Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Interview with Stiletto Gang member, Cathy Perkins!

 By Lynn McPherson

I've had the privilege of getting to know one of my fellow Stiletto Gang members a little better over the last few weeks.

Cathy Perkins is not only an award-winning author, but also a contributing editor for The Big Thrill, International Thriller Writer's monthly publication. On top of that, Cathy has worked on the blog and social media for the ITW Debut Authors, and coordinated for the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

While I’ve had a life-long love affair with reading, I didn’t start writing until fairly recently. This probably isn’t how most people start, but I had a lengthy consulting job in a city about 90 miles away. I’d listen to music and daydream during the commute. Pretty soon the daydream had dialogue and I thought, hmm, this is turning into a good story. That particular book lives in a box in the closet, but I was hooked on writing, creating worlds and characters. 

Why mystery?

I’ve always loved mysteries and suspense—figuring out the who-dun-it puzzle, delighting when the author keeps me guessing or on the edge of my seat, wondering what will happen next. When I started writing, my stories and characters had secrets, obstacles, and a race to uncover the villain. I’m going to slide a second favorite part of writing in here. I love bringing the characters to life, figuring out what makes them tick, and throwing the challenges of the plot and relationship at them.  So much fun. It’s probably the best part of writing.

What is your writing process and how much time do you spend planning your books?

Like most authors, my stories start with a “what if.” Once an idea takes hold, the plot and character evolve together. I’m a plotter, so the first thing I do when I think the idea has possibilities is sketch an outline of the plot. That outline grows and evolves as my characters’ personalities and motivations flesh out. Things that of course they’d do, add layers or subplots as the story unfolds. 

How important is setting in your novels?

I’ve been told the setting in my stories is another character. My goal is always to place the reader in the scene, to create a place readers can see and feel, even if they’ve never been to South Carolina, eastern Washington, or the Cascade Mountains. The challenge is to create that bubble without slowing the pace of the plot. 

Toni McGee Causey has been a fabulous mentor and offers a terrific perspective on setting and point of view. What the character sees in the place says more about the character than the physical location. I try to keep that in mind—how my characters react to their location/setting and why it matters—as I write.

You are a contributing editor for The Big Thrill, International Thriller Writer's monthly publication. Do you find yourself editing as you write? Or do you write first and edit after?

I have a rather strange way of putting my stories together. If something isn’t working when I’m sitting with my computer, I switch to pen and paper. Writing by hand uses a different part of my brain and I can roll with the scene. When I type those handwritten pages, I make a first edit pass for flow and word choice. But I generally finish the first draft before doing my heavy-duty editing passes. Of course, my wonderful editor will always have suggestions on how to make the story better…

Do you have a favorite author you read for inspiration?

So many favorites! 

This may sound strange since I’m currently writing at the lighter end of the mystery spectrum, but right now, I’m reading at the introspective end of the mystery/suspense/thriller genre – Jonathon King, John Hart, and pushing even further into women’s fiction, Mary Alice Monroe and Kristan Higgins. Of course, I always have dozens of books on my e-reader to choose among. 

What's next?

Good question… 

I’ve been battling an aggressive cancer with an equally aggressive treatment regime. Chemo brain is a thing. As a result, not much writing has occurred this summer. When all this hit, I was halfway through Peril in the Pony Ring, the next book in the Keri Isles series. (Keri organizes her first event for the town of Liberty Falls and of course there are complications.) I also had the next Holly Price novel outlined (Holly is back in the Tri-Cities. Her best friend Laurie pulls her into another mystery that naturally has financial overtones.) My editor nudges me periodically about turning that one in….  Once I can string a few coherent sentences together, it’ll be a challenge deciding which one to work on first.

Learn more about Cathy here:

Facebook http://facebook.com/CathyPerkinsAuthor

BookBub https://www.bookbub.com/authors/cathy-perkins 

Website www.cperkinswrites.com 

Monday, September 27, 2021

New Short Story Anthologies for Fall

by Paula Gail Benson


This fall, several new short story anthologies have appeared to provide wonderful entertainment on cooler evenings. Here are a few:


So West: Love Kills is the ninth anthology published by the Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, recently released in conjunction with its virtual Write Now Conference. Featuring tales of love gone wrong in the American Southwest, the following authors contributed work: Shannon Baker, Mysti Berry, Meredith Blevins, Patricia Bonn, Lauren Buckingham, Susan Budavari, William Butler, Patricia Curren, Meg E. Dobson, Beverly Forsyth, Denise Ganley, Roberta Gibson, Katherine Atwell Herbert, Tom Leveen, Susan Cummins Miller, Charlotte Morganti, Julie Morrison, Claire A. Murray, Kris Neri, Karen Odden, R K Olson, D.R. Ransdell, Kim Rivery, Elena E. Smith. Maegan Beaumont served as lead editor and Deborah J Ledford, Susan Budavari, R K Olson, Shannon Baker, Meg Dobson were co-editors..


For Murder by the Glass: Cocktail Mysteries, editors Teresa Inge and Yvonne Saxon asked the contributors to write stories that had a glass, a murder, and a mystery. Written by
Allie Marie, Betsy Ashton, Frances Aylor, Mary Dutta, Eleanor Cawood Jones, Diane Fanning, Debra H. Goldstein, Libby Hall, Maria Hudgins, Teresa Inge, Maggie King, Kristin Kisska, K. L. Murphy, Alan Orloff, Josh Pachter, Shawn Reilly Simmons and Heather Weidner, these seventeen tales cover many locations, offering lighter fare as well as grittier accounts. Prepare a shaker of your favorite beverages, sit back, and enjoy!

Josh Pachter, who previously edited, anthologies based on the songs of Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Buffett, and Billy Joel, has put together and contributed to Monkey Business: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Films of the Marx Brothers. The fourteen short stories by Donna Andrews, Frankie Y. Bailey, Jeff Cohen, Lesley A. Diehl, Brendan DuBois, Terence Faherty, Barb Goffman, Joseph Goodrich, Robert Lopresti, Sandra Murphy, Robert J. Randisi, Marilyn Todd, Joseph S. Walker, and Pachter are based on the Marx Brothers’ films. In his introduction, Pachter explains a bit about the selected films as well as pointing out the Marxes’ other connections with crime fiction. This concept and these authors make it a winning combination. Or, as Grouch would say, “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”


Friday, September 24, 2021

Peleliu 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.

This month, 77 years ago, American soldiers began a battle for an airstrip on a tiny island in the Pacific. 

I had never heard of it, but I watched a documentary where the last surviving Marines told of the battle predicted to take four days that lasted over two months—the bullets; the mud; of forcing their foes from underground positions with flames; the small strip of hard-baked dirt won at such cost of blood; and a victory that was deemed, in the end, of negligible value. 

It was a memory that haunted them and forged unbreakable bonds. One old man told of a simple offering  by his fellows that moved me to tears and to write a poem. I'd like to share it in honor of the Marines who risked and gave everything, and in tribute to the Japanese soldiers who did the same for their country . . . and in the hope that we will do war no more.




Peleliu, 1944
by T.K. Thorne



Thirst scrapes the back of the throat

tasting of gunpowder

and shattered dirt,

lips like parched earth

cracked open for an offering of blood

thirst cries out

from every cell.


We are walking Thirst

in a waking Hell,

traversing a field of Death.

Nothing here

of Home

or Cause—


Only the man to the right

And left.


One says,

“I have water.”


All turn

with longing

never felt for food

or glory

or even a woman.


With that declaration

Thirst intensifies

from burn to conflagration.


Hand atremble,

he offers his canteen

received by the next

with same and solemn fear,

all eyes watching.


One swallow,

one holy swallow

taken in sacred silence.


No one could stop him

if he took another or

drained it dry

but he takes only one,

enough to wet his mouth

but not slake aching cells.


With both hands, the communion canteen

passes to the next man.

all eyes follow.


One swallow.

only one,

all around.


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



Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Cycle of Life in My Chicana Garden by Juliana Aragon Fatula

 September 23, 2021

Dear Reader,

Woke up this morning and ventured out the backdoor to inspect my Chicana Garden. The hawk landed on my grape arbor and settled in amongst the concord grapes. I waited. The hawk flew low to the ground and swooped towards my tomatoes. I waited and watched. The hawk reappeared and flew inside the arbor and landed. I thought the hawk was eating my grapes, but they had already dropped to the ground and shriveled into raisins. I walked toward the hawk and heard it flittering in the grape leaves. It flew away and returned underneath the arbor and waited while I slowly crept closer. I thought maybe he was blind or injured or maybe couldn’t take flight because it was too young but as I drew nearer the hawk spread its wings and took flight. I looked in the sky but didn’t see the hawk in the air. I approached the bird and the hawk took to the grape leaves and I heard fluttering of several wings. I thought maybe the hawk was trying to rescue baby hawks that were stuck in the grape arbor. But then I realized the hawk was after my sparrows. 

A couple of small sparrows were scrambling for safety from the hawk in the large grape leaves and the hawk was trying to push them out from their cover. I watched and waited. The hawk flew away and took to the heavenly blue sky. I wondered why the hawk hunted in my backyard and then I realized my husband feeds the birds and provides bird houses and a bird bath for water to drink. My backyard is a sanctuary for birds, or so I thought. But, by feeding the birds and providing food, water, and shelter we provided the perfect hunting ground for the hawk. Plenty of sparrows, doves, blue jays, robins, finches, and hummingbirds. 

Our beautiful garden filled with apple and peach trees, grapes, and plentiful flowers to attract bees and butterflies looks like the garden of Eden. The birds sing and soar through the yard bomb diving carefree. They flock to my yard for the bird seed and stay because of the numerous bird houses hanging from the trees. There’s even a condo with twelve apartments that my husband built. It looks like a miniature of our house. 

We have two dogs, a Border Collie, and a mini-Aussie. We used to have four cats but one by one they grew old, and one by one, as they turned eighteen, they died, and we buried them in the flower garden. I used to worry that my husband was feeding the birds and the cats were hunting them and eating them. But now my cats are gone and buried, and the hawk hunts my birds. 

Our dogs like to bark at the birds, the squirrels, the deer that eat my roses and they bark at the cats. Our yard is full of birds singing, dogs barking, and deer grazing. Don’t forget the corn stealing, masked bandits, the raccoons. They arrive in the dark, as do the bears, to rummage through the dumpster. The dogs sleep through all the thievery and snore loudly until morning. 

I wake up and walk to the backdoor and witness the hawk swoop into my grape arbor and stalk the sparrows. The scent of concord grapes rises from the lawn and lingers as I watch the hawk take to the turquoise sky with a sparrow in its talons. The circle of life has begun and ended in my Chicana Garden as the birds build their nests and lay their eggs in the spring. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Author Lois Winston Interviews Author T.K. Thorne

By Lois Winston

Today I sit down for a chat with author T.K. Thorne. Learn more about T.K. and her books at her website.

: I recently read your historical novel, Noah’s Wife, and found it fascinating. Most authors start out in other careers, and those who have been in law enforcement, like you, often gravitate toward writing mysteries, suspense, or thrillers. What drew you to write the untold story of a character from the Bible? 

TKT: Hi Lois!  I’m so happy you picked Noah’s Wife because it is my first born and special to me. When I finished writing, the characters felt so real, I truly missed them being in my head saying unexpected things. It’s a joyful and magical thing to know when readers open the book because they all come alive again! 


I have never been drawn to the mystery/crime genre, perhaps because it felt too much like everyday work for me! My early reading love was science fiction and then epic fantasy. I wrote four books in those genres, but my dream of an agent and traditional publishing didn’t happen for those books. So, I went looking for a topic that would enthrall me and hopefully snag an agent. 

One day, I was at a poetry reading and a friend remarked that her pastor had dropped the fact that Noah’s wife was unnamed and had gotten only one line in the Bible in one of his sermons. I immediately envisioned the vast, white emptiness that was the life of a woman who played such an important role in the history/mythology of the three of the world’s major religions. Captivated by the idea that I could be the person to fill in that tabula rasa, I began researching what her world might have been like. Learning a historic flood had actually occurred around the year 5500 BCE that gave me a time frame for archeological research. (Did you know scientists can now determine what a person was eating thousands of years ago?) Then the character of Na’amah began to assert herself in my mind, where she lived for the four years it took to write the story.


LW: You’ve also written a novel about Lot’s wife, but your current book, House of Rose, is the first in a planned trilogy that incorporates murder, mayhem, and magic. Do you see yourself ever going back to writing more historical novels?


TKT: I wrote House of Rose as a gift to myself, something fun that didn’t require the research I had been doing for the historical novels and my nonfiction. I sat down at the computer with three little words buzzing around in my head (“You’re a hero.”) Those little words became three books about Rose Brighton, a police officer in Birmingham, Alabama who discovers she’s a witch. So much fun!


LW: I see you’ve also written a nonfiction book, Last Chance for Justice, about the 1963 church bombing in Atlanta. Do you have plans to continue crime-related nonfiction as well?


TKT: Actually, I now have two nonfiction books—Last Chance for Justice and just recently, Behind the Magic Curtain: Secrets, Spies, and Unsung White Allies of Birmingham’s Civil Rights Days. I had to get over my retreat from research for that one! It was an ongoing project for eight years while the Rose books were also being hatched. Both of those books were unplanned. I never intended to write nonfiction, much less about the civil rights era. Living and working in a historical civil rights city like Birmingham, Alabama gave rise to the circumstances that led me to write them. I’m proud that I did and hope they have contributed to our understanding of history and ourselves. 


As to what plans I have, they are ping-pong balls right now. I’ve started rewriting one of those early epic fantasy novels I loved in younger days, playing with the idea of another biblical era historical fiction, and a (non-magical) crime/mystery. But to be honest, the pandemic has sucked my writing energy, and I haven’t filled my well back up yet, or perhaps the right story hasn’t emerged. Until that happens, I’m staying busy with garden projects, painting, and taking care of my rescue horses. I’ve been writing for a long time and who knows. We shall see what arises!


LW: The bio on your website states that as an eight-year-old, you won a ribbon for being stubborn. I think stubbornness is a trait that serves many authors well. So many of us need that stubbornness to persevere through years of rejections before we sell our first book. Tell us more about that award. How did you feel at the time when you received it?


TKT: It was a very hot summer day in Montgomery, Alabama. I was riding in a horse show at Little Lake Farms in Montgomery, Alabama on a bay named Duchess. I was so small, they had to tie my stirrups to get them short enough. The jumps were all barely off the ground. I could have jumped over them myself, but Duchess was not in the mood. The rule was after three refusals, you are disqualified, and we already had about ten or more (I lost count) at one jump, so there was no point in continuing. But I just wouldn’t give up. I kept circling back and aiming her, my little legs flailing against the saddle leather and finally, Duchess gave up, hopped over the crossed beams of the jump and finished the course. The crowd gave me a standing ovation, and the judge gave me an unexpected third place ribbon. 


At the time, I was shocked, knowing I should have been disqualified and felt guilty about it. It wasn’t until I was older that I understood the judge had bent the rules because he admired my spirit and determination. I have had other awards over the course of several years, but none of them, even the ones for my books, meant as much to me as that faded yellow ribbon I still have, because you are absolutely right. Determination and not quitting makes all the difference. I wrote six books before my first one was published and received countless rejections. It’s taken me almost fifty years of stubbornness to get here.


LW: You mention that you have a black belt in Aikido and Jujitsu and dove the Great Blue Hole in Belize. You sound like a woman who loves adventure. What are some of the other off-the-beaten path places you’ve explored and adventures you’ve had?


TKT: Well, you are right again! I love adventure and new vistas. I think that is part of what I enjoyed about police work—not knowing what was going to happen next. And a martial arts is an “art” and hence, a process of constant discovery. Travel, of course, also presents those kinds of opportunities. Visits to Israel and Turkey were part of research for Noah’s Wife and Angels at the Gate (Lot’s wife). Martial arts took me to Japan years ago. In addition to Belize, I’ve been with friends and hubby to New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Croatia, southern England, Thailand, and Cambodia. Machu Picchu and Galapagos in South America were on the menu before the pandemic, but that will have to wait. Right now, I am trying to find adventure in my backyard battling renegade wisteria and getting to know the two rescue horses I recently acquired.


LW: Finally, is there something I haven’t asked that you’re dying to tell our readers, either about yourself or your books…or both?


TKT: Lois, having just read Assault with a Glue Gun, when you say the word “dying,” I just sit up and take note of what’s in your hands!”  ๐Ÿ˜‚


Thanks for the questions. It’s been fun!

LW: As it was for me.


USA Today and Amazon bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.


Website: www.loiswinston.com

Newsletter sign-up: https://app.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/z1z1u5

Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/anasleuth

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Anasleuth

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/722763.Lois_Winston

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/lois-winston


Tuesday, September 21, 2021




by Saralyn Richard


This month, it’s my pleasure to interview fellow-Stiletto-Gang-member, Gay Yellen, author of the Samantha Newman Mystery Series: The Body Business and The Body Next Door. While I’ve known Gay for a very long time, I learned a lot from this interview, and it’s fun to share these things with you.

SR:  Before we get serious, here’s a burning question: The Body Business and The Body Next Door feature a leggy woman wearing drop-dead gorgeous stilettos. (Way to go with subliminal advertising for the Stiletto Gang!). Whose legs are those? Samantha Newman’s or yours?


GY:  I wish my legs were that great! Since the titles reveal that the book is a mystery, I wanted the images to reflect the tone: fun and a little bit sassy.


SR:  As someone who’s followed your career from the early days in Hollywood, I’m fascinated by the cinematic nature of your writing. How do you feel your writing has been influenced by your experiences as an actor and director?


GY:  My training gave me an ear for authentic dialogue, scene pacing, and character motivation, all of which helps create what I hope are entertaining stories. And improv allowed me to think outside the box.


SR:  I enjoyed getting to know Samantha Newman. She’s spunky and clever and totally likable. How did Samantha’s character develop in your imagination? Is she a lot like you or someone you know? If Samantha could change one thing about herself, what would that be?

GY:  Samantha was orphaned at a young age and forced to make her own way; I was lucky to have a loving family circle. We do share a sense of justice, and like many women, hard-won resilience. As for change, I think Samantha would prefer to live a less complicated life.


SR:  As much as I enjoyed Samantha’s character, the secondary characters in the series really resonated with me. What techniques do you use to depict secondary characters in such a way as to give them the attention they deserve? Who is your favorite secondary character and why?


GY:   I love all my characters, but there's a special fondness for Gertie, who holds a certain likeness to my grandmother. Lizzie, the little girl that Samantha befriends in an elevator in Book 2, simply showed up fully formed and stole my heart as I wrote the scene.



SR:  I remember reading one of the sex scenes in The Body Business and thinking it was the most scintillating, but tasteful sex scenes I’ve ever read. Are sex scenes difficult for you to write? What is your philosophy about them?


GY:  A reviewer once complained that just when the sexy stuff gets interesting in my books, I shut the bedroom door. To me, part of the fun is leaving the rest to a reader's imagination. We don't really need an anatomy lesson, do we?


SR:  Can you give us a hint about what Samantha might become embroiled in next?


GY:  Sam is struggling with a new career that isn't turning out as hoped. She's also a material witness to a shooting, and faces a big decision about her relationship with Carter Chapman.


SR:  What makes Samantha and Carter Chapman a perfect couple? What stands in the way of this?


GY:  They're both strong-willed, and they both like to fight for the underdog. Problem is, he keeps wanting to protect her, and she doesn't want his help. Stubbornness could be her undoing.


SR:  I read on your website that you are toying with the idea of writing a historical novel set in the 16th century. What is it about that time that draws you to that setting?


GY:  I'm fascinated by the clash of cultures in the New World at the dawn of that century: indigenous peoples, conquistadors, the secrecy and terror of the Inquisition. It left a legacy that's still with us today.

Won't you join me in celebrating Gay and her fun and sparkling books?



After a show-biz stint in Hollywood, Gay Yellen began her professional writing career as managing editor of Tennis Illustrated Magazine and later, of D Magazine in Dallas. She was the contributing editor/ghost writer for Five Minutes to Midnight, a New York Times New & Notable  thriller, after which she began her own multi-award-winning Samantha Newman Mystery Series, which includes The Body BusinessThe Body Next Door and the soon-to-be released, Body in the News.

Want to know more about Gay and her books? Read more at her website and Amazon


            RONE Finalist
            Pages from the Heart Finalist
            Readers’ Favorite Mystery
            Chanticleer Mystery & Mayhem 1st Place
            Silver Falchion Finalist, Killer Nashville
BODY IN THE NEWS - Coming in 2021


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

Saralyn’s most recent release is A MURDER OF PRINCIPAL. Look for her mystery/thriller, BAD BLOOD SISTERS in March 2022.

Visit Saralyn 
here, on her Amazon page here, or on Facebook here.