Friday, December 25, 2020

Are You Really Reading this on Christmas?

 


 

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.

 

 

Are you really reading this on Christmas?

The better question might be: Am I really writing this on Christmas? Me, a nice Jewish girl? LOL!
But I guess it's time to come out of the holiday closet.

I’ve been so relieved to learn that I am not the only Jewish person who grew up celebrating a (nonreligious) Christmas. It started with my grandmother who grew up in the little town of Maysville, Kentucky. Hers was the only Jewish family there. She felt seriously left out at Christmas. Not just the gifts the morning of, but all the preparations, excitement and sharing that went with it.

. . . Bummer.

 

She made up her mind that she would not do that to her children, and so, the family tradition began. I grew up celebrating/observing all of the Jewish holy days and holidays, including Hanukah, which usually  lands in the month of December, but we also brought a (real) tree and the pungent smell of pine into the living room and made homemade decorations for it that began with glue and glitter on paper and proceeded to sophisticated, hollowed-out egg shells. (Mom made the  shells; we decorated with glue and glitter). She also made origami figures (which we decorated with glue and glitter.) My favorite were the delicate pink and blue and yellow swans.

In the days before Christmas, I would squeeze behind the tree into my own private fairyland world of blinking red, green, and blue lights nestled in the tinsel-draped branches to make up complex stories involving the figures and ornaments. We also left cookies and a Coca-Cola for “Santa Claus,” but that was a facade for my younger siblings.

 I, alas, had learned the truth too early. . . .

When I was 6 or 7 years old, an older friend ridiculed my explanation about the tooth fairy leaving me a quarter in exchange for my tooth. I marched home with the friend in tow and told my mother that I was not believed, and would she please inform my smarty friend here of the TRUTH?

 Caught, my mother confessed the Tooth Fairy was not real. In shock, I desperately demanded, “But what about Santa Claus? He’s real, isn’t he?”

That was the first time my world crumbled. (Sadly, it would not be the last or the worst. But those are not tales for Christmas Day.) And it did not stop me from squeezing behind the blinking, shimmering tree and creating my own worlds . . . and eventually writing them down.

Whatever Christmas means to you, I know all the The Stiletto Gang authors join me in wishing you MM (Much Merry) and dreams come true!



 

 T.K. is a retired police captain who writes books, which, like this blog, go wherever her interest and imagination take her.  More at TKThorne.com


 

 

 

 


Thursday, December 24, 2020

This Christmas by Juliana Aragon Fatula

Dear Reader,

Here I sit in my kitchen 

by the woodstove 

dreaming of being on stage 

performing my one woman show. 

I'm serious. 

Not a dream. 

A frickin' nightmare. 

Mylifesuchatragedycomedy. 

That should be the title of the play. 

Mylifesuchatragedycomedy.com should be my author website. 

Just sayin'. 

Ok, here is my holiday rant about my dysfunctional family I love and dislike. 

Spoiler alert, they're no angels. Hope you enjoy my holiday tale. 


This priceless photo could be titled Juliana's Vata Locas Book Club 

or You can't spell SCHOLAR without CHOLA. 

This Christmas I remember the family gatherings at my parents' home in Canon City, Colorado. I had two half-brothers and four-half sisters from my parents' previous marriages. My little sister and two little brothers came after I was born in 1957. Counting my parents, there were twelve of us. I never met my Dad's oldest daughter. She only lived ten minutes away, in the next town, but she was estranged from my father and lived with her mother. 

My oldest brother and two older sisters , were my mother's children from her first marriage. We were far apart in age and didn't grow up in the same house. They were married and gone by the time I was old enough to remember them. We never grew close in all my sixty-three years on Earth. 

I established a relationship with my father's second daughter, Irene, and his first son, Steve. Irene was a surrogate mother to me and Steve being only four years older was my bestfriend growing up and into my teen years. He left when he was 18 and I was fourteen. 

My sister, Irene, became my favorite sister until the day she died at 42. I was 32 when she died and it hit me hard. I've never grieved for anyone like I did for her. Even when my father died on Christmas day in 1992 and my mother died on Christmas Eve in 2008, I didn't feel it in my core like I did the day Irene died. 

I'm remembering all of the times we spent together and the conversations we shared. She took care of my son when he was a little boy and I worked full-time. We became part of her family. We wrote each other letters when I returned to Canon City and she remained in Denver. I cherish those letters and the love and confidence she gave me. I miss her this holiday and I miss her daughters, my nieces. 

My son, Daniel, turned 48 this December. He adored his tia Irene and grew up with her daughters babysitting him and being like big sisters to him. This Christmas I think about the conversations we had together, Irene, Daniel, and me. The love we shared. She left a huge void in my heart but it wasn't long before I filled that hole in my heart with new sisters. Tracy, Aimee, Alice Denver, Judy, Denise, Maria, Lizzette, Debra, Yolanda, Crissy, Corinne, Eva and many other women have come in to my life and upon meeting these incredible women, I instantly knew that we would become life long friends, sisters. 

I don't have close relationships with my siblings, except for my brother, Steve, who lives in Long Beach, California, and my cousin, Aimee, who lives in Camino, California. I have kept those two in my life because they support and love me and my other siblings have fallen by the side because we have nothing in common other than the same parents. 

I had to leave family behind in order to keep my sanity and I'm glad I made that choice to leave them and find love from people who love me for who I am. My brother, Steven, doesn't understand how I can abandon family and love strangers like Tracy, Judy, Maria, Denise instead of the sisters I am blood related to. Aimee and I are blood related on my Father's side. But I made a choice and I don't regret finding new family. I'm happier because I chose my sisters and they get me. I don't have to worry about them being racist, or homophobic, or xenophobic, or liars, or thieves, or abusive to me. I chose the women in my life because they are like me. They are educated, intelligent, open minded, and most of all liberal like me. 

This pandemic and this 2020 election have divided families, neighbors, and the country. I can't respect anyone who believes putting babies in cages and separating families at the border is acceptable. I respect their right to their religious beliefs but not against humanity, not about a woman's right to choose. 

This Christmas, I'm staying home, sheltering in place, wearing a mask in public when I venture out my door, and practicing safe distancing. This Christmas my neighbors and family have shown me their true colors and they have the right to choose to follow their beliefs but they do not have the right to tell me how to live my life. 

I hope this Christmas you are able to love who you love and fight for what you believe in. In 2021, life will change. My hope is for those families who were separated at the border to be united, somehow, someway. And for the family I've lost, I wish you happy holidays and a prosperous new year. We can agree to disagree and go our own ways. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

A Christmas Like No Other


A Christmas Like No Other

By Lois Winston

When I was a child, we didn’t have much in the way of holiday celebrations. Without going into lurid details, let’s just say my parents never should have had one child, let alone four. However, the one thing I did learn from them was how not to be a parent. As a result, I’ve always made sure holidays were a big deal in my family — decorating, tree trimming, cookie baking, listening to holiday music, and watching holiday movies are some of our favorite activities. I even enjoy shopping for those perfect gifts for everyone. And always topping my holiday list is gathering with family and friends. 

Of course, Covid-19 has forced us to pare that down severely this year, but instead of moping, I’ve decided to focus on next year’s holidays when—hopefully—this awful pandemic will finally be behind us. First up on my to-do list will be booking a flight to California to visit our son, daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren we haven’t seen for what seems like forever, except on FaceTime.

 

For much of my adult life I juggled three careers at once. I’m now retired from two of them and concentrating full-time on my writing. I’m used to spending my days working from home. That’s the one part of my life that hasn’t been impacted by the pandemic. Escaping into the world of Anastasia Pollack, my reluctant amateur sleuth, has been a way for me to block out all the horrible things that have occurred during 2020. 

 

She, of course, would have it otherwise, but I get it. She didn’t ask to go from a normal life as a middle-class working wife and mother to a debt-ridden single-parent who constantly stumbles across dead bodies. Then again, conflict is the name of the game when writing, and cozy mysteries do need their fair share of dead bodies. Readers kind of expect that. Besides, otherwise, what would an amateur sleuth do for 300 pages?

 

So far, I’ve written nine novels and three novellas in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, but the action has taken place over little more than a year at this point. When the series arc brought me to December, I knew I was going to have fun writing a Christmas mystery. As a matter of fact, I had so much fun writing Drop Dead Ornaments, Book 7 in the series, that I decided to write a second Christmas mystery. Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide, Book 8, picks up days after Drop Dead Ornaments ends.

 

Hey, there’s nothing like a little murder with your eggnog and gingerbread cookies, right?

 

As a holiday gift to my readers, the ebook edition of Drop Dead Ornaments is currently on sale through the end of December for only .99 cents.

 

Happy holidays, everyone!

 

Drop Dead Ornaments

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 7

 

Anastasia Pollack’s son Alex is dating Sophie Lambert, the new kid in town. For their community service project, the high school seniors have chosen to raise money for the county food bank. Anastasia taps her craft industry contacts to donate materials for the students to make Christmas ornaments they’ll sell at the town’s annual Holiday Crafts Fair.

 

At the fair Anastasia meets Sophie’s father, Shane Lambert, who strikes her as a man with secrets. She also notices a woman eavesdropping on their conversation. Later that evening when the woman turns up dead, Sophie’s father is arrested for her murder.

 

Alex and Sophie beg Anastasia to find the real killer, but Anastasia has had her fill of dead bodies. She’s also not convinced of Shane’s innocence. Besides, she’s promised younger son Nick she’ll stop risking her life. But how can she say no to Alex?

 

Buy Links
Paperback

Amazon 

Kobo 

Apple Books
Nook 

 

USA Today and Amazon bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.

 

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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Starting the New Year Write!

 By Lynn McPherson

The holidays are a great time to sit back and take a deep breath. It is a time for reflection and rejuvenation. Today I'd like to talk about preparing for a great year of writing and how the holiday break fits in. There are three things I'd like you to consider. Three things that could set you up for a productive year ahead. Let's take a look.

1. Brain Drain. Say what? Yes, one of the best ways to prepare to start the year fresh is to let your mind decompress. Life is busy. 2020 has been intense and difficult. The end of the year we are given the opportunity to step away from schedules and deadlines. It is the best time to allow our mind the freedom to roam and wander and let everything slow down. When the year kicks in and life starts up again in full force, it will be refreshed and ready for new challenges and new ideas to take shape. There is no better time to let the creative juices flow.

2. Read. The end of the year is a great time to catch up on the year's titles you've been trying to fit in. Turn on the fireplace, put on some cozy slippers, and dive in. Late at night, when the house is quiet and the moon is out, indulge your imagination. What better way to inspire your own writing than by reading something new?

3. Plan it Out. When you have time to yourself, without looming deadlines and conference calls, why not grab a calendar--a personal calendar--and start to jot down some ideas? What would you like to accomplish? Set some goals--reasonable goals you can aim for in the coming weeks, months, and year.

Life is busy and complicated. Now is the best time to sit back and think. Sometimes we are so busy doing things, we forget what and why we are doing them in the first place. Embrace the quiet holiday this year and let your mind wander and linger and relax. It is the best way to prevent a burn out and take some much needed time for yourself. There is no better way to get ready for the year ahead.

Watch out 2021!

Do you have plans for the coming year? What are you hoping to accomplish?

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, December 21, 2020

An Interview with Hank Phillippi Ryan

by Paula Gail Benson



How do you possibly describe the multi-faceted Hank Phillippi Ryan? Intrepid, award-winning investigative reporter and winner of 37 Emmys? Creator of the Charlotte McNally Mysteries and Jane Ryland Thrillers? Author of short fiction, teacher of writing craft, recipient of 5 Agathas (the only author to win an Agatha in 4 different categories: Best First Novel, Best Novel, Best Short Story, and Best Non-Fiction), 4 Anthonys, the Daphne, and the Mary Higgins Clark Award? Bestselling author of mysteries, suspense, and thrillers? And whose 2019 novel  THE MURDER LIST just won the Anthony Award for Best Novel of the year?

Why is it not surprising that all of the above apply, as well as enthusiastic encourager of writers and readers?

Today, it’s a great pleasure to welcome Hank to The Stiletto Gang for a few questions.

Hank, you’ve had great success with series mysteries and thrillers and now are excelling with your stand alone suspense novels. What drew you to writing crime fiction?

Well that should be such an easy question, but it really isn’t. First, thank you. What a lovely thing to say! What drew me to writing crime fiction? Well, I always loved mysteries and thrillers, and read like crazy my whole life. And although it had crossed my mind to write crime fiction, it was never really a goal. But one day in—2005 maybe? I had a good idea for a mystery novel. I just knew it was a good idea, and all I could think of was writing the book. I was obsessed! It was craziness, because I had no idea how to do it, but I just deeply wanted to. And that became Prime Time, my very first novel, which won the Agatha for best first novel. And it’s still really selling!

I was 55 years old  and had been a television reporter for about 30 years then. So there was no reason for me to start something new except for sheer desire. I guess I am the poster child for following your dreams in mid-life. Yay.

What led you to progress from series to stand alones?

Progress from series to standalones.  Hmm. Well, I look at it less as progress and more as change. The Charlotte McNally books, beginning with Prime Time, a series of four, had a certain sensibility--first person, fast-paced and fun.  But then I got the idea for a bigger thriller, a multiple point of view heftier novel, and I knew that could not be a Charlie McNally book. And that was my first investigative thriller, The Other Woman, which won the Mary Higgins Clark award. So I wrote four more in that series, and there’s another one under contract, and I’m very excited about that.

But then I had another idea for a book that could not be a series book. It had to be one of a kind, a standalone, a twisty psychological suspense. And I love that – – the power of the standalone, where anything could happen! And I started writing what  I call cat-and-mouse psychological suspense. First was Trust Me, then The Murder List, then The First to Lie.  And I am thrilled with that.

Do you ever consider returning to your series?

Yes, absolutely! I adore the Charlotte McNally books, and would love to write more of those. And as I said, I’m under contract for another Jane Ryland. Hurray! But I prefer, if I have a choice, to do whatever book is taking over my brain at the moment. I just sent in my 13th novel, another cat and mouse psychological suspense! Which doesn’t quite have a title yet.

Would you ever want to revisit any characters in your stand alones?

Revisit any characters… I’m thinking about that, and I have to say--no. The key part of a standalone to me is that you’re witnessing the very most important thing that ever happened in these people’s lives. Yes, they had lives before the book, and their lives will continue after the book--some of them at least--but this is all you need to know about them. When you write a standalone, it feels to me that those people’s stories will be finished, and I absolutely would have had to write the books differently if the characters are going to continue.

Many of your books draw upon your journalism background. As a legislative staffer, I enjoyed reading about Rachel North’s experiences with the Massachusetts Legislature in The Murder List and figured you incorporated some of your own knowledge from working in and covering congressional proceedings. How has your own work in journalism and politics influenced the ideas you want to develop in crime fiction?

Oh my goodness, I am so lucky about that! I could never have written these books without my own personal history being involved.  I worked in several campaigns for governor and senator in Indiana, and then I worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative assistant in a judiciary committee subcommittee. I learned so much, not only about politics, but procedure and psychology and what goes on behind the scenes. Then as a reporter, I learned how to write quickly, and take complicated things and make them fascinating and interesting and distilled to the essence. I also learned how to tell a story, right? Beginning, middle, and end. And for years I had to write a new story every day! So there could be no better training ground for writing fiction.

In particular, your stand alones have focused on truth and justice, and on how those concepts affect family and personal relationships. What do you find most compelling in exploring and entangling these themes?

You are so right! Truth and justice--in every realm of our lives. I don’t mean to sound high-faultin’, but what is truth? Is it what we wish for, or what we believe, or what someone tells us? Is there a true truth? Or does it depend on who tells the better story. I think that is so fascinating. Justice, too, what does that really mean? There are all kinds of meanings of justice--court room justice, karmic justice, personal justice, the justice of the universe. Does revenge count? Does that even work?  Making things right, I often think about that. I have a feeling that we are put on earth to help make sure things are right--and to support that process whenever we can. But how do we know what’s “right”? And is right different depending on the situation? You can see I’m going off on this now… But that’s my constant thought. I love to explore why people do what they do.

Figuring out characters’ motivations becomes a strong focus in your stand alones. How do you develop the cat-and-mouse atmosphere while playing fair with readers?

Yes, exactly! And I don’t completely know the characters’ motivations when I start--I really don’t know anything except one core idea. So I develop my cat-and-mouse atmosphere by exploring what each character wants and how far they’ll go to get it.

And because what they want is diametrically opposed, that creates instant conflict. And in  a cat-and-mouse game, only one person can succeed, but I want the readers not to be quite sure who they’re rooting for.  That’s exactly what we were talking about before: What is good and what is right all depends on how you look at it.  

So I want to set up a situation where you think one person is good, and believe what they say. And then you hear the same situation from someone else’s brain, and you think oh-- now I see the other side of the story. And isn’t that just like journalism and politics? And that’s what I try to do in my books. And I play fair, as you say, by telling the reader absolutely everything. It’s just that…they may be thinking about those things in the wrong way--the way the book suggests they should, not in the way that turns out to be real.

Boston is another true character in your novels. What are its unique qualities that intrigue you as a crime writer?

Oh, Boston! It’s so perfect. It’s old, incredibly old, and incredibly new, with diverse and vibrant neighborhoods and culture and ridiculous geography and impossible streets and crazy drivers and a fast-paced brusque constantly-moving atmosphere. And the weather! Is completely nuts. The harbor, and the history, and the food, and the clash of cultures-- the Brahmins  and the newcomers and the aggressively territorial neighborhoods. All wonderful for fiction.



What was the most challenging aspect of writing The First to Lie? What did you find most rewarding about crafting that novel?

The most challenging aspect?  In two words: the middle. Okay, to go on a bit: I don’t want to give anything away for those who haven’t read The First to Lie, and I’m crossing fingers you eventually will. But most rewarding about crafting that novel is how it is absolutely and supremely fair. Readers are given every single piece of information. To be oblique about it, I had to very carefully keep certain people away from other people in the novel. There are certain people who are never in the same scenes, and there are certain people who never meet. And I absolutely applauded myself, briefly :-) when that worked.

What’s next on your writing horizon?

I’m in the midst of the final edits of my new book! I’m so thrilled about it--and that’s fun to say, because about a month ago I was in despair.  It doesn’t have a title yet, but it will be published by Forge on September 14. It is another cat-and-mouse standalone, I am happy to say, about celebrity and fame and the vulnerability of people who are always in the spotlight. 

One person asked me to describe it in 10 words and I said: Fame. Fortune. Your perfect daughter. Can you keep one secret?

So. Crossing fingers! And thank you so much for inviting me--I wish we could chat in person!

Thank you for spending time with us here at the Stiletto Gang. I really look forward to our next meeting in person! Best wishes for your continuing success!

Hank Phillippi Ryan is the USA Today bestselling author of 12 thrillers, winning the most prestigious awards in the genre: five Agathas, four Anthonys, the Daphne, and for The Other Woman, the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. She is also on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s WHDH-TV, with 37 EMMYs and dozens more journalism honors. Book critics call her “a master of suspense,” “a superb and gifted storyteller,” and she’s the only author to have won the Agatha in four different categories: Best First, Best Novel, Best Short Story and Best Non-Fiction. Her 2019 standalone, THE MURDER LIST, won the Anthony Award for Best Novel, and is an Agatha, Macavity and Mary Higgins Clark Award nominee. International bestseller A.J. Finn says, “exciting, explosive, relentless,” and the Library Journal starred review calls it “A must-read.” Hank’s newest novel: the chilling psychological standalone The First to Lie. The Publishers Weekly starred review says “Stellar… Hank Phillippi Ryan could win a sixth Agatha with this one.” and bestseller Sarah Pekkanen says “Book clubs will gobble it up.”

Hank is a founder of MWA University and past president of National Sisters in Crime. Visit Hank online at HankPhillippiRyan.com, on Twitter @HankPRyan, on Instagram @hankpryan and on Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthor.

 

 



Thursday, December 17, 2020

Celebrating the Longest Night

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah (or Chanukah if you prefer), Happy Kwanzaa (Habari Gani?), and Yay for the Solstice! What are you celebrating this month?  



If you live in the Pacific Northwest like I do, the passing of the Solstice is a reason to be especially thankful. I know I'm looking forward to more than a few hours of daylight. While the recognition of the shortest day probably goes back a lot further, many of the Christmas traditions come from the pagan rituals - yule logs, evergreen wreaths, candles, and evergreen yule trees.    

Western cultures draw many of these winter holiday traditions from Saturnalia, an ancient Roman solstice celebration dedicated to Saturn, the god of agriculture and time. Initially a one-day celebration earlier in December, like many Roman holidays, it later expanded into a weeklong party stretching from December 17 to 24. Scandinavia honors St. Lucia, one of the earliest Christian martyrs. This holiday was folded into earlier Norse solstice traditions after many Norsemen converted to Christianity around 1000 A.D. As a symbol of light, Lucia and her feast day blended naturally with solstice fire traditions. Of course, we owe the red and green Christmas colors to ancient Celtic traditions.

Moving into other international traditions, the Chinese celebrate Dong Zhi (which means “Winter Arrives”) to welcome the return of longer days and the corresponding increase in positive energy in the year to come. The holiday also has roots in the Chinese concept of yin and yang: after the solstice, the abundance of darkness in winter begins to be balanced with the sun's light. While it is no longer an official holiday, it remains a family occasion to join together and celebrate the year that has passed and share good wishes for the year to come.

An ancient Persian festivalShab-e Yalda (which translates to “Night of Birth”) celebrates the triumph of Mithra, the Sun God, over darkness. According to its tradition, people gather on the longest night of year to protect each other from evil, burning fires to light their way through the darkness, and performing charitable acts. 

In Peru, like the rest of the Southern Hemisphere, the winter solstice is celebrated in June. The Inti Raymi (Quechua for “sun festival”) is dedicated to honoring Inti, the sun god. Before the Spanish conquest, the Incas fasted for three days prior to the solstice. Before dawn on the fourth day, they waited for the sunrise on a ceremonial plaza and offered sacrifices, using a mirror to focus the sun’s rays and kindle a fire. After the conquest, the Spaniards banned the Inti Raymi holiday. (Shocker, right?) 

For the Zuni, one of the Native American Pueblo peoples in western New Mexico, the winter solstice signifies the beginning of the year, and is marked with a ceremonial dance called Shalako. Once the Pekwin, or “Sun Priest,” announces the rebirth of the sun, four days of dance begin, starting with 12 kachina clowns in elaborate masks dance along with the Shalako themselves—12-foot-high effigies with bird heads, seen as messengers from the gods. 

The Anasazi left no written records, so we can only speculate about their winter solstice rites. Placement of stones and structures in their ruins, such as New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon, indicate they certainly took a keen interest in the sun’s movement. The Hopi, descendants of the Anasazi, have an all night ceremony that begins with the setting of the sun (beginning the longest night).

In Japan, the winter solstice is less a festival than a traditional practice centered around starting the new year with health and good luck. Like many of the traditions mentioned above, the practice has its roots in agriculture. While bonfires are also a tradition here, I'm interested in a different practice - taking warm baths scented with yuzu, a citrus fruit, which is said to ward off colds and foster good health. 

I'm wishing all of you good health in the upcoming winter (of our discontent. Sorry, couldn't resist). Covid anxiety, and then flat-out covid fatigue, have taken a toll on many of us. I know my productivity plummeted, but I do have a book releasing in January (Malbec Mayhem). 

As this crazy year winds down, take time (maybe on the longest night) to reflect on what the new season and new year will bring you. 2020 is almost behind us, but don’t give 2021 a chance to say, “hold my beer.”

Cathy 

PS Y’all were so helpful this summer with reviews from the Advance Reader Copies of Calling for the Money. I hope some of you will be interested in ARCs of Malbec Mayhem. Here's the link: https://bit.ly/MalbecReviewCopy 


An award-winning author of financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories.  When not writing, she battles with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.  Visit her at http://cperkinswrites.com or on Facebook  

Sign up for her new release announcement newsletter in either place.

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Preparing for 2021!


 PREPARING FOR 2021! by Kay Kendall


Seven years ago I joined the Stiletto Gang. Since then I've made 100+ blog posts and have enjoyed communicating with all of you.

Right now I'm in between writing projects but plan to begin early in 2021. I discovered in this year of the pandemic that I don't juggle multiple tasks as happily as I used to do, so something has to give.

Thus, I must announce that my long, enjoyable tenure with the Gang has come to its natural conclusion.

I wish you and your dear ones good reading and writing ahead. And may 2021 be especially good to you!

------------------

Kay Kendall writes the Austin Starr Mystery series that captures the spirit and turbulence of the 1960s. The amateur sleuth exploits are told in Desolation Row, Rainy Day Women, and After You’ve Gone. Her Bullet Book, Only a Pawn in Their Game, introduces a new character that will be featured in her series. Kay’s degrees in Russian history and language helped to ground these tales in the Cold War, and her titles show she’s a Bob Dylan buff too. Kay is a winner of two Silver Falchion awards, a past member of the national board of Mystery Writers of America and president of its southwest chapter, and was a contributing editor to The Big Thrill, the online monthly magazine of International Thriller Writers. 

Visit Kay at her website http://www.austinstarr.com/  
or on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/KayKendallAuthor

 

Holiday Food Rescue

by Saralyn Richard




This is the time of year to think about holiday giving, and this year the need is greater than usual for opening our hearts and our pocketbooks to support worthwhile causes. I don’t mean the robotic ones with unavailable numbers, who call on your phones every five minutes. The charities I’m thinking of are those that meet the needs of people who are hungry, ill, infirm, or under-served in some of their basic needs.

One of the most inspiring of these is Second Servings of Houston, founded in 2015 by my friend Barbara Bronstein. This “food rescue” organization connects those who need food with those who need to dispose of food. Its motto is, “Fighting Hunger. Ending Waste.” In its five years of operation, Second Servings has rescued over four million pounds of food, valued at approximately $40 million, from more than 400 food donors, and delivered it at no cost to over 90 Houston charities. A huge side benefit for the environment is that delicious “party” food has fed people instead of smoldering as toxic waste in landfills.



Every dollar donated to this amazing food transportation organization delivers thirty dollars’ worth of food to someone who is hungry. If this impresses you as much as it does me, check out Second Servings at this link:  https://secondservingshouston.org/donate-now.




When I think of the extravagant nine-course meal served at the Brandywine Valley birthday party in my novel, MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT, I wish I could donate the leftovers to an organization like Second Servings. Let’s all make our end-of-the-year tax-deductible donations count this year, because we are all in this together!

 


Saralyn Richard was born with a pen in her hand and ink in her veins. Check out her mysteries and children’s book at http://saralynrichard.com, and sign up for her monthly newsletter for fun content and special opportunities.

 


Now until December 31, enter the Goodreads giveaway for Saralyn’s upcoming release, A MURDER OF PRINCIPAL. https://bit.ly/2Vk7roZ

 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Three Wishes by Debra H. Goldstein


Three Wishes by Debra H. Goldstein

I’m tired.

It’s been quite a year – lockdowns, masks, two surgeries (removal of the hardware from the foot rebuilt a few years ago and cataract), building and moving into a new house, prepping and selling a house, finding a place to live during the weeks between the 7 hour house sale and the finishing of the new house, writing and editing a book, launching two books, writing and editing three new short stories, balancing the needs of my husband, and cooking more than I have in the thirty-seven years we’ve been married.

I don’t have any complaints – it’s just that I’m tired.

So, what I’m going to do is not write a full blog. Instead, I’m going to offer a holiday gift of all three of the published Sarah Blair mysteries to three lucky readers (U.S. only) who leave a comment either directly on the blog or on Facebook – all you have to do is tell me your three wishes for 2021.

 My three wishes are simple: Health, happiness, and prosperity for all.  (and maybe a few more hours of sleep)



Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The Path Through the Forest of Words

 by Bethany Maines

Writing is both hard and easy.  Like a lot of things, it's a relatively simple process that is accessible to just about everyone.  Sit, type, repeat, and you've got a book.  Also like a lot of things, doing it well is something that takes years of practice and refinement. And the better you do it, the less the effort is apparent. Good writer's make writing seem easy. From the effortless flow of a sentence to the way the plot of a book doesn't strain to contain it's characters, but seems to come directly from the characters themselves. But what can elevate clunky sentences to art?

I'll be giving a guest lecture in a few months to some high-school students on the topic of writing a mystery.  I love connecting with kids and I'm really looking forward to this class, but it got me thinking about how to teach such a thing.  I've been known to teach a variety of things—how to write action scenes, karate, how to pee in the woods. According to my daughter, who was four at the time, that last one is not my strongest topic. But like any skill, there are ways to breakdown each skill and pass on that recipe to the next person. Even if some small children don't want to listen to you, not peeing on your underwear is still an achievable goal.  As is writing a mystery.  But can I teach someone how to write a good mystery?  

As I have pondered the ins-and-outs of good writing and mystery's and teaching I've come to the conclusion and I don't think I can teach someone how to write well.  I can teach someone how to be competent and I can give them an entire toolbox of tips and tricks, but I think in the end the only person that can make a writer write well is... the writer. I think that it really comes down to the practice and ambition of the writer to push themselves beyond craftsmanship and into art.

I hope I’m on the path to art as I wander through the forests of words, but I have to admit that on some days, the best I can say is that I didn’t pee on my underwear.

Writer Update: The Lost Heir – The Deveraux Legacy prequel novella is now available! Catch up on all the Deveraux family dirt.

Aʟʟ Rᴇᴛᴀɪʟᴇʀs ʜᴛᴛᴘs//ʙᴏᴏᴋs2ʀᴇᴀᴅ.ᴄᴏᴍ/Ls-Hᴇɪʀ

👑👊👑

𝑺𝒐𝒎𝒆 𝒔𝒆𝒄𝒓𝒆𝒕𝒔 𝒘𝒐𝒏𝒕 𝒔𝒕𝒂𝒚 𝒉𝒊𝒅𝒅𝒆𝒏.

Jackson Deveraux was orphaned, abandoned and imprisoned, but life is about to hand him a second chance and a new family. Eleanor Deveraux lost her children in a plane crash and she’s in danger of losing her grandchildren to the Deveraux Legacy of drugs, abuse and secrets, but life is about to hand her Jackson. When Eleanor discovers an illegitimate grandson in prison for armed-robbery she grits her teeth and does her duty—she gets him out. But being out of prison doesn’t instantly make Jackson part of the family. And as Jackson and his cousins struggle to find common ground, Eleanor steers Jackson away from befriending her other grandchildren. She only needs Jackson to keep them out of trouble—not be their friend. But Jackson and Dominique, the youngest Deveraux cousin, have other plans and, as his first Christmas as Deveraux arrives, Jackson sets himself on the path to fixing the Deveraux clan and getting the family he’s always wanted.

 **

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, December 8, 2020

Gay Yellen: Finding Comfort and Joy

In the before-times, the term "twenty-twenty" usually indicated good news.
"Hey! Your eyesight is normal!" Or, "Wow! Your logic is clear-sighted!"

This year, a not-so-good connotation arose. At the end of December, when calendar turns, twenty-twenty will forever signify our historic year of global pandemic.

At our house, the trials we've endured have led us to count our blessings. We survived. So many things that we once took for granted have sustained us and saved us from running naked in the streets, howling like banshees. Through social isolation, family separation and, yes, fear of infection, we've learned to count our lucky stars, dim as they sometimes have seemed.

We've found a few uplifting—and often downright silly—activities to keep us sane. A friend turned us on to the old TV mystery series, Murdoch, about a 19th Century police detective who sometimes invents forensic tools to solve crimes. The show is easy on the psyche and a much-needed antidote to our relentless daily news.

 

Even better, we've dug out some of my parents' old LP's of original Broadway shows. We plunk them on the turntable, sing along with great gusto, and dance around the room until we're breathless. No worries about looking foolish. After all, no one's watching.

On nice days, we walk in the park, feed the squirrels, and summon the wintering ducks. My husband's spot-on Donald Duck impression can spark quite a lakeside conversation.

And sometimes, he cooks. Today, he's making turkey vegetable soup, a seasonal change from his delicious chopped salads. There's some to give to neighbors and plenty to freeze for later.


And there's joy to be found in books. Reading is a great way to while away hours in isolation. Because finishing Book 3 of the Samantha Newman Mystery Series has been my top priority this year, I've read less than usual. But gobs of books are in my to-be-read file, and I look forward to the day when I can start whittling the list down.

Finding comfort and joy in small pleasures helps lift our hearts. I hope you're finding ways to grab some for yourself.

What have you found to spark joy these days?

Wishing you a warm December, full of books and love.

Gay Yellen

P.S. Oh! I almost forgot: Mark your calendar for the last week in December when you can pick up The Body Business, Book #1 in the Samantha Newman Mystery Series, free.

Gay Yellen is a former magazine and book editor. She writes the award-winning Samantha Newman Mystery Series, including The Body Business and The Body Next Door. Book #3 in the series is slated for release in 2021.

Gay would love to hear from you, here, on Facebook, or at her website, GayYellen.com.