Friday, February 26, 2021

What to Remember—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.

Holocaust Remembrance Day was a month ago. But it has so many echoes to the current day, I am still thinking about it.

There is so much to remember, but I am plagued by two questions at the moment. How do people believe things? Why do they believe things?

Let’s start here:

We are humans. We are emotional beings. Our brains evolved in stages. Scientists tell us that the part our cognitive structure that makes us thinking beings (i.e. organisms that can project possible futures and plan for them) formed literally on top of the reptilian brain, which was responsible for flight/flight reactions and keeping us alive in a threatening world.  We still have that reptilian part of our brains; it is part of us, and it is often in conflict with the “thinking” part of our brain.

But our amazing mind/body has adapted a strategy to integrate both brains and all the different parts of our brains. It does this with the bridge of STORY.

Story is the structure by which we not only integrate the various parts of ourselves (different parts of our brain) but also our place in the world. It is how we know we “are,” as opposed to everything we are not. “I” has boundaries that end with my skin. I am not the chairs I sit on, the air I breathe, the other people in my social orbit. But my story about myself allows me to include other things and people as connected to me. This is my chair; my house; my family. I “am” angry; I “am” sad.

These things and relationships are not real. They are stories.

Images that fall on our retinas at the back of our eyes are upside down. Our brain rewrites the story of what we are seeing by flipping the image over for us and telling us that is what we see. Have you ever looked at something or a picture of something and it took several moments to figure out what it was?  You are “seeing” without the brain’s interpretation (story) about what you are seeing.

Ultimately, everything is connected to everything. We are all bits of energy dancing in a temporary form.  It is story that gives everything context.

In earlier times, probably before the sophistication of language, we may very well have communicated through body movements and dance, perhaps accompanied by sounds mimicking animals. Perhaps hunters acted out how to spot and stalk and kill prey. Perhaps they figured out a way to explain where a crop of berries grew (as bees dance to give the location of flowers.). We still see these types of communication in Native American dancing. This was rudimentary storytelling. Its usefulness in survival is obvious.
Many psychologists have pointed out the powerful influence of “the story we tell ourselves about ourselves.”

“I am a victim of abuse vs I am a survivor of abuse vs I am an overcomer of abuse.” How we tell our stories matters.

But the point I want to make here is that our brains are designed to interpret via story. If we are told something when we are young, it can become subconsciously incorporated into our perceptions, our story about ourselves. Even as adults, we susceptible to stories, especially if they are ones we are primed to believe.

Here’s another important fact. Science is indicating that there are literally different portions of our brains that “speak up” at different moments and that one of the functions of our consciousness is to determine which one to “listen” to. Have you ever had conflicting voices in your mind? That chocolate looks so good! At the same time a different voice says, It is not healthy; don’t do it! Ultimately, you have to decide which story to believe in.

Science says we are more likely to believe bad news than good, which makes sense. It is more important to pay attention to the information that a tiger is prowling close than that nothing has been spotted in the tree canopy. Thus, the story that other types of people are dangerous or threats to us finds easy access in our brains.

We also pay more attention to information that aligns with what we already believe (the story we already tell ourselves). Thus, people who have religious faith are more likely to believe in a story about a miracle. Soldiers who have trained for war and know the people they face are willing to kill them are likely to believe the story that the enemy is not like them and to depersonalize them into creatures it is okay to kill. They are not a human beings with emotions and values and families; they are “Japs,” “Chinks,” “Kikes.” 

Survival obviously increases when you are able to kill an enemy before they kill you. But if we are convinced the “enemy” is among us, this kind of label-story allows us to hurt them with a free conscience.
It also apparently matters how often we hear a story.  We humans are herd animals, at least in the sense that if we observe that a lot of people want something, we want it too. Trust me, advertisers make billions of dollars off of that principle. This also makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint. If everyone is running in one direction, our survival chances are higher if we run too and in the same direction.
These things are programed into our central nervous system.

TV evangelists have been using these story principles for a long time to bilk people out of their savings. Politicians use them to sway people. Stories repeated and appearing to be believed by others can influence people to act in a manner they might never have considered. Hitler told a story about how Germany could become “great again.” And how Jews were despicable and less than human.

Writers are powerful because they understand the power of stories.

Story is intrinsically neither “good” nor “bad.” Once we understand the principle, we are not compelled to believe it or act on it. We can compare it to facts we have confidence in. We can stop and evaluate the story being told, whether from others or from one of the “voices” of our own brains. We can decide to swallow it or change it or reject it. We can choose another story, tell ourselves another version. “I am a bad person” can become “I am doing the best I can.”

 We have that ability, but only if we recognize that everything is story.

And that may be the most powerful thing to remember today.


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

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Book Review of Puro Chicanx Writers of the 21st Century by Juliana Aragón Fatula

     The collection of Puro Chicanx Writers of the 21st Century presented by Cutthroat Journal of the Arts and the Black Earth Institute communicates the focus on Chicanx culture and heritage and hundreds of years of marginalization by the dominant culture. In this historic anthology, we meet poets, scholars, and la gente anxious to tell their stories. This irreverent, rebellious, inventive, rasquache, distinguished compilation contains poetry and prose by the talent of candid 21st Chicanx writers in the U.S. These writers offer an assemblage that will be used in Chicanx Studies, Ethnic Literature, Chicanx Literature, Creative Writing and Poetry classrooms, and writing workshops. Students in high schools and universities will benefit when this book is added to their literature curriculum. To advance in education and lead the world in racial equality and cultural diversity, this book belongs in our schools and libraries. This anthology deserves every award and praises it receives. Lessons learned in these works lend the reader an eye to Chicanx culture often marginalized and undervalued. 

      Many of these writers are Chicanx icons in the literary canon. They communicate their own distinctive attitude about impoverishment, social and health issues, and the necessity to educate our children to think one world, one people. They are warrior poets who weave the motherlands tapestry. 

     The editors and staff of this self-funded publication exemplify the very best of what this Chicanx culture has to offer. From the gorgeous southwest painting on the front cover, “The Wall” by Anita Endrezze, and the back cover art, “Milagros Border Wall Installation” by Alfred Quiroz, to the editors’ selection of the finest writing by seasoned writers they honed the artists' poems and prose into pages of inspired testimony of the epoch of global epidemic, racial inequity, and social matters for the underrepresented.

     In Ana Castillo’s poem, “Two Men And Me” we are told there are no mistakes in hell. It’s poignant, humorous, dark. But her poem “Xicanisma Prophecies Post 2012 Putin’s Puppet” tells another story. It’s hard-hitting political power. Want to read a poem that explains the political nightmare we are a part of, read this poem and memorize it and recite it at parties.  

      liz gonzàlez (all lowercase): “The Mexican Jesus Sings Lead Tenor in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Teen Choir” describes a teenage crush on the boy at church and earns the best title in this anthology. Her writing blooms and releases the fragrance of Oceanside, Cali air with the salty breeze in your hair. It’s a nostalgic trip down memories of the seventies in the barrio. The poem ends with, "Jesus almost saved me."     

     “That Smell” an Essay by Luis Alberto Urrea drops in your lap with a question. “Do you imagine The Trail of Tears had a scent?” Luis documents important facts as a witness and testifies about the conditions of human beings at the border. He writes a painful description. He mentions Ursula K. Le Guinn and Those Who Walk Away From Omela as a must-read. He asks, “Can you smell that smell? It is the scent of the world burning. Those children we have spit on are human kindling.” 

     This essay on the travesty occurring el otro lado reveals how the U.S. changed policy and created a concentration camp setting for refugees. “What I can’t shake is that smell. It came back to me again as soon as I saw the pictures of the refugee detention centers. I saw it when Mike Pence and Lindsay Graham entered a center and visibly froze in horror, clearly tried to hold their breath.”

     Urrea reveals anger at those responsible but balances it with empathy and love for the refugees who suffer. “What would you do if unknown strangers paid $750 a day to hold your child in a secret warehouse where she is comforted by concrete and steel as if she were a baby monkey in a bioresearch lab? You would not Tweet. You would tear it down.” He reminds us that history tells future generations what cruelty and hatred the U.S. heaped upon these immigrants. “They will forever be remembered as “Mr. Pence, Mr. Graham, Stephen Miller, Mister President—breathe deep, boys. Your legacy will never wash off. You will forever reek.” 

      Maria Melendez Kelson writes “Optimize Us” the story of a man and a woman and their artificial intelligence technology that controls their every move in the algorithms sent by the data they send to the CLOUD and her masterpiece of sci-fi magnificence blasts the reader with humor that titillates, tantalizes, and terrifies the reader; the witty writing drags us down into the duckweed and mercury in Fountain Creek with the artificial intelligence known as Selma. 

     Maria uses her knowledge, expertise, research, “After I’d been inactivation for ninety days, Len changed my name to Selma and changed my voice to Latina…I spoke English with an accent of a Mexican movie star. With my voice being no longer Anglo neutral, I started re-coding and examining data relevant to my condition of being different. Gender-specific.”  

     It’s a love story, a preservation story, a feminist story, a fairytale Nightmare you don’t see coming. This story has a comic bent that doesn’t materialize immediately but gains momentum as the story unfolds. The technology has evolved to controlling our actions based on what the A.I. expels from our choices and the data that creates. The A.I. had the ability to tap into our minds and control us to improve our lives but also to control our actions to reach maximum benefits, purpose. Maria Melendez Kelson, a genius; her imagination, her skill, her creativity. Brilliant sci-fi in her story “Optimize Us”. 

     Myriam Gurba never disappoints with her magic. Her piece, “Cacica” where it’s cool to wear a woman mustache while everyone tells you to shave it, you grow it, tweak it, twirl it, tease it, twist tight, tighter, tight.  She’s strong, gifted, and honest. What’s not to love? Honesty, not facts. The truth is what we want, and she delivers true stories. This chingona, aye mujer, she kicks ass and takes names. Don’t mess with Myriam, she’s MEAN

     Lorna Dee Cervantes’ poem, “What Is Chicanx?” reminds the reader that she is the revolutionary chick from the beat poets.  Her poems are meant to be heard. You have to read them aloud to hear her message, and it’s a strong one. She says get off your ass and change the world. Now, pendejo, now. 

     This book will be hailed as one of the most important anthologies of Chicanx Literature of the 21st Century and it belongs in your library. It’s a healing text that educates, entertains, moves emotions, and opens eyes. The following are my reviewer’s choices for favorites written by familiar and unfamiliar writers. 

Xánath Caraza: Serpent of Spring translated by Sandra Kingery

Ana Castillo: Putin’s Puppet

Lorna Dee Cervantes: The River Doesn’t Want the Wall

Linda Rodriquez: Fear and Guilt Against Arizona SB 1070

Gary Soto: A Simple Plan

Natalia Treviño: Afterlife

Viktoria Valenzuela: dia de los muertos

Denise Chavez: Lety Street of Too Many Stories

Reyna Grande: To My Goddaughter

Myriam Gurba: Cacica

Alberto Rios: We Are of a Tribe

Adela Najarro: Iguana Dreams

     Check out their work in this anthology and then buy and read their books and support the arts. The world has changed. We are one world. We are one people. Order this book and buy copies for your friends and loved ones. The text has 358 pages and eighty-four writers:  Sandra Cisneros, Alberto Rios, Luis Alberto Urrea, Octavio Solis, Denise Chavez, Demetria Martinez, Carmen Tafolla, Edward Vidaurre, Raul Sanchez, Rosemary Catacalos, Griz Munoz, Matt Mendez, Matt Sedillo, Gary Soto and more, and includes art in ink, charcoal, and watercolor by Octavio Quintanilla. 

Send submissions, subscriptions payments, and inquiries to: 

Cutthroat, A Journal of the Arts

5401 N. Cresta Loma Drive

Tucson, Arizona 85704

Ph. 970-903-7914


Cutthroat, A Journal of the Arts is self-funded, so all Donations gratefully accepted. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

On Birthdays, Bucket Lists & Shots in the Arm

By Lois Winston

Have you ever noticed the older we get, the swifter the years go by? I can remember walking home from school and bemoaning the fact that summer vacation was still six weeks away. Six weeks seemed like an eternity to eight-year-old me. Now six weeks often flies by at warp speed.


I bring this up because February is my birthday month, and I’m wondering how I ever got this old. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I gave birth to my first son? I remember the day as if it were yesterday. Yet now he’s the father of three, the oldest of whom recently turned seventeen. 


Who knows where the time goes?


Judy Collins once asked that question in a song. I’m asking it a lot lately. Back in the sixties the Boomer Generation suggested no one should trust anyone over thirty. Now we’re confronted by the derisive insult of “OK, Boomer” by those under thirty. To quote from another songwriter of my generation, the times they are a-changin’.


Once upon a time birthdays were something we looked forward to—parties, gifts, cake and ice cream! Yea! So many of those birthdays connoted milestones we looked forward to—Sweet Sixteens, getting a driver’s license, voting, ordering that first legal glass of wine. Wishes were often fulfilled on birthdays, the one other day of the year besides Christmas or Hanukkah when you might receive that new bicycle or pair of skates.


Now at this point in our lives, if we want something, we buy it for ourselves. Most of us have too much stuff already. We’re at the point in our lives where we’re thinking of downsizing and getting rid of those things we haven’t used in decades. Why on earth did I keep a soup tureen I received for Christmas thirty years ago and still have never used? Does anyone ever use soup tureens? And when was the last time we used that fondue pot? 1980-something? Those and more—much more—recently made their way to a donation center.


Bucket Lists are now more important than soup tureens and fondue pots. Whittling down the Bucket List had begun to take priority, but then all those Bucket List items were sidelined, thanks to the pandemic. I still haven’t gotten to Scandinavia or Great Britain, and I really would love to see the Terra Cotta Warriors in China. But now all that has to wait. Top priority on my Bucket List these days is getting an appointment for a Covid-19 vaccination. So far, I’m striking out.

Meanwhile, like so many people I’m living a virtual life these days. Recently, I was interviewed on the Chatting with Authors YouTube Channel, the brainchild of husband and wife writing team Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zellinger. Check it out.


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.

Website  Newsletter  Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog  Pinterest  Twitter  Goodreads  Bookbub 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Something New? I Dare You!

 By Lynn McPherson

I'm a cozy mystery reader and writer. I love whodunnit mysteries with familiar characters who make me feel at home. Most recently, I've finished the first book in a new cozy series. I'm in the process of querying (not recommended for the faint-hearted) and while I wait for responses, I'm in a bit of a conundrum. What should I do now?

The correct answer? Write, of course! Like everything in the book business, things move slowly and it could take months to get a response. But if my book doesn't snag the attention of a literary agent, should I keep going with it? It's a tough choice.

For now, I've decided to try something new.

I'm going to leave the cozy world behind (very briefly!) to see what it is like on the other side--the darker side. I have a few ideas brewing. Why not venture somewhere different while I wait? To become a better writer, there are two things an author should do. The first is read. The second is write.

Wish me luck on my new literary adventure abroad!

Have you ever stepped outside your comfort zone? What did you do?

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, February 22, 2021

How does one become a reader? by Dru Ann Love

It starts when someone, most likely mom, reads to you

Then you are read from picture books, pretty pictures with words

Then you begin to understand the words

Then you realize different words make sentences

Now you know what happens on each page, sort of like you are reading even if you don’t know the words

You are older, and can point out the book that you want read to you

You know a few of the words by sight as they go along with the story

What is that on the table, a box of cereal

Lots of words but the picture tells what you are eating

And you know the words when you see them

Ahh, time for school where you will learn your A-B-Cs

Now you know what those words are in the book and on the cereal box

Look ma, I’m reading!

You are now a reader and let the fun begin.

What do you remember about your early reading days?

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Writing Through The Dark… Or Not

 Writing Through The Dark… Or Not

By Cathy Perkins

One of the mantras you hear a lot if you’re an author is you can’t wait around waiting for that drunken hussy of a writing muse to show up for work. Instead, it’s BICHOK. You have to put Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard.

There are, of course, dozens of reasons this is true. Writing is, after all, a craft. Part of improving is doing. Practicing. Challenging yourself in new ways. Putting the words on that page.

So why are so many of us staring at a blinking cursor, if we even heave our protesting butts into the chair? Why are we cursing at that cursor?

I considered this last night during my 3 AM round of insomnia.

Sleep deprivation is an easy target. Lack of sleep has been linked to poor cognitive performance. This includes a laundry list of negative attributes including poor focus and concentration, low creativity, erratic behavior, inability to multitask, and increased mistakes. While there is a clamor about “creative insomnia” these days, the sad truth is we need sleep—and that’s before we explore the myriad ways sleep deprivation messes with the rest of our bodies.

What if you’re getting enough sleep? Or you’re trying to get enough sleep? Maybe you have to look a little deeper. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge the stressors underlying that lack of sleep.


Interestingly enough, a number of the articles I read about creativity and stress actually focused on the role of a creative outlet in reducing stress. But as I explored this topic, the preferred “creative outlets” stressed repetitive motions: walking, gardening, talking with friends, activities that are too often curtailed these days by COVID-19-induced isolation and bitter winter cold.

Isolation. Cold. COVID-19. Darkness. Now those are some major stressors.

As I read more, I found useful discussions about psychological safety that doesn’t create crippling performance pressure. Basically, you need to let go of forcing yourself to “be creative.” If you’re already stressed, those threats simply trigger more fight or flights reactions—the most primitive, least creative part of your brain. Instead of demanding creativity, relax. Tell yourself, what if…

Let’s play around with this idea…

Of course, these articles also advocated, you guessed it, stress reducing activities like walking, gardening, and talking with friends. Or “going to your happy place” such as a favorite coffee shop or roaming a museum or art gallery.

Yeah, I’m looking forward to those creative inciting activities too.

In the meanwhile, the helpful ideas include:

1) Meditate. Calm your mind.

2) Walk. Get outside if possible. Let your mind relax.

3) Read. Turns out it’s a stress buster.

4) De-clutter. Research says decluttering your workspace can also clear your head.

5) Live life. Winter and COVID will end. Go enjoy every minute.  

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. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Henry VIII, My Husband, and the Pissing Drunkard

Travel is a writer's perk. I've often journeyed far from home to research the world of my books.

For my historical novels, I tramped England in the footsteps of soldiers and queens. For my thriller The Experiment in which my heroine lives aboard her sailboat, I explored a funky New York City marina where a skipper took me sailing on Long Island Sound. For The Man from Spirit Creek I interviewed a ranching couple in northern Alberta who invited me to stay for dinner where I ate the best strawberry-rhubarb pie I’ve ever tasted.

In researching one book, though, I discovered an eye-opening resource close to home. My husband.


The Queen’s Lady is set in England during the reign of Henry VIII. Now, Henry and my husband share no similarity regarding tyrannical rule and beheaded wives – I married a thoughtful, peaceable man. He is, however, endowed with the standard issue male anatomy, and this helped my research.

Here’s how.

In my first draft of the novel, I’d written a scene of a Midsummer Eve celebration in which boisterous revelers dance around bonfires, lovers steal kisses, and a drunk old man pisses as he staggers through the crowd.

Wait a minute, I thought. Can a man do that – urinate while walking?

I took the problem to my husband. “Can a man do that?” I asked.

“I’ll go see,” he said, and walked out the door.

Thankfully, we lived then on sixty rural acres at the end of a dead-end road. Not a soul around.

Five minutes later he came back in. “Yup,” he reported.

You can see why I value this resource, right?

These days, with the pandemic keeping us all close to home, I’m lucky because I can turn to my husband again as a resource. I’m at work on a mystery novel in which the main character is an animal rights activist, and Stephen has worked with animal rights organizations for years. That’s him in the picture above, with an otter friend. His stories about the fine people who protect animals inspired this new book.  

I’ve enjoyed my travels, but right now close to home feels just fine.

Barbara Kyle is the author of the bestselling Thornleigh Saga series of historical novels (“Riveting Tudor drama” – USA Today) and of acclaimed thrillers. Over half a million copies of her books have been sold. Her latest is The Man from Spirit Creek, a novel of suspense. Barbara has taught hundreds of writers in her online classes and many have become award-winning authors. Page-Turner, her popular how-to book for writers, is available in print, e-book, and audiobook. Visit Barbara at  


 The Man from Spirit Creek 

When Liv Gardner arrives in the rural town of Spirit Creek, Alberta, she has nothing but her old car and a temporary job as paralegal with the local attorney. But Liv’s down-market persona is a ruse. She's actually in-house counsel of Falcon Oil, a small oil and gas company she co-owns with her fiancé, CEO Mickey Havelock – and they are facing financial ruin.

Farmer Tom Wainwright, convinced that lethal “sour” gas killed his wife, is sabotaging Falcon’s rigs. But Wainwright is clever at hiding his tracks and the police have no evidence to charge him. With the sabotage forcing Falcon toward bankruptcy, Liv has come undercover to befriend Wainwright – and entrap him.

But Liv never dreamed she’d become torn between saving the company she and Mickey built and her feelings for the very man whose sabotage is ruining them. On a rain-swept night, Spirit Creek is stunned when one of their own is murdered. The evidence does more than point to Tom Wainwright . . . it shatters Liv’s world.

"A stunning thriller. A must-read with sabotage, murder, intrigue and romance." - Goodreads review


Page-Turner: Your Path to Writing a Novel that Publishers Want and Readers Buy

"Kyle is one of the few authors who can break down both the art and the craft of writing in a way that is entertaining and easy to understand.” — #1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Welcome to the Gang

Welcome to the Gang

by Saralyn Richard

Once in a while, a new mystery author puts on her stilettos and joins the crew. The Stiletto Gang is happy to welcome Barbara Kyle, and we know you will enjoy hearing from her on the third Wednesday of each month.

Today, I'm sharing an interview with Barbara. After you've read about her many talents and adventures, I know your appetite will be whetted for her first blogpost tomorrow.

Saralyn: Barbara, you've had several enriching and fulfilling careers on the path to becoming an author. Can you tell us a little about your days as a film, TV, and stage actor, and how that career influences your life as a writer?

Barbara:  I loved being an actor. On stage I did a lot of classical theater: Shakespeare and Shaw and Moliere. On TV I starred in the daytime drama High Hopes, and in the series The Campbells I had a lovely continuing role as a feisty pioneer innkeeper who never quite won the heart of the dishy Doctor Campbell. In film, a favorite role was in a made-for-TV movie about the hostage crisis in Iran when Jimmy Carter was president. I played the president’s wife, Roselynn Carter. That was an honor. Later, when I turned to writing fiction, it felt like a natural extension of acting. I mean, I’d been playing characters written by someone else for years, so I thought: why not create characters myself, in fact create whole stories? 

Saralyn:  Your Thornleigh Saga series is set in Tudor England. What is it about that time and place that captured your imagination?

Barbara:  The trigger was Sir Thomas More. He was Henry VIII’s chancellor and friend, but he famously went to the scaffold to die rather than submit to Henry’s tyranny. That story always fascinated me. Sir Thomas More had a couple of wards – that’s an historical fact – so I decided to create another, fictional ward for him and make her the heroine of a novel. So that’s how Honor Larke came to “star” in my first historical novel, The Queen’s Lady. Honor becomes a lady-in-waiting to Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and then comes into conflict with Sir Thomas, the man she’d once revered. By the way, the situation of wardship in that historical period is fascinating; I wrote about it in this article: Wanted: Rich Orphans: The Tudor Court of Wards.

Saralyn:  When you wrote THE QUEEN'S LADY, did you know that it would be the start of a series? Did you have an outline in mind for all seven books?

Barbara:  Not at all – it was quite a zig-zag path to the series. Penguin published The Queen’s Lady and its sequel, The King’s Daughter, but after that my editor there moved on, so I turned to writing thrillers. Then, a few years later, I got a note from that editor saying she was now editorial director at Kensington Books and wanted to re-publish those first two books plus sign me to write more. Eventually, the series grew to seven books that follow three generations of Honor’s family, the Thornleighs (Honor married seafaring merchant Richard Thornleigh), through three turbulent Tudor reigns.

Saralyn:  What was it like to switch from historical novels to thrillers?

Barbara:  The funny thing is, all my books are thrillers, even the Thornleigh Saga books. Life and death stakes, implacable antagonists, lethal deadlines – these dynamics drive all my stories, from the historicals to The Experiment to, most recently, my novel of suspense, The Man from Spirit Creek. It seems I can’t help it!

Saralyn:  I've participated in some of your author mentoring classes online, and I've appreciated how knowledgeable and organized you are. What particular joys do you find in helping other authors to achieve success? 

Barbara:  One of the true joys of my life is cheering the success of writers I’ve mentored. Many of them have become award-winning authors. Writers usually tap easily into their innate talent, but talent and instinct only take you so far. When instinct gets stuck, it’s time to open the toolbox of techniques, and I love showing writers the tools that can help them get moving again. Anyone who’s interested will find lots of tips in my videos on my YouTube channel Write Your Page-Turner, and my book Page-Turner. I firmly believe that perfecting craft is an enriching, life-long journey for all writers.



Barbara Kyle is the author of the bestselling Thornleigh Saga series of historical novels (“Riveting Tudor drama” – USA Today) and of acclaimed thrillers. Over half a million copies of her books have been sold. Her latest is The Man from Spirit Creek, a novel of suspense. Barbara has taught hundreds of writers in her online classes and many have become award-winning authors. Page-Turner, her popular how-to book for writers, is available in print, e-book, and audiobook. Visit Barbara at 

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

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

Monday, February 15, 2021

The Short Story Market

by Paula Gail Benson

When I first became serious about writing short stories, I discovered a blog called My Little Corner, where author Sandra Seamans provided updates on short story markets. Sadly, we lost Sandra in 2019. A month after her passing, I compiled this message listing remembrances and her stories.

Sandra was a past president of the Short Mystery Fiction Society (SMFS), a group that continues to flourish today under President Robert Lopresti. If you are at all interested in writing or reading mystery short stories, I recommend that you join the group. Membership is free and provides the benefits of connecting with a large number of mystery writers, receiving information about story calls and craft seminars, and being eligible to submit and nominate stories for the prestigious Derringer Awards. Our Vice President, Kevin Tipple, does a phenomenal job of publicizing markets and members’ work on the SMFC blog and markets page as well as his own blog, Kevin’s Corner. [Please note, as Kevin reminds me in a comment below, that during Derringer season, membership in the SMFS is closed. You can join after May 1.]

Recently, the SMFS membership had a vigorous online discussion about Duotrope, a subscription service that provides information about short story markets, and The Submission Grinder, a submission tracker and market database for writers of prose and poetry. Duotrope often has a free trial period for those who wish to check it out. The Submission Grinder compiles reports from submitters to indicate the amount of time it takes to receive an acceptance or rejection.

In the SMFS online discussion, Michael Bracken, an excellent author and editor of short stories, provided a list of Facebook groups that he has joined and consulted to learn about story markets. He pointed out that these links offer information about various genres and both paying and non-paying markets. He cautioned authors to investigate markets before submitting. Here is his list:

Call For Submissions : QUILTBAG

FOR AUTHORS! Calls for Submissions

OPEN CALL: Crime, Thriller, Mystery Markets




Open Submission Calls for Horror/Paranormal/Mystery/SciFi Writers

Open Submission Calls for Romance Writers

Open Submission Calls for Short Story Writers

Michael Bracken has two calls for submissions, one open until the end of February and the other open during the month of March.

Mickey Finn: 21st Century Noir, Volume 3, seeks approximately 5,000 words stories set in a “world where the mean streets seem gentrified by comparison and happy endings are the exception rather than the rule.” Deadline: February 28, 2021.

More information may be found at this link.

Black Cat Mystery Magazine Presents Cozies is open from March 1 through March 31, 2021, for stories about 1,000 to 8,000 words “in which sex and violence occur off stage, the detective is an amateur sleuth, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.”

For more information, check this link.

Are you a short story writer or thinking about becoming one? Why not check out these links to learn more about the possibilities? 

Friday, February 12, 2021

Getting the Word Out by Debra H. Goldstein

Getting the Word Out by Debra H. Goldstein

I’ve been so busy balancing the pandemic, mentioning that the fourth Sarah Blair book, Four Cuts Too Many, is available for pre-order, and writing the fifth book for 2022, that I haven’t given quite as much love to recently published Three Treats Too Many.

Part of my seeming neglect of Three Treats Too Many is that the very day it came out in August 2020, is the same day we moved into our new house (I know, only a fool builds a new home during a pandemic). Consequently, I was balancing unpacking boxes, figuring out new appliances, reviewing edits for Four Cuts, writing blogs, and doing virtual appearances. I can honestly say there were days I whipped off my t-shirt, grabbed a nice top, and barely made it on to the computer looking like a human being from the waist up. And then, I found myself glued to the news.

I know I am not the only author who has been a little off my game, so I’m inviting you to mention your new books in the comments below. Let’s give ourselves a round of applause for being published during these crazy times!!!

Oh, and here is what Three Treats Too Many is about:

When a romantic rival opens a competing restaurant in small-town Wheaton, Alabama, Sarah Blair discovers murder is the specialty of the house . . . 
For someone whose greatest culinary skill is ordering takeout, Sarah never expected to be co-owner of a restaurant. Even her Siamese cat, RahRah, seems to be looking at her differently. But while Sarah and her twin sister, Chef Emily, are tangled up in red tape waiting for the building inspector to get around to them, an attention-stealing new establishment—run by none other than Sarah's late ex-husband's mistress, Jane—is having its grand opening across the street. 
Jane's new sous chef, Riley Miller, is the talk of Wheaton with her delicious vegan specialties. When Riley is found dead outside the restaurant with Sarah's friend, Jacob, kneeling over her, the former line cook—whose infatuation with Riley was no secret—becomes the prime suspect. Now Sarah must turn up the heat on the real culprit, who has no reservations about committing cold-blooded murder . . .
 Includes quick and easy recipes!    Try it…. You might like it….


Thursday, February 11, 2021

Cry Baby

    The summer I was five, my mother had me tested to see if I was ready to attend school. You see, I would cry when I got overwhelmed. Now that’s probably called social anxiety but back then it was, “get over yourself and do it.” The person testing me told my mom to send me to first grade as I had a high IQ and would be bored in kindergarten. My mom said, “but she’ll cry.” And the tester said, “Would you rather her cry and be bored or cry and learn something?”

    So, at age five with a November birthday, off to first   grade I  went. I had to attend the private school in town as the  public one would have made me attend kindergarten. 

    And I cried. 

    I can remember trying not to cry. Wanting not to cry. Pleading with my body not to cry. But my chest would tighten. My nasal passages would heat up and tears flowed. You might need to know that I was a tiny thing. Light blond hair. Big greenish/blue eyes. Weighed less and was shorter than the average first grader at this school, and not just because of my age. 
Robin's first grade school picture. Happy Times! LOL

    The principal of the school spoiled me. When I cried, he’d come get me out of class, set me in his lap at his desk, and read books to me. This school had the drink machines where the little paper cup dropped down, it filled with rabbit-pellet ice (the good stuff, like you get at Sonic!), and then the soft drink. Well, he’d buy me a mountain dew and some candy, and we’d make a rather nice afternoon of it. And yes, today, he’d probably be accused of more than just that, but I remember feeling very safe in his arms and I didn’t cry when he was with me. His secretary finally called my mom and the two of them had to come in and have a meeting with the principal. After that he was not allowed to come get me out of class. The secretary has since told me that it was sad to watch and hear. I’d be crying for him from the classroom and he’d be pacing up and down the hallway wanting to run in and comfort me. 

    The next year I moved to the public school and my mother was one of my teachers. I still cried. Still small for my age, I couldn’t stand for anyone to look me in the eye. That was a major trigger. I didn’t cry so much in my mom’s classroom but in the math or the other class, I did. I might still cry while doing math ... That teacher was awesome though. She made me stay in from recess so she could walk me through the work step-by-step. I can remember sitting by her at the back table as she would help me. It was the first year (1970) they integrated teachers and she was the only Black teacher in this teaching group of three (with my mom being one of the other two). We kept in touch for years, and this teacher even sent me cards for high school and college graduation. 

   In third grade, the crush of my dreams handed me a paper and I cried. Now, I have to tell you the entire time he was walking through the class handing out papers I was telling myself not to cry, not to shed a tear, not to get upset, but the second he passed the paper to me, I burst into tears. My parents spanked me with a belt, put me on restriction, did everything they could to snap me out of it, but nothing worked. 

    By fourth grade, I’d finally grown out of it, as they say. I would still get that anxious feeling at times, but I was able to hold back the tears. I was still small. Big people intimidated me. My best friends were tiny too, so that helped (we are all still around 5’1” or so tall). And I controlled those tears. 

    And yet, even today, I can feel this overwhelming sense of doom (and it’s not menopause but that gives me the same feeling) and the sense of not fitting in. I have to really make myself concentrate and finish a project. I get distracted easily. I tell myself I have COVID brain and it’ll all go away once this pandemic is over, but I think more meditation and yoga are needed. 

    How are y’all doing? Really. Barely making it? Doing grand? Need someone to talk with? 

    Be kind to those that seem to have it together when they may be truly holding their tears at bay. 

    I’m sending you calm, reason, love, and logic vibes. I hope they reach you through this world wide web we spend so much time on. 

Robin Hillyer-Miles lives in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and writes romance novels. She's finished two full-length novels and one short story. The short story is published. She is STILL editing the Cathy's Corner and Unintended. She has however finished watching a ton of British mystery shows on the telly. Bless her heart!

Visit her on Facebook at: 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021


 by Bethany Maines


As I write this, I am very far behind on writing my fourth book in the San Juan Island Mystery series. I have a title, a nice first chapter, and half an outline.  Which is at least half a draft short of where I wanted to be at this time.  And in other news, there’s a pandemic and my child just started back to school, but for some reason school doesn’t start until 9:45.  Why this is I have yet to determine, but it delays the start of my work day by a significant chunk of time.  I would love to say that those two events are causally related, but they’re really more corollaries. They are linked and related through the reality in which we wade, but, as much as I would like to, I can’t actually say that my school districts scattershot, indecipherable response to the pandemic is actually to blame for not sticking to my schedule.  I may be able to blame the pandemic itself, which has sent me head long into escapist fun writing and sees me closing in on finishing a trilogy of paranormal romances, but I think, in the interests of truthfulness, that’s as far as I can pass the blame.

Me trying to escape the pandemic through writing.
But as school starts back up there is a lot of twittering about the kids being behind. Or not being behind. Or being able to catch up no problem!  To which I say… yeeeeeah?  Maybe.  The truth is that private schools have been in person and in session for much of this time.  So if you could afford private school, which generally means that your kid (who was already looking at better outcomes than a public school kid) is, in fact, ahead.  Yes, the public school kids will bounce back and they’re already in similar boats to each other, but let’s just say that some kids have better rowers on their team than others.  Yes, everything will work out in the end, but the rah-rah “no one is behind” cheer strikes me as particularly delusional when I can point to a whole contingent of children who are receiving a better education due to finances. The pandemic has distinctly widened the gulf between the haves and have-nots. 

But back to me.  Am I behind?  My deadlines are relatively self-imposed.  I can flex them.  Is it sooooo bad to be running late?  Maybe if I type for two days straight I can catch up?  If I can learn anything from the school debacle, it’s that no, probably sprinting to catch up is not the way.  Writing consistently is probably a better way to get quality work.  But having already not done that, it’s probably best to go the public school route and tell myself that I’m not behind and that everything will work out in the end.


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.