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
Amazon.com
BarnesandNoble.com


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



Thursday, 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:

Amazon                      https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01GNHM2AE 

B&N                           https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/malbec-mayhem-cathy-perkins/1128809421

Kobo                           https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/malbec-mayhem-1

D2D                            https://books2read.com/u/38g2jB

Apple                          https://books.apple.com/us/book/malbec-mayhem/id1543804593

 

Prefer a paper copy? 

Amazon                      https://www.amazon.com/dp/1942003064

B&N                           https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/malbec-mayhem-cathy-perkins/1128809421

 

Want to learn more about the series?

Jump over here:          https://cperkinswrites.com/books/the-holly-price-mystery-series/


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

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

She's hard at work on 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 https://www.authorsliveonline.com/learn-more-about-our-services-for-authors.) 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 http://www.saralynrichard.com.

 

 

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, GayYellen.com.




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?”

“Yes/”

“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 SparkleAbbey.com website.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Clicking Our Heels - Diverse Women and Their Fairy Tales

Clicking Our Heels - Diverse Women and Their Fairy Tales

A New Year, but a re-run of an old Clicking Our Heels written shortly after we changed our logo. New members and new Clicking Our Heels next month!

The Stiletto Gang spent the past two months introducing our new logo and letting you see how diverse we are over something simple:  red shoes. Not only are we different in the present, but we were raised on different fairy tales, folklore and cultural stories. Thinking back, we decided to share with you an early one we can remember and tell you why it was so impressive. 

Paula Gail BensonCinderella has a firm hold on me. I wore a Cinderella Halloween costume for years and, when I began teaching short story workshops, Cinderella was my go-to example for story structure. I guess it’s a female Horatio Alger story. Ultimately, Cindy wins when she is able to reveal herself.

Dru Ann Love – Your dreams can come true if you work hard for it. Because I knew I wanted more from life than what was dealt my family. That’s why I was the first to graduate college, the first to get a full-time job, the first to travel internationally for pleasure, and the first to own real estate (co-op).

TK ThorneSnow White and The Seven Dwarfs because I was hung up on Cinderella being blonde and the “perfect” girl, and Snow had dark hair like me. Could I be perfect too, or at least find my prince? Not very feminist fodder, but that is what we were fed and I swallowed.

Shari Randall – My Italian mom told us the story of Old Befana, the good witch who flies on her broomstick on January 8, going down chimneys to leave candy for good children and coal for the naught. Befana was known as the best housekeeper in the village, so when the Three Wise Men came through (yes, a side trip to Italy!), following the star in their search for the Christ child, they stayed at Befana’s house. The next morning, the Magi invited her to join them on their quest, but Befana wanted to finished her chores first. The Magi let and soon after Befana ha a change of heart and tried to catch them but she couldn’t find the three kings.  The story is that even today she still searches for the Child, always with her broom at her side. I’ve taken that moral to heart – if adventure calls, don’t wait – leave the housework behind!

Debra H. Goldstein – The Emperor’s New Clothes made a lasting impression on me for the way in which it mocked hypocrisy, snobbery and social class. The child’s honest cry that the Emperor is wearing no clothes versus the individuals who wouldn’t speak out, including the Emperor, for fear of appearing stupid stuck with me. It was the first time, even though I couldn’t put it into words, that I realized the importance of speaking the truth – even when it isn’t popular or goes against a prevailing rhetoric.

Linda Rodriguez – Some of the earliest tales and teaching stories that I recall came from my Cherokee grandmother, who was a huge influence in my early life. One of the most influential was the story of Stoneskin, a giant cannibal who ravaged the Cherokee, the early people. In the story, the Cherokee fought against him by arranging one menstruating woman after another in front of him, until the power of them overwhelmed him. As he lay dying, he told them all kinds of secrets and medicine lore, which became the foundation of the Cherokee traditional medicine teaching. So, much that is truly important about traditional Cherokee culture comes from a dying monster killed by a the power of women, who are capable of getting pregnant and giving birth. That story told me as a young child that there was power in the female, even though the world around me said that women and girls were weak and powerless.

Bethany Maines – I’ve recently been re-reading fairy tales and somehow I didn’t remember them being as horrible as they are. Rape, murder, incest, lots of removing of limbs and for some reason turning into rose bushes.  The one I liked as a kid were the Arabian Nights. I think it was Ali-Baba where the maid poured boiling oil on the forty thieves hidden in the oil jars. The hero seemed like an idiot and the maid saved the day. Somehow, the idea of boiling a bunch of guys in oil didn’t seem as horrific to me then as it does now.

Cathy P. Perkins – I didn’t grow up on fairy tales. Instead, my brother fed me a stead diet of science fiction. I desperately wanted to be either an astronaut and explore space or move onto Pern, bond with my very own dragon, and save my people from Thread.

Juliana Aragon Flatula – I love the story of how the moon and stars were created when Huitzilopochtli slayed his sister the moon and his 400 brothers the stars and cut them into pieces and threw them to the heavens. This is why the moon has phases.

Julie Mulhern – I was an early feminist. I didn’t understand why Disney princesses’ happy endings were dependent on princes. Snow White? I did not buy into the idea of cleaning up after seven men. How stupid did she have to be to eat that apple? And how shallow is a prince who falls in love with her based on her face?

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Travel for Writing

By Kathryn Lane


For people with an appetite for travel, 2021 promises to be a better year. We’re already picking destinations and building itineraries to fulfill our yearnings.

Yeah, I’m one of those crazy, exuberant travelers anxiously waiting to renew my journeys!

Before becoming a writer, I jetted around the globe for work purposes. I’d managed to leverage a CPA and finance career into inspecting overseas affiliates experiencing financial issues or mismanagement. Traveling fulfilled my dream of visiting other countries and learning their cultures.

Yet I left the corporate world to write!

Since switching to writing mystery novels and short stories, my travel is even more purpose driven. My husband and I journey to foreign locations so I can research places where my female protagonist, Nikki Garcia, and other characters find themselves – usually in heaps of trouble.

Hong Kong, intended to be the next story site, had to be cancelled. The pandemic in March 2020 posed too big a risk in Asia. I rethought the plot and scheduled a May trip to Miami and Cuba. COVID had hit the US and Caribbean by then, so we cancelled that jaunt. Surely by October, we could travel. Barcelona beckoned us and we booked a trip to Spain. That too had to be cancelled.

Upon researching “pandemic safe” tours, swimming in the Aegean off the coast of Turkey offered a possibility. Except I’m not a swimmer. And it’d be difficult for Nikki to chase bad guys using a breaststroke!

Another option – “pretend to be in Paris from home.” Glancing at the itinerary, it suggested baking Circus Bakery’s cinnamon buns for breakfast. Turning on French music for atmosphere, adding a scarf and sunglasses while reading Le Monde’s website for French news, enjoying a leisurely luncheon of wine and cheese, and then taking a virtual tour of the Musée d’Orsay. By 5 p.m. it’s time to become your own bartender for aperitifs before dinner. And finally you cook your dinner pretending to be a famous French chef cooking Coq a Vin.

Cooking after all the wine from lunch and aperitifs before dinner? They must be kidding. Or maybe that’s the secret of famous French chefs – being plastered as they cook!

Seriously, I hope 2021 is a great year for all writers - and those of us who are also travel junkies - that we can once again hit the road, rails, oceans, and airways. Or even take hiking and cycling tours without concern of encountering closed hotels and restaurants.

Wherever your passion leads you, I’m lifting my glass of French wine to wish you a New Year of health, love, joy, peace, and happiness.

***


Kathryn’s books – The Nikki Garcia Mystery Series and her short story collection – Backyard Volcano. All available on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082H96R11

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.

https://www.kathryn-lane.com

https://www.facebook.com/kathrynlanewriter/

Photo Credits:

Boat in Hong Kong Harbor, Swimmer, and Wine and Cheese – Public Domain

Kathryn’s books – designs by Bobbye Marrs

Monday, January 4, 2021

Why Goals Matter

 By Debra Sennefelder

 

 


 

Happy New Year! I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to see a year go buh-bye. For the first time in decades, I was tempted to stay up until midnight to see 2020 go away. Now that it’s gone, we’re in that familiar period of setting resolutions and creating goals. Though, 2021 is probably going to be different because we learned how fast those things could be thrown off track last year. I’m thinking we’re going to be a bit more cautious in our planning for this new year.

 

I have seen a funny meme on social media lately, and it pretty much said I’m not buying a planner until I see a preview of 2021. I can relate to that sentiment. But, I do have a planner already, and I’m going to plan. Looking back at 2020, I think one of the best things that came out of the year was realizing that we can pivot, adapt, and thrive despite the never-ending onslaught of 2020. So, I’m planning. But, just in case, I have extra white-out. 😊 

 

For a writer setting goals is more than circling a day on the calendar when you’ll complete your manuscript. There are several reasons why goals matter, and today I’m going to explore three of them.

#1 - Writing a book is a big commitment. Huge! Most people today tap out at 40 characters, and when you're writing a book, you're looking at 40,000 - 100,000 words. You definitely won't be typing "the end" anytime soon. You're looking at a few months or 30 days if you want to really challenge yourself. When writing a book, I like to break it down into small goals such as brainstorming, outlining. Next, I set-up chapter goals (you can do word count or page goals), and once my first draft is written, I then set-up new goals for revisions. I admit I love checking off goals as I accomplish them. This leads us to reason #2.

#2 - Having goals set will keep you motivated. I love having that list of goals (see above) and checking them off when I complete each goal. That keeps me moving forward rather than dwelling on the truly sucky scene I just wrote. With goals set, you are forced to look ahead, and if you've hit a wall, you know that you must do something because your next goal is waiting to be accomplished.

#3 - When you have a clear plan set forth, you won't waste time. One of the biggest obstacles we as writers face is ourselves. Somehow we manage to get in our own way time after time, but if you have a carved in stone (and yes, it should be) goal, then you won't be wasting your time doing XYZ (aka scrolling, scrolling, and more scrolling), you'll be sitting at your computer writing your book, sucky scenes and all. :)

So, go and create some goals for yourself. Big or small, it doesn't matter. Set them and achieve them because you can!

 


 

 

 

 

Debra Sennefelder is the author of the Food Blogger Mystery series and the Resale Boutique Mystery series. She lives and writes in Connecticut. When she’s not writing, she enjoys baking, exercising and taking long walks with her Shih-Tzu, Connie. You can keep in touch with Debra through her website, on Facebook and Instagram.