Tag Archive for: Debra H. Goldstein

Reviews that Sink Authors

Reviews that Sink Authors by Debra H. Goldstein

Traditionally, authors are told to ignore their reviews. Maybe some can, but most can’t. In fact, many writers can’t help focusing on anything except the bad ones.

I read reviews. Sometimes I totally agree and learn from the point being made, but more often, I’d love to respond (authors are also told not to respond). For example, when Maze in Blue was published, the reviews and ratings were all favorable – mostly 5’s and an occasional 4. And then, someone posted a one star on Amazon. The rationale was that I had gotten a main road in Ann Arbor wrong. The reviewer went on and on about how the road didn’t go straight and that if the character had really driven the route, they’d have run into a building.

The reviewer was right for the way the road presently runs, but the book was set in the 1970’s. The road and building mentioned were neither moved nor built until a year after the story occurred. I desperately wanted to respond with a choice comment, but happily, the next review, which was a five-star, pointed out that fact and noted what great and exact memories Maze brought back because the reviewer was a professor’s daughter who had lived on campus at that time. I was thrilled.

Talking to other authors, I’ve discovered they also have received one-star reviews that were a little out-to-lunch. One reviewer didn’t like the cover, another stated she didn’t read the book upon learning the name on the book was a pseudonym for an author whose last novel she didn’t like, and a third said the book, while enjoyable, wasn’t anything to write home about.

If you are an author, tell me about your “worst” review. A reader, have you ever left one you realized was an oops?

By the way, when it comes to being a writer or any profession, I think a sign I recently saw, says it all:

I Hate Packing

I Hate Packing by Debra H. Goldstein

Although I love traveling and have been cherishing the times that I once again have been able to get-together with family and friends, I hate packing. For me, it is a tortuous process.

First, I make sure everything I might possibly want to take is back from the dry cleaners, has been washed, or, if necessary, purchased. Then, I sit with pen and pad and contemplate the trip, so I can decide what outfits I need – from how many pairs of underpants to will there be any formal attire events. Once I address my clothing – indicating what should be worn on any given day – I add miscellaneous items to my list ranging from medications to computer cords. I stare at the list and decide to pack tomorrow when I’m not as tired or busy (this depends upon if I make the list at night or during the day).

The time to do the deed arrives but first I need the right sized suitcase. Am I carrying on? Do I have a dress I don’t want to crush? Am I going to a conference where I need to take extra books, bookmarks, or other swag? I choose a suitcase, but I’m so worn out from the process, so I take another break.

Finally, there is no way to put off packing. I pull everything out of my closet, drawers, or wherever. That done, I stare at the stack on my bed or the couch and decide to watch a TV show or allow myself thirty minutes of reading time before I tackle putting things into the suitcase.

An hour later, especially if the clothing is on my bed, I pack. It takes five to ten minutes.

Relieved, I soak in a long bath. I am exhausted. How about you? Do you have a packing ritual?

Life Changes and the Life Cycle

Life Changes and the Life Cycle by Debra H. Goldstein

Lately, my life has been taking a 360 degree turn-around. Some of the changes are wonderful; others, not so much. Any way I look at it, it is quite a ride.

Not only did I pass a special birthday with a month long friends and family celebration, but we’ll be doing it again because this is a special birthday for my husband and anniversary for us. In the past, when we had these five year milestones, I’d throw a big bash. One year, it was taking friends and family to a basketball game, another year was a baseball game where my husband got to throw out the first pitch, and there was the Mexican food with a wild band playing event. For a few years, we celebrated by traveling to far-away-places with a couple we adored, but knew their health issues would limit our time as friends —- we were able to visit Italy, China, and the beach with them — good memories of good people. Perhaps, the best celebration though, was an open house we threw that not only celebrated our milestones, but commemorated the twins graduating high school and introduced our local world to our first grandson, who was three months old.

This year, other than the whirlwind month I’ve just had, we’ve opted to keep things low key and family oriented. The special highlight that we’ll all remember happens tomorrow: our sixth grandchild, the second boy, is coming to town to have his first haircut done by the same person who gave his mother her first haircut. A life cycle event.

Do you have little things like this that reinforce the concept of the life cycle for you?

Is it Worth it?

Is it Worth it?    by Debra H. Goldstein

Recently, I lost interest in writing. It wasn’t a matter of writer’s block. Plenty of ideas constantly swirl in my head. Those ideas exist right next to my excuses for not writing. The latter include having two new grandchildren and babysitting requests from their parents, medical issues with my husband, the need to play Wordle or solitaire, the promise to blurb a book which meant the book needed to be read, or the desire to simply read a book for pleasure.

Somehow, the excuses took precedence over putting my ideas on paper (or into the computer). The problem, as I diagnosed it, was a case of periodical motivation. The symptoms were simple: the excuses I already mentioned coupled with an almost non-existent urge to sit still and write.

There were limited bursts of writing energy. In fact, three short pieces will be published in 2023. Unfortunately, the energy dissipated quickly. Instead, there were hours of meditating whether writing was important enough to continue doing it. Did the worth of seeing my words on paper outweigh the isolation and time demands actual writing necessitates?

Frustrated, I started listening to a Master Class. An hour into the course (taught by James Patterson), something clicked. Although he was talking about plot, conflict, research, and other mundane writing topics, his words excited me. They shouldn’t have, but they did. That’s when I realized that writing is still a relevant part of me.

I don’t think I’ll ever be a wake up and write a few thousand words a day person, but I firmly believe that whether it is a letter expressing my beliefs on a topic, a short story, or a novel, I am condemned to spend the rest of my life playing with words. Tell me, if you are an author, have you ever undergone a questioning period of time in your life like this? If you are a reader, have you ever second guessed the path you seem to be following in life and concluded that it is where you are supposed to be (or not)?



My Mother’s Slippers by Debra H. Goldstein

My Mother’s Slippers by Debra H. Goldstein

At this time of year, I think about my mother. She was a driving force in my life until her unexpected death in 2014. There are still times when I want to pick up the phone and share good news with her or ask for her advice, but I can’t. What I can do is keep a part of her with me – her slippers.

Not the pair she wore, but one of twenty or thirty pairs of the identical slippers that she hoarded. My mother was an atypical hoarder. Everything in her house was always perfectly in place and her kitchen floor was so clean that one could eat off of it. Newspapers and magazines were thrown out once read; finished books, except for ones I wrote, were loaned to friends, or donated; and clothes were stylish but took up no more than a closet.

Her hoarding fetish involved shoes. She loved them. Because she had a hard to fit foot (super narrow and only a six or six and one-half), if she found a pair of shoes to fit, she bought them — in every color. If she found something she loved was going to be discontinued, she stocked up on them. The thing about my mother was that she wore all of those shoes. Each one matched an outfit or a mood and while she kept them carefully boxed on shelves in her closet, she believed in wearing and enjoying them.

After she died, my sister and I relished the memory of her cute outfits and her shoes. I was only saddened by the fact that while we had the same shoe size, our feet were just different enough that the last that fit her didn’t work for me. What did work were her slippers. She had found a pair of step-in flower-patterned slippers that she loved because they were narrow enough to stay on and soft enough not to rub her foot. She wore that particular brand for years and when she discovered they were being discontinued, she bought up every pair she could find. When she passed away, there were twenty plus pairs that had never been worn. I tried one on and they were perfect. Although I didn’t take them all, I brought several pairs home with me. Seven years later, morning or night, I think of my mother as I step into a pair of her slippers. The wonderful thing is that I know she will still be with me for years to come because of the ones I have yet to begin using.

Do you have anything passed down from a parent that reminds you of them regularly or that you have that may give someone continuing memories of you?

A New Anthology by the Bethlehem Writers Group: An Element of Mystery

by Paula Gail Benson

The Bethlehem Writers Group holds a special place in my heart. My first short story appeared in its online publication, the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. At that time, the monthly Roundtable was a nonpaying market, but I remember how thrilled I was to be selected as the February featured story and asked to write a top ten list for the issue. I compiled my favorite romantic musicals, including Sound of Music, 1776 (remember the songs between John and Abigail Adams), La Cage aux Folles, Bye, Bye Birdie, and Hello Dolly!

Since that time (2013) and that story (“Nectar of the Gods”), I had two additional featured stories in the Roundtable, “Long in the Tooth,” which received third place in the 2013 short story contest (that year judged by Hank Phillippi Ryan) and later was reprinted in the Bethlehem Writers Group’s winter anthology, Let it Snow, and “Cosway’s Confidence,” which placed second in the 2020 short story contest. My tale of interspecies mediation, “Apple’s Lure,” appeared in the 2014 July-August issue.

During pandemic times, the Group began meeting by Zoom. I felt privileged when along with Debra H. Goldstein I was asked to join.

This year, Debra’s “Death in the Hand of the Tongue” and my “Sense Memory” appear in the Group’s An Element of Mystery: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales of Intrigue. The anthology contains twenty-three stories, all by Group members except for the two by contest winners: “Good Cop/Bad Cop” by Trey Dowell (the 2021 short story winner, judged by Charlaine Harris) and “The Tabac Man” by Eleanor Ingbretson (the 2022 short story winner, judged by Kate Carlisle). Members of the Group whose stories appear in the volume are Courtney Annicchiarico, Jeff Baird, Peter J Barbour, A. E. Decker, Marianne H. Donley, Ralph Hieb, D.T. Krippene, Jerry McFadden, Emily P. W. Murphy, Christopher D. Ochs, Dianna Sinovic, Kidd Wadsworth, Paul Weidknecht, and Carol L. Wright.

While many of the stories involve crimes, the required element was mystery, so some focus on puzzles rather than unsolved offenses. With expert editing and selection of cover design by Marianne H. Donley and Carol L. Wright, the anthology was released in September and is a perfect gift for the holidays. By purchasing An Element of Mystery, you’ll be helping to support a Group that is developing and supporting writers. Please give it your consideration.

Hacked and I am so Hacked!

Hacked and I am so Hacked! by Debra H. Goldstein

I woke up recently to a flood of e-mails from friends telling me that my Instagram account had been hacked during the night. Great! I’d wanted to sleep late and now I had to handle the aftermath of being hacked. It was such a little thing. They took my official Instagram name and added a _. I was hacked about being hacked.

Several people wrote that they had reported the hacking. For that, I was grateful, especially because I didn’t know what to do respecting an Instagram hack. Frustrated, I went to the Help section and typed in “Fake accounts.”  Wrong!

Although the articles listed were close, they weren’t on point to someone impersonating me. Figuring the impersonation was key, I typed that in and found directions I could follow. I filled in the form, as required, but balked at having to send a government ID with my picture (what if it was another hack?), but finally did — with my thumb strategically placed to block my driver’s license number (which didn’t keep anyone from learning my address). Having to provide this ID made me almost feel more violated than the hack did. Steam was coming from my ears. Oh, was I hacked!

Then, I realized it was the weekend. I had no idea what time it was where whomever was going to review my report was nor when they would get to it. Being resourceful I went to my Instagram account and tried to post a comment about being hacked. Zilch luck doing that. I needed to post a picture. Okay, next step was typing a hacked message in word, taking a picture of it with my phone, uploading it to my account. TMI and Too Much Time, but it was done.

Messages started coming in that people were appreciative of knowing about the hack and were removing themselves from the new account and taking the hacker, who they now found following them, off as a follower. What an annoyance for all.

I’m hacked at being hacked. Have you ever been hacked? How did you handle it?


Is There Such a Thing as a Perfect Wedding? by Debra H. Goldstein

Summer is wedding time, and when my friend Debra H. Goldstein’s newest book arrived with a wedding theme, I couldn’t wait to dive in and ask her Just One Question: Is there such a thing as a perfect wedding? Debra’s answer is below, along with a chance to win her latest terrific mystery, Five Belles Too Many! Take it away, Debra! — Shari Randall/Meri Allen

When I think about a “perfect wedding,” I think about a beaming beautiful bride and a thrilled groom. They only have eyes for each other as they happily share their vows, oblivious to everything else at the moment their union is sanctified. It is a wonderful illusion.

Wedding reality differs – none are ever perfect.

From the moment a couple decides to get married, tension ensues. One may want a large wedding, the other a small wedding and the parents may have a third idea as to what they can afford. There may be religious differences that impact who the chosen officiant will be or the venue that can be used. Are there allergies that prevent the use of flowers? Is there a venue rule that prohibits animals which makes it difficult to have the couple’s dog be the ring bearer? Do the parents like the groom or bride? Is there a bridezilla or Mamazilla involved?

Even if all of the pre-ceremony issues can be resolved, things can go wrong during the ceremony. Someone may faint. Rain may disrupt the planned outdoor wedding. Bees may beset a fruit display used as the centerpiece for food being served on the lawn. The rings may be lost or, as happened during my wedding, instead of being tied to the pillow with a slip knot, the six-year-old ringer bearer may re-tie them with double knots so he won’t drop them going down the aisle. To this day, I remember the best man, when asked for the rings twice, saying, “Dammit, Rabbi, I’m trying!” as he feverishly unknotted them.

In the newly released fifth Sarah Blair mystery, Five Belles Too Many, I incorporate the concept of the “perfect Southern wedding” with what happens behind the scenes of reality TV shows. In Five Belles, a New York TV show comes to Wheaton, Alabama to tape five finalist couples vying to win that “perfect Southern wedding.” Four couples are in their twenties, but the fifth couple is Sarah Blair’s sixty-plus-year-old mother, Maybelle, and her friend, George. They entered the contest on a lark, although Maybelle was sure they had a good shot at being finalists because of the demographic need for an older couple.

The show requires the five competing Southern Belles to each have a chaperone. Because Sarah’s twin, Chef Emily, works at night and Mother Maybelle doesn’t want to inconvenience any of her friends, Sarah is forced into the role. Not only does Sarah have mandatory chaperone duties, but she also must juggle her law firm day job and caring for her furry pets, RahRah and Fluffy. What makes it even worse is that the show contracted with Sarah’s greatest nemesis, Jane Clark, to have the contestants and chaperones stay at Jane’s bed and breakfast. Mother Maybelle assures Sarah it won’t be a big deal because she’ll be sleeping most of the time she’s at Jane’s Place, but, unfortunately, on the first night the TV show’s producer is murdered and Jane is found kneeling over his body with blood on her hands. When it is decided that the show must go on, Sarah must find the true killer before any more of the contestants or crew are permanently eliminated.

For a chance to win a copy of Five Belles Too Many (U.S. only), tell me, do you have any “perfect wedding” stories like what happened with the rings at mine?


Oh Where, Oh Where has my launch gone? by Debra H. Goldstein

Oh Where, Oh Where has my
launch gone? by Debra H. Goldstein

June 28 is the release date from Kensington of my fifth
Sarah Blair novel, Five Belles Too Many. As I write this blog, three days
before it will appear on the Stiletto Gang blog, I have yet to confirm a physical
launch location (which would be in mid-July). That’s unusual for me.


When One Taste Too Many, the first book in the series, was
published, there was a table at Barnes & Noble at the Summit in Birmingham
and not only did I have the initial signing there, but two nights later, I had
an indie signing at Little Professor. Both were successes and the events were repeated
when Two Bites Too Many was released. And then, a few weeks later, after I had additional
live signings in Alabama, as well as in California, Arizona, Georgia, Tennessee,
Texas, and Colorado, the world shut down because of Covid.


We weren’t sophisticated with virtual panels and signings
during the height of Two Bites Too Many’s

release, but we definitely were by
the time Three Treats Too Many and Four Cuts Too Many were published. I crisscrossed
the country doing zoom presentations. It wasn’t the same as being able to sign
books live for readers, but it did give me an opportunity to partner with
writers I adore from other parts of the country for the same presentation. I
was sure by the time, Five Belles was published, I’d be able to have a launch
similar to my first ones, but that isn’t the case.


B&N in my area of the world has not returned to live signings.
Our indies are beginning to do events, but with certain health protocols still
being followed. I am in limbo. I’m ready to meet fans in person again, but I’m
not jumping through hoops to make the live signing happen. Instead, I’m taking
a step back and watching and waiting, figuring the official live launch may be
replaced by smaller bookstore gatherings in July and August.


In one way, it is a shame. Five Belles Too Many is my
second favorite book in the series. In it, Sarah is forced to chaperone her
mother when Maybelle is a finalist to win the perfect Southern wedding. When
the reality TV show’s producer is found dead with Sarah’s greatest nemesis
kneeling by the body, Sarah must find the true killer before any more of the
contestants or crew are permanently eliminated. 

Because of the humor and nature
of the book it would be fun to interact with a live audience, but that’s not to
be. In the meantime, I’m
going ahead with virtual plans, including a takeover of Joanna Slan’s Readers
on June 20 and an incredibly special Summer Blast/New Release Party with three
other cozy authors, Terry Ambrose, Maggie Toussaint/Volana Jones, and Nancy J.
Cohen, on June 28 from 7-8 EST. I’ll also be participating in a Great Escapes
Tour (June 17-30) and visiting other blogs including The Wickeds, Jungle Red
Writers, Chicks on the Case, Dru’s Book Musings, and Mystery Lovers Kitchen. The
fun part of the parties and blogs for readers is that there will be plenty of
prizes to be won. I’ll also be offering additional prizes if you are a newsletter
subscriber (you can sign up on my website – https://www.DebraHGoldstein.com ).


For more chances to read reviews, win prizes, and find out
how Five Belles is taking off, don’t forget to visit me on:

Twitter: @DebraHGoldstein,


Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/debrahgoldstein/
, or

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/debra-h-goldstein


Or, make my day by pre-ordering a copy of Five Belles Too
from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite indie bookstore. We’ll
call it being part of the silent launch.


How do you feel about not having as many live signings? 

Come Read-A-Long with Me

Come Read-A-Long with Me by
Debra H. Goldstein

I’m excited! Five Belles Too Many, which will be
released on June 28, 2022. In anticipation, I’m throwing a multi-month celebration
virtual Read-A-Long to give readers an opportunity to discuss each of the books
in the Sarah Blair series and to ask this author anything you ever wanted to


In March, we discussed One Taste Too Many. The
session was a huge success. Not everyone who was on the Zoom call had read the
book, but it didn’t matter. We talked about concepts, themes, and why I did
certain things without giving away any of the plot spoilers.


The next Read-A-Long, on April 19, features the second book
in the series, Two Bites Too Many. Subsequent months will cover the next
books until we pop the cork and celebrate the birth of Five Belles Too Many in
July 2022. To join in the fun email me at DHG@DebraHGoldstein.com to get the
study guide and the zoom link. Put on your calendar:


When: April 19 – Two
Bites Too Many

May 17 – Three Treats
Too Many

June 21 – Four Cuts
Too Many

July 19 – Five
Belles Too Many

Time: 7 PM CST/ 8 PM
EST (and you can figure out the rest)      


The remainder of the series, Three
Treats Too Many, Four Cuts Too Many,
and of course, Five Belles
Too Many,
will be our topics for the May, June, and July sessions. The
goal is to have fun and gain a better understanding of these books culminating
in the month when Five Belles is published.

I mentioned above that I am celebrating the journey of the
Sarah Blair series, and I am. I have had a blast writing Sarah, the woman who
is more afraid of the kitchen than murder, but more importantly, it has been a
joy getting to know you, the readers.


Want to catch up on Sarah Blair so you’re ready for the big
finish in July? You can pre-order Five Belles. start at the beginning of the
series (Amazon has the e-version of One Taste Too Many on
sale for $1.99) or come in any week you want as the books, while a series, each
standalone. Sarah, RahRah, and Fluffy hope to see you on April 19th to talk about Two Bites Too Many!