Monday, June 28, 2021

Rambles from a reader by Dru Ann Love

I have nothing.

I was going to give you stats from my blog, but decided it wasn’t important for this blog. Check out my blog at Would you like seeing those stats?

I was going to talk about return to the office – first week in July. Have you returned back to the office?

I was going to talk about my adventure last week – first time back in the city and met a few friends for lunch. Lots of chatting and hugs galore was given. It felt good to eat in a restaurant and laugh and enjoy each other’s company. Have you been in and about lately?

I was going to talk about the struggle with my reading. It still takes me a week and a half to read one book. One. Book. – How is your reading?

I was going to talk about movies – Have you seen “In The Heights?”

I was going to talk about streaming channels – my favorites are Netflix and Amazon Prime. What’s your favorite?

I was going to talk about TV watching – there is nothing on TV these days. My TV viewership is down, down, down. What about you? Are you watching less TV?

I was going to talk about traveling – I’m getting on a plane to visit my mom. What about you, any travel plans?

I was going to talk about virtual conferences – I’m looking forward to attending More Than Malice. Are you going? You can register here.

I was going to talk about reader convention – Bouchercon is in August and I’m going. It’s my celebration for the year I had and also I get to see my friends. Are you going? You can register here.

Thank you for reading my ramblings.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

You Lie Down with Dogs, You Wake Up in Hot Water: Metaphors Aren’t Antisocial—But They Don’t Always Mix Well

I love metaphors. When I come across a great one while reading, I write it down as a reminder to spend time crafting them. Here are some musings on metaphors. Mixing metaphors—combining two unrelated idioms—is considered a grammatical faux pas. But in the right circumstances, mixing metaphors fosters a more creative comparison, makes your readers think, and may even produce chuckles.

·      Don’t eat with your mouth open for business.  

·      I’ll ride shotgun in the backseat.

·      Earl tucked tail and left in a cloud of smoke.

·      When life hands you a lemon, make an ice cream sundae.

·      Shape up or sink like a stone.

·      Don’t count your chickens before you put their eggs in your basket.

·      Beating around the bush may get you in deep water.

·      Cross that bridge after you’ve burned it.

·      The quiet before the storm preceded a blast from the past.

·      Wake up and smell the writing on the wall.

·      If you lie down with dogs, you’ll wake up in hot water.

Finally, what would a tip on mixing metaphors be without mentioning the master metaphor-mixer, Yogi Berra? Here are a few of my favorite Yogisms:

·      “Pair up in threes.”

·      “Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel.”

·      “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

·      “No one goes there [restaurant] anymore; it’s too crowded.”

·      “Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical.”

·      “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”


I’m a Texas gal. Except for an eighteen-month hiatus living in New York City after college, I lived in the Lone Star State continuously for fifty years. Since then, Texas has been hit and miss—a little hit, but a heck of a lot of miss. There was a time when I thought I would happily die in Austin, Texas. But circumstances and weather—especially weather—changed that. Now I spend most of the year on Fidalgo Island in Washington State with a view of the bay and the mountains. When I get homesick, my husband and I listen to Willie Nelson. Soon we are dancing the two-step, imagining we are at our favorite honky-tonk in Tokyo, Texas, where the mayor is believed to be a dog. Who wouldn’t miss that?


I write the awarding-winning mystery series: the Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series set in the 1950s and the Classic Triviography Mystery Series, which includes The Sherlock Holmes Quiz Book, updated and released by Lyons Press on November 1, 2020. My Kate Caraway animal-rights mystery series includes Run Dog Run and A Two Horse Town. Eagle Crossing is scheduled for release in 2022.


Look for Sherlock Holmes of Baking Street, an anthology by notable authors and Sherlockians. I’m honored to have a Holmes short story included.


        On my website, you can also find my Five-Minute Writing Tips and blog posts about publishing,                 marketing, birding, and quirky things that come to mind. Kathleen Kaska


Just released in May—Sherlock Holmes of Baking Street. I was honored to be asked to contribute a Holmes short story or essay for this anthology. I'd always wanted to try my hand at writing a Holmes pastiche. Finally, this was the nudge I need. My story is "The Adventure at Old Basingstoke." Also included is my recipe for scones since the theme of the anthology is baking. 



Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Paintbrush and the Pen—by T.K. Thorne


Writer, humanist,

          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,

       Lover of solitude

          and the company of good friends,

        New places, new ideas

           and old wisdom.

During the pandemic I edited several books and started two novels, both of which seem stuck somewhere near the beginning and are sitting around waiting for me.  I don't know if it was the stress of the year or I just burned out.  

A friend introduced me to a form of art doodling called Zentangle, which is usually done on 3x3 inch pieces with a pen and pencil shading.  Looks like this:

I decided I wanted to color them and bought some colored pencils.

Then I stumbled across water color pencils. Who knew?  Got some of those and the color intensified.


So I ordered tube water colors and real water color paper and "got serious." I started painting scenes out of my head. This one went to my new grandchild:


And then from photographs:

My nine-year-old nephew said he wanted a painting of outer space.  

"I like planets." he said.

Which one is your favorite?"

With a wicked grin, "Uranus!"

He didn't get Uranus (I think he just liked to say the word! :-) This is what he got:

My other nine-year-old nephew liked space but opted for a type of dinosaur I'd never heard of—a Spinosaurus, which has a huge head and jaws and likes water. I threw in an eclipse to cover the space interest.

Connections between painting and writing have evolved along with subject matter. Since I had no idea what I was doing, I developed a silent mantra to keep me brave enough to try things—Don't be afraid of the paint. Writing is like that. You can't let fear of not having the right words stop you. There are ways to fix what you don't like in both fields, but you have to put something down on paper first. (I think I am talking to myself here....)

Painting has expanded my "notice meter." I look at the world differently, trying to take in how light plays in the tree canopy or on a field or a face, and I note how that affects my inner world. Writers look for physical, emotional and mental nuances, motivations, and behaviors. But we also are called upon to describe the world in terms of our senses and I suspect this "arting" thing is going to enhance my ability to describe the visual world.

One major lesson is that nothing exists without contrast. Light requires dark, even if it is in shades. An arc of character must, likewise, have contrast, a setup if you will.

A painting, like a story, takes on a life of its own. Not everything goes the way you "planned" it, and that is okay. Sometimes you have to let the colors and water do what they want to do and go from there.  The same for a story. A character you planned to grant a minor role may become a major player.  A plot can go off in a new direction. Your characters may say or do unexpected things.  These are part of the challenges and joys of writing and painting.

Science says creating art can help depression and PTSD, stimulate alpha (relaxing) brain waves, and reduce the stress hormone cortisol. They also say that learning new things creates new connections in your brain. I don't pretend to be anything more than a beginning amateur at this, but I am loving this new passion. My words got stuck during the pandemic, and I don't know when they will come back, but meanwhile I am determined not to be afraid of the paint and to see where it takes me.

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

Why I Chose the Mystery Genre to Write My First Novel by Juliana Aragón Fatula

Dear Reader,

This summer I'm taking a break from my gardening and spending time with a friend in her home and working on my manuscript. She asked me to keep her company while she recovers from surgery. I asked her if I could work on my novel. She said, yes. And here I am, writing to my heart's content. 

We met the summer of my last year in college. We were roommates on our literary tour of England with the English Department of Colorado State University-Pueblo. We were senior citizens among a group of ten twenty-somethings students. The two of us hit it off immediately and have been best friends ever since. That was fourteen years ago. She loves to read mysteries. I love to read mysteries. It was a match made in heaven. Her library is extensive. Dr. Judy Noel has allowed me to use her home as my writing space many times and I appreciate the quiet and reprieve from my home and family to just write, and write, and write. 

After my second book of poetry was published, I decided that I'd like to try writing in my favorite genre, mystery.  I had studied different genres in college: Ethnic Lit, Chicana Lit, Shakespeare, the classics, fiction, non-fiction, playwriting, and poetry. My advisor felt my strength in writing was in poetry. I minored in Creative Writing Poetry and after graduating published two books and a chapbook of poetry. This made me very happy and led me to pursue writing workshops and I met and networked with great poets. But deep in my soul, I wanted more. I wanted to write a mystery. A mystery that only I could write.  A story about two Chicana Private Investigators from Denver, Colorado who are chingonas. Badasses. 

I realized right away that I didn't have the skills necessary to write a great mystery and I refused to write a mediocre novel, so I set out to read every book on writing, I could get my hands on to learn how to write in this genre. My mentor at the Stiletto Gang, Linda Rodriguez, helped me to have the confidence to write for this blog. She had faith in me and I leaped at the opportunity to network with other mystery writers. It has been one of the best decisions I've made in the last ten years. I've met writers online that have encouraged me every day and every way to pursue my dream of being a published mystery writer. I've learned so much from these women at the Stiletto Gang and want to thank them for the feedback and advice they have given me. Thank you Stiletto Gang for the excellent opportunities you have given me over the years. 

At first, I was fearful that I wouldn't have anything worth blogging about to the readers, but eventually, I fell into my rhythm of writing to my readers and attracted new fans. Today, I prepare to write my June 2021 post and wanted to tell you a little more about me and why I love the mystery genre. 

I love trying to solve the case. I read the book and search for clues. I pay attention to what people say and do which leads me to suspect they have something up their sleeve. The characters sometimes throw you off course and mislead you, so you can't assume to know what the end will reveal. If you fall for a red herring, you just might go in the wrong direction to solve the case and a good writer will have several to throw the reader off. 

I'm learning all about how to keep the reader turning pages with a suspenseful story that doesn't reveal too much, too soon. My sense of humor shows up in my writing and lightens the story from being too dark and dramatic. In real life, people behave differently in stressful cases like investigating homicides, so my Detectives laugh at the absurdity of how corpses end up floating, burning, hacked to pieces, or blown to smithereens. This may offend the serious reader, but I'm not writing a serious mystery. My story is full of mayhem and laughter and includes romance and suspense, murder, and unique characters full of flaws and chaos in their lives. 

The story for the Colorado Sisters began forming in my head years ago on a trip to a writing workshop in Utah. It was delicious. It's morphed since then into a different story but the main characters remain true to themselves and I've adjusted some of the secondary characters to be more interesting. 

It seems like I've been writing this story for years and I fretted about how long it was taking me. Then one day I realized, I have been living a full-time life in addition to being a writer. I have a family that needs me and my son needed me especially when he came home after being in prison for seven years. I adapted and set aside my writing to help him adjust. I also became involved in genealogy research of my ancestors after having my DNA tested and discovered my roots go back to years of being marginalized for being indigenous to this country. This research led to more research and I learned so much about my people's history. I found it addictive and I kept researching and reading and learning. 

During the last few years, I have also studied and learned how to grow Cannabis for medicinal purposes and that led me to study herbal remedies to medicine. I began making salve and baking edibles. I studied plants that grow indigenous to my area and began making shampoo and conditioners for my hair that has begun to grey and thin. I am now becoming a curendera, a woman with the ability to heal with plants. This turned into a belief in the ancient ways. Cleansing with sage and sweetgrass and using essential oils to scent the air in my home. I learned how to use lavender I grow in my garden into oil for many purposes. 

One day I realized that although I hadn't finished my novel, I had reworked it and made it better than it had been in the first draft. I read it to myself and thought, that's not bad for a rooky. But still, I wanted to be great, not good for my first novel. And that takes dedication and work. 

I also help other writers with reading their work and writing reviews of their books. I teach writing workshops to Bridging Borders, a team leadership program for young women, and mentor them.  This has been one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life. A chance to give back to my community and learn from these young women about being a positive role model. I have also taken time to volunteer to judge several writing competitions and enjoyed reading other writers' work and learning from them how to be a better writer. 

I don't have grandchildren, but my husband and I are pet parents and we treat our puppies and kittens like family and spoil them rotten. They have given me love unconditional and they are my therapy animals. I can't imagine a world without them and they keep me sane. My life is full and never boring, never. Nunca. Instead, it is filled with family, friends, pets, a network of supportive writers, and a busy life of learning and becoming a better human being. My parents would be so proud of the woman I've become. The friends I keep company with are some of the best people in the world and keep me on my toes to keep up with them and their accomplishments. 

When I was a student, I surrounded myself with the smartest people in the class and if they made good grades, I made sure that I studied until I made good grades, tambien. And I did. I have surrounded myself with wonderful social activists, professors, teachers, actors, directors, writers, performance artists, journalists, leaders in the community, and mentors with positive ideas who are creative and make me strive for success. 

My past was shady and I was on the verge of ending up dead or in prison, but somehow I survived to graduate from college and find satisfying work as a teacher and begin a writing career. I'm happy when I'm writing but I also find great joy in performing on stage and I have continued to perform readings every chance I'm given. Sometimes it's a small crowd in a bookstore, other times in larger venues it's an audience of hundreds, but regardless, I'm elated to walk on stage and share my stories and the feedback, laughter, tears, applause rewards me for all of my efforts to entertain. 

My life continues to be full and challenging as I wither away into my golden years, but while I still have the ability to write, read, perform, teach, and mentor I will remain happy to be alive and appreciative of all of the blessings in life I've been given. 

I'll end with this thought. Although my life has been filled with trauma and unhappiness, the past made me into the person I am now and I wouldn't change a thing because I love the woman that writes poetry and mysteries and performs stories about my ancestors. I'm proud of my accomplishments in being the first and only one of ten siblings to graduate from college and I know that that I've made a difference in some of my students' and friends' lives and that has made all of the heartache, trials, and tribulations worthwhile. I refuse to be silenced. I remain the Crazy Chicana in Catholic City. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021


By Lois Winston 

Gameshows were once a staple of daytime TV. I remember being no more than a toddler in the 1950s and watching Queen for a Day with my grandmother.


I’ve been a huge Jeopardy! fan ever since the show first debuted with Art Fleming in 1964. I miss spending half an hour each night with Alex Trebek. I don’t envy the producers when they finally forego the guest hosts and choose a replacement for him. As those guest hosts have shown, Alex is a tough act to follow.


With only a brief hiatus, Jeopardy! has been around almost nonstop since its inception. Not so for most other gameshows. However, for the past several years, many of the classic gameshows of the 50s and 60s have been revived as summer replacements on network TV. One such show is To Tell the Truth.


So I thought it might be fun today to play To Tell the Truth—Author Edition. What follows are ten statements about me—or maybe not. Can you figure out which ones are true and which are false?


1. I can name all of Shakespeare’s plays in alphabetical order.

2. I can play 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon in 2 degrees.

3. I can speak three languages fluently.

4. I graduated 32nd in a class of 803.

5. While still in college, I designed a poster for Sesame Street.

6. I hate peanut butter.

7. I run three miles a day.

8. I’m a USA Today bestselling author.

9. I own a parrot.

10. I backpacked across Europe.


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






Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Setting a Perfect Mystery!

 By Lynn McPherson

Summer has finally arrived and I'm here for it. The long, hot days have brought with them a flurry of activity in my yard because I'm getting a pool (hooray!). Watching the big machines and busy workers under the bright sunny skies has reminded me about the importance of setting in a story. Have you thought about the surroundings of each scene in your manuscript? If not, you should. Let's talk about why.

Mood can make or break a story whether writing a psychological thriller or a cozy mystery. The right atmosphere is needed to bring your reader into a matching mindset. Is it dark or light? Hot or cold? Are your characters sitting in a busy cafe or standing on an isolated ledge? Each factor can contribute to how a reader visualizes the scene before them and is brought into the heart of the story.

Setting can also help establish the character of your protagonist. If your amateur sleuth lives in a small town in a modest house with a friendly pet, it will also evoke a different image than if they are centered in a modern condo in the middle of Manhattan.

Time is another factor the setting should take into account. If it's 1952, a robin blue kitchen might be the cutting edge but considered a pre-reno nightmare in 1995. And what about the cars being driven or the styles being worn? Subtle clues used to describe when the action takes place helps the reader create a strong mental image. What might you use to make sure you establish accurate details that draw your reader in?

Setting is an important element in writing that we sometimes forget. Make sure you take time to create the world your characters exist in so your readers aren't left with blank spaces or blurry details.

What are some of your favorite ways to establish setting?

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, June 21, 2021

Looking Forward to Mystery in the Midlands

by Paula Gail Benson

Dr. Kathy Reichs

Next weekend, on Saturday, June 26, from 10:00 am to 2:45 pm ET, the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and the Palmetto Chapter of Sisters in Crime, are proud to present their second virtual Mystery in the Midlands. Until Covid, we gathered in Columbia, S.C., for a celebration of authors and readers. Hopefully, an in person gathering will be possible next year, but until then, we are going to delight in being with a fabulously talented group of writers and hearing what they have to tell us about their craft and lives.

Our wonderful participants include Dr. Kathy Reichs, who will be interviewed by Debra H. Goldstein (today, she talks about preparing for their talk on Writers Who Kill) and three panels that will be moderated by Dana Kaye. The panelists are Frankie Y. Bailey, Michael Bracken, and Barb Goffman, talking about short stories; Laurie R. King, Lori Rader-Day, and Caroline Todd, talking about historical mysteries; and Yasmin Angoe, Robert Dugoni, and Alex Segura, talking about suspense.

We would love for you to join us. You can register through this link. If you can't attend the program, by registering you can watch the recording. At $5, it's a bargain!

Following is a little game to match our participants with fun facts about them. See how much you know about our distinguished authors and check your results with the answers at the end.

Hope to see you on Saturday! Don't forget to register:


1. Yasmin Angoe

2. Frankie Y. Bailey

3. Michael Bracken

4. Robert Dugoni

5. Barb Goffman

6. Laurie R. King

7. Lori Rader-Day

8. Dr. Kathy Reichs

9. Alex Segura

10. Caroline Todd


A. Writes about contemporary and historical detectives

B. Criminal Justice Professor

C. Sales on 2 books recently passed $250K and $50K

D. Debut novel, to be released in November, has already been optioned for television

E. Expert witness at the Casey Anthony trial

F. Marketing Director for the Waco Symphony Orchestra

G. Left-handed vegan who has been to space

H. Story awarded the EQMM Readers' Award has been nominated for an Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity

I. Married on top of the Empire State Building

J. Loves traveling, history, mystery, and collaborating


1. D

2. B

3. F

4. C

5. H

6. A

7. I

8. E

9. G

10. J

Friday, June 18, 2021

A Delicious Debut and a Giveaway!

by Shari Randall

Dear Readers,

Greetings from the quiet northeastern corner of Connecticut, the setting for my new series, The Ice Cream Shop Mysteries. The setting, the village of Penniman, comes complete with a covered bridge, pocket farms, and the Udderly Delightful ice cream shop that specializes in unique flavors crafted with local products. It's a dream setting and I have to be honest - the research for this series has been a dream, too! I've traveled the back roads of New England searching out the most delicious little ice cream parlors to inspire Udderly Delightful. The ice cream maker on my kitchen counter has gotten quite a workout as I've experimented with recipes for the book.

I'll share more about the series as we get closer to publication date, but I did want to let you know that my wonderful publisher has set up a Goodreads giveaway with 50 (!) print copies of THE ROCKY ROAD TO RUIN on offer. So click the link to head on over, enter, and read more about the story! Here's the link to the Goodreads Giveaway.

Shari Randall is the author of the Agatha Award winning Lobster Shack Mystery series. Her new series, The Ice Cream Shop Mysteries, written as Meri Allen, debuts on July 27 with THE ROCKY ROAD TO RUIN. You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook @ShariRandallAuthor and @MeriAllenBooks.

#goodreadsgiveaway #cozymysteryseries #icecream 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

A Tribute and a Review

 Hi, folks. Today is Cathy Perkins's day to blog with The Stiletto Gang. She’s ill, and not up to blogging, so I volunteered to take her day. Since it is her day, I thought I’d tell you a story about Cathy, then do a review of her latest, The Body in the Beaver Pond.

Years ago, I judged an unpublished mainstream entry called, “The Professor” in the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense contest. That entry did very well and led to her publication with Carina Press. What I didn’t know then was that entry, and the subsequent connections surrounding it, would lead to the start of a decades-old friendship.

From that point, if Cathy had a release, I bought the book. Mainly because I enjoy her first-person voice, dry wit, and love a good mystery. In addition to writing, she also has an eye for graphic design. When getting ready to publish, Calling for the Money, her fourth Holly Price financial mystery, she was at my house, sitting at my kitchen counter trying to draft a design idea to give to her artist.

 “Something like this,” she said, showing me her handiwork on her iPad.

After I regained my voice, I said, “This is so good! Why are you paying a cover artist?”

But I digress.

Some time ago, Cathy contacted me and said she wanted to do a spin-off of her Holly Price series--this one featuring Holly's half-sister Keri Isles. Cathy already had the setting. It was the property she and Chuck had bought in the Cascade Mountains in Washington state.

She asked me to do a beta read. I did, and told her in my subjective opinion the manuscript was ready for publication. Obviously, others agreed. At Killer Nashville in March of 2020, Cathy won the Claymore Award for The Body in the Beaver Pond.

It’s been a while since I read the unpublished version, so I bought the published version. Trust me, The Body in the Beaver Pond was just as much fun reading the second time around. 

What's the book about? Here goes: 

Newly divorced Keri Isles has left her home and event-planning job in Seattle and moved on to a property she acquired in the divorce. Problem is the division of assets is far from equitable as her ex is on friendly terms with the judge. While a Christmas tree farm, rustic cabin, and beaver pond sound idyllic and look good on paper—in reality the acreage includes a 1940s cabin with poor plumbing, an ancient tractor, constant treating of trees, as well as back-breaking work to keep the place operational and out of the red.

What’s a woman to do in this situation? Spiff up the place, keep it running, hire a realtor and hope it sells!

Cathy’s internal narrative and dialogue are so witty and so much fun to read. She places you firmly in the head of a down-and-out protagonist—one you are rooting for from page one. If running a Christmas tree farm isn’t laborious enough for a single thirty-two-year-old woman, imagine an archeological dig  next to the property. One in which dimwitted students park a van on Keri’s newly planted Christmas trees. When Keri complains to the excavation head, a pompous academic who inasmuch tells her to get lost, Keri has no intention of standing down.

Great secondary characters and a yellow lab named IRA who has a penchant for digging up bones, you can see where this is heading, right? 

This is a terrific start to a series, and call it a hunch, I think Keri may just learn to love her little tree farm, her zany neighbors, new friends, and potential love interest. I know I  enjoyed spending time there and can heartily recommend The Body in the Beaver Pond, a Keri Isles Event Planner Mystery by Cathy Perkins.   

Finally, a note to my friend. Thinking of you, Cathy. Get well!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Characters Who Break Our Hearts

by Barbara Kyle

A recent fascinating post by Lois Winston on this blog asked: “Are there characters that you wish the author would kill off? Or characters you wish an author hadn’t killed off?”


I thought I’d dig deeper into Lois’s topic with another question: What character’s death broke your heart?


I once asked that of my Facebook friends and the replies were extraordinary. People recall with vivid clarity how a fictional death left them feeling bereft.


Beth March in Little Women. Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two CitiesNed Stark in A Game of Thrones. Charlotte, the valiant spider in Charlotte's Web.


Pic: "Sydney Carton" painting by Ralph Bruce

Characters' deaths that broke my heart include Mariko in James Clavell's Shogun, Robbie and Cecilia in Ian McEwan's Atonement and Gus in Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove.


                                  Pic: Yoko Shimada as "Mariko" in the 1980 TV series "Shogun."


That affecting experience as a reader applies with equal force to an author. Every time I've killed a beloved character in one of my books, I wept. The poet Robert Frost said it eloquently: "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader." I must be shaken by a character's death myself if I am to render it faithfully to my readers.
Three kinds of characters' deaths shatter us the most:
1. The Innocent Friend

The most dangerous relationship a character can have is being the best friend of the hero. If the hero has been reluctant to accept his destiny, or his responsibilities, the death of his friend is often the turning point that galvanizes him to take the next steps and the necessary risks. By his friend's death the hero is changed, made stronger, grows up.
2. The Victim of a Wicked World
When we shudder at Fantine's death in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables we shudder at the hellish poverty that killed her. In Atonement Robbie and Cecelia lose their lives pitifully in the gruesome grind of war. In A Game of Thrones Ned Stark is executed in a naked political power grab.
3. The Self-Sacrificing Hero
When Mariko, the courageous noblewomen in Shogun, goes to Osaka Castle to obtain the release of innocent hostages, she knows she is going to her death. She sacrifices her life to save Lord Toranaga from his enemies, and restore peace.
In A Tale of Two Cities, Sydney Carton takes his awe-inspiring walk to the guillotine with selfless resolve, sacrificing his life so that Lucie, the woman he loves, can be reunited with her husband.
These are deaths of valor – to me the most poignant of all – in which the character accepts death as the price of saving someone they love. That's powerful stuff. What reader is not moved to ask in admiration: Could I do the same?


And, speaking of killing . . . 


I hope you’ll enjoy my new video: “What Makes a Killer Mystery? in which I outline the essential elements of the genre and show interviews with five acclaimed mystery writers, including Denise Mina and John LeCarré (below).  Watch the video here.





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


Tuesday, June 15, 2021



What’s Happening to the English Language?

by Saralyn Richard

I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. My parents encouraged me to be an English teacher, instead. So, I spent several decades reading and grading other people’s writing. I even taught journalism and creative writing—to teenagers and later to seniors (aged 50+). Although teaching kept me way too busy to write, it also kept me in the universe of writers and writing. I was like a frustrated chef who had all the best recipes and ingredients but couldn’t enter the kitchen.

            Several years ago, I came to a crossroads in my education career. By then I’d moved into administration and school improvement consulting, and the constant travel had become too much. I stepped back from on-site consulting and began doing what I’d always loved, writing. In this case, it was technical writing—curricula, white papers, articles, proposals, and grants.

            It was a joy to flex my writing muscles. I had a blast selecting the best words, sentence structures, and arguments. The rules of grammar and mechanics rolled back into my frontal lobe as if they had never left.

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            Soon I was ready to try my hand at fiction, and I took great delight in practicing other tools of the trade, such as imagery, figures of speech, and dialogue. Grateful for a traditional education in grammar and composition, which even included diagramming sentences, I forged ahead with fulfilling my dream deferred.

            What I didn’t realize is how much the English language had relaxed while I was busy doing classroom duty. When had the Oxford comma controversy reared its ugly head? When had use of “their” as a singular possessive pronoun come into acceptable use? How had adverbs, those lovely -ly descriptors, become persona non grata? I began seeing non-words like “supposably” and “irregardless” cropping up in articles that had supposedly been edited and vetted for publication. And when did “blonde” become an adjective?

            Fortunately, my first publisher was as picky as I was, and the few times we clashed over how to punctuate something, we let the Chicago Manual of Style serve as referee, and most of the time, Chicago sided with me. I did go to the mat a few times over such things as where the apostrophe should go in a possessive of a proper name ending in “s.”

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            If I sound like a hundred-year-old spinster schoolteacher, let me assure you that is not the case. I can waltz and fox trot, but I can also hit the whoah. I’m sure everyone reading this post has certain pet peeves regarding the English language. What are yours?


Saralyn Richard is the author of A MURDER OF PRINCIPAL, the Detective Parrott mystery series, and the children’s book, NAUGHTY NANA. Follow her on social media and on her website here.