Bethany Maines drinks from an arsenic mug


Alekos Now Available!

Whew!  I’ve made it to summer and the final (for now) book of my Rejects Pack trilogy.  Alekos wraps up the storyline started in the books 1 and 2 (Hudson & Killian) in what I hope is a satisfactory conclusion.  Hint: I’m trying to tell you there’s a Happily Ever After without giving away any spoilers.


This series tested my creativity in quite a few ways.  I actually started Alekos first and then went back and wrote the first two installments.  This created a challenge in that the first two books were therefore more honed in to their themes and where they had to end up in order for book three to make sense. But that also meant that I had to a fair bit of editing on Alekos in order to make all the little plot jigsaw pieces line up.

I also started it during the pandemic and then was faced with the decision to include or not include the pandemic in the text. I ended up choosing to include it but with only light mentions rather than as a plot point.  One of the most curious things about the 1918 Influenza epidemic is that it seemed virtually unmentioned in fiction of the time.  It was certainly influential as a theme, but most of us haven’t ever read a story that features masks or other remnants of that outbreak.  When that was first pointed out, I couldn’t understand why.  It seems notable and worth a short story or two to try and capture the moment.  I did write one Covid piece of short fiction based on the drag races that sprang up during the lock downs (Fireball Rolled a Seven – Crimecucopia Funny Ha Ha edition), but writers have seen very sharp opinions from readers about mentioning the pandemic in novels mostly they don’t like it.  Reading is for escape and bringing Covid back into the escapist fantasy isn’t always wanted.  However, it was one of the hurdles my heroine had to overcome, so I left it in without dwelling on it. Hopefully, readers now have had enough distance that seeing a mention of a mask in fiction won’t send them scurrying for the door.

What to Expect

But I think I rose to meet the challenges of crafting a Indiana Jones / The Mummy inspired series that gives magical new worlds, globe trotting adventures, and mythological beings, archaeological mysteries, and one very pissed off ancient Egyptian mummy(ish) person. And I can’t wait for readers to be able to share the complete (for now) adventures of the Rejects Pack.

Pre-Order / Buy Now:

Learn more:

About Alekos:

Alpha wolf, Alexander Ash has forged a family dedicated to finding a cure for the magical wasteland that has stretched across Greece since the devastating Night of 1000 deaths. But on the brink of finally being able to right the wrongs fate has dealt, Alex meets translator Eliandra Smith and finds himself called to her in a way he can’t explain. But as Lia is swept into Alex’s world of mystical beings, magic, and deadly ancient wars, they soon discover that she is tied more closely to his past that she could have imagined. And Alex discovers she might also be the one thing that can kill them all.


Bethany Maines is the award-winning indie and traditionally published author of romantic action-adventure and fantasy novels that focus on women who know when to apply lipstick and when to apply a foot to someone’s hind-end. She can usually found chasing after her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel or screenplay.

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.

Welcome Sarah Stewart Taylor.

By J. Woollcott

This month I’m thrilled to welcome one of my favourite authors to The Stilletto Gang. Sarah Stewart Taylor. I discovered Sarah’s Maggie D’arcy books a couple of years ago and have loved every one of them. This month, Book #4 in the series comes out, A Stolen Child.

#MaggieDArcy #Dublin

Born in the US, Sarah grew up on Long Island, and was educated at Middlebury College in Vermont and Trinity College, Dublin, where she studied Irish Literature. She has worked as a journalist and writing teacher and now lives with her family on a farm in Vermont where they raise sheep and grow blueberries. Sarah spends as much time in Ireland as she can.

I started with the first in Sarah’s series, The Mountains Wild, and was struck by her obvious love for Ireland and her wonderful descriptive prose. In fact, in one quote about her work, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel says; “Razor-sharp… In addition to her intelligent characters, Taylor has sculpted The Mountains Wild as a valentine to Ireland, delving into its beauty, history and varied landscape…We may not be able to travel to Ireland right now, but Taylor has brought the country to us… a terrific series launch.”


I asked Sarah to tell us how she keeps her memories sharp about a faraway country, especially as she is a working mum in Vermont––on a farm no less.

One of the best things about writing the Maggie books is that in order to keep my memories fresh, I of course 🙂 have to take regular research trips to Ireland! After living and going to graduate school in Ireland in the 90s, I moved back to the States and kept my memories fresh by reading newspapers and a lot of Irish literature and history. Then, once my kids were older, I started traveling back again. I did a couple of trips while I was writing The Mountains Wild and I’ve managed to go just about every other year since then. I spend two weeks there, usually a combination of time in Dublin and time driving around, and try to do the research for two books while I’m there. I often do very targeted, specific research for the book I’m currently working on and then more amorphous, exploratory research for future books, coming up with interesting settings or talking to people about current events or neighborhood dynamics, etc.

When I’m in Ireland, I have to really switch on my “research brain,” otherwise I kind of just have fun and enjoy myself and don’t capture the details I need to in order to write the books. I’ve learned to really compartmentalize my time there. When I’m with friends, I just have fun and try to be very present, but when I’m out doing research, I take tons of notes, snap many, many pictures and take lots of video too.

I also use friends and contacts who are on the ground, as well as lots of different kinds of internet and book research.


Process and research, how do you begin a new book. Does a current event or news story trigger an idea or do you always have lots of plots in your head about future novels?

I usually start with a setting. Once I have that, I feel like I have a handle on the tone and often, the kind of crime I’m writing about and who my characters will be. And then, I find that I often am visited by the vision of a scene. It’s often the inciting event of the novel, the body being discovered or something very important that happens before that. Everything kind of flows from that setting and scene and the people who are there. Who are they? How did they get here? What are they hiding? What do they want?

Current events and news stories sometimes do play into my plots, but I find that the connections come later, after I’ve really imagined the characters and figured out why they do what they do.


Where does Maggie come from? Do you base your characters on people you know?

Maggie came from me doing some deep thinking about the family members of people who have disappeared and are presumed dead, but who have never been found. I thought a lot about how that would affect the people in the missing person’s life. How would it change your trajectory? Maggie is someone who probably wouldn’t have been a homicide detective if her cousin Erin hadn’t disappeared and I really wanted to explore that.

I also wanted to create a detective who is a woman near middle age, a parent, and someone who is grappling with a new relationship and trying to be the best partner and parent she can, while also trying to be a stellar cop. It’s not easy. In a way, I guess I based her on a lot of women I know, including myself, who are just trying to keep all the metaphorical pots on the stove going. Sometimes, one or more of them boils over. In real life, it’s stressful, but for my fictional characters it creates all kinds of interesting possibilities!


Introduce us to your new book, A Stolen Child, and are there more Maggie D’arcy books on the way?

Here’s my publisher’s description of A Stolen Child:

“After months of training, former Long Island homicide detective Maggie D’arcy is now officially a Garda. She’s finally settling into life in Ireland and so is her teenage daughter, Lilly. Maggie may not be a detective yet, but she’s happy with her community policing assignment in Dublin’s Portobello neighborhood.

When she and her partner find former model and reality tv star Jade Elliot murdered—days after responding to a possible domestic violence disturbance at her apartment—they also discover Jade’s toddler daughter missing. Shorthanded thanks to an investigation into a gangland murder in the neighborhood, Maggie’s friend, Detective Inspector Roly Byrne, brings her onto his team to help find the missing child. But when a key discovery is made, the case only becomes more confusing—and more dangerous. Amidst a nationwide manhunt, Maggie and her colleagues must look deep into Jade’s life—both personal and professional—to find a ruthless killer.”


I loved writing this book, even though as a parent, the subject matter — an abducted toddler — was territory I hadn’t wanted to go near before. But I loved the energy of a homicide investigation combined with a missing child and a nationwide manhunt for a kidnapper and I had fun injecting some extreme twists and turns into the plot. And yes, I am planning more adventures for Maggie!


J. Woollcott is a Canadian author born in Belfast, N. Ireland. She is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers and BCAD, University of Ulster. Her first book, A Nice Place to Die won the Daphne du Maurier Award and was short-listed in the Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence.


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.

The 5-Letter Word that Sends a Shudder of Anxiety Through Most Authors

By Lois Winston

By nature, many authors are loners. We spend a good deal of our lives sitting in our writing caves, pecking at our keyboards. Survey any group of authors, and most will tell you the worst part of being an author is having to do promo. That’s the infamous 5-letter word of the title in this post.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an indie author, published by a small press, or with a major publishing house. Unless you’re one of the very elite (think Janet Evanovich, Nora Roberts, or James Patterson), you have to do most or all of your own promotion. Even the big names need to promote their books, but they do it through book tours with PR reps managing all the details and doing the heavy lifting.

I’m someone who has vowed to be the last person on the planet not sucked in by most social media. You’ll never find me on Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok. I do have a Twitter account, only because my former publisher insisted, but I rarely remember to tweet anything. When I do remember, it’s never anything controversial, political, or personal, so chances of one of my tweets going viral and resulting in new fans and increased books sales is as unlikely as a rose bush growing at the North Pole.

However, back when I was traditionally published, I used to enjoy giving talks to library groups, book clubs, and other organizations. Covid put an end to that but ushered in the age of Zoom talks.

I’ve participated in several of these Zoom events, and I’m participating in another at the end of the month. On Tuesday, May 30th at 7:30-9:30pm EDT, grab your favorite beverage, settle into your comfiest chair, and hop online for a fun evening of laughs, Q&A, games, prizes, and more with some of your favorite mystery and suspense authors. All are welcome. And best of all? It’s FREE! All you have to do is register.

During this fun event, you’ll be able to Zoom around the various “rooms” where you’ll find dozens of authors happy to chat with you. I’m pairing up in one room with my fellow Booklover’s Bench blogger Maggie Toussaint (appearing under her new Valona Jones pen name for this event.) You can find a list of other attending authors here. Scroll down the page for the registration form. Hope to see you there!

Post a comment for a chance to win one of several promo codes I’m giving away for a free download of the audiobook version of Decoupage Can Be Deadly, the fourth book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series.

A Crafty Collage of Crime, the 12th book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, will release on June 16th. Learn about Anastasia’s new adventure, read the first chapter, and find pre-order links here.


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.

Welcome Melodie Campbell!

Lynn McPherson is delighted to welcome Melodie Campbell as a guest to talk about life, writing, and her new release: The Merry Widow Murders. 

When Life Gives You Lemons…(get out the gin and start writing a new series)

By Melodie Campbell

Ah, the timeless question.  Where do you get your ideas?

I think it was Stephen King who talked about a little mail-order store in small town America…I’ve never been able to find that store myself.  Stephen keeps it a close secret (I hope you’re smiling.)

But I had reason to experience that dilemma about two years ago, a year into the pandemic, and a year after my husband David died.

Damn that covid, and what it’s done to publishing.  When Orca Books told me that they were capping the line that carried my Goddaughter series (translation: still selling the books in the line, but closing it to future books, at least for now)  I was in a tight spot.

I’d had 10 contracts in a row from Orca!  That series garnered three major awards!  How could I leave it behind?

Put another way:  what the poop was I going to write next?

The Goddaughter series featured a present day mob goddaughter who didn’t want to be one.  Gina Gallo had a beloved fiancé who thought she had gone straight.  But of course, in each book she would get blackmailed into helping the family pull off heists or capers that would inevitably go wrong.  It allowed for a lot of madcap comedy.

Some would say I was a natural to write a series about a mob goddaughter (we’ll just leave it at that.)  And I liked the serious theme behind the comedy:  You’re supposed to love and support your family. But what if your family is this one?

Issues of grey have always interested me.  We want things to be black and white in life, but quite often, they are more complex than that.  I like exploring justice outside of the law in my novels.  But I digress…

The Goddaughter books brought me to the attention of Don Graves, a well-known newspaper book reviewer up here.  He commiserated with the end of the Goddaughter series, and immediately suggested the following:

“Why don’t you write about her grandmother?  Prohibition days, when the mob was becoming big in Hamilton.”

The idea burned in me.  Except it wouldn’t be her grandmother.  (Don is older than me.)  It would be her great-grandmother!  Coming to age in the time of Rocco Perri and Bessie Starkman…

I settled on 1928, because that was the year women finally got the vote in England.  The status of women features very much in this novel.  The time frame also allowed me to use the aftermath of WW1, including men like my own grandfather, wounded by gas, and shell-shocked.  I would make the protagonist a young widow, because I knew grief – oh man, did I know grief.  My own husband had died way before his time, the year before.  I could write convincingly about that.

But I would also use bathos to lighten the tale. (I seem incapable of writing anything straight.)  The humour of the Goddaughter books finds its way into The Merry Widow Murders, and so far, has generated smiles for prepub reviewers.

The book took me over a year to write, working full time on it.  It helped me to channel my grief.  It forced me to step out of my comfort zone and write something with considerable depth.

And it taught me that – even widowed – I wasn’t entirely alone.  That ideas are beautiful things that can come from friendship, and the good hearts of readers and reviewers you are fortunate to meet along your publishing journey.

1928, At Sea
When an inconvenient dead body shows up in her stateroom, Lady Lucy Revelstoke and her pickpocket-turned-maid Elf know how to make it disappear–and find the killer. But can they do it before the authorities look into her own dodgy past?

“Miss Fisher meets Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry. The perfect escapist read!”  Anne R. Allen

Called the “Queen of Comedy” by the Toronto Sun, Melodie Campbell was also named the “Canadian literary heir to Donald Westlake” by Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.  Winner of 10 awards, including The Derringer (US) and the Crime Writers of Canada Award of Excellence, she has multiple bestsellers, and was featured in USA Today. Her publications include over 100 comedy credits, 16 novels and 60 short stories, but she’s best known for The Goddaughter mob caper series.

Rejects Pack Trilogy

by Bethany Maines


So last year I swore I wasn’t going to do another “quick” release of a trilogy because that was just too much work.  The Supernatural world of the 3 Colors Trilogy was so much fun, but was I ever tired by the time A Brighter Yellow came out.  I thought that I would revisit that world, but I thought maybe I’d take a breather.

Side note: quick is in quotes because some people think quick is a book a week. To misquote Sonny and Cher – that ain’t me, babe. One a month is plenty fast.


Well, apparently delivering books is like delivering babies.  They’re just so dang cute that you want another one and the mind blocks out the pain.  So, this summer I will be bringing you the Rejects Pack. The inspiration for the series was really that I watched too much Indiana Jones and The Mummy and thought… There should be werewolves in this. I love that light-hearted banter, the sweet romance, and heroes who swash and or buckle even if they’re not in full pirate mode.

The Rejects Pack Trilogy focuses on a pack of wolves (and one human) who have been rejected by their birthpacks, only to be welcomed by Alexander “Alekos” Ash in the magical wasteland of Greece. Alekos is searching for vindication–attempting to prove that his brother wasn’t responsible for the Night of 1000 Deaths that stripped Greece of magic during WWII.  And it finally seems like that goal is within his reach.

Hudson (book 1) – May 10

Hudson is a shifter wolf with a YouTube channel focused on hand-forging period accurate weaponry and he falls headlong into love, adventure, and a mysterious tomb with Yazmin Hunter-Blake, an Egyptology student looking for a treasure trove of Egyptian artifacts.

Killian (book 2) – June 14

Killian is shifter wolf on a mission to the long lost Library of Alexandria to bring back the spells to create a werewolf and save his human packmate, but amnesia, a beautiful she-wolf named Moira DeSandre and a horde of warlocks are all causing some problems.

Alekos (book 3) – July 19

Alpha wolf Alekos has been looking for the mystical cause of the Night of 1000 Deaths that stripped magic from Greece and killed his brother, but fate is about to bring him face to face with his brother’s murderer, an ancient magic, and Eliandra Smith, the human who might be his fated mate.

Stay tuned for additional fun things like Goodreads Print Editions Giveaways and E-book Edition Giveaways!

Pre-Order Here:

Add to your Goodreads List:

Enter to Win a Print Edition of Hudson:

Watch the Trailer:


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.

An Interview with Carla Damron

by Paula Gail Benson

Drawing from her own life and work experience, Carla Damron has crafted intriguing mysteries, diverse characters, and suspenseful stories. Her latest, The Orchid Tattoo, explores the world of human trafficking. Today, she joins us to talk about her writing. Welcome, Carla!

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I wrote as a kid—bad poetry about animals mostly. Then I got sidetracked, focusing on psychology in college and then social work. But a part of me always, always loved the beauty of story. I decided to explore storytelling more seriously once my social work career was well underway.

You have brought many of your experiences as a social worker to your writing. How has your awareness of the human condition, learned as a social worker, helped to develop your writing skills and to select the themes you feel are so important to address in fiction?

I don’t select the themes—I think they select me. I find myself writing about issues that trouble or haunt me. Writing can be therapeutic that way. For example, when I worked with folks struggling with homelessness and mental illness, I felt compelled to write a story that examined what their lives are like. Even writing in the mystery genre, there’s room to shine a light on important issues. In The Orchid Tattoo, I focus on how human trafficking happens right here in our communities, because this is something that has haunted me for several years.

Caleb Knowles, your mystery series protagonist, is surrounded by very strong characters as well as by characters who are very much in need. How does he find balance in a world where so much is uncertain or confused? What is his concept of justice?

Caleb feels things strongly, and sometimes this affects his judgement. He makes mistakes and gets himself in trouble, but usually for a good reason. In terms of “balance”, I don’t think he’s found it yet—he tends to get overly involved with his clients, and when he feels things are unjust, it can make him rash. He wants a world where there is racial equity and justice. Where people who have mental illness aren’t defined by their disease. Where people who are unhoused have worth and are helped, not discriminated against. He’s very naïve this way. I guess I am, too.

You graduated from the MFA creative writing program at Queens College in Charlotte. Which writers do you think benefit most from getting a MFA?

The MFA can be expensive. I’d love to say all writers would benefit, but I think it’s a deeply personal decision. It was the right thing for me, because I was struggling with a writing project that was very complex and needed to expand my skill set. And honestly, I LOVED devoting that kind of time and energy to improving my craft. It felt like a gift. But that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.

In The Stone Necklace, you use a style I’ve heard you call “braided” storytelling. How does it work and what do you find most challenging about it?

That’s the book that sent me to graduate school. I wanted each character to have their own arc. I wrote from five POVs—and had to keep each storyline balanced so that one didn’t overwhelm the others. The characters connect, separate, reconnect—like a braid does.

You use a similar “braided” storytelling style in The Orchid Tattoo, in that you tell the story from different viewpoints. Not only are you exploring the world of a human trafficking victim, but also you examine the life of a person co-opted to work for the traffickers. How difficult was it to write from these very different perspectives?

Once the characters crystallize in my imagination, I let them tell me their story. Honestly, that’s what it’s like. Sometimes I have to nudge them a little, but once the characters feel real to me, it becomes a pretty organic process.

Have you heard from trafficking victims about The Orchid Tattoo? What is their reaction?

I haven’t. I’ve had advocates and law enforcement people thank me for telling this story, and that means a lot to me.

Are you planning additional Caleb Knowles novels?

Caleb wasn’t done with me. The fourth in that series, Justice Be Done, is at the publisher right now. I’m hoping it will be out later this year.

In addition to your novels, you’ve also written short stories. Where have they appeared?

Melusine Magazine, Jasper Magazine, Fall Lines, Mystery on the Wind. My latest flash piece, Delilah, was short-listed for the Pulpfictional award (winner to be announced 3/31) and will appear in its anthology.

How important is it for writers to have groups and networks with which they connect?

For me it’s critical. Writing can be a lonely thing. Having a critique partner or a group for support, guidance, and feedback are invaluable. How do you know if your story will gel with readers if you don’t get their input?


Brief Bio: Carla Damron is a social worker, advocate and author whose last novel, The Orchid Tattoo, won the 2023 winter Pencraft Award for Literary Excellence. Her work The Stone Necklace (about grief and addiction) won the 2017 Women’s Fiction Writers Association Star Award for Best Novel and was selected the One Community Read for Columbia SC.

Damron is also the author of the Caleb Knowles mystery novels, including Justice Be Done, the fourth in this series. She holds an MSW and an MFA. Her careers of social worker and writer are intricately intertwined; all of her novels explore social issues like addiction, homelessness, and mental illness.

Start the Year with a Cover Reveal!

Presenting a new cover to the reading public is like sending a baby announcement!

It takes me nine months to write a fictional story unless research is required. Then it can take longer, like in the case of Stolen Diary.

For most of my stories, ideas simply come to me. Ideas can come while I’m fully conscious or they can reveal themselves in my dreams. Once an idea captures my imagination, I do research and start writing.

Jasmin, the young protagonist in Stolen Diary, first came to me while I was enjoying lunch at a graceful old hotel in Budapest. Classical music wafted through the lobby and restaurant. When I looked for the source of the music I saw a solitary, gray-haired gentleman playing a grand piano in the lobby.

Given that one moment of reality, fiction took over. The image of a young girl playing the piano with her grandfather came to me, which was unusual since there were no children in the restaurant or lobby. The image kept recurring for several months and that’s when I knew Jasmin’s story needed to be told. You would think that Stolen Diary would be set in Budapest, yet when I started writing, the story kept taking me back to North America – to Mexico, the US, and Canada. The closest the story gets to the image of the Budapest hotel is a scene set in the Prince of Wales Hotel in Niagara-on-Lake in Canada.

The storyline of this coming-of-age novel:

  • Jasmin is gifted, but her inability to relate to others creates enormous challenges between her and her mother, so Jasmin escapes into a world of music and science. Her grandfather, who encourages her genius, becomes her closest friend and ally.

  • Stolen Diary contains family secrets and Jasmin feels compelled to uncover them. She steals her mother’s diary thinking it will reveal the secrets she suspects keep her mother emotionally distant.
  • When the diary fails to reveal its secrets, Jasmin hides it, bringing unforeseen and fateful consequences.

Jasmin’s story represents, in fictional form, a few of the struggles gifted yet socially awkward children encounter in the real world. That’s why I wrote this novel.

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 loves the Arts and is a board member of the Montgomery County Literary Arts Council. 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.

Photo Credits:

Stolen Diary cover by Tim Barber

Astronaut robot – “File: Experiment for studying how robots can help children learn – Shall We Play a Game? – Honda Research Institute, 2009-01-12 19.09.17 (by Steve Jurvetson).jpg” by Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

A Good Use for a Dead Darling – Catriona McPherson

Sparkle Abbey’s guest – Catriona McPherson


I was at a two-and-a-half hour Zoom meeting earlier today (the UK Society of Authors’ AGM) and in the montage of the year’s highlights there was a wee tiny clip of another Scottish writer, Damien Barr, talking about how he no longer minds cutting stuff out of his drafts, now he’s published, because he can always return to the cut subject in blogs.

How, how, did that never occur to me in the course of writing thirty novels and mourning the stuff that ended up in the bin?

So, Stiletto Gang, here goes: you are the captive audience for my first resurrected-darlings blog post. Hope that’s okay.

SCOT IN A TRAP (Last Ditch Motel Book 5) is set in the present day but it concerns a time almost twenty years ago when Lexy Campbell was a school and then a university student, falling in (and out) of love for the first time. I wrote her first date, her first [billowing curtains] and the party at which her romance hit the skids. Inevitably, in the over-written first draft, I catalogued everything she wore. (I say “inevitably” because, if anyone can write about twenty years ago and not get there by visualising the fashion,  I never want to go shopping with them.)

In the first draft, however, I made a rookie mistake. I cast my mind back. When I was at school, we were in the height of  New-Romanticism. We crimped our hair, sewed brocade on shoulders and tied scarves round our legs. (Why did we tie scarves round our legs? We had necks.) By  the time I got to university, I was dressing like Bruce Springsteen: sawn-off checked shirt, tight jeans, work boots. I stole my dad’s old cardigans. He didn’t mind: he had moved on to fleeces because it was modern times.

The trouble with mining these memories for Lexy’s look is that she’s twenty years younger than me. Oops.

So, in the second draft, she had ironed hair and wore low-rise boot-cut jeans, hanky tops, and rocked many a barely-there sandal – remember those bloody things? Like a slice of toast with a single piece of string glued to it?

She also wore the ubiquitous gap-year chic of a dress and trousers. I still remember the first time I ever saw someone in a dress and trousers. It was one of my students at the University of Leeds – literally just back from her gap year. Note, I don’t mean a salwar kameez; lots of Pakistani diaspora women wore them throughout my childhood in Edinburgh and, in Leeds, men wore them too. But a western dress over wide-leg jeans? Mind blowing. That was the first time I ever felt old. I genuinely thought she’d been in a rush that morning and got mixed up about what she meant to wear. Like the time I put my skirt on the ironing board, left the iron to heat up, grabbed some toast, brushed my teeth, put my coat on and went to work.

Once I’d got used to the idea, I embraced the dress and trousers trend enthusiastically. And Lexy looked fantastic in the second draft, wearing hers. She was slightly under-dressed in the third draft and, by the time I’d got to page-proof stage, I wasn’t relying on clothes to ground the story in its time at all, which freed up her fashion choices to play a role in the plot. (No spoilers.) It was fun while it lasted, though.

Have you got happy memories of the fashions of yore? Anything you swore you’d never wear and ended up loving? Anything you still swear you won’t be caught dead in if it comes back? I’m not sure I could go round by flares for a third time, but you never know . . .



A mysterious object the size of a suitcase, all wrapped in bacon and smelling of syrup, can mean only one thing: Thanksgiving at the Last Ditch Motel. This year the motel residents are in extra-celebratory mood as the holiday brings a new arrival to the group – a bouncing baby girl.

But as one life enters the Ditch, another leaves it. Menzies Lassiter has only just checked in. When resident counsellor Lexy Campbell tries to deliver his breakfast the next day, she finds him checked out. Permanently.  Shocking enough if he were stranger, but Lexy recognises that face. Menzies was her first love until he broke her heart many years ago.

What’s he doing at the Last Ditch? What’s he doing dead? And how can Lexy escape the fact that she alone had the means, the opportunity – and certainly the motive – to kill him?


Catriona McPherson (she/her) was born in Scotland and immigrated to the US in 2010. She writes: preposterous 1930s detective stories, set in the old country and featuring an aristocratic sleuth; modern comedies set in the Last Ditch Motel in fictional (yeah, sure) California; and, darker than both of those (which is not difficult), a strand of contemporary psychological thrillers.

Her books have won or been shortlisted for the Edgar, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Lefty, the Macavity, the Mary Higgins Clark award and the UK Ellery Queen Dagger. She has just introduced a fresh character in IN PLACE OF FEAR, which finally marries her love of historicals with her own working-class roots, but right now, she’s writing the sixth book in what was supposed to be the Last Ditch trilogy.

Catriona is a proud lifetime member and former national president of Sisters in Crime.