AI Writes Novels?

Three years ago, I wrote a blog about the probabilities of writers being replaced by artificial intelligence apps that would write faster, better books. I cited an article in The Guardian stating that AI’s capability to write creative, coherent novels was still decades in the future. I slept well after reading that article.

It now appears “decades in the future” is shrinking to basically being around the corner.

This past December, Ammaar Reshi used readily available computer apps to create Alice and Sparkle, a children’s picture book. He has not hit any best seller lists and the book is controversial, especially with graphic designers who feel portions of their work can be plagiarized since the apps use composites of what is online from designers who created the digital art from scratch.

Jennifer Lepp writes paranormal cozy mysteries under the pen name Leanne Leeds. She completes a manuscript in 49 days. “This pace,” she said, “is just on the cusp of being unsustainably slow.”

Recently Lepp was behind schedule, and she turned to Sudowrite¹, an app designed for fiction writers, to complete her novel by her 49-day deadline. She pasted a few paragraphs of her novel into the app, added instructions, and was so amazed by the results, she tweeted exuberantly about the experience.

Lepp quickly learned to steer the AI by outlining a scene, pressing expand, and letting the program do the writing. She edits the output, pastes it back into Sudowrite, and prompts the AI to continue. She is more productive than ever and continues to use the app though she claims to keep it on a short leash.

Obviously, I’m not sleeping well after reading articles on the adaptation of AI for increasing an author’s productivity. We’re not speaking of going from handwritten manuscripts to the typewriter to a Word document. It’s about an assembly line using a word-smithing computer robot.

Call me old-fashioned, but AI enhanced novels are not what I want to read. And I certainly don’t plan to use computer enhancement in my own work.

Yet the technology will continue to improve, and I can envision a time, not too far away, when authors will rely more and more on AI. I can also envision an Orwellian not-too-distant future when robots will develop more creative stories than the writers themselves using these apps. Or AI will write for the AI universe while humans merely clean and dust the abodes of fully conscious robots.

***

¹Amit Gupta and James Yu, developers turned sci-fi authors, designed Sudowrite.

About Kathryn

Kathryn Lane is the award-winning author of the Nikki Garcia Mystery Series.

In her writing, she draws deeply from her experiences growing up in a small town in northern Mexico as well as her work and travel in over ninety countries around the globe during her career in international finance with Johnson & Johnson.

Kathryn and her husband, Bob Hurt, split their time between Texas and the mountains of northern New Mexico where she finds it inspiring to write.

 

Kathryn’s Latest novel:

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BSHFRD11

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Stolen-Diary-Kathryn-Lane/dp/1735463833/

 

 

 

Photo Credits:

Alice and Sparkle – Public Domain

Illuminated manuscript photo by Kathryn Lane

Stolen Diary Book Cover by Tim Barber

A Sneak Peek into HOW THE MURDER CRUMBLES

 

By Debra Sennefelder

January is now behind us and I’m settling into February quite nicely. Last week I finished the first draft of the next Food Blogger mystery and now it’s set aside for about a week while I turn my attention onto my next release, HOW THE MURDER CRUMBLES. I’m so excited for this release because I love the story so much and I love, love, love the characters who populate the charming town of Wingate, Connecticut. The one downside to this book while I was writing it was that since it featured a cookie baker, I always wanted cookies. I thought today, I’d share an excerpt from the book with you. In this snippet, Mallory is leaving work and heading home to get ready for date night with her boyfriend.

With her apron off, she grabbed her cookie mug prototype for Gil’s company. On her way to the back door, she picked up her backpack. When she reached her bike, she set the cellophane-wrapped mug in the basket and then unlocked the bike. So many things had changed when she made the move from Manhattan to Wingate. She had traded her one-bedroom with a Hudson River view for a cottage. She had swapped her beloved high heels for supportive shoes. And her commute had gone from subway to bicycle.

A lot of changes in a short period for someone who craved stability and had an aversion to making spontaneous decisions. But it had seemed that the stars had aligned a few months ago. A lost promotion, a merger that made her position at her company vulnerable, and a backstabbing colleague had Mallory craving career independence. Then her aunt had called with the news that she wanted to sell her bakery, the place where there were so many memories of her childhood. By the end of the call, Mallory had said she would buy the bakery. Over the following weeks, she had pulled together a business plan and shared her vision of what she wanted her bakery to be. Then, with her aunt’s approval, she went for it. She’d never felt so exhilarated and scared to death at the same time.

She hopped on her bike and cycled down the driveway along the two-story building that housed The Cookie Shop. On the second floor was a studio apartment that was currently between tenants.

Then she turned onto Main Street. The winding street was Wingate’s central hub of activity and was postcard-perfect from one end to the other. Century-old lampposts dotted the long stretch of sidewalk where historic brick-façade shops mingled with Victorian painted ladies and stately Federal period buildings. Once a manufacturing town, Wingate was now known for its shops, restaurants, and galleries. Being named one of the Top Ten Shopping Destinations in the state for eight years running by CT Life and Style magazine, the town had become the place that had something for everyone—from thrifty shopper to antique connoisseur to weekend explorer.

Her next turn took her down Lilac Lane, a residential street where front yards bloomed with bright spring colors, and birdsong filled the air as she pedaled along the road. At the stop sign, she made a right onto Old Lantern Road, and within a minute, her rental cottage came into view.

Her for-now home was a hodgepodge of architectural styles—part cottage, part Craftsman, part Victorian. The sage green dwelling with a picket fence was utterly delightful. When she found it, she hadn’t hesitated to write the check for the deposit and one month’s rent. She also wasted no time in purchasing an Adirondack chair to sit by the pond where she could ponder her life-changing decisions. Unfortunately, though, she’d yet to have time for the reflective exercise.

 

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek into the book. To pre-order, please click here.

Now, I’d love to know what your favorite cookie is. Mine is oatmeal raisin (which is one of the recipes in the book).

 

 

Debra Sennefelder is the author of the Food Blogger Mystery series and the Resale Boutique Mystery series. She lives and writes in Connecticut. When she’s not writing, she enjoys baking, exercising and taking long walks with her Shih-Tzu, Connie. You can keep in touch with Debra through her website, on Facebook and Instagram.

Image of book pages

New Loves: Starting a New Series

By Sparkle Abbey

Happy February! Hard to believe that it’s February already and you know what that means…  It means winter is not quite over and many parts of the US are feeling that intensely. But it also means Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. We’re thinking you probably already knew that due to the bloom of candy and hearts at the grocery store. And every other store, come to think of it.

But what does that have to do with writing? Well, we kicked off 2023 by beginning to write a new mystery series and as we’ve moved forward with the first book, we’ve realized that starting a new series is a lot like the beginning of a new romance.

A new series involves a lot of firsts:

  • Getting to know your character’s likes and dislikes. Favorite restaurant, favorite movies, what do they do in their downtime.
  • Unraveling their backstory bit by bit. What’s their history? Where are they from?
  • The first time your characters meet each other.
  • The first time they disagree. Their first fight.
  • And of course, because it’s a mystery – the first dead body.

And just like in falling in love, you never forget your first love. So, there are a few things that we’re bringing along to the new series:

  • We loved writing two main characters with different points of view and so there are two protagonists in the new series.
  • Of course, there will be pets, though they aren’t the focus of these stories.
  • We both love a beach so while this series isn’t set in California, the new setting does take place near the sea.
  • And there are some characters that we just couldn’t leave behind, so look for a few cameos in the new series.

We are loving this new series and these new characters, and we’re hoping our readers enjoy the new stories as much as we’re enjoying writing them!

If you’d like to keep in touch with us and get updates about the new series, please sign up for our newsletter here: SparkleAbbey.com

sparkle and abbey

Sparkle Abbey is actually two people: Mary Lee Ashford and Anita Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mysteries series. They are friends as well as neighbors so they often get together and plot ways to commit murder. (But don’t tell the other neighbors.)

They love to hear from readers and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, their favorite social media sites. You can also follow them on BookBub to be notified when there are special offers.

 

Clicking Our Heels – Blurbing, Reviewing, Writing, and Reading – The Balancing Act

Clicking Our Heels – Blurbing, Reviewing, Writing, and Reading – The Balancing Act

Authors are often asked to blurb or review books. At the same time, they often are working against deadlines or on schedules in terms of their own writing, pleasure reading, and lives.. The question becomes how to balance all of these things? Today, the Gang shares its thoughts on the great balancing act.

 Saralyn Richard – This is a hard question to answer, because I don’t do a very good job of balancing. Deadlines are game-changers, and they wreak havoc with my best-planned schedules for reading and writing.

Linda Rodriguez – I have to do a lot of reading for work, since I do editorial work and developmental editing. Balancing the books I read for those, the books I read to blurb, the books I read for research for current fiction and nonfiction work and any reading for pleasure is difficult. I do a lot of reading for pleasure in the middle of the night when I’m up with pain or other illness problems, so that’s one help.

Lois Winston – I don’t make promises. I always tell authors I will try to find time. Most of the time, I do, but this way I have an out if I’m too swamped. I don’t want to hurt another author’s feelings by making a promise I can’t keep.

Debra H. Goldstein – I set priorities and try to accomplish everything, but in doing so, I recognize that there are times personal desires fall by the wayside.

Dru Ann Love – If I’m asked to do a blurb, it’s usually a book that I plan to read for pleasure.

Debra Sennefelder – Writing always comes first. Then I’ll work out how to manage the to-be read books. When I’m asked to read a book for a blurb or review, I work it into my reading schedule. Luckily, those books are books I’ve wanted to read anyway.

Donnell Ann Bell – I’ve blurbed two books this year, so that hasn’t been that time-consuming, and I enjoyed both. I read for pleasure late at night, which means that I’m slow because daylight comes much too early.

Shari Randall/Meri Allen – I’m always honored when friends ask me to blurb their books. It means I get an early read! But it’s difficult to fit in extra reading with all the writing I do (and my three book club books a month) so it’s gotten too difficult to fit into my schedule.

Kathryn Lane – I feel honored when I’m asked to write a blurb. Reading the book is a pleasure, it’s writing the blurb that’s difficult! I’m still working on balancing my reading and writing activities!!

T.K. Thorne – I will only blurb a book I truly enjoyed. Funny, when I was working, I dreamed of being able to write full time. Now that I am a full-time writer, I dream of reading books for pleasure!

Mary Lee Ashford – It’s such a compliment to be asked and so hard to say no when you get a request to provide a blurb for another author’s book, especially when it’s an author whose work you admire. However, this is a case where I just have to be practical and really look at whether there’s the time in my schedule to read the book and write the blurb or review within the timeframe. If there is time in my schedule, I’m always thrilled to be able to do it!

 

 

 

 

 

When Walls and Water Speak

One day, I looked at an area along the brick walkway in the front of my house and realized I needed to do something extreme. Despite having spread grass seeds more than one season, only weeds grew in the shadow of a magnificent weeping yaupon that arcs over the sidewalk and shaded a crescent-shaped area.

I looked at it with despair and frustration.

(How many times have I looked at a blank page without a clue what words to paint on it?)

Suddenly, I saw a garden in that crescent-moon space. In a previous post, “Goddess in the Garden,” I wrote about its transformation into a moss-garden.

But nature had other ideas. When it rained, water caught in the yaupon’s draping branches, streaming down them in torrents that hit the ground and tunneled trenches into my creation.

(How many times have the words I carefully crafted looked very different when I returned to them later, requiring I rewrite them or throw them out altogether?)

I tried to repair the craters, but each time it rained, the holes and mini-gullies returned. The space was not happy. I was not happy. But I had put in so much work!

It was not fair.

I grumped. And repaired what the water had torn up.

Until it rained, yet again . . . as it is wont to do. And again.

Finally, I surrendered.

“What do you want to be?” I asked my garden.

(Once, I wrote about a blank wall speaking to me, eliciting mockery from a local radio host, but the wall wanted something, and I listened.)

“I want to be a pond,” my garden said. “I want the water.”

“What about little rocks?” I mused. “Can’t I just put pebbles down where the water flows?”

The garden’s reply was a definite, “No.”

So, I began to dig. It hurt to dig up what I had painstakingly planted, what was beautiful just as it was, for something new.

[How many times do we have to start over in our lives, to force open scars, so new love and light can enter?]

I dug for days. Frogs came to visit.  One cutie in particular dove into my hole on three occasions, probably looking for a place to hibernate for the winter. I took him out each time and asked him to be patient.

Finally, the hole was done…I thought. Then came the Plastic War.  Instructions on lining the pond sounded very simple.

Not.

One of our horses, who should be named “Curious George,” made an appearance to help out, but alas, was not equipped. Hubby helped with the large rocks I coveted. It was a great feeling when they settled into place!

 

 

   

The rocks came from the streams and creeks on our property. My husband became accustomed to having his truck appropriated for rock gathering expeditions.

My fear was that the black lining would show along the steep sides in the deep end. I had never done anything like this and had no real plan other than the foundation rock placements.

(How many times have I started a book with only a few words, just a sketchy idea of my characters, and no idea what happens next?)

I tempted the creative muse yet again with my crazy pond idea. Yet, she didn’t fail me.

My biggest fear was the sides of the deep end.  How would I keep from having gaps that showed the liner?

As I worked, I realized the edges of the stones placed on edge along the bottom provided a shelf for another layer and so on. Each stone had to be fitted for shape and stability. They let me know when it wasn’t the right place for them.

When I thought I was finally finished, the water said I was not honoring its flow, and I had to tear up and redo a section.

It is the middle of winter. The plants I tried to save are hopefully sleeping. Some of the moss is thriving, even in the cold. The water is happy, flowing as it wanted to all along. The garden is something very different than it was and yet the same.

Isn’t that so of us, as well?

Every moment we are different, a memory of all the moments before spun into the illusion of a constant, just as the garden changes every moment—as water swirls, plants grow and rest, leaves fall and change form. Every morning when I visit, I and the pond are new and old. Sometimes I change it by way of a rock that needs adjustment, a tuft of moss to add, or a new idea of where a gift of crystal should nestle.

Sometimes I just breath in the peace of it.

(The tales I’ve told don’t change once they are printed, yet each time a reader opens the book, they come alive, changed by the perspectives and person who recreates them from a few words. The stories are the same and yet different, a joining of imaginations—theirs and mine.)

I am looking forward to the spring when I hope my frog friend will return.

T.K. Thorne photo

T.K. Thorne is a retired police captain who writes books and blogs that go wherever her imagination takes her. TKThorne.com

On Birthdays and Bucket Lists

By Lois Winston

Have you ever noticed the older we get, the swifter the years go by? I can remember walking home from school and bemoaning the fact that summer vacation was still six weeks away. Six weeks seemed like an eternity to eight-year-old me. Now six weeks often flies by at warp speed.

I bring this up because my birthday month is approaching, and I’m wondering how I ever got this old. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I gave birth to my first son? I remember the day as if it were yesterday. Yet now he’s the father of three, the oldest of whom is in his first year of college.

Who knows where the time goes?

Judy Collins once asked that question in a song. I’m asking it a lot lately. Back in the sixties the Boomer Generation suggested no one should trust anyone over thirty. Now we’re confronted by the derisive insult of “OK, Boomer” by the generations that have followed behind us. To paraphrase a quote from another songwriter of my generation, the times they are a-changin’.

Once upon a time birthdays were something we looked forward to—parties, gifts, cake and ice cream! Yea! So many of those birthdays connoted milestones we looked forward to—Sweet Sixteens, getting a driver’s license, voting, ordering that first legal glass of wine. Wishes were often fulfilled on birthdays, the one other day of the year besides Christmas or Hanukkah when you might receive that new bicycle or pair of skates.

Now at this point in our lives, if we want something, we buy it for ourselves. Most of us have too much stuff already. When we moved nearly two years ago, we got rid of those things we hadn’t used in decades. Why on earth did I keep a soup tureen I received for Christmas more than thirty years ago but never used? Does anyone ever use soup tureens? And I haven’t a clue as to the last time I used the fondue pot we received as a wedding gift. 1980-something? Those items and much more wound up at the donation center. Hopefully, someone will put that soup tureen and fondue pot to good use.

Bucket Lists are now more important than soup tureens and fondue pots. Whittling down the Bucket List had taken priority prior to the pandemic. Now we’re once again thinking about venturing out into the world. I still haven’t gotten to Scandinavia or Great Britain, and I really would love to see the Terra Cotta Warriors in China.

What about you? What’s on your Bucket List?

In celebration of my birthday, I’m giving away several promo codes for a free download of the audiobook version of Death by Killer Mop Doll, the second book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series. Post a comment for a chance to win.

 

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.

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Interview with Sarah E. Burr

By Lynn McPherson

I’m so excited to have Sarah E. Burr visiting us today. Sarah is the author of three very different series, including Trending Top Mysteries, Glenmyre Whim Mysteries, and the Court of Mystery series. She is also host of The Bookish Hour and It’s Bookish Time, along with J.C. Kenney. If that weren’t enough, Sarah has a social media content creation service just for authors, called BookstaBundles. Let’s dive in and find out more about Sarah!

You write the Trending Topic Murder Mysteries, the Glenmyre Whim Mysteries, and the Court of Mystery series. How do you manage to keep on top of all three? Do you write one at a time or simultaneously? How do you stay organized?

My characters are the ones who really help me stay organized. Coco Cline, Hazel Wickbury, and Duchess Jacqueline—my three heroines—are all very different in personality, but they are all very vocal in having their moment. It helps that the worlds they inhabit are also very distinct. Coco lives on a beach in Delaware, Hazel solves crimes in an upstate New York town with a supernatural sparkle, and Duchess Jacqueline ventures around a fictional realm. Because of these distinctions, it’s hard for me to mix them up. But I try to make it easy for myself by focusing on one world at a time. I’ll dedicate my writing time to a particular project and work exclusively on the manuscript as much as I can. For instance, I’m working on the next Glenmyre Whim Mystery with Hazel, so Coco and Duchess Jacqueline are on a well-earned vacation.

Each of these series is unique. Do you have a favorite one to write? Are there different readers in each genre?

Ooo, I can’t choose a favorite. Each series offers me a different escape and a new experience to live vicariously through. But I will admit that there are some supporting characters I prefer writing over others (Jasper and Poppy, I’m looking at you—although, please don’t tell them I used the word “supporting,” as they are stars in their own right). As for readers, I like to think I have something to offer to any mystery lover. Readers who enjoy contemporary cozies will have a blast getting to know Coco. Readers who love a little magic sprinkled on their mystery should check out Hazel, and those who appreciate fantasy and exploring new worlds can find something special in Duchess Jacqueline. And if you love all those reading experiences, I have sixteen (and counting) books waiting for you!

I’m currently listening to the audiobook of #FollowMe for Murder. It’s so well done. Coco Cline is hilarious. Where do you draw your inspiration for ideas and characters?

Thank you! It’s always so lovely to hear that someone appreciates my sense of humor because writing humor is challenging for me. It takes me a long time to think up jokes and quips—that’s often the hardest part of my writing process. Regarding the characters in #FollowMe for Murder, I took experiences with charismatic, extroverted people from my own life and dialed them up by one thousand percent. Coco and her friends are larger-than-life, and it’s so much fun writing about the shenanigans they get up to. I also lean into my pop culture interests in the Trending Topic Mysteries. A guilty pleasure of mine is celebrity gossip, so I love to weave references to actors, public figures, and movies into Coco’s dialogue and thoughts.

There are a lot of social media tips readers can pick up on in the book. How did you become so savvy?

Through experience.Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have been a part of my life since my high school days. They’ve just always been something I’ve used. I’m also a big fan of technology, so when something new comes out, I love learning the platform’s ins and outs. Social media isn’t inherently intuitive, so sitting down and taking the time to understand how to use it is a great place to start. Investing your time—not money—in social media is incredibly important.

Each writer seems to do things their own way. Mind sharing your writing process?

Where to start? I guess I always begin a book thinking about the mystery. Before I start writing,
I like to figure out who’s dead, who the killer is, and why they’ve been killed. Once I have that
solved, the rest of the book eventually comes together to support the central mystery plot.
As a series continues, there are subplots I work to develop and explore, but I’m a mystery lover
at heart, so that’s always my main focus. I want to create a great mystery for my readers to try
and solve.

Some of your books are published independently, others with a traditional publisher. Do you have a preference, or are there pros and cons of each?

With my traditionally published series, the Trending Topic Mysteries, it’s fantastic to have the support of a publisher behind you. They help with marketing, editing, formatting, design, the works, and that takes a lot of the pressure off my shoulders. Having that time back allows me to write more. And with my indie books, I love being able to move at my own pace.

Aside from writing and promoting your own work, you also run BookstaBundles, a social media service for authors. It sounds fabulous. Can you tell us about it?

One of the things no one tells you—or no one told me—is that half the work of publishing a book is marketing it. Once I learned this, I began exploring graphic design because I wanted to create professional-looking content for my indie books without having to break the bank by paying someone else. Along the way, I got really great at designing digital art, so much so that I began receiving requests from other authors to make content for them. Eventually, I turned those requests into a service, and BookstaBundles was born. I’m proud of the skills I’ve mastered and sharing that knowledge with others is extremely fulfilling. Since I understand how time-consuming book promotion is and how draining it can be on your finances, I also strive to keep my prices low for my clients. If you’re an author struggling to create content to post online, check out my designs at www.bookstabundles.com – I might be able to help!

You co-host The Bookish Hour and A Bookish Moment on YouTube with J.C. Kenney, another great mystery author. These are both so much fun. How is it going?

Better than either J.C. or I could have ever imagined. What began as an experiment has turned into a growing media empire! In March 2022, J.C. and I were thinking of ways to celebrate our latest releases (Record Store Reckoning and #FollowMe for Murder). We wanted to do something creative and out-of-the-box. So, we decided to do a livestream on YouTube to celebrate, and because we were live, we could take questions from our audience. The feedback we got after our show was incredible, and we had authors emailing us asking if they could do an appearance with us. One thing led to another; now, we’re scheduling The Bookish Hour shows into 2024. Due to the enthusiasm from both the writing and reading communities, J.C. and I recently launched our A Bookish Moment offering. In these thirty-minute, author-driven vignettes, our featured author has the opportunity to interact directly with readers through interview Q & A, book excerpts, trivia, and more — perfect for celebrating a new release or highlighting/announcing other fun book news.

I love your Author Brand Rehab Tips on Instagram. They are helpful and informative. Do you learn through experience?

Absolutely. Experience is the best teacher. I’ve been at this for over five years now. As an author and a blog/podcast interviewer, I’ve seen both sides. I can’t tell you how often I’ve had an author send me a blurry picture or an interview where they don’t mention their book. So, I want to help those folks out. My Author Brand Rehab videos are meant to help authors reinvigorate their marketing efforts and set them up for success in 2023.

I’m obsessed with your covers. They are all amazing. How much say do you have in their design?

Thank you! I love my covers, too, and each series has its own answer to this question. I design my Glenmyre Whim Mystery covers myself, so I have a reasonably large say in their design. The graphic artist for my Court of Mystery series, Mihail Uvarov, is absolutely incredible and such a fantastic collaborator. He will take a chicken-scratch drawing I send him and bring it to life in the most gorgeous way. As for the Trending Topic Mysteries, my publisher designs two or three options based on their vision for the book. From there, we work together to create something that showcases Coco’s bright and bubbly personality.

Do you plan to attend any in-person events this year, such as Malice Domestic?

I will be at Malice Domestic, for sure. Last year was my first time attending an in-person conference, and I had an incredible time. It may surprise some readers to learn that I am beyond introverted and being around hundreds of people sounded really daunting at first. However, as soon as I arrived at the conference, all that anxiety went out the window, and I had a fabulous experience. I can’t recommend Malice enough.

What are you working on next?

As we speak, I am writing the next Glenmyre Whim Mystery. Hazel has really started to come into her own (she is also a fairly large introvert). She’s beginning to realize that solving murders in her small town might be her new way of life, and readers will see how she plans to tackle this challenge. I’m also getting ready to launch another series, the Book Blogger Mysteries. I can’t wait for readers to meet Arwen Lark. Arwen—or “Winnie” is a famous, yet anonymous book blogger with a loyal following. Add in a Hollywood actor brother and a dead body, and Winnie’s real life will soon become stranger than fiction!

Readers: Sarah mentioned going to Malice Domestic in April. I’m going, too! Are you going to attend any fun in-person events this year? Hope to see you at Malice!

Sarah E. Burr is the award-winning author of the Glenmyre Whim Mysteries, Trending Topic Mysteries, and Court of Mystery series. She currently serves as the social media manager for the New York chapter of Sisters in Crime and is the creative mind behind BookstaBundles, a content creation service for authors. Sarah is the co-host of The Bookish Hour, a live-streamed YouTube series featuring author interviews and book discussions. When she’s not spinning up stories, Sarah is singing Broadway tunes, reading everything from mystery to manga, video gaming, and enjoying walks with her dog, Eevee. Stay connected with Sarah via her newsletter: https://bit.ly/saraheburrsignup

Links:
Website: www.saraheburr.com
Newsletter: https://bit.ly/saraheburrsignup
Trending Topic Mysteries: https://bit.ly/trendingtopicmysteries
Court of Mystery series: https://bit.ly/courtofmystery
Glenmyre Whim Mysteries: https://bit.ly/glenmyrewhimmysteries
The Bookish Hour & A Bookish Moment Podcasts: www.itsbookishtime.com

Lynn McPherson has had a myriad of jobs, from running a small business to teaching English across the globe. She has travelled the world solo, where her daring spirit has led her to jump out of airplanes, dive with sharks, and learn she would never master a surfboard. Lynn served on the Board of Directors for Crime Writers from 2019-2021. She is the author of The Izzy Walsh Mystery Series and has a new series coming out in 2024 with Level Best Books. She can be found at http://lynnmcpherson.net/.

 

 

 

Sisters in Crime’s Guppy Chapter Releases its Seventh Anthology

by Paula Gail Benson

The anthologies organized and published by the online Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime have had an enduring influence in nurturing both new and established authors and in encouraging more readers and writers of short stories. The recently released Hook, Line, and Sinker (organized by Debra H. Goldstein and Carol L. Wright) is the seventh in the series and features twenty-three stories. Emily P.W. Murphy is the anthology editor and cover designer.

An invaluable part of appearing in a Guppy anthology is working with the organizers and other authors on promotions. Following are the descriptions provided by the contributors for their stories in Hook, Line, and Sinker.

Now available in Kindle and Paperback, why not add Hook, Line, and Sinker to your “to be read” list?

Sandra Benson – “Manual for Success”

Pharoahs were not the only ones buried by pyramid schemes. Krystal Markham plans to make money – or at least replace the money she took—by selling coffin franchises for EverRest. Using the manual for success EverRest provided, will she be able to? Or will her desperation lead her to bury something – or someone – else?

C.N. Buchholz – “Truth Be Told”

There are almost 100,000 psychics working in the US. How many of them would you trust? How many should you trust? This tale of sleight of hand, deception, and death will have you on the edge of your seat.

Lida Bushloper – “Senior Discount”

A remote spot in a parking lot. A vulnerable senior citizen (don’t call her that to her face!) with a broken-down car. A stranger approaches….if you think you know the rest, “Senior Discount” will give you a secret surprise.

Judith Carlough – “Man Up in the Air”

We’ve all heard about – or lived – a midlife crisis. We may think we know what will happen when Macon’s body meets Ashleigh, a beautiful flight attendant. Can he resist the temptation? A story that appears as sweet as carrot cake can have a very spicey bite!

Kait Carson – “Gutted, Filleted, and Fried”

Do you trust your spouse? Should you? Or, across the breakfast table do you think, there are plenty more fish in the sea? This tale of betrayal and surprise is cold enough to store fresh produce at Costco.

Susan Daly – “The Americanization of Jack MacKenzie”

A famous director said, “Film is a battleground.” In “The Americanization of Jack Mackenzie,” the battleground would appear to be Julie’s hometown of November Falls, Ontario, Canada. Yet, in this brilliant, twisting tale, the fight for preserving the town’s Canadian sweetness is mapped with devious strategy.

M.R. Dimond – “Playing It Again”

Detective Marie-Louise “Lou” Delacroix turns her investigative talents to a blackmail case involving a scandal, an inheritance, and some of New Orleans best beignets. Lou is smart, observant, and accustomed to navigating the ins and outs of New Orleans criminal underworld, but will she give up this important case to follow her lover to California? Or will the life and death stakes of the case keep her in the Big Easy?

Mary Dutta – “The Grift of the Magi”

Does the saying “lesser artists borrow, good artists steal” apply to the art of a good fraud? “The Grift of the Magi” takes the reader through a brilliantly twisting con where the reader is never sure who is the true owner of an Old Masters painting of the Adoration of the Magi and who is the master con artist crafting a beautiful portrait of a swindle.

Kate Fellowes – “The Buddy System”

Bennett is always the new kid in school. He tried to fit in, but it all felt pretty fake. He and the school bully Max are thrown together because neither have any friends. Will Bennett fit in with Max and his family? Or will it be another counterfeit experience?

Wrona Gall – “Capone’s Chair”

Nona Ponticelli is looking forward to moving into Labella Active Living but first, she needs to empty her apartment of 50 years of Mikasa dishes and her antique furniture. But Chicago is full of gangsters who might take advantage of her. This story shows us that gray hair does not mean a feeble brain and, as Nona eats her chocolate creams, she’s got a plan in the works worthy of Capone himself.

Vinnie Hansen – “Perfect Partner”

Over 300 million people use dating apps like Perfect Partner. Who could resist new love that is literally in the palm of your hand? That’s what Maya thinks when she starts texting with Adam – a man as handsome as original sin. But is the dating app a clearinghouse where lonely hearts and sweetheart swindlers meet? In “Perfect Partner,” we are not sure – whose heart – or wallet – will be stolen.

Ann Michelle Harris – “Changeling”

Who can resist a needy child? That’s what Shane is counting on when she takes another woman’s toddler out to test the limits of that question. This uncompromising tale of grifting will have the reader spellbound.

Kim Keeline – “Occupied With Death”

Nilda Santos does not like to be called the Death Doula, but that’s what she is. With poise and practice, she helps people prepare to die. But when a missing heir shows up at Eduardo Calvera’s funeral, possibly disinheriting his nephew, Nilda feels compelled to ask questions. As she investigates, Nilda finds secrets hidden in Eduardo’s retirement home that surprise even the Death Doula.

Jane Limprecht – “Net Profit and Loss”

Vacationing retirees Maggie and Ben Springfield encounter two internet entrepreneurs in a beachside Florida bar on a sunny afternoon: one runs an online loan modification company, the other operates an internet publishing business. Later, over tacos on their timeshare balcony, the vacationers contemplate whether their new acquaintances are dodgy scammers bent on fraud. Read this lighthearted tale to discover what Maggie and Ben do next.

Sally Milliken – “Trailblazer”

Brie’s life seems to be a series of Mondays, focused on work and trying to climb the corporate ladder. A friend encourages her to try online dating after Brie realizes that if she feels she’s peaked she needs to find a new mountain. When she meets Flynn, an experienced hiker, she’s ready to track him along a surprising new trail of deceit.

M.A. Monnin – “Just Another Shot in the Dark”

Raymond knows the success of any scam hinges on the savviness of the mark. He learned that from his father. Now Dad wants a brand new walker, which he can get with Seth’s new con, which promises to be more than just a shot in the dark.

A.W. Powers – “Restitution”

Is it nonsense or a sixth sense? That’s what parapsychologist John Thompson is trying to find out when he visits Madame Varna. Can Madame Varna truly channel the spirit of John’s sister? Or will a different ghost from the past make an unexpected appearance at the séance? This story will leave you breathless!

Merrilee Robson – “The Ass-In”

Did you ever just have one of those days? Wally sure is having one. Money goes missing. Police show up. There’s a fall from the second story. Maybe there’s someone smoking something they should not. But everything might have been all right for Wally, if not for the damn dog!

KM Rockwood – “Dear Lathea”

Sweetheart swindling can be a lucrative business, just ask Roderick, dear Lathea Markowitz’s long-time partner. Even though Ginger, Lathea’s cat, does not care for him, Roderick lives in Lathea’s home, and remains lovingly available to take the dear lady to fentanyl-laced doctor’s appointments and will-altering lawyer’s office visits. Is all doomed for Lathea? Will Ginger end up at the pound after Lathea dies? Or, is it “pawsible” that Roderick might have a more “furmidible” enemy than he could ever imagine?

Lisa Anne Rothstein – “Catch and Release”

Amanda Wallingford has cheated death once. Her time in the tropical paradise of St. Hilaire was supposed to restore her spirits before death patiently called again. However, Amanda finds that, for all the island’s beauty, St. Hilaire hides many secrets. Could one of them be that death has followed her? This taut thriller will make you suspicious of your next plate of sushi!

Steve Shrott – “Crime and Convenience”

It’s an ordinary convenience store with some extraordinary characters. “Crime and Convenience” disturbs the surface of your daily coffee run in a way that you will never forget.

Frances Stratford – “Wise Enough to Play the Fool”

July 28, 1540 was a busy day at Henry VIII’s court. That morning he married his fifth wife. Before his midday meal, Henry VIII sent the architect of his fourth marriage, Chancellor Thomas Cromwell, to death in the Tower of London. Yet many voices in the Tudor court worked to save Cromwell from the headsman’s axe, reminding the king that Cromwell was the king’s most faithful servant. So who was the cloaked figure who stole into the palace under cover of darkness and convinced Henry VIII to execute his most capable minister?

Shannon Taft – “Research”

Becca is a psychic and fraud from East Nowheresville. She and her dog Nostradamus have an established rapport that, along with Becca’s ability to research people’s deepest secrets, puts clients at ease. But when Becca unexpectedly finds one of her marks dead, she becomes a murder suspect. Will her skills as a researcher help expose who was the real fraud?

After the Hurricane

By Barbara J Eikmeier

The Wood Stork lifts off from the edge of the pond. His long slightly curved beak points the way like a menacing weapon, and his shaggy head droops, in sharp contrast to his elegant body. My hostess calls him The Professor.

Wood Stork – image from stock photos

From the lanai I also see the Great Blue Heron, and the Tricolor Heron, his white belly flashing us as he takes flight. I’m impressed with the perfectly still, dark feathered Cormorant standing on the rock, with his wings fanned out. My hostess shrugs and says, “Oh he is quite common.”

I’m teaching for a week in Southwest Florida. In Ft Myers to be exact. The same Ft Myers where Hurricane Ian made landfall on September 28, 2022. I’m staying with my friend Bridget and peppering her with questions about the hurricane and its aftermath. The writer in me can’t help it.

If creating a setting or writing a dramatic scene featuring catastrophic weather, I’m not sure I could write a convincing hurricane. I can do flood waters from the creek rising after torrential rains. I can do a monsoon. I can do a tornado warning and get my characters to shelter before the funnel cloud touches down. I can even do a tidal wave warning. But my knowledge of hurricanes comes strictly from the weather channel.

Going to and from class today my driver toured me around Ft Myer, pointing out the canals that bring the water inland creating waterfront properties. Many homes and businesses are still draped in bright blue tarps. The palms lining both sides of McGregor Blvd are missing palm fronds, but otherwise are standing tall, new growth sprouting high above the ground. Three months of cleanup have already taken place. But then there is the marina and the topsy-turvy pile of yachts and smaller boats, twisted among huge chunks of broken up dock, bringing home the truth of what happened here. I saw a sailboat trapped at the base of a bridge; its silver mast tangled with the black post of a streetlight as if braided together. Another sailboat rested on its side, the mast pointing inland, the sails shredded to ribbons, fluttering in the breeze.

Restaurants are closed. Beaches are closed. A little island, seen from the bridge, has been stripped of vegetation.

Today the calm of my friend’s pond, is a different view from the story she tells of that day when she watched the water rise, saw it churn one direction, then change directions as the eye of the storm passed overhead. She exclaimed, “The wind, oh that awful wind that continued for hours, or rather for days.” And she describes the surprise of seeing whitecaps on her little pond.

I’m keenly aware of the devastation that happened here, but I’ve also seen the spirit of Southwest Florida in the people I’ve met. Seasonal residents have returned. Year-round friends greet them and immediately ask how their places fared in the hurricane. They are rebuilding and supporting each other.

Originally, I thought I’d make this trip part work, part vacation – after all, its Florida in January! Hurricane Ian changed things, but I still came. It turns out that I didn’t need that trip to the beach, and I didn’t need an excursion to Sanibel Island, but I did need to see the amazing strength of Southwest Florida in the people I met. After all it’s the human spirit that defines a place.

Image from Ft Myers tourism

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

Sharing the Spotlight

Sharing the Spotlight

by Saralyn Richard

 

When BAD BLOOD SISTERS came out last March, a book club chose it as its first selection, and invited me to speak. This was no ordinary book club. It was the Elks Lodge #126, and they were fund-raising for the Texas Elks Children’s Services, Inc. So enthusiastic were they about BAD BLOOD SISTERS! They split the book club discussion into two events:  1)a tour of the local funeral home with a discussion  about the book in the wake room (because the main character works in death services); and 2)a dinner, book talk, and raffle.

I was touched by the amount of attention they were giving to my latest novel. Sympathetic to their drive to raise money for this worthy organization, I offered to auction the privilege of being a named character in my next book. Asta Timm, Elks Sweetheart, loved the idea and we decided to start the bidding at a reasonable price.

The night of the book club dinner, there was a buzz in the air. The Elks organizers, including Karen Crummett Sawyer and Asta, had a number of fun surprises. We ate, we drank, we talked about the book, we played a trivia game (with prizes). Then it was time for the raffle. The bidding opened and took off with a bang. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to be a character in a book. My head swiveled from one side of the room to the other as friends outbid one another over and over again. Finally, the auction ended, with the closing bid at ten times what the opening bid had been.

The winner of the auction, Tammie Caballero, became one of the key characters in CRYSTAL BLUE MURDER, which was published in September. Tammie was thrilled, because she wanted her family name in the spotlight. She knew her grandfather would be proud. When I replaced Tammie’s name in the manuscript, MS Word made 365 changes.

Tammie has come with me to several book launch events, and I always introduce her and ask her to say a few words about her part in the book’s journey. Her involvement in the book adds a special dimension that we both enjoy talking about. I have a new friend for life, and the Texas Elks Children’s Services has a generous benefactor. I can’t say enough about the Elks, Asta, Karen, and Tammie. I love sharing the spotlight with them!

 

Award-winning author and educator, Saralyn Richard writes about people in settings as diverse as elite country manor houses and disadvantaged urban high schools. She loves beaches, reading, sheepdogs, the arts, libraries, parties, nature, cooking, and connecting with readers.

Visit Saralyn at http://saralynrichard.com, on her Amazon page here, or on Facebook here.