Thursday, May 27, 2021

Reggae Saved Me During the Pandemic of 2020 by Juliana Aragón Fatula


Dear Reader,

Twenty twenty-one, the pandemic year, I turned 64 and officially became a viejita. A little old woman. But not la abuelita, not a grandmother. No that didn't happen. I've been waiting for decades, but my one and only son had decided that he hasn't found the one to settle down and raise a family. Not yet. I have hope. I'll take the blessing of having a son and remember the choice I made to only have one child. My man child is now late forties and it will take a miracle, but I believe in miracles and magic. 

Music has always been playing like a soundtrack to my life. Like a comedy/tragedy, my life spills out in a blur that has included alcoholism, drug addiction, jail, recovery, abuse, survival, mistakes, success, love, happiness, depression, fear, spirituality, anger, bravery, melancholy, absurdity, loathing, jubilation, wit, and wisdom. Mine has been an abundant and holy moly journey down the what a long strange trip it's been. 

The music of the fifties filled my ears and I danced with my older siblings to Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis, and Fats Domino. 

The sixties brought the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Motown Funk, and the blues of Roy Orbison. 

During the seventies, I smoke, rolled, burned, and puff puff passed the doobies to the Doobie Brothers, the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, never could spell their name right. And of course, there was the Cosmic Blues Band and Janis, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jackson Browne, Linda Rondstadt, Neil Young, The Eagles, and Joni Mitchell.

The eighties were for disco and punk music and the nineties were everything from rap to reggae to country to opera to tex-mex to Bollywood.

The twenties and the twenty-first century gave me a combination of blues and rockabilly. But in 2020, I dropped to my knees and asked the gods for deliverance and the answer came in Rastafarian Rap Reggaeton.

I danced away my Covid 19 blues and sang along with the Marley Boys. Collie Buddz gave me the inspiration to finish two manuscripts: One poetry book, Gathering Momentum and one murder mystery love story, The Colorado Sisters. I wore my Bluetooth headset religiously and danced under the clothesline, the grape arbor, the sunshine, the moonlight, and the rain. I sang and danced and grew giddy about life again. The music and the writing healed me like they always do. 

My friends worry I spend too much time isolated and not enough time Zooming and socializing on the websites, but I love being alone and listening to my music and writing my stories. It makes me incredibly devoid of anger towards covid idiots and non-believers in science and lets me trip around in unreality instead of the world we live in for real. The real world. 

So if you stop by and visit me, get my attention because my headset takes me to another world and I can't hear a thing, not dogs barking, sirens blaring, kids crying, husbands yelling...

If you stop by, smell the roses and the tea simmering on the stove and sing along with me to the oldies as we grow old and tip toe through the tulips, or poppies.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Kill Your Darlings

By Lois Winston 

Most writers are familiar with the phrase, “Kill your darlings.” It’s been widely attributed to William Faulkner but actually comes from a Cambridge University lecture given by English writer Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch about a century ago when he advised, “Murder your darlings.”


However, neither Faulkner nor Quiller-Couch was talking about the characters that populate a novel. They were referring to the need to be ruthless when it comes to eliminating anything that we may personally love in our writing but which has no reason for being in our stories.


Quiller-Couch’s full quote is, “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”


One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever received is that everything in a book, whether narrative action, internalization, or dialog, must do one of two thingseither advance the plot or tell the reader something she needs to know about the point of view character at that moment. In other words, rid your stories of filler.


However, the same is not necessarily true of the characters who populate our stories. Yes, as mystery authors we need dead bodies. Otherwise, there would be little need for our sleuths to figure out whodunit unless our mystery is about who stole the cookies from the cookie jar. And we all know the answer to that—Cookie Monster.


I have a friend who loves my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, with one exception. She absolutely hates (with a passion bordering on obsession) Anastasia’s communist mother-in-law Lucille. She has begged me on numerous occasions to kill her off or barring that, ship her off to Russia. Lucille is like fingernails on a blackboard to this friend.


Yet, Lucille is the character many of my readers love to hate. Yes, she’s irritating, but along with providing both tension and comic relief in my series, she also provides me with some much-needed catharsis. You see, Lucille is based on my relationship with my own (now deceased) communist mother-in-law.


Hey, write what you know, right? So as much as my friend would prefer otherwise, Lucille will be hanging around for as long as I keep writing about Anastasia. Besides, you never know how readers will react to an author killing off an ongoing character. I remember the backlash when Elizabeth George killed off a beloved character several years ago. Now, I doubt any of my readers would classify Lucille as a beloved character, but as I’ve already stated, she is the character many love to hate.


Are there characters you’ve come across that you wish the author would kill off? What about characters you wish an author hadn’t killed off?



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.




Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog






Friday, May 21, 2021

Partners in Crime: Operation Anthology (#giveaway!)


Partners in Crime: you’ve heard of Thelma and Louise, Bonnie and Clyde, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Today, we’d like to introduce a new type of criminal duo, Cathy Wiley and Karen Cantwell. Working together, they're publishing the soon-to-be-released cozy short story anthology MURDER ON THE BEACH. Welcome to Stiletto Gang, Karen and Cathy!

We'd like to share with you the pros and cons of working with a writing and publishing partner.

First a little history: we originally met in an online forum sometime in 2010. Later, we were surprised to learn we were both members of the same chapter of Sisters in Crime, and therefore neighbors (well, Virginia and Maryland), after having stories accepted in the chapter anthology.  From there, we became fans of each other’s work, as well as good friends. In 2020, Karen had the bright idea of publishing a themed anthology of short stories, and Cathy was one of the first people she approached. After brainstorming ideas, we thought this would be an easier task if we worked as partners.


So, let’s get to those pros and cons…


We’re not going to state the obvious, like “you can share the workload.” Unless your partner is that slacker kid from your tenth-grade group project, that should be the case.

We soon learned there are other pros beyond shared workload. 



You have someone to bounce ideas off of. This might sound like another duh moment, but it’s amazing how creativity flourishes when two people share ideas. Even the theme and title, MURDER ON THE BEACH, as well as the concept of making it a series came from bouncing ideas back and forth.  


Working together is more fun than working alone; we meet at least once a week (virtually) and our meetings are often filled with laughter.



Money is involved for cover design, ads, etc. When it’s your own money, it’s your own risk. When you are working with someone else, (not just the two of us, but all eight authors in the anthology who will be sharing profits), it feels harder to take risks.

Finding the time to meet or discuss: Cathy is a night owl and Karen is an early bird. That sometimes made it hard to communicate, since Cathy would have a brainstorm at night, then have to wait until the next morning when she'd read Karen's reply. Likewise, Karen would write an email early morning, then have to wait hours before Cathy would wake up (and get her coffee).


Things to watch out for if you are thinking of partnering with someone, whether it be for an anthology or co-authoring a novel:


It really helps to like the other person. You’re going to spend A LOT of time with each other, and like some couples found out during this pandemic, it helps if you enjoy that time together.


Whether you like them or not, you have to be able to be honest with each other and communicate well. This isn’t the time for white lies—like saying you enjoyed the ending of that first draft of the blog post when you really meant you were just happy that the blog post had ended.


You also have to trust the other person and know their vision, especially if other people are involved, like with this anthology. If one of the other authors asked a question, it would take forever if we had to consult with each other before answering. 


Finally, don’t take it too seriously. Is it a lot of work? Sure. Everything is. But ultimately, while working your buns off, have fun with the process, talk often, laugh more. You know—like life, it’s all what you put into it.


MURDER ON THE BEACH is the first in the new Destination Murders anthology series, coming out on May 28, 2021. It's now available for a special pre-order price of 99 cents. 


In addition to stories by Karen and Cathy, there are also short stories from Ritter Ames, Lucy Carol, Barb Goffman, Eleanor Cawood Jones, Shari Randall, and Shawn Reilly Simmons.


Karen Cantwell grew up on heavy doses of I Love Lucy and The Carol Burnett Show. She loves to laugh as much as she loves bringing laughter to the world. A USA Today bestselling author, Karen writes the Barbara Marr Murder Mystery series, the Sophie Rhodes Ghostly Romance books, and currently has a new humorous series under construction. When she isn’t writing, Karen can be found wandering aimlessly, wondering why she isn’t writing. To learn more, visit and If you are on Facebook, join her @KarenCantwellAuthor.


Cathy Wiley lives outside of Baltimore, Maryland, with one spoiled cat and an equally spoiled husband. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. She’s written two mystery novels set in Baltimore, Maryland, and has had several short stories included in anthologies, one of which was a 2015 finalist for a Derringer Award.

She is currently working on a series featuring Jackie Norwood, a former celebrity chef trying to reboot her career. The first novel, CLAWS OF DEATH, will be published in the fall of this year. For more information about this series and her other books, and to sign up for her newsletter, visit You can also visit her author page on Facebook at


Ready for MURDER ON THE BEACH? One lucky commenter will win a digital copy of this fun cozy mystery anthology. Just tell us, what's your favorite kind of book to read on the beach?





Thursday, May 20, 2021

We Have an Author Down!

 by The Stiletto Gang

Our beloved gang member C.P. Perkins is under the weather and unable to come to the computer today.  We wish her the speediest of recoveries.  For the curing of sickly authors, the Stiletto Gang recommends picking up one of their books and/or leaving a review on your favorite site.  And of course, today we're recommending Cathy's latest release.

The Body in Beaver Pond

Even an event planner doesn’t plan on murder!

Keri Isles desperately needs to sell the Christmas Tree farm her cheating, jerk of an ex-husband convinced his buddy, the judge, to saddle her with in the divorce settlement. Stuck in the Cascade Mountains, she’s lost her Seattle-based event planner job and local job prospects are as scarce as internet service. When she finds the arrogant professor in charge of the nearby archeology dig floating face-down in her beaver pond, unloading the property becomes secondary to staying out of prison.

A savvy—and scheming—attorney may be able to keep her head above water, but the personal price of his retainer may be too high. It’s up to Keri to use her mad networking skills and deploy a team of archaeology students, a bad boy photographer, and assorted eccentric neighbors to find the killer and clear her name.

Buy Now: Amazon

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Behind the Scenes: The Fascinating Creation of 5 Famous Stories

Behind the Scenes: The Fascinating Creation of 5 Famous Stories

by Barbara Kyle

I love finding out how works of art came to life. The path of creation can be a twisty journey, even for the most gifted and celebrated.

So let me share with you six fascinating books that take you behind the scenes. Three are about famous novels. Two are about much-loved films. One is about a grand symphony.

I’ve enjoyed them all and highly recommend them!

1. The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventures of Les Miserables by David Bellos

This engaging narrative is a biography not of the great writer Victor Hugo (pictured below) but of his masterpiece, Les Miserables. Bellos traces the life of the 1500-page novel from conception to publication. It took Hugo 17 years to write Les Miserables, from his first draft penned in Paris in 1845 when he was the honored great man of letters to its completion in 1862 when he was an outcast living in exile on the island of Guernsey. There, he secured the publishing deal of the century.


2. Goodbye Christopher Robin: A.A. Milne and the Making of Winnie-thePooh by Ann Thwaite

Biographer Ann Thwaite reveals the creative process of A. A. Milne, author of Winnie-the-Pooh and Pooh Bear’s enchanting adventures with Christopher Robin, who was Milne’s own son. Before its publication Milne was a well-known playwright and columnist but he refused to be typecast. His publishers despaired when he turned from writing popular columns for Punch to writing detective stories, and they complained again when he presented them with a set of children’s verse. But the verses led to the creation of Winnie-the-Pooh, one of the best-selling books of all time, making Milne one of the world’s favorite authors.



3. We’ll Always Have Casablanca: The Life, Legend, and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie by Noah Isenberg

The origins of this famous film lie in a 1940 stage play called Everybody Comes to Rick’s by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison. Their play was transformed by screenwriters Howard Koch and Julius and Philip Epstein into the screenplay that became the brilliant 1942 film. Isenberg details that transformation, and his book is full of fascinating details, some quite moving, such as the central role that refugees from Hitler’s Europe played in the production; nearly all of the cast of Casablanca were immigrants.


4. Sailor and Fiddler by Herman Wouk

A sparkling memoir about the well-lived life in literature by one of the world’s best-loved authors. At age 100 (!) Herman Wouk reflects on his experiences that inspired his most enduring novels. He tells of writing for comedian Fred Allen’s radio show, enlisting in the US Navy during World War II, falling in love with the woman who would become his wife (and literary agent) for sixty-three years, writing his Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Caine Mutiny, and the surprising inspirations and people behind his masterpieces The Winds of War and War and Remembrance.


5. The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries by Emma Thompson

The multi-talented actor/writer Emma Thompson won a well-deserved Oscar for her screenplay that adapted the Jane Austen novel Sense and Sensibility, and she also starred in the beautiful 1995 film made from it, directed by Ang Lee. This marvelous book includes Thompson’s complete shooting script plus her astute diaries detailing the production of this film graced by some of the finest British actors, including Kate Winslet, the late Alan Rickman, and Greg Wise whom Thompson met during the filming and subsequently married.


6. Leningrad: Siege and Symphony by Brian Moynahan

The siege of Leningrad was the Nazis’ pitiless 900-day encirclement of the Soviet Union’s second city, from 1941 to 1944, in which hundreds of thousands of civilians starved to death. During that horror a dedicated makeshift orchestra of emaciated musicians performed the newly created Seventh Symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich (pictured below) for an audience of starving, but rapt, music lovers. This true story is an inspiring testament to the redemptive power of a great work of art.


May the examples of these gifted and dedicated artists inspire us all. 



Barbara Kyle is the author of the bestselling Thornleigh Saga series of historical novels and of acclaimed thrillers. Her latest is The Man from Spirit Creek, a novel of suspense. Over half a million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Barbara has taught hundreds of writers in her online Masterclasses and many have become award-winning authors.

Visit Barbara at 

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 is 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.

The Man from Spirit Creek is available in paperback, e-book, and audiobook.



Monday, May 17, 2021

Join the Tradition: Attend Mystery in the Midlands (Virtually June 26, 2021), Part One

 by Paula Gail Benson

For the fourth summer, the Palmetto Chapter of Sisters in Crime and the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America are partnering to present a mid-summer mystery writing extravaganza, featuring award-winning novelists and short story authors that represent every aspect of the genre. Originally an in-person conference, set in “Famously Hot” Columbia, S.C., the pandemic caused us to go virtual last year and we were delighted to attract an audience of over 900.

This year, we continue the virtual tradition on Saturday, June 26, 2021, from 10:00 am to 2:45 pm ET. We hope you’ll join us for a stellar line up of authors talking about their craft.

Our guest of honor is Dr. Kathy Reichs, author of the Temperance Brennan series that became the television show Bones. Dr. Reichs will be interviewed by Debra Goldstein.

In addition to Dr. Reichs, we’ll have three panels about: writing short stories (with Frankie Bailey, Michael Bracken, and Barb Goffman); American authors penning British historicals (with Laurie R. King, Lori Rader-Day, and Caroline Todd); and writing great suspense (with Yasmin Argoe, Robert Dugoni, and Alex Segura).

Already this year, these authors have been nominated for multiple awards: Lori Rader-Day’s The Lucky One was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark award and has pending nominations for an Agatha and an Anthony. Laurie R. King’s Riviera Gold was an Edgar finalist for the Sue Grafton award. Alex Segura has Anthony nominations for Best Short Story and Best Juvenile/Young Adult Novel. Barb Goffman’s “Dear Emily Etiquette” has been nominated as Best Short Story for an Agatha and an Anthony and won the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Readers Award. The Beat of Black Wings, an anthology that features stories by Barb Goffman and Michael Bracken, is nominated for and Anthony in the Best Anthology or Collection category.

What’s the cost to spend half a day listening to these wonderful authors? Just $5 (to help defray our costs). If you can’t listen live, by registering, you’ll have access to the recording

Just click on the following link to register:

I asked our panelists some questions and they were kind to share the following intriguing answers.

Do you have a good luck writing item or habit?

Yasmin Angoe:

No I don’t. I just have a certain set up in my workspace that I always have to have which is either music or some mindless movie (background noise I guess) playing.

Frankie Y. Bailey:

I have a small silver dragon who is reading a newspaper (Knightly News). I found him in a shop in St. Ives (Cornwall, England). That was the setting of Death’s Favorite Child, the first book in my Lizzie Stuart series. I keep him on my desk. Like Lizzie, I met up with a friend from grad school to spend a week’s vacation there.

Robert Dugoni:

As for a good luck writing instrument, I read the novel The Green Mile while I write each book. It is a novel in which the characters come to life and it inspires me to do the same when writing my own novels.

Alex Segura:

I don’t. I actually think the less we ceremonialize writing, the better - because it means we can jump into the work with more immediacy.

Who was your first favorite (for our historical panel, that can be favourite) author?

Yasmin Angoe:

My first favorite author was Beverly Cleary and then Harper Lee.

Frankie Y. Bailey:

My first favorite mystery writer was Richard Martin Stern. His Johnny Ortiz series, set in New Mexico, had the first African American (biracial) professional woman I had encountered in crime fiction. Dr. Cassandra Enright was the curator of small museum in Santa Rosa and worked on archeological sites. I wrote Mr. Stern a fan letter, and he wrote back (in the days when people used snail mail). Years later when I contacted him to ask if he would respond to the questions that I was asking authors about their black characters for the nonfiction book (Out of the Woodpile) I was writing, he graciously agreed. He also sent me the proofs of the next book in the series.  

Michael Bracken:

My first favorite author was Walter R. Brooks, author of the Freddie the Pig series of children’s books. At the time, though, it was Freddie more than Walter who caught and captured my attention.

Barb Goffman:

I believe it was in first or second grade when we first got to borrow books from our school library, and the first book I remember picking up (and adoring) was “B” is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood. That was nearly fifty years ago, but I still remember the title of the book and its author. That book is what inspired me to write my first book, C is for Carolyn. (I know, original, right?) I don’t think I got anywhere past the title, but the seeds of wanting to write were planted. I wrote to the author (or maybe my parents wrote the letter for me), and she responded. I read every book in the series. An online search tells me there were only four, which surprises me. I feel like there were more.

Laurie R. King:

Walter Farley. All those clever, beautiful horses, lovely fantasy for a girl who lived in tract houses with back yards too small for a decent-sized dog.

Lori Rader-Day:

My first favorite was Beverly Cleary. She was the first author I was aware of, the author who made me aware authors existed. EL Konigsberg, Judy Blume—then it started to go dark with Lois Duncan, then Agatha Christie and Mary Higgins Clark. The most lasting is probably Agatha Christie, whose books I still pick up. Writing Death at Greenway has brought me closer to her life and work, making me even more of a fan.

Alex Segura:

Probably Sherlock Holmes or HG Wells.

Caroline Todd:

Author--Dorothy Dunnett--she made the past come so alive in her historical mysteries that you felt you were THERE. She became the godmother so to speak of our books.

Check in tomorrow at Writers Who Kill for Part Two of this message! And, don't forget to register!

Friday, May 14, 2021

Four Cuts Too Many - I Need Your Help, Please by Debra H. Goldstein

Four Cuts Too Many - I Need Your Help, Please by Debra H. Goldstein

Eleven days to go! If you had told me in 2011, when my first book, Maze in Blue, was published, that a decade later, I’d have six published original titles, one turned into my agent ready to go, two mass market runs, audio and e-books of three of my novels, and more than forty short stories published, I would have laughed.

I’m not laughing now. Instead, I’m anxiously awaiting the release of Four Cuts Too Many, the fourth book in Kensington’s Sarah Blair series (already available on pre-order). Although I’ve enjoyed doing zoom events, I’m hoping there will soon be opportunities to meet in person with readers. There’s something special about that in general. Even more, when a Facebook or friend from the past appears at a signing.


It’s been over a year since I’ve been on the road doing promotion. The pandemic created a difficult time to have a new title come out. I was six weeks into my book tour for Three Treats Too Many when the world shut down. At that point, the sales were leading the same point of sale numbers that my first two books had achieved at that point. I was excited. One reason is because I donate a significant portion of the royalties from pre-orders and the first month of sales to charity (and I’m doing so again).


Like many others, I became an author with a new book having to find a way to let people know the book was out there. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets became the promotional norm. I adapted.


I’m ready to adapt again. I don’t have a choice. The world is reopening, but Four Cuts Too Many won’t be the new book on the block when the restrictions on congregating are lifted. That’s why I need to get the word out now about the book. Anything you can do from sharing this blog to pre-ordering a copy will be deeply appreciated. Numbers count. When this book comes out and I turn the next one in, the decision will be made whether I’m offered a new Sarah Blair contract. I hope so because there is more of Sarah and her friends that I’d like to share with readers.


An author friend of my calls this shameless promotion. I think of it as being honest with friends. What do you think?


Four Cuts Too Many:


Sarah Blair gets an education in slicing and dicing when someone in culinary school serves up a main corpse in Wheaton, Alabama . . .
Between working as a law firm receptionist, reluctantly pitching in as co-owner of her twin sister’s restaurant, and caretaking for her regal Siamese RahRah and rescue dog Fluffy, Sarah has no time to enjoy life’s finer things. Divorced and sort-of dating, she’s considering going back to school. But as a somewhat competent sleuth, Sarah’s more suited for criminal justice than learning how many ways she can burn a meal.
Although she wouldn’t mind learning some knife skills from her sous chef, Grace Winston. An adjunct instructor who teaches cutlery expertise in cooking college, Grace is considering accepting an executive chef’s position offered by Jane Clark, Sarah’s business rival—and her late ex-husband’s lover. But Grace’s future lands in hot water when the school’s director is found dead with one of her knives in his back. To clear her friend’s name, there’s no time to mince words. Sarah must sharpen her own skills at uncovering an elusive killer . . .
 Includes quick and easy recipes!


Pre-order from your favorite INDIE (a great way to support them, too), or Four Cuts Too Many by Debra H. Goldstein, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (  


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Short Stories

 by Bethany Maines

Writing short stories is a unique art form, one that I used to pursue and then, like someone finding a new love, I dropped in favor of novels.  Because novels were dreamy and just so much cooooooler than those short stories. But in the past few years, I've found myself once again taking up the challenge of short form writing. Now that I'm a more experienced writer I see the structure of novels and short fiction differently and find that they present different challenges that require different skills. I think that previously I only had one set of skills that I applied to all writing. Which is a bit like trying to paint with only one brush.  Now that I have a few more brushes in the paintbox it's been fun to tackle short stories.  

Interestingly, I've found that while previously my short stories were sci-fi or fantasy based, my current crop are all crime based. I may have been hanging out with my Noir at the Bar buddies too much, or maybe I just have become more criminal as I've gotten older, but I keep coming up with some dang good crimes to write about. But as I've collected more stories, I've started to think that perhaps I should put together an anthology. I would add another three or four to truly round out the group, but I think it might be fun.

Below is a rundown of my criminal little tales.  What do you think?  Should I pull them all together into one collection?

Mayhem & Mahalo -  Switchblade Magazine, 2019 - Hawaii—the land of sun, surf, and a giant pile of dead bodies. Paige Kaneko thought she had left the Kaneko family’s criminal ways behind her, but when a 3 a.m. text from her brother asks for one simple thing—help—Paige can’t say no. Now Paige must get her brother and herself out of a situation that includes six dead bodies, a backpack full of cash, and one slightly dented heroin addict.

Suzy Makes Cupcakes - Shotgun Honey V. 4, 2019 - Johnny Stills, a mid-level mobster, has a Tuesday routine: pick up the pay-off money, swing by home to get a blow job from his wife Suzy, and then deliver the money to his boss. But this Tuesday is a little different - for one thing Suzy met him at the door with a gun. Now Johnny is realizing just how badly he may have underestimated his wife.

Tammy Loves Derek - Moonlight & Misadventure Anthology, June 2021 - Tammy Lee Swanley has a med-spa job, a cheating boyfriend, and a plan—a five-step, sure-fire plan to wealth and happiness. But what Tammy’s boyfriend doesn’t know is that Tammy’s plan doesn’t include him keeping him around.

Fireball Rolled a Seven Murderous Ink, Crimeucopia: Funny Ha Ha Anthology, Forthcoming - The pandemic is a drag, but with everyone in lockdown, that means the streets are empty and the Pandemic Drags are about to hit the fast lane. As Kendra, Doc, Mike, Jim, Stacy and Douchebag Carl all gather for illegal street races they soon discover that even at drag races, pandemic politics still apply. Masks become a tipping point and Kendra and Doc go from racing for money, to racing for their lives. If they can make it across the finish line they'll be home free, but they have to get there first.

Every Single Funeral - On Submission - When greedy Bruce Stagg attempts to have his dying sister declared incompetent and steal her fortune, Lark Jeffers—live-in nurse, ex-stripper, and firm believer in pockets—knows something has to be done. The question is: can she pull the trigger?


Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae MysteriesSan Juan Islands MysteriesShark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous short stories. When she's not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

Tuesday, 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. []

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.