Friday, May 27, 2022


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.


Today, I delve into the decade I was born into but have only a vague recollection of—the 1950s. The vehicle for time travel was Lynn McPherson’s delightful The Girls Dressed for Murder. So far, there are three books with Izzy: The Girls' Weekend Murder, The Girls Whispered Murder, and The Girls Dressed for Murder.

I really want to go shopping in Twin Oaks, y’all, and that is saying something since I don’t have a shopping gene. But in lieu of that, I am chatting with Lynn.

TK: So, Lynn, what made you pick the 50s decade?

Lynn: Several years ago, I ran my own business. After five years, things went downhill, and we were forced to close. During that time, I became pregnant with my first child. My life changed overnight, and I went from a small business owner to a stay-at-home mom. I felt like I'd transported back in time, to the 1950s. It was a huge adjustment, and I began to watch a lot of I Love Lucy reruns. I thought about what a fun protagonist a homemaker from that era would make. From there, ideas began to percolate, resulting in the Izzy Walsh series.

TK: I love the interplay between your characters, “The Girls.” My favorite line was “Sometimes there was no other cure for a sad heart than a best friend.” How important are relationships to your stories?

Lynn: They are the core of the Izzy Walsh series. The love between Ethel and Lucy inspired me to show how important and amazing good friends can be (nevermind when you have a murder to solve)!

TK: Do you write the Izzy Walsh stories with a character arc or does Izzy get to just dig into the mysteries in the cozy coastal town of Twin Oaks? 

Lynn: Thanks TK. I always start out with a character arc and an idea of where the story is going to go and how it will get there. However, Izzy and her friends often get in the way. Sometimes they have a mind of their own and I have to fight to keep them in line. Usually by the end, we make up and a compromise is reached.


TK: What about the Brenna Flynn mysteries?  How are they similar or not?

Lynn: Brenna Flynn, the protagonist in Death On The Set, by Rose Kerr, definitely has some similarities to Izzy. Both characters are smart, inquisitive, and have a knack for trouble. I'd certainly recommend it as a fun read. The series is set in the current day, and Brenna Flynn is widowed, like Izzy, but she has no kids. Brenna is a former guidance counselor who lands a position as a production assistant on a cooking reality show.

TK: I see from your website that you have jumped out of an airplane. What, pray tell, drove that and how was the landing?

Lynn: Well, that was an adventure. I guess you could say I have a knack for finding trouble, too. I've gone skydiving three times and it was a blast. My best jump was in Australia. It was a tandem jump (I was attached to my instructor) and we jumped from 14,000 feet over the Great Barrier Reef. I saw turtles! We landed on the beach, and I couldn't shake the smile off my face for days.

TK: What did you do at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police? This sounds like fertile writing ground! Can we expect to see a plot thicken there at some point? I was a civilian employee and worked on transcripts for court prep. I read some pretty spicy stuff (too spicy for the cozy genre!). It certainly gave me some insight into character building, and I have a few ideas I might dive into at some point. But my true writing love is cozies so for now, I'm going to stick to small towns and amateur sleuths. 

Thanks Lynn, it was great to get to know you a bit, SG Sister!  

Lynn’s website:

Purchase all her books on Amazon

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, May 26, 2022

Mental Health and the Pandemic by Juliana Aragon Fatula

May 25, 2022

Dear Reader,

This year I’ve written book reviews, judged book contests, entered two manuscripts for publishing and started writing a new novel. My writing has been sporadic, and my submissions have been few, but I continue to write and read and do research and learn every day.

I’ve been writing for the Stiletto Gang for years and have written several posts about my life as a writer and educator. I’ve also written about my genealogy research and stories about my ancestors. I’ve posted book reviews and interviews. I’ve posted photos of my Chicana Garden and my flowers. I’ve written about my music therapy for the blues, and I’ve written about my dysfunctional family. I’ve told the stories of my life and how I ended up the Crazy Chicana in Catholic City in Red Canyon Falling on Churches, Colorado. My characters are based on the compilations of people I’ve known. Many of them are dead but I’m still here telling their stories. My imagination is wicked, and my sense of humor is dark and disturbing. I write from the heart and tell the truth, not the facts, the truth. 

My therapist tells me to get my joy back I need to think about the good things in my life and so I’m going to tell you about some of the good things that make me unique and adored. I am kind and generous and funny and smart and creative and silly. I like my eggs hard-boiled and with no runny yokes in my fried eggs. I only eat my meat well done never rare. I love children but have a soft spot for the elderly. I’ve rescued hundreds of at-risk teenagers and given them guidance and love. 

I’ve been married twice. Once when I was twenty-one. Divorced at twenty-two. It was a disaster. Married again and found my lifelong partner of 32 years and counting. I have one son, no daughters, no grandchildren, and lots of siblings, nieces, nephews, and cousins. All my aunts and uncles on both sides have died. My parents died on Christmas Day and Christmas Eve, many years apart. I am an orphan. 

I love zombies and werewolves and vampires and love stories about the unlovable. I listen to a variety of music but love Reggae and Dance music. I love to dance and have danced in too many saloons, dives, bars, and joints to count. When I was in my twenties, I played soccer in Colorado Springs and enjoyed running on the field playing fullback defense. 

I love animals and spoil my pets. My home is filled with houseplants and my garden is flowering from May to October with flowers and herbs. I grow my own cannabis for medication and make a salve for pain and edibles for dosing for my depression. I’ve had the same small-town country doctor for 40 plus years. I’ve known him longer than my husband. 

I began therapy again during the pandemic and am on my way to healing but it is a process, and you can’t rush or count on pharmaceuticals for a cure. It takes work. I’m working hard at healing and returning to my joyful self. I haven’t been joyful for a couple of years. I’ve stayed away from people and practiced social distancing to the extreme. I’ve been vaccinated, boosted, and boosted some more. I fear getting Covid or the Monkey Pox and avoid gatherings with people who are not vaccinated. My life has changed, and my joy has diminished but I’m striving for a better future where I travel and visit friends and enjoy going to writing workshops and comingling with strangers. 

Until I no longer fear the outside world, I’ll continue to hibernate in my comfy little house with my husband, Big Bad Baby Boy Bear, and Yogi. I’ll continue to write and read and submit my work and when my first novel gets published, I’ll celebrate. There is hope for me and I know I can be a better human being and that is what I’m working on. 

These photos of books in my library speak clearly about my choice of authors and subjects. I have a collection of poetry and novels by writers of color and it continues to grow. My skin color, brown, has been underrepresented for centuries and today that fact has changed. Please read books by writers of color and the LGBTQ community and broaden your understanding of the world. If you need any recommendations, I’m happy to suggest a book or two for you. Thank you and keep the faith. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Writing as Catharsis

Who would think this cute baby would grow up to be the inspiration
for the woman who makes the Wicked Witch of the West look like
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm?
By Lois Winston 

During an interview recently, the interviewer told me she loves Anastasia Pollack, my reluctant amateur sleuth, but the character she really, really loves is Anastasia’s communist mother-in-law. “You write the best antagonists!” she said, then asked me where I came up with the idea of giving my protagonist a communist mother-in-law.


This is a conversation I’ve had many times since Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, debuted in 2011. Lucille Pollack is the character my readers love to hate. Is it because so many of my readers have mother-in-law issues? Perhaps. 

Or maybe it’s because Lucille is such an over-the-top unbelievable character. I’m sure many readers think so, but here’s a little secret: Unlike all my other characters, Lucille didn’t spring from my imagination. The woman who makes the Wicked Witch of the West look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is based almost entirely on my own communist mother-in-law.


Yes, you read that correctly. My mother-in-law was a card-carrying commie. Beyond that, though, she was nasty, really nasty, especially if you dared to have an opinion that differed from hers. This was a woman who always knew everything, an expert on every subject. And she was always right—according to her. No one else’s opinions mattered because everyone else was always wrong. You didn’t have conversations with my mother-in-law; you were subjected to lectures—on every subject under the sun. She wasn’t perfect, though. She did fail at things, but when she did, it was always someone or something else’s fault. Never hers.


A couple I knew and whom my father-in-law had befriended, once called me the day after they had dinner with my in-laws. They wanted to know how I put up with “that woman.” This was a pattern throughout the years I knew my mother-in-law. Friends never lasted long because she was so insufferable.


Even my father-in-law, who had always seen his wife through rose-colored glasses, eventually woke up to her true nature. When he needed her most, she was too selfish and self-centered to be bothered.


The thing about antagonistic people, though, is that although they’re insufferable in real life, they make for great antagonists on the page. My mother-in-law grew increasingly nastier the older she got. However, instead of letting her get to me, I brought her doppelganger to life in the form of Anastasia’s mother-in-law Lucille Pollack. Whether it’s a matter of “don’t get mad, get even” or turning lemons into lemonade, all those years of putting up with my mother-in-law paid off in the end when I created the characters my readers love to hate. 


My one regret? My mother-in-law didn’t live to see my literary revenge, but it wouldn’t have mattered. She was too highbrow to waste her time reading fiction and certainly wouldn’t have read anything written by her stupid (her word) daughter-in-law. Twenty novels, five novellas, and a children's book later, revenge is sweet.

Meanwhile, Anastasia's mother-in-law Lucille winds up wreaking havoc yet again in Guilty as Framed, the 11th book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, now available for preorder.


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. Learn more about Lois and her books at her website where you can also sign up for her newsletter and follow her on various social media sites.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Interview with Cozy Author, Rose Kerr

By Lynn McPherson

I met Rose Kerr earlier this year at Malice Domestic. We had a few good chats over some delicious cake and I'm delighted to have her here today to talk about her great new book, Death on the Set. It's the first book in the Brenna Flynn Mystery Series, recently published by Touchpoint Press.

Rose, can you tell us about your debut novel, Death on the Set?

Brenna Flynn is my protagonist in Death on the Set. Brenna's had some bad luck. Her husband was killed in a highway accident, and then she loses her job as a high school guidance counselor due to budget cuts.

She returns home to Bayview City and works with a temp agency to find work until she can get work as a high school guidance counselor. 

Brenna interviews for the job of a production assistant for a cooking reality show and aces the interview. On the second day at work, she finds a body. The police think she may have something to do with the murder and she's their prime suspect.

Determined to prove her innocence, Brenna uses the skills she's honed as a high school guidance counselor to learn about the victim and members of the cast and crew. The stakes are raised with threatening notes, poisonings, and blackmail.

Can Brenna uncover who the killer is before someone else dies?

The story is so much fun. Where do you get your book ideas?

I had a lot of fun writing this book! For Death on the Set, my son and I were watching a cooking reality show and the head chef (who shall remain nameless) was especially nasty to the contestants. I looked at my son and said, one day someone is going to kill him. My son said, Mom, there's your story. It took a while to get that story out, but it was fun writing it. The other two books in the series came from ideas that had been in my mind for some time.

Why did you choose a former guidance counselor as your protagonist?

I've worked with guidance counselors in the past. Some skills they have seemed natural for my amateur sleuth to have. The skills Brenna uses include research, understanding how people think, observant, active listening, drawing people out, critical thinking, problem solving, gathering information, making informed decisions, Brenna genuinely likes people and wants to help them where possible.

How important is setting in your books?

Bayview City is a fictional town on the shores of Lake Superior. My husband and I raised our family in a small town in Northern Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. We had beautiful parks close to our town and took advantage of Lake Superior's coastline. The lake was a factor in our lives because of how often the weather changed. We had some storms that came up quickly. The lake is vast, majestic, and constantly changing. I've used some parts of the town we lived in and parts of larger towns and cities in my books. It's a setting I'm familiar and very comfortable with.

What's your writing process? Do you have an extensive outline? Are you a pantser?

I do a lot of preparation for my books; I outline thoroughly. In my series, my main character, Brenna Flynn, takes on temp jobs. It's important for me to understand the responsibilities  she has for each position. The recurring characters each support Brenna differently. New to the series characters need to be developed. I like to know who is the victim, who the killer is, and why they're the victim and the killer. I've tried pantsing and it just didn't work for me. I admire anyone who is a pantser! One thing I've started doing with book three is ending my writing session with a brief note reminding me of the next scene. It's been helpful to keep me on track.

Did you always want to be a writer? Why crime?

I wanted to write, but wasn't sure what to write. I tried my hand at writing romance, but it didn't stick. I found writing murder mysteries much more fun!

Who are your favorite cozy authors?

I have several authors that I reach for frequently: Connie Berry, Lynn Cahoon, Kate Carlisle, and Vicki Delany. I'm always looking for new cozy authors to read.

What's next for Brenna Flynn?

Book two, tentatively title Death in Academia, is with my editor. I'm writing book three, working title, Death at the Festival. I don't think Brenna is going to find work as a guidance counselor for some time!

Rose Kerr lived most of her adult life in small towns. She and her husband raised their family in a small town in Northern Ontario, on the shores of Lake Superior. Rose is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Guppy Online Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and Crime Writers of Canada. For more info visit

Facebook: https://

Instagram: @r.m.kerr

Twitter: @rkerrwriter

Pinterest: @rosekerrauthor


Monday, May 23, 2022

Short Story Month and a Diabolical Treat

by Paula Gail Benson

In World News ERA, Ashleigh Durden wrote an article “Why is May Short Story Month?” that delves into the history and practices to celebrate short fiction. She traces declaring May short story month to Dan Wickett, the founder and editor of the Emerging Writers Network (EWN), who on April 7, 2007, posted an article suggesting a short story month, just as April had been designated National Poetry Month. That following May, Wickett read and reviewed a short story a day. Due to reader enthusiasm, the next year it increased to two stories a day and in the third year to three stories a day.

Meanwhile, writers were urged to set a goal of the number of stories they would write during the month. continues this tradition with suggestions for short stories to read and prompts and advice about writing short stories.  

Earlier this month, on May 9, Malice Domestic released its latest anthology, Mystery Most Diabolical, published by Wildside Press and edited by Verna Rose, Rita Simmons and Shawn Reilly Simmons.

Art Taylor featured three of the stories in his The First Two Pages: “All in the Planning” by Marco Carocari, “There Comes a Time” by Cynthia Kuhn, and “Fly Me to the Moon” by Lisa Q. Mathews.

In addition, Barb Goffman, winner of the Agatha Award twice as well as the Macavity, Silver Falchion, and 2020 Readers Award given by Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, described her story, “Go Big or Go Home,” in her Sleuthsayers post “Everything is Fodder”, where she explains how almost any irritation can lead to a mystery short story.

Contributors to the anthology include editor, Edgar nominee, and Derringer award winner Michael Bracken; Agatha and Thriller award winner Alan Orloff; Agatha nominees Alexia Gordon, Cynthia Kuhn, and Keenan Powell; Al Blanchard award winner Mary Dutta; and Margaret Lucke who wrote an excellent craft book, Schaum's Quick Guide to Writing Great Short Stories.  

I’m proud and humbled to have my story included with those of many accomplished and distinguished writers. Here’s a complete list:

Leah Bailey · “A Killer in the Family

Paula Gail Benson · “Reputation or Soul”

M. A. Blum · “Little White Lies”

Michael Bracken · “Locked Mesa

Susan Breen · “The Demon Valentine”

Marco Carocari · “All in the Planning

Mary Dutta · “Devil’s Advocate”

Christine Eskilson · “The Reunion

Nancy Gardner · “Death’s Door”

Barb Goffman · “Go Big or Go Home

Alexia Gordon · “Happy Birthday”

B. J. Graf · “Servant of the Place of Truth

Maurissa Guibord · “Into the Devil’s Den”

Victoria Hamilton · “Reunion with the Devil”

Kerry Hammond · “Strangers at a Table”

Peter W. J. Hayes · “The Ice House”

Smita Harish Jain · “Keeping Up with the Jainses”

Cynthia Kuhn · “There Comes a Time”

Margaret Lucke · “The Devil’s-Work Ball”

Sharon Lynn · “The Professor’s Lesson”

Tim Maleeny · “A Cure For Madness”

Lisa Q. Mathews · “Fly Me to the Morgue”

Adam Meyer · “Crime Rate”

Alan Orloff · “There Once Was a Man Named Larue”

Keenan Powell · “Miss Millie Munz”

Graham Powell · “A Rough Idea”

Lori Robbins · “Accidents Happen”

Cynthia Sabelhaus · “Exegesis”

Nancy Cole Silverman · “The Case of the Sourdough Starter”

Shawn Reilly Simmons · “The Devil’s in the Details”

C. J. Verburg · “A Terrible Tragedy”

Andrea Wells · “Taking Umbrage

Here’s a little about the background for my story, “Reputation or Soul.” When I saw the call for Mystery Most Diabolical, I looked up “diabolical” in the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary. It had a note about the origins of the term, from the Greek “diabolos” that means “slanderer.” Usually, “diabolical” is associated with the devil. I began thinking about a trade off: if given a choice, which might a person be willing to live with--losing a soul or having a maligned reputation?

I started with an image of a jilted bride, sitting in a turret room in the church, knowing with certainty that her groom had skipped the ceremony as well as stealing a substantial sum of money. I was certain the bride remained calm about this occurrence and equally certain that her younger brother, the narrator of the story, was completely puzzled about her response.

Together, they went to visit their abusive father, now confined in a nursing home. The father berated them, but the sister spoke kindly to him without telling him about the runaway groom. Then, the sister asked her brother to go with her on her honeymoon trip, to a location where she expected the groom might resurface.

Whose action will hurt most? In a scenario where almost everyone has a reason to seek revenge, will it occur and what will be the consequence?

There are still a few more days left in the short story month of May 2022. Why not check out the stories in Mystery Most Diabolical? 

Friday, May 20, 2022

Book Babies: A Guest Post by Rosalie Spielman

I want to wish a very warm Stiletto Gang welcome to Rosalie Spielman. Rosalie has committed a portion of the proceeds of the sales of her book, Welcome Home to Murder, to the DAV - Disabled American Veterans. What a worthy cause! Read on to learn more about Rosalie and see how you can take part in this great fundraiser. --Shari Randall

Every author dreams of that day when the story that they labored over and loved into existence is birthed into reality. But what happens when the idea is not originally your own? I can tell you from experience, the birth is no less exciting!

After I was signed by my agent, the book I queried with went on submission and I casted around for new ideas just in case that one didn't work out. Then my agent posted that Gemma Halliday Publishing was looking for more authors for their multi-author series, Aloha Lagoon. I decided to give it a shot. I did my research, sent some ideas, and a writing sample. A few months later, I was given a contract to write Death Under the Sea, which became the 16th book in the series.

This contract came with a few limitations. Setting, to me, is a character itself in cozy mysteries. But in this case, Aloha Lagoon and its resort were already established, as were the detective and various other characters. So, while the characters of Kiki Hepburn and her friends are completely my own, she belongs to the series, and even, in part, to the other authors. I've made the metaphor that while I did give birth to Death Under the Sea, I was a surrogate for the publisher. No less pain or love put into it, just not completely my baby.

Compare that to Welcome Home to Murder, which was completely mine from conception to birth. There is so much of me in this book - the main character, Tessa, is a veteran from a military family, and originally from a tiny town. I come from a military family, was a veteran, too, as well as being a military spouse for over two decades. Writing a military character was second nature for me. I understand the special challenges of the military life as well as being sensitive to the problems and pain some service members endure.

My children occasionally make me cry. That includes my book babies. There's a scene in Welcome Home to Murder that I wrote crying, edited crying, and cannot read without crying. Still. Without fail, my eyes will begin leaking. In this scene, Tessa is reflecting on the losses she and her fellow service members have experienced. I will not pretend that I understand fully how service members who struggle with the unseen wounds of war feel. But I can sympathize - and empathize, to a point - and my heart aches for them.

When the book went out on submission, I had included some resources for veterans in need at the end of the manuscript. I was unsure that section would make it to publication. But when my publisher read it, they offered to donate a portion of preorders and early sales to one of the charities. This touched me so deeply. (So much, in fact, that I got choked up telling the crowd about it during my Malice Domestic panel.) I've chosen the DAV, or Disabled American Veterans, to receive the donation. This organization does so much for veterans who need help, and now, every reader who purchases Welcome Home to Murder in either format will also be helping. Welcome Home to Murder will be released on 7 June, 2022.

Originally from a tiny town in the Palouse region of Idaho, as a military brat, veteran, and military spouse (retired), Rosalie Spielman has moved more times than she has fingers to count on. Somewhere along the way, Rosalie discovered that she could make other people laugh with her writing. She enjoys reading to escape from the real world and hopes to give you the same with her stories.


Thursday, May 19, 2022

The Truth About True Crime: Why I'll Never Write One Again by Lynn Chandler Willis

My first book was a non-fiction account of a headline grabbing murder that happened in my own small town. As the owner, publisher, editor, ad sales (and design) and distribution manager of a small town newspaper, I covered the murder extensively, and often exclusively, in the paper.  Although the paper started small, we had a 13-year run and closed with a circulation of 10 thousand plus. Not too bad for an ad-supported bi-weekly newspaper. 

This murder was the only one I ever covered in the paper. The victim was a much-loved 28-year-old woman born and raised in the community. A devout Christian, she was very active in her church. In the thousands of hours of interviewing friends, family, witnesses, and co-workers not a single person said one negative things about Patricia Kimble. She was an all around good person whose family roots ran deep in the community. Her killer was––in keeping with true crime nature––her husband, but with a twist. Her husband hired his younger brother to kill her with the promise of a share of the $100,000 dollar life insurance policy the husband had just recently taken out on his wife. Ladies––if you're reading this––a payout increase in a policy, a new policy when you're already insured, these things are red flags. 

The brothers were also part of the community. Although their family roots didn't run deep like Patricia's, the boys grew up in town and their father was the minister at one of the local churches. We are talking about the bible belt so at any given crossroads, there was a Baptist church on one corner and a Methodist one on the other. So yes, the brothers, Ted and Ronnie Kimble, were preacher's sons. 

Ronnie (the younger brother) followed through with the murder. He shot his brother's wife in the head then set her body on fire. 

I sat through every single day of Ronnie's six-week trial, furiously scribbling notes and interviewing friends and family of Patricia's. The Kimbles were reluctant to talk. I watched home movies of Patricia's childhood while sitting in her father's living room. I devoured each page of her diary her mother entrusted others with. 

The book, Unholy Covenant, was published in the year 2000. My local Barnes & Noble hosted a book
release. Three television stations and an estimate of over 200 people showed up. It was standing room only. Many of the faces I recognized. Many I didn't and that was unnerving. By this time, the Kimble brothers had their own "following" of loyal fans proclaiming the brothers' innocence. The entire time I was at the podium taking questions about the book, I was waiting for a Kimble follower to throw out a question, or worse.

The book sold well and continues to this day with close to 60-thousand copies sold.  People started contacting me and asking if I'd write about their own experience with a murder that hit their own family. An uncle was murdered and the cops never investigated, they'd say. What they didn't say was the uncle was a known drug dealer and although the cops did investigate, they had no evidence. Sorry about your uncle but his death isn't dramatic enough. Or the woman whose son was shot down and killed in his own driveway by his estranged wife. Sorry, but your son's type of murder happens every day. Nothing really headline grabbing there. Can you imagine telling a grieving mother her child's murder isn't compelling enough to fill 300 pages? I'm sorry for your loss but it's just not that interesting. 

The first producer contacted me shortly after the book was released. He envisioned a feature-length movie. And Patricia wouldn't be a boring leasing manager like she was, she'd be an elementary school teacher because who doesn't love an elementary school teacher? And the lead investigator would need to be a rookie, not a veteran detective. I didn't accept his offer and nothing ever came of it. 

After that, every few years a new round of producers would call. Lifetime TV, 48 Hours, Discovery Channel, and so on and so on. Would I mind contacting Patricia's mother and her brother, they'd ask. It'd be great to have them on camera, again! 

Patricia's mother and her brother agreed to the first few requests. After all, the producers would tell them, it's keeping Patricia's memory alive. I began to wonder how Patricia was ever going to rest in peace if we kept revisiting the horrible crime every few years? How was her sweet, soft-spoken mother supposed to move on when the new batch of true crime docu-dramas and podcasts made the rounds? 

It was maybe ten years ago, maybe more, that I sat with Patricia's mother in her tiny, single-wide trailer, both of us sweating from the heat of the lights, and watched her quietly cry. Her daughter had been dead for several years by this time and the murderers were in prison for life, but here we sat forcing her to relive every second of the worst day of her life. Cut, the director would say, this time I want you to look directly at me and say it with a little more anger in your voice. Can you do that? You're doing great by the way.  

More tears. 

The next time a producer reached out I told them upfront I wouldn’t contact Patricia's mother for them. And I added that I doubted she'd want to participate. I was right and the project was scraped. A year or so ago, another producer contacted me and I actually recognized his name and some of the shows he'd been involved with. His IMDB credentials were impressive. It took me two weeks and a second email from him before I replied. The show was going to be based on my book, Unholy Covenant, and they were going to use passages from it, mainly the diary entries. I reluctantly agreed to participate because I liked the storyboard and how it would be presented. I told the producer to contact Patricia's mother and tell her what was planned, and if she ok'd it, we could move forward. He came back a few days later and said Patricia's mother told him she didn't want to participate in this one but she wished us the best, and gave her blessing to the project. And I was ok with that.

I did the show with a clear conscience. It's on the Oxygen Network and called Killer Siblings. A ridiculous title but aren't they all? Killer this or killer that. Murder here, murder there. I'm so sorry for your loss but can you cry a little more for the camera? I get that your son was murdered but publishers and producers are looking for the stories that make the headlines. I get that he was well liked, a real good guy. But did he feed the homeless? Did he volunteer for Meals-on-Wheels? Did he transport rescue dogs up and down the east coast? No? Oh, I see. He was your average guy.

He was just a victim. 

Here's the link to the Oxygen Network's show Killer Siblings: The Kimbles. It's from Season 3, episode 2.



Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Look! Life! Time... and The Saturday Evening Post

Yesterday, I cleared out my mother's last storage space, and now a dozen boxes and the same number of overflowing paper sacks are stacked three deep in my living room, which now resembles the local Goodwill store. I've given away half the stuff, but the things that slowed me down are choosing the special items I want to give to relatives and friends, and a stack of old magazines: Look, Life, Time, and The Saturday Evening Post.

Each publication provides a fascinating glimpse into what the world was like decades ago. Mom was very particular in what she saved. History-changing movements like the U.S. political climate and space exploration were high on her list, as well as social change, especially reflected in the magazines from the '60s.

The Saturday Evening Post from October 17, 1959 is the earliest issue. Nine articles featured everything from the changing role of the family doctor to a profile of F.D.R. There were four short stories and two serials in that issue, too, including a mystery by Erle Stanley Gardner. What a writer's market it was!

The most recent issue is Life, from January, 1983 which reviewed the most meaningful events from 1982 and covered conflicts in Central America, the Middle East, Poland, Iran and Afghanistan. Sound familiar?       

But, the advertising! Just one peek at what was new and cool back then shows how different our world is today. Here are a few ads for your enjoyment: 
Exciting and New!

Will it work with my IPhone?
Who needs Google maps?

Braniff and Pan American. Long gone.
The convenience of Siri and Alexa is breathtaking, offering information about almost anything in an instant. And we no longer have to plug a lightbulb into a camera to take a snapshot. Too bad we haven't made much progress on more serious problems that have plagued us for decades.

Bad news aside, at least good old Speedy still has a solution for our everyday aches and pains. Plop plop. Fizz fizz!

Gay Yellen 
writes the award-winning
Samantha Newman Mysteries including
The Body Business,
The Body Next Door
(available on Amazon)

Coming soon,
The Body in the News

Monday, May 16, 2022

First Signing at Malice Domestic

by Paula Gail Benson

For many of us, a return to an in-person Malice Domestic this year was truly a reason for celebration. Having the opportunity to greet and spend time with folks who have become like family was completely joyous (even though an outbreak of Covid marred the occasion at the end).

Elizabeth Crowens, Kaye George, Marilyn Levinson, Leslie Karst, me, and Kathryn O’Sullivan

Alan Orloff, Art Taylor, and Janet Laubgross
I’ll remember this Malice for many terrific experiences: (1) a blurring genres panel with a group of terrific authors (marvelous moderator Elizabeth Crowens, and fellow panelists Kaye George, Leslie Karst, Marilyn Levinson, and Kathryn O’Sullivan); (2) being at the Agatha banquet table with wonderful authors and dear friends Alan Orloff, who won for Best Young Adult Novel for his I Play One on TV, his wife Janet Laubgross, Art Taylor and Tara Laskowski, John Copenhaver, Julie Hastrup, and Marco Carocari; (3) enjoying a few quick meals with excellent cozy authors Dorothy McFalls and Victoria Gilbert; (4) having a group photo with my super blogging partners for Writers Who Kill; (5) spending some time with Art and Tara’s talented son Dash; and (6) getting to tour Washington with a delightful guide, Aziz Rakla, and the charming Michael Bracken and lovely Temple Walker (who would leave the next day to celebrate the Edgar best short story nomination for “Blindsided” written by Michael and James A. Hearn).

Tara Laskowski and John Copenhaver

Even with all of those and many other memorable moments (like hugs from Edith Maxwell and Dru Ann Love and great conversations with Charlaine Harris, Toni Kelner, Terrie Farley Moran, and Jeanne Dams), this Malice will always stand out in my mind as the one when my short story “Reputation or Soul” was published in Malice Domestic’s 16th anthology Mystery Most Diabolical and, for the first time, I participated in a Malice signing. Following the live charity auction, from 9:30 until 10:30 pm on Friday, April 22, 2022, the contributors from both Malice Domestic 15: Mystery Most Theatrical and Malice Domestic 16: Mystery Most Diabolical who were at the conference gathered at tables in the hallway outside the ballrooms and became part of a conveyor style signing process.


I’m proud not only to be in a Malice Domestic anthology, but also to have my story with the works of other authors I greatly admire. For the signing itself, I got to meet Lori Robbins who shared a table with me. And, I’m very grateful that a kind soul offered to take my copy of the anthology around to get signatures while I participated in the signing.

At signing with Lori Robbins

Thank you to all the Malice planners. You always make the event a wonderful occasion. And, particular thanks for my signing experience, a dream come true.


Friday, May 13, 2022

Why 'Google' Isn't a Synonym for 'Research'


The quote about Google and research belongs to author Dan Brown, who himself undoubtedly spent days, weeks, months researching his complicated thrillers and was accused (but not convicted) of lifting information from books, journals, and blogs written by others which were available online. So, what was he talking about? There’s so much information on the web. Isn’t Googling information a good way to research a book in this day and age?

We all know research can be a black hole, sucking up precious time while deceiving us into thinking we’re accomplishing something. That’s one problem. The bigger problem for me is deciding how much of that fascinating research to include in the book. Here’s an example from my brand-new mystery, The Shadow of Memory.

When my characters travel from one location to another, I ask questions. What kind of terrain will they encounter at that time of year? Are there any landmarks or unusual features that will capture their attention? Since I can’t always be in the UK, I have Google Earth. Which leads to Wikipedia and all

sorts of information connected with my story. While researching Vivian Bunn and Kate’s drive from Long Barston to the fictional village of Upford, for example, I happened upon the quaintly named “crinkle-crankle walls,” typical of East Anglia. I was captivated.

In an early draft of the novel, Vivian Bunn is reading to Kate about local history as they drive:

“It says there’s no market in Upford anymore,” Vivian said. She was reading something

on my cell phone again. “Their claim to fame is a crinkle-crankle wall running along the main north-south road—smaller than the more famous one at Easton but just as picturesque.” She looked up. “I’ve seen the one at Easton.”

“What does crinkle-crankle mean?”

“Let’s find out.” She peered at my phone screen. “A crinkle-crankle wall is an unusual type of serpentine garden wall found mostly in East Anglia and especially in Suffolk. The walls began appearing in the seventeenth century when Dutch engineers were draining the fens. Because of their stability, they were especially well suited to the soggy, unstable ground. Sometimes as many as fifty bricks high, they actually require fewer bricks than a straight wall—Really? I wouldn’t have thought that—because a wavy wall can be built one-brick thick whereas a straight wall needs at least two layers of bricks. The American president Thomas Jefferson incorporated serpentine walls into the architecture of the University of Virginia, which he founded in— Look! She screeched so suddenly I nearly veered off the road. “There it is.”

Sure enough—a sinuous red-brick wall snaked along the road on our right. We were so taken by the sight, we almost missed the turning toward the village center.

Yes, I was beguiled by my research. No, crinkle-crankle walls had absolutely nothing to do with the story. They needed to go. Here’s the final version: 

The address we’d found for the Beaufoys—Wren Cottage, 27 Bramble Walk—led us to

           the east side of the market town of Upford, close to the Essex border. A sinuous red-brick

           wall snaked along the road on the right. We were so taken by the sight, we almost missed

            the turning toward the village center.

The problem with research-by-Google is too much information and the temptation to include it in the book. I’ve learned my lesson. Now, when I’m tempted to chuck in that captivating bit of research, I ask myself four questions:

1. Is this information necessary to orient the reader in the scene?

2. Does it draw the reader in emotionally or viscerally so she is experiencing the scene along

    with the characters?

3. Does the information move the plot forward in any way?

4. Does it reveal anything significant about the characters?

If my answer is four “no’s,” I leave it out.

What is the most interesting piece of information you’ve ever found while researching a book?

Did it make it into the finished manuscript, or did you end up cutting it out?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Connie Berry writes the Kate Hamilton Mysteries, set in the UK and featuring an American antiques dealer with a gift for solving crimes. She was raised by antiques dealers who instilled in her a passion for history, fine art, and travel. Her debut novel won an IPPY Gold and was an Agatha Award finalist. Connie is a member of MWA, CWA, and SinC. She loves history, foreign travel, cute animals, and all things British.








Wednesday, May 11, 2022


 by Bethany Maines

One of my manuscript was recently rejected.  And you can guess how I feel about that. Not good. 

I think the harshest part was that the editor took the time to reject it personally.  When you get a form letter, you can pretend that no one really read it and that your genius will go undiscovered another day. When they take the time to tell you why they hate your book-child and why it's deformed and hideous then it feels a little personal.  I admit that the individual may not have used those EXACT words.  But that's what it feels like.  

But the problem with writing is that if you want to have your work read by other human beings then first it has to... be read by other human beings.  And those jackasses keep having opinions! The nerve! The unmitigated gall! 

The other problem with this particular work is that I’ve also written it to be a script.  I believe the idea is imminently wonderful and would be a great TV show.  However, TV and Publishing have two wildly different esthetics.  The notes I’ve received on the script were that it should be funnier.  The book notes said there was too much banter.  Or in other words... too funny. 

Here’s the idea.

Vampire Heist (based on A Bite of Paris): When the vampire Nicholas de Cervon discovers that his former home is now a museum he reunites the old horde to pull off the heist of his after-life and get revenge on the Igor who betrayed him.

I don’t know what to tell you.  I like banter.  Will I be taking another editorial pass at it to see if I can make my characters express the dreaded ennui and tragedy that makes up the drudgery of life (places hand dramatically on brow)... yes, I probably will.  Will I add a pratfall to the script... maybe.

Meanwhile, today is #screenpit over on Twitter. If you like my vampire idea and agree that it should be a TV show, head on over and give me a retweet today.


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