Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Gay Yellen: Flying Dreams

Have you ever had a dream that returns again and again?

When I was a child, I had quite a few. Most of them were scary. In one, I was repeatedly shot by a mean-looking gangster. In another, a gorilla chased me down the street, getting closer and closer as I ran for my life. And then there was my worst high school nightmare, in which a report that was due for my next class was inside my locker, and I could not remember the combination to get it open.

Each dream startled me awake. I would bolt upright in bed, my heart racing. 

But one recurring dream from my elementary school years was a repeated delight,
because in that dream, I could fly.

My partner in the unforgettable adventure was my Aunt Dora.
We would hold hands and soar, light as air, over my school and the neighborhood below.

I entered this lovely dream more than once, and I wish I still could.

Those were the years when I was reading Mary Poppins books. I adored that magical flying governess and envied the lucky Banks children, because among performing other wonders, Mary let them fly with her.

Like Mary Poppins, Aunt Dora was a keen observer of people. When she expressed an opinion, it was almost always witty and to the point, which may be why my young dreaming brain chose her to be the flying nanny's avatar.

In my twenties, when I had a little bit of spendable income and an apartment with empty walls to fill, I purchased an engraving by Graciela Rodo Boulanger. The moment I saw it, I had to have it, because it felt so similar to what I remembered of my long-lost dream.

The artwork still reminds me of the times when I could fly above the town with Aunt Dora. And though I've never consciously emulated her, I can sometimes feel her speaking through me, coloring a line of dialogue I've written with her gently barbed humor.

Perhaps, like Mary Poppins, she had a touch of magic, too.

What about you—have you ever dreamed you could fly? Please comment below.

Gay Yellen is the award-winning author of The Samantha Newman Mystery Series.

Monday, May 10, 2021

My Lifelong Passion for Horseracing

Hi everyone, today I'm pleased to give up my blog date to introduce you to a special friend of mine. Annette Dashofy and I have been online critique partners, beta readers and personal friends since I'm thinking 2003. She's an amazing human being who likes horses, cats, and squirrels -- sometimes I fear more than she likes people. Seriously, she's a great human, which is why I'm giving her the floor to talk about her lifelong passion for horseracing and a great novel I highly recommend. Please welcome Annette Dashofy.   ~Donnell Ann Bell 

Author Annette Dashofy

When you ask a group of mystery authors who they read when they were kids, the majority will offer answers like Nancy Drew or Encyclopedia Brown. While I may have read a few of the Nancy Drews, my passion rested elsewhere. I read every book Walter Farley wrote. Multiple times. I loved both The Black Stallion and The Island Stallion series.  

Yes, there was a movie. [https://youtu.be/kGp9u56FJKs]

The books are better although the movie was quite good.

Farley’s books played a huge role in my passion for horses. Long before I owned a real one, I had a barn full of pretend ones. 

The horses were pretend. The barn was real, but the only livestock it housed was cattle.

I “rode” my pretend horses, being the rider from the waist up and the horse from the waist down. I galloped around the farm and sometimes around imaginary racetracks. I had an equally horse-crazy, Walter Farley-reading friend who shared my rider/horse fantasies. We’d hold “match races” for our horses. Mine usually lost.  

My love of horseracing may have started with and been fueled by Alec and The Black from the Farley books, but the real thing quickly drew me in. Back then, the only races broadcast on television were the Triple Crown races: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. 

The first winner I remember was a Venezuelan longshot by the name of Canonero II who came from behind to win the Derby in 1971. Experts deemed the victory a fluke. He proved them wrong by also winning the Preakness. Bitten by the Triple Crown bug at the age of 11, my heart broke when he came up short, finishing fourth in the Belmont. 

Two years later, a horse by the name of Secretariat won all three Triple Crown races, the first to do so in twenty-five years. My love of the sport was solidified. Watching the videos of Secretariat, especially his Belmont win, still takes my breath away. 

Okay, we sold him when he was a yearling, so I never got to ride him, but he was black and he was male, so that counts.

Fast forward again to 2021. Medina Spirit, a moderate longshot, won the Kentucky Derby on May 1. The second leg of the Triple Crown is this Saturday, May 15. Will Medina Spirit claim the second leg as well? If so, horseracing fans worldwide, myself included, will be in a frenzy leading into the first Saturday in June.

And I have the book I started in 2005 finally coming out tomorrow. The fact that the cover is reminiscent of several of Farley’s books is total coincidence. The fact that I’m releasing it in the middle of the Triple Crown races is not.

Death by Equine is set in the world of Thoroughbred racing, although far from Churchill Downs, Pimlico, or Belmont.

About Death by Equine:  Veterinarian Jessie Cameron agrees to fill in for her mentor, Doc Lewis, at Riverview Racetrack so he can take a long-overdue vacation. When he’s tragically killed by one of his equine patients the night before he’s supposed to leave, Jessie quickly suspects the death is anything but accidental. Her search for the truth is thwarted by everyone from well-meaning friends to the police, including her soon-to-be-ex-husband. Undaunted, she discovers layers of illegal activities and deceit being perpetrated by the man she thought of as a father figure, creating a growing list of suspects with reason to want Doc dead. Too late, she realizes that her dogged quest for the truth has put her in the crosshairs of a devious killer desperate to silence her. Permanently.


About the Author:  Annette Dashofy is the USA Today best-selling author of the multi–Agatha Award nominated Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. Her latest release, a standalone, is Death by Equine, about a veterinarian at a second-rate thoroughbred racetrack seeking the truth about her mentor’s mysterious death. She and her husband live on ten acres of what was her grandfather’s dairy farm in southwestern Pennsylvania with their very spoiled cat, Kensi. https://www.annettedashofy.com/






Friday, May 7, 2021


Police Blotter Fodder: “To Save Herself, She Bit the Cop on the Leg

Where to Go for Ideas When You Are Stuck

by Kathleen Kaska

Need an idea for a short story, blog post, or a novel? Check out the newspapers. I don’t necessarily mean the front page. In our town, the most entertaining reading comes from police blotters. The reports are a wellspring of ideas for writers. Some are written tongue-in-cheek, and I can imagine the fun police officers must have in crafting them. 

Recently, the police in a nearby city uncovered a murder-for-hire plot by an inmate in the county jail who was enlisting the help of a fellow inmate to murder the man responsible for the first guy’s incarceration. These were the instructions he gave to the would-be killer: “Wet him with gasoline; dry him with a match.” That’s a pretty good line; right out of a Mickey Spillane novel. If this guy ever went straight, he might make it as a pulp fiction writer.

Or how about this one? A few weeks ago, the police in my quiet, little town were called to a motel where a woman insisted they arrest her. She was hiding out from her ex-husband and current boyfriend who, according to the woman, were plotting to kill her. The cops explained they could not fulfill her wish because she hadn’t committed a crime. With a that’s-what-you-think attitude, she began pounding on the windshield of the squad car. When one of the officers tried to restrain her, she bit him on the leg. At least for the next few days, the woman had the protection she’d requested.

And another: A guy was shoplifting at Safeway. When the cops arrived to question him, he made his getaway on a motorized shopping cart, which he drove down the middle of Commercial Avenue. The shoplifter received applause from the bystanders who cheered him on as if he were the Grand Marshall of a parade.

And one more: Several people complained about a homeless man who was causing a ruckus in a downtown square. The police arrived and realized the man was arguing and shouting profanities at someone only he could see. The cops told him to apologize to his imaginary friend. He did.

End of story.

This is an excerpt from my book, Does Anyone Have a Catharsis Handy? Five-Minute Writing Tips.

Kathleen Kaska is the author of The Sherlock Holmes Quiz Book (Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group). She is the founder of The Dogs in the Nighttime: Holmes Society of Anacortes, Washington, a scion of The Baker Street Irregulars. Kathleen writes the awarding-winning Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series and the Kate Caraway Mystery Series. Her passion for birds led to the publication The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story. Kathleen’s collection of blog posts, Do You Have a Catharsis Handy? Five-Minute Writing Tips won the Chanticleer International Book Award in the non-fiction Instruction and Insights category.

Go to her website and sign up for her newsletter. Look for her bi-monthly blog: “Growing Up Catholic in a Small Texas Town” because sometimes you just have to laugh.






Thursday, May 6, 2021

Happy Mother's Day to the Moms Whose Kids Have Paws

 by Sparkle Abbey

Today we're wishing an early Mother's Day to all the moms out there and especially to the moms whose kids have paws!

We know they may not always tell you but the dogs and cats and other animals that you walk, feed, and care for in so many way, love you to the moon and back. 

Though the namesakes of our pen name, Sparkle (ML's cat) and Abby (Anita's dog), are now gone, they were such a big part of our lives. We miss them every day. (Please don't get us started or we'll have to tell  you the story of  how with the help of the lovely Catriona McPherson, we left a whole panel, and most of the audience, in tears at a conference a few years ago...) 

However, we also want to share that we do have some other furry rescue pets in our lives now. Zoey (ML's cat) and Sophie (Anita's dog) have their own unique and very definite personalities. And, in fact, they had a little get-to-know-you meeting on the deck last week.

Here's the thing. We can't imagine our lives without our pets. And we'll bet that your pets can't imagine their lives without you. So, let us speak for them and with a "woof" and a "meow" wish you an early happy Mother's Day! 

We'd love to hear about your furry kids! 

Please feel free to share in the comments.

Mary Lee, Anita, Zoey, and Sophie aka Sparkle Abbey 

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,and Twitter 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, May 5, 2021

Our Journeys as Writers - Clicking Our Heels

Our Journeys as Writers – Clicking Our Heels

Writing Careers are journeys. Today, the Stiletto Gang authors talk about the road each has followed. No two are quite alike – even those writers on the blog who do some writing together.


Mary Lee Ashford (1/2 of Sparkle Abbey) - Like many others, not at all. I am currently traditionally published both with the Sparkle Abbey series (Bell Bridge Books) and the Sugar & Spice series (Kensington) but the path has been more roller coaster than anything I could have imagined. Still with all the ups and downs, I feel incredibly lucky to get to do something I love so much! 


Shari Randall - My writing career? My vision of a writing career was formed by watching Joan Collins in Dallas - fabulous travel, fabulous assistants, fabulous wardrobe. The reality is a bit different, but happier with a lot less feuding.


Linda Rodriguez - No, it’s always a surprise. I didn’t expect to debut (for novels) with a major trade publisher, but I won a contest. Later, I didn’t expect to be dropped when my books were doing well, but they engaged in an editorial bloodbath and shed a lot of writers, too. I have to keep reinventing myself as a writer—and that’s okay.


Anita Carter (1/2 of Sparkle Abbey - For the most part yes. I thought I’d have published something on my own, but I’m not there yet. As Sparkle Abbey, we’re getting ready to venture into self-publishing so ask me again in a few months. I might have a different answer! Ha!

T.K. Thorne - Heavens no.  It’s been a roller coaster. At this point, I guess I’m a hybrid. Mostly traditional, but one self-published.

Debra H. Goldstein – Not knowing better, I thought it was a snap the first time I had a book accepted. Then I was orphaned. I was told, write something different. I did. It too, was orphaned after publication, but both books were later reprinted in a mass market format. And then, I had a series take off. I’m about to turn in book 5 of the Sarah Blair series, but hold your breath, pray, (and buy a few copies of Four Cuts Too Many on pre-order) and maybe they’ll give me a contract for books six through?

Kathryn Lane - My writing career began after a two-decade career in the international corporate world that took me to over 90 countries. Those travel experiences have provided me with a wealth of material I incorporate into the settings of my novels. Being an author has been incredibly satisfying and has led me to paths I never envisioned – such as traveling to research specific locations where I set my novels, and the most important part – wonderful encounters with fans, either in person at book presentations or online, who tell me my Nikki Garcia mystery series or my short stories have impacted them and brought them good memories.

Debra Sennefelder - Yes, it has. I am traditionally published with Kensington and I’m very happy for where I am at the moment.

Kathleen Kaska - My publishing path has been traditional.


Saralyn Richard - Mine is just getting started--a lifelong dream come true.


Lois Winston - Definitely not. I started out traditionally published, then went hybrid, and now I’m completely indie. Back when I started out, that was the last resort of the writer who couldn’t sell a book to a publisher and turned to vanity presses. Now it’s where you find many authors who have taken similar paths.









Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Serendipitous Discovery!

By Kathryn Lane

A week's’ worth of newspapers, yes, old-fashioned printed versions, beckoned me on the coffee table. I confess that in the midst of downsizing and moving, I’d been too busy to read them.

Working my way through the papers, I hit serendipity! An article about the changing car culture.

Ford's 1896 Quadricycle

What was serendipitous about that? It covered a topic I’d mentioned in my May newsletter.

First, I should explain that I ask my newsletter readers to submit their favorite quote to me, promising that I will use it in a future newsletter.

This month’s quote was: “My friends are my estate”, submitted by Ann McKennis, a fabulously supportive fan of my work. Instead of analyzing why an introvert like Emily Dickinson would write these words to a friend in a letter, I explored the idea of friends.

So I wrote about the lifelong friendship of inventors Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. In 1896, Ford introduced his quadricycle. It ran on gasoline. Edison congratulated his friend, but told him to “keep at it”, predicting electric cars were the wave of the future. It also inspired Edison to work on an electric version.

Thomas Edison and Henry Ford 

As a writer, why are cars important to me? Authors use them in novels all the time. Think getaway cars in a robbery, luxury vehicles villains use to impress women, and forensic investigators recovering evidence from cars involved in homicides. Vehicles often break down on dark, isolated roads in crime stories. The list goes on.

Cars are important in real life crime as well. John Dillinger, the infamous criminal, made the Model A Ford synonymous with a gangster’s choice in driving during the 1930s. Then Bonnie and Clyde used a 1934 Ford 730 Deluxe Sedan, a car later riddled with bullets when they were killed.

The Bonnie and Clyde Car

I marveled at the coincidences of stumbling upon a great article about electric and gasoline cars, especially since Edison and Ford were mentioned. Plus, I learned something new: in the early 1900s in New York City, there were more electric cars than those that ran on gasoline.

So what happened? According to Daniel Yergin, Edison put money, effort, and his personal prestige into developing an electric vehicle, but Ford’s gasoline Model T won the hearts of car buyers. Almost a century later, General Motors introduced a mass-market electric vehicle. In 2008, Tesla introduced the stylish Roadster.

Fiction writers will follow the trend. Electric cars are here to stay. The infrastructure to support self-driving vehicles is under construction. I’m anxious to see authors using self-driving cars for getaways. Of course, institutions that villains can rob may be all online, making the getaway car obsolete.


Are you using electric cars in your novels?

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.



The Nikki Garcia Mystery Series: eBook Trilogy https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08GZNF17G

 Photo credits:

Quadricycle: "1896 Ford Quadricycle Runabout, First Car Built by Henry Ford" by The Henry Ford is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Thomas Edison and Henry Ford by Tom Raftery is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND-SA 2.0

The Bonnie and Clyde Car "DSC_0081" by Jay Bonvouloir is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Newspaper Article: Wall Street Journal, Weekend Edition ─ April 24-25, 2021; “The New World of AutoTech” by Daniel Yergin.

Kathryn’s books – designs by Bobbye Marrs

Monday, May 3, 2021

What's Your Favorite Kind of Mystery?

 by Debra Sennefelder


I'm sure you can relate to this. My TBR list has been growing significantly for the past couple months. As I reviewed it recently while planning a trip to Barnes & Noble, I realized that a majority of the books were set in isolated locations. I love them!

Inquiring minds want to know - what is your favorite mystery? Let me know in the comments.





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.