Bethany Maines drinks from an arsenic mug

Valentine’s Noir

Noir? No Are? Nwar?  What now?

I occasionally participate in an author event called Noir at the Bar. Local writers bring crime and “noir” themed stories to scandalize listeners with tales of the seedy underbelly of society.  Oh, and also to drink, socialize and terrorize ourselves by reading in public.  This time around our date falls on the day after Valentine’s Day and our ring leader has decreed it to be a night of lost love, long hangovers, and doomed romance.  It’s Noir at the Bar – Heartbreakers Edition.

So What Kind of Noir Are You Writing?

True confession time… I’m terrible at noir.  I have a general lack of depression and tend to write characters I like. And since the nihilistic outlook seems to be the hallmark of noir that kind of makes me Noir-light at best.  So usually I write crime stories about characters who have managed to get themselves into a little bit of a pickle or are trying to get ahead for once.

Story Time…

This time out I’m reading The Rage Cage. I got the idea for this story from a therapist friend of mine who mentioned that one of her clients worked at a rage cage, and then of course, I had to ask, “What’s a Rage Cage?” It’s an establishment that let’s you smash everything.  If you’ve ever wanted to reenact the printer beat down scene from Office Space, they can make that happen for you.  They have enumerable objects to smash and lots of things to smash them with. I don’t know if it’s any cheaper than therapy, but you might get a work out.  And they find those smashable items in auctions of online storage units.  If someone forgets to pay their storage unit, the storage company will auction off the units.  Usually, someone will buy these contents sight unseen, pick through and sell what they can for a profit.  But a rage cage business is looking for breakable items. But that got me thinking about just what kind of items might turn up in those storage unit collections…

The Rage Cage

When Amber, the manager at the Rage Cage, stumbles on her ex-husband’s belongings among the items from a storage unit auction, she learns a secret that changes everything about her marriage and concocts a plan for revenge.

So wish me luck as I venture forth out into… gulp… the public and read The Rage Cage to it’s very first audience.


Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of action-adventure and fantasy tales that focus on women who know when to apply lipstick and when to apply a foot to someone’s hind end. She can usually be found chasing after her daughter, or glued to the computer working on her next novel (or screenplay). You can also catch up with her on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

Do You Drabble? Why You Should!

by Paula Gail Benson

Loren Eaton’s website

Last year, I wrote about the great experience of participating in Loren Eaton’s Advent Ghosts. I’m so pleased he’s offering the opportunity again this year. Even better, it will not be for a single day, but an entire week!

What is Advent Ghosts? It’s a mass storytelling extravaganza, featuring tales of exactly 100 words. Loren opens his website to anyone who wishes to contribute a “drabble” in the tradition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, celebrating the spectral, mystical, and magical elements of the season. You can send your drabble to Loren for him to post or put it on your website and send Loren the link, which he will display on his site for readers to find.

What’s a “drabble”? According to Wikipedia, it is a story of exactly 100 words (not counting the title or author byline). Some attribute the origin to the Birmingham University’s Science Fiction Society, which took the word from Monty Python’s Big Red Book (1971). Drabble was a competition where the first person to complete a novel of 100 words won the game.

Loren Eaton

Loren Eaton’s Advent Ghosts isn’t a competition, but a sharing of carefully crafted very short stories. I’ve been participating since 2015, when I contributed a piece of magical realism entitled “Beneath the Decoration”:

On the mantle, the shimmering stag perched, a desperate silver spray-painted statuary, a fake gray fur secured with a lopsided satin bow looped around his neck. His glittering eyes beseeched. The jolly fat man’s nose twitched. “An indignity, even for a replica reindeer. Won’t you join my sleigh tonight?” The twinkle in Santa’s eyes loosened the beast’s frozen shoulders. Dipping his mighty head, he shook off the fur loop and pitched it from his antlers. He reared and jumped into the open sack, hearing “Ho, ho, ho” as the drawstring closed above him. Up the chimney, they escaped décor purgatory.

In 2016, I wrote a poignant tale of a first Christmas without a spouse. I called it, “Ever Here”:

The flood washed everything away, including me. At the kids’ urging, Con stayed. So, among the tangled roots that emerged from the drained lake bed, my spirit lingered. First, Con rebuilt the dock, certain of the water’s return. The construction lulled me to sleep beneath green foliage blanketing the bank. Then, I awakened among brown leaves, hearing metal clanking above. I peered around the planks and saw a lighted framework tree. We’d had one each Christmas, now for thirty-seven years. Eyes glistening as he viewed it, Con said softly, “Not evergreen, but ever here.” I stretched, yawned, and nestled deeper.

For 2021, I relied upon Icelandic folklore to come up with “The Yule Cat’s Fury”:

As Skeggr placed the candle stub on his grandmother’s tombstone, its melting wax burned his fingers.

“I’m alone without you, Amma,” he said. “I’ll receive no Christmas gift of clothing to save me from the Yule Cat’s fury.”

He heard a low growl from the shadows.

“The thirteen Yule Lads played no tricks on me. Window Watcher saw I had nothing worth stealing.”

A light flickered nearby, illuminating Candle Snatcher, who handed Skeggr a ribbon with attached bell.

Gratefully, Skeggr donned his new apparel before leaving.

Seizing the smoldering stub, Candle Snatcher whispered, “Yule Kitty, follow your collar bell’s ring.”

Last year, I returned to the nostalgic with “Traditions”:

Mom always prepared the wooden Advent calendar, placing unique treats in each drawer.

In the spring, celebrating twenty-five married years, Pop gave Mom a new engagement ring. She removed the original and told me. “Joe, this is for your bride.”

I said, “Keep it for me.”

We lost Mom unexpectedly. Auto accident. With Sheila beside me, I watched Mom’s remains guided into the mausoleum vault.

The holidays approached. Important little things went undone. Regretfully, I lifted the empty Advent calendar, not having the heart to fill it until I heard something rattle in drawer 24. Mom’s engagement ring for Sheila.

Don’t you want to join in the fun? Here are Loren Eaton’s instructions:

(1) Email me here at ISawLightningFall [at] gmail [dot] com if you’d like to participate.

(2) Pen a scary story that’s exactly 100-words long — no more, no less.

(3) Post the story to your blog anywhere from Saturday, December 16, to Friday, December 22. Hosting on ISLF is available for those without blogs or anyone who wants to write under a pseudonym. (Don’t worry, you’ll retain copyright!)

(4) Email the link of your story to me.

(5) While you should feel free to write whatever you want to, know that I reserve the right to put a content warning on any story that I think needs it.

Here’s Loren’s post announcing the event:

Here’s Loren’s link to the stories shared last year:

I hope you’ll consider participating. It’s truly a joy. Thank you, Loren, for sponsoring the event. I look forward to it each year!


Bouchercon Update!

I missed the blog last month due to a technical error on my part … so here are two blogs in one! Might be fun actually, as I have now just returned from Bouchercon and can give a report. The expectation and the realization!

It was terrific—and my panel was fun, I made it through and enjoyed it.

The Debut authors’ breakfast was a blast. And may I say, the breakfast was delicious, although I was too nervous to eat much.

A Nice Place to Die was available at the bookstore and sold out. That was worth the trip right there.

But really, one of the most fun things is meeting and sometimes becoming friends with fellow authors. I met Ann Cleeves briefly and she was very gracious. I got a picture with her. That’s it, but I now consider her one of my very best friends.

I did spend some time with the  fabulous Iona Whishaw, Canadian readers  know her well…

And the charming S.M. Freedman, we enjoyed the Awards banquet together. And Caro Ramsey, a Scottish writer of mysteries and suspense, she was terrific and we plan to keep in touch. I was able to reconnect with good friends I’d met before; Judy L. Murray, Lane Stone, Sharon Lynn, just to name a few.

And Shawn Reilly Simmons, my editor, and award-winning author herself.


I leave for Bouchercon in a week or so and it’s an exciting prospect. I attended once before In Tampa. I was already in Florida at the time with my husband and decided it was worth the extra expense. As we climbed the steps to the host hotel to register, Ian Rankin walked by reading a guide book. And that about sums the experience up for me. You get to meet your author favourites, listen to wonderful educational sessions on writing, and oh yes, meet people at the bar!

That first time I knew no one. I had the name of an author through a friend and I contacted her, not expecting much. But Marcia Talley was astonishing and friendly and welcoming. I met Sujata Massey, Deborah Crombie and countless others over coffee and at events.

I sat one table over from Lee Child, and extricated the wonderful Lisa Scottoline from an ardent fan. It really was a fabulous experience.

This year I’m going again, this time to San Diego as a published author!

I’m a fairly new writer, compared with my terrific colleagues on the Stiletto Gang, who are all well known and have published many wonderful books across all genres. This time I applied to be on a panel. I don’t know the ins and outs of how to get chosen, but in my request I tried to be flexible to different panel ideas but clear that I needed to know something about the subject.

And so, what was that, my subject? What did I know something about? Murder? Well that might not set me apart and help me get a spot on a panel—what with it being a murder/mystery convention and all. I had to dig deeper.

What did I love writing about—apart from murder? What could I bring to a conversation that might make an interesting panel for readers and other writers?

One of the things I realized from talking to readers who bought and enjoyed my book was their interest in the setting, Belfast––and there you have it. Ireland, north and south.

I was surprised at the number of people who expressed a desire to visit Belfast. Once the death knell for a book or writer, famously and forever connected to ‘The Troubles,’ now miraculously rising from the ashes to become, dare I say it, a favourite tourist destination. We even have cruise ships stopping by with tourists dandering around a city they once watched on the news, with reports of explosions and gunfire all over the place.

But The Troubles are not the focus of my books, because that’s not what my stories are about. They’re about people who are caught in difficult circumstances. About love and hate and jealousy and finally, murder. All in that wonderful setting. Gloomy and sunbright in turn. Rain and wind, blue skies and gorgeous deserted beaches. And that’s what I asked for. I wanted to talk about writing a story set in a country I was born in and love, but no longer live in. How memory and longing play into shaping a book and the characters who populate it. And miraculously I got the word! Yes, a panel. Scary but exciting.

TRAVEL BY THE BOOK: MYSTERIES SET IN OTHER COUNTRIES. Saturday Sept 2 at 8:55am. Please come and listen if you’re at the convention. Should be fun.

Now let me tell you all about the Bouchercon Debut Authors’ Breakfast… Kidding, I’m kidding.

Blood Relations Cover

Blood Relations Cover

And a note about the launch of my second book. BLOOD RELATIONS. It’s due out in The US in August. Here’s a link to Amazon, but you can look for both books, #1: A NICE PLACE TO DIE and #2: BLOOD RELATIONS, at most fine on-line retailers too.

A Nice Place to Die and Blood Relations.

A Nice Place to Die and Blood Relations.

Blood Relations, A DS Ryan McBride Mystery Book #2
Twitter:  @JoyceWoollcott 

Buy the book.

How I Spent the Summer of 2023

I could sum up the Summer of 2023 in two words: blistering hot! That’s been the headline for so many of us this year.

Humans make plans, and the gods laugh.

Back in June, when the Stiletto Gang posted our plans for the summer, mine included book events, taking a vacation with my sweetie, and promoting my new book.
By mid-summer, I was behind deadline (again) with Book #3 in the Samantha Newman series, and pretty much glued to my desk as I pushed through to the finish line. At least the sturdy air-conditioning kept any outdoor temptations at bay for the duration.
The book is finally done, and early reader remarks are leaving me hopeful for its debut. Fingers crossed!
(More on that below.)

Where did August go?

By mid-August, it was time to get on with the world. We set out on a road trip. First stop, Little Rock, Arkansas, home of an old friend, and as it happens, a great place for an overnight on the road to Killer Nashville, the international writers’ conference where seasoned authors, new writers, and book lovers convene over our shared passion.
The Body Next Door, Book #2 in the Samantha Newman series, was a KN Silver Falchion finalist a few years ago, so this year, it was all about sharing what I’ve learned in my writing career.
I was a panelist on the subjects of Writing Believable Amateur Sleuths, Using Emotion to Appeal to Your Readers, and Adding Romance to Your Story, in addition to moderating two more panels on Writing Suspense.
Whew! Teasing out my thoughts on what makes for good writing was strenuous exercise, but fun, too.
Most fun was making new friends and reconnecting in person with colleagues from around the country.
After the conference we drove east to visit my brother and sister-in-law. Had a great time with them, their darling grandkids, and their remarkable dog, Venus. Then we headed home. All in all, we passed through ten states in two weeks.

Happy September!

Now, finally, I am pre-promoting Book #3, The Body in the News! Huzzah and hooray, it is almost ready to hatch by the end of the month.
Here is a sliver of the new the cover. Stay tuned, there is much more to come in the next few days and weeks!

In the meantime… how was your summer? 

Gay Yellen is the award-winning author of the Samantha Newman Mystery Series, including The Body Business, The Body Next Door, and soon, The Body in the News!

Guilty About Reading Genre?

Have you ever felt guilty for reading a cozy, a mystery, or a romantic novel instead of delving into one of the great books, like Homer’s Iliad or Proust’s Swan Way or a classic like Virginia Wolf’s A Room of One’s Own?

I grew up in northern Mexico and I attended a fantastic high school that was accredited in both Mexico and the US, giving students the opportunity to attend the university in either country.

The school offered a two-semester English literature class. The teacher was a dynamic, talented woman who instilled in her students the love for the classics and the great books. She also encouraged us to shun genre and to avoid soap operas, quite popular at the time.

I moved to the US in my mid-twenties and soon discovered romance novels. After devouring a romantic story with a happy ending, I’d run to the library to borrow books by Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky to balance my reading guilt. Compare the fun of reading genre to the lessons of the great books. It’s very different reading! The great books represent the foundations of Western Culture’s ethics, social norms, values, and ideas that stem from the Greco-Roman tradition. Genre, on the other hand, is pure entertainment.

Fast forward a few years when I was working in international finance and traveling the world for my corporate job.

On a flight between New York and Buenos Aires, Argentina, I missed my connection in Miami. I window-shopped airport stores in search of something to do until the next flight. A bookstore, displaying mountains of books set on tables that stretched down the hall, caught my eye.

The year was 2001 – the year I discovered the mystery novel. I purchased Tell No One by Harlan Coben and I was immediately hooked on mysteries. My new-found love in reading would disappoint my wonderful literature teacher back in Mexico, yet for the rest of my international finance career, I carried a mystery or two to read on long flights.

Mysteries became an important part of my life. So important, in fact, that I left the corporate world to write the Nikki Garcia mystery series, setting my stories in a few of those international locations where I traveled. Do I still feel guilty? Not at all!

At a book signing four years ago, I met Harlan Coben. I told him his novels influenced me to write mysteries.

And my former teacher says she loves my novels and she’s thrilled that one of her pupils became a writer. Instead of feeling like a wayward former student, I’ve converted her to reading genre.


About Kathryn

Kathryn Lane writes mystery and suspense novels usually set in foreign countries. In her award-winning Nikki Garcia Mystery Series, her protagonist is a private investigator based in Miami. Her latest publication is a coming-of-age novel, Stolen Diary, about a socially awkward math genius.

Kathryn’s early work life started out as a painter in oils. To earn a living, she became a certified public accountant and embarked on a career in international finance with Johnson & Johnson.

Two decades later, she left the corporate world to create mystery and suspense thrillers, drawing inspiration from her travels in over ninety countries as well as her life in Mexico, Australia, Argentina, and the United States.

She also dabbles in poetry, an activity she pursues during snippets of creative renewal. In the summer, Kathryn and her husband, Bob Hurt, escape the Texas heat for the mountains of northern New Mexico.

Stolen Diary



Photo credits:

Girl Reading by Camille Corot, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Harlan Coben and Kathryn Lane by Bob Hurt

Where do ideas come from?


by Joyce Woollcott

I wonder, I really do, where ideas come from. Not just ideas for books and short stories and magazine articles, but ideas in all creative fields. Artists, painters, sculptors, potters, movie makers, song writers––anyone at all who creates original content. Of course I do wonder more about my fellow writers. Getting the idea is only the first part, what do you do with it when you get it and how do you put it together as a terrific book?

I struggle to flesh out my novels. For me at least, the initial concept, that what if? moment is the easiest. What if a detective sergeant arrives at a crime scene only to discover he knew the victim? What if a well-respected retired detective chief inspector is brutally murdered in his bed and his past comes into question? I bet this is the stage most writers enjoy most, the idea. How wonderful it is to get that first storyline, that initial spark, the potential it holds, the possibilities.

Then the work begins.

I think after that first initial thought, the book unfolds in a series of ideas. It does depend on how you write, are you a plotter or a panster? I’m a little of both. I generally know what the beginning, middle and end will be, in a vague way, it’s filling in the bits between that present a challenge, and probably not just for me. I think about my story in progress most of the time. Certainly when I have a free moment, just before I sleep and when I wake up. Sometimes I’m watching television or chatting to friends something will come up out of nowhere and I’ll think, oh–that might work.

My husband came up with a great analogy the other day as we were discussing how ideas come together to form a book. He said it sounds like you have many pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and you’re slowly putting them together in your head. Each puzzle piece is an idea. Most writing advice I’m hearing these days is to get that first set of ideas down. Get that plot on paper and make it to the finish line. Then you can take a breather and reread it. Start to see which ideas work and which ones don’t.

So, maybe all the pieces don’t quite fit first time, you can’t see where that blue bit goes, or that funny squiggly piece fits, but eventually, after you try putting it here and there, the final piece drops into place and you have the whole picture.

Writing a book isn’t that easy, it’s an exercise in pulling all these ideas together, tidying them up, and arranging them into some sort of order that makes sense.

Now if I could just figure out how to do that, each time I sit down to write a book…

Funny thing is that there’s a… ‘The World of Ian Rankin’ Jigsaw puzzle out now, a day in the life of Rebus in Edinburgh, what a great idea. If only I could buy a complete jigsaw puzzle of my next novel before I wrote it, I would put it together, and voila!

Which incidentally brings me to my next book which is due out in August. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get the jigsaw puzzle of it, but at least it did come together, the final piece clicked into place. Hopefully, if you get a chance, you can see if it all fits together nicely. Blood Relations – available next month on most platforms, audio book to follow.

Deep in the Promo Weeds

By Lois Winston

My post last month talked about the five-letter word that sends a shudder through most authors. I’ve been in the promotion weeds ever since, due to the recent launch of  A Crafty Collage of Crime, the 12th book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series. Between my own blog, Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers, and the two group blogs I belong to, this one and Booklover’s Bench, I also signed up for a blog tour with Great Escapes Book Tours and booked a few guest blogs on my own. The grand total came to—drumroll, please—26 blog posts through the middle of August!

And here lies the conundrum: How many ways can I talk about my series and the newest book in it without sounding like a broken record? Or worse yet, a carnival barker? Step right up, ladies and gentlemen. Be the first to experience the latest murder and mayhem author Lois Winston has dumped on her poor reluctant amateur sleuth!

No one likes being bombarded with “buy my book” pleas on social media. Hard sell often works against an author. Years ago, when I was still writing romance, I attended a conference where a well-known, bestselling author kept pleading with the audience to buy her books because her teenage son was growing so fast that she was spending a fortune every month at Foot Locker. From the sideways glances those of us in the audience were giving each other, I had the sense that this author’s attempt at a cute marketing ploy was backfiring badly. Especially since we’d all seen her latest advance recently posted on Publishers Marketplace. I’ve been published since 2006, and to this day, if you added up all my advances and royalties from the past seventeen years, the total would still be less than what that author had received in one advance.

At any rate, Anastasia and I (some bloggers requested posts written by my sleuth or interviews with her instead of me) have tried—desperately—to keep each of the posts fresh and different. My Great Escapes blog tour began June 19th and runs through July 2nd. You can find the schedule here. Visit each site to enter the Rafflecopter for a chance to win one of three copies I’m giving away of A Crafty Collage of Crime. Because the drawing won’t be held until after the last guest post goes live on July 2nd, you can also go back and enter at the blogs that have already posted.

I promise I won’t implore you to add to my sons’ or grandsons’ sneaker funds!

Instead, if you post a comment here, I’ll enter you in a random drawing for a chance to win a promo code for a free audiobook download of A Stitch to Die For, the fifth book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series.


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.

Believable Characters and Fearless Creating

By Donnell Ann Bell

Happy Monday, Stiletto Gang and readers! I was notified that my third published novel is going on sale June 16 through June 30, 2023, which of course  I find exciting. It also made me think about the story and all that went into it. Research, check. . .Mysterious characters, check . . .Conflict, check . . . Romantic tension, check . . . Interesting settings, check. . . Plot problems . . . .AHEM. Unfortunately, that part of the book received a big red X before I could check off Believable Plot.

The novel I’m talking about is called Betrayed. To date, my publisher has changed most of my working titles. Truthfully, I worried about this title because if you do a search for “Betrayed” you will find a long list. Back when I submitted the book for editing, I thought about changing it altogether or adding an adjective so it might stand out more from the myriad novels bearing the same name. But as one reviewer wrote in her headline:

“Wow! BETRAYED Sums up this One Nicely.”

I couldn’t agree more, which is when I left the working title “as is” and sent it off to my editor. I do admit to crossing my fingers they would keep it. BelleBooks/Bell Bridge Books agreed and Betrayed has been one of my bestselling novels.

It’s the story of Irene Turner, a trap shooting champion from Oklahoma City who discovers the stillborn she delivered twenty-eight years earlier is still alive. Irene is damaged so I did my best to slip into the mindset of a woman who’d recently lost her fifteen-year-old son, then receives the shock of her life—the daughter she thought dead is alive and and residing in Denver.

When creating characters, I do my utmost not to intrude on their story. For instance, Irene may be a gun expert and has no fear of them, but her daughter Kinsey despises them and is a proponent of gun control. I wanted to include both points of view, rather than take a stance on a highly volatile issue.

I often enlist beta readers after critique and before I submit to my editor. I was pretty confident when I asked  my 2010 Golden Heart sister and fellow Sisters in Crime member Author Rochelle Staab to give me her thoughts. I expected accolades. What she came back with was, “You know better than this. This would never happen.”

Did Rochelle glitch on the gun issue?  No. Did she glitch on another plot point? You know it.

SPOILER ALERT:  In the story Kinsey is kidnapped by drug dealers. I have a healthy respect for what drugs (particularly illegal ones and what side effects can occur even after a single dose.) Knowing this, I disregarded what would likely happen in reality and intruded BIG TIME on the story. From the beginning of my writing career, I have heard the phrase and abided with MAKE YOUR CHARACTERS SUFFER. 

But @#$# I didn’t want to give her a drug that could potentially kill her!  My intentions were good, honest!!! So I cheated. Instead of a deadly drug the gang members had ready access to, I had them give her a sleeping drought. Yeah, that’s believable. NOT.  Was Rochelle right and did I take her advice and fix this plot problem? What do you think 😉

If you like, you can find out for yourself. Betrayed is available wherever books are sold in trade paperback and digital format.  Also, don’t forget, the sale is ongoing through June 16-30, 2023.  Links on my website:

In closing, I wonder several things.

  • Do my fellow authors reading this blog enlist beta readers?
  • Have you ever had a plot hole in your novels, you knew intrinsically would be a problem, but you thought maybe you could get away with it?
  • Do you work to avoid author intrusion in your novels?
  • Do you consider yourself a fearless creator?

By the way, here’s Rochelle’s final thoughts followed by the blurb:

“Absorbing and fast-paced from the chilling opening chapters to the shocking denouement, Donnell Ann Bell proves once again to be a master of suspense with Betrayed, a tale of consequences from a woman’s long-ago indiscretion that dominoes into a nightmare of deception, bitterness, greed, and murder. A compelling must-read!” ~ Rochelle Staab, bestselling author of the Mind for Murder Mysteries

About Betrayed:

A mother told her baby’s dead was a lie.

A daughter rocked by her true identity.

A detective risking his life to protect them both.

When Irene Turner learns the incomprehensible—that the stillborn she delivered 28-years earlier is alive, she takes the evidence to Major Crimes Detective Nate Paxton in Denver Colorado. Nate can’t believe that the daughter stolen at birth is Kinsey Masters, a world-class athlete, raised by a prominent Denver family, and the unattainable woman he’s loved for years.

Irene, Nate, and Kinsey discover a sordid conspiracy, one that may get them all killed as they face past betrayals and destructive revenge.

About the Author:

Multi-award winning Donnell Ann Bell knows statistically that crime and accidents happen within a two-mile radius of the average residence. For that reason, she leaves the international capers to world travelers, and concentrates on stories that might happen in her neck of the woods.

Over the last few years, Donnell has fallen in love with writing multi-jurisdictional task force plots, keeping close tabs on her theme SUSPENSE TOO CLOSE TO HOME. Her single-title romantic suspense novels, The Past Came Hunting, Deadly Recall, Betrayed, and Buried Agendas, are Amazon bestsellers.

Traditionally published with Belle Books/Bell Bridge Books, Black Pearl, a Cold Case Suspense is her first straight suspense and book one of a series. Her second book in the series, Until Dead is also available wherever books are sold. To learn more, sign up for her newsletter and follow her via Facebook and Twitter  @donnellannbell







The Mystery of Genre

Dear Readers: The Stiletto Gang is pleased to introduce to you its newest member, Author Joyce Woollcott. Please welcome and follow Joyce. We think you will be glad you did as her debut thriller is already racking up awards and creating quite a buzz!  ~ The Stiletto Gang Team

The Mystery of Genre

by: Joyce Woollcott

Genre. That’s a word I rarely thought about before I started to write. Now I consider it fairly often. When someone picks up a book I daresay they don’t ask themselves––what genre is this? And to be honest I don’t think most people care, as long as the book is the kind of thing they enjoy reading.

And I don’t know very many people who read widely across genres. I used to, but these days I mainly read mystery and crime novels because that’s what I write.

So, I asked myself a few questions.




Male I guess. Although I do like Karen Pirie, Val McDermid’s wonderful detective.




Not necessary, but dogs if I had to choose.


Murder, have to have a murder, missing person works too.


A bit of violence and romance but not graphic.


Europe, preferably Ireland, England, Scotland or Wales. Don’t mind the Nordic books either.


Countryside, a small village, or on an island. Remote is good. Trips to the city are okay too.


Oh, gloomy is good. With a little sun from time to time.


No to recipes, although I do enjoy reading about meals and cooking within the story.


I like a few interwoven storylines. Love red herrings.


A serious plot with lighter moments to break up the tension.


Oh, definitely conflicted, lots of angst!

So where does that leave me? It leaves me with my Debut Novel: A Nice Place to Die. And no, I didn’t form the answers to fit that storyline, it just turns out that that’s the kind of book I love to read.


A young woman’s body is found by a river outside Belfast and DS Ryan McBride makes a heart-wrenching discovery at the scene, a discovery he hides even though it could cost him the investigation – and his career.

Why would someone want to harm her? And is her murder connected to a rapist who’s stalking the local pubs? As Ryan untangles a web of deception and lies, his suspects die one by one, leading him to a dangerous family secret and a murderer who will stop at nothing to keep it.

And still, he harbors his secret…

A Nice Place to Die is available as an ebook and paperback on Amazon and at many other retailers. The audiobook is coming out in a few days on the 25th April from Tantor Media and will be read by a wonderful L.A. – based Irish actor, Alan Smyth.


But wait, there’s more to my survey!

I decided to take a quick survey amongst my friends and fellow writers and asked them what they enjoyed reading and if they read one kind of book exclusively, and guess what? Mostly, they did. And I was surprised to hear that in general, the writers gravitated to very specific subjects and storylines. Especially if they wrote in that genre. They knew what they liked and assumed if they picked up that kind of book they wouldn’t be disappointed. Of course this also helps with research, as a writer you are always learning about your craft, each time you read a new book. As a reader you want to be entertained and also want to learn.

A friend who is a reader, not a writer was much more general in her replies. She read both fiction and non-fiction and enjoyed a wide range of genres, didn’t care what she read actually. In fiction, her only preferences were, a straightforward plot, with a bit of humour, a conflicted protagonist and unusual locations.

As far as the other replies from writers, the only questions they agreed on were…


2/ SEX AND SOME VIOLENCE? Yes, but not too graphic.

3/ LOCATION PREFERENCE? Anywhere interesting.



Everyone had widely varying replies to all the others, so there you go. Why don’t you try it yourself, and see what kind of book you come up with?

About the Author: Joyce Woollcott is a Canadian writer born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. After moving to Canada she worked in broadcasting design for many years, eventually leaving to travel and write. Her first book, A Nice Place to Die, introduces Police Service of Northern Ireland detectives DS Ryan McBride and his partner DS Billy Lamont.

In 2019, A Nice Place to Die won the Daphne du Maurier Award, Unpublished, for Mainstream Mystery and Suspense. Her first novel, Abducted, was long-listed in the 2018 CWC Arthur Ellis Awards. A Nice Place to Die was long-listed in 2019 and 2020 and in 2021 was short-listed in the Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence.

A graduate of the Humber School for Writers and BCAD, University of Ulster, she is a member of Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers.

The Cheese Guy by Lynn Chandler Willis

Several years ago, i was invited to participate in a book festival sponsored by a local, glossy magazine named after O’Henry. The festival was being held at a high-dollar, swanky hotel, also named after the famous writer.

I was still riding pretty high with my win for Best First Private Eye Novel given by St. Martin’s Press and the Private Eye Writers of America. I was super excited to participate and still a little unbelieving that my work had won a major contest.

I happily accepted the invitation and got busy ordering bookmarks, and postcards, and posters for the big day. I worked with the publisher to make sure I had copies to sell. I sent out all kinds of announcements to my growing list of newsletter subscribers. I emailed cousins and uncles and aunts and friends from elementary school to high school.

When the big day finally came, I loaded my books into my rolling purple suitcase––which by the way, I still use––and headed to the premiere hotel in the area. When I got there, I was shown by a guy in a tux to the room where we’d be set up. The guy probably had some kind of title I couldn’t pronounce anyway so I just referred to him as the guy in the tux.

The room was filled with other authors and for a moment I felt right at home. And then I noticed I was the only one who wrote mysteries. In fact, me, a children’s book author, and guy who wrote fantasy were the only three authors present who didn’t write literary. I’m talking Faulkner literary, or better yet, O’Henry literary.

I knew the guy who wrote fantasy. And I knew his work. We had belonged to the same local writing organization and were members of the same critique group. Fantasy guy wrote about dragons. Thirty of them to be exact. All with names containing 20-plus letters no one could pronounce. And they were all introduced in the first chapter of the 300 thousand words book. That’s right. Three. Hundred. Thousand. Words. It was the first book in a trilogy.

He was notoriously smug about his work and wouldn’t accept constructive criticism no matter how gentle it was given. I don’t think he would have accepted it if a gang of 30 dragons held him down and blew fire in his face. He published his book himself back before any kind of standards existed. He worked the crowd and arm-wrestled a few into buying his book which they needed a hand cart to get it to their car.

Aside from him, the day was pleasant enough. I sold quite a few books. I chatted with lots of people who tended to gravitate toward my table for some good ‘ol genre fiction. The day wasn’t bad at all, until the cheese guy dropped by.

At book festivals, signings, readings, and any other type of event, it’s common practice for the author to have a bottle of water, maybe a bag of Skittles, tucked behind their table display. Out of sight of those in attendance. My publisher just happened to have sent along two table posters on foam board which was perfect for concealing a drink and maybe a snack. I had them on either end of the table while I stood in the middle.

I had a bottle of water tucked behind one but no snacks. Then I noticed uniformed waitresses delivering wood platters filled with nuts, and fruit, and mounds of different cheeses to the other authors. I quietly asked one of the waitresses if I could order one. She was happy to bring me what could only be described as a magnificent charcuterie board before they became a thing.

Toasted almonds rolled in sugar? Oh my word. I was living the dream!

I slipped the board behind the other table poster and continued chatting with eager readers, taking a quick sample of the deliciousness in between. And then some guy, a well dressed guy at that, comes up, steps behind my table and whips out a pocket knife and proceeds to cut off a hunk of my cheese. He shoves a few green grapes into his mouth then grabs a handful of my toasted almonds and goes on about his merry way.

I was too stunned to protest or even ask him what the h%$* he was doing.

We all have that one book event that left a lasting impression. What about you? What’s yours?

Lynn Chandler Willis comes from a journalism background as the former owner/publisher of a small town newspaper and prefers to make stuff up. She now writes mystery/thriller/suspense and crime novels along with the occasional snarky comment on social media. She’s the current President of SEMWA, the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, a member of International Thriller Writers (ITW), and a past-president of Sisters in Crime––Murder We Write chapter. She’s a Shamus Award finalist, A Grace Award Winner for Excellence in Faith-based Fiction, and the winner of the St. Martin’s Press/PWA’s Best 1st PI Novel — the first woman in a decade to win the award. She has a new series debuting in November 2022 and another in May 2023 with Level Best Books.