Tag Archive for: 2016

Science Fiction: A Bastion of Hope

by J.M. Phillippe

Social work, I tell people, is about holding hope for others when they are unable to hold it for themselves. More often than not, I meet people when they are in the midst of some sort of crisis. That crisis has painted their world pretty dark, and optimistic isn’t very high on the list of things they are feeling. And yet, the very act of going to therapy is an act of hope — it’s taking a chance that there may be another way to feel, another way to live life. They come with a spark, and it’s my job to help them nurture and grow that spark. I help them see the strengths they already have, and learn to accept that being human means having imperfection. When all else fails, I sit with them in their darkness until they can contemplate the existence of light again.

The world feels very scary to a great deal many people in my life right now. Here in the US, the electoral college just elected a man that the majority of the nation did not vote for, and he is pushing for policy most of us oppose. I have teenage clients being told by bullying classmates that they will be deported, Jewish clients being threatened with swastikas, trans clients terrified for their safety, and countless female clients terrified for their rights (including the right to not be sexually assaulted). Facts are being re-branded as opinions, and science dismissed as an elitist and biased view. People don’t know how to tell if the stories they are reading are real or fake — and too many people don’t even care. If it sounds like the truth (or rather, like what they already believe), that’s good enough.

It’s times like this that I hold on to one of my first and greatest loves: science fiction. Science fiction and fantasy have covered all this territory before. I think I have managed to read a story or see a movie about every kind of terrible thing that humanity can do to itself, or have done to them by some greater power. I have read every kind of ending as well, from the dark and nihilistic, to the fiercely optimistic. The most recent was the latest Star Wars movie, whose tag line is this:

While I can’t assume to know the motivation of every author out there, I can’t help but think that the reason why so many writers create such dark worlds is to show people a way through that darkness. However big the odds, there are always heroes willing to take them on. However hard the path, there are feet willing to walk it, and however horrible the consequences, there are people willing to risk it all. For hope.

Hope is one of the great themes of science fiction: where it lives, how it endures, what it can accomplish, what happens when it dies. You cannot tell a story about human beings without also talking about their hopes and dreams. My particular interest in science fiction and fantasy is the way it can take the human condition to the furthest stretch of “what if” and provide a possible answer to what humans would do then. And more often than not, what humans will do, whenever given even the tiniest chance, is hope.

Like many others, I found 2016 to be a very challenging year. I don’t know if we all just collectively only focused on the bad and missed the good (though a lot good happened as well), but it seemed like the year when a lot of people realized, as the great William Goldman (of The Princess Bride) said: “Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” None of us are buying this year.

Still, it’s my job to hold hope. The only reason I have been able to is that I spent my childhood practicing this skill. I usually needed it about midway through a book when everything in the story started getting darker and darker. I definitely needed it right before the end, when it seemed like any sort of happy ending would be impossible. But I stuck with it (and didn’t skip ahead) and even if all the characters would not survive the story, one thing almost always did: hope.

So I’d pick up the next book, and the next, and the next, and get the same message again and again. However dark the world, there were good people in it. However horrible humanity could be, there were other humans willing to stand up for the weak, for the innocent, and for the best in all of us.

And that is why I can look at 2016 and understand — the story is not over yet. I don’t know if 2017 will be a dark chapter or not, but I do know that in the end, however long this series goes, the good will win. We just have to keep flipping the pages, and we’ll get there eventually.

* * *
J.M. Phillippe is the author of Perfect Likeness and the short story The Sight. She has lived in the deserts of California, the suburbs of Seattle, and the mad rush of New York City. She works as a therapist in Brooklyn, New York and spends her free-time decorating her tiny apartment to her cat Oscar Wilde’s liking, drinking cider at her favorite British-style pub, and training to be the next Karate Kid, one wax-on at a time.

See Ya, 2016

December is traditionally the month
of reflection—a time to look back at the year to assess goals and accomplishments.  My husband and I were talking last night, not
so much about which goals we met, but rather about 2016 events that made us happy. While
engagements, new jobs and houses for our kids top the list, I’m very happy to
report we finally finished our house without killing our builder.

My mom would’ve loved this
house—the setting, the birds and animals, the river and pond, and especially
the snow at Christmas. 

I miss Mom a lot
at the holidays. One of my favorite holiday memories is Mom making cookies with
the kids. While unpacking, I found the cookie cutters in one of the boxes
marked “Christmas. ” I think I’ll head into my new kitchen, whip up a batch of
gingerbread dough, and invite the neighbor’s kids over.

What’s on your list
of “good things” for 2016?

Cathy Perkins started writing when recurring characters and dialogue populated her day job commuting daydreams. Fortunately, that first novel lives under the bed, but she was hooked on the joy of creating stories. When not writing, she can be found doing battle with the beavers over the pond height or setting off on another travel adventure. Born and raised in South Carolina, she now lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd. 

You can also visit her online at the following places:  Website Facebook | Twitter Goodreads

The Celebrations Linger On

SinC Workshop

than transition (our monthly theme) to a new subject matter, I’m going to
continue with the topic Linda Rodriguez so ably introduced on Friday:
Bouchercon 2016, which took place over the last five days in New Orleans. Linda
was very much a part of this special event with her participation in the
Sisters on Crime SinC into Great Writing workshop, Doing Diversity Right. She
and other experts analyzed how writers can make their work more accessible and
meaningful to readers by respecting cultures and disabilities through choice of
words, plots, and character depictions and reactions.

Edith Maxwell, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and Ramona DeFlice Long at Sinc Breakfast

and champagne (served at the Sisters in Crime breakfast, with founder Sara
Paretsky in attendance, and during at least two panels) were in evidence during
the conference. The following anniversaries were recognized: the 75th
year of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine,
the 30th year of Sisters in Crime, and the 6th year of a
writing critique group including Donna Andrews, Ellen Crosby, John Gilstrap,
Allan Orloff, and Art Taylor.

The audience very much enjoyed sampling a liquid recipe
featured in Ellen’s upcoming novel, The
Champagne Conspiracy

Eleanor Cawood Jones, Alan Orloff, Donna Andrews, Art Taylor, John Gilstrap, and Ellen Crosby

Ace Atkins interviewing Julie Smith

major topic of discussion, in both formal and informal settings, was
transitions in the publishing industry. Ace Atkins conducted an inspiring
interview with Julie Smith, whose Skip Langdon novels were my introduction to
New Orleans. Julie mentioned that she has found a new passion working in
publishing. When asked how that work could be a passion, she explained that she
had helped writers whose series had not been published in a number of years
come out with new work for readers to enjoy.

Edith Maxwell, Debra Goldstein, Terrie Farley Moran, PGB, and Lori Rader-Day

Having the
opportunity to revel in the company of authors and reconnect with dear friends
in a city that truly knows how to party was a fabulously memorable experience.
If you ask me what kind of shoes I’ve been wearing, I’ll have to answer
truthfully, comfortable ones. It takes a lot of walking to navigate Bouchercon
and New Orleans. Many thanks to all the organizers and participants. Now that I’ve
returned home, I can’t help but feel a bit of a glass slipper complex. Midnight
approaches and it’s time to return to normal life. Yet, in my heart, the party
lingers on. Let the good times roll!

My First Left Coast Crime 2016

It was called The Great Cactus Caper.

Authors, fans, booksellers, editors, librarians, publishers, oh my! Loads of fun at every corner and in every bar (okay there was only one bar, but it had many corners).

Seven hundred and counting. That’s how many were registered, which makes Left Coast Crime a shade larger than Malice and much smaller than Bouchercon. 

I found the atmosphere and relaxation quotient to be a cross between the other two conferences and that’s where I coined the phrase “introvert break” because I was able to do this multiple times and not miss much of the conference.

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency and it’s a beautiful hotel. I found the perfect spot to people watch as my friends started trickling in. Inside this hotel there were four places to eat, Networks Bar and Grill, Einstein Bros. Café, Terrace Café and Compass Arizona Grill. I mostly had breakfast at Steve’s Greenhouse Grill. All dining experiences were excellent.

I started the convention out by volunteering with book stuffing and ended with assigning guest to the dinner table for the banquet. A fun time was had with my partner, Ann Hogsett. My other volunteer responsibilities were taping the signs to the wall with the author’s name prior to their signing time.

The next day was the start of the conference and I was more or less prepared for the panel I was sitting on, but before that, I enjoyed the several panels that I did attend which started with Author Speed Dating and ended with the Opening Ceremonies and Welcome Reception. Then it was time for my panel and I had a good time sitting up on the dais with a nice group of friends. It is always a delight to see friends in the audience – sort of tampered down the nervousness. PANEL: Fans and Reviewers Talk Their Favorite Books with Bill Fitzhugh moderating and panelists: Katrina Niidas Holm, Lesa Holstine, Me and Lucinda Surber.

The next day was another day of panels that started with the Continental Breakfast featuring Debut Writers and ended with the Have Your Cake and Murder Too Dessert Reception. I also attended the Meet the Canucks Reception where we had to get the answers from the Canadian authors and correct answers won a prize. I got a copy of Unreasonable Doubt by Vicki Delany. I also signed up for the author/reader connection with Seventh Street Sleuths authors: Lori Rader-Day, James W. Ziskin, Jennifer Kincheloe, Lynne Raimondo, and Terry Shames at the Hyatt Regency Network Bar & Grill. I had a good time gabbing and listening to all that was around me.

Saturday, once again started with the Discover Mystery Breakfast hosted by Poisoned Pen Press. Saturday was also the day I was moderating the PANEL: The Making of a Cozy Murder: What defines a cozy with Ritter Ames, Donna Andrews, Carolyn Greene and Camille Minichino sitting on the dais. It was a good panel and I started out nervous but felt good when it was over.

Then the rest of the day was spent, yet again, attending panels, eating, drinking and volunteering. This was also the night of the banquet where the Lefty Awards was given out and it was fun. Then it was time to give out the awards: Donna Andrews won the Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery Novel; Rhys Bowen won the Lefty for Best Historical Mystery Novel; Gigi Pandian won the Lefty for Best LCC Regional Mystery Novel and Louise Penny won the Lefty for Best World Mystery Novel.

The last day of a fun-filled weekend comes to a close with the usual dining, gabfest and the Closing Panel Interview with Guests of Honor. Then it was time to say goodbye until the next time.

The pictures will tell you how much fun was had at my first Left Coast Crime convention.

Have you been to Left Coast Crime? Any other reader/author conventions? Next year Left Coast Crime is in Hawaii.

New Year’s Resolutions – Can I Keep Them?

New Year’s Resolutions – Can I Keep Them? by Debra H. Goldstein

2016 has arrived!  Anticipation of the new year has faded into pleasant memories of the ball dropping in Times Square, friends blowing noisemakers, popping champagne corks, and children peering around the stairwell to see grown-ups partying.  For writers, this is the time when excitement and happiness is replaced by the fear of keeping our resolutions.  I tried to keep mine simple this year, but I’m going to share my writer’s resolutions with you:

1) Write every day when possible – I’ve been a hit and miss writer.  I wrote when I had blog deadlines, when the muse moved me, or when I had a deadline.  Unfortunately, those days were few and far between with the result that since I became serious about writing two years ago, I’ve wasted a lot of time.  I envy the production of those who force themselves to write daily either to a word or page count or simply until they see some words on the page.

2) Don’t envy other writers – Envy is a green-eyed form of jealously.  Rather than envy them, join them by doing the work to make yourself equally accomplished.

3) Continue to learn – Read, Listen, Observe – the day you stop learning is the day they bury you.

4) Be humble – Dance for joy when something is published but don’t forget to count how many rejections you’ve received, too.  Remember, every story or book published had a lot of people who helped you along the way – whether by teaching you, offering words of encouragement, being a sounding board for gripes and ideas, or opening a door for you.

5) Extend a hand to others – you may never be a mid-lister or a NY Times author, but you can be a human being.  The only way you got this far was that others helped you so pay it back by paying it forward.

I hope I can stick to these and to one more personal one:

1) Be kind, considerate, thoughtful and loving to your family and friends…..writing isn’t everything, but they are.

Any resolutions on your end you’d like to share?

Facing the New Year

By Kay Kendall

Even though
we are now six days into 2016, I still feel compelled to write something about
entering a new year. On the other hand, maybe this is trite. To resolve the
issue, I did a quick online search of topics to blog about…and here is the
advice that jumped out at me.

What are people afraid
of? Do what you can to help allay those fears.
So I am back
to where I began. I’ll call it “Facing Down the New Year without Fear and


After all, that topic haunted me as the last days of December
dwindled down. The old year had held so many horrors on so many levels. You
name it. Whether it was personal, national, or international, things were
danged scary. Whereas every other year I had welcomed the coming one with hope
and delight, looking at 2016 looming on the calendar caused anxiety and
shudders. I felt particularly snake bitten because of

a) My husband’s cancer treatments in 2015
(Will the cancer return?)
b) America’s decreasing harmony (Look at
our national and state electoral processes)

c) International tensions high as the
Cuban missile crisis (As a kid, I assumed it would sort itself out.)

Cursing snake bites, I walked back from the abyss’ edge and quit scaring
myself to death. The Internet asserts some of you are
experiencing similar fears, so I’ll share thoughts that helped calm
me down.


First, on
the international and national political stages, issues indeed are piling up,
but that does not mean that we will not keep on muddling through, crisis after crisis.
Most of the time we do. Just think how news organizations catastrophize everything
so we will pay attention to them, and that this goes on twenty-four hours a day
every day, ceaselessly. No wonder our stomachs are aflutter with fear. Some
politicians also actively try to scare us into their ways of thinking. Calmer
voices are difficult to hear above the fray.
I used to be
a news junky, and I guess in a way I still am, but I simply cannot bear to
listen to politicians and news pundits screaming that the sky is falling for
one reason or another all the time anymore. When my head churns with thoughts
of terrorism, mass immigration, climate change and the like, I turn the television off and
do something soothing. Like petting the dog. Going for a walk. Remembering that
most things I’ve worried about in my life have never come to pass. No, really.
If you don’t believe me, then list your own old fears and see exactly which
ones came true. Not many, if your life is anything like mine.
Now with
some mental toughness and practice, I have set my mind firmly in the half-full
position. I push aside the notion that the cup could also be half-empty. The
year ahead will be like most—as full of ups as it is of downs. I focus on the
ups, and keep on truckin’ right past the downs. So what if I have to reset to
half-full every few days. I can do it. Stay positive, that is. And if I can,
you surely can too.
Most of all,
I remember that all we ever have is this very moment we are living in. If I am
too anxious to enjoy it, then I’m wasting a perfectly good life. We all can
train our minds to be happy. In a serious pinch, then we can follow this maxim –
Fake it til you make it. I once heard a perfectly great sermon at my Methodist
church on that very topic.

Kay Kendall’s historical mysteries capture the spirit and turbulence of the 1960s. DESOLATION ROW (2013) and RAINY DAY WOMEN (2015) are in her Austin Starr Mystery series. Austin is a 22-year-old Texas bride who ends up on the frontlines of societal change, learns to cope, and turns amateur sleuth. Kay’s degrees in Russian history and language help ground her tales in the Cold War, and her titles show she’s a Bob Dylan buff too. Kay lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. In her former life as a PR executive, Kay’s projects won international awards.

So How is Your 2016 Going?

Mine is starting fine. I’ve learned through the many years that I’ve been on earth that my attitude has a lot to do with how things are going. Of course, I have my frustrations. Hubby and I both are feeling our age which has made some things we used to enjoy doing now impossible like taking long trips on airplanes, dancing, driving into and through big cities.

However, we’ve made up for it in other ways. If we really want to visit someone who lives somewhere the driving will be difficult, we ask the daughter who lives closes to us to do the driving. She loves to drive and it gives her a break from all she does as a preacher’s wife.

Instead of dancing, we enjoy watching all kinds of movies and TV series together with the aid or our Roku.

My biggest joy is spending time with family–and we have a big one. Lots of grands and great-grands to enjoy.

And I’m still able and enjoy writing and reading.

At the end of 2015 one of my publisher put out a list of which books did best: http://otpblog.blogspot.com/2015/12/otps-most-popular-books-in-2015.html
Two older books in the Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series ended up on that list.

As a Christmas gift, I offered a free Kindle copy of either of my series to 25 readers, and I’d like to offer the choice of one of my series to anyone on this list, either the Rocky Bluff P.D. series or my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. I’ll send a Kindle copy of your choice to the first 5 who contact me via email. mmeredith24@ocsnet.net

You can check our the books on my website; http://fictionforyou.com/

Wishing you all a great year and plenty of good reading.

Marilyn who also writes as F. M. Meredith

Here are the latest in each series: