Tag Archive for: Dru Ann Love

Beta Readers

Have you heard of Beta Readers?

According to Wikpedia, a beta reader is a non-professional reader who reads a written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story, its characters, or its setting. Beta reading is typically done before the story is released for public consumption. Beta readers are not explicitly proofreaders or editors, but can serve in that context.

I’m one. I’ve done it several times for several authors, but my one and only long-term beta reading is with author Joanna Campbell Slan.

A couple of years ago, she decided she wanted to meet us and arranged a gathering in St. Louis. Why St. Louis? It where her Kiki Lowenstein series takes place. So 15 women known as the Beta Babes and some husbands and children arrived in St. Louis where we visited the places mentioned in the Kiki Lowenstein books. Also scheduled is an author signing event with local authors where they talk about their books and we make purchases. I’ve discovered several new-to-me authors. That was in 2014 and we have formed a bond where the group want to get together every year.

The next year, we traveled to Florida where Joanna’s Cara Mia Delgatto mystery series takes place. This time 12 Beta Babes arrived in Florida and we enjoyed traipsing around Florida even passing the home that was owned by Burt Reynolds. Once again, local authors were invited to talk about their book and purchases were made.

This past weekend, the Beta Babes headed to Washington DC where we enjoyed a tour of the Kennedy Center, a stop by the Capitol, an uber ride to the Washington Monument and a trek to the Lincoln Memorial (my favorite monument in D.C.). As always, local authors were invited to talk about their books and yes, purchases were made.

Photo courtesy of M. Husovsky

A good time was had that included an outburst of songs, especially singing in a parking lot, visits to wineries and a visit to DinosaurLand. This is always my last author-related event of the year and I treasure all these gatherings.

Have you ever Beta Read for an author?

Dru Ann

Clicking Our Heels – Our Summer Reading and What We Read Again and Again

The Stiletto
are all writers, but we also enjoy a good read. In fact, we have
summer reads and books we simply enjoy reading again and again. We thought you
might be interested in both our summer and comfort reading.
Marilyn Meredith: I love to read
anything by William Kent Krueger any time of the year – but there are so many
others, especially female mystery authors. I’ve read Gone With the Wind several times – though I must admit I skipped
over some of the parts about the Civil War. At my age, I can reread about
anything and it seems new.
Paffi Flood: Stephen King. It’s great
to read horror stories late into the night, because the sun is out J.
I was amazed how timeless Salem’s Lot
by Stephen King was. Although it was originally released in 1975, when I
re-read it in 2014, the cadence, the language seemed so contemporary. Of
course, there were the references to 8-track tapes and car carburetors, and
some things from the ‘70s.
Jennae M. Phillippe: I find favorites
so hard to pick! I have more reading time in summer and usually catch up on the
recommendations my friends have sent me over the year. Recent ones that stand
out are Gail Carriger (Steampunk fantasy action romance), Anne Mendel (humorous
post-apocalyptic), and James S.A. Corey (Science fiction). If you have
recommendations, send them my way! I love to revisit my old favorites,
particularly the ones from my childhood, like the entire The Song of the Lioness series from Tamora Pierce, or the Anne of Green Gables books from L.M.
Montgomery. There is something about reading books from your childhood that
makes you feel like a kid again.
Dru Ann Love: I don’t have seasonal
authors. I read all year round and whoever I’m reading at the time becomes a
favorite, especially if their book is part of a series. Naked in Death by J.D. Robb is the only book that I have re-read
multiple times and each time I discover something I missed the first go-round
and fall in love with Eve and Roark all over again.
Sparkle Abbey: Some of our favorite
summer reads are Laura Levine, Carolyn Hart, and when we’re looking for
something a little darker, Lisa Gardner. We’ve both re-read Laura Levine books
occasionally simply because they’re such great escapes. And sometimes you need
to escape! LOL.
Linda Rodriguez: I re-read many books. I’ve
read Shakespeare, the King James Bible,
most of Dickens, Austen, Trollope, and Virginia Woolf many times. I re-read
many favorite poets again and again. I’ve re-read everything Agatha Christie
and Dorothy Sayers (at least, her mysteries) so many times I couldn’t begin to
Bethany Maines: I usually try and read
something fluffy in the summer. I’ll re-read a Terry Pratchett (British humor)
or pick up an L.J. Wilson (sexy romance). The
Blue Castle
by LM Montgomery – I loved it as a teenager and even more as an
adult. The idea of casting aside inhibitions to pursue the life you want is a
message that is always good to hear.
Juliana Aragon Fatula: Manuel Ramos,
Mario Acevado, and High Times Marijuana
for Everybody
by Elise McDonough, Denise Chavez. The first time I read Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie, I tore
through it with vigor because I wanted to know who did it. The second time I
went through, took notes, marked pages to review, and savored the writing. It
was once for pleasure and twice for writing style. I re-read it because I
switched genres from poetry to mystery.
Kay Kendall: There is no seasonal
difference in my reading habits. For me it is mysteries, every day, all the
time. Or whatever the broadest term is that includes suspense, spy novels, and
the occasional thriller. I am not fond of police procedurals or books featuring
serial killers. Jane Eyre by
Charlotte Bronte. It has everything. Historic sweep, feisty heroine, suspense,
a touch of Gothic horror, and Mr. Rochester. Each time I have reread Jane Eyre, I marvel at its depth. It
holds up very well. I first read it as a young teen so of course I understand
some of its underpinnings better now.

Debra H. Goldstein: Summers are meant
for catching up on light mysteries, biographies, and literature. This summer’s
books ranged from The Nightingale to
Sisters in Law (Ruth Bader Ginsburg
and Sandra Day O’Connor) to the new Harry
. I’m not a big re-reader but there are a few I often refer to for
style or concept like Edna Ferber’s
, Agatha Christie’s books, or anything I think might incorporate a
style or an idea I’m thinking about.

Clicking Our Heels – What We Hate Most About Computers

Clicking Our Heels –
What We Hate Most About Computers

I’ve had that kind
of day! (Debra speaking) My computer
ate my words written for the day before deciding frozen was the position it
would like to be in. Even though I normally love computers, today, I asked my
fellow Stiletto Gang members “What they
hate most about computers?
” Here’s what they said:
Dru Ann Love: The
updates and how it messes with my settings.
Bethany Maines:
The thing I hate most about computers is that I can’t punch them. I want to
start a business selling nerf computer replicas that come with their own
baseball bat.
Juliana Aragon Fatula:
They aren’t faithful. I have a relationship with a new computer on average
about once a year and they are unfaithful and I have to move on and go with a
younger, newer model. Sometimes I hate the fact that they make me want to pick
them p and throw them out the window or at the very least take a stiletto to
the screen.

Kay Kendall: Just
when I get used to and comfy with a program, the company that produces it
changes it radically, then all the PCs move to favoring that, and then I have
to learn the new program. It is invariably trickier and just does more things
that I don’t really need. Annoying!

Jennae M. Phillippe:
The update cycle. I’ll be fresh and excited to start working on a project, turn
on the computer, and have to wait like 20 minutes for the thing to update. Or
worse, I’ll be in mid-project which it does one of those mandatory shut down
thingies. Totally throws me off.

Linda Rodriguez:
I hate that some programs (I’m looking straight at you, Microsoft Word) try to
make decisions for me that I want to make for myself.
Paffi Flood:
Nothing, now that I have an Apple J.

Paula Benson: That computers understand so many things intuitively, except how to fulfill my needs.
Marilyn Meredith:
What I hate most about computers is what I have to learn how to do something
new – which seems to happen too often.

Sparkle Abbey: We
don’t know what we do without computers. We work on them, we write on them and
we use them to keep in touch with each other. We both think we’re pretty
computer savvy, but there have been a couple of times when the computer has
eaten a work in progress or not saved it correctly. That’s frustrating!

Reviews- Shuddering in Our Boots

Debra H. Goldstein

After a Broadway show opens,
everyone gathers in a restaurant not sure whether they are celebrating or about
to attend a wake.  Why?  Because they’re waiting for the reviews. 

Authors are the same.  We nash our teeth waiting to see reviews that
appear before our books are released. 
Afterwards, we can’t help but glance at any that appear on Amazon, Goodreads,
or in national publications.  If they are
good, we happy dance and hope that everyone in the world sees the review.

But, what about the bad ones – and
there will be some.  Do we hide away and
hope no one reads them? Do we take them on? In my mind, we don’t do
either.  We read them carefully to see
what we can learn from them.  Our first
reading of a bad review tells us which type it is: one carefully reasoned or
one that is from left field that should be disregarded.

When my first book, Maze in Blue was
published, most of the reviews were excellent. Two were not. One, by Dr. Don Noble, who reviews for NPR
and Alabama Public Radio, praised a few things, but then pointed out flaws in
the structure and styling of the book. His comments cut to the quick, but today,
his review is my favorite. He taught me to avoid dumping and how to properly
write the ending of a book – something no class had ever fully explained to me.
Even though people continue to enjoy the book – reading it for fun rather than
with a critical eye, I still cringe at the rookie mistake I made. The good
thing is that because of his review, I’ll never make that mistake again.
And, the bad review? Someone gave me
two stars on Amazon noting that in writing about Ann Arbor, Michigan, I’d made errors in where the hospital entrance was located and how one of the main roads ran. I thought about writing a
response explaining that six to eight months after the book is set, the road was rerouted because the new dental school was built causing the hospital’s emergency entrance to be moved, but knew I shouldn’t. Happily, another reviewer, who gave the book five stars, took him on by noting that she was a professor’s daughter who lived in Ann Arbor at exactly the time the book was set and that I’d caught the locations and feeling of being on campus perfectly.  I chose to embrace her review and disregard his.

My new book, Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery, was released by Five Star on April 20.  Happily, at this point, all the reviews have been good. I know there will a few negative ones sometime in the future, but for now, I’m happy dancing so much that I’m going to engage in a little blatant self-promotion.  Forgive me in advance J:

“There are numerous plot threads
being woven into this relatively short mystery, and yet all are neatly tied
together by its stunning conclusion. … While the investigations remain the main
focus driving the novel, added elements of romance and humor only enhance this
thoroughly entertaining novel.  Carrie is
a very sympathetic character, and despite her traumas she allows herself
moments of playfulness and joy.  As much
a legal thriller as a family drama, readers will find much to enjoy in this new
series.” – Cynthia Chow – Kings River Life Magazine

“Should Have Played Poker has a
fast-paced plot with short chapters, enjoyable characters, and an  It touches on issues of
aging, family ties, corporate responsibility, and religious tolerance, and
culminates in a surprise ending that makes Carrie question most everything she
has ever believed in.” – Sharon Marchisello – Killer Nashville Book of the Day

abundance of
red herrings.

“If you’re a maven of mah jongg and
a fan of mysteries, you’ll find this easy-to-read, enjoyable, suspenseful,
well-paced adventure belongs on your nightstand right between your good-luck
tile and your playing schedule.  Judge
Goldstein deftly immerses the reader in rich characters, cozy settings,
complicated relationships, and intrigue. 
As the characters come together, cross paths, discover clues, and
unravel relationships, you’ll find yourself wringing your hands worried for
Carrie’s safety, wondering who should she trust, and who is the kikenhai
(dangerous tile) in the lot.”  – Scott D.
Miller –Mahjong News

“This was a very enjoyable
story.  …smoothly paced with enough
action to keep me delving into all aspects of this intriguing mystery that I
could not put down until I knew who the killer was. …With a loveable cast of
characters, good dialogue and a feel good atmosphere, this was a terrific read
and I hope there are more stories with Carrie and her friends.” – Dru Ann – dru’s book musings

How I read what I read by Dru Ann


There’s no rhyme or reason as to the book I pick up to read unless it’s a new debut series. Since I don’t have the added deadline of writing a review, I can take my time in reading and become involved in a book. My goal is to review at least 4 books per month with at least one a traditional mystery since most of the books I read are cozies.

How do I pick which debut series book to read?

It will come down to several factors and the top will be if I know the author and this can be attributed to if I have chatted with them via social media, if I met them at a reader/fan convention, or if I have met them at a book signing. Those connection put the author one up on others as I’m curious as to their writing style and their voice.

Next will be the cover. Yes, I’m very visual and the cover is always the first thing I see when I discover a new-to me book. I love covers that allude to what’s inside and there are several publishers that have some of the best covers out there. One thing I do dislike are covers with too much information on the front. The point is to get me to turn to the back of the book.

Next up is the blurb/synopsis/back of the book. Give it to me straight. Give me that teaser that tells me what are between the pages, yet will spurn me to open up the book and read the first few pages. If at an online retailer, it will be that synopsis that will have me clicking to read a few pages.

Next is my visit to the author’s website and please, please, let it be up-to-date. If I don’t see your new book on your website, that will discourage me to go further. I should also see a little bit more about what the book is about, more than what I find on the back cover.

And because this is how I reach out to authors to do a guest post on my blog, (dru’s book musings), please have your contact information on your blog, particularly your email address. I really do not like filling out those forms.

How do I pick which book to read on a regular basis? Sometimes it depends on my mood.

I have my auto-buy authors that I automatically will put on hold any book that I’m reading to read their book when it comes out. My friends know who this author is. There are other authors and I just realized that half are cozy authors and the other half run the spectrum between suspense, thriller and traditional mystery authors.

If I want to read a thriller, I have my tried and true authors that I’ll read. I’m not one for experimenting with new thriller authors. Although, if I meet them at a reader/fan conference or a book signing, I might read their book.

I’m much more flexible when it comes to suspense books, and again I do have my tried and true authors that I will read. And yes, if I met them at a reader/fan conference, I will give them a chance.

Then there are the mysteries – either traditional or cozies. I read what I like and I’m more willing to try a new-to-me author in this genre, but again, there are some books I will not read due to the subject matter contained within the pages.

Sometimes on that rare occasion, I will pick a book by the “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” method.

I wish I could read all the books that I want to read, but it’s not possible. So I do the best I can to enjoy those books that I do read.

How many books do I read? On average I read 15-20 books per month. That is actually less than I did previously. And according to Pew Research, in 2015 fewer Americans are reading print books (72% vs. 76% in 2014). However, I’m ahead of the game as Americans read, on average, 12 books in the past year.

Anyway, that’s how I pick books to read.

Do you have a similar or different way of choosing which book you are reading?

The Road to My Anthony Nomination–Special Post by Dru Ann Love

  • Extremely excited and thrilled
    that my peers nominated dru’s book musing

  • Extremely
    nervous because what if I win
  • I’ll
    have to stand in front of an audience and talk
  • Boosted
    by friends
  • Nervous
  • I’m
    up against Hank!
  • I’m
    up against Kate!
  • It
    was suggested that I write an acceptance speech
  • Wrote
    it and it is 2 minutes long
  • As
    the week becomes days, I’m excited yet nervous
  • I’m
    up against Hank!
  • I’m
    up against Kate!
  • I
    already know I have at least one vote – mine
  • I’m
    simply honored that I was nominated
  • My
    blog was nominated for an Anthony Award for Best Critical or Non-Fiction Work
 Thank you!

Dru Ann


What I’m looking forward to at Malice this year

I didn’t know what to write about this month, so I asked readers of my Facebook page, what should I talk about and thanks to Aimee H, the above topic was born. I decided to make the post short and fun and here it is. See, I got your name in my post.

The Screams! – Seeing my friends and screaming with joy.

The Panels! – Picking and choosing which ones to attend.

The Meals! – It’s all about the food and good talks.

Co-mingling! – Hanging in the lounge, catching up on everyone’s life.

Did I say “The Screams?” – Lots of hugs going around.

The Conversations! – Catching the latest news and just having a good time.

The Bar! – Where drinks will be flowing.

My Autograph Book! – I can’t wait to add more signatures.

The Authors! – More screams of joy when seeing old and new friends.

The Goodie Bag! – The joy of opening our goodie bag and checking out the new books tucked inside.

The Swags! – I can’t wait to see what I pick up.

Old Friends! – Seeing friends I haven’t seen since the last Malice convention.

New Friends! – Meeting new friends I met on Facebook or by reading their book.

And Best of All, The Sightings! – I love that first sighting of an author or my friends.

If you’re going to Malice or any reader/author convention, what are you looking forward?

Awards Shows

I love January because it’s the start of celebrity awards shows. I love watching the Red Carpet show and checking out the outfit the stars are wearing. The whole festivities begin with The People’s Choice, Golden Globes, SAG and then the granddaddy of them all, the Academy Awards.

But let’s not forget the authors, because they have their own award shows (well, that’s what I’m calling them) by way of conventions both for readers and writers. Me, I’m interested in the ones for readers and the two I attend are Malice Domestic, which is celebrating its 25th year and Bouchercon. I would love to attend others, but that thing called work which helps pay for my attendance at the two, needs to take precedence.

Malice was the first convention I attended thanks to the *nudge* by Heather Webber, and I’m so happy for that nudge. Every year I look forward to attending the panels and catching up with friends who I’ve met on blogs and FB and with the authors that I’ve met who have become friends. What I like best about Malice is that it is small and not overwhelmingly crowded. Also, it is held in Bethesda and the hotel is a train ride away from the nation’s capital. Malice is May 3 – 5.

Then there’s Bouchercon where the venue is different every year. So far I’ve been to St. Louis (finally saw the Gateway Arch) and Cleveland (finally saw the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) and this year it’s held in Albany, the state capital where I live. I’ve never been to Albany, so this will be very interesting for me. What I like best about Bouchercon is I get to travel to different cities that I thought about traveling to, but never got the chance. Bouchercon is September 19 – 22.

Last year I won a free weekend to Thrillerfest and while I enjoyed it, I felt that one was more for writers. Thrillerfest is July 10 – 13.

Other conventions/conferences I would love to attend are: Left Coast Crime, Killer Nashville, Deadly Ink and the Festival of Mystery at Oakmont, to name a few.

So, have you attended convention/conference before and what do you like best about them?

Why I Like to Read

Today, the Stiletto Gang welcomes mystery fan and friend, Dru, to our blog. Many of us have met Dru at mystery conventions and consider her an authority on all things mystery. Welcome, Dru!

My name is Dru and I’m an avid book reader. My day job as a research analyst keeps me in books that I love to buy and read. When not reading, I’m creating quilts, listening to music, watching TV crime dramas or mysteries and traveling when I can.

Why I like to readI read because it is entertaining, relaxing and I can escape on different adventures. Reading mysteries combines my love of puzzles and research. You have to look at the clues and fit the pieces together and I find that entertaining.

Where else can I sit in my living room and travel to the Pacific Northwest? Small town USA? The big city? Or right here in the town where I live? A book.

Where else can I help solve a murder mystery and not have to face the killer? Taking up a hobby and learning the ins and outs is easy once I read one of the many cozy mystery books that I’ll find on a shelf.

Reading a book, in particular, a series gives me the satisfaction that within the next year, I’ll be visiting my friends again and I can’t wait to see what our next adventure will bring.

Why do I read? Because I enjoy it and who knows, one of the books and/or author may one day be a Jeopardy question.

Who are some of your favorite authors? Your favorite cozies?

To see what Dru’s been reading, click here and the quilts that she’s created here.

Dru Ann Love