Friday, July 23, 2021

Dickens, Aliens, and Me


My first ambition was to be an astronaut. My dream was to make first contact with aliens who could take me on a private tour of the galaxy. I would check out the window every night to see if a UFO had landed in my back yard. (Surely, they could sense that I was waiting for them. . . ! ) For various reasons, it never did, and I didn’t get a chance to go looking for them, but that has now changed.


You might know that most of Charles Dickens’ novels were published in monthly or weekly installments. He pioneered the serial format of narrative fiction, which became the dominant mode during the Victorian period for novel publication and still exists in some magazine formats. 


The advent of print-on-demand technology in the 1960s turned the publishing industry on its head. It spawned the giant, Amazon, but it also wrested the ability to publish out of the hands of a few big publishing companies and into the hands of indie (independent) presses or even the authors themselves. This has had positive and negative side effects (a story for another day).


A couple of weeks ago, Amazon launched a new platform using serialization called “Kindle Vella.” The author can publish an episode (chapter) at a time and leave comments for the reader.  Readers can give a heads up for the chapters they like.  In that sense, technology is bringing the readers and authors closer together.


Also, it puts more power in the readers’ hands.  Instead of taking a chance on an entire book that you might end up hating or bored with, you can read at least three episodes for free. (As a special Amazon is now giving you 200 free tokens, which means you can really read about 15 chapters first.) Then you purchase tokens (at a reasonable price; the total book is about what a new release e-book would be) to “spend” on chapter-episodes of books that you really like. You start at and can read it there or (after you read your first episodes and purchase tokens) it will also be available to download onto Apple devices (Kindle Reader app or Kindle device) or you can keep reading right on


Back to meeting aliens and venturing into a new space . . . literally.


Motes (short for Mozart) is an extraordinary young girl born on Mars. When a boy is found dead in her dorm room, the private Martian school for gifted students expels her. Motes has nowhere to go besides the remote planet of Veld where her estranged father is studying mmerl, the native sentient species, some of whom are mysteriously disappearing.




This is a story close to my heart. I rewrote it during the Covid pandemic, and I’m really excited to be able to share it directly with readers this way!


You can check out SNOWDANCERS (the entire novel is uploaded) at "Kindle Vella" on at


Hope you enjoy Mote’s amazing adventure!


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



Thursday, July 22, 2021

Titles that Scream Read Me By Juliana Aragon Fatula

 Dear Reader,

What's in a title? What's in a name? Ask yourself what's the title of the last book you read and the name of the author. I last read a series of books by the author Janet Evanovich. I had heard the author's name before, but had never read any of her work. I decided to give her a try and I am now a huge fan. I read six of her books in one week. She kept me from being sad during a rough patch in my month. I'm glad I found Janet because she made me realize something about my own writing style. 

I've struggled with picking a specific genre for my mystery writing but I settled on love story. Sure there are private investigators, suspects, a homicide vicim, police detectives, coroner, and crime scene, but at the heart of the story are lovers. Murder and mayhem and romance and sex scenes, oh my. Janet led me to understand that my characters are in love in the middle of a brutal attack of the Atlanta Butcher. Dun dun dun. 

So the title of my love story has to reflect both the crime and the hook, the Colorado Sisters Private Investigators and the Atlanta Butcher Homicide. The Colorado Sisters and the Atlanta Butcher. A friend suggested the title should be The Atlanta Butcher, but I see this becoming a series of mysteries: The Colorado Sisters and the Denver Diabolical Death, The Colorado Sisters and the Chicago Serial Killer, The Colorado Sisters and the Pueblo Reservoir Drowning, The Colorado Sisters and the Yellowstone Camp Kidnapping. So as you can clearly see, the Colorado Sisters have lots of crimes to solve and I should get busy writing these mystery love stories. 

Watch this blog for future reveals and follow me on facebook to discover who killed Reggie Hartless and who is the Atlanta Butcher. The Colorado Sisters, L.A. and Eva Mondragon private investigators solve murders, missing persons, and cheating spouses and they travel the lower 48 states in the Love Shack, the silver airstream office on wheels complete with bullet proof windows, security audio and video system, password encrypted locks, and satellite telecommunications. 

Also, someone asked why so many of my characters in my story are gay, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual, I explained that many of my friends are LGBTQ and it feels true to me. It may not be your truth but it is my reality, so my characters reveal the world that I envision. The world where I live has people of all backgrounds and they lead diverse lives. So when you read my work and you ask yourself what kind of writer names a criminal defense attorney Shakespeare and gives him a crew cut Chingona girlfriend with a talent for hacking computers and undercover work that solves crimes.

And while we're at it, how about the characters Smith and Wesson, the Border Collies that fall in love with the number one suspect, Tony McNally? Will they end up in puppy prison or will they help L.A. and Eva, the Colorado Sisters, solve the investigation?   

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Literary Wonder Drug

by Barbara Kyle

I’m feeling pretty happy these days because I’ve just finished writing a new book, my twelfth novel.


However, during the eighteen months it took to complete, there were days when the work was definitely not making me happy.


Luckily, my career as a writer has taught me how to deal with those “blah” days. I take a literary anti-depressant. Powerful, but safe and reliable, it’s a true wonder drug.


My literary anti-depressant of choice is any book by P.G. Wodehouse, the genius who created the ineffable valet Jeeves and his inane but lovable employer, Bertie Wooster. Whenever I feel down, a hit of Wodehouse’s writing gives me a warm, mellow high.

Besides being a genius of madcap storytelling, Wodehouse invented some marvelous words. Three examples:


Gruntled. Adjective meaning "contented," the antonym to "disgruntled," coined in The Code of the Woosters (1938): "He spoke with a certain what-is-it in his voice, and I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled."


Persp. Short for "perspiration," this first appeared in The Inimitable Jeeves (1923): "The good old persp. was bedewing my forehead by this time in a pretty lavish manner."


Plobby. This describes the sound of a pig eating. It appears in Blandings Castle (1935): "A sort of gulpy, gurgly, plobby, squishy, wofflesome sound, like a thousand eager men drinking soup in a foreign restaurant."


Here's the prescription for this literary wonder drug:


Dosage: One to three chapters every evening before bedtime.

Efficacy: 100%

Side effects: Tender abdomen from laughing; sore facial muscles from smiling; stiff neck from shaking head repeatedly at the wonder of the author's comic genius.


Contraindications: Do not take this drug if you suffer from hard-heartedness or lack a sense of humor.


"Wodehouse's world can never stale. He will continue to release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own. He has made a world for us to live in and delight in." - Evelyn Waugh.


 Jeeves Collection: My Man Jeeves, Right Ho, Jeeves, and the Inimitable Jeeves



How about you? On a “blah” day what’s your literary anti-depressant?





Barbara Kyle is the author of the bestselling Thornleigh Saga series of historical novels and of acclaimed thrillers. Her latest novel of suspense is The Man from Spirit Creek. Over half a million copies of her books have been sold. Barbara has taught hundreds of writers in her online Masterclasses and many have become award-winning authors. Visit Barbara at 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021



The MacGuffin

by Saralyn Richard


Recently my husband and I binge-watched a collection of Alfred Hitchcock movies, each of which came with bonus material, including commentary from actors and filmmakers involved with its production. As a mystery writer, I found these commentaries almost as fascinating as the movies themselves.

            One of the terms mentioned repeatedly was The MacGuffin, a plot device Hitchcock used in most of his movies and made famous. Hard to define, a MacGuffin is an object or concept pivotal to the start of the plot, something that the characters care about, but the audience doesn’t. The MacGuffin acts as a catalyst to drive some of the action of the story. Later in the story, the MacGuffin diminishes in importance, to the extent that it may disappear altogether.

            Some famous MacGuffins are the Maltese falcon statue in The Maltese Falcon, the word “rosebud” in Citizen Kane, the ark of the covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the stolen money in Psycho, the lovebirds in The Birds, uranium stored in wine bottles in Notorious, and the mistaken identity for Cary Grant in North by Northwest. In all of these cases, the MacGuffin is extremely important to the characters, and it launches the plot, but it becomes vague and meaningless as time goes on.

            Hitchcock delighted in using MacGuffins. Indeed, they became one of several signatures of his movies. I had fun identifying the MacGuffins in each of the movies we watched, and then analyzing how the stories spiraled away from them.

MacGuffins work in films, but what about in literature? The Arthurian legend may be one of the earliest examples, since the search for the Holy Grail drives all of tales of the knights, but the object itself is never found, and it takes a back seat to the adventures that come from the quest for it. In Hamlet, the protagonist’s father’s ghost is the MacGuffin; in the Iliad, the beauty of Helen of Troy.

In mystery novels, MacGuffins might be red herrings, intentionally leading readers astray. Or detectives might stumble onto important cases after investigating less important ones.

Now that I know about MacGuffins, I am finding them everywhere, even in my own writing! What are some of your favorite MacGuffins?


Award-winning and best-selling author, Saralyn Richard was born with a pen in her hand and ink in her veins. A former educator, she loves connecting with readers. Her humor- and romance-tinged mysteries and children's book pull back the curtain on people in settings as diverse as elite country manor houses and disadvantaged urban high schools.

Visit Saralyn at 
here, on her Amazon page at here, or on Facebook here.


Monday, July 19, 2021

Celebrating the Agathas for Best First Novel

by Paula Gail Benson

For the past two years, the community that gathers for Malice Domestic has missed its annual reunion. From Wednesday through Saturday, the Malice board organized and presented a series of online panels and interviews that helped those of us missing the in-person event to feel as if we reconnected virtually.

More Than Malice ended on Saturday with the announcement of the Agatha awards. The teapots for the past two years will be awarded when we’re all together again, but in the meantime, today and tomorrow on Writers Who Kill, I wanted to recognize the Agatha nominees for Best First Novel and Best Short Story. They are a wonderful group of writers. If you haven’t discovered them yet, please consider reading their work.

Here are the Agatha nominees for Best First Novel (award noted by **):

2019 Agatha Nominees for Best First Novel

Connie Berry
A Dream of Death by Connie Berry (Crooked Lane Books)

**One Night Gone by Tara Laskowski (Graydon House)

Murder Once Removed by S. C. Perkins (Minotaur Books)

When It’s Time for Leaving by Ang Pompano (Thimble Island Press, 2nd edition)

Staging for Murder by Grace Topping (Henery Press)

Tara Laskowski

Connie Berry is one of my blogging partners at Writers Who Kill. Her first Kate Hamilton novel was nominated for an Agatha.
A Dream of Death also was a finalist for the Silver Falchion and won the IPPY Gold Medal for Mystery. Since then, two additional books in the series have been released, A Legacy of Murder (October 2019) and The Art of Betrayal (June 2021). The Shadow of Memory is the next Kate Hamilton adventure.

Tara Laskowski’s first novel One Night Gone, not only won the Agatha, but also the Macavity and Anthony awards and was a finalist for the Lefty, the Simon and Schuster Mary Higgins Clark, the Strand Critics, and the Library of VA Literary awards. Her second novel, The Mother Next Door, will be published in October 2021. She, her husband Art Taylor, and son Dash will be guests of honor at Murder in the Magic City in February 2022.

S.C. Perkins
S.C. Perkins is a fifth generation Texan, who grew up listening to stories about her ancestry and eating Tex Mex, experiences that contribute to her Ancestry Detective series. Her first book, Murder Once Removed, won the 2017 Malice Domestic Best First Novel competition prior to being nominated for an Agatha. Lineage Most Lethal will be released July 21, 2021, and Fatal Family Ties is next book.

Ang Pompano
Ang Pompano proves how perseverance leads to publication. In his blog post in Writers Who Kill, he describes how he kept moving the location of his novel in order to sell it. When It’s Time for Leaving takes place just outside Savannah, an evocative place that becomes a character in the story. His next novel, Diet of Death, is about a reluctant food columnist.

Grace Topping
Grace Topping, another of my blogging partners at Writers Who Kill, became an author after a career in technical writing and as an IT project manage. Her Laura Bishop home staging mystery series has made her an Agatha finalist and bestselling author. Staging for Murder has been followed by Staging Wars and Upstaged by Murder.

2020 Agatha Nominees for Best First Novel

A Spell for Trouble by Esme Addison (Crooked Lane Books)

Esme Addison

Winter Witness by Tina deBellegarde (Level Best Books)

Derailed by Mary Keliikoa (Epicenter Press, Inc.)

**Murder at the Mena House by Erica Ruth Neubauer (Kensington)

Murder Most Sweet by Laura Jensen Walker (Crooked Lane Books)

Tina deBellegarde
Esme Addison, originally from Raleigh, NC, but having traveled a great deal as a military spouse, based her Enchanted Bay Mystery series on the Polish myth of the Mermaid of Warsaw, which she learned from marrying into a first generation Polish family. Her second book is A Hex for Danger.

Tina deBellegarde has written short stories and flash fiction. Her first novel,
Winter Witness, begins the Batavia-on-Hudson series. She lives with her husband and cat Shelby in the Catskills where she tends bees and harvests shiitakes and vegetables.

Mary Keliikoa

Mary Keliikoa’s
Derailed, the first in her PI Kelly Pruett books, has been nominated for the Lefty as well as the Agatha. Denied is the second book in the series. She also writes the Mystery Pines mysteries, the first book, Hidden Pieces, will be coming out in September 2022. Her experience as a legal secretary led her to write mysteries.

Erica Ruth Neubauer

Erica Ruth Neubauer’s 
Murder at the Mena House, the first of the Jane Wunderly mysteries, received the Agatha for best first novel. The second in the series, Murder at Wedgefield Manor, was released in March 2021. Erica lives with her husband in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and has worked in the military, law enforcement, as a teacher, and as a reviewer.

Laura Jensen Walker
Laura Jensen Walker knew she wanted to be a writer since reading 103 books in first grade. Murder Most Sweet is the first of her Bookish Baker mysteries. The second, Deadly Delights, was released in June. Hope, Faith, and a Corpse, a new cozy series about a pastor in a small California town, came out in January.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Allow Me To Introduce Myself - And My Other Self: Using a Pen Name

 By Shari Randall


Any writer will tell you there are ups and downs on the road to publication. To torture the metaphor, there are washouts, hairpin turns, and dead ends along with the rare, blessed miles of straight-as-a-pin, put-the-top-down-and-blow-your-hair-back Montana highway. I thought I’d managed these changing conditions pretty well until the publication journey threw up a completely unexpected challenge.


A hitchhiker.


Anyone who’s ever watched horror movies is now having flashbacks and shouting, “Never pick up the hitchhiker!” But since it was required, I took a deep breath, swung open the door, and let her in.

Not only did I let her in, I let her drive.

I picked up a pen name, Meri Allen.


“Why a pen name?” readers asked. My agent says “new series new name,” and luckily, the new Ice Cream Shop series has been welcomed with great energy and reviews.


But how does one “be” another author? Sally Field in Sybil haunts my dreams. I have questions. What about Meri’s author photo? Should I change my look? Use a disguise? The pandemic already changed my hair color, so at least I have that going for me. A new website is in order, but who gets it, Shari or Meri? How to write Meri’s bio when she doesn’t really exist? 


Thank goodness the writing has gone smoothly. Both Meri and Shari adore the same writers and cut their teeth on Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Agatha Christie, Ross MacDonald, and Sue Grafton. They’re both huge Murder, She Wrote fans.


Shari’s main character, Allegra “Allie” Larkin is a dancer who works in a lobster shack and discovered a talent for and love of sleuthing. Meri’s main character, Riley Rhodes, is a librarian who worked for the CIA – and had a few undercover assignments on her many travels. Riley’s older and has been around the block a few more times than Allie, but both are independent women, fiercely loyal to their families and friends. Shari set her stories on the Connecticut shoreline, Meri sets hers in a wonderful little spot in Connecticut we call the Quiet Corner. Quiet, except for the murders I've written in. The Lobster Shack Mysteries had definite Gilmore Girls vibes, while Meri’s Ice Cream Shop Mysteries have a Midsomer Murders vibe, darker, as befits a protagonist who has secrets of her own.


The writing process took me to some unexpected places, but I’ve come to love Riley and her friends in Penniman, a quintessential New England village with the covered bridge, town green, and locals with generations-long grudges and secrets to prove it. At first it was hard to put aside my Lobster Shack mysteries characters, but I’ve signed on to the Destination Murders anthology series and will bring them back in short stories once a year. I’ll still get to spend time in beloved Mystic Bay. 


As a writer, I’ve discovered one big benefit to a pen name. In talking with a friend who uses pen names (three!), I realized a wonderful advantage. Using a pen name gives you clear headspace to write new characters. When I write as “Meri Allen,” it’s easy to switch gears and enter into Riley’s world.


To my relief, Meri’s a terrific driver, and I’m enjoying the ride.


Writers, have you ever used a pen name? What was your experience? Readers, what do you think about authors using pen names?


Shari Randall is the author of the Lobster Shack Mystery series. The first in series, Curses, Boiled Again, won an Agatha Award for Best First Novel.


Meet Meri on social media. She’ll, well, we’ll be celebrating her new book, The Rocky Road to Ruin, with lots of giveaways and fun, plus sharing all things cozy New England and ice cream galore!


Check out The Rocky Road to Ruin here.

Instagram: @meriallenbooks

Facebook: Meri Allen Books

July 14-26: Win a paperback copy of The Rocky Road to Ruin! Macmillan has set up a Goodreads Giveaway

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Book Hangover

 by Bethany Maines

I have a book hangover. I'm about to close out a series that's very near and dear to my heart.  The Shark Santoyo Crime Series has characters that got under my skin and I'm loathe to let them go.  So much so, that I'm leaving the door wide-open for sequels, but I have two other series that are requiring that the next installments get done and I only have so much time in my days. 

It's a difficult decision to walk away and I don't know how other authors do it. I feel like there ought to be some sort of party where I eulogize and make promises I know I won't keep about seeing them again soon and say something like "it's not you, it's me." I'll play their playlists and we can eat some Vaca Frita and complain about how it's hard to get rid of bodies properly one more time. 

But at least I'm ending in a solid place. I've wrapped up the story line that ran through all the previous books and I have answered almost all the questions.  And for once, my characters get at least a moment or two of happy ever after.  They also have another adventure ready and waiting for them, should I happen to get back there, but overall I feel good about where I'm leaving them.  

I know a book hangover is real for readers, but is there one for writers?  How do any of my writer friends break up with their creations?  

About the Series:

The criminals are savage, the stakes are high and even the suburbs hide secrets that can kill.

When twenty something Shark got out of prison and made a deal with Geier, the boss of his old gang, he knew he’d be walking into trouble, but he never expected to meet the teenage crime savant Peregrine Hays. The knife-wielding beauty may fuel his dreams, but Peregrine has secrets of her own, and soon Shark is swept up in a whirlpool of murder, revenge, and love. Both streetwise and hardened by dark pasts, Shark and Peri are the perfect match as they battle crooked federal agents, sex traffickers, and gangs in search of vindication. But when Shark is faced with an enemy that knows him better than anyone else, he and Peri learn that their options may be staying together OR staying alive…

About Book 6:

Shark Santoyo is dead. Or at least he was. But now he’s back in the city chasing an art thief and dreams of the past. He has no intention of going anywhere near Peri—she left him to rot in prison. But when Al Hays brings them back together, Shark vows that nothing is going to keep them apart this time. Except that Peri isn’t the only ghost of girlfriends past in his life. Francesca de Corvo, the woman who sent him to prison for a crime she committed, seems to be coming for him with both barrels. Shark has loved, lost, and bled to get his freedom, but will it be enough to get the life—and the girl—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, July 13, 2021

Gay Yellen: Talking to Trees

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal has me thinking about the emotional connection humans often feel for trees. In "Why a Tree is the Friend We Need Right Now," columnist Elizabeth Bernstein describes her relationship with the banyan tree she first encountered while worrying about a sick relative, and to which she returned again and again to seek comfort under its boughs.

The heartfelt gratitude she expressed for her banyan reminded me of Shel Silverstein's poignant picture book, The Giving Tree, and also of my own tree-friends.

My relationship with trees began with my childhood summertime reading and the mimosa tree in our front yard. I'd climb up to the sturdy limb that perfectly fit the curve of my back and, cocooned in the cool, dense shade of its feathery leaves, I'd read my latest Nancy Drew.

In the neighborhood today, hundred-year oaks and other wizened trees abound. Like the WSJ columnist, I feel an attachment to many of them. I revel in the shade of the ancient oaks that shelter a nearby path, bending toward each other like a giant arbor. There's one with a burl that looks like a teddy bear. I pat its fat belly as I walk by.

Down the street there's one that appears to be winning a decades-long power struggle with a city sidewalk. I cheer it on as it pushes the cement away from its powerful roots. Another favorite shelters a little fairy house.

Fairy house tree.

I also mourn the giants cut down too soon, along with the charming brick bungalows they stood beside—only to make way for new, gentrified, and decidedly unremarkable houses. 

Thoreau once opined that 
"trees indeed have hearts." So when the WSJ states that a "calming and awe-inspiring tree is the perfect antidote to anxiety," I heartily agree. Especially nowadays, when anxiety seems to lurk around every corner.

Do you have a special relationship with a tree? If not, go out and find one. Spend time there. Hug it, if you feel the need. It might be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Gay Yellen writes the award-winning Samantha Newman Mystery Series. She'd love to hear from you, in a comment on this post, on FacebookBookBub, or via her website.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Good Things Come to Those who Wait, But . . . .

Hello, Stiletto Gang and Readers: As I write this, I'm packing my bags and getting ready for the adventure to start. One daughter-in law is expecting twins, (a boy and a girl) and another daughter-in-law is expecting a baby boy. It's an exciting time as a grandmother, and after 2020, what's truly exciting is now that the entire family is vaccinated, we can be together again.

But as you know, twins come at their own schedule--they could be on time, or they could come early. My other daughter in law is a registered nurse and as she's always on her feet, her babies have come early as well.  (My first granddaughter was born in the bathtub!  Talk about unexpected.

We're going to need a bigger table!

So with all this good news, why am I fretting? I'm also expecting edits on the sequel to Black Pearl, my Cold Case Suspense, while I'm also researching book three. Trying to do research while chasing around the three "existing" grandchildren is going to be interesting. 

I have decided to add a few more hours to my day (truthfully night) to get everything done. My hope is when I return, I'll be smarter (tons of research) thinner (chasing grandchildren does that), and have a book on the verge of being released. 

In the meantime, I'll wait . . . with the following caveat. 

Happy Summer and see you in August with the big reveal???

Friday, July 9, 2021

Why Do You Read Blogs? by Debra H. Goldstein

Why Do You Read Blogs? by Debra H. Goldstein

In the past, I’ve written about the reasons I write blogs. Some include interacting with readers, hoping to attract new readers, sharing my thoughts in a forum that reaches more people than journaling would, and because I enjoy it.

I also subscribe to several blogs and read them religiously for their humor, insight, or because I like the people who write them. At this point, I keep telling myself that I shouldn’t sign up for another blog, but I feel an obligation to follow friends or people who interest me. Of course, if they tend to be too longwinded, I merely glance at the heading and hit delete (do you ever do that?).


To me, the soft spot for a blog is 300-500 words. Just enough to take in immediately. Just enough to make one major point that the reader should leave with. Although a lot of bloggers do giveaways or share personal tidbits, that’s not why I follow them (okay, maybe for the personal tidbits. Let’s be honest, I also read People magazine and TV Guide from cover to cover).


Why do you read blogs? Why do you follow this specific blog? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of my new Sarah Blair mystery, Four Cuts Too Many (mass market or e-book, but U.S. only). I’ll look forward to reading your answers.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Clicking Our Heels: Summer Vacation - Beach, Mountains, On the Road, or Simply a Staycation?

Last month, the Stiletto Gang members shared where each most wanted to go when the world opened up again. Now, with summer here, people are making vacation plans. As always, each of us has a different idea for our perfect summer vacation - beach, mountains, on the road, or staycations.

Bethany Maines - Outdoors someplace sunny.  Could be the beach or the mountain or my backyard, but I want ice cream, a nap, and some sunshine.

Gay Yellen – Mountains. Hiking in a cool mountain forest is the best break from summer in the city.

Mary Lee Ashford – My summer vacation preference would be outdoors with a beach and a book! Staycations are fun but I’ve been working from home since March 2020, so I am more than ready to see some walls that aren’t my own. (1/2- Sparkle Abbey)

Shari Randall – I’d love to go somewhere with great museums and theater. I live near a beach, so I’ll admit it, I’m spoiled.

Linda Rodriguez – Anymore, I’m a stay-at-home person most of the time, thanks to health issues. In summer, you’ll find me inside in the air conditioning or sitting on my spacious porch, spinning or knitting and chatting with my neighbors.

Anita Carter – Definitely outdoors. One of my favorite vacations was when my husband and I traveled to Hawaii for 10 days. We island hopped, had the best time at the beach, and hiking through the mountains and around the volcanos. I’d love to go again. (1/2 Sparkle Abbey)

Debra H. Goldstein – I’m a beach person – even if viewing the waves lapping the sand from an airconditioned room. Of course, now that Broadway is going to be opening at the end of Summer, I wouldn’t mind making a trip to New York part of my summer vacation.

T.K. Thorne – I have to see the ocean regularly or something inside doesn’t get fed. Also, I live on a mountain, so I get my tree and fresh air fix every day.

Debra Sennefelder – Staycation. I really don’t like summer weather. I much prefer air conditioning.

Kathryn Lane – My husband and I spend the summers in the mountains of northern New Mexico, near Taos, where we enjoy outdoor adventures as well as watching wildlife drift by from our cabin deck.

Dru Ann Love – I like sightseeing various locations, so outdoors. Staycations are good as well.

Kathleen Kaska – It’s the beach for me – anytime.

Lois Winston – I much prefer a warm getaway in the winter, but I’m not a beach person. I love exploring museums, ancient sites, and foreign cities.






Tuesday, July 6, 2021

When I Visited Walden Pond

By Kathryn Lane

The past three years, my husband and I have spent the summers in a cabin in northern New Mexico. We are isolated, in a way. We are connected to the outside world with excellent internet, workable phone communications, and muddy dirt roads during the rainy season.

As I watch the deer, elk, birds, and the occasional bear, I’m reminded of my favorite Henry David Thoreau quote "We can never have enough of nature." And that takes me to his experiences at Walden Pond.

During my corporate years, I mostly worked overseas, but on two rare occasions I had domestic assignments. One of those instances, I went to Boston for three weeks. I loved the city and became mesmerized by its history, especially that pertaining to the American Revolution. Being from Mexico, I did not know US history and this was a unique opportunity. In the evenings, I walked the Freedom Trail, stopping along the way at Faneuil Hall, the old State House, and continuing to Paul Revere’s statue and his home, now the oldest building in downtown Boston.

One weekend, I visited Lexington and Concord where the revolution started. Being an avid cyclist at the time, I rented a bicycle so I could visit Walden Pond. Thoreau’s book, Walden, intrigued me and here was my opportunity to cycle around the entire pond and enjoy the place where he had lived for a couple of years.

The pond, a kettle hole formed by retreating glaciers about 10,000 years ago, was worth seeing, not to mention experiencing the place Thoreau made famous. The shores of the pond consisted of terrain suitable for walking but I quickly learned that tree roots and sharp rocks were not kind to bicycle tires! After fixing a flat halfway around, I decided to walk the bike the rest of the way to make sure I could ride back to Concord where I’d left the rental car.

Now that I live close to nature part of the year, I reflect on Thoreau's years there and his writing.

The central ideas expressed in Walden are experience, self-reliance, and worship. He examined the fundamental elements of humanity. Very lofty ideas.

My novels are genre, plain and simple. And I love writing them from a mountain cabin! Yet, as an author who loves history, you’d think I’d write historical novels. Mysteries and thrillers fascinate me and that’s what I write. I’m captivated by the twists and turns of mystery and suspense.

Of course, there are historical mysteries. Humm, I’ll have to ponder that thought while enjoying the mountain scenery of northern New Mexico!

Do you secretly wish you wrote in a different genre?


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The Nikki Garcia Mystery Series: eBook Trilogy

Kathryn Lane started out as a starving artist. To earn a living, she became a certified public accountant and embarked on a career in international finance with a major multinational corporation. After two decades, she left the corporate world to plunge into writing mystery and suspense thrillers. In her stories, Kathryn draws deeply from her Mexican background as well as her travels in over ninety countries.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Summer time and the livin' was easy...

 by Mary Lee Ashford

Summer time and the livin' was easy... so goes the song.

Here it is - already the first of July and here in the Midwest we are definitely feeling the heat of summer. And the humidity...

I can't even imagine what it's like for some of you who are seeing triple-digit temps. I'm thankful every day that my air-conditioning is working and that I'm not relying on a fan like we did when I was a kid. 

Because I grew up in a very small town, my summers were mostly spent hanging out with friends and reading. 

When I think of summers growing up, I think of the sweet tea that my mom would steep in a pot on the stove and then cool and pour over ice.  In my mind I can smell the green grass that cushioned the blanket in the backyard where I'd park myself for hours with the latest book I'd checked out from the library. A comfy spot and usually a  radio along for a little background music. Now, I'm dating myself, aren't I? 

Different summers, different tastes in reading but always the backyard and a book. One summer I devoured Trixie Belden books. Another time it was Nancy Drew. My mom was an Agatha Christie fan and one summer I started on her collection of mysteries. 

There were chores to do, of course. But in retrospect, life really was pretty slow and easy. Not much rushing about. Time for really diving into a good book. 

What memories come to mind for you when you think about your summers growing up? Were you busy with activities or were your summer days slow and easy like mine? Any favorite reads come to mind? 

Leave a comment below and on Friday, I'll draw a name to receive a fun summer bag and a copy of my most recent book, Quiche of Death. (Or if you already have that one, thank-you for that, and we'll figure out a different one.) 

Mary Lee Ashford is a lifelong bibliophile, an avid reader, and supporter of public libraries. In addition to writing the Sugar & Spice mysteries series for Kensington Books, she also writes as half of the writing team of Sparkle Abbey. Prior to publishing she won first place in the Daphne du Maurier contest sponsored by the Kiss of Death chapter of RWA. 

She's the founding president of Sisters in Crime - Iowa and loves encouraging other writers. Mary Lee has a passionate interest in creativity and teaches a university level course on the topic. In her day job, she is a Deputy Chief Information Officer, and is happy to answer technology questions but probably can't fix your computer. She resides in Iowa with her husband, Tim, and Zoey the cat. Her delights are reading and enjoying her family, especially her six grandchildren. Her family has come to terms with the idea that plotting murders is a frequent topic at family gatherings. 

Quiche of Death - Book 3 in the Sugar & Spice series

When editor Sugar Calloway and baker Dixie Spicer went into business creating cookbooks, they found a sideline as amateur sleuths. Now a bitter family grudge could leave a fatal aftertaste…

At Sugar & Spice Community Cookbooks, the friends and business partners have secured a tasty new commission: producing a cookbook for the Arbor family. The Arbors have made their fortune in quiches, and Sugar and Spice have been invited to a weekend gathering where all the siblings, along with crusty matriarch Marta, will be in attendance. But it’s soon clear that this trip will come with a hefty slice of drama.

Theo, the only grandson, arrives with his flaky fiancée, Collette, who quickly stirs up trouble . . . and is found dead the next day. As the investigation unfolds, secrets—and recipes—are shared, and Sugar and Spice realize just how messy and murderous the situation may be. As another family member falls ill, can they solve the case without getting egg on their faces . . .and a target on their backs?

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