Tag Archive for: Guest Blogger

A Two-Track Mind—Guest Blog from Judith Fertig

Thank you to the amazing Linda Rodriguez for inviting me to guest
blog on The Stiletto Gang today.

You see, I thought I might become a mystery writer, too.

But no one died in the first chapter or two of the book I
wrote.  My debut novel The Cake Therapist (Berkley, June 2015)
turns out to be women’s fiction with flavor and flashbacks.

It also turns out that I have a two-track mind—I love
reading and writing novels that alternate from the present to the past. I love
the challenge of figuring out how those two parts fit together by the end of
the book.

Flashbacks became the mystery part of The Cake Therapist, a story about a gifted pastry chef.  When her New York life melted down like
buttercream frosting on a hot day, Neely decided to start over in her
Midwestern hometown, a blue collar burg that had recently reinvented itself as
a bridal district.

special gift helps her create wedding cakes that fit her brides like couture
gowns. When Neely focuses on a person and yet lets her mind wander, she tastes
a flavor that becomes sort of a hyperlink to a feeling. The feeling is the
heart of that person’s story, an event from the past that still holds on. And we
all have that story or stories.

uses her special talent to figure out what flavors her clients need to move on,
start over, rethink, or simply celebrate.

the one flavor and situation she can’t figure out holds the key to an unsolved
disappearance dating back to World War II.

As the sour flavor of anger intensifies, the flashback scenes
do, too.  The flavor and flashbacks start
to puzzle, then annoy, and almost torment Neely. Until she figures it all out.

loved immersing myself in the flashback time periods. I think the glimpses of
stories from the past are the secret filling of this “cake” novel.  I wanted contrast and depth and echoes of the
past to inform the present.

I’m still enthralled with the secret language of flavor and
still working with my two-track mind on the second novel in the series, The Memory of Lemon.

It’s getting easier to be in two places at the same time. A
sip of my morning café au lait at home and all of a sudden, I’m in New Orleans
in springtime, looking for that perfumer who will craft a scent that is pure
“you.” And I’m off on that second track again.

About Judith Fertig
Judith Fertig is an
award-winning and bestselling cookbook author, specializing in baking,
barbecue, and the regional cuisine of the Heartland—where flavor and
storytelling combine. After college at Wittenberg University and Ohio State,
she studied at École de Cuisine La Varenne
(formerly in Paris) and The Cordon Bleu in London plus The Iowa Writers Workshop. Her food and lifestyle writing has
appeared in The New York Times, The London Sunday Times, Country Homes &
Interiors, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Natural Awakenings, Better Homes &
Gardens, Saveur, Country Living
, and
Cooking Light. Fertig has appeared on the Food Network and many TV and
radio programs.
Her debut novel is The Cake Therapist (Berkley, June 2015).
FB:  Judith Fertig, Author
Twitter: @JudithFertig



Please give a fabulous Stiletto Gang welcome to the talented Anna Lee Huber.  She is the debut author of The Anatomist’s Wife which hit shelves last week.  And make sure you keep reading because you might get the chance to win her amazing book.  (And if you don’t, you should check it out.  You won’t be disappointed!)  So without further ado, take it away, Anna!

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of sanctuary, of
sacred places and safe havens.  I know
when someone uses the word “sanctuary,” most people think of churches and
cathedrals, of Quasimodo screaming it from the top of the Notre Dame Cathedral.  But I’m talking about it more in the context
of a personal refuge, a place of comfort and security.  Somewhere you can go to escape when the world
becomes too much, to grieve when you face loss, to reflect when you feel lost,
and to find the strength and serenity to move forward, both for yourself and
the ones you love. 
I believe everyone has a sanctuary in one form or another,
whether they realize it or not.  When
things go wrong, it’s the place you crave, the destination you long to run to,
where you know you’ll find your center again. 
Sometimes your sanctuary is a specific physical space, like a room or a
car, other times it’s a general location, like a hiking trail, a forest, or a
beach.  And still for others, like me,
it’s more of a space of time. 
I have always been drawn to sunset.  I don’t know why exactly, but something about
it calls me to me.  When I was a little
girl, we lived in the country, and I would often wander out into our large
backyard and find a soft patch of grass or snow to lie in and stare up at the
sky.  I would watch the brilliant play of
light fade from the sky and the stars begin to appear one by one.  Something about the simple but awe-inspiring
transition of day giving over to night would stir my soul and yet soothe me.  Even my parents understood this, and allowed
me to wander off as long as I was properly attired, so as not to freeze to
death in our chilly winters. 
Sunset—the wide-open sky and spectacular change over of day
to night—was my sanctuary.  And still is,
though living in the city as I do, surrounded by tight-packed houses, I don’t
lie down in my backyard anymore.  Maybe
one day I’ll live far enough from my neighbors to feel comfortable doing so
In my debut novel, The Anatomist’s Wife, my heroine,
Kiera, Lady Darby, also has a sanctuary—the library loft at Gairloch
Castle—where her sister, Alana, finds her after Kiera has once again faced
vicious accusations and name-calling. 
We sat that way for several minutes, staring past the
wooden banister, out at the ceiling of the library.  A large mural depicting the life of Saint
Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, covered the entire space from one wall to
another.  Though it was certainly not the
work of Michelangelo, it had a charming rustic quality I found soothing.  None of the colors were deep or the lines
sharp, but the muted shades and blurred lines were somehow appropriate to its
location in the far north of the Highlands.
Alana had asked me once why I liked the library loft so
much, but I hadn’t been able to explain it to her.  Perhaps there was some sense of peace being
so high above it all, with the saint on the ceiling my closest neighbor.  All I knew was that I always felt better,
that my thoughts were always clearer, when I was curled up in the little space
below the eaves.
Do you have a sanctuary? 
Where or what is it?
Berkley has graciously offered to give away a copy of the Anatomist’s wife (US Only).  Leave a comment today to be entered to win.  Good luck!
The Anatomist’s Wife

Scotland, 1830. Following the death of her husband, Lady Darby
has taken refuge at her sister’s estate, finding solace in her passion for
painting. But when her hosts throw a house party for the cream of London
society, Kiera is unable to hide from the ire of those who believe her to be as
unnatural as her husband, an anatomist who used her artistic talents to suit
his own macabre purposes. Kiera wants to put her past aside, but when one of
the house guests is murdered, her brother-in-law asks her to utilize her
knowledge of human anatomy to aid the insufferable Sebastian Gage-a fellow
guest with some experience as an inquiry agent. While Gage is clearly more
competent than she first assumed, Kiera isn’t about to let her guard down as
accusations and rumors swirl. When Kiera and Gage’s search leads them to even
more gruesome discoveries, a series of disturbing notes urges Lady Darby to
give up the inquiry. But Kiera is determined to both protect her family and
prove her innocence, even as she risks becoming the next victim…

Anna Lee
Huber was born and raised in a small town in Ohio.  She is a graduate of Lipscomb University in
Nashville, TN, where she majored in Music and minored in Psychology.  THE ANATOMIST’S WIFE, the first book in the
Lady Darby historical mystery series, has been hailed as “…a riveting debut…”
and will be released by Berkley Publishing on November 6th,
2012.  She currently lives in Indiana
with her husband and troublemaking tabby cat. 
When not hard at work on her next novel, she enjoys reading, singing,
travel, and spending time with her family. Visit her website at www.annaleehuber.com.

Facebook: AuthorAnnaLeeHuber
Twitter: AnnaLeeHuber

Guest blog Jeri Westerson

Hi, it’s Linda here. Please welcome my friend and gifted writer of historical mysteries, Jeri Westerson. Jeri’s newest “medieval noir” Crispin Guest novel, Blood Lance, has just been published, and Jeri’s going to talk to us about the really extreme research she does in order to write about her disgraced medieval knight.

She’s Armed
By Jeri Westerson
When it comes to research, I’m a hands-on kind of gal. So
when I had an opportunity to put on some fourteenth century-style armor and get
a sword fighting lesson, I was all over it.

I have worn armor before, and have even sat on a
warhorse, a 2,000 pound Percheron while wearing light armor. My latest medieval
mystery BLOOD LANCE features a lot of sword craft and jousting, and in order to
give it the authenticity it needed, I’ve been venturing throughout southern
California eliciting the help of chivalrous knights far and wide. And no one
knows chivalry more than Scott Farrell. 

I met Scott Farrell some years ago when we did a podcast
interview on his site Chivalry Today. But this hot August day, I met him in
person, along with his wife April, and Scott’s fellow instructor Kyle
Lazzarevich at Team Touche, a fencing club in San Diego, where they agreed to
fit me with armor so I can get the feel of it.
Scott is an historical sword fighting coach and an author
and historical interpreter on knights, medieval history, and chivalry.He got
interested in the Middle Ages in high school and later got the re-enactor bug,
and then started doing demonstrations for kids, which led him to think about connecting
the code of chivalry into everyday life and to his podcasts. 

Medieval armor was crafted to fit the particular knight. You
didn’t just buy it off the rack at ye olde Walmart. So Scott had to cheat a bit
to fit it around my middle-aged frame and cheat some more to be able to
position the helm where I could half-way see. All in all, it’s unwieldy as you
can imagine, and heavy what with not being used to it and all. In reality, a
full set of armor or full harness weighs anywhere between 60 and 100 pounds,
but with the weight distributed all over the body it’s not as bad as it sounds.
Knights had to be able to move, fight, mount the horse, dismount. Though
because of the noise of mail and clanking plate, it wasn’t exactly build for
stealth. As a matter of fact, I’m betting that it was pretty intimidating hearing
that clanking sound approach and being confronted with a man in armor with a
sword, mace, flail, war hammer, ax, pole axe…well. You get the picture.
It was wonderful just closing my eyes and feeling the weight
of it, the smell, the sense of it on me, and imagining I am Crispin, my
medieval protagonist and detective, who lost his knighthood years before these
stories began.

Wearing armor is one thing—and a marvelous thing at
that!—but what was it like to fight with a sword?
In college I took fencing and was pretty darned good at it.
But fencing is a completely different style than medieval broad sword fighting.
Fencing is about style. Though it was utilitarian there was more in the way of
competition and style points than fighting and hacking away at an opponent. And
though medieval broad swords were also used in competition in tournaments, the
tournament was more for preparing for actual battle. Technique was important to
keep you alive, but it was more about what worked rather than panache. After
all, a broad sword is essentially a chopping and slashing weapon. It was your
shield in defense as much as it was used as an offensive weapon.
I learned about medieval weapons
through books and research. And I have my own cache of weapons I like to
demonstrate when I make appearances at libraries and bookstores. But there is
nothing like a hands-on approach. It’s not something that you can find readily
just anywhere.
Scott gave me a lesson in some medieval long sword
techniques. Keeping the blade edge toward your opponent and keeping it close to
your body were good tips. The use of the thumb on the leading hand on the hilt
can help balance but it is up to the student to decide to leave it vulnerable
above the cross guard. When using the sword two-handed, the leading hand
controls the vertical tilt of the sword, while the bottom hand controls the
horizontal. Flashy Hollywood-style fighting might look good on the screen, but
it leaves you wide open for a good gash to the torso. And who wants that?

After real training, could I take on an armored opponent?
Well, let’s just say, I’d rather leave the swordplay to experts, like Crispin.

Jeri Westerson wanted to create her
own brand of medieval mystery, and combined the concept of medieval mystery
with hard-boiled detective fiction into what she calls “Medieval Noir.”
Hard-boiled detective Crispin Guest, is a disgraced knight turned PI, solving
crimes on the mean streets of fourteenth century London. The critically
acclaimed series began with VEIL OF LIES, which garnered nominations
from the Mystery Reader’s Journal Macavity Award for Best Historical Mystery
and the Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel,
the first medieval mystery to be so honored. Each of the next three novels in the series garnered award nominations and critical praise, as well.


Publisher’s Weekly said of the fifth
in the series BLOOD LANCE; “Clever twists and convincing period detail make
Westerson’s fifth 14th-century historical featuring disgraced knight Crispin
Guest one of her best.”
Kirkus Review said, “Guest’s fifth adventure
again provides a lively tale of historical interest smoothly combined with a
worthy mystery.”  The
Richmond Times-Dispatch said, “Written with a
keen knowledge of medieval history, ‘Blood Lance’ is another riveting tale of
honor and heroism, grounded in period detail, a wealth of action and the
continued development of her characters.”
Jeri looks forward to the sixth, SHADOW
in the fall of 2013.

Jeri has done talks around the
country about the Middle Ages, demonstrating her cache of medieval weaponry.
She has been a featured guest on the radio talk show Writers on Writing with
host Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, and a guest lecturer at the Bowers Museum in
Santa Ana. Jeri is vice president for the
southern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America and is also vice
president of the Los Angeles chapter of Sisters in Crime, and co-chair for the
California Crime Writer’s Conference for June 2013. She is also a member of
Private Eye Writers of America and the Historical Novel Society. Jeri is
married to a commercial photographer, has a screenwriter son, and herds two
cats, a tortoise, and the occasional tarantula at her home in southern
Visit Jeri’s blog www.Getting-Medieval.com for
articles on history and mystery as well as author interviews. Or see what
Crispin has to say on his very own blog. She is
also part of the group blog Poe’s Deadly Daughters
and you can follow her on Twitter
and see what Crispin is up to on his Facebook page.



The Write Stuff

We’re excited to have Brittany Roshelle with us at The Stiletto Gang today! Brittany is a freelance writer and an aspiring author of young adult fiction. Her blog, The Write Stuff, is where writers, authors, and book lovers converge to learn insider tips into the publishing world, read exclusive author interviews, and win book giveaways. Previously, she was a journalist for The Examiner as the Columbus Relationship Advice Expert. Currently, she writes for the online women’s magazine, Betty Confidential, as a Betty Fan Blogger. She recently completed her first novel and is actively pursuing agents.

Stiletto Gang: How long have you been writing?

Brittany: My father actually paid me a dollar per story when I was a little girl. He loved that I loved to write. As I grew older, I would journal every day, so much so that I often filled up a new journal every week. Since I loved to read often, I bought a new book every week as well. All of this led my father to lament that he should have bought stock in Barnes & Noble had he known what was ahead for him and his wallet.

Stiletto Gang: Where did you get the idea for your blog?

Brittany: I think a lot of people talk about writing a book, but that’s just it. It’s talk. The reason I held back from writing is that I come from a family of scientists and mathematicians. The idea that I might pursue a field that doesn’t require an advanced degree seemed laughable. And while books are everywhere, how one gets published is a big secret to most people.

I created my blog, The Write Stuff, with the goal in mind that I would contact as many authors as I could and publish their stories, their tips to publishing. Not only did I want to give any writers out there the help they needed, but I wanted to show everyone who was skeptical that getting published is possible.

Each week I interview someone new, whether it’s a New York Times bestselling author or someone with their first novel. I ask about their story, chat about their new book, and host a contest. It’s the ultimate place to learn insider tips to the publishing world and the best place to find inspiration, especially if you’re an author-in-the-making.

Stiletto Gang: What’s something important you’ve learned along the way?

Brittany: There’s no one road to publishing. Every author has a unique story. For some it took seven novels before they made it. Others got an agent three weeks after they sent out their first query letter. What is the same, though, is that everyone persevered. They’re authors today because they never gave up the dream. They kept writing, revising, and trying to get published. While publishing a book takes time, you can either be your own best friend or your biggest roadblock.

For example: What do Dr. Suess, John Grisham, and J.K. Rowling all have in common? They’re authors who were rejected multiple times by publishers. Can you imagine what would have happened if they had said, “Enough’s enough,” and gave up? While no one can say if your writing will ever make you that famous, who’s to say it won’t? You just have to hang in there.

Stiletto Gang: You also have another blog for Betty Confidential. Tell us about that.

Brittany: Yes! I have a Betty Blog called Chocolate Covered Chick Thoughts. Each week, the Betty fan bloggers and I are asked a question by Betty often relating to the most recent celebrity scandal, and it’s our job to spill on our real life relationships. Each Friday the top blogs are featured on their main website. So far, my articles have appeared every Friday.

I have the best time writing my articles. I try to throw in as much humor and advice as possible without being too serious or personal. I absolutely love it.

Stiletto Gang: You recently finished your first novel. What was that like?

Brittany: My biggest dream for as long as I can remember was to write a full-length novel. That dream has finally been realized. It feels so wonderful and gratifying…I really cannot explain it! But it’s important for me to keep in mind that my job is not over yet. The road to publication can be broken into two basic steps: writing the best novel you can write and getting it published. Right now, I’m teetering on the edge of phase two in the process. I can clearly see that writing my novel was the more enjoyable part. Spending all day inside my characters’ heads was fun, insightful, and heart-warming. Now that I’ve finished the manuscript, the business side of it all starts. The next step is to send out my query letter.

Stiletto Gang: What has the querying process been like for you?

Brittany: Reducing your book into 250-350 words is incredibly difficult. By far harder than writing the actual book. That being said, it’s all part of the process and I’m eager to learn as much as I can. Creating a killer query letter is at the top of my list; and, after working on it for a few weeks, I think I’m close to it.

Stiletto Gang: What’s the title and the genre of the manuscript you’re currently pitching?

Brittany: The Popular Girls, and it’s a contemporary YA novel. It’s an edgy tale of a young girl and her quest to find her self-worth in our fast-paced society.

Stiletto Gang: Do you think your blog has helped you finish your book?

Brittany: Absolutely! Writers have to get out there and connect with other writers. They need to do their research. Part of that is paying attention to how other authors have navigated their way through the publishing industry. More importantly, having my blog has been a way to meet new, wonderful people, and it’s a daily exercise in writing for me. You’ve got to keep those writing muscles strong and healthy.

Stiletto Gang: What’s the hardest part about writing?

Brittany: For me, it’s the end. Through the process of writing a novel, you grow very attached to your characters. I don’t like having to let that go and end it!

Stiletto Gang: Do you have any writing rituals, or something you keep on your desk everyday while you work?

Brittany: An iced white mocha latte. Often times I use it as my reward after hitting my word count. Besides that, I just need a clean workspace and a silent cell phone…and did I mention chocolate?

Stiletto Gang: Brittany, thanks so much for coming by today and sharing your story! We’ll definitely be checking out The Write Stuff and all your author interviews and contests. And good luck with your book (fingers crossed).

Callie’s Southern Voice

Guest blogger Fran Rizer is the author of A Tisket, a Tasket, a Fancy Stolen Casket. The second Callie Parrish mystery, Hey Diddle, Diddle, the Corpse & the Fiddle will be released by Berkley Prime Crime on March 4, 2008. Her website is www.franrizer.com

Southern literature has been defined as writings about the South, written by authors raised in the South, characterized by importance of family, importance of time and place, and use of southern voice and intellect. I didn’t set out to write the Callie Parrish mysteries to fit this description, but Callie is, in fact, southern. Why?

Write about what you know—I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve heard, read, and taught those words. They’re why the Callie Parrish mysteries take place in the south. I’ve lived in South Carolina my entire life. The laid-back charm of the land and life are as distinctive and apparent as the southern dialect.

Southerners are gracious—A successful mystery writer recommends that protagonists have “unusual occupations.” Callie was a kindergarten teacher, but she grew tired of five-year-olds who wouldn’t be quiet or lie still for their naps. She solved that problem by becoming a mortuary cosmetologist, a job she loves because her clients are silent, don’t jump around, and don’t have to tee tee every five minutes.

I’m surprised how many of Callie’s fans have worked in funeral homes. Until I set out to learn the business, I didn’t even know that in Funeraleze, Callie’s position is called a cosmetician, not a cosmetologist. I learned through the graciousness of Southerners, who, for the most part, are courteous and helpful, especially those super polite undertakers.
The graciousness of my southern relatives is why my family members didn’t freak out when I went missing at funerals and visitations. They’d be looking for me, and finally someone would tell the others, “I saw her go downstairs (or upstairs or to the back) with the mortician. She’s probably asking questions and climbing around the caskets again.”

The kindnesses of people at the School of Mortuary Science less than a hundred miles from my home and the South Carolina Undertakers Association are also very helpful. Caution to non-southerners: Beware of southern graciousness. Sometimes smiles are masks some southerners wear while they call you “Sweetie” as they knife you in the back.

The “Bless her heart” syndrome grants grace—Authors say they like to write southern because it’s okay to say anything bad about a person, so long it’s followed by “Bless her heart.” Example: “That woman is just an evil, conniving bitch. Bless her heart.” The blessing makes everything okay.

I haven’t used that expression yet because Callie defies the stereotype and has a tendency to “call a spade a flippin’ shovel” without adding “bless her heart.”

Southerners are easy to describe—When Callie says her daddy “looks and acts just like a sixty-something-year-old Larry the Cable Guy,” nothing else is needed.

I love the grits and gravy heritage—Southern greats set wonderful precedents. William Faulkner and Thomas Wolfe wrote sentences that ran on over half a page, longer than my paragraphs. Some are about as lengthy as my chapters. (Hyperbole is part of the southern speech pattern.)

They knew about run-on sentences; they simply wrote their stories in the rhythm and flow of the South. I didn’t set out to write “southern.” Callie’s rhythm and flow are her own, and occasionally that means sentence fragments and unusual structures. Being classified as “southern” enables writers to break rules though I can’t say being southern lets me get away with murder. Callie always solves the crime…bless her heart!