Tag Archive for: Charlaine Harris

Bethlehem Writers Roundtable Short Story Award

 by Paula Gail Benson

My first published short story, “Nectar of the Gods,” appeared as the featured story in the February 2013 issue of the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. The Roundtable, formerly a monthly and now a quarterly online publication, is the labor of love of the Bethlehem Writers Group, organized in 2006 to provide critiques and support for its own members as well as help other writers see their work in print. I saw the deadline to submit for that first story just as I had decided to put a renewed focus on my writing.

Charlaine Harris

After learning that my story had been accepted, I decided to submit to the Group’s annual short story contest. I was over the moon when my submission, “Long in the Tooth,” received third place with Hank Phillippi Ryan as the celebrity judge. The story appeared in the June issue and later was included in Let It Snow, a Bethlehem Writers Group print anthology.

My sci-fi/fantasy short “Apple’s Lure” was in the July/August 2014 issue. And, this year, I received the fabulous news that my “Cosway’s Confidence” won second place in the annual contest, with Peter Abrahams aka Spencer Quinn as celebrity judge.

I’ve learned so much from working with the BWR editors and I truly appreciate their confidence in me.

Beginning January 1, 2021, the BWR’s Short Story Award is open for submissions. The theme this year, interpreted broadly, is “An Element of Mystery,” and the celebrity judge is Charlaine Harris.

Submissions must not be more than 2,000 words and an entry fee of $15.00 is required for each submission. Check this link for more information.

Happy Thanksgiving all!



Mystery in the Midlands ONLINE and FREE!!!! Saturday, July 25, 2020

by Paula Gail Benson

For the last two years, the Palmetto Chapter of Sisters in Crime and the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America have sponsored a mid-summer conference for readers and writers in “famously hot” Columbia, S.C. While we had to cancel our in person gathering due to Covid 19, our third venture as an online conference, to be held on Saturday, July 25, 2020, looks to be a charm with a terrifically HOT lineup and a program offered free of charge (thanks to Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America for generous support). Anyone can attend. You don’t have to be a member of Sisters in Crime or Mystery Writers of America to join in the fun!

All you have to do is register at this link, then click through to the Crowdcast link to save your spot.

Here’s the link again:

Today, Monday, July 20, 2020, is the last day to register! You don’t want to miss this fabulous program hosted by Dana Kaye with books available through Jill Hendrix’s Fiction Addiction Bookstore in Greenville, S.C.

Here’s the schedule for Mystery in the Midlands, on Saturday, July 25, 2020:

10:00 am to 10:15 am EST   Welcome
Kaye (moderator), Debra Goldstein (SEMWA), and Paula Gail Benson (Palmetto
Chapter SinC)

10:30 am to 11:15 am EST   Slip into Some Shorts
Dana Kaye (moderator) – John Floyd, Tara Laskowski, and Art Taylor
11:30 am to 12:00 pm EST  Mystery Writers Are Always Hot! Keynote
12:15 pm to 1:00 pm EST       Spectres
Rather Than Heat Mirages
Kaye (moderator) – Alexia Gordon, Toni L.P. Kelner, and Gigi Pandian
1:15 pm to 2:00 pm EST      Pages Burning Their Way to the Screen
Kaye (moderator) – Dana Cameron, Jeffrey Deaver, and Charlaine Harris
2:15 pm to 2:30 pm EST      Everybody in the Pool!

Dana Kaye
(moderator), Debra Goldstein (SEMWA), and Paula Gail Benson (Palmetto Chapter

Here’s some information about our fabulous authors:

Charlaine Harris is a true
daughter of the South. She was born in Mississippi and has lived in Tennessee,
South Carolina, Arkansas, and Texas. After years of dabbling with poetry,
plays, and essays, her career as a novelist began when her husband invited her
to write full time. Her first book, Sweet
and Deadly,
appeared in 1981. When Charlaine’s career as a mystery writer
began to falter, she decided to write a cross-genre book that would appeal to
fans of mystery, science fiction, romance, and suspense. She could not have
anticipated the huge surge of reader interest in the adventures of a barmaid in
Louisiana, or the fact that Alan Ball would come knocking at her door. Since
then, Charlaine’s novels have been adapted for several other television series,
with two in development now. Charlaine is a voracious reader. She has one
husband, three children, two grandchilden, and two rescue dogs. She leads a
busy life.
John M. Floyd’s short
fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen
Mystery Magazine, The Strand Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post
, and many
other publications. Three of his stories have been selected for the
annual Best American Mystery Stories anthology (the 2015,
2018, and 2020 editions) and another was recently optioned for film. A former
Air Force captain and IBM systems engineer, John is also an Edgar nominee, a four-time
Derringer Award winner, a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a recipient of the
Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer Award for lifetime achievement, and
the author of eight books. He and his wife Carolyn live in Mississippi.
Tara Laskowski’s debut
novel, One Night Gone, won the 2019 Agatha Award for Best First
Novel and was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark, Anthony, Macavity, and
Lefty Awards. It was hailed by Tana French as “a subtly but relentlessly
unsettling novel.” Tara is also the author of two short story
collections, Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons and Bystanders,
which The Guardian named a best book of 2017. She has had
stories published in Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery
 Mystery Magazines and has won both an Agatha Award and a Thriller
Award for her short fiction. She was a longtime editor of the flash fiction
journal SmokeLong Quarterly. Tara earned a BA in English from
Susquehanna University and an MFA from George Mason University and lives in
Northern Virginia with her husband, writer Art Taylor, and their son, Dashiell.
Art Taylor is
the author of the story collection The Boy Detective & The Summer
of ’74 and Other Tales of Suspense 
and of the novel in stories On
the Road with Del & Louise, 
winner of the Agatha Award for Best
First NovelHe won the 2019 Edgar Award for Best Short Story for
“English 398: Fiction Workshop,” originally published in Ellery
Queen’s Mystery Magazine
, and he has won three additional Agatha Awards,
an Anthony Award, three Macavity Awards, and three consecutive Derringer Awards
for his short fiction. He is an associate professor of English at George Mason
Virginia native, physician by training, author by passion, Alexia Gordon writes the award-winning
Gethsemane Brown Mysteries, with Book 5, Execution in E, being released March
24, 2020. She is a member of MWA, SinC, ITW, and CWoC; blogs at
Missdemeanors.com and with the Femmes Fatales
(femmesfatales.typepad.com/my_weblog/); and hosts the podcast, The Cozy Corner
with Alexia Gordon. Find her on social media (Facebook: AlexiaGordon.writer,
Twitter: @AlexiaGordon, Instagram: DrLex1995) and visit her website (
www.alexiagordon.net) to sign up for her
Toni L.P. Kelner/Leigh
is two authors in one. As Leigh Perry, she
writes the Family Skeleton Mysteries. The sixth, The Skeleton Stuffs a
, was released in Fall 2019. As Toni L.P. Kelner, she wrote eight novels in the Laura Fleming
mystery series and three “Where Are They Now?” mysteries. Kelner also co-edited seven urban fantasy
anthologies with New Your Times best-seller Charlaine
Harris. Under both names she writes short fiction, including recent
publications in 
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and a forthcoming story in Shattering Glass. Kelner has won the Agatha
Award and an RT BookClub Lifetime Achievement Award and has been nominated
multiple times for the Anthony, the Macavity, and the Derringer.

Gigi Pandian is a USA Today bestselling and Agatha
Award-winning mystery author, breast cancer survivor, and accidental
almost-vegan. The child of anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip
of India, she spent her childhood traveling around the world on their research
trips, and now lives in California with her husband and a gargoyle who watches
over the garden. Gigi writes the
Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries, Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and
locked-room mystery short stories.
Dana Cameron writes
across many genres, but especially crime and speculative fiction. Her work,
inspired by her career in archaeology, has won multiple Anthony, Agatha, and
Macavity Awards, and has been nominated for the Edgar Award. Dana’s Emma
Fielding archaeology mysteries were optioned by Muse Entertainment; the third
movie, based on More Bitter Than Death,
will premier on the Hallmark Movie & Mystery Channel in January, 2019. When
she’s not traveling or visiting museums, she’s usually yelling at the TV about
historical inaccuracies.

A former journalist, folksinger and attorney, Jeffery Deaver is an international
number-one bestselling author. His novels have appeared on bestseller lists
around the world, including the New York Times, the Times
of London
, Italy’s Corriere della Sera, the Sydney
Morning Herald
 and the Los Angeles Times. His books are
sold in 150 countries and have been translated into over twenty-five languages.
He has sold 50 million books worldwide. The author of over thirty-five novels,
three collections of short stories and a nonfiction law book, and a lyricist of
a country-western album, he’s received or been shortlisted for dozens of
awards around the world. His book 
A Maiden’s Grave was
made into an HBO movie, his novel 
The Bone Collector was
a feature release from Universal Pictures, and in 2019, NBC picked up a series
called “Lincoln,” based on his books. Lifetime aired an adaptation of his 
The Devil’s Teardrop.

We hope that you’ll all join us for Mystery in the Midlands, Saturday, July 25, 2020!



By AB Plum

Sorry, Facebook. Despite your recent pronouncements that longer posts engage people at a deeper level, nothing beats face-to-face conversations. Sorry, Twitter. Good conversation requires more than 280 characters.

These heresies lead me to think about people I’d like to talk to at a dinner party. Politicians, celebrities, and sports figures don’t get invites. Instead, I prefer eight authors. 

In no order, here are the “giants” I would ask for an evening of food for thought. 
Overlook the minor point that many of my would-be guests are deceased.

Louisa May Alcott, how much did you tone down Jo to get Little Women published?

Henry James, was the governess sexually repressed or was her imagination overly active from being isolated with two precocious kids?

E.A. Poe, which is your favorite short story and what influenced you to write it?

Marion Zimmer Bradley, what influenced your decision in The Mists of Avalon to tell the story of Arthur from five different female viewpoints?

Neil Gaiman, how many versions of the first line of The Graveyard Book did you write?

Harper Lee, how much of Huckleberry Finn is in Atticus Finch?

Rick Riordan, when do you plan to publish another Tres Navarre novel?

Charlaine Harris, what is it fans missed in your conclusion of Dead Ever After?

Obviously, I’ll have to host another dinner party with more authors. I’m thinking at least 1,000 more magicians with words and ideas and stories that have stayed with me for years. While I’m working on my list, whom would you invite?


AB will have to postpone her dinner party for a few months until she publishes The Broken-Hearted Many, Book 6 in The MisFit Series. Release date is February 23. Then comes the final installment in the series, The Whole Truth, due in late April.

Conferences for Writers—Part II, ThrillerFest

By Kay Kendall

differences make ThrillerFest stand out from other conferences that are offered
to crime authors. This annual conference of International Thriller Writers is
held at the same time every year and in the same hotel. It begins right after
Independence Day at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City and includes a full
six days of activities, each one priced separately. If you attend everything
that is offered, then your conference fee will be much higher than any other in
your whole year.
Rambo’s creator, David Morrell

ThrillerFest stands out because of its cost, it is also worth every one of your
hard-earned dollars. You will see more star power on one stage or at just one
of the many cocktail parties than you will ever hope to see in your whole life.
The literary energy and brilliance just zing. What’s more, all those big-name
authors are helpful and supportive to hopeful writers.
If you
are a debut author and get published by a press on the approved list, then you
can join the ITW Debut Author program in that year and receive even more
support and applause. I was urged to participate in 2013 when my first book Desolation Row launched. I figured I’d
go once and be done with such a pricey gathering. I was wrong. I returned in
2014 and again this year. Here are just a few of the reasons why—bestselling
authors who participated in this year’s programs.

Spy novelist Gayle Lynds

  • 2015 ThrillerMaster Nelson DeMille plus
    2015 Silver Bullet Recipient 
    Kathy Reichs
  • 2015 Spotlight Guests Mark Billingham, Charlaine Harris, and Greg Iles
  • 2014 ThrillerMaster Scott Turow and
    2014 Silver Bullet Award recipient 
    Brenda Novak
  •  Lee Child interviewed Billingham–they both grew up in Birmingham, England.
  • Rambo’s creator David Morrell interviewed DeMille—they
    both have long and stellar careers.
  • Gayle Lynds introduced her newest thriller THE ASSASSINS
  • Anne Perry flew over from the UK to talk about her historical mysteries.
  • Steve Berry moderated several panels.

Other favorites were Catherine Coulter, Clive Cussler, Jeffery Deaver, Joseph Finder, Heather
Graham, Laurie R. King,  CJ Lyons, Daniel Palmer, Chris Pavone, Hank
Phillippi Ryan, MJ Rose, Karin Slaughter,
and RL Stine. Each has at least one huge bestseller, and most have many more.
This conference is only ten years old. The genesis came from successful authors
who wanted to help budding writers learn the ropes and get ahead. Co-founders David
Morrell and Gayle Lynds both attended this year as usual and remain always
supportive to other writers. The learning opportunities at ThrillerFest are
endless. If you are an aspiring or newly published crime writer and have not
yet attended this magnificent event, I encourage you to save up so that you too
can attend in 2016. I hope to see you there!


Kay Kendall is a long-time fan of historical novels and writes atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit and turbulence of the sixties. She is a reformed PR executive who lives in Texas with her husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to her bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she’s a Bob Dylan buff too. RAINY DAY WOMEN published on July 7–the second in her Austin Starr Mystery series. The audio-book will be out soon. 


Memories of Malice Domestic 27

Memories of Malice Domestic 27 by Debra H. Goldstein

Not enough sleep as toastmaster Toni L.P. Kelner urged all of us to get during the weekend, but there definitely was plenty of fun, friends, and sharing of stories, beverages, and new experiences at the 2015 Malice Domestic Convention that now is in the history books.  Held in Bethesda, Maryland, Malice is billed as a fan conference.

Since I began attending in 2012 when I was on the Academic Panel talking about my mystery on the University of Michigan’s campus, Maze in Blue, I haven’t been certain who the fans really are because I think the writers and the non-writers equally qualify as fans.  I know I am thrilled when the two non-writers who met me at the 2012 New Authors Breakfast make it a point to find me and tell me that they have followed my career this year (For their loyalty, they both will receive free copies of my new book, Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery, when it is published by Five Star in February 2016). But, the truth is that I am personally excited to meet writers I have held in esteem for years and newbies that I can’t wait to follow. See if you recognize a few of both in these pictures that capture some of my Malice Domestic 27 memories:

2015 Academic Mystery Panel – Susan Van Kirk, Lori Rader-Day, DHG, Triss Stein, Neil Plakcy

Jungle Red Writers Game with Hallie Ephron, Rhys Bowen, Charlaine Harris, Roberta Isleib/Lucy Burdette, Hank Phillippi Ryan and the game players including DHG

Picture One:  Nikki Bonnani, Susan Van Kirk, Marilyn Levinson, Grace Topping
Picture Two: DHG, Catriona McPherson, Barb Goffman
Picture Three:  Maggie Toussaint, Nancy J. Cohen, Maggie King, DHG
Picture Four:  Terrie Fairley Moran & DHG
Picture Five: Kathy Waller & DHG
Picture Six:  Edith Maxwell & DHG
Picture Seven:  Leslie Budewitz & DHG
Look at my grin — who says writers aren’t fans?  Do you admit it, too?

The Generosity of Mystery Authors

by Kay Kendall
The first conference for mystery fans that I attended
was Bouchercon 2011 in St. Louis. Previously I’d only attended writers’
conferences where would-be authors pitched manuscripts to agents and sat at the
feet of those hallowed gods/goddesses called published authors. Bouchercon,
billed as the
World Mystery and
Suspense Conference
,“ was an entirely different breed of cat. I couldn’t
get my mind around what was going on.  
And then I got it! The published mystery authors weren’t there to tell us
how to write, how to sell, or how to win an agent. No, they were there to talk
about their writing and their writing worlds. Once I figured that out, I soaked
up every tiny detail that came my way. And I loved it.

I’m holding Charlaine’s LIVING DEAD IN DALLAS,
 the second Sookie Stackhouse book,
and she holds my debut mystery, DESOLATION ROW. 

The session that stands out, still to this day, was an
afternoon panel of new authors. One man exclaimed his astonishment over the
generosity of mystery writers. He said they supported each other and even him—a
newbie. But he was shocked to discover that mystery writers do so little
backbiting. Then he leaned over and leveled a hard look at us in the rapt
audience. “Poets are not like that,” he said. “I’ve attended meetings of poets
with a relative, and they’re just awful.” The audience howled.
While I can’t comment on poets, I can say from experience
that mystery authors are indeed generous. At Bouchercon 2012 in Cleveland I met
two authors who later agreed to blurb my debut mystery, Desolation Row. First,
thriller writer extraordinaire Norb Vonnegut gave key advice that helped me through
final edits. Whenever I need advice from
a seasoned pro, I still turn to Norb. Janet Maslin, influential book review at the
New York Times, calls him “the author of three glittery thrillers about fiscal
malfeasance” in which “he is three for three in his own improbably sexy genre.” 
The second author was Hank Phillippi Ryan, to whom I
was introduced only in passing. Yet brief as that encounter was, this
multi-award winning mystery author agreed to blurb my debut effort when I asked
As well, Stiletto Gang member Linda Rodriguez reached
out to me as an online pal to offer help setting up a bookstore event in the
Kansas City area. (Her writing career began as a poet so she may disagree with
the opinion I quote above.)
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Mystery
authors are a benevolent group. At heart they love the genre we write in and
seem to understand that the success of one does not take away from the others. In
fact, a whole organization has been founded on that principle, the
International Thriller Writers. After attending Bouchercon 2004 in Toronto, ITW
founding members decided to reach down and pull up writers who needed help in
climbing the slippery slope to publication, “providing
opportunities for mentoring, education and
collegiality among thriller authors and industry professionals
A much older organization is the Mystery Writers of America founded in 1945. It underwrites MWA-University, one-day seminars led by
experienced authors who share their how-to advice for a minuscule fee. The session
I attended last weekend in Dallas was, as the under-30s would say, “awesome.” The
attached photo of me with Charlaine Harris was taken at that event. When this
creator of the Sookie Stackhouse series of paranormal mysteries (on which the
HBO series True Blood is based) wished me success like hers, I almost fell
over. In truth, I’d be pleased with one percent of her enormous fan base.

Traditionally the holiday season is when we are encouraged
to be more big-hearted and giving than usual. As I contemplated blogging about generosity, I remembered the mystery authors I’ve been privileged to meet. While I can’t
thank each one individually because they’re too numerous, I can offer this
posting as an ode to them collectively. Both their writing and the generosity
of their spirit serve to inspire me. 

Kay Kendall
To celebrate the conclusion of 2013, the year in which my debut mystery was published, I will give away one copy of Desolation Row to someone who leaves a comment here about the joys of reading mysteries . . . or how you feel about mystery authors . . . or, heck, anything that you think is related! 

Me Too Charlaine

I was drinking my early morning tea, reading the New York Times, when I laughed out loud in recognition. It was a wonderful article on the delightful Charlaine Harris, and just like I often do, although not quite so eloquently, she felt the need to justify herself as an author. “Like many a commercial writer, Ms. Harris wishes the literary establishment would pay more attention. ‘I think there is a place for what I do. And I think it’s honorable’.”

I loved when she confessed that her two earlier series, despite being well-written, had never taken off. That sometimes it’s not the writer, it’s the timing, the market, the publishing house – nothing seems to align right with the stars and the books just don’t sell. And then, out of nowhere, it’s the Age of Aquarius and everything is shiny and new – and yes, you can savor it, my yes, you can savor the moment. Frankly, Charlaine’s explanation is so much better: “It was just a huge relief that I finally hit on the right character and the right publisher. I had this real neener-neener-neener moment.”

First, isn’t it amazing that even Charlaine Harris has these moments of doubt and still feels compelled to point out that what she writes is art and has value too. Forgive me, but there are times when I look at some national book award nominees and I’m convinced that they are sponsored by the manufacturers of Prozac. I mean if the reader isn’t thoroughly depressed by the last page of the book, then it’s just not art and not worthy of attention by “serious” readers.

The truth is I love books that let me escape the reality of laundry, bills, and dust bunnies the size of, well, bunnies, that litter my house. I don’t need books to get depressed. I can do that on my own, thank you very much.

A toast to Charlaine Harris and all the other writers who provide me a puzzle to solve, more than a few laughs, maybe a vampire sex scene or two (oy!), and characters I love.

Evelyn David

Mayhem Diary

Mayhem in the Midlands – Friday Morning – May 23, 2008

I arrived in Omaha, Nebraska yesterday evening. Had an uneventful drive from Muskogee, Oklahoma – 450 miles give or take. Rented a car with good gas mileage for the trip (my old Ford Explorer is a heavy gas drinker and is better left in the driveway for now). I hope gas prices don’t double before I leave on Sunday.

The Omaha Public Library puts on a great event. I attended last year and really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and well-coordinated conference. Mayhem in the Midlands is held in the Embassy Suites – Downtown. The hotel staff is friendly and very helpful with dealing with everything from internet connections on my laptop to helping me get all my luggage and important “stuff” from the car to the room. Couldn’t ask for a nicer location.

The first panels start at 9:00 am. I’m hoping to get my act together and sit in on a few (several dealing with crime lab information and analysis) before my panel at 3:00 pm – Casting Call: Creating Real Characters.

More later. Right now I need some breakfast – or at least coffee. I also need to check out the silent auction baskets (Evelyn David donated one) and leave some bookmarks at the bookstore.

Mayhem in the Midlands – Friday Evening – May 23, 2008

Just got back to my hotel room. Ready to kick off my shoes and drink a Pepsi One (I brought some from home and loaded the hotel room refrigerator.)

This year Mayhem is doing something a little different by running a series of panels concerning “real life” crime labs. The first panel I attended was entitled, “Crime Lab/Crime Scene: Behind the Scene, the Real Crime Scene.” Jan Burke (author of the wonderful Irene Kelly mystery series) and Chicago author Alex Kava interviewed David Kofoed, the head of the Douglas County Crime Lab. He talked about processing a scene and how what he and his team do that is different from the tv CSI show. It was very interesting to hear how his job has changed since he began in the early 1980s. DNA is a big factor now, but because of the expense and backlog for testing, much of the best crime scene analysis is done with photography, blood splatter analysis, and meticulous observation and documentation of every detail of a crime scene.

The second panel I attended was entitled, “Crime Lab/Crime Scene: Inside a Real Case File: The Jessica O’Grady Case.” Leigh Ann Retelsdorf, Douglas County Attorney and Prosecutor, and Dave Kofoed gave a presentation of a real Omaha case where the victim’s body was never found but they were still able to get a murder conviction. It was a fascinating look at a real crime scene and how it was processed. They used a power-point presentation with actual photographs of the crime scene. I learned a lot about blood splatter analysis and building a murder case.

At 3:00 pm I sat on the panel: “Creating Real Characters.” I spoke about Murder Off the Books and the characters in Evelyn David’s fictional world. My co-panelists were: Craig Johnson and Debra C. Thomas. Suzanne Arruda moderated. Craig Johnson writes the Sheriff Walt Longmire novels. His latest book Another Man’s Moccasins will be released by Viking Press on May 29. Debra C. Thomas writes short stories that have been published in Great Mystery and Suspense Magazine. Suzanne Arruda (a former zookeeper and science teacher turned writer) is the author of the Jade del Cameron historical mystery series. Her books are set in Post World War I Africa.

The panel was informal and fun. The audience asked lots of great questions. After the panel, I autographed copies of Murder Off the Books and answered questions about when the sequel would be published. Right now, we’re hoping for fall 2008.

Star Watching: While going to and from the panels I spotted Charlaine Harris, Jan Burke, Chris Grabenstein, and two of the nicest women you’ll ever hope to meet – Honora Finkelstein and Susan Smily (co-authors of The Chef Who Died Sautéing). I also caught up with fellow Stiletto Gang blog sister, Marilyn Meredith. She and her husband always look like they are having a good time!

Tomorrow I’m on another panel – “Pet Peeves: Killing Animals vs. Killing People in Mysteries.” Should be interesting!

Stay tuned.

Evelyn David

Let’s Talk About Sex

Charlaine Harris, who writes the hysterical Southern vampire mystery series, swears that her books took off once she started putting sex into them.

Oy! I went to an Orthodox Jewish Day School through sixth grade (substitute Rabbis for nuns, keep the rules, and you get the picture). Try as I might to construct a love scene that involves nudity, I’m convinced that I will get struck by a lightning bolt at the first sign of heavy breathing.

Hey, I like sex – but even writing that sentence has me checking to see if Rabbi D is clucking over my lost soul.

Here’s the problem. My characters are two middle-aged adults who have been around the block a few times. At some point (should it be in Book 2? Hold out for Book 3?), they’re going to go steady, get lavaliered, maybe even get pinned, or the 40-something equivalent. In any case, there’s a point in an adult relationship that would suggest that somebody is getting some. So practically speaking, sex needs to be part of the Mac Sullivan-Rachel Brenner equation. Plus, circling back to Charlaine Harris, sex sells. What to do?

When I first started writing fiction, I described a love scene to my husband. I could see him trying to figure out how to phrase the question. Despite years of marriage and four kids, he thought he knew me, but perhaps, there was still a surprise to be had. Finally, he decided the direct approach was best. “Are you writing smut?” “No,” I answered indignantly. “I subcontracted it out.”

I suppose we could just have constant “fade to black” moments in our books, much like the Doris Day movies of the 1950s. It was a time when Hollywood was still peddling the idea that a “good” 30-something woman (Virginal Doris was 35 in Pillow Talk) would wait for a diamond on her left hand before any kiss would be permitted. Forget about any tongue involvement in those encounters. Kisses that ended up with the heroine actually sleeping with the hero, after the obligatory “fade to black,” still were not much more than a peck on the lips. Even I could have written those “sex scenes.”

We haven’t put it in the acknowledgements, but the Southern half of Evelyn David has agreed to write all steamy scenes. We don’t like to call it smut. We prefer to think of it as romance. Besides, she’s not worried at all about stray lightning bolts.

On the other hand, the Southern half is a Southern Baptist. Sex scenes don’t bother her a bit, but she is appalled at foul language. Put a damn in a sentence and she worries that her Mom will be disappointed in her. Me? I know words and combinations that would make a fleet of sailors blush. I don’t worry a bit if the good Rabbi will think I need to say any special prayers.

We’re finishing Murder Takes the Cake, the sequel to Murder Off the Books. Here’s a spoiler so don’t read the next sentence if you want to be surprised…but on page 98, there is a kiss. More of the Doris/Rock variety, but hey, there are 250 more pages before the exciting conclusion. A lot can happen between the sheets (of paper, that is). I’m making no promises, but I’m checking out rubber tires to sling around my waist…to ward off lightning bolts.

Evelyn David