing for most authors, including me, is a somewhat painful process in which we attempt to interest the greatest number of people in our precious book baby. The Cinderella Secret is book 2 (of 4) in my Deveraux Legacy series. With a series, book 1 sets the tone and while marketing can be increased for subsequent books - if an author did a terrible job on book 1 then book 2 doesn't have much of a chance. This kind of high-stakes "hope you got it right" marketing pressure is what drives many authors to hate marketing.  We're already responsible for inventing these characters, putting them through hell, hopefully letting some of them make it out with a happy ending, and now we're responsible for making them a success in the world?  It's too much! My poor babies deserve more!  But of course, we saddle up and go out there and do our best for our imaginary book friends because we really do love them. Fortunately, it is a bit easier with assistance from friends, marketing professionals, and having some pretty sweet giveaways and incentives in my back pocket. 

Here's what's going on with The Cinderella Secret!

The Cinderella Secret:
Hot-shot lawyer Aiden Deveraux holds the key to unlocking the dark secrets of Ella Zhao’s past and Ella holds the key to Aiden’s heart. But a murderer wants to stop those secrets from ever seeing the light of day and Aiden and Ella may have to trust each other with their secrets if they want to make it out of this fight alive.

Release Date: 10.19.20

Pre-Order now from iBooks for ¢.99!  (Price goes up after release week!) Buy here →

Have a netgalley account and want to get an advance copy? Blogger/Reader Sign-Up →

Want to win an e-copy and a $40 Amazon giftcard? Enter to win →

Want to get the Deveraux Legacy prequel novella, The Lost Heir, for FREE? Learn how →


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, September 8, 2020

I'm New Here. Is it Coincidence, or Fate?

by Gay Yellen

When two random and unrelated events combine to create something truly fun, it makes me wonder. How does this kind of luck happen? Is it just a coincidence? Or is it something more?

Good fortune doesn't come every day. When it happens, it's definitely something to celebrate. And I am celebrating at this very moment. Here's why:

Several weeks ago, a message appeared in my inbox, seemingly out of the blue. It was an invitation to join the fine writers of the Stiletto Gang blog. Of course, I was honored and happy to accept. Yet the timing made me wonder. Did a magical alignment in the cosmos have something to do with it?

Weeks before that e-mail arrived, the new cover image for The Body Business, Book #1 in my Samantha Newman Mystery Series, was approved. Back then, only the designer, my publisher, and I knew what it looked like.

So, what were the chances that the book's cover featured a pair of red stilettos?

The book was released in July. This was the first shipment:


This kind of convergence always makes my ears tingle. Was a special alignment of heavenly bodies beaming down a message to me, whispering, Go for it?

Of course, the rational-thinking me knows that the planets don't care a fig about things like this. Yet my mind still wants to believe. Red stilettos. Has to be a sign, right?


Synchronicity, or serendipity? Who cares if it came on the tail of a comet or only by chance. I took the invitation as a good omen. 

Therefore, I hereby declare this day of my first Stiletto Gang post to be Happy Happenstance Day. And I'm kicking up my killer red heels (metaphorically speaking) to celebrate the writer/colleagues and readers I hope to meet here.


As a book lover, I’m buoyed by a community of readers who enjoy books as much as I do. As an author, I’m grateful for the generosity of fellow writers. To Kathryn Lane, Saralyn Richard, and Debra Goldstein, thanks for welcoming me into the Stiletto family. I look forward to meeting more Gang members and getting to know our readers.


Happy happenstances, whether meaningful or trivial, deserve our gratitude, especially in these difficult days. Let’s count them among our blessings. And let's always stay open to new possibilities, heaven-sent, or otherwise.


Has a pleasant coincidence or a lucky chance in your life seemed like a message from the universe? Say hello and tell us about it!

Gay Yellen is a former magazine editor who writes award-winning mysteries touched with humor and romance. You can find her Samantha Newman Mystery SeriesThe Body Business and The Body Next Door —on Amazon. Book #3 in the series is slated for early 2021. Gay loves connecting with readers via her website and Facebook page. She'd love to hear from you!