Monday, December 27, 2021

End of year ramblings by Dru Ann Love

It’s my turn to post and I have no idea what to talk about.

Many people are putting out their top or best list. I did it last year and found it was very hard to pick 10 books and in the back of my head, I don’t want to disappoint my author friends. Like last year, Kaye Barley asked us what books we liked in 2021 and click here (you’ll have to scroll) to see my list.

Due to the current situation that shall remain nameless and due to medical issues, my reading has struggled. In the past, I would have read over 300 books. This year, I read 200. In checking my blog data, I did 35 cover reveals, I introduced 58 new-on-my-blog authors to my readers and published 79 musings. I also introduced a new feature, “word with the author” and it’s a fun way to learn about the authors. 

This year I continue to read mostly cozy mysteries as well as traditional mysteries with a smattering of thrillers, domestic suspense, and yes, I read one historical, one magical realism, and one rom-com. I do enjoy Heather Webber’s and Jenn McKinlay’s writing. Are you still reading the same genre, or have you left your comfort zone?

The funny thing about the books I’m eager to read is despite my love of cozy mysteries, the books I’m eager to read are non-cozies. What is up with that? Oh the 2022 books I’m eager to read are of course, Abandoned in Death and Desperation in Death by J.D. Robb, and then Kellye Garrett’s Like A Sister, The Locked Room by Elly Griffiths, and The Hidden One by Linda Castillo. But then again when I look down my list, there are a few cozies with a wedding theme that I’m eager to read, Wedding Bell Blues by Lynn Cahoon and Murder in a Cape Cottage by Maddie Day. Then there is a slew of cozy mysteries that are too many to list that’s on my list, one in particular, Muddled Through by Barbara Ross, which I can't wait to see what happens next with Julia. What books are you looking to read in 2022?

What else can I talk about?

Oh, I miss attending reader/fan conventions and I truly, truly hope that we can finally gather in 2022. I’m already registered for Left Coast Crime, Malice Domestic (where I’m fan guest of honor), and Bouchercon. Are you planning to attend?

I hope everyone have a Happy New Year.

Friday, December 24, 2021

The Grinch Grows a Heart





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.



What a year it has been, scowls my Grinch.

Covid has wielded a scythe among us for the past two years now, cutting down the elderly like dry wheat. Omicron is coming/here. Even if it proves to be less deadly, we could end up with higher deaths due to pesky math. (If the death rate is lower, but still occurs, and the increase of infections is significantly higher, a bad number times a decent number equals more deaths.)

And this question looms larger than I ever thought possible in my lifetime—Will America's 200+ year experiment in democracy survive?

And the planet. I know scientists have set a degree limit on how warm we can get before things get "really bad," but I wonder if the Earth knows to stop after it gets "really bad" and what happens after "really bad."

Wait, I'm suppose to be bringing cheer and jollies on the night before this sacred buy-buy-buy holiday.

Humbug. Bah. Grrr.

What's to bring to cheer? Which family members are missing around the table? How many families have no food, much less a table?  

What hypocrites we are. We are not worth surviving. 

My Grinch stomps out into the doomed world, turns a corner . . . and encounters this:


This man, Anthony Cymerys, is an 82-year-old barber. Every Wednesday he brings his equipment to a park and gives free haircuts to the homeless . . . charging only a hug.

My Grinch freezes.

Maybe . . . .?

This young man in the hospital bed has had multiple, painful surgeries. He is Anthony Borges. He was shot five times while holding open a door for other students to escape at the Parkland School shooting.

Maybe, my Grinch considers, as Dickens wrote, it is "the best of times, the worst of times, the age of wisdom, the age of foolishness, the epoch of belief, the epoch of incredulity, the season of Light, the season of Darkness, the spring of hope, the winter of despair." Maybe we have "everything before us, nothing before us. . . ."

Then my Grinch reads this:

The world is not beyond repair. There is hope. That spark of love, that potential in the human soul, maybe it is enough to light the way in the utter dark of the universe.

Maybe we can find and augment that precious, holy spark and pass it on before it sputters. 

I join all the Stiletto Gang members to wish you a season of deep joy and giving and a New Year that ignites all our sparks into a steady flame against the Darkness.

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

Thursday, December 23, 2021

2021 Survivor's Notes by Juliana Aragon Fatula

Dear Reader,

The smile on my face in my Aspen Grove several years ago shows that I love living in Southern Colorado. What the smile does not show is that living in my hometown of Canon City, aka Klanyon City, has never been easy for me but my grandparents, parents, and several siblings are buried here and this is my birthplace and will probably end up being my final resting place. I will have my ashes scattered with my Sister, Irene, on Irene's mountain about fifteen minutes from my home. 

The difficulty for me in living here are all of the memories, good and bad. I lived here for fifteen years before I left home and headed to San Francisco, California to have my son, Daniel. He was born when I was fifteen and a year later before his first birthday, we returned to Colorado and to my parents home. 

I worked and attended high school until I was sixteen and went to work full time for the phone company as a telephone operator. I made lots of friends with the ladies and learned skills in communication and business. From there I moved to Denver, Colorado Springs, Old Colorado City, Green Mtn. Falls, Divide, Woodland Park, and transferred from Mountain Bell to higher paying jobs and better positions. 

One day, my life changed and I lost everything and returned to my parents home. When I figured out what I was doing, I returned to work and began my higher education at Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs. I attended Pueblo Community College, Denver University, Denver Metro, Arapahoe Community College and eventually graduated from Colorado State University - Pueblo with a degree in English and minor in Creative Writing. 

I became an educator and taught in Pueblo, Colorado at Cesar Chavez Academy for a year and loved teaching middle school language arts and teatro. But the next year I went to work in my hometown as a 7th grade language arts teacher and began my full circle of teaching in the same building that I attended almost forty years ago. 

The building had lots of memories and I felt proud to be able to visit my mother in her home everyday and go home for lunch from my job as a teacher in my hometown. It was too good to be true. I failed as a teacher in my hometown because I refused to accept the conservative and close minded parents and administration who told me that I could not teach diversity in my classroom. I did not return the next year to teach. Instead I went to work for Colorado Humanities Writers in the Schools. I taught K-12 students in writing workshops that lasted ten to twelve weeks and ended with their poems being published in an anthology of their work. It was the most rewarding job of my life. Until I began teaching writing workshops for Bridging Borders a leadership program sponsored by the El Pueblo History Center, CSU-Pueblo, Social Services, and the Rawlings Library. 

Mentoring those young women changed me. I became a role model and a leader in my new community of Pueblo. Pueblo accepted my liberal ideas and creative lessons in diversity and one World one Love thinking. I found my calling. 

Today, I continue to write for the Stiletto Gang, write book reviews for la Bloga, attend writing workshops via Zoom, read my poetry and sell my books at conferences and book fairs. I have found a way to enjoy living in my hometown without being part of the community. Instead, I travel the state and nation to places filled with diversity, and open minded individuals like me who appreciate my crazy ideas and flamboyant lifestyle. 

I graduated college at the age of fifty. I  blossomed at mid-life and now that I'm nearing 65 and senior citizen status, I'm semi-retired and loving reading, writing, researching, learning, and growing into the best human being I can possibly be. If my hometown taught me one thing it is that home is where the heart is but happiness in your community can only come when you surround yourself with like minded people and I've found my tribe. They are writers, educators, performers, activists, and students who are life long learners like me.  


Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Sign on a Bookstore Window
By Lois Winston 

No matter where you fall along the political spectrum, you have to admit it’s been a divisive few years. Couple that with a pandemic and various conflicts going on across the globe, and it’s a wonder we all don’t crawl into bed, pull blankets over our heads, and refuse to come out. And we’re adults. Think about how our children must feel. 


If you have a young child on your holiday shopping list, you might want to consider purchasing a copy of The Magic Paintbrush as a gift. Without being preachy, The Magic Paintbrush addresses the issue of differences, in this case, a kingdom that’s all pink at war with a kingdom that’s all blue for longer than anyone can remember—so long that no one even knows what started the feud. It takes two children from another land to point out to the rulers of both kingdoms how we're really all the same inside and the benefits of everyone getting along.


Now if only people in the real world would do likewise….


I originally wrote this story for my own grandchildren, but the reception I received convinced me I should send it out in the world for others to enjoy—and learn from—because the lesson taught is one the world really needs right now.


Happy holidays!

The Magic Paintbrush

When nine-year-old Jack and his seven-year-old sister Zoe are snowed in for days with nothing to do, their complaints land them in every guy’s worst nightmare—the kingdom of Vermilion, a land where everything is totally pink! At first Jack is mistaken for a spy from the neighboring kingdom of Cobalt, but Zoe convinces Queen Fuchsia that they’re from New Jersey and arrived by magic.


Queen Fuchsia needs a king, but all the available princes in Vermilion are either too short, too fat, too old, or too stupid. Jack and Zoe suggest she looks for a king in Cobalt, but Vermilion and Cobalt have been at war since long before anyone can remember. 


Jack and Zoe decide Vermilion and Cobalt need a Kitchen Table Mediation to settle their differences. So they set out on an adventure to bring peace to the warring kingdoms—and maybe along the way they just might find a king for the queen.


The Magic Paintbrush is suitable for children eight years of age and up to read on their own. Younger children will enjoy the story if it’s read to them. You can read an excerpt here


Buy Links:







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 21, 2021


Hurray for In-Person Events

by Saralyn Richard


When the pandemic hit hard in March, 2020, I had just released A Palette for Love and Murder, and I had a full calendar of events for promoting it. Launch parties, bookstore talks, organization meetings, book clubs—all had been carefully lined up, taking many hours of contact, follow-up, baking, and swag-shopping.

Then, one by one, in an exorable, painful march through the calendar pages, each event was canceled. The book came out with a sigh instead of a bang, and it had to find its readers through different, mostly virtual, channels.

I’m not complaining. As Bogey says in Casablanca, “It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of [one little book doesn’t] amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” Like everyone else, I learned to pivot. I jumped on Zooms, Skypes, and FaceTimes to beat the band.


A Palette for Love and Murder found its audience, and so did A Murder of Principal, which came out the following year. Again, Zoom was my best friend, and by then I’d learned a lot of hacks for having a successful virtual book launch.

Fast forward another year, and I’ve been vaccinated three times. I have a stylish array of masks for every occasion. Taking baby steps, I’ve graduated from small, masked gatherings held outdoors to larger, masked gatherings held indoors. This week, I actually went to my first indoor gathering where no one was wearing masks.

I thought I might freak out, because I’ve become somewhat of a germophobe, and the threat of the omicron variant is raising those same old fears. But when I arrived at the Bay Oaks Country Club and saw the elaborate table settings, the skirted book-table where I was to autograph books, and especially the fifty-one smiling ladies welcoming me as a guest speaker, a particular joy bubbled up inside me, and I wanted the afternoon to keep going on forever.

Virtual meetings are great. I wrote a post about them several months ago. They break down barriers of time and space and allow for valuable human interaction. I taught and enrolled in classes, attended book clubs, and went to conferences virtually. I enjoyed these so much that I truly repressed the fact that they are a pale substitute for the real thing.

I’m grateful to Sheryl Lane of the Bay Oaks Country Club Women’s Group for inviting me to speak at their December luncheon meeting. We had this engagement booked for more than a year before we could actually make it happen. Sharing book stories with people who love books is something akin to heaven.

Of course, we all need to be mindful of and practice healthy habits and mitigate risks wherever we go, but right now, I’m clinging to the thought that more joyful reunions like this one will be in my future.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season and new year.


Award-winning and best-selling author, Saralyn Richard was born with a pen in her hand and ink in her veins. 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.

A member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing and literature at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and continues to write mysteries. Her favorite thing about being an author is interacting with readers like you.

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

Monday, December 20, 2021

Holiday Story Traditions

by Paula Gail Benson

Stories have always been part of the holiday season. Whether from reality, like the newspaper response to Virginia O’Hanlon’s letter from the editor of New York Sun (often called “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”); or Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” also known by its first line “T’was the Night Before Christmas;” or Charles Dickens’ frequently presented in different contexts A Christmas Carol; or movies like It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Christmas Vacation, and Elf. They have all found their way into our hearts so that we long to rehear them or rewatch them during this time of the year.

1947 Version
One of my favorite stories is Miracle on 34th Street. When I first saw the 1947 version with Maureen O’Hara, Edmund Gwenn, and Natalie Wood, I felt it encapsulated all the elements that had become important in my life. The location: New York City, where I loved to travel to see Broadway shows. The idea: a child suspicious of Santa, particularly in stores (personally, I always preferred believing in the unseen Santa). The courtroom: since law became my profession, it only seemed right that it should be the forum for determining the “true” Santa. The Post Office: I come from a family of postal workers. It seemed perfectly normal to me that the Post Office should save the day.

I also enjoyed the 1974 televised version with Jane Alexander, Sebastian Cabot, David Hartman, and Suzanne Davidson, and the 1994 movie with Elizabeth Perkins, Richard Attenborough, and Mara Wilson, even though it moved the story from New York to Chicago and deleted the Post Office.

This year, through Amazon Prime, I located a television adaption from 1955, which was presented for The 20th Century Fox Hour, and featured Teresa Wright, Thomas Mitchell, and MacDonald Carey. The shortest of all the versions I’ve seen, this one is very close to 1947 film, containing much of the same dialogue and situations. Thomas Mitchell speaks very quickly. I wondered if that was to help fit everything into the program timeframe.

1955 version

If you are looking for more recent stories to add to your holiday reading list, please let me recommend two online sources. Since Thanksgiving, the authors at Writers Who Kill have presented short stories for their readers. They include offerings from the following writers beginning on the dates in parentheses: Annette Dashofy (11/28), E. B. Davis (12/3), KM Rockwood (12/8), Korina Moss (12/13), Tammy Euliano (12/18), Warren Bull (12/23), and myself (12/28). These tales have some familiar characters and some mysterious and paranormal elements. Please stop by and check them out.

On Saturday, December 18, 2021, Loren Eaton hosted his Advent Ghosts 2021, where he invited writers to contribute 100-word stories (drabble) that celebrated a scarier aspect of the holidays. He links followers to each author’s blog or presents the stories on his message. Authors from all over the world participate. Here’s the link to share the fun.

So, take a few moments away from the hustle-bustle, find a favorite holiday beverage to sip, and enjoy being transported fictionally into another place and time. Don’t forget to let the online authors know you’ve enjoyed their work.

Happy holidays, everyone!

1995 version


Friday, December 17, 2021

Warm Wishes and a Holiday Short Story

by Shari Randall

It's the most wonderful time of the year....

We've heard those words sung hundreds of times over the years and, yes, for me, this is the most wonderful time of the year. I love Christmas, every bit from wrapping gifts, to carols, to the delightful scents of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves as I bake my traditional gingerbread cookies. Hallmark Christmas movies? I'm in!

Another aspect of the holidays I love? Reading books set at Christmas. So when readers asked for a holiday story about the characters in my Lobster Shack mystery series, I was happy to oblige. I had so much fun seeing what Allie, Aunt Gully, and Verity would do when they met up with Dagmar Smith, Mystic Bay's Queen of Christmas

Dagmar's Festival of Trees is the highlight of Mystic Bay's holiday season. In the story, she's added a spectacularly decorated Nutcracker tree to her display and has asked ballerina Allie Larkin to help unveil it. But when Dagmar's priceless diamond necklace is stolen in the middle of the festivities, Allie turns detective to unmask the thief.

It's a fun short story you can enjoy in an evening. I recommend curling up with a cup of hot toddy as you read - recipe included with the story. It's available on Kindle for only 99 cents, and it's free for Kindle Unlimited readers.

Wishing you and yours warm and happy holidays.

Shari Randall is the author of the Agatha Award winning Lobster Shack Mystery series and, as Meri Allen, pens the new Ice Cream Shop Mystery series.


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

The Gift of Music, with Barbara Kyle


December marks six years since I took my very first violin lesson. 

An interesting session. It went something like this:


Luckily, my teacher was, and remains, the super-talented and incredibly patient pro violinist, Anna Hughes.

At first, I merely dipped my toe in: I rented a violin. After all, I might hate it or be impossible to teach; in either case, I could just give up.

Wondrously, neither happened. Novice though I was, every time I picked up the violin to practice, I felt a lovely, sweet shiver of connection to centuries of great composers and musicians. 


I was dipping my toe into a mighty river of art. 


So I committed to the learning and the practicing. The rental agreement was basically a lease; after twelve monthly payments, I owned the instrument.


Result? Instant humility. When I arrived for my lessons, the student before me was ten years old; the one after me was seven. And they were really good. (Anna teaches the Suzuki Method which starts students young – often as young as four – on small violins.)


A happy bonus has been my new, deep appreciation of professional violinists. I had always enjoyed their playing - whether virtuosi of classical works, spirited fiddlers of toe-tapping jigs, or cool individualists of jazz - but only by learning each baby step of technique myself have I come to be in awe of their artistry. 


That, in turn, has made concert-going thrilling. I’ve watched enthralling live performances by Itzhak Perlman, Natalie McMaster, Joshua Bell, Luri Lee, Sally Fields, and Timothy Chooi.

And I have come to love the works of brilliant composers who were new to me, like Florence Price. Listen to her String QuartetNo 2. (Note the ravishing second movement.)

So, that funny picture I showed you at the top of this post? That was after my first lessons. Now, six years later, I’m daring to dream like this:



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, December 14, 2021

Gay Yellen: It's Read a New Book Month!

December is so jam-packed with festivals and holidays, you'd think that whoever creates those random observances like Eat a Red Apple Day or Chocolate Cake Day would choose a less hectic time to shine the spotlight on reading. As we hustle and bustle our way through the waning days of the year, how much time do we really have for quiet pleasures? Nevertheless, December is Read a New Book Month. Frankly, I think it would be better to name it Buy a New Book Month as a reminder to put one or two on your gift list. 

At the Stiletto Gang, writers and readers don't need a special month to remind us to read a book, new or not. Books are our passion.

While I'm writing, I'll still buy a new book to support a colleague, or to join in on a book club discussion, or for my own research. And I manage to sneak in a few pleasure reads along the way.

My alma mater's book club selections tend to be ones I probably wouldn't have picked up on my own, yet I've learned so much from them. The Yellow House, by Sarah Broom, won nearly every award for non-fiction memoir in 2019. It's a remarkably honest and moving story of what it meant for one family to grow up poor and Black in New Orleans. We also read Island of Sea Women, by Lisa See, a meticulously researched historical fiction set in Korea between World War II and present day that follows the lives of truly extraordinary deep sea divers. I learned a lot about Korea and world history from that one.

Our neighborhood book club recently read Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, by Kathleen Rooney, which fictionalizes the life of the highest paid ad woman in the 1930's. If you're fond of the era, or Macy's, or New York City, you might enjoy following this witty woman as she meanders through the Big Apple and reminisces.

I've accumulated more books in my to-be-read stack than I've been able to crack open this year, including some by sister Stilettos. There are many goodies to pick from by our Gang. Just scroll down and open a few that strike your fancy.

I hope to read more next year, too. To me, an unread book is a missed opportunity to travel to a new place, meet interesting characters, learn something new, or merely enjoy the pleasure of reading.

With deepest gratitude to all our readers, I wish you a warm December, full of books and love.

Here's to Read a New Book Month!

Gay Yellen writes the award-winning
Samantha Newman Mysteriesincluding:
The Body Business and
The Body Next Dooravailable on Amazon.
Coming soon in 2022:

Monday, December 13, 2021

Homework or Not, Why I Attend Book Clubs

Does anyone remember in our school-age years when our instructors handed out assignments and we had X amount of time to complete? Sometimes students had a week. Often, work was due the next day. Many times, I felt ill-prepared and handed in work I considered less than my best. On those days I was left with a dry mouth and a pounding heart as our teachers collected our homework. And don’t even get me started on the pop quiz!

I don’t miss those days at all, although when it comes to writing books, that same tendency seems to follow when I turn in a novel. Maybe just one more read-through. Do the characters work? Does the goal, motivation, and conflict hold up, and did I get rid of any dreaded plot holes?  Thank goodness for critique partners and editors!

Some call what I’m talking about a perfectionist quality, which during a period where books are getting written faster and faster, can be detrimental to a writer. For that reason, a nose-to-the- grindstone mentality and fearless creating has to come first in my world.

Still, I want to be supportive to my fellow authors. In Sisters in Crime Colorado, we have a program called Book Club where we Zoom and discuss our fellow chapter mate’s books. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn about the myriad talent among us, and what the author had in mind when writing the novel.

I used to get that same dry mouth, pounding heart feeling I had in school when I attended—especially if I hadn’t finished or even read the book.

No more. These authors are as busy as I am, and I’m sure they are grateful for a peer just showing up. This isn’t completely altruistic on my part. I often sign off adding their books to the top of my To Be Read pile.

I want to tell you about a few authors I have read AFTER I attended book club:  Margaret Mizushima’s Striking Range,  J.v.L Bell’s The Lucky Hat Mine, Becky Clark’s, Punning with Scissors, George Cramer, The Mona Lisa Sisters, and Ann Dominguez’s The Match, and just last weekend Author Theresa Crater, Into the City of Light.

Attending Book Club and listening to the author talk about the passion that went into the novel whets my appetite for reading the book better than a back cover blurb. Thanks to book club, I’ve learned about K-9 dogs, crossword puzzles, family history, a physician’s residency, action adventure and magical realism. Thanks to book club I’ve traveled through Colorado now and in its history, through Europe, Chicago. I’ve learned about Tibet, Peru and Chile. Do I feel guilty if I can’t read the book before book club? Of course. I feel equally guilty when I can’t attend all the book clubs of my fellow authors.

Ideally, I make it up to them afterward. Number one, I’m there to support them, and I sign off fascinated.

Did you ever experience that sickening feeling of being not ready? Do you enjoy book clubs?

About the Author: Donnell Ann Bell is an award-winning author, including finalist in the 2020 Colorado Book Award, and the 2021 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards for her first straight suspense Black Pearl. Book two is on her editor’s desk and she’s working on Book Three. You can learn more about her other romantic suspense books or find her on Facebook, Twitter, or Bookbub. Sign up for her newsletter at



Friday, December 10, 2021

An Open Letter to Stiletto Gang Readers from Debra H. Goldstein

Dear Stiletto Gang Readers,

I’m one of those people who still writes Holiday Letters and shoves them into my Seasons Greetings cards that are sent to friends I haven’t seen in years, but still feel close to. You are a different breed of folks, but I, as well as the other members of the Stiletto Gang, have a special affinity with you.


You fulfill our dreams by reading the words we write. At the very moment we feel down or lost, one of you posts a good review, sends a postcard or e-mail, or makes a social media comment that lifts our spirits up. Your support of our work keeps us actively involved in an unpredictable business world.


It is a world of editor and publisher subjectivity balanced by dollar signs. Very few of us become New York Times bestselling authors, but you give us the incentive to continue writing even if our expenses outweigh our profits. All writers want to make money, but the reality is that they don’t. In fact, many authors could make far more by ignoring the voices in their heads that demand to be expressed. Are we insane or, as some think, simply stupid?


I think the answer boils down to one word: passion. We have a passion to write that can’t be quelled. Luckily, when it does dim, you rekindle it. Thank you and happy holidays. Debra  

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

3 Colors Cover Reveal

 by Bethany Maines

3 Colors Trilogy Launches!

For a little over a year, I've been feverishly working on the series of books that would become the 3 Colors Trilogy.  These action-packed paranormal romances feature a trio of siblings Azure, Ochre, and Scarlet as they find love and face danger from evil warlocks. While not traditional mysteries in the sense that no one is trying to solve a murder - each book finds the romantic leads trying to puzzle out out who is targeting them and why.  These quick steamy reads are the most fun I've had writing in a long time. The couples are swoon-worthy, funny, and who doesn't love werewolves?

How to Write the Heming...Way

One part of writing this series that has been interesting has been working with a beta reading service. Because this isn't my usual genre, I used a service to supply beta readers I didn't know to read the initial completed manuscript. The readers then answered a short survey of questions that I provided.  It was amazingly insightful, but also nerve wracking! Handing over a partially edited book to a stranger for feedback... whew! The first time, my nerves were tested and I may have had to Hemingway (aka drink!) my way through the first reading of their responses. But the were all quite kind to me and provided many useful data points.

Coming Soon!

The series is now complete and I'll be utilizing a quick release strategy for the trilogy—releasing them one month a part in February, March and April of 2022. Fans won't have to wait for the next installment. Want to learn more about my Supernatural world?  Check out the links below!

Learn More:



Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae MysteriesSan Juan Islands MysteriesShark 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 7, 2021

To Find a Monarch

 By Kathryn Lane

Mexico, my country of origin, is a cultural paradise. I always experience a nostalgic yearning for the traditions I grew up with, especially during the last quarter of the year, which is rich with festivities. Starting in September, we have holidays that spill over into multiple days, like the 15th and 16th of September, independence day. Posada time, from December 16th through the 24th, brings out families from entire neighborhoods where revelers of all ages gather in candle-lit processions singing Christmas carols along the streets until they arrive at the host house for that evening. At the designated home, the carolers sing “Para Pedir Posada” to reenact Mary and Joseph’s journey into Bethlehem asking for shelter before the birth of Jesus. The hosts, after several stanzas, invite the revelers in for food, drink, and games for the kiddos.

Wonderful as Christmas and Independence celebrations are, it’s Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on November 1st and 2nd, that makes my soul yearn for a trip to the state of Michoacan.

When I was twelve, my mother took me to Lake Pátzcuaro to experience a vigil in a cemetery where townsfolk would commune with their departed loved ones by sharing music, dance, food, and drinks.

I’ve never forgotten the scene when we arrived. Lake Pátzcuaro’s famed butterfly net fishermen, their canoes filled with bright orange cempasúchil, or marigolds, floated on the lake like a colorful flower market. The marigolds, like rays of sun dropped along the way, to lead the ancestors’ spirits into town where ofrendas, or altars, awaited them in the private homes of their earthly relatives.

We climbed into a vividly decorated canoe to navigate to Janitzio, the largest island. On the way, Mother told me Día de los Muertos is a truly Mexican tradition, a legacy of indigenous Aztec practices. The Aztecs recognized that death was part of the continuity of life. Yet Pátzcuaro is P’urhépecha¹ territory, the other powerful Mesoamerican empire, the one the Aztecs never conquered. The two empires fought many battles. Yet, the Purépecha integrated the Day of the Dead as their own.

We were mid-lake when a butterfly brushed its brilliant orange-red wings with black veins on the golden marigolds. The fisherman smiled, saying, “Está perdido este ancestro. Debe tener familia en Rosario o Angangueo.”

Mother agreed the butterfly was lost and had overflown its winter home near mountain villages. She explained that monarchs migrate yearly from Canada and the US to the high elevations of Michoacán where they cluster on oyamel trees to spend the winter. They start arriving at the end of October, coinciding with the Day of the Dead celebrations. The local people believe the butterflies are the spirits of their ancestors returning home.

I remember asking if we would visit the monarchs.

“Another year,” she said.

Yet, we never trekked to the monarch’s overwintering sites. When I see a butterfly, it reminds me of that trip we never took.

My brother, Jorge Lane, is a nature photographer and monarchs are one of his favorite subjects. He’s visited several sanctuaries to photograph them.

Carlos Gottfried, a butterfly conservationist in Mexico, said: “When you stand in a Monarch butterfly sanctuary, your soul is shaken and your life is changed.”

Gottfried’s quote beckons me to find monarchs overwintering on Oyamel firs to fulfill that trip never taken.

¹ Also known as the Tarascan.

For fun articles on Mexican holidays, you can purchase: The Insider's Guide to the Best Mexican Holidays. It will be available in Kindle format on Amazon on December 17, 2021. Nineteen authors, including yours truly, contributed articles. 


Photo credits:

Monarca Encantadora© by Jorge J. Lane

Rosario Monarca© by Jorge J. Lane