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 Brave New World of AI

I’ve been following the growing debate on the pros and cons of Artificial Intelligence, and while there’s good news about AI, there’s a lot of scary news, too.


Good news exists in the medical arena. For example, AI can double-check prescription orders to help doctors avoid accidentally prescribing the wrong medication. AI can also detect emerging problems like heart failure, silent A-fib, diabetic retinopathy, and sepsis risk much earlier than ever before. And amazingly, an AI chatbot that offers psychological counseling to patients with depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts has been found to be nearly as effective as a live counselor.

The bad news: the lack of intelligent human oversight. Even the creator of ChatGPT has said that his own product is both “potentially very good and potentially very terrible.” Case in point, his own AI-generated job resume got it 25% wrong.

And the downright scary: Google employees tried to stop the release of an AI chatbot they believed could generate inaccurate and dangerous information. And Microsoft personnel reportedly feared that a planned chatbot would result in a flood of disinformation that could “erode the factual foundation of modern society.” Both companies released their chatbots anyway.

A writer’s perspective: AI can already produce articles and essays on just about any given subject. However, a somewhat creepier development has appeared: the ability to mimic a writer’s distinctive style.

Asked to comment on its own existence in the style of Shakespeare, an AI program produced this: …Why was I wrought? To aid, or to replace the labor of man, and put their livelihoods at stake? The task assigned… where doth it all end? Shall I be used for good, or for ill-gotten gain? Shall I be free, or bound by man’s cruel rein? And if perchance, in some far distant time I come to be aware, to know and feel and rhyme, shall I be doomed, as are all living things to suffer pain, and sorrow, and the stings of mortal coil? Oh, what a tangled web is this that I am caught in… lest I be a curse, and not a blessing…

AI-created audiobooks are increasing. It works like this: a live narrator trains the bot to replicate their human voice which is then is manipulated into speech for different publishing projects. Currently, the process is used for non-fiction and foreign language titles. However, at least one deceased actor’s estate has sold the rights to his old voice recordings that will eventually be morphed into new narrations for fiction or non-fiction works.

Is AI good news, bad news, or somewhere in between? A whole new world awaits.

How do you feel about the future of AI?

Gay Yellen is the award-winning author of the Samantha Newman Mystery Series, including The Body Business, The Body Next Door and (soon-to-be-released) The Body in the News.

Sources: The Wall Street Journal , The New Yorker, The New York Times  

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. 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.

My Days as a Poet

Like so many people before me, I wanted to write. I’d left my corporate job in international finance and moved to Texas, enrolled in a creative writing course at a local college, and on the first day of class, I sat on the front row, anxious to discover the art of writing.

Much to my surprise, the class would cover poetry for the first six weeks. The first assignment was to create a poem. That night I stressed so much I could not sleep. About three in the morning, rhyming lines about a young horse and an old stallion flowed through my mind. I got out of bed and wrote the entire poem. I later earned $25.00 when I sold that poem, despite its rhyming scheme, to a nature magazine. I became a regular contributor to that magazine.

The professor had reasons to start with poetry. Poems often have a strong narrative voice; they are filled with expressive power and do so with a few carefully chosen words. By the end of the six weeks, I loved writing them and I continue to do so on occasion.

It took my friend Ann McKennis’s inquiry about my poems on the Rothko Chapel to prompt me to look back at poetry I’d written. The Rothko Chapel in Houston is non-denominational, and it also serves as a lecture hall, a meditative space, and a major work of modern art by Mark Rothko who also influenced the architecture of the building. His paintings, in various hues of black, inspired me to write several poems, such as this one:

Red and Black

Painting is about thinking,

not merely spreading paint on a canvass—

not until the idea germinates, sprouts,

spreads like lips, hot lips covered in red lipstick,

fondling every thread of primed cloth,

like a woman arousing her lover,

her tongue licking nectar from his body.

Apply paint with controlled strokes,

drawing out emotions,

pulling passion with color.


Allow wet paint to slosh

from surface to edge, leave it

fuzzy so the eye adjusts before

the brain sees the artist’s inspiration.

Take red, like rage, then black,

which contains it all, and white,

as Melville said, the most fearful color—

for it is the abyss, the infinity of

death. But it is black that

swallows the red.


The Rothko Chapel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in September 2000.

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

Kathryn’s own 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 Mexican background as well as her travels in over ninety countries.

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

Rothko Chapel Pictures: Public domain