Thursday, January 28, 2021

Latina Mystery Writers by Juliana Aragon Fatula

Dear Reader,

Recently, I did a google search for Latina women mystery writers. I'm sure there are more that I don't know about but I'd like to introduce you writers Lucha Corpi, Linda Rodriguez, and Maria Nieto. In my search, I discovered we are a rare. These women are award winners and I have learned a great deal from these master storytellers. 

Linda Rodriguez

Lucha Corpi

Maria Nieto interview

Kathryn Lane

They are the writers who led the way for me to become a Latina mystery writer and I thank them for breaking the barriers for women to write about Latina Private Investigators and Detectives.

During this time of global pandemic and racial unrest in our country, I'd like you to read some fiction and be entertained by these writers who have witnessed and lived through the civil rights movements. They write about what they experienced through their characters and tell the story of their protagonist's struggles in times of racial inequality. These women have been my teachers and while reading their novels I've learned how to represent my protagonists as proud, competent, private investigators. 

I'm happy to write about a new day, a new time in history where we have our first woman of color to be inaugurated as V.P. of the U.S. It's time for a change in the history books to see more than just a bunch of old, white-haired men leading our country. It's time for diversity. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

And Now for Something Completely Different…

By Lois Winston 

With only a few breaks, my life since late 2009 has been consumed by Anastasia Pollack, the reluctant amateur sleuth of my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. That’s when I signed a contract for the first three books in the series, the first of which debuted in 2011. In 2013, the publisher and I couldn’t come to mutually acceptable terms for more Anastasia books and a second series, The Empty Nest Mysteries. I turned down both contracts and decided to indie publish. Ever since, it’s been all-Anastasia, all the time, with one exception.


In 2015 I was invited to take part in a new venture from Amazon. Kindle Worlds was a foray into fan fiction where anyone could write novellas that tied into handpicked existing series. To get the project up and running, Amazon invited additional authors, many recommended by the series authors, to create the first novellas. 


There were few rules we had to follow in creating these companion novellas. Authors could use as little or as much of the existing series world as they wanted. We could even change the tone of the original books in the series.


I was asked to write a novella based on author CJ Lyons’ Shadow Ops Series. CJ writes what she calls “Thrillers with Heart.” I write humorous amateur sleuth/cozy mysteries. No problem. Mom Squad reimagined her domestic thriller series as a humorous caper.


The Kindle Worlds program disbanded a few years later. The novella authors were allowed to republish their work as long as they received permission from the series author and all references to the original series were removed or changed.


I’m not the fastest writer, and Anastasia tends to keep me busy. I finally got around to updating my novella a few months ago after the release of A Sew Deadly Cruise, the ninth and latest Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery. However, I held off publishing the novella so it wouldn’t compete with the release of that book. 


Mom Squad was expanded and rebranded as Moms in Black, a Mom Squad Caper. The book is more tongue-in-cheek humorous romantic suspense than cozy mystery. If the novella does well, I plan to write two more Mom Squad Caper novellas for a 3-novella series.


Moms in Black

A Mom Squad Caper


When Cassandra Davenport applies for a job at, she expects to find a ‘green’ charity. Instead, she becomes the newest member of a covert organization run by ex-government officials. Dubbed the Mom Squad, the organization is the brainchild of three former college roommates—attorney general Anthony Granville, ex-FBI agent Gavin Demarco, and tech billionaire Liam Hatch—all of whom have lost loved ones at the hands of terrorists. Financed by Hatch, they work in the shadows and without the constraints of congressional oversight, reporting directly to Granville.


Demarco heads up one of the six groups that comprise the new operation. He hires Cassandra as the newest member of his New Jersey based team. In the course of monitoring possible terrorist threats, the Mom Squad discovers a link to Cassandra’s ex-husband. Before she’s fully trained, Cassandra is thrust into a world where her ex may be involved with radicalized terrorists bent on killing as many Americans as possible.

And while they’re saving the world from an imminent attack, what in the world will Cassandra do about all that sexual tension simmering between her and her new boss?

Click here to read an excerpt.


Buy Links (pre-order now; available 2/8/21)




Apple Books 

Paperback (coming soon)

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.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Social Media Musings

By Lynn McPherson

Everyone knows the beast that is social media. It's everywhere. How can an author manage the good, the bad, and the ugly? Today, let's look at how to find a balance.

Let's start at the beginning. Why use it?

There are lots of reasons social media is worthwhile. To begin with, it can help sell books. By having an active and interactive online presence, people get to know you and what you write. It is an opportunity to introduce the world to what's important to you. If you focus on subjects and topics that align with the themes in your book, you can help build your brand--and your audience.

Next, it is a way to be part of a (virtual) community. Social media gives authors a way to connect with their peers--other authors, booksellers, librarians, industry folks, and readers. You can stay at home and still interact with likeminded people. Finding a connection with others is what life is all about.

Finally, it can be a way to learn. Why not take the opportunity to improve your craft with tips and tidbits from quality sources--from Youtube videos created by literary agents, to author interviews, to informative podcasts from industry insiders--it's all there for the taking. Want to know about industry pitfalls? Find out manuscript wishlists from agents? Get advice on how to improve your writing? If you look around, there are gems to be found.

So, with all these great benefits, why not be connected all the time? Because you need to write.

Social media can be like a black hole, taking up minutes, hours, or even days. It is important to be aware of how much time and thought you are spending online. If you often find yourself distracted by it, maybe you should consider removing it from your laptop or desktop--whatever you use to write. If you are getting popups and alerts, you will be constantly interrupted, making it difficult to immerse yourself into your fictional world. Another option is to set specific times you go online. Fifteen minutes in the morning and a half hour at night, for example. Whatever works for you. Just make sure it doesn't use up the time and energy you need to write.

How much time to you spend on social media? Do you find it a worthwhile use of your time?

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, January 25, 2021

A Musical Trend in Crime Fiction Anthologies

by Paula Gail Benson

Recently, I’ve noticed a number of short story anthologies organized around the songs of a particular artist, group, or time period. Here’s a list of a few that are published or pending and two story calls:

Published Anthologies:

Murder-a-Go-Go’s: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of the Go-Go’s
, edited by Holly West (Down and Out Books, 2019) features stories by twenty-five authors, including Lisa Alber, Susanne Calkins, Jen Conley, Lori Rader-Day, Hillary Davidson, Greg Herren, Travis Richardson, and Holly West. The forward is written by Jane Wiedlen, co-founder of the Go-Go’s. Net proceeds benefit Planned Parenthood.

The Beat of Black Wings: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Joni Mitchell
, edited by Josh Pachter (Untreed Reads, 2020) has contributions from twenty-eight authors, including “Both Sides Now,” the first literary collaboration by husband and wife Art Taylor and Tara Laskowski, both multiple award winners, and Donna Andrews, Michael Bracken, Brendan DuBois, Edith Maxwell, Alison McMahan, and Stacy Woodson.

I’ve read that Josh Pachter also is working on an anthology featuring Billy Joel’s songs.

Peace, Love, and Crime: Crime Fiction Inspired by Songs of the ‘60s
, edited by Sandra Murphy (Untreed Reads, 2020) contains twenty-three stories by well-known short story authors including Earl Staggs (to whom the book is dedicated), Terrie Farley Moran, Merrillee Robson, Claire A. Murray, Michael Bracken, Maddi Davidson, Josh Pachter, and John Floyd.

Calls for Submissions

Fahrenheit Press is putting together Gabba Gabba Hey: A Ramones Anthology. The deadline for submissions is February 28, 2021. For more information, click on this link.

Triangle Sisters in Crime (North Carolina Chapter) has a call for submissions for its new anthology Carolina Crimes: 20 Tales of Rock, Roll, and Ruin. To enter, you must be a Sisters in Crime member and resident of North Carolina or South Carolina. The deadline is April 1, 2021. For information, click on this link. 

Friday, January 22, 2021

Behind the Magic Curtain - by T. K. Thorne


Writer, humanist,
          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,
       Lover of solitude
          and the company of good friends,
        New places, new ideas
           and old wisdom.



Four men who loved the city of Birmingham, Alabama asked me to write a book. I look back on that day when I met them in the high-rise office of a prominent attorney. They were all strangers, decades older. They had lived through "pivotal nation-changing days." Three of them had been in the thick of happenings.  

As I sat at the polished hardwood table, I thought possibly they assumed I was a scholar of civil rights because I had recently written a book about the investigation of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four young black girls in Birmingham in 1963 (Last Chance for Justice), but to my surprise, the gentleman who invited me to that meeting said he had done so because of a totally different book, a historical novel set thousands of years in the past in ancient Turkey (Noah's Wife). I had to ask him why he thought that qualified me. He said, "If you could write a book about Noah's wife and make me believe that was what really happened, then you can tell the true stories of what happened here." 

To say I was reticent was an understatement. What they were asking me to do seemed a huge commitment, and so much had been documented about the era, what could I possibly add? Then one of the men sent me his notes about a day in 1962 when he pushed through the double glass doors of The Birmingham News, weary from an all-night stakeout with police, and his eccentric, powerful boss shouted for him to join him for breakfast. What was said at that breakfast changed a young reporter's life and affected the tangled web of history.  

I was hooked.

After the better part of a decade, it is done. Regretfully, three of the fine gentlemen who trusted me to write this did not live to see it. I only hope I have been true to their vision.



What folks are saying:

Behind the Magic Curtain: Secrets, Spies, and Unsung White Allies of Birmingham’s Civil Rights Days is a remarkable look at a historic city enmeshed in racial tensions, revealing untold or forgotten stories of secret deals, law enforcement intrigue, and courage alongside pivotal events that would sweep change across the nation.

T. K. Thorne has hit another home run with Behind the Magic Curtain. For five and a half decades we have read accounts of the civil rights era in Birmingham and Selma written by those with a particular ax to grind. Thorne is an excellent reporter, recognizing the nuances that “outsiders” or opinionated writers could not see or chose to overlook. Her reading and especially her interviews over the past several years have been remarkable, allowing her to give far more accurate details than we have seen before. For those who want to know the secrets of what really went on behind the “magic curtain” in those pivotal nation-changing days, days that brought the Civil Rights Bill in 1964 and the Voting Rights Bill in 1965, this is an important book to read.
—Douglas M. Carpenter, Retired Episcopal minister and son of Alabama’s Episcopal Bishop, C. C. J. Carpenter.

In Behind the Magic Curtain, T. K. Thorne introduces us to those who operated behind the scenes in the civil rights movement in Alabama, shedding light on the individual moral complexities of these participants—some firebrands, some reluctant players, and some predators who worked for their own gain. This journalistic exploration of a complicated time in Alabama’s social history will sit comfortably on the shelf next to histories by Dianne McWhorter, Glenn Eskew, and Taylor Branch. — Anthony Grooms, author of Bombingham and The Vain Conversation

Deeply engaging, Behind the Magic Curtain tells a forgotten part of the Birmingham story, prompting many “real time memories” for me. The lively and descriptive writing brought the characters and settings to life, while diving into the white community’s role in all its complexities. This is a treasure trove of stories about activities and perspectives not well known to the general public. In particular, journalist Tom Lankford’s sleuthing and the machinations of the Birmingham Police Department, along with the risk-averse role of the local newspapers, and a full blown portrait of the inscrutable Birmingham News VIP, Vincent Townsend, make for a fascinating read.
—Odessa Woolfolk, educator, community activist, and founding president of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

“T.K. writes like a seasoned news editor, meticulously hunting down facts and laying out the context in a colorful, intriguing way. Behind the Magic Curtain documents many untold stories and faithfully relates my own personal, unforgettable memories of a time of racial transition in Birmingham.”
—Tom Lankford, journalist for The Birmingham News

 “Novelist and former Birmingham Police Captain T.K. Thorne demonstrates there was more to Birmingham of the Civil Rights Era than Bull Connor, Klansmen, and African-American protestors.  Behind that “Magic Curtain,” an ethnically diverse group from downtown to the surrounding bedroom communities of ministers, priests, rabbis, newspaper reporters, and housewives comprised a community belying monikers like ‘Bomingham’ and ‘Murder Capital of America,’ and fighting for justice in the Magic City.”
—Earl Tilford, author of Turning the Tide: The University of Alabama in the 1960s

 Available for Pre-order now!

NewSouth Books

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, January 21, 2021

Create Some Mayhem!

Create Some Mayhem!

By Cathy Perkins

Malbec Mayhem has joined the world!

Usually when an author releases a new book, it’s nerves and excitement and a ton of planning and nerves…

Did I mention it can be nerve-wracking? Will people like the book I spent however many months writing? Will they “get” the characters, the theme…

Will they hate it?

Will my publisher look at the numbers and tell me to go away?

Malbec Mayhem is nerve-wracking for me because it’s a little different. It’s a novella, revolving around one of the secondary characters in the Holly Price series. Alex had been bugging me for ages to give him a second chance—and this story is his opportunity to grow up and get things right. The mystery takes a back seat to the grown up version of coming of age. 

Whew! Most readers enjoy it:

5 Stars: “Alex get a second chance at love, but in fighting for what matters most he discovers his truest self.

5 Stars: “Perkins … successfully develops her characters and put more than enough twists and turns into its pages.

Double whew! 

Now to tamp down the rest of those nerves!

Malbec Mayhem

Successful restaurateur Alex Montoya’s charmed life has hit a snag. His trusted business partner turned out to be not exactly trustworthy, and Alex could be facing jail time over some of his partner’s shady financial deals. As if that weren’t bad enough, creditors are calling in loans he didn’t know he had and he’s desperate to prove his innocence before all his businesses are repossessed.

After a career-building stint in Napa Valley, Sofia Pincelli has returned home to eastern Washington to take over the family’s winery. Running the family business, however, means dealing with her ailing father’s constant micro-management—and his disapproval of Alex. Her father’s condemnation of Alex’s rumored involvement in his business partner’s schemes runs so deep, it threatens Alex and Sofia’s blossoming romance…along with the Pincelli family’s signature red wine. Sofia needs Alex’s crop of Malbec grapes to show her father she has what it takes to make award-winning wine—and save the reputation and finances of the Pincelli winery.

When the Malbec grapes go missing, Alex and Sofia must join forces to find the fruit before it spoils—or risk destroying both of their businesses and their hearts.


Want a copy? Get it from your favorite retailer:







Prefer a paper copy? 




Want to learn more about the series?

Jump over here:

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 19, 2021


Let’s Hear It for Virtual Everything!

by Saralyn Richard 

The year 2020 will go down in history for a lot of negative things, but one silver lining for me has been the proliferation of virtual meetings. Prior to 2020, I had used FaceTime to visit with far-flung family, but in the past year I have elevated virtual meetings to a regular staple on every day’s menu of activities, both personal and business.

Here are a few of the ways I have used FaceTime, Zoom, Microsoft, Eventbrite, and other platforms to stay connected with important people in my life:

  • ·         I teach my classes in creative writing and literature for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
  • ·         I attend meetings and conferences sponsored by writers’ organizations.
  • ·         I meet with book clubs all over the country.
  • ·         I meet with readers who subscribe to my monthly newsletter.
  • ·         I attend classes to improve my craft.
  • ·         I participate in writers’ critique group meetings.
  • ·         I meet with my publisher and other authors.
  • ·         I attend religious services and funerals.
  • ·         I attend birthday parties and other celebrations.
  • ·         I have certain medical appointments.

Most of these events have had more participation from people located all over the world than ever would have been possible in person.

Earlier this month, I had a new book released, A MURDER OF PRINCIPAL. Thanks to Rachele Baker at  Authors Live! Online, I was able to have a celebratory virtual book launch party that was almost as good as being there. (If you're interested, contact Rachele at A few bookstores have offered to host virtual book events, too. Except for autographing and giving hugs, there isn’t much the virtual events leave out compared to in-person events. And there are advantages in being able to attend from the comfort of home, both for attendees and hosts.

I often think of how isolated people must have been during pandemics prior to the internet. I’m grateful, if I had to live through such a long time socially distanced, that I can talk face-to-face with people as easily as clicking on a link.

Whenever we go back to in-person meetings, I’ll be among the first to kick up my stilettos, but for some things, I hope we are able to keep our virtual meetings, as well. Meanwhile, I wish each of you a happy new year with good health, much joy, and lots of personal connections, virtual and otherwise.

Want to connect with Saralyn virtually? Subscribe to her monthly newsletter or contact her at



Monday, January 18, 2021

A New Story for the New Year

by Paula Gail Benson

I felt very privileged and humbled last year when I learned my “Cosway’s Confidence” had received second place in the Bethlehem Writers’ Group’s 2020 short story contest. I have a special fondness for this Group. Seven years ago, my first published story appeared online in the Bethlehem Writers’ Roundtable. That same year, my “Long in the Tooth” placed third in the short story contest, with Hank Phillippi Ryan as the celebrity judge.

Currently, “Cosway’s Confidence” is one of the featured stories in the online publication, the Bethlehem Writers’ Roundtable. Debra Goldstein’s “Wabbit’s Carat,” an honorable mention winner in the contest, also appears in the issue.

Submissions for the 2020 contest had to be about animals. My friends’ ferret Maggie was the initial inspiration for my story, but I wanted to distinguish the ferret I wrote about, to give that animal an unexpected quality.

I remembered having a discussion with a student who worked in our office about her difficulty in obtaining the paperwork she needed to have an emotional support animal in her dorm. I wondered, what if a person with a support animal tried to get a job with a restaurant? Would there be any way that person could bring the animal to work?

Thus was born Cosway, an imaginary emotional support ferret. And, thus also arose the dilemma for my protagonist, Arleen Schuster, a private cook opening her own café: how could she refuse to hire her best catering customer’s nephew who carried his imaginary emotional support ferret in his backpack?

If you would like to see how Arleen handles this problem and several others, here’s the link.

While writing the story, it occurred to me that imaginary creatures had provided opportunities to demonstrate courage and build confidence throughout the ages. Here’s a list of ten that I’ve found intriguing:

(1)    Dragons: I’d hope they might be more friendly than ferocious, but they certainly have offered challenges from St. George to Harry Potter.

(2)    Unicorns: Gentle, yet elusive, these creatures have graced tapestries as well as poems. Unicorn horns and blood are strong protectants, but harming a unicorn may cause a person to be cursed.

(3)    Hippogriffs, like Buckbeak in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, can be arrogant, but, if treated with courtesy, are great allies for a quick getaway.

(4)    Gremlins originally took the blame for mischievous malfunctions in WWII aircraft, but they now have infiltrated more mechanical devices, particularly computers.

(5)    Leviathans are mentioned in biblical passages as well as ancient sailors’ tales. These sea serpents, sometimes associated with whales or crocodiles, have a more ominous presence than their cousin Nessie in Loch Ness, Scotland.

(6)    Bigfoot, Sasquatch, King Kong, the Abominable—large, ape-like, wild, and hairy—yet in so many stories, they convert from menace to semi-friend. Sort of and sometimes.

(7)    Phoenixes have long lives that end in flames before miraculously regenerating from the ashes. A phoenix is featured on San Francisco’s flag, in commemoration of rebuilding after the 1906 earthquake.

(8)    South American legends describe encantados, or shape-shifting dolfins, also called dolphin men or weredolphins. Reminds me of a scene from Sharyn McCrumb’s If I Killed Him When I Met Him.

(9)    The jackalope, a rabbit with antelope horns, is familiar throughout the American west, but the Swedish Skvader was constructed by a taxidermist in 1918 and is on display in a museum in Sundsvall. It is part hare and part wood grouse, a semi-reality of a creature from a hunting tale.

(10)Sobek, the mythological Egyptian crocodile god, who was powerful, yet unpredictable. Anthropologists have studied small, sealed messages left for Sobek to understand ancient Egyptian culture.

Do you have an imaginary animal that’s intrigued you?


Friday, January 15, 2021

Has the Pandemic Changed Your Reading Habits?

 By Shari Randall

Mystery is my genre of choice, but lately I’ve noticed a change in my reading habits. Maybe it’s the pandemic, politics, or the general ragged state of the world, but I’ve found solace in another genre: Horror.


Yep, horror.  It says a lot about the state of the world that I’ve found escape in a vampire saga and a ghost story/serial killer novel: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires and The Sun Down Motel. Why is this? Maybe it’s the satisfaction of closing the book, trapping the frights within the covers. There’s no such thing as vampires, right? Though to be honest, the dread and suspense created by The Sun Down Motel did cost me more than a few hours’ sleep. 


Both books are bestsellers but The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires included violence toward children, which is a nonstarter for me, and I wish the book had struck more of the sprightly tone of its title.


The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James, on the other hand, delivered more than promised by its prosaic title. Twenty-year-old Carly Kirk’s beautiful Aunt Viv went missing in 1982, and Carly retraces Viv’s steps thirty years later to appropriately named Fell, New York to discover what happened to her. Carly believes that by following in her aunt’s footsteps, working the night shift at the seedy Sun Down Motel, she’ll find the answer. She finds the answer and much more.

Has the pandemic changed your reading habits?

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Accent Mark Goes Here

 by Bethany Maines

You know how Madonna now talks with a British accent?  And everyone kind of mocks her?  It is annoying to have someone you know grew up in Michigan try and sound all posh, but at the same time… I would be the same way.  I once realized that I had been watching twenty minutes of a cooking show with an Australian host and I had no idea what was being made.  I’d spent the entire time watching her mouth trying to figure out how she was murdering pronouncing her vowels that way.  I sounded like a monkey on the couch as I clenched and unclenched my teeth trying “ehhh-oooh-uh” my vowels.  I was two seconds away from throwing a shrimp on the barbie when my husband came home and gave me the look that implied that while our marriage was a joy and a blessing, it was also occasionally weird.

The unfortunate thing is that, just as I’m addicted to copying other people’s accents, I find that I’m also prone to picking up the language of whomever I’m reading.  I’m sure my writing/reading group can tell when I’ve been reading Regency Romances.  One cannot help but be addicted to the opulent turn of phrase.  And if I could work some sort of line about puce satin and a cravat into the paragraph all the better.  What if I’m reading fluffy chick lit?  Pretty sure that my character needs to mention her thighs and a cupcake in the next sentence.  Taut thrillers? Sentences get shorter.  Characters become brutal. And adverbs?  Kill ‘em.  Kill ‘em all. 

The brutal snuffing out of “suddenly” aside, this habit does real damage to my narratives.  Characters don’t sound like themselves (why does that Texan sound English?) and plots can veer wildly off course as I spend a page (or three) describing clothing.  So when I’m writing I have to take a bit of a hiatus from reading unless I can find that wondrous book that matches the tone that I’m writing.  I think it’s incredibly unfair that my reading has suffered as a result of my writing, but currently it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.  Of course, if I could just figure out how to retire with a million dollars so that I could segregate my year into reading quarters and writing quarters life would be awesome.


Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, San Juan Islands Mysteries, The Deveraux Legacy 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, January 12, 2021

Gay Yellen: Block that Gift!

A wonderful friend threw a fabulous launch party for me in 2014 when my first book, The Body Business, was published. And several months later, she bought me a gift I'll never forget. She said that the moment she saw it, she knew I had to have it.

I knew she meant well, so instead of recoiling in horror at the otherwise harmless paperweight, I thanked her for her thoughtfulness. But just to be safe, I hid it in a closet, far away from the room where I write.

The Gift

By the time I finished the second book in The Samantha Newman Mystery Series, the gift was out of my thoughts. That book was such fun to write!

I'd planned to launch Book #3 in 2020. But in early January, an unidentified virus brought me to my knees. It was March before I could sit at my desk to do mundane tasks like open mail and pay bills.

Then my husband's brother died. And my mother died a month later. By May, I found it impossible to concentrate on any project that called for clear thinking. Add to that the general distress we all suffered last year, and. . .

. . . Book #3—all 70,000 words of it from 2019—lay dormant. More than once in my struggles, that elegantly wrapped gift haunted me from the closet. I considered slinging it off the balcony. 

By last summer's end, I managed to return to writing with a short piece for the Jungle Reds and my monthly Stiletto Gang post. Which made me wonder why, if I could  put 500 words together for a blog, I still couldn't manage a few more to complete my book?

Words are words, right? So, what's the difference?

I think I've figured it out.

Writing Fast vs. Writing Deep
In my magazine days, part of my job as managing editor was to oversee the monthly deadlines of our staff writers and contributors. When it was time to lay out an issue, if a scheduled piece was M.I.A., or a writer went rogue, delaying the print run was never an option. I had to find or write a filler. Fast. 

I got good at writing fast. Laser focus and a hard deadline was all it took. Similar to writing a monthly blog post. But it takes much, much more than that to write a book.

Novel writing is deep. It's immersive. It requires sustained concentration, plus the mental energy to wrangle multiple loose threads into a complete, coherent whole. Which was impossible for me to accomplish in 2020.

Really, I'm fine. . .

The Bright Side
These days, with comfort tea to bolster me, I'm back at work on Book #3. I'm glad to be going deep again, and so very grateful to have made it through. Fingers crossed for getting it done by spring.

I hope you survived last year intact, and with enough resilience to weather the ill winds that still batter us. May our beloved country be restored to health. And may you have a sweet 2021.
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,

Monday, January 11, 2021

This is it...

I think I speak for just about everyone on the planet when I say I'm glad to see the last of 2020. It was a year that brought rapid, often painful change. It was a year where we worried about illness, the economy, and politics. It is a year best gone.

So, here we are, poised at the start of a bright, shiny-as-a-vaccine-needle new year, and it's time for more change. I will be leaving The Stiletto Gang. It's been my pleasure to associate with the talented authors on this blog, but family comes first. And though it's only the second Monday in January, I can tell this will be a demanding year.

Readers, thank you for joining me here. Fellow writers, thank you for allowing me to join you. It's been a wonderful ride. I wish all of you a happy, healthy, prosperous new year.

Warmest regards ~ Julie

Julie Mulhern is the USA Today bestselling author of The Country Club Murders and the Poppy Fields Adventures.

She is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean--and she's got an active imagination. Truth is--she's an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Recognition, Writing and the Ladies Room

 Recognition, Writing and the Ladies Room by Debra H. Goldstein

Do we write for recognition? Or, is it something in our blood that makes it impossible to do anything else?  I’ve heard many people say, “I write because I have to” or “Even if I never become a New York Times bestseller, I have stories that need to be told.” These remarks may be true, but let’s face it, even the shyest among us loves to be recognized.  Of course, there are preferred time and places to be singled out.

When I was doing my first Sarah Blair book tour for One Taste Too Many, I flew from Alabama to Michigan for two speaking engagements.  In the waiting area, I noticed a compact curly white haired woman. Her multi-colored plaid shirt made her standout from the grey crowd waiting for the plane to load. When we got on the plane, our eyes met for a moment, but we both looked away.

After we landed, I did the age old action of jumping up, grabbing my stuff, deplaning and heading for the restroom. As I was coming out of my stall, she exited the one across from me and said, “Debra?”


“I’m Becky.” How nice.  I had no idea who Becky was, but I could tell she believed herself to be a long lost friend. “I loved that mystery conference in Birmingham.”

Clue number one – she attended Murder in the Magic City in February. She must have remembered I was a panelist this year. 

“I was sorry to miss that conference with Reed Coleman conference.  I just love that Reed Coleman.”

I hastened to agree with her. While she gushed on about Reed and his books, I racked my brain trying to remember how we knew each other while sticking my hands under three different sink soap nozzles before one finally worked.   Distracted wondering about some of the people wandering the airport who had been in this bathroom, I glanced up to see she was already drying her hands.

“You spoke to our book group years ago, before we disbanded. I liked your Maze in Blue book and your talk was funny.”

 Eureka, now I knew where we’d met. “If you enjoyed that book, you might like my new one, One Taste Too Many.  It was released a few weeks ago. In fact, that’s why I’m here in Michigan.  I’m doing two book talks and signings”

“Can I get it on my kindle? 

After I replied in the affirmative and pointed out it was only $3.99 for the e-book, she smiled. “I’ll have to get it. I’m on my way to my vacation house for three weeks. What did you say the name of the book is?”

One Taste Too Many.” Thinking like the marketer I have had to become, I asked: “would you like a bookmark?”

“Oh yes,” was the answer.  Only problem, she was ready to walk out of the bathroom and my hands were still under the running water.

“Um, here, let me dry my hands.”

Another woman and I grabbed for the small piece of exposed paper towel.  I won, but it wasn’t enough to do the job.  In the meantime, the other woman got the next two sheets. I finishing the drying process on my jeans, searched inside my purse for a bookmark, and proudly presented it to her.  She smiled and slipped it into her pocket.

We walked out of the bathroom together – a fan and an author whose only thought was “Now, I know why they say never approach an agent in the bathroom.”

----Since then, Two Bites Too Many and Three Treats Too Many have been published. Four Cuts Too Many comes out May 25, 2021, but is already available for pre-sale.  And here's a secret, Kensington is running One Taste Too Many on various promotions for $1.99 for the e-book ---a better price than Becky paid.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

How to Meet Those Yearly Goals Everyone is Talking About

by Sparkle Abbey

We love the fresh start of a new year! With 2020 in the rear-view mirror, a fresh start has never felt more important than it does right now. We are strong believers that our present path doesn’t have to determine our final destination but can represent where we started. And we’re starting with a clear vision of what we want out of 2021.

For those of you who have followed us, you know we LOVE to set goals. Not just writing goals, but spiritual, health, personal, financial, and career goals, too. We’ve talked about the importance of setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) in the past, so this time we’d like to share some tips that help us keep on track with achieving our goals. Because honestly, setting the goal is the easy part. Following through is a challenge.

 1.       Write Them Down

We do mean, write. There’s something to be said about handwriting your goals that helps you visualize what you want to accomplish. And if you’re like us, without writing them down, you’re bound to forget by the end of the month. When you see those goals in writing it helps you focus. There’s a fascinating article about the psychology of writing down goals that explain the relationship between writing down goals and achieving them better than we can. Take a quick minute and check it out.

2.       Tell Someone

It’s all about accountability. Share your goals with someone. We all need a cheerleader in our corner to motivate us to keep going when we’re tired or discouraged.

3.       Do Something Every Day

You’ve heard the saying before, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” It’s similar to meeting your goal. You meet goals by taking one step at a time. For a financial goal, that can be as simple as putting $1 a day into an envelope, or instead of buying that latte, Venmo that money to your savings account. If it’s a fitness goal, schedule a twenty-minute meeting with yourself to take a walk. You get the idea.

4.       Accept That You Will Have A Setback

Hey, life happens. All you have to do is remember 2020. Enough said. When you have a setback, readjust and don’t feel guilty about it. The time you spend feeling guilty is time you could have spent towards reaching your goal.

5.       Check-in

Remember when we said to tell someone? This is where you check-in with that person or persons and hold yourself accountable. What did you do to get yourself closer to your goal? What worked? What didn’t? Maybe they can offer some advice if what you’re doing isn’t working the way you had envisioned.

6.       Celebrate Your Successes

When you reach that goal, make sure you take the time to celebrate. Rewards, big or small, will help you stick to your goals. Pro tip: don’t let the reward set you back from meeting other goals. If you’re trying to improve your fitness and diet, don’t celebrate your new promotion or outstanding book sales on a couple of margaritas. Maybe have a vodka with club soda and a squeeze of lime. Just sayin’.

We hope these tips work for you. Now go forth and conquer 2021. We believe in you!

Sparkle Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Ashford and Anita Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series. They are friends as well as neighbors so they often get together and plot ways to commit murder. (But don't tell the other neighbors.) 

They love to hear from readers and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, their favorite social media sites. Also, if you want to make sure you get updates, sign up for their newsletter via the website.