Monday, February 28, 2022

Expectations vs. Reality by Dru Ann Love

When you pick up the first book in a series, you are introduced to the main protagonist, her friends, the small town that she lives in and the other residents that will come in and out of her daily life. Note: could also be a male protagonist as well.

We love the characters and the small-town atmosphere, and we love that she is probably besting the local police force in solving the crime. And now the murderer has been caught in this delightfully charming town that I want to move to.

Until book two, three, four and so forth. So how many more murders in this small-town that I’ve come to love will happen?

By now, the local cops may or may not seek out our protagonist to help solve the murder. Question of the day, why don’t they put her on retainer as a consultant? Why doesn’t she just join the police force? You know why? Because there would not be a next book.

And yet we continue to hope we see a murder in the early chapters of the book as we along with our favorite amateur sleuth, solve the case while we try to figure it out before she does. And still want to move to that small town.

These are little things I think about when I’m reading books in my favorite long-running series.

What about you? What do you think about when reading your series?

Friday, February 25, 2022

How to Cook Dinner and Start a Book--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.



My husband recently had shoulder surgery for a torn rotator cuff.  He is the chef in the house; I, the consumer. In fact, I’m not normally even allowed in the kitchen (a survival thing, so I don’t burn down the house or poison him). But he would be out of action for a while, so I . . . panicked.

My anxiety centered not around the actual cooking, but  coming up with something to fix for dinner for several weeks. I think that can correlate to worrying about writing a book. The task seems enormous, requiring a large amount of creative energy.  Where do you start?  How do you make all those decisions?  I needed a plan for at least a week with a list of ingredients and grocery shopping (which husband has been doing since 2020).

I freaked out and employed my best strategy, finely honed over the years—Procrastination.

People who would like to write a book, but are overwhelmed with the idea sometimes ask me  —“Where/how do you start?”

My honest reply is “with the first word.”  

I have started a book based on an image, a phrase that popped into my mind, a vague sense of who my character is, a statement from a character, or a random idea. Sometimes, I know where I want to end up, especially if it is already a story, like the biblical tales that loosely formed the basis for Noah’s Wife or Angels at the Gate (Lot’s wife). With the nonfiction book, Last Chance for Justice (about the 1963 16th Street Church bombing case), I knew I would end up with the trials and convictions of the Ku Klux Klan members who planted the bomb.  

It is very handy to know where you will end up (like having meals in mind when grocery shopping.) But even if I do, I have no idea how to get there. I need to create and feel out the characters, make sure they are interesting enough to intrigue me and make me want to live with them for the many months or years we will be working together. I say working together, because it is a partnership. Once a character is conceived, it’s my job to figure out what to throw at her and her job to react as appropriate to who she is.

I’m sure many other authors feel this way, as if their characters are alive in some intangible but real way. At some point, I daydream as far ahead as I can and work toward that, but sometimes everything comes to a halt and I don’t have a clue what’s next.  

At that point, I pull out my well-honed strategy and go clean the kitchen, read a book, or talk to a friend.  Eventually, my character subtilely tickles my fancy, politely knocks on the door of my mind, or hits me over the head with an idea and I a back to it.

The End

Postscript: My fears were ill-founded. Husband knew what was in the freezer and what he wanted, so he just ordered dinner menu and then stood over me, “guiding” every step.  Piece of cake. 

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

Thursday, February 24, 2022

The Letter to My Granddaughters by Juliana Aragon Fatula

Dearest Granddaughters,

I'm a mother, an aunt, a great aunt, and a great-great-aunt, but I'm not a Grandmother. Not yet. Maybe never. But my sisters have shared their grandchildren with me and my nieces have shared their grandchildren with me; therefore I am a tia abuelita. This letter is to these granddaughters of other women who are included in my circle of love. The generations of women leading us into the new world.  I want to share with you not only my love but my knowledge and what I've learned from my mistakes. 

Juliana 2021 age 64

One of my great-great-grandmothers, Abrana Quintana was born in the 1800s in New Mexico Territory before it was a state. We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us. We've always lived in this land. She was a full-blooded Ute woman who married a white man, a traveling preacher from Maine. He moved to Santa Fe and converted indigenous people to Christianity. She may have been his translator through Indian country. They had several children and my great-grandmother, Abrana Jacobs, was born in New Mexico. 

She was half Ute and half European by way of England and indigenous New Mexico ancestors. She married a full-blooded Navajo and became Abrana Gomez. They had several children and my grandmother, Phoebe Gomez, was born in Alamosa, Colorado in 1890. 

She married a man from Alamosa and became Phoebe Mondragon. My mother, Eloisa Evelyn Mondragon was born in Howard, Colorado in 1923. She married my father, Julian Aragon, and became Louise Aragon. 

My father and mother were known as Jack and Louise. I was born in Canon City, Colorado during the blizzard of April 1957 and was named Juliana Aragon. This is my story of my ancestors and how I came to be during the 1950s and lived to be 65 years old and discovered my heritage and DNA. Many of my ancestors were indigenous to the Southwest and their bones are buried here. 

My son, Daniel, hasn't married or had children and so the story ends with him. Except, I have you, my granddaughters, to carry on my story of being a Corn Mother and how I came to this world and how I left. You will tell my story to your children and they will tell their children and so my name will be heard and my stories will be told by you and your descendants. 

I have had the blessing of being born into a world where women had the right to vote and to make decisions about our bodies, but it wasn't always true. Our Corn Mothers weren't allowed to vote, practice family planning, or even wear pants. They were ruled by the patriarchal society and were told what to do, who to marry. Today, we can wear whatever we want, and we can vote for whoever we choose, so don't forget the sacrifices made so that we have this freedom.  

What I discovered in tracing my ancestors' journey is that we are all related. We are all a combination of DNA from many people and from many places. My mother's people were mixed and included Ute, Navajo, and European blood. My father's people were mixed and included Pueblo, Navajo, and Spaniard blood. But I can trace my DNA back to Africa, Saudi Arabia, Jamaica, South America, and North America. We are all related. Remember this. 

What I learned from my journey in life is that I have the blood of warrior women coursing through my veins and so do you. We are survivors. We are Corn Mothers who brought everything holy into the world and we created life and gave love to all our children. I have loved thousands of children in my lifetime. I have taught and held and hugged countless children who needed hugs and love. I am blessed to have the ability to love not only my son but everyone's children. 

I will be honored as a Corn Mother in the Return of the Corn Mothers 2022 Exhibition at the Colorado History Center this October, and I'm proud of the work I've done in my lifetime. I honor my Corn Mothers who did not get recognition in their lifetimes but led the way for us. Go into the world and teach the children to love everyone and to be kind to those in need.  You will be blessed in your life and you will learn what it is to truly love and be loved. 

Corn Mothers Aimee Medina Carr and Juliana Aragon Fatula 

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

The Story Behind the Story – Part 3

By Lois Winston

The Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries take place in Westfield, NJ, the town where I lived for twenty-three years until my recent relocation to Tennessee. Westfield is famous for being the home of cartoonist Charles Addams of The Addams Family fame, as well as the infamous John List, who murdered his entire family in 1971, then disappeared. The hunt for List made international headlines, but it took eighteen years and an episode of America’s Most Wanted before he was finally apprehended.


In 2014 Westfield once again made headlines when both the national and international press descended on a stately, historic street a few blocks from where I lived. The mystery that drew this unwanted attention centered around a Dutch Colonial built in 1905. The house had recently sold for 1.35 million dollars.


However, shortly after the new owners took possession of the house, they received a very disturbing anonymous letter from someone who called himself The Watcher. Subsequent letters followed, threatening the new owners’ children. The Watcher knew the children' nicknames and mentioned having seen their young daughter painting at an easel, asking, "Is she the artist in the family?" Fearful for their safety, the family never moved into the house, although they continued to make extensive renovations to the property. 


Since the family received that first letter, they’ve sued the former owners, claiming they knew of The Watcher prior to the sale of the house. The former owners counter sued. Home disclosure laws vary from state to state. In NJ, even if the former owners had previously received letters from The Watcher, they wouldn’t have had to disclose that information.


The new owners tried to sell the house several times, each time reducing the price, but the home’s notoriety kept buyers away. They tried to have the house demolished but failed to get zoning approval to divide the property into two lots to build two smaller houses to recoup their losses. 


In a bizarre twist, at one point the husband admitted to sending nasty anonymous letters to some of the neighbors.


In 2016 the house became the inspiration behind a Lifetime movie and toppled the Jersey Devil from the top New Jersey’s creepiest horror myths. 


Extensive investigations over the years have failed to unmask the identity of The Watcher. Suspects have included the schizophrenic son of a neighbor as well as the owners of the house. 


In 2018 the family sold the rights to their story to Netflix in a 7-figure deal after a bidding war that included Universal, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Amazon, and Fox. This gives credence to those who believe that the family concocted the entire story, and there never was a Watcher.


BuzzFeed’s Ryan Bergara and Shane Madej of “Unsolved” profiled the Watcher House in the first episode of their fifth season. You can watch it here.


The Watcher House eventually sold in 2019 at a $400,000 loss.


With this real-life mystery unfolding in my own backyard, how could I not incorporate it into one of my books? In a subplot in Scrapbook of Murder, the sixth book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, The Watcher becomes The Sentinel, and his first letter arrives shortly after food editor Cloris McWerther and her husband sell their house. Although the police haven’t been able to solve the mystery of The Watch after eight years, Anastasia solves the mystery of The Sentinel.


Scrapbook of Murder

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 6


Crafts and murder don’t normally go hand-in-hand, but normal deserted craft editor Anastasia Pollack’s world nearly a year ago. Now, tripping over dead bodies seems to be the “new normal” for this reluctant amateur sleuth.


When the daughter of a murdered neighbor asks Anastasia to create a family scrapbook from old photographs and memorabilia discovered in a battered suitcase, she agrees—not only out of friendship but also from a sense of guilt over the older woman’s death. However, as Anastasia begins sorting through the contents of the suitcase, she discovers a letter revealing a fifty-year-old secret, one that unearths a long-buried scandal and unleashes a killer. Suddenly Anastasia is back in sleuthing mode as she races to prevent a suitcase full of trouble from leading to more deaths.


Buy Links







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


Website    Newsletter   Blog    Pinterest    Twitter    Goodreads    Bookbub 

Monday, February 21, 2022

A Founding Mother

by Paula Gail Benson

On this President’s Day, as we remember George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and their contributions to the United States, I’ve been reading about Betsy Ross. I knew she had been asked by George Washington to sew the first U.S. flag, but I was not aware of her personal history.

Elizabeth Griscom was born in New Jersey, the eighth of seventeen children in a Quaker family. They moved to Philadelphia when she was three.

Betsy was an enterprising young woman. Following her formal education, she apprenticed to an upholsterer, where she met her first husband, a fellow apprentice and Anglican named John Ross. They eloped when her family did not approve and set up their own business on Chestnut Street, where they were employed to make curtains for George Washington when he served in the Continental Congress.

In 1774, two years after their marriage, John passed away, leaving Betsy a twenty-four year old widow without children. She had to fend for herself and continued her business. From their past dealings, Washington knew he could trust her and approached her to make a flag he designed.


George Washington’s battlefield standard featured thirteen six-pointed stars on a blue background. His original design for the U.S. flag also had six-pointed stars, but according to an account by Betsy’s grandson, William Canby, she convinced him to agree to five-pointed stars by folding a paper into triangles and creating a five-pointed star with a snip of her scissors.      

From: Wikipedia Commons

Following her first husband’s death, Betsy married Joseph Ashburn, a seamen whose vessel, The Lion, was captured. After being charged with treason, he died in the Old Mill Prison in Plymouth, England. He and Betsy had two daughters, only one of whom lived to be an adult. A fellow prisoner, John Claypoole, brought Betsy the news of Joseph’s death. John and Betsy married and became members of the Society of Free Quakers, which supported the colonists’ fight against Great Britain. The Claypooles had five daughters, one dying while young.

As she grew older, Betsy Ross took in many family members and offered them a home, including nieces, Betsy’s widowed daughter Clarissa, and Clarissa’s five children. With Clarissa’s help, Betsy continued to work as an upholsterer and flag-maker until she retired at the age of seventy-six and went to live with her daughter Susanna outside Philadelphia. Despite losing her vision, Betsy made the weekly carriage ride into Philadelphia to attend services at the Free Quaker Meeting House. Three years before her death, Betsy was completely blind. She spent the last years of her life with her daughter Jane in Philadelphia.

From: Mommie Nearest

Philadelphia maintains 239 Arch Street as the building where between 1776 and 1779 Betsy Ross resided, conducted her business, and created the first U.S. flag. In 1876, her descendants identified the building as the place where she lived and worked. Today, it continues to house a collection of Ross memorabilia as well as being a place where history is interpreted and presented and where events (private or public) may take place.

As we celebrate the founding and continuing of our country, why not check out the Betsy Ross House?

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Write What You Know

By Barbrara J. Eikmeier

Hi! I'm a newcomer on the blog. Let me introduce myself: Most people call me Barb but I always use my full name when I'm writing. I live in Kansas where my full time job is a quilting designer, teacher and author. I travel all around the country (and via Zoom) giving quilting programs for quilt guilds. I go to California regularly where I co-own a retail quilt shop with my sister in law. I've written how-to instructional books and many magazine articles about quilters and quilting. And, I'm writing a novel that, of course, has a quilt in it. Quilting is what I know.

"Write what you know” is good advice. Your writing will ring authentic. But what if you’re seeking a quirky character for your novel? Or you need a fresh new location for a bad turn of events? Maybe it’s time to watch TV.

Recently, during a layover at the Denver airport, I noticed a group wearing hats with National Finals Rodeo logos. They were on their way home from the annual Las Vegas event. We chatted a bit and I said, “My 91-year-old father watches the NFR every year. He knows all those cowboys and their fathers!”

As I traveled, I considered what I knew about the NFR or rodeos in general. The answer was: Not much.

I was on my way to take a turn helping my parents. Seeing those traveler’s hats reminded me that, for the second consecutive year, I’d be watching the NFR every evening with my dad. I’ve discovered I don’t have to know much about rodeo to enjoy watching it. The trick is to watch with someone who knows the competitors, their records, their horses and their fathers! Every evening a different family member joined us. My knowledge expanded with each event as my dad and brothers explained rules, mistakes, and the history of the commentator’s own rodeo days.  When a bull ride is only eight seconds long the lineup of competitors whizzes by and it’s on to the next event, so if it’s boring (!) or painful to watch, the misery doesn’t last long!

After five days of NFR broadcasts, I don’t have enough knowledge to write a cowboy as a main character, or the arena as a primary location, but I’m thinking about it. I mentioned to my brother, “Maybe I should go in person.”

He laughed and said, “It’s sold out two years in advance.”

I checked. It is. And tickets range from $120 - $450 per night. That’s expensive research.

During my college days I spent a summer riding on a cattle ranch. I’m not a natural horsewoman. That is not me in the picture, although I once made the mistake of entering an arena on a well trained horse named Barbie. I didn't know what to do, but she sure did! I haven’t ridden in eons, but the experience gave me enough background to write a tack room into my novel. And I wrote a character who breeds and breaks horses.

I thought I’d written all I could about horses and cowboys. Now, after watching the NFR, I’m pondering a character who is absent from home while riding the rodeo circuit. Or maybe I’ll write about a former record setting cowboy who now works as a commentator at an annual small town rodeo. Or I might have a young woman pass through on her quest to break a title in barrel racing. She could make an interesting walk-on character when she needs a place to board her horse overnight. I have new ideas for dialog. Phrases like, “He’s out of the money,” or “There will be no buckle for him” should resonate with a reader who knows rodeo. And, the arena could be the scene of an accident, a death or foul play, not to mention eight seconds of tension during the bare back bronc ride.

There’s a new item on my to-do list: Find a golf enthusiast to watch a PGA tournament with. I don’t know much about golf. Yet.

Barbara J. Eikmeier is a quilter, author, student of quilt history, and lover of small-town America. Raised on a dairy farm in northern California, she enjoys placing her characters in rural communities. 

Monday, February 14, 2022

Putting the Character in Character

Happy Valentines all. So excited today's my day to blog because it gives me an opportunity to interrupt this session to tell you about the last day of my sale. I'm traditionally published and my publisher places my books on sale, not me.  So, before I get to my blog, allow me to a quick bit of promotion to tell you about this significant discount.

Now, back to The Stiletto Gang's regularly scheduled blog  and a bit of background on Black Pearl;)

By Donnell Ann Bell

One of the hardest things for me to do as a writer is to create characters. Some authors have told me, “Oh, my character came to me fully formed.” Others say, “Oh, I do character interviews to find out what makes him/her/them tick.”

Me? I ask my characters, “Who are you?” and most rudely shout back, “You’re the author, you figure it out.”

Not helpful. Makes me want to stuff them in a drawer until they can play nice.

Still, I can have an amazing plot, but if the characters don’t come alive, then my book is nothing more than words strewn on a page. No matter what genre you read, books are all about emotion, and characters bring emotion to life.

What’s more, without strong, relatable characters, readers might give a book a try, but they will just as quickly put the book down.

So, because I need characters in a book, and because my characters are stubborn and won’t talk to me, I cheat.

Yes, you heard it here first.

If my protagonist is in law enforcement, I interview members of law enforcement. If 
my protagonist is an FBI agent, I interview FBI agents. If my killer is an insane whack job…I interview mental health professionals and read books. (I fully admit I don’t interview whack jobs). By using these techniques, I find my muse comes to life and the characters cooperate.

In Black Pearl, my November 2019 release, I came across a new problem. I wrote my first female police officer. One would think, oh, that’s easy, you’re a woman. Au contraire, this character really dug in her heels. She had the nerve to call me, her creator, a fraud.

What did I do about it? I went to some fellow authors who in their past careers were law enforcement: Kathy Bennett, Phyllis Middleton, and Robin Burcell. I interviewed them and asked them about their experiences. These women were beyond helpful.

I took those results to my female police officer character. But instead of saying, “Great job,” she said, “You’re getting warmer. You need to know more. You need to get inside my head.”

Because she’s not real and I couldn’t shoot her, I did a lot of groaning and pacing. Then another idea came to me. I’m a graduate of citizens academies for my local police and sheriff’s office, so I marched into the Gold Camp Police Station one morning and asked the woman behind the glass partition if I could do a ride-along.

“Of course,” she replied and pulled out her clipboard. “Fill this out.”

I hesitated. “Thank you. I will. However, is there any chance I could do a ride-along with a female police officer? And is there any chance she could be a field training officer?”

The woman lifted an eyebrow. “Will there be anything else?”

I thought about it. “No that about covers it.”

As events turned out, there was a female field training officer in the Gold Camp Police Station at that very moment. The receptionist paged her; she came out to the front desk, introduced herself, said she was too busy to accommodate me just then, but two weeks later we did a ride-along on a twelve-hour shift.

She was amazing. Professional, smart, everything that Kathy, Phyllis and Robin exuded in spades. I saw how she conducted herself with the public and listened to her comments in private. Further, she helped me brainstorm my character, and one remark, she made hit me with such force, I took her at her word. “Please don’t make her a slut. We don’t get where we are by not being professional and smart.”

I went home after that shift and did my character outline and that’s when my character told me her name. “My name is Allison Shannon,” she said. “I come with plenty of baggage, but I’ve risen above it.”

I’ll close by saying, I’m intensely proud of Allison and she’s one of the best characters I’ve ever created. But as you can see, I didn’t create her alone. She’s a mix of some remarkable women I admire. She’s working in a man’s world. She’s tough, she’s formidable, but vulnerable at the same time, and she’s waiting to tell you her story.

Thank you for being with me today.

~ Donnell

About the Author: Donnell Ann Bell began her writing career at the Colorado Springs Business Journal and Pikes Peak Parent Newsmagazine before turning to fiction. An award-winning author, including a two-time Golden Heart finalist, she is the author of Black Pearl, book one of a series, Buried Agendas, Betrayed, Deadly Recall and The Past Came Hunting, all of which have been Amazon digital bestsellers. Black Pearl is her latest release, readers can expect book two of the Cold Case series in 2022, and she’s back to work on book three of the series. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter or






Happy Valentine's Day

by Saralyn Richard


Today is Valentine’s Day, and I hope you are spending the holiday enjoying the people, places, and things you love most. As for me, I can't help thinking of my most cherished Valentine's Day gifts over the years--you guessed it--books.

Unlike the more traditional Valentine's Day gifts, books don't die in five days. They don't increase the numbers when you step on the scale. They don't break or go out of style.

Instead, they provide hours of entertainment, improve the mind and spirit, offer topics for discussion, and connect readers. Also, purchasing books stimulates the economy, because so many different industries are involved in the creation, production, and selling of books.

Romances aren’t the only appropriate Valentine’s Day books. Most mysteries also include love in their plots, sometimes as motives. Whatever your genre, take yourself on a love-ly journey of the heart, and snuggle up with a great book!

Not ready to commit to a deep relationship? How about having a blind date with a good book? You might just fall in love!


Saralyn Richard is the award-winning author of the Detective Parrott Mystery Series, as well as the standalone mystery, A Murder of Principal, and the children’s picture book, Naughty Nana. Her new mystery, Bad Blood Sisters, is up for pre-order and releases on March 9. Check out Saralyn’s book events and subscribe to her monthly newsletter for fun content at

Friday, February 11, 2022

Love and Humor is in the Words

Love and Humor is in the Words by Debra H. Goldstein

Valentine’s Day and love is in the air. Cards and chocolates are flying off the shelves; flowers are being delivered. Here and there, on bent knee with ring in hand, there are even a few proposals of marriage being offered and accepted. It’s nice, but sometimes, there’s fun to be had at the expense of “love.” That’s exactly what I do in my upcoming Sarah Blair book, Five Belles Too Many.


I will admit that my NY editor loved the book and I giggle just thinking about different things in it. The premise of a reality show where the prize is a perfect wedding is simple. The complications are that the story is set in fictional Wheaton, Alabama and the wedding is being dubbed the perfect Southern wedding. Although different vendors are vying to be chosen for their invitations, flowers, food, and venue, the conflict comes from the finalists.


There are five finalist couples, who each represent a different segment of the population or

demographic. Being Alabama, there must be a couple who pull for Alabama and another who are die-hard Auburn fans. Mixing things up also requires a pure as the land couple (think Beverly Hillbillys) and one with a more goth edginess. The fifth couple is the charmer, though. That couple is Sarah Blair’s sixty plus mother, Maybelle, and her friend, George, who is a decade older than Maybelle. If you’ve read earlier Sarah Blair books, particularly Two Bites Too Many, you know Maybelle is feisty and well able to care for herself; but, all belles in the competition must have a chaperone.


That’s where Sarah come in. It seems silly to have a sixty plus bride-to-be with two grown daughters chaperoned, but rules are rules. So, twenty-eight-year-old Sarah is drafted as her mother’s chaperone. And that’s where the fun and humor begin.


Although I may be prejudiced, Five Belles Too Many was the most fun to write and one I think will keep you chuckling while also enjoying the more serious plotline. Five Belles Too Many will be published in June 2022 but is already available for pre-order. One of the reasons I think I enjoyed delving into the reality show world was that years ago, I was a Jeopardy contestant (and no, I didn’t have a streak like Amy’s). Were you ever on a reality show?