A New Story

by Paula Gail Benson

As I celebrate my birthday this week, I’m also partying about a new story being published in A DEATH IN THE NIGHT by Dragon Soul Press. The anthology, released on August 30, 2023, contains eleven tales of assassins, which, as described on Amazon, may be about persons who are well paid, who are paying a debt, or who are being blackmailed. Each hired gun faces a unique journey. Some need to be wary of becoming too close to their marks.

The following authors’ stories are featured in the anthology: Victoria Azzi, L.N. Hunter, Charles Kyffhausen, Barend Nieuwstraten III, Fulvio Gatti, Edgar Mahaffey, Gray Stanback, Hennifer Strassel, Douglas Allen Gohl, Frank Sawielijew, and myself.

My story, “Crossfire in the Crosshairs,” occurs in the pandemic and involves a single mother working as an assassin to support her pre-school aged, precocious daughter. As mentioned in the narrative, “Assassinations remain essential services during Covid.” Chelsea Lebouef, the mom, is tasked to slay a famous cellist, hopefully managing to spill some blood on his instrument to heighten its value. She learns there will be multiple shooters to handle the job, but not until she makes arrangements for her daughter’s care and arrives on the job does she realize her competitor is her ex-husband.

I hope you’ll check out my story and the others. Dragon Soul Press has been a great company to work with and has supplied a lot of beneficial materials for promotion. (Notice the great banner above!)

Here’s a link to purchase on Amazon. Happy my birthday, everyone!

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!

Chasing an Intruder

Bob and I spend the summers in northern New Mexico. We enjoy the idyllic mountain scenery, the wildlife, the enriching tricultural experience in art, food, and the wonderful people who live here. Some are full time residents while others, like us, are only part timers.

After we arrived at our cabin, I was surprised we’d had a visitor who had left his calling card.

Ever the investigator, I wanted to identify our intruder. I asked friends, family, and long-time residents to help me out. Most people offered suggestions like a cougar, a mountain lion, a bobcat. One person thought they were coyote tracks, and another, trying to be funny, thought they were left by aliens!

I compared the paw prints left in the dust on the front deck to online research, and to photos a friend sent me from a wood block she keeps for easy reference in her mountain home.

It was easy to rule out deer, elk, turkey, or badger.

Next, I could rule out a fox, coyote, or bear since our prints did not have evidence of claws. That left the cougar!

Long time-residents claimed they had not seen any cougars in the area, yet my research indicated that New Mexico has a cougar population of 3,494 that are eighteen months of age or older as of 2023¹.

Sadly, my research also revealed that cougars are considered recreational game animals in New Mexico, and at the current rate of hunting and trapping, they will soon be at risk. In 2019, the state did prohibit trapping of cougars in certain areas.

I fully understand that cougars and other wildcats can be dangerous to people, pets, other wildlife, and livestock. Yet, these are beautiful animals that need protection to prevent them from going extinct.

A friend asked me if I’d be putting cougars into a novel in the future. The truth is I don’t know if a cougar will ever appear in a Nikki Garcia mystery or not. The question is valid since I have included dogs, crows, and mules in previous mysteries. Whenever I’m writing a novel, if pets or wild animals add to the story, yes, I love incorporating them into the story. In the meantime, my husband and I will enjoy the deer, elk, coyote, turkey, and birds we see in this mountain retreat.


¹New Mexico Mountain Lion Foundation

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.

Photo credits:

Paw Prints in the Dust – photo by Kathryn Lane

Wood Block Paw Prints – photo by Sharon Sorensen

Cougar – CA-Jason-Klassi-08

RIP, Mac

By Lois Winston

Sometimes, there are no warning signs, no odd symptoms that crop up which would make us suspect something is not quite right. Such was not the case with Mac. Nothing made me question his health, nothing that would lead me to seek out the services of an expert. One moment, he was fine; the next he wasn’t. Worse yet, he failed to respond to all my efforts to make him well.

This all happened three weeks ago. Mac and I had been in a deeply committed relationship for ten years. I wasn’t ready to let him go. So I picked up the phone and scheduled an appointment for a full diagnostic workup. Surely, whatever the problem, something would make him better.

After arriving, I was asked about his prior symptoms. When I said he’d had none, the diagnostician showed surprise. She rattled off a series of the usual suspects, to which I answered in the negative for each one. She shook her head in disbelief. I suspect she thought I was too ignorant to recognize obvious signs of impending illness. I ignored her condescension. I needed her expertise to heal Mac.

When I asked what she thought might be the problem, she offered possible afflictions, some with remedies but others that were fatal. I crossed my fingers as she spent the next hour and a half performing a litany of tests to determine why Mac had suddenly become comatose.

The test results confirmed my worst fears. Mac had suffered a catastrophic failure. Both his hard drive and battery were dead.

I think the ratio of computer years to human years must be greater than that of dog years to human years. However, even if it’s the same, that would have made Mac seventy years old. Ancient as far as my millennial diagnostician was concerned, but I’m at the stage of my life where I no longer consider seventy old. Still, I suppose ten years is considered ancient for a computer, even one as stalwart as Mac had been.

Mac had served me well. During our time together, we’d written nine novels, five novellas, several short stories, one nonfiction book, and countless blog posts. We’d edited two multi-author promotional charity cookbooks and two multi-author box sets.

However, it was time to lay Mac to rest, sending him off to the big Apple in the sky. RIP, Mac. But really, after all we’ve been through together, he couldn’t have died a day earlier before the weekend state sales tax holiday ended?

Scrapbook of Murder, the sixth book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, is now available as an audiobook. Post a comment for a chance to win a promo code for a free download.


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 www.loiswinston.com where you can also sign up for her newsletter and follow her on various social media sites.

Recognizing a Character’s Name in a Mystery Story

by Paula Gail Benson

Barb Goffman, writer and editor extraordinaire

Barb Goffman, whose stories have been finalists for exactly forty national crime awards, will be celebrating two nominations at San Diego’s Bouchercon. Her story “Beauty and the Beyotch,” already the winner of the Agatha Award at Malice Domestic, is among those nominated for the Anthony and Macavity.

Originally written for a themed anthology about theatre, Barb liked the final version of the story so well that she decided to submit it to major publications where it might be seen by a larger readership. Published in Issue 29 of Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, Barb describes the story as “a tale about three high school girls told from two perspectives about . . . the struggle to make their deepest desires come true. What happens when those dreams collide?”

The first time I read the story, I immediately recognized one of the character’s names: Elaine Naiman, who lives in Canada and is a friend I’ve met at Malice Domestic. When I approached Elaine about an interview, she mentioned that Barb had included another name in the story, that of Joni Jackson Langevoort.

Joni explained: “Both Elaine and I learned of this opportunity for a character name in one of Barb’s stories at the Malice Domestic live charity auction; Barb asked me for a donation to my favorite local animal charity (she knew my four rescue cats and one rescue pup!), and she would use my name in a story. I did that happily, to the rescue agency where I found my beloved pup Arthur. I said she was welcome to use my full name, but because so many in the mystery community know it, she might want to use my maiden name of Jackson. I didn’t ask for any input, I felt whatever Barb wrote would be fabulous! She is an amazing short story writer, truly. And I loved the story, was so excited when it won the Agatha and have voted for it for the Macavity and Anthony awards!”

Elaine also was delighted with the outcome. She said: “Barb had a ‘Name a Character’ in an auction at Malice. I bid, but didn’t win. When I spoke to her, she told me if I made a donation to an animal charity, she’d put my name in a story. I didn’t say not to use my last name, so she used both. I didn’t have any input about the character, but I loved the story and was glad to be the ‘Beyotch.’ Usually, I’m a good person when I’m in a book.”

Joni Jackson Langevoort

I had the opportunity to ask Barb some additional questions about her story. Here are her answers:

  • Did the story idea come first or did knowing the names of the characters help inspire it?

The story idea came first. When I name a character after someone who wins naming rights at an auction (or, in this case, when two people I’m friends with bid for naming rights at an auction but lost, and I offered to name characters after them if they’d make a charitable donation), I try to use the name for an important character in the story. If the character is going to be a bad guy or a victim, I make sure to ask first if the person would mind that. Some people shudder at the idea. Others relish it.

That said, sometimes the real life person influences the character. In this case, Joni the character and Joni the person both have blond hair. I could have sworn I remembered Joni the person once having a cute pixie cut, so I gave Joni the character that hairdo. The real Joni subsequently told me I’d never seen her with that haircut. It’s a good thing I write fiction.

Elaine Naiman with a figure of Chris Pine at Rock of Ages Quarry where a Star Trek movie was shot. Elaine has photos with everyone!

  • How difficult was it to balance multiple points of view in the story?

“Beauty and the Beyotch” is told from only two points of view: Joni, a shy introvert, and Meryl, her new and more outgoing friend who is best friends with Elaine. Elaine views Joni as a strong rival for the starring role in the school play, which Elaine thinks is her due.

At first I’d thought about writing the story from the points of view of all three main characters (switching POV when scenes change), but I realized it wouldn’t work for the story I wanted to tell. When writing a crime story, you want to keep some things secret from the reader for part of the story—motives or thoughts or actions. Sometimes you can achieve that by having something happen between scenes or by having a character think something in a scene in which she’s not the POV character so the reader doesn’t see those thoughts. In the end, with this story, I thought it best to keep Elaine more removed from the reader. What we know of her comes only from what we see her do and say and what other characters think about her. We don’t see her thoughts.

Getting back to balance, it was a little difficult. Although I went back and forth, scene by scene, for most of the story (the story opens with a Joni scene; it’s followed with a Meryl scene, then a Joni scene, etc.), when I neared the end, storytelling needs dictated that the last three scenes be from Meryl’s perspective. The part of me that likes consistency remains bothered I didn’t have a Joni scene between Meryl’s final two, but I’m probably the only person who noticed or cared. Thankfully, I don’t think the story feels too weighted toward Meryl. If it did, that would have been a problem.

Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, Issue 29

  • In my previous interview with you for The Stiletto Gang, you mentioned that a key scene from the story is based on a real-life experience. Could you tell us more about that?

When I was in high school, a group of girls—whom I thought were my friends—snubbed me publicly, telling me that I couldn’t sit with them at lunch anymore. It was mean and humiliating. I like to build my stories from emotions that readers can tap into. That helps make the characters—their thoughts and actions—more real and relatable. So when I decided to write a story involving high school girls, this is the memory that popped into my head, and that’s why there’s a scene in “Beauty and the Beyotch” based on that incident. When I was plotting the story, I thought about why that incident could have come about—not why the real-life girls did what they did but why my characters might act as those girls did that day and how I could build a crime story (and a coming-of-age story) around that memory. And I did.

  • Are you pleased with the reception the story has received?

Wow, yes. How could I not be? Three major award nominations for this story with one win (so far at least—fingers crossed!). I’ve heard from a bunch of readers who said they really enjoyed the story. One reader even named it his story of the week. That’s everything. I write to be read, and I write to entertain and make an impact. With “Beauty and the Beyotch,” I’ve achieved all three things. And I’ve been given the chance to reach even more readers with interviews like this, so thank you, Paula, for inviting me to do this.

Barb, Elaine, and Joni, many thanks to you all for recounting your experiences with “Beauty and the Beyotch.” For readers, if you haven’t had a chance yet, here’s a link for the story. I know you will truly enjoy it!

Next Stop: The Islands

Ahhhh…. The Islands

Sounds so dreamy and vacation-y, doesn’t it? I’m working on book four of my San Juan Islands Mystery series.  A book that I have been swearing that I will get to for about three years. And I’m finally doing it! And good lordy do I hate the islands. It’s not vacation. It’s a slog.  All of which is completely unfair to the islands. It’s not their fault that I’ve been procrastinating.  Or that I named three different people Cooper.  Or that I chucked out at least three different plots before I got to this one.

So Whose Fault is it?

Oh.  Yeah. It’s mine.  But taking responsibility really throws off a good rant. Part of the problem is that past self did not set me up for success. At three books in, you would think that I would do what I usually do with a series – start a spreadsheet.  Keeping a spreadsheet of characters names, a general description, and what books they appear in really cuts back on how many people are named Cooper.  (We’re now down to one.  The other two got magical name changes.) But when I started the series I didn’t intend for it to be a series. It was supposed to be a fun standalone mystery about an ex-actress and her ex-CIA agent grandfather solving mysteries in the islands of Washington State. The problem is that Tish and Tobias Yearly are funny and fun to hang out with.  Also, they just keep finding bodies, so… they keep needing more books.  It is not my fault.  It’s theirs. Blame the Yearlys.

And What Are You Going to do About it?

Keep better notes? I really am trying this time.  I revived the spreadsheet.  Added all those extra people I forgot about.  And I’m swear I’m this close >< to being done with book 4 – An Unfinished Storm.  Tish and Tobias are battling life, love, and Hollywood and trying to keep a police detective from jumping to some very wrong conclusions.

If you’re interested in Tish and Tobias Yearlys journey through the San Juan Islands, you can find out more from all the usual book selling suspects.


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 participates in many activities including swearing, karate, art, and yelling at the news. 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.

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

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

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

Photo credits:

Girl Reading by Camille Corot, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Harlan Coben and Kathryn Lane by Bob Hurt

Macavity, Shamus, and Silver Falchion Short Story (and Other) Award Nominations

by Paula Gail Benson

The nominations for Macavity Awards, Shamus Awards, and Silver Falchion Awards have been announced for best short story or best short story collection or anthology.

The Macavity Award is named for the “mystery cat” of T.S. Eliot (Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats). Each year the members of Mystery Readers International nominate and vote for their favorite mysteries in five categories: Best Mystery Novel, Best First Mystery, Best Mystery Short Story, Best Non-Fiction/Critical, and the Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Mystery. Here are the nominees for best short story:

Best Mystery Short Story:

  • Brendan DuBois: “The Landscaper’s Wife” (Mystery Tribune, Aug/Sep 2022)
  • Barb Goffman: “Beauty and the Beyotch” (Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, Jan 2022)
  • Donna Moore: “First You Dream, Then You Die” (Black is the Night, Titan Books)
  • Anna Scotti: “Schrödinger, Cat” (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Mar/Apr 2022)
  • Catherine Steadman: “Stockholm” (Amazon Original Stories)
  • Jess Walter: “The Angel of Rome” (in The Angel of Rome and Other Stories, Harper)
  • Melissa Yi: “My Two-Legs” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Sep/Oct 2022)

Previously, Brendan DuBois’ short stories have won three Shamus awards.

Barb Goffman’s “Beauty and the Beyotch” has been nominated for the Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity. It won the Agatha.

Donna Moore’s “First You Dream, Then You Die” was nominated for an Edgar.

Anna Scotti is a former journalist whose stories regularly appear in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. “Schrödinger, Cat” received a third place Ellery Queen Readers’ Choice Award.

Catherine Steadman’s “Stockholm” won the Thriller for best short story.

Jess Walter’s “The Angel of Rome” comes from his collection of stories by that title.

Melissa Yi is an emergency room doctor who writes a medical crime series as well as romance and YA.

The Private Eye Writers of America, an association of fans, writers, and publishing professionals, is devoted to elevating the private eye story from a sub-genre of mystery to a genre of its own. It categorizes private eyes as private citizens paid to investigate crimes. Private eyes may include investigators, company employees, and reporters. Each year the Private Eye Writers of America presents Shamus awards in four categories: Best PI Hardcover, Best Original PI Paperback, Best First PI Novel, and Best PI Short Story. Here are the nominees for best short story:

Best PI Short Story:

  • Lori Armstrong: “No Place for a Dame” (Edgar & Shamus Go Golden, Down and Out Books)
  • Libby Cudmore: “Charlie’s Medicine” (Lawyers, Guns, and Money: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of Warren Zevon, Down and Out Books)
  • O’Neil DeNoux: “A Jelly of Intrigue” (Edgar & Shamus Go Golden, Down and Out Books)
  • Carolina Garcia-Aguilera: “The Pearl of the Antilles” (Edgar & Shamus Go Golden, Down and Out Books)
  • Elliot Sweeney: “Bad Actor” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Nov/Dec 2022)

Lori Armstrong has won two Shamus awards for her novels.

Libby Cudmore writes the Martin Wade PI series for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

O’Neil DeNoux won the 2020 Shamus award for his short story “Sac-a-lait Man” in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine’s Sep/Oct 2019 issue.

Born in Cuba and based in Miami, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera has been a private investigator for twenty-five years. She is known for her Lupe Solano mystery series.

Elliot Sweeney, born in London, had his debut novel The Next to Die published in February 2023.

The Silver Falchion Awards are presented annually at Killer Nashville, which takes place August 17 through 20. (Note: there is still time to register to attend the conference. Also, online voting for the Readers Choice Awards continues until midnight Tuesday, July 25.)

Here are the nominees for best short story collection or anthology:

Best Short Story Collection or Anthology:

  • Chris Chan: Of Course He Pushed Him & Other Sherlock Holmes Stories: the Complete Collection (MX Publishing; 1st edition; September 2, 2022)
  • Marianne Donley, ed.: An Element of Mystery: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales of Intrigue (Bethlehem Writers Group; September 27, 2022)
  • Marissa Doyle: Countess of Shadows: The Ladies of Almack’s Omnibus No. 1 (978-1-63632-094-6; November 1, 2022)
  • Catherine Jordan, ed.: That Darkened Doorstep (Hellbender Books; September 21, 2022)
  • Lindy Ryan: Into the Forest: Tales of the Baba Yaga (Black Spot Books; November 8, 2022)
  • J.B. Stevens: A Therapeutic Death: Violent Short Stories (Shotgun Honey Books; February 16, 2022)
  • J.D. Webb: Incredible Witness (Wings ePress, Inc.; June 27, 2022)

I’m very proud to be a member of the Bethlehem Writers Group and to have a story in An Element of Mystery. Debra H. Goldstein has a story in it also. Two of our other members, Dianna Sinovic and Diane Sismour, have stories in An Element of Mystery as well as in That Darkened Doorstep.

While I’m mentioning Silver Falchion nominees, let me brag on several of my Stiletto Gang blogging partners whose books placed in other categories: Debra H. Goldstein’s Five Belles Too Many was nominated for Best Cozy and Saralyn Richard’s Crystal Blue Murder and Joyce Woollcott’s A Nice Place to Die were nominated for Best Investigator.

Many great stories, collections, anthologies, and novels for your reading pleasure. Please enjoy!

Out of the Past—Or, How Cell Phones Became the New Swiss Army Knives

by Paula Gail Benson

Lately, I’ve been binge watching the 1980s “soap opera” series Dynasty and Falcon Crest. Not only is it interesting to see how the story arcs were developed and played out, but also it’s amusing to watch the use of establishing shots to indicate location. La Mirage is a hotel run by one of the characters on Dynasty. In the earlier episodes, when a scene occurred there, the same video appeared, showing the front of the hotel with its sign and two couples, one dressed in tennis whites exiting and the other wearing clothes for elegant dining entering. When the programs were viewed a week apart, I imagine people didn’t notice the duplication, but when seen back-to-back, it’s painfully obvious. Finally, in later episodes, only the hotel sign was used to designate the venue. Falcon Crest avoided the apparent duplication by showing only the exteriors of buildings without people in evidence. Of course, Falcon Crest featured several impressive architectural structures.

La Mirage Sign Photo from Amazon

Another dating aspect of those series is the absence of the cell phone. If characters were stranded, they had no way to communicate with loved ones or get help unless they had access to a pay phone. Do phone booths even exist now or have they become extinct?

This pondering has led me to focus on the modern utility of the cell phone. Some people trace its earliest model to the communicators used on the original Star Trek series or Dick Tracy’s wristwatch phone. While those wonders may have initiated progress toward the pocket devices upon which we are so reliant today, I think the current cell phone is more akin to the Swiss Army knife.

According to Wikipedia, the name “Swiss Army Knife” was coined by American soldiers who had difficulty pronouncing the German word “Offiziersmesser,” which meant “officer’s knife.” While the Swiss Army knife (now produced by Victorinox) has become lauded for its numerous applications and versatility, it “was not the first multi-use pocket knife. In 1851, in Moby Dick (chapter 107), Herman Melville mentions the ‘Sheffield contrivances, assuming the exterior—though a little swelled—of a common pocket knife; but containing, not only blades of various sizes, but also screw-drivers, cork-screws, tweezers, awls, pens, rulers, nail-filers and countersinkers.’”

Photo by Victorinox

While the current Swiss Army knives have many of those same features, they may also have scissors, saws, and bottle openers, as well as knives. Anything needed to survive in the wild or live more easily in domesticated settings.

In fact, the cell phone is the perfect accessory for the modern law enforcement officer (see episodes of Law and Order), private investigator, or amateur sleuth. Consider all the items packed into one small item: phone, texting, email, internet, clock, calculator, navigator, camera, notepad, flashlight, weather predictor, social media, shopping apps, and entertainment apps (to get one through those long stakeouts). Imagine how Sherlock Holmes might have functioned with a handy cell phone. Perhaps he wouldn’t have even needed a John Watson. He could have recorded his own adventures with Dragon Naturally Speaking Speech Recognition Software!

reading on the beach

Libraries & Summer Reads

by Mary Lee Ashford

reading on the beach Summers and reading are forever linked in my memories. I grew up in a small town and in a time of school consolidation and so that school I attended was in a larger town eight miles away. So while my friends were headed to the pool or getting together at the downtown soda fountain, I was home alone. My parents owned a small business, my siblings are much older so no one at home to hang out with. But thankfully I had books and endless summer days.  Granted once I was old enough to drive some of that changed but by that time I’d already learned the magic of traveling to different places and different times via the pages of a book.

So when I think of summer, I think of hot days, shady trees, and books. My mother was a reader so we had books, but not nearly enough to keep me busy and at the time not the types of books I was interested in. So, once a week we’d take a drive to the library which like my school was the next town over.

I don’t know about you and your experience with libraries, but for me just being surrounded by all those books gave me a thrill. The idea that I could spend time wandering in the stacks and pull something magical off the shelf and take it home with me, was the beginning of a lifelong love of reading that has lasted the test of time and technology. We’d walk the stacks, spend some time making our selections, take them to the desk, and the librarian would pull the card, stamp the due date, and off we’d go.

Shelves of books

Over the years libraries have evolved with the times. I live in a much bigger city and the library is much closer…and bigger. Technology has replace the rubber stamp and the inked due date. But two things that haven’t changed it that you can browse through the books and see what strikes your fancy. I’ve always loved the idea of picking something I know I’m going to love – a favorite genre, a must-read memoir, a go-to author. And then I would pick one book just because. Something different that stretches my brain in different ways, challenges my gray matter, or maybe just makes me remember it’s a great big world out there.

As I pick summer reads this year, I’m trying to do the same thing. I have some favorite authors with new books out. I have my go-to genre (mystery, of course) that I know I’m going to be entertained by, and then I am trying to include some not-my-usual-read books. Because summer. I’ve recently invested in a lightweight Kindle because it makes it so much easier when we’re traveling. And because I read a lot at night, it’s wonderful to be able to adjust the light. But I’m loving the variety of books to choose from and so far my system hasn’t failed me.

How about you? How do you pick your summer reads. Do you stick to your favorites? Are you branching out into new genres or newly discovered authors? Any recommendations?

Whatever you’re reading, I hope you’re having a wonderful summer!

summer scene with books


Mary Lee Ashford is the “Sparkle” half of Sparkle Abbey (Pampered Pets Mysteries) and also writes the Sugar & Spice mysteries.  She is an avid reader and supporter of public libraries. She recently retired from a 30+ career in the public sector and so has much more time for reading. Some days anyway. She loves encouraging other writers and is the founding president of SinC-Iowa, the Iowa chapter of Sisters in Crime. She is also a member of Novelists, Inc., Mystery Writers of America, and the Sisters in Crime Guppies.

She loves to hear from readers and you can find her online at: www.MaryLeeAshford.com

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