Tag Archive for: friendship

Just Joys — T.K. Thorne


 Writer, humanist,
          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,
       Lover of solitude
          and the company of good friends,
        new places, new ideas
           and old wisdom.




The whirling weeks have left me vaguely unsettled, looking for what I have “accomplished.” I am used to measuring that in terms of word count, and I don’t have many of those. Rather than wallow in guilt, perhaps word count is the wrong measurement. I decided to look back and ask, “What happened?” And specifically, “Where did I find joy?”

While I listened to the talented Lia Frederick bring my characters to life in an audio book version of House of Rose* (the first in a trilogy about a police officer who discovers she’s a witch), I pulled the grass/clover/weeds out of the moss on the brick walkway. You might call this gardening. I call it a Zen exercise.  

[* Contact me at TK@tkthorne.com to get a promo code for a free audiobook!]

During the early stress-filled days of the Pandemic, weeding the moss calmed me. It requires concentration (if you pull wantonly, the moss will pull up too; if you are lazy, other plants will take over.) One of the encroachers was a tiny flower with a deep violet base and translucent blue-white petals, perhaps large enough for an ant’s umbrella—a Japanese Mazus. I left it in the moss.


Two + decades ago, I worked in the Birmingham Police Department with two dear friends, Becky and Juanita. Becky recently had a hip replacement, and Juanita stepped up to be a full-time care-taker. (A lesson about the meaning of Love!) We visit regularly, and our tales ensure a lot of laughter, the good kind that runs deep as a river between us. Becky’s husband died not that long ago, and she asked me for a painting based on a photo he had taken on a special day. The photo is beautiful, a solitary duck and crimson reflections in the water of (unseen) day lillies on the bank above. Here my first stab at it:

The Left Coast Crime conference in Albuquerque, NM, was a mixture of delight in being with people and anxiety at the crowd after the last two years of isolating and masking.  The highlight was being with my friends, Vikki and Kevin who were experiencing a writing conference for the first time. Also loved meeting fellow Stiletto Gang members, Donnell Ann Bell and Dru Ann Love.  Didn’t get to talk much with Dru Ann (who was always surrounded by admirers!☺), but I sat at Donnell’s table at the banquet, and she kindly offered a ride to the airport, so we got to chat a bit, enough to know what a kind, generous person she is and hope our friendship grows.  
Also enjoyed extended conversations about writing and law enforcement stuff  with fellow panelists and police crime writers—James L’Etoile, Frank Zafiro, Dana King (and his wife, Corky), and Colin Conway. The best part of conferences is the people!
Brushed tangles from Foxy’s tail. Tomorrow it will be tangled again, but
today it’s a silk flag in the wind, and she is prissy, knowing how
beautiful she is (because I tell her constantly). She was a racehorse,
but during the pandemic (or perhaps because her hooves don’t grow well)
she was sold at auction with a future as dog food in Mexico if no one
rescued her. She is such a baby, wanting constant petting and treats.

Janice is almost my age (i.e., an “elder”). We met this winter at a martial arts clinic (yes, really). She rode with her sensei (teacher) from Wyoming to Alabama! Fourteen hundred miles separate us, yet we chatted via email about tying up her gutter that fell in the Laramie wind to the porch with a bungee cord, and I told her about a piece of my day. The thread of a new friendship weaving across those miles lightened my heart.  
Our old dog, Glenny, walked all the way to the barn with me today. Usually, he goes to the end of the yard and then abandons me, heading back to the house. This time I had to wait while he stopped often to read the “newspaper” of smells along the drive, a lesson in patience, but I was happy with his quiet company.

This is not Glenny in quiet-company mode. This is it’s-time-to-cook-dinner mode.

Colors in the water of Becky’s painting are giving me fits. Do I still like it?  Yes . . . no.  Frustrating. Trying to push through the fear of an ugly mess, giving the paper the paint and waiting to see what it does with it.
Took some mint to my sister (so grateful she lives nearby) and helped her move hosta plants she had grown for years to her new house and decide where to put them, as well as an ornate wrought iron gate she bought at a yard sale. (She is a yard-sale queen!) She helped me load two trellis plant stands (that she would have sold, but gave to me), into the truck. I put them in the back yard in front of the ugly metal poles of the clothesline. Any thoughts what I should grow on them?  Clematis, maybe? Only partial sun back there.
More paint on the duck. Hoping Becky will like it. Hoping I will like it. Layers defining, softening, brightening. It will never look like the photo but that’s okay has long as it evokes the wonder of the light, the quiet dignity of the duck rippling through still water, but I don’t know if it’s working or not.  Really struggling with making this right.

I was up at midnight the night before taking this to Becky because it was still not right, but in the end, I went to bed feeling it was good, or as good as I could do. 

She cried when she saw it.  
Her happiness made me very happy.

Writing this woke me to the small joys that happen every day. Looking for “accomplishments,” I miss their significant. What a gift life is.  

T.K.Thorne is a retired police captain who writes books, which, like this blog, go wherever her curiosity and imagination take her.  More at TKThorne.com

Gay Yellen: Talking to Trees

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal has me thinking about the emotional connection humans often feel for trees. In “Why a Tree is the Friend We Need Right Now,” columnist Elizabeth Bernstein describes her relationship with the banyan tree she first encountered while worrying about a sick relative, and to which she returned again and again to seek comfort under its boughs.

The heartfelt gratitude she expressed for her banyan reminded me of Shel Silverstein’s poignant picture book, The Giving Tree, and also of my own tree-friends.

My relationship with trees began with my childhood summertime reading and the mimosa tree in our front yard. I’d climb up to the sturdy limb that perfectly fit the curve of my back and, cocooned in the cool, dense shade of its feathery leaves, I’d read my latest Nancy Drew.

In the neighborhood today, hundred-year oaks and other wizened trees abound. Like the WSJ columnist, I feel an attachment to many of them. I revel in the shade of the ancient oaks that shelter a nearby path, bending toward each other like a giant arbor. There’s one with a burl that looks like a teddy bear. I pat its fat belly as I walk by.

Down the street there’s one that appears to be winning a decades-long power struggle with a city sidewalk. I cheer it on as it pushes the cement away from its powerful roots. Another favorite shelters a little fairy house.

Fairy house tree.

I also mourn the giants cut down too soon, along with the charming brick bungalows they stood beside—only to make way for new, gentrified, and decidedly unremarkable houses. 

Thoreau once opined that “trees indeed have hearts.” So when the WSJ states that a “calming and awe-inspiring tree is the perfect antidote to anxiety,” I heartily agree. Especially nowadays, when anxiety seems to lurk around every corner.

Do you have a special relationship with a tree? If not, go out and find one. Spend time there. Hug it, if you feel the need. It might be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Gay Yellen writes the award-winning Samantha Newman Mystery Series. She’d love to hear from you, in a comment on this post, on FacebookBookBub, or via her website.

Friends and Sidekicks

by Sparkle Abbey

In life and in fiction, sidekicks and friends are important.

In fiction, authors use sidekicks and friends to give insight about the main character. That insight helps us, as readers, understand more about who that characters is and what makes them tick. While you can know quite a lot about a character through their actions, it’s the friend or sidekick who sometimes provides perspective and/or relief, but always adds dimension to the protagonist.

Whether it’s Watson to Holmes or Jeeves to Bertie Wooster or, if you’re a Hallmark Mysteries fan, Dani to Jennifer (Garage Sale Mysteries), we develop our view of the main character through the eyes of these sidekicks and friends.

In our books, we’ve had some fun with unusual sidekicks. Our readers love Diana Knight, the former star of the silver-screen turned avid pet advocate, who is Caro Lamont, our pet therapist’s, best friend. And we constantly hear from readers of the series who can’t get enough of Betty Foxx, our pet boutique owner, Melinda Langston’s feisty senior sidekick. Betty always adds her own view of things to the story!

Both play some role in solving the mysteries in our books, but they also provide insight into the two cousins’ thinking and their motivations. Something that would be much harder without them, and much less fun. At times they also, much like real-life friends, provide support or keep the cousins accountable.

How about you? Do you have any favorite fictional sidekicks or friends, either books or movies? And, if so, we’d love to hear what you especially like about them.

Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of mystery authors Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter. They’ve chosen to use Sparkle Abbey as their pen name on this series because they liked the idea of combining the names of their two rescue pets – Sparkle (ML’s cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog).

The Dogfather, book #10 in the series, is just out. Here’s a little bit more about the book:

Who knew the world of designer purses could be such a dog-eat-dog business?

When a local, designer handbags store owner is found dead, the police first believe it’s an unfortunate accident. But the evidence doesn’t lie. Before you can say “wiseguy,” Bow Wow Boutique owner, Melinda Langston’s, former fiancé and undercover FBI agent, Grey Donovan, is the prime suspect.

Now the two are working side-by-side to prove Grey’s innocence— nothing personal, just business. Or is it? Suspects are piling up, family secrets are exposed, and no one is who they appear to be, including Mel’s newest employee. Time’s running out. Mel better sniff out the killer before she and Grey end up sleeping with the fishes.

Also, if you’d like to keep up-to-date on Sparkle Abbey news, stop by the website and sign up for their newsletter.

Social Media – Love It? Or Leave It?

by Sparkle Abbey

It seems lately social media is on fire with current events, opinions, and, of course, cat videos. And baby goats in pajamas, and delicious recipes, and funny memes. And sometimes very personal and life-altering events.

Isn’t it amazing how much we take for granted about that connection. A connection that a few years ago didn’t even exist.

As authors, social media can be dangerous. You go online to check in, or see what your friends are doing, or what’s new in the publishing world and….whoosh! An hour (or two) or writing time just disappeared. True for you? Or is that just us?

So then you decide you must stay offline for a while, because you need to be getting things done. But, easier said than done, right? Pretty soon you’re wondering when was that book event you wanted to go to, and what happened with that situation, and what important things are you missing. And then like a big black hole you’re sucked in again.

Still with all of that, even in times like these, social media connections are important. Maybe especially in times like these. With Hurricane Harvey and now Irma, as well as the wildfires in Montana, California, and the Pacific Northwest. Scary events forcing people to leave their homes and to wonder what they’ll come back to. In these instances, connections via social media have been an important way to check in with each other. To share concerns and offers of help. To let each know that we’re okay. Or not okay.

On a more intimate level, personal losses, health concerns, milestones, and celebrations are also things we often choose to share with our friends on social media sites. Big and small – our disappointments, our fears, and joys. We offer each other encouragement when times are tough. A virtual hug when one is needed. Or a chuckle. Because there are times when we just need a baby goat in pajamas to help us remember to laugh.

At times, we head for that “hive mind” for answers, information, or solutions. “Has anyone seen this error message? Can someone tell me what kind of plant this is?” Or sometimes, we seek opinions. “Which author photo is better? Mac or PC? Has anyone tried this?”

When we think it’s too much and we ought to just opt out, we realize blessing of the many true friends we’ve made via social media. Readers we wouldn’t have had the chance to get to know. Other authors whose opinions we value and respect. Friends. Friends we’ve met and bonded with through this crazy amazing (and sometimes overwhelming) medium.

So, we’d have to say in answer to the “Love It? Or Leave It?” question we posed at the beginning – though we may need a short break from time to time – for the most part we’re loving it!

What do you think? Do you mostly love it? Or often want to leave it? Please share your thoughts…

Sparkle Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series. They are friends as well as neighbors so they often get together and plot ways to commit murder. (But don’t tell the neighbors.) They love to hear from readers and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, their favorite social media sites. Also, if you want to make sure you get updates, sign up for their newsletter via the SparkleAbbey.com website.

The Meaning of Life by Debra H. Goldstein

The Meaning of Life by Debra H. Goldstein
Recently I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the meaning of life and its other alternative. This isn’t a new topic for me to explore. I first started thinking about it shortly after my fiftieth birthday when I woke one morning to find my arms had turned to flab and I had become my mother. The thoughts were generated by a discussion with a friend who was in the last stages of cancer. She was questioning what purpose living in her debilitated state had and whether after we die, we are remembered or the life we lived fades away.
I couldn’t answer her questions. I was too focused on reaching outside my comfort zone to find ways to ease her journey. When she died, I decided her purpose was the seed of herself planted in others through charitable doing, mentoring, and touching people at the right time. Her nourishment of others left ideas, feelings, and values to reseed the next generation.
Time went on and I didn’t spend much time dwelling on the meaning of life. I was too busy enjoying the life cycle events that constantly were occurring in the lives of my friends and my own family. Trips to visit and cuddle new babies, writing events, the coming of age Bar Mitzvah ceremony of a nephew, graduations from pre-school through professional school, and the joy of watching my daughter walk down the aisle to be with the man she has chosen to spend the rest of her life with consumed my waking hours. Why dwell on life and death when so many things were going on?
I was attending a writer’s conference being held on a property in Disneyworld when I glanced down at my smartphone and noticed an email entitled “OMG.” Above “OMG” was an endless string of responding e-mails. A friend who was a wife, mother, respected professional, devoted kayaker, and person who was taking me out for a birthday lunch the next week had had a cerebral bleed and died within minutes the night before. Everyone, including me, was in shock that this young and healthy vibrant woman was gone. No “why” made sense.
My other friends and I went on living. At one of the other planned lunch celebrations for my birthday, one of our lunch bunch mentioned she was celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary. Knowing she had married a much older man and that part of his proposal had been he would be hers for at least twenty-five years, we asked what he had given her for their special anniversary. The answer: the promise of trying for another twenty-five years as wonderful as the first. Last week, our lunch bunch held our breath when this man who never gets sick was hospitalized with pneumonia and a low blood count. We all feared he wouldn’t be able to keep his promise. Happily, his positive response to medical treatment has given them the opportunity to share many more years together.
In Jewish tradition, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it is decided who shall live and who shall die. At the time of Yom Kippur, one’s fate hopefully is inscribed in the book of life. I don’t know how or why the final decision is made. I cannot venture a guess as to our true purpose in living or if there is an existential meaning of life, but I do know I value every moment of it that I share with my family, friends, and those individuals I will meet in the future.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
P.S.  I try to keep my personal blog “It’s Not Always a Mystery” – http://debrahgoldstein.wordpress.com or found through my website, www.DebraHGoldstein.com by clicking DHG’s Blog – separate from what I post on The Stiletto Gang, but the reaction to the recent posting of The Meaning of Life convinced me that it might be an interesting piece to share The Stiletto Gang’s readers, too.  After all, we are all searching for The Meaning of Life. I look forward to hearing your personal reactions to this post.  Debra

In Defense of Trees

or, Ah crap, just move already; I’m tired of emailing you and want to have coffee in person.
by Bethany Maines
So I’m trying to persuade my one-time college roommate, and old fiend The Hobo (not her real name), to pack up her stick and kerchief and move back to Washington State after graduate school.  The Hobo happily attends the illustriously ivy-league institute of Columbia.  That’s right, Columbia, the one in New York.  And I want her to move.  Leave.  Vamoose.  Exit that city stage right.  Yeah… I know what you’re thinking: my odds are not good. 
Manhattan has all night food delivery.  Museums on every block.  Night clubs that stay open till four in the morning.  Better zombie culture.  I’m not sure why that one’s important, but she seems to enjoy it, so who am I to argue?  Manhattan has street vendors, Broadway, fashion, and every movie that does’t blow up LA, blows up New York.  New York has EVERYTHING.
Washington has… trees.  Don’t get me wrong, we have a lot of trees.  And in a grudge match, I would bet on our trees against the trees of any other state in the Union.  (Does your state have Madrona trees?  Coniferous AND deciduous trees?  Rainforest and desert trees?  Yeah… didn’t think so.)  But let’s face it, trees and a fairly decent cultural scene are never going to stack up against New York, New York.
To put it another way, if New York were a man, he’d be Brad Pitt (occasionally the alcoholic, filthy Brad Pitt from Snatch, but still, Brad Pitt).  And if Washington were a man he’d be Jim Caviezel, the dude most well known for playing Jesus.  Just for the record, Jim Caviezel is adorable and was born in Mt. Vernon, Washington (Ok, yes, so was Glenn Beck, but there’s nothing we can do about that).  The problem is that nobody wants to date Jesus except for nuns.  Girls want date dangerous bad boys who make grand gestures.  They don’t want to have a fling with a steady guy who shows up on time and remembers your birthday.
But girls do marry those kind of guys. 
And here’s where I think I’ve got a shot.  As an established Washingtonian I’m in a position to introduce my old friend to Washington’s fun side, it’s sunny side, it’s side that already has connections in the field you want to work in and wouldn’t it be nice to get a job and settle down, not that I’m pressuring you, but you’re not getting any younger and your cat needs someplace larger to run around in than an itty-bitty studio on the Upper West Side. Not that I will be phrasing it that way.  I just want to point out, as subtly and subversively as possible, that the steady guy is worth a look.  Is that so wrong?
And also… we don’t have cockroaches.

Just Put the Word “Club” at the End

by Maria Geraci

First off, I’d like to thank Susan and the rest of the Stiletto gang for hosting me on their blog today. The minute I heard the name of the blog it brought a smile to my face, and I immediately knew the theme of my post. I’m here to talk about gangs (not the east LA kind. That would be a different post all together). I’m talking about the sort of gangs we women know and love–and that would be Clubs.

I looked up the word in my handy dandy online thesaurus because I was curious how many synonyms I could find for the words gang or club. There were roughly a few dozen. Here are some examples: bunch, circle, clan, clique, cronies, assemblage, pack, posse, bunch, clump, galaxy, squad and yes, even mafia. I could go on, but you get my drift. There are a lot of words to describe the same thing. The word gang itself has several different meanings, but the bottom line is this: it’s a group of people with something in common.

I think I must be drawn to gangs. My first two books were about a group of women who play Bunco. If you don’t know what Bunco is, I’ll tell you. It’s a fun, fast paced dice game usually played by women. Think men’s poker night but substitute the cards and the cigars and the beers with dice and gossip and frozen margaritas. What it really is is an excuse for women to get together. Women crave the company of other women. The phenomenon starts all the way back in preschool, when little girls are drawn to each other to play and hold hands and giggle and talk. That camaraderie is something I think we crave till the day we hit the nursing home. I also think it’s the reason why books with the word “club” in the title are so popular. As women, we love reading about the relationships we have with other women and the word “club” is keyed in our brain to trigger some sort of pleasant reaction (work with me here).

Here’s a few examples:

The Friday Night Knitting Club
The First Love Cookie Club
The Sex Club
The Babysitter’s Club (starting us out early with that theme)
The Joy Luck Club
The Hot Flash Club
(yes, this is a book and I just might have to go get it!)
The Professors’ Wives Club
The Coffin Club
(not one club I’d necessarily want to join…)
The Wildwater Walking Club
The Cougar Club
(great read!)

I could go on and on because there are dozens more literary titles that end with the word club. And while there are countless awesome synonyms that mean the same thing, somehow The Cougar Mafia or The Joy Luck Posse just don’t sound quite right.

So I’m hoping that my latest foray into literature, The Boyfriend of the Month Club, will be as successful as some of those books I just mentioned. It’s a romantic comedy about a woman who turns her dysfunctional book club into a boyfriend club, where women discuss the men they’ve dated comparing them to classic literary heroes and villains. I got the idea for the book while attending a friend’s book club meeting (book clubs–another great excuse for women to get together!) It’s getting some great reviews, but the one I personally like best comes from Julie at What Women Write, who calls it “Dorothea Benton Frank Meets My Big Fat Greek…er Cuban Wedding.” How perfect is that?

The Boyfriend of the Month Club
Berkley Trade Paperback
December 2010

At thirty, Grace O’Bryan has dated every loser that Daytona Beach has to offer. After the ultimate date-from-hell, Grace decides to take matters into her own hands and turns her dwindling book club into a Boyfriend of the Month Club, where women can come together to discuss the eligible men in their community. Where are the real live twenty-first century versions of literary heroes such as Heathcliff and Mr. Darcy? Could it be successful and handsome Brandon Farrell, who is willing to overlook his disastrous first date with Grace and offers financial help for her parents’ failing Florida gift shop? Or maybe sexy dentist Joe Rosenblum, who’s great with a smile but not so great at commitment? Unfortunately, just like books, men cannot always be judged by their covers…

If you’d like to know more about me and my writing, please visit my website at http://www.mariageraci.com/. I’m currently holding a fabulous contest. Purchase The Boyfriend of the Month Club on or before December 12, and you can enter to win a grand prize of a $100 Amazon gift card, plus a bag filled with some wonderful autographed women’s fiction. There are also 5 runners-up prizes of a $20 Amazon gift card and a special edition Boyfriend of the Month Club desk top calendar. Contest details on are the homepage of my website. I’d also love it you joined my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/MariaGeraciBooks

**Maria, thanks so much for visiting our little gang (hee hee) today! We loved having you and wish you loads of success!!! Also, Maria is giving away signed copies of The Boyfriend of the Month Club and Susan McBride’s The Cougar Club today on her Facebook page! All you have to do is comment to be entered!

Thursday Morning with Marilyn Brant

I’m so happy that Marilyn Brant can join us today! She’s a great friend of mine, and she’s got a brand-new novel out called FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE, which revolves around three forty-something friends who regularly meet for coffee and talk about everything under the sun. I figured to go along with the theme, I’d do a little Q&A session with Marilyn for y’all to read as you sip your morning caffeine. So here goes!

Susan: Tell us about your most recent novel in 30 words or less.

Marilyn: FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE is a modern fairy tale about three suburban moms who each begin to question whether they’d married the right man or were living the right lives.

Susan: Okay, now more details, please!

Marilyn: Each Friday morning at the Indigo Moon Café, Jennifer, Bridget and Tamara meet to swap stories about marriage, kids and work. But one day, spurred by recent e-mails from her college ex, Jennifer poses questions they’ve never faced before. What if they all married the wrong man? What if they’re living the wrong life? And what would happen if, just once, they gave in to temptation?

Soon each woman is second-guessing the choices she’s made–and the ones she can unmake–as she becomes aware of new opportunities around every corner, from attentive colleagues and sexy neighbors to flirtatious past lovers. And as fantasies blur with real life, Jennifer, Bridget and Tamara begin to realize how little they know about each other, their marriages and themselves, and how much there is to gain or lose when you step outside the rules.

Susan: What was your favorite scene from the book?

Marilyn: One chapter I had a lot of fun writing in FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE was an adults-only Halloween costume party in the middle of the book. It made for a long, complicated chapter (I felt as though I practically had to choreograph it), but it’s a major turning point in the story for all three of the women. Some very serious things are happening in regards to each of their marriages, but those dramatic moments are juxtaposed against an absolutely absurd party setting, which made laugh whenever I tried to visualize the event.

Susan: What was most important to you in the writing of this story?

Marilyn: I’m always trying to be honest about the complexities of human emotion, particularly in regards to relationships. I would say with FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE, the biggest issue I wanted to explore was not so much the concept of “cheating” as a theme but, rather, the far less titillating subject of “choosing.” That a woman can really only be in a relationship fully — marital or otherwise — once she understands how and why she’s chosen to be there. That she has to look closely enough and listen deeply enough to know who she is and what she wants. And that in every romantic relationship or good friendship, she chooses over and over again (either consciously or unconsciously) whether she wants to stay. I believe that’s true of all of us, and I wanted my characters in this story to move from unconsciously living very unexamined lives to consciously, actively making a choice about where they were headed.

Susan: Where do you find inspiration for your work?

Marilyn: From conversations I overhear, things my friends tell me, funny stuff that happened in my family, incidents I’ve observed out in public, stories I’ve read in books or seen on TV and those endless “what if?” questions writers always ask themselves.

Susan: What’s your favorite thing about being a writer?

Marilyn: Getting to do something creative every single day! Truly, that’s been such a gift. Even when the plotting of a scene is giving me fits or the synopsis doesn’t seem to make sense at all…I love knowing that I have a place to play with these characters and storylines. My hope is that by writing about women’s dreams and experiences as honestly as possible, I might get closer to helping readers recognize truths about their own lives. It was this sense of “recognition” that my favorite novelists gave to me, and I’ll always be grateful for that.

Susan: What’s your advice for writers looking to get their novels published?

Marilyn: Don’t follow trends just because you think it’ll be an easier sell. And write the books that fit your voice. If what you love writing happens to be a hot-selling genre, great. If your writing voice happens to be perfect for the genre you want to write in and love to read, that’s awesome, too. But–if not–write long and hard enough to find what DOES fit you and your style best. Because then, even if it takes longer to make that first sale than you expect, you’re writing the kinds of stories you most enjoy, and that passion has a way of working itself into the projects you’re creating.

Susan: What’s next for you?

Marilyn: I’m in the process of beginning blog tours, library visits, book-club chats and other public events featuring FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE, which is a Doubleday Book Club and Book-of-the-Month Club selection for October 2010. I’m also still doing some fun Austen-related promo for my debut novel, ACCORDING TO JANE. I’ve just turned in my third novel (the title is still up for debate!), which will be out next fall, and it’s a modern “A Room with a View”-like travel adventure. It has characters that play chess, Sudoku and Mah-jongg, eat lots Italian gelato and linguini, and spontaneously sing Andrew Lloyd Webber songs and other musical-theater selections. Finally, I’m starting the writing process all over again for my next women’s fiction project, which I’m really excited about. I’ll, hopefully, be able to share more info on that story soon!

Marilyn Brant has been a classroom teacher, a library staff member, a freelance writer and a national book reviewer. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and son, surrounded by towers of books that often threaten to topple over and crush her. A proud member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, Marilyn’s debut novel featuring “Jane” won the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart® Award. When not working on her next book, she enjoys traveling, listening to music and finding new desserts to taste test. Readers can visit her website at MarilynBrant.com.