Missing Malice – A Love Letter

by Sparkle Abbey

Awards Banquet Table

Malice Domestic is the annual convention that celebrates the traditional mystery and frankly it’s one of our favorites.  This year we were unable to attend and we were so bummed. From our very first Malice Domestic and multiple ones since that first one, the mystery community welcomed us. We’re so grateful for the opportunity to meet readers who have become friends. And thankful for all the wisdom shared, advice offered,  and great tips from other mystery authors. Sometimes tips about things we were too new to the business to even know we were going to need to know. We listened, we took notes, and we soaked it all in.

It was necessary but so very difficult to not be there this year. We were sad to miss getting to meet new people, see old friends, and share in the celebrations. To everyone who posted photos on social media, thank-you so much. It was wonderful to get to live a little bit of that Malice magic vicariously.  To all of the Agatha Award nominees and winners that we didn’t get to congratulate in person – congratulations! If you missed the list of Agatha winners you can find it here: Announcing the Agatha Award Winners

And if you have not yet read these books, you should. All of them.

And by the way, registration is open for Malice Domestic 2024. And we’re not missing out again. We hope to see you there!

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

They love to hear from readers and can be found on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest, their favorite social media sites. Also, if you want to make sure you get updates, sign up for their newsletter via the SparkleAbbey.com website

Clicking Our Heels – Spring Cleaning

It’s time to think about spring cleaning and what we might consider getting rid of. Anything you put at the top of your list for spring cleaning?

Dru Ann Love   I do year-round cleaning, but with spring I do a thorough purging of items.

Donnell Ann Bell – Yes! Please! I welcome anyone who wants to come and help me.:)

Robin Hillyer-Miles I spring clean after the biggest dump of pollen has fallen. I start with the back patio since outside is my favorite.

Saralyn Richard – I believe in “spring” cleaning all year long. The change of seasons isn’t as important as the act of getting rid of unused things. I start with cleaning out old emails, spam folders, and computer files.

Gay Yellen – Non-perishable food that has been neglected in the pantry either gets donated or eaten (at last).

Kathryn Lane Spring cleaning? Never heard of it!

Lois Winston – Since we moved 800+ miles not quite two years ago, I took care of all my spring cleaning for the next decade when we got our NJ house ready to go on the market. The only items that made the move with us to TN were ones we routinely use. Everything else was donated.

Lynn McPherson – I love de-cluttering. The first thing to go is always clothing. I like to think donating things I no longer wear will make someone happy and give the clothes another run.

Linda Rodriguez – Winter’s clutter. I can’t clean if there’s too much stuff in the way.

Barbara Eikmeier –  I don’t keep most books I read so in the spring I donate a box of books to the Friends of the Library annual sale. Then I go to the sale and buy more books. Sigh.

Mary Lee Ashford – I love spring cleaning and generally approach it with great enthusiasm. Now, whether that momentum lasts or not is another thing. But in any case, the first thing that I start with is the master bedroom closet. Are there items that I thought I’d wear but as it turns out I just keep ignoring? If so, maybe someone else would love them and they go straight into the donation box. (Once the donation box is relatively full it goes to the car and I drive around with it in my car for a month or two, but eventually it gets to one of my favorite thrift shops.) From the closet, I move onto the bedroom and cleaning out drawers, washing and storing heavy blankets, etc.

Shari Randall/Meri Allen – I generally clean BCCO –  before company comes over. The first thing to go has to be the inevitable stack of mail order catalogs.

Anita Carter I love spring cleaning! I tackle all the closets and end up making a few trips to the local donation drop-offs.

Bethany Maines I do believe in Spring cleaning but usually that’s because I can’t take it anymore.  The first thing that has to go is all of my family’s accumulated crap. My crap is fine, but why are there so many bits of their things EVERYWHERE???

T.K. Thorne – I don’t believe in cleaning; I just do it when I have to.

Debra H. Goldstein – I’ve always been a sporadic rather than seasonal cleaner. I things seem like utter chaos or I’m in need of a distraction and can’t think of anything else to do, I clean my desk, drawers, and closets. Luckily, it doesn’t take much for me to things are straightened or to find another distraction.

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 Element of Surprise

Remember the American Express Card slogan, “Don’t leave home without it?” Great slogan but as a writer, I have a different take on the saying. “Don’t publish without an editor.” There are different types of editors. A few that come to mind are developmental, copy editing, and proofreading. Many authors rely on their agents to go over their manuscript with the proverbial fine-tooth comb before submission.

I go through these stages, too, when I submit for publication. In truth, I’ve only had two “overall” editors in my fiction career. Despite having a fabulous critique partner and beta readers, my editors are the ones who discovered plot holes I’d never considered on my own. Could it be they’ve pored over a few manuscripts in their day?

Pat Van Wie was my first editor. Pat is a multi-published author and writing instructor. https://patricialewin.com/ She writes in two genres as Patricia Lewan and Patricia Keelyn. As a brand new author, I learned much from Pat. One  is an issue that arose in my debut novel, The Past Came Hunting.  In TPCH, my protagonist Melanie Norris is an ex-con determined to keep her stint in prison a secret from her son. As the story progresses, she is no longer the mixed-up runaway who left home at seventeen. The grownup Melanie obeys the law.

Except one. This law states convicted felons can’t possess firearms and creates a problem for Mel. Particularly when she learns Drake Maxwell, the man with whom she’s accused of committing the crime, is scheduled for release. Maxwell has promised retribution. Mel breaks her own code by locating her deceased husband’s Smith and Wesson revolver and keeps it close by in case she needs it.

I’m sure my goal when I wrote the book was to show how afraid she was of Maxwell and point out to the reader how much she’d changed.

What did my editor have to say about it?

Pat Van Wie’s comment:  “What does she do with the gun?”

Me: “Nothing. She’s an ex-con; she can’t own one.”

Pat Van Wie: “Do something with that gun.”

That’s it? Do something? She might as well have told me to cut off an appendage.  Most authors will agree when you add or delete a thread to the story, it’s not always a simple fix. It often involves pages of rewriting. Pat’s question created a plot problem that left me with some sleepless nights. Something tells me that was the idea because my muse took it from there.

What was the result? Revealing what Mel does with that gun created a deeper level of trust between my protagonists and strengthened their relationship. It also created one of the most poignant and romantic scenes I’ve ever written.

Today, Debra Dixon is my editor. She’s also the publisher of BelleBooks/Bell Bridge Books and is the renowned author of GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. When people refer to respected craft books, Goal Motivation and Conflict is listed at the top among Dwight Swain’s Techniques of a Selling Writer and Joseph Campbell’s The Heroes Journey. 

Writers will tell you it’s your book; you don’t have to make changes. But if Debra Dixon glitches on something in my manuscript, I pay attention and work to fix it. When I work through the problem, I deliver a better book.

As you might imagine, Debra Dixon is also incredibly well read. When I veered from romantic suspense to the suspense genre, she recommended I read Under the Beetle’s Cellar by Mary Willis Walker. I devoured that book in a single weekend. If you love suspense, I recommend it as well.

When I was in the throes of writing Black Pearl, she suggested another suspense novel.  Writing is subjective and I didn’t care for it. After I’d finished, I wrote back explaining that while I agree the plot was terrific, I thought the novel went into too much graphic detail and bordered on horror. I didn’t think I could ever write such a book.

Her response? She didn’t expect me to change my writing style or my writing preferences; she wanted me to observe the many surprises the author included in the chapters. I reread and had to agree. As authors we’re trained to end chapters on a hook, to limit backstory and keep the momentum going forward. But suspense readers expect twists and turns.

As storytellers, our job is to engage the reader and never leave them scratching their heads. If you include something in your novel, make sure you have a reason. Finally, surprise is an important element in fiction. I learned these tips from my editors. I recommend an author never publish without one.

How about you? Have your editors taught you a thing or two?

About the Author: Leaving international thrillers to world travelers, Donnell Ann Bell concentrates on suspense that might happen in her neck of the woods – writing SUSPENSE TOO CLOSE TO HOME. She’s written four Amazon standalone bestsellers. These days she’s concentrating on her cold case series, her first two, Black Pearl and Until Dead. Currently, she’s working on book three. https://www.donnellannbell.com/

The Scooter and a Family’s Intervention

Recently a dear friend of mine had foot surgery. Being unable to perform weight bearing tasks for weeks, especially when you’re a chef, had to be the ultimate challenge and she was trying to survive on crutches. I begged her to enlist the aid of a mobility scooter. I believe in scooters, maybe a little too much. Here’s my story . . . .

By Donnell Ann Bell

I don’t smoke, I occasionally drink, and I certainly don’t do drugs.  Why then did my family get together and decide an intervention was necessary where I was concerned?


I’ll tell you why.  They took away my scooter.

That’s right.  Years ago, I had foot surgery and it turned out a bit more complicated than we’d anticipated.  A metal-tarsal plate fusion on top of a bunionectomy.  Where I had expected to be walking a week or so after surgery, I was informed by my doctor my recovery would actually be six to eight weeks of non-weight bearing on my right foot.

Ghastly news.  Horrible news.  No driving and I became a virtual recluse over the holidays and all through January.  All right.  I’m a writer, so being a virtual recluse really isn’t all that terrible.  But falling on your face is, let me tell you what.  For anyone who knows me, there’s a reason my middle name isn’t “Grace.”  And though I practiced and practiced on crutches before the surgery, when it came time to walk on them after the operation, well, fear had a great deal of influence.  Before surgery I could land on my right foot.  After surgery, landing on it was a no-no.

Maybe I was determined not to make friends with the crutches.  But honestly I tried.  After falling three times and looking like Social Services should be involved, my husband said enough is enough.  With that he was off to Denver and back a while later with the ultimate life saver for anyone who has foot or leg surgery.  A scooter!

My life saver after surgery

I adored my husband even more so after that.  We have a ranch-style house and that scooter was made for it and for me.  Not long after we got it, I put away the crutches for good and soon was zooming all over the place, so much so my daughter was constantly lamenting, “Mom, slow down.”

Where it would take me several minutes to cross the floor with my crutches, sweating and panting, the scooter proved to be my best friend.  I slept with it by my bed, by the recliner, in my office.  This little transportation mode made my recovery bearable.

But then. . .the cast came off and so did the boot and my doctor said, “You can apply weight again to your foot.”  Yay!  I was so excited.  I would gradually be walking again.

Wrong.  My son who had come for a visit during that time said, “Okay, Mom, enough slacking.  You’ve become too attached to that scooter.”  With that he handed my beloved scooter to my husband who whisked it back to the rental place in Denver.

Looking back, I can admit now that they were right.  I didn’t like it at the time, and maybe at some point I’ll rewrite my family back into my will.  I was lucky.  My family recognized I needed help.

About the Author: Donnell Ann Bell is an award-winning author, her latest work, a series, includes Until Dead: a Cold Case Suspense, released in 2022, Black Pearl, a Cold Case Suspense  2020 Colorado Book Award finalist. Donnell’s single title books include, Buried Agendas, Betrayed, Deadly Recall and the Past Came Hunting, all of which have been Amazon bestsellers. Currently she’s writing book three of her cold case series.  www.donnellannbell.com



The War Against Women That No One Wants to Admit–and a Poem

Trigger Warnings for child molestation and abuse and for sexual assault and domestic violence.

Whenever I read this poem in public, I preface it with a statement that there is a war against women taking place, followed by the current statistics on sexual assault, rape, physical assault, and murder, statistics that have risen every time I check them again and which are always worse for women of color and Native women. I don’t read this poem in public much, however, because it makes men uncomfortable–they shift in their seats visibly–and it brings so many women up to me afterward in tears to say that this poem was about their own lives. I have begun to feel that I should provide a therapist to the audience before I read it.

As we live through the nightmare created when Rowe v Wade was cast down by the Supreme Court, however, this poem feels appropriate. This is, ultimately, what patriarchy comes down to–women and girls at the mercy of men hurting them, simply because they can. We can always hope that they won’t–and not all of them do–but ultimately, they can. And they can get away with it over and over again, while women who try to keep them from getting away with it suffer and pay a huge price. Nothing there has really changed since I was a girl, except that women are generally less and less inclined to go quietly along. Our rage has grown too great. Though things were supposed to have changed, our current situation has shown us that they haven’t. But they will. They must.


Before I fall into the past,

I drive to the library,

thumb open a book

about the death of a child

in Greenwich Village and





to trash-filled rooms smelling

of milk, urine, beer and blood,

doors locked and curtains drawn

against the world,

dirty baby brother caged in a playpen,

mother nursing broken nose,

split lip, overflowing ashtray,

and father filling the room to the ceiling,

shouting drunken songs and threats

before whom I tremble and dance,

wobbly diversion, to keep away

the sound of fist against face,

bone against wall.


The book never shows

the other little brothers and sister hiding

around corners and under covers,

but I know they are there

and dance faster,

sing the songs that give him pleasure,

pay the price for their sleep

later, his hand pinching flat nipples,

thrusting between schoolgirl thighs,

as dangerous to please as to anger

the giant who holds the keys

to our family prison. Mother

has no way to keep him from me,

but I can do it for her and them.


Locked by these pages

behind enemy lines again

where I plan futile sabotage

and murder every night,

nine-year-old underground,

I read the end.

Suddenly defiant, attacked,

slammed into a wall,

sliding into coma, death

after the allies arrive,

too late, in clean uniforms so like his own

to shake their heads at the smell and mess—

the end I almost believe,

the end that chance keeps at bay

long enough for me to grow and flee,

my nightmare alive on the page.


Freed too late,

I close the book,

two hours vanished,

stand and try to walk

to the front door on uncertain legs

as if nothing were wrong.

No one must know.

I look at those around me

without seeming to,

an old skill,

making sure no one can tell.

Panic pushes me to the car

where the back window reflects

a woman, the unbruised kind.


In the space of three quick breaths

I recognize myself,

slam back into adult body and life,

drive home repeating a mantra,

“Ben will never hurt me–

All men are not violent,”

reminding myself to believe the first,

to hope for the last.




Years later, my little sister will sleep,

pregnant, knife under her pillow,

two stepdaughters huddled

at the foot of her bed,

in case her husband

breaks through the door

again. Finally,

she escapes

with just the baby.


My daughter calls collect

from a pay phone on a New Hampshire street.

She’ll stay in a shelter for battered women,

be thrown against the wall

returning to pack

for the trip back to Missouri,

a week before her second anniversary.

With her father and brother,

the trip home will take three days,

and she will call for me again.


Ana and Kay, who sat in my classes,

Vicky, who exchanged toddlers with me once a week,

Pat and Karen, who shared my work,

and two Nancys I have known,

among others too many to count,

hide marks on their bodies and memories,

while at the campus women’s center

where I plan programs for women students

on professional advancement

and how to have it all,

the phone rings every week with calls we forward

to safe houses and shelters.


In my adult life, I’ve suffered no man

to touch me in anger,

but I sleep light.


Published in Heart’s Migration (Tia Chucha Press, 2009)

Linda Rodriguez’s 13th book, Unpapered: Writers Consider Native American Identity and Cultural Belonging, will publish in May 2023. She also edited Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puertorriqueña Poets Look at Their American Lives, The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East, The Fish That Got Away: The Sixth Guppy Anthology, Fishy Business: The Fifth Guppy Anthology, and other anthologies.

Dark Sister: Poems was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award. Her three earlier Skeet  Bannion mystery novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, Every Last Secret—and earlier books of poetry—Skin Hunger and Heart’s Migration—received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin’s Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. She also published Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, based on her popular workshop.  Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in Kansas City Noir, was optioned for film.

Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International Thriller Writers, Native Writers Circle of the Americas, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Learn more about her at http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com or follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/rodriguez_linda  or on Mastodon at https://mastodon.social/rodriguez_linda.


by Saralyn Richard


Do good fences make good neighbors? In the past few months, I’ve gained new neighbors on either side of my house. There’s a brand-spanking-new fence between my yard and that of the neighbor to the north. There’s no fence between my yard and that of the neighbor to the south. I love both sets of neighbors. We’ve shared lots of visits in our front yards, several barbecues and parties, baked goods, pets, children, home improvement advice, and more. They may be pine, and I, apple orchard, but I enjoy spending time with them and being part of their community.

Robert Frost’s MENDING WALL is one of my favorite poems. His last line is the source for my opening question. I find a lot of wisdom in this poem:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

The work of hunters is another thing:

I have come after them and made repair

Where they have left not one stone on a stone,

But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,

To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,

No one has seen them made or heard them made,

But at spring mending-time we find them there.

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

And some are loaves and some so nearly balls

We have to use a spell to make them balance:

‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’

We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

Oh, just another kind of out-door game,

One on a side. It comes to little more:

There where it is we do not need the wall:

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

The same analogy applies to my relationships with fellow authors in The Stiletto Gang. I may be police procedural and they cozy writers, but we have much in common, and we can help each other every time we meet to walk the line and re-build the wall (which might just be the website). I’m grateful for my neighbors, my Stiletto Gang colleagues, and everyone who reads this post. May all your walls be mended, and may all your neighbors be good.

Galveston Author Saralyn Richard

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

Visit Saralyn and subscribe to her monthly newsletter here, or on her Amazon page here.


Image of book pages

New Loves: Starting a New Series

By Sparkle Abbey

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

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

A new series involves a lot of firsts:

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

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

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

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

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

sparkle and abbey

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






New Year’s Resolution: Read a Short Story a Day

by Paula Gail Benson

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope it has been healthy, comfortable, and prosperous for all.

Barb Goffman

If you are still considering resolutions and have any interest in short story craft, may I suggest a recommendation by well-known, award winning writer and editor Barb Goffman? Why not read a short story a day? Debra H. Goldstein has already made an excellent suggestion to get started: the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime’s latest anthology, Hook, Line, and Sinker. In addition, there are plenty of online and periodic publications to choose from, all featuring outstanding authors. Many of the Sisters in Crime Chapters have organized and released anthologies to showcase their members and give newer authors a chance not only for a writing credit, but also to learn how to promote their work.

Even if you are not interested in writing the short form, seeing how it is put together can help you strengthen skills for longer efforts. With a short story, characters, setting, and mood must be established quickly, in only a few carefully chosen words. It has to be wrapped up concisely, without leaving loose ends or unsatisfied questions. Those elements are important for novellas and novels, too. Figuring out how to develop a story and keep a reader engaged is a primary focus for shorts.

If you are interested in writing short stories, please consider the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable’s Annual Short Story Contest. This year, submissions must include a holiday element, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. They must be 2000 words or less and submitted as provided in the description of rules. An entry fee of $15 is required for each submission. The top awards are: First Place, $200 and publication in the Bethlehem Writers Group’s anthology Season’s Readings; Second Place, $100 and publication in the Bethlehem Writers Group’s online quarterly, the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable; and Third Place, $50 and publication in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable.

Maybe the best news about the contest is that this year’s celebrity judge is Barb Goffman. Here’s a link with an interview where Barb talks about the most appealing aspect of writing short stories, how her careers as a journalist and lawyer have influenced her writing, what some of the most frequent mistakes she sees writers make, and what’s her best advice for submitting to an anthology or contest.

Start you New Year right: reading and writing shorts!