Tag Archive for: Donnell Ann Bell

Request for a Time Management Intervention

by Donnell Ann Bell 

Well, it’s happened. I survived my sixth book release. I
wrote blogs, put out a newsletter, attended Facebook parties, attended a
fantastic Zoom presentation with the Corrales Community Library (near
Albuquerque), appeared on my local community radio program, worked on my own blog, and made some valuable and very sweet connections by doing so.

In between that, I went to the grocery store, paid bills, changed
my sheets, vacuumed, and mopped my tile floor. (I live in a desert. If dust builds
up, you may never see me again.) I also had agreed to judge The Colorado
Gold, part of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and my deadline came due during this

I take contest judging very seriously as I’ve been a
contestant and I know what happens on the other side of the spectrum. There is so much hope
when aspiring authors submit their entry. Chances are, too, they’re not
wealthy, and I want them to get the most for their entry dollar. I finished
those entries, and can pretty much guarantee I gave them their money’s worth.

Last night, I joined my husband and watched a beautiful sunset,
then as he went off to bed, I snuck back into my office and typed out labels for marketing books to mail, and
wrote thank you notes to the very generous experts who advised me on Until
Dead, A Cold Case Suspense.

A glorious New Mexico sunsets 

This morning, I’ve thrown in another load of laundry. I’ve
still yet to make my bed. Will do so after I finish this blog after which I’ll
be out the door to ship them off at the post office. I hope to come home and
exercise (I pray last week’s housework counted for something because my formal exercise routine surely escaped me during all of the hustle and bustle). This afternoon I have a dentist
appointment and I swear between now and Wednesday I will get a pedicure! 

Some of you may wonder why a woman who no longer works
outside the home is trying to cram so much into her schedule. I’m leaving for
Colorado this Thursday for a month. This is a welcome respite to visit with my family, play with the grandkids, take my mom to her doctors’
appointments, and of course catch up with her. I’m actually looking forward to my road trip where I can listen
to books on audio and just breathe!  My
favorite alone time!

For the most part, I have a lovely life and recognize I am
so so blessed. I also know there are twenty-four-hours in a day but now the
experts are saying in addition to exercise, sleep is critical. My Fitbit now
tells me it’s time to go to bed! Sorry to tell you this, Fitbit; I’m a rebel and
often am forced to ignore you.

I know/pray my busy season is coming to an end so I can get
back to writing. I’m already planning my alone time in Colorado so I can return
to my work in progress. Which brings me to the point of this blog: How did I
ever work forty hours a week, raise a family, do volunteer activities, and
write books?

Finally, now that I look at my calendar, I realize this blog
isn’t due until next week. Can you believe it? Doesn’t matter. This baby’s
going in.

So I ask you. How are your time management skills? Are you
sometimes overwhelmed? Confused what day it is? Please tell me I’m not alone and how you fit everything in!

Ann Bell is an award-winning author of four bestselling romantic suspense
novels and two mainstream taskforce suspense novels. Until Dead, a
Cold Case Suspense
, was released on May 31, 2022, and she is currently
working on Book Three. Readers can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or
BookBub. For social media contact or to learn more, find her at





Happy Monday, everyone!  Along with Stiletto Gang, which I’m pleased to belong to, I’m on a Facebook group with several romantic suspense, paranormal romantic suspense, and mainstream suspense authors. After pouring our hearts and souls into a novel, promotion is one of those pesky details we authors do, lest no one learns anything about our latest creations. Addressing this problem, Author Sharon Wray (one of my Golden Heart sisters) and I brainstormed a possible solution. What if we came up with a promotions galore strategy and focused on a DAY OF May Releases.

And that’s what we did! If you’re on Facebook YOU’RE INVITED to subscribe to the MIDNIGHT GARDEN READERS GROUP https://www.facebook.com/groups/midnightgarden/ to help us celebrate. (Who knows there might be giveaways) !!!  

Along with Sharon and Donnell, debut author Kathleen Donnelly who has a K-9 romantic suspense (CHASING JUSTICE release date May 24th) will be dropping by. Midnight Garden Authors, USA Today Bestselling Authors Christine Glover, Misty Evans, Award-winning, multi-published Zoe Dawson, are also touting their May releases. Need more incentive? Well, wait, there’s more! The Midnight Garden Readers Group is home to many more authors; they just don’t have books out this month. 

Since this is Sharon’s brainstorm, I thought I’d tell you about this talented author’s exciting May 17th release (available for preorder):

Is love worth risking everything for?

Rose Guthrie, a reluctant erotic dancer, hasn’t trusted
anyone since her parents’ death. Yet, to make money for her brother’s heart
transplant, she agrees to deliver a sealed box to a mysterious buyer. Until the
box—and the seller—disappear. Not surprised by the betrayal, her situation
becomes more dangerous when she learns that two brutal arms dealers also want
the box and are willing to kill everyone she loves for it. With one clue left,
she breaks into Doom—Savannah’s violent, illegal fight club. Unfortunately,
Doom’s referee—the sexy, ex-Army Ranger, Kade Dolan—stands in her way. Although
she harbors a secret attraction to Kade, she can’t let him stop her. If she doesn’t
deliver the box on time, she’ll lose everything. Including her own life.

Rose doesn’t trust ex-Army Ranger, ex-con Kade Dolan, but
that’s okay—he doesn’t trust

himself either. Why? Because he lies to everyone
about everything, including his time in Leavenworth and his job as an illegal
fight club referee. Then there are his two side gigs. The first as an informant
for the Prince, the leader of a secret, two-thousand-year-old private army. The
second, loving from afar the beautiful, secretive Rose Guthrie. After the
Prince discovers Rose is the courier of a lost 18th century artifact, he orders
Kade to help her find the box before their greatest enemy does. If they
succeed, Kade must return it to the Prince. If they fail, Kade must kill

Betrayal or death. When faced with an impossible choice,
Kade can’t lie anymore, at least not when it comes to what he’s about to do the
woman he loves. But when Rose uncovers Kade’s lies, they learn a terrible
truth—the 18th century box holds a secret far deadlier than they imagined. A
secret that could destroy them all.



Sharon, a Jersey girl who landed in Virginia, is a
chemical & patent librarian who once studied dress design in the couture
houses of Paris… and worked as a Red Cross caseworker in South Korea. Because
it took her forever to decide what she wanted to do when she grew up, she now
writes romance and women’s fiction novels filled with suspense, adventure, and

Her bestselling Deadly
romantic suspense series is set in a world with scary assassins
who bow before killing, sexy Green Berets seeking redemption, and smart, sassy
heroines who save them all. It’s also a world where, since Sharon is slow and
clumsy, her chances of making it out alive would be slim. 

She also writes small-town contemporary romances, gothic
romantic mysteries set in the sultry south, and Christmas stories. Because
nothing brings out the romantic feels more than stories set during the

Army wife, mother of twins, and caretaker of rescue
dogs, she’s repped by Deidre Knight and Kristy Hunter of The Knight Agency.


 Follow her on Social Media to keep up with new releases,
sales, and giveaways.








Midnight in the
Garden FB Group

Isn’t it Romantic
Book Club FB Group


So there you go. And while Sharon has romantic suspense covered, I’m targeting readers who  prefer mystery, suspense, and thrillers.  Releases 5/31, review now on NetGalley, and available for preorder:  

 This killer won’t stop . . . until she’s dead

When Lt. Everett T. Pope is notified of an explosion in downtown
Denver close to the judicial buildings, his first instinct is gas leak. No such
luck. As Incident Command and Pope’s own Major Crimes unit move in, he discovers
he knows the intended victims—an Assistant U. S. Attorney—and Pope’s former
partner, now a private investigator, has died shielding the injured AUSA with
his body.

As ATF and the FBI take over investigating the bombing and unraveling
motives behind the murder attempt, Pope is relegated to a peripheral role. But
the injured AUSA’s aunt is a United States senator used to getting results. She
turns to the team that solved the Black Pearl Killer murders with a very big
ask—find her answers and locate the bomber.

FBI Special Agent Brian DiPietro must recall his entire cold case
team from their far-flung assignments knowing he’s being asked to do the
impossible. The senator, however, doesn’t know the meaning of the word. All too
soon, DiPietro finds his team working alongside ATF on a red-hot mission.  One that uncovers a decades’ old cold case.

To learn more about Donnell, check out her website at Author Donnell Ann Bell | Romantic Suspense & Crime Fiction | 

Hope you’ll join us on May 31st, for a day of May releases!


Last week I sat down for a long-distance chat with my critique partner and fellow Stiletto Gang blogger Donnell Ann Bell. Today we get together again, but this time it’s my turn to grill—uhm…interview her.

I want to start off by reciprocating the compliments Donnell gave me. I’m very lucky to have her as my critique partner. She makes me a better writer in so many ways but mostly because she makes comments and asks questions that force me to think about my stories in ways that might not ever occur to me otherwise.


But Donnell and I are more than critique partners; we’re friends. Are we two peas in a pod? Hardly! We often disagree—on many topics—but our friendship and working relationship transcend any differing opinions we may have. When we disagree, we agree to disagree and move on. These days, that’s a rare quality between people and one I treasure in her.


So here are some things about suspense author Donnell Ann Bell you may not know.


Lois: Donnell, one of the things I love about your books is the amount of research you put into writing them. You never info dump, but you make sure that your plots, events, and characters are accurate and believable. You have a vast network of experts you call upon for everything from medical issues to government agencies to cybersecurity and beyond. How did you come to meet all these professionals?


Donnell: I pay them – huge bucks!  Actually, it’s how I’m wired, Lois. I know how I learn. Some people can read vast amounts of information and retain it. I’m an auditory, tactile learner—something I learned late in life and not in my formative years, which would have been so helpful. I don’t do as well in online workshops, especially if the lecturer is imparting complicated, technical material. But if I listen to it, I do better. Generally, I request a phone call or a Zoom session. Most of my experts are entirely generous and one question often leads to another.  


LoisYou’ve had a varied career, including working as a court stenographer and a volunteer victim’s advocate. What other jobs have you held, and would you ever consider creating a protagonist who works in one of those fields?


Donnell: I actually thought about creating a court reporter protagonist – wrote a few chapters. Then realism set in. If you’re a court reporter employed in the court system, you work 40 hours in the courtroom and 20-plus hours transcribing (at least in my day before real-time court transcription). As I wrote, my plot fell apart:  I can see it now, my court reporter is trying to solve a murder, but then she’s held in contempt of court for not getting her depositions done.


My previous jobs were administrative in nature. I’ve worked in human resources for a semiconductor plant (processing NSA security clearance applications for our employees), commercial real estate, structural engineering, oil and gas companies, and my favorite, which led me to writing fiction after an injury ended my court reporting days, I went to a weekly newspaper. Later I was considered so good at my job that I was hired as the editor for a parenting magazine. I’m a firm believer that when one door closes, it ALWAYS opens a window. Just be sure to stick your head out and LOOK! Life experience is invaluable. It’s all material.


Lois: Writing is a business where authors need to develop a thick skin to survive. We’ve always been brutally honest with each other when it comes to what’s working and what’s not working in a story. After many years, we’re still critique partners and still friends. Would you like to explain to our readers the secret to our successful working relationship?


Donnell: I think we both are open-minded individuals, and we’re not about to let ego interfere with our ability to create the best book possible. Critique partners do each other no favors by not pointing out problems.  On the opposite side of criticism, however, critique partners should be quick to praise when something is working. I think we both do that.


Lois: Of course, I’ve read all your books. Thinking back, I believe they’re all set in either Colorado or New Mexico, two places you’ve lived. Other than changing planes in Denver once years ago, I’ve never been to either state. Have you considered setting a book elsewhere, or will you continue with the places you’re most familiar?

Donnell:  Maybe. I have a book currently collecting dust somewhere. The unpublished manuscript won first place in RWA’s Haunted Hearts Contest for Gothic Romance Writers and was a finalist for RWA’s Dual on the Delta Contest eons ago. I called it The Memory Maker. Back to the experience I mentioned above, I worked for a structural engineering company, and I got to tour a school in Colorado Springs called The Lowell School. [picture] I took that wonderful experience and wrote a story around it, except the school became Marcum School, and I create a fictitious city called Sherwood, New York.


Lois: You once thought about writing a cozy mystery series. Are you still considering doing so one day, or are you firmly entrenched in suspense for now? Any other genres or subgenres you’d like to write?


Donnell: I never say never. My long-ago critique group said I have a good first-person voice. First person, as you know, requires discipline. I remember once you went into Zack’s POV and I had to say, “Lois, you’re writing first person.” 😊

Lois: Yeah, I remember that. I think I hadn’t had my second cup of coffee the morning I wrote that scene. Moving on…The second book in your Cold Case Suspense Series will release in a few weeks. If Hollywood came calling, who would you like to see cast as Lieutenant Pope, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Brian DiPietro, Special Agent Allison Shannon, Special Agent Devon Taylor, and ATF agent Seth Walker?


Donnell:  Ooooh. No fair. This is so tough! Okay, dang. Tyler Perry (I thought was fabulous in James Patterson’s movie-version Alex Cross), Kevin Costner (as I’ve already done so in Black Pearl), Daniela Ruah (who plays Kinsey on NCIS, Los Angeles would be perfect as Allison Shannon), and, wow, for Devon . . . Richard Madden ( Ikaris in Eternals.)  


Lois: I’m excited about the book you have coming out in May 2022. Would you like to tell our readers about it?


Donnell:  The published title is called Until Dead: A Cold Case Suspense. Two years after the Black Pearl Killer’s apprehension, the taskforce that solved the case reunites to solve an equally challenging case. An assistant U.S. attorney is targeted by a deadly, multi-skilled assassin who calls himself The Tradesman. 

Lois: Do you have plans for a third Cold Case book?


Donnell: In the works. I’m currently talking to those experts we discussed above. A retired FBI agent and a forensic psychiatrist have given me the go-ahead that my plot can work. Now it’s all about the storytelling.


Lois: Thank you so much for joining us today, Donnell. Readers, if you’d like to learn more about Donnell and her books, check out her website.


Thank you, Lois! (Now enough slacking. Where’s your next chapter?)

Until Dead

A Cold Case Suspense, Book 2

This killer won’t stop …until she’s dead

When Lt. Everett T. Pope is notified of an explosion in downtown Denver close to the judicial buildings, his first instinct is gas leak. No such luck. As Incident Command and Pope’s own Major Crimes unit move in, he discovers he knows the intended victims—an Assistant U. S. Attorney—and Pope’s former partner, now a private investigator, has died shielding the injured AUSA with his body.

As ATF and the FBI take over investigating the bombing and unraveling motives behind the murder attempt, Pope is relegated to a peripheral role. But the injured AUSA’s aunt is a United States senator used to getting results. She turns to the team that solved the Black Pearl Killer murders with a very big ask—find her answers and locate the bomber.

FBI Special Agent Brian DiPietro must recall his entire cold case team from their far-flung assignments knowing he’s being asked to do the impossible. The senator, however, doesn’t know the meaning of the word. All too soon, DiPietro finds his team working alongside ATF on a red-hot mission. One that uncovers a decades’ old cold case.

Buy Links



Interview with Stiletto Gang Member Lois Winston

 When Stiletto Gang Blog
members suggested interviewing fellow blog members, it only made sense for me
to partner with author
Lois Winston. After all, as
critique partners, we know where 

Author Lois Winston

the bodies are buried (so to speak).  I feel fortunate to have Lois as a
critique partner. She has an outstanding brain, is well read, and knows the
publishing industry. Do I take everything she suggests? Absolutely not, and vice
versa. But the fact that we brainstorm, mull over plots, word choice, grammar,
goal, motivation, and conflict is worth all the gold in Fort Knox.  (All right, maybe not ALL the gold).

With that, let’s get to know author
Lois Winston better.

 Donnell:  Lois, you recently moved to Tennessee from
New Jersey to be closer to family.  How
many months has it been and how has the New Jersey girl transitioned to living
in the South?  What is your favorite
thing so far about Tennessee? And what do you miss most about New Jersey?

 Lois: We’ve been here since
the end of June but in our new home since the middle of July. It’s been a
difficult transition for me. Up until now I had lived my entire life in either
metro New York City or metro Philadelphia—and I don’t mean Philadelphia,
Mississippi! Moving during a pandemic has made the transition even more
difficult. However, I do like the milder winters.

 What I miss most about
New Jersey is no longer being within a short train ride into Manhattan. I’m
going through massive theater and museum withdrawal, and it isn’t pretty! Just
ask my husband!

Manhattan skyline

Donnell:  The beauty of writing the Anastasia Pollack
series is that you can visit New Jersey any time you wish. How many books have
you written now surrounding Westfield and the state of New Jersey?

 Lois: Getting back to New
Jersey isn’t that easy. It requires me to either hop on a plane or drive
thirteen hours, which I can’t do in one day. Would you believe there are no
trains that go from Nashville to New York?

No trains, so a plane will have to do…

Both my Anastasia
Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, of which there are currently ten novels and
three novellas, and my two Empty Nest Mysteries are set in Westfield. In
addition, Westfield is part of the setting for Moms in Black, the first
Mom Squad Caper; my contemporary romance, Finding Hope; and my middle
school novel, The Magic Paintbrush. My other books have been set in two
other New Jersey towns, New York, and Philadelphia.

Donnell:  Reviewers have compared your protagonist
Anastasia Pollack to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum. Did you have that in
mind when you started writing the series? Do you feel your protagonist after 10
books and 3 novellas has formed an identity of her own? How many more books do
you plan for this series?

 Lois: I didn’t consciously
have the Stephanie Plum books in mind when I wrote the first Anastasia book,
but I’ve always enjoyed Evanovich’s humor. Kirkus Reviews called Anastasia
“North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum,” and I think that’s true.
Stephanie doesn’t have to worry about anyone but herself. Anastasia is a more
realistic character. She’s juggling widowhood while raising two teenagers and
dealing with the debt her husband left her. She’s also permanently stuck with
her communist mother-in-law. Stephanie works in a profession that has her
dealing with criminals daily. Anastasia is the crafts editor at a women’s
magazine. Murder and mayhem aren’t part of her job description, yet circumstances
beyond her control force her into becoming a reluctant amateur sleuth.

As for how many more
books I’ll write in the series, I’ll keep writing about Anastasia as long as
she’ll let me.

Donnell: As a graphic artist and
former craft editor, you and your protagonist are closely related. At the back
of your books, you always have craft projects and ideas for readers. Do you
find that an advantage of writing this series? Do you have an avid “craft”

Lois: When I was asked to
write the series, it was understood that craft projects would be included, just
as recipes are included in culinary mysteries. The difference, though, is that
I’m limited in the type of projects I can feature. I can’t include patterns,
only written directions or tips, due to the limitations of size in a printed
book and the fact that there would be no way for someone reading an ebook to
print or download a pattern.

 Back when I was a
full-time designer, I had a sizable following. This was before the Internet
really took off, but I still hear from crafters from time to time. In 1996 I
designed a 3-D cross stitched Nativity set that was featured in Women’s
. I still receive emails from a few crafters each year, usually
because they want to stitch another set and have lost the patterns.

Donnell:  At one time, you wrote romantic suspense, do
you think you’ll ever write another romantic suspense?

Lois: I’ve learned never to
say never, but it won’t happen anytime soon. My romantic suspense novels were
quite dark. With everything going on in the world, I’d rather write humorous
cozy mysteries. We all need to laugh more these days.

Donnell:  Speaking of romance, you have one in your
Anastasia Pollack series. After being widowed from the louse of a spouse,
Anastasia has found happiness with photojournalist Zack Barnes. In a recent
book Anastasia and Zack became engaged. Have readers commented on their
engagement—are they excited about their upcoming nuptials? Any hints at whether
this will be a long engagement or a sudden elopement?

Lois: I’ve heard from many
readers who want to know when Anastasia and Zack will marry. Zack proposed in Handmade
Ho-Ho Homicide
, the eight book in the series. I didn’t want the wedding to
occur in the next book, and it didn’t work for the plot I wanted to write for
the last book. I’m currently working on the eleventh book in the series, and
I’m thinking this might be the book that will include a wedding. We’ll see…

Donnell:  One thing, I don’t think readers and writers
know about you is that you’re a former literary agent and are extremely generous
with your industry colleagues, published and unpublished alike. I have
benefitted firsthand by knowing you for so many years. If you were the Dear
Abby of Publishing, what advice would you give to published authors? Then, turn
this, what advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Lois: The best writing advice
I ever received was from the owner of the agency that represented me and
employed me for ten years. He said that every scene in a book and all dialogue
needs to do one of two things—either advance the plot or tell the reader
something he or she needs to know about the point of view character at that
. If it doesn’t, it’s filler and should be cut. This advice applies
to both published and unpublished writers.

As for aspiring
authors, my best advice is to remember that the road to publication is a
marathon, not a sprint. Take the time to learn your craft and grow a thick skin
to deal with the inevitable rejections you’ll receive along the way. Very few
authors have ever sold their first attempt immediately after completion—if
ever. There are thousands of first manuscripts cavorting with the dust bunnies
under beds throughout the world. Those who have been lucky enough to sell their
first book usually did so only after many revisions over several years.

Donnell: Thanks, Lois! To say
I’m grateful for your friendship is putting it mildly. Thank you for always
picking up the phone.

Lois: Ditto, Donnell!

Want to learn more about prolific author Lois Winston? Check out her website at: 


Putting the Character in Character

Happy Valentines all. So excited today’s my day to blog because it gives me an opportunity to interrupt this session to tell you about the last day of my sale. I’m traditionally published and my publisher places my books on sale, not me.  So, before I get to my blog, allow me to a quick bit of promotion to tell you about this significant discount.

Now, back to The Stiletto Gang’s regularly scheduled blog  and a bit of background on Black Pearl;)

By Donnell
Ann Bell

One of the
hardest things for me to do as a writer is to create characters. Some authors
have told me, “Oh, my character came to me fully formed.” Others say, “Oh, I do
character interviews to find out what makes him/her/them tick.”

Me? I ask my
characters, “Who are you?” and most rudely shout back, “You’re the author, you
figure it out.”

Not helpful.
Makes me want to stuff them in a drawer until they can play nice.

Still, I can
have an amazing plot, but if the characters don’t come alive, then my book is
nothing more than words strewn on a page. No matter what genre you read, books
are all about emotion, and characters bring emotion to life.

What’s more,
without strong, relatable characters, readers might give a book a try, but they
will just as quickly put the book down.

So, because
I need characters in a book, and because my characters are stubborn and won’t
talk to me, I cheat.

Yes, you
heard it here first.

If my
protagonist is in law enforcement, I interview members of law enforcement. If 
my protagonist is an FBI agent, I interview FBI agents. If my killer is an
insane whack job…I interview mental health professionals and read books. (I
fully admit I don’t interview whack jobs). By using these techniques, I find my
muse comes to life and the characters cooperate.

In Black
, my November 2019 release, I came across a new problem. I wrote my
first female police officer. One would think, oh, that’s easy, you’re a woman. Au
, this character really dug in her heels. She had the nerve to
call me, her creator, a fraud.

What did I
do about it? I went to some fellow authors who in their past careers were law
enforcement: Kathy Bennett, Phyllis Middleton, and Robin Burcell. I interviewed
them and asked them about their experiences. These women were beyond helpful.

I took those
results to my female police officer character. But instead of saying, “Great
job,” she said, “You’re getting warmer. You need to know more. You need to get
inside my head.”

she’s not real and I couldn’t shoot her, I did a lot of groaning and pacing.
Then another idea came to me. I’m a graduate of citizens academies for my local
police and sheriff’s office, so I marched into the Gold Camp Police Station one
morning and asked the woman behind the glass partition if I could do a

“Of course,”
she replied and pulled out her clipboard. “Fill this out.”

I hesitated.
“Thank you. I will. However, is there any chance I could do a ride-along with a
female police officer? And is there any chance she could be a field training

The woman lifted an eyebrow. “Will there be anything else?”

I thought
about it. “No that about covers it.”

As events
turned out, there was a female field training officer in the Gold Camp Police
Station at that very moment. The receptionist paged her; she came out to the
front desk, introduced herself, said she was too busy to accommodate me just
then, but two weeks later we did a ride-along on a twelve-hour shift.

She was
amazing. Professional, smart, everything that Kathy, Phyllis and Robin exuded
in spades. I saw how she conducted herself with the public and listened to her
comments in private. Further, she helped me brainstorm my character, and one
remark, she made hit me with such force, I took her at her word. “Please don’t
make her a slut. We don’t get where we are by not being professional and

I went home
after that shift and did my character outline and that’s when my character told
me her name. “My name is Allison Shannon,” she said. “I come with plenty of
baggage, but I’ve risen above it.”

I’ll close
by saying, I’m intensely proud of Allison and she’s one of the best characters
I’ve ever created. But as you can see, I didn’t create her alone. She’s a mix
of some remarkable women I admire. She’s working in a man’s world. She’s
tough, she’s formidable, but vulnerable at the same time, and she’s waiting to
tell you her story.

Thank you
for being with me today.

~ Donnell

About the Author: Donnell Ann Bell began her writing
career at the
Springs Business Journal and Pikes Peak Parent Newsmagazine before
turning to fiction. An award-winning author, including a two-time Golden
Heart finalist, she is the author of
Black Pearl, book one of a series, Buried
Agendas, Betrayed, Deadly Recall and The Past Came Hunting,
all of which have been Amazon digital bestsellers.
Black Pearl is her
latest release, readers can expect book two of the Cold Case series in 2022, and she’s back to work on book three of the series. Follow her on
Facebook and Twitter or





Inspiration Close to Home

I believe authors–well, most people for that matter, seek inspiration. Perhaps that’s why they will stop perusing social media, or a newspaper article, and hone in on a pull quote or a funny or powerful meme. I’m certainly no different. But as a storyteller, I’m fortunate because I find inspiration each an every morning right inside my home. My husband doesn’t deliberately try to be funny–he just is. He’s a chemical engineer, extremely absentminded, extremely bright, and has a dry wit that people remember.

His funny “Les” stories have often made it onto Facebook where people tell me they belong in a book. I mentioned he’s absentminded. Here’s one that made it into a post. 

Bank Teller from the Drive-thru window: Good morning, Mr. Bell, regarding this transaction, what would you like me to do with it, sir?

Les: Cash it.

Bank Teller: Er, I can’t do that. You’ve sent me your lottery ticket.

Oops. I used to worry when he told me things like this. But it’s been that way since the day I met him. One thing that makes up for his absentmindedness is he is extremely motivated and hard working. He put so much into his career that he often travelled Monday through Friday on road trips, Road trips take a toll on the body, and when he was 50, he was diagnosed with prediabetes. His mother had it, so to say we were concerned, is putting it lightly.  

His doctor wanted to put him on medication. But Les insisted he wanted to try something else first. He’s always been athletic, but there was that weight gain thing, and, along with diet, it would take a while for him to get back into shape. He didn’t wait long. Suddenly, he’d be out the door and running around the block. “Where’d you go?” I’d ask. “For a quick run.”

I lived a lot of years in my former neighborhood and everyone knew us. All at once, that scenario of running around the block turned into running around the neighborhood, and then into 2 and 5Ks. He joined a running club in Colorado Springs, something that wasn’t always the healthiest format, because after the run, there was a whole lot of celebrating–with beer.

Fast forward a a few months, he announced he was ready to do a half marathon of 13 miles. He was so proud of himself after he’d completed it, and he walked around the house calling himself a “Marathon Man.” “Not really,” I replied. “Technically, you’re  half a marathon man.” He took my teasing well, but as he always does, he kept on trekking. 

One day he breezed into the house and announced he’d signed up for the marathon of his dreams. He’d run quite a few by then, so I said, “Where to?” “Antarctica,” he replied. My mouth dropped open. “Les, you hate water. You can’t swim.” “There’s that,” he replied, “but the marathon only takes a few people per year due to environmental concerns, and you have to sign up. There’s a four-year waiting list.” I relaxed. He wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Four years passed and he got the call. “You’re in, Les. You made the cut.” Despite his fear of water, I drove this non-swimmer to Denver International Airport, kissed him goodbye for his 17-day adventure and left the airport. A few minutes later he called and said, “Don, (he calls me Don), could you come back? I forgot my passport in the car.” (Some things never change.)

He experienced seasickness, and rough water, and even the ocean splashing into his bunk at night. This wasn’t a cruise line he was on. It was a charter boat captained by a no-nonsense, serious-minded Russian captain who didn’t speak much English. The phone calls were nonexistent and the e-mails were intermittent. But, darned, if he didn’t finish that marathon–seasickness and all.

Les wearing his medal

Les posing with his seal friends

Couple married aboard ship by Russian captain. (Les was best man)

Majestic scenery

Antarctica peninsula 

As I close out this blog, I’d like to show you the shadow box my sister-in-law made for her brother. It has many of the full marathons Les has run after that scary wakeup call. He has a separate box filled with metals–it’s heavy! He’s run marathons close to home, the farthest, Seattle, New York, and as I said, Antarctica. The toughest one he’ll tell you is the Bataan Memorial Death March, right here in our new home in the deserts surrounding Las Cruces.

Les’s shadow box

I’m grateful for the laughter I experience in my house. More importantly I’m grateful for the inspiration.  How about you? Do you find laughter and inspiration close to home? 

About the Author:  Donnell Ann Bell began her writing nonfiction career at the Colorado Springs Business Journal and Pikes Peak Parent Newsmagazine before turning to fiction. An award-winning author, her most recent success is the 2020 Colorado Book Award for Black Pearl, A Cold Case Suspense. Currently she’s doing edits for book two in the Cold Case series. To learn more you can find her at www.donnellannbell.com  Facebook, Twitter @donnellannbell or Instagram. 

Make Setting Work for Your Story


by Donnell Ann Bell 

Have you ever been reading a novel, only to find yourself skimming over a passage of long, drawn out setting or description? My guess is you did that because you already had a clear visual and were ready to get on with the story. Setting and description belong in a writer’s tool kit and used right are part of an invaluable arsenal.

One of my favorite quotes is by Russian Writer Anton
Chekhov who wrote,
“I don’t need to know
everything that’s in the room, I only need to know what I need to know is in
the room.”
That made so much sense to me, and why I’ve tried to remember it
in my own writing.

What would you write to describe this room?

When I write, I choose locations familiar to me or
spend long hours checking out a town’s Chamber of Commerce page, Google maps,
and then I contact people who live in the area to beta read and verify I have
it correct. I try to sprinkle in popular landmarks, although be careful here;
you don’t want it to read like a travelogue.
best way to mention a landmark is to make it imperative to a scene.

Additionally, because I write mystery, suspense and romantic suspense, if I’m ever going to say something negative about a place, e.g. place a dead
body or a murder there, I change the name or make up a fictitious place

that blends in seamlessly with an actual area.

Writing around the theme, Suspense too Close to Home, I’ve
written about Denver, Colorado Springs, Albuquerque, El
Paso, Texas and in my most recent novel, Black Pearl, which takes place between
Denver and Montrose, Colorado. But the book that I think I did setting particularly
well is in my adopted hometown of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the best-selling The Past Came Hunting. Because I’d lived
in that city for thirty-plus years, I had a good grasp of the community
and its surroundings.

As I mentioned earlier, the best way to mention a
landmark is to make it imperative to a scene. (In the following scenes my cop protagonist
is on his way to a hearing and my female protagonist is at her job after a
brutal end to their relationship.) I could have described the places first then
written about their turbulent emotions. Instead, I combined both setting and
the emotions they were going through into the narrative. Hopefully, by doing
this I upped the pacing . . . .

Joe walked into the building,
flashing his badge to the security guards and bypassing the metal detectors. He
had the record, the credentials, votes of confidence from peers and
subordinates and the support of the district attorney. Combined, these factors
all but guaranteed him the promotion to commander.

was one lucky cop.

Images of Melanie flashed
through his brain as he entered the Division Room Four of a proceeding already in
progress. So, with so much going for him, why wasn’t he smiling?

to Female Protagonist

On the West side of town,
things weren’t going much better for Mel. With Aaron visiting family in New
York, she cleared the glass shelves of Christmas, Hanukah and seasonal items and
prepared to mark them down. The best way to overcome heartbreak, she reasoned,
was to throw herself into the things going right, namely her son and her job at
Pinnacle Creations.

According to Aaron, they
had thirty days to reduce inventory, then gear up for Valentine’s Day, Thanks
to holidays and special occasions, the floral industry never ended. Unlike

Ideally, I didn’t have to describe a courthouse or a
floral shop because these things are so well known to us. Setting and
description are vital to a book. But like dialogue, external and internal
narrative, emotion, and above all, an author’s voice, they are tools. Too much
of anything is overwriting.

How about you? Any tips on setting you’d like to share? 

Donnell Ann Bell is an award-winning
author, including finalist in the 2020 Colorado Book Award, she is the author
of Black Pearl, book one of a series, and is currently editing book two.
You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, or Bookbub. Sign up for her newsletter




Good Things Come to Those who Wait, But . . . .

Hello, Stiletto Gang and Readers: As I write this, I’m packing my bags and
getting ready for the adventure to start. One daughter-in law is expecting
twins, (a boy and a girl) and another daughter-in-law is expecting a baby boy.

It’s an exciting time as a grandmother, and after 2020, what’s truly exciting is now that the entire family is vaccinated, we can be together again.

But as you know, twins come at their own schedule–they could be on time, or they could come early. My other daughter in law is a registered nurse and as she’s always on her feet, her babies have come early as well.  (My first granddaughter was born in the bathtub!  Talk about unexpected.

We’re going to need a bigger table!

So with all this good news, why am I fretting? I’m also expecting edits on the sequel to Black Pearl, my Cold Case Suspense, while I’m also researching book three. Trying to do
research while chasing around the three “existing” grandchildren is going to be
I have decided to add a few more hours to my day (truthfully night)
to get everything done. My hope is when I return, I’ll be smarter (tons of research)
thinner (chasing grandchildren does that), and have a book on the verge of being released. 
In the meantime, I’ll wait . . . with the following caveat. 

Happy Summer and see you in August with the big

Crossword Puzzles or a Writer’s Research


by: Donnell Ann Bell 

“What’s a three-letter word for expert?” my husband asks as
I’m getting a glass of water before returning to my office. I stiffen. Here it
comes, where I should be concentrating on three letters my brain turns into a
giant mushroom cloud and I think of every word under the sun meaning expert, including, adept, proficient, and skillful, sans one with three letters.

“You know,” he says, reading glasses perched on his nose, “Daily mind games keep your mind sharp.”

I swallow some of my water and say, “So you’ve said. See you
later, you know where I’ll be.”

What he doesn’t get is that while he works crosswords, Sudoku
and other puzzles our doctors insist keep our minds sharp, I work mind games
all day long.

I do research!  What’s
more the research I do has to. . . you guessed it . . . fit into a puzzle.  Further, that research has to appear seamless
and relevant, or you can come up with a pacing problem or worse, tell the
reader you’re DOING research.  As a new
writer years ago, my critique partner laid a dreadful accusation at my feet,
saying, “Your research is showing.”

Talk about red-faced. You never ever want your research to
show. It’s akin to a plumber’s crack or a piece of toilet paper clinging to your

Here’s something that puzzles me, and I’ve often asked
myself why I don’t write less complicated books. The only answer I’ve come up
with is I love suspense, police procedure and want to address the topics
that interest me in my writing.  I want to understand
more divergent topics that I normally wouldn’t come across in my ordinary world. I
love thwarting my protagonists, then watching THEM work to outwit the

Wouldn’t it be incredible to hold all the answers in our
heads as we wrote our novels? Certainly would be simpler and imagine the productivity. But then, what fun
would that be? And how would existing knowledge stretch our imaginations? I
love discovering new avenues, further knocking around the plot with Lois Winston, my very smart critique partner, then brainstorming with experts.

One thing my husband and I are fairly equal at is Jeopardy. We watch it most evenings at 6 p.m. What’s a three-letter word for
expert? Try ACE.  Do you love puzzles? Research?
Both? Something else that keeps your
brain churning? I’d love to know.

About the Author:  Donnell Ann Bell gave up her nonfiction career in newspapers
and magazines because she was obsessed with the idea she could write a mystery or
thriller. Years later, she is an award-winning author, including a 2020 Colorado Book Award
finalist for her latest release Black Pearl, a Cold Case Suspense. Donnell’s
other books include Buried Agendas, Betrayed, Deadly Recall and the Past Came
Hunting, all of which have been Amazon bestsellers. Currently she’s submitted
book two of her cold case series to her publisher and is hard at work researching book
three.  www.donnellannbell.com

Neighbors and Critique Partners

By: Donnell Ann Bell

Hello! I am the newest member of the Stiletto Gang, and as a mystery writer and a woman who loves shoes, I will do my best to fit in. I
wrote an article for Stiletto Gang way back in the day https://donnellannbell.com/characters/
 Call me biased, but I still think it’s relevant.

Much has changed since that article, however. I’ve
written more books, I’ve relocated from Colorado Springs, Colorado to Las
Cruces, New Mexico, and with the exception of COVID-19, so far so good. This
city, thirty minutes from El Paso, Texas, has an amazing culture and some of
the kindest people I’ve ever met. Imagine (pre-COVID by the way), walking into
the grocery store when somebody sneezes, and from every surrounding aisle,
people shout, “God bless you.” Also, while I may miss Colorado’s green, you
can’t beat New Mexico’s sunsets.

Land of Enchantment’s Sunset 

One of the hardest things about leaving Colorado after
thirty-plus years was saying goodbye to lifetime friendships. Las Cruces has a
way to go to compete, but my next-door neighbor is working hard at making the
list. She arrived on my doorstep with cookies (my downfall), and our friendship
quickly became reciprocal. Like me, she has a creative side. Where I write, she

Tuscany Village by Carol Oxford 

One of the things I love about my new home is my front courtyard. But it was kind of sparse, so I went to work decorating. I found this adorable chihuahua and put him just out my front door. Wouldn’t you know it, though, my artistic neighbor pointed out something was missing.

Every chihuahua needs …
… a friend

One person I didn’t have to say goodbye to although we live
1,882 miles apart is my critique partner, Lois Winston, who I’d met online,
then in person on a transport van that delivered us to a conference. We’ve
exchanged chapters and brainstormed for years. We walk while we talk (because
we’re notorious multitaskers), and I can’t tell you how many “aha” moments we’ve
had via our treks.

I’m also close to Stiletto Gang member Cathy Perkins. She’s
a great conference roommate, by the way (Portland as I recall), and she and her
husband have visited Las Cruces. She’s a major talent, and one day I hope to
see her gorgeous home in the Pacific Northwest. 

Donnell, Cathy & spouses

That’s basically my introductory blog in a multi-cracked
nutshell. Looking forward to sharing thoughts, ideas and hopefully a little

 Do you have a
neighbor you love and/or a valued critique partner? In my opinion, they make
the world a whole lot brighter.

About  Donnell’s latest book: A cold case
heats up when a 9-1-1 call puts police at a Denver murder scene pointing
investigators to the abduction of a Colorado teenager fourteen years before.
The connection? A calling card
a single black pearl—is found on the newest victim. Is the murder
a copycat? Or has a twisted serial killer, thought dead or in prison, returned
to kill again?

The hunt for a multi-state killer is
on and brings together an unexpected team: a Denver Major Crimes police
lieutenant; an FBI special agent who investigated the previous murders, a
rookie FBI agent with a specialty in psychology; and the only living victim of
the Black Pearl Killer is now a cop.

For Special
Agent Brian DiPietro, the case is an opportunity to find answers. For Officer Allison
Shannon, the case will force her to face down the town that blamed her for
surviving when another did not. And for both DiPietro and Shannon, it’s a
chance to find closure to questions that have tormented them both for years.

Bio: Donnell Ann Bell gave up her nonfiction career in
newspapers and magazines because she was obsessed with the idea she could write
a mystery or thriller. An award-winning author, including the 2020 Colorado
Book Award finalist for her latest release Black Pearl, A Cold Case Suspense,
Donnell’s other books have included Buried Agendas, Betrayed, Deadly Recall and
The Past Came Hunting, all of which have been Amazon bestsellers. Currently
she’s writing Book Two of her Cold Case series. For further information or buy information, please go to www.donnellannbell.com