Tag Archive for: Writer’s Thoughts

Clicking Our Heels: Unflappable or not?

Unflappable or not? When it comes to their writings, here are some thoughts the Stiletto Gang members have. 

Juliana Aragon Fatula – I’m unflappable. Ha. Bullshit. I am overwhelmed by life and writing is my escape. I create a world where I escape and then I visit there whenever I need to be in my head and not my heart.

Julie Mulhern – I’m unflappable.

Debra Sennefelder – I wish I was unflappable. Having multiple deadlines due within the same time period overwhelms me. So far, it hasn’t happened often but when it has, I felt the pain. And it made me grateful for my time management skills.

Paula Benson – Letting the fear of it not being good enough convince me not to start.

T.K. Thorne – I tend to go off in too many directions-projects-commitments at the same time and that often feels overwhelming.

Robin Hillyer-Miles – Dialogue. I write too formally. I keep forgetting that people use contractions when they speak.

A.B. Plum – Ensuring I’m writing characters who are different from each other. Writing humor is often a challenge—one I like b/c I especially like sarcasm.

Kathryn Lane – Unflappable?! Everything overwhelms me until I get my arms around it.

Debra H. Goldstein – I’m in a dither until an idea hits, but once I’m in the zone, there’s no stopping me.

Sparkle Abbey:
Mary Lee Ashford: It varies. I love the writing part and even more I love the revision and polishing part. The characters are what I love the most. I don’t love the first draft and so sometimes slogging through that ugly first pass feels overwhelming to me.
Anita Carter: I wish I were unflappable. If anyone answers that they’re unflappable, I need to chat with them to get some advice. I hate the blank page and I hate the beginning when there are too many options. I can get bogged down in thinking about plot options.

Lynn McPherson – The middle of the book, first draft.

Shari Randall – Beginnings are the worst!

Dru Ann Love – Writing a musing without giving away too much of the details. Also, writing a musing for every book I read because then I won’t read. I have to pick and choose which book to do a musing.

Things Change, but Stay the Same

Change, but Stay the Same by Debra H. Goldstein

I was thinking about how as much as things change, they stay the same.

example, the Stiletto Gang recently welcomed three new members: Kathryn Lane,
Saralyn Richard and Robin Hillyer-Miles. That means, every day of the month, readers
will continue to find an interesting blog to read on The Stiletto Gang.

Thursday, I received edits on one manuscript and galleys on another. Both have
drop dead deadlines. So does a class I’m preparing to teach, a group of
speaking engagements I have scheduled, and lots of family events. My first
instinct was to panic, but then I remembered that if I do one thing at a time,
they all will get done. It’s just a matter of starting and doing rather than
giving in to that moment when I was overwhelmed. The reality is, I’ll get
everything done – and hopefully, at the quality level I want.

I opened an e-mail. It was the schedule of my youngest grandchild’s school year
for 2020-2021. Why did I get it? Because I’m a mom and a grandmother and my
daughter and her husband want me to know the dates they may need a little babysitting
help. Last week one of our other children called to ask for our Verizon code.
It seems he needed a new phone and because he’s still on my account, he needed
access. He paid for his own phone, but he wants to stay on my family plan because
it is a lot cheaper than if he headed his own phone plan. What do both these
things say to me – they may be grown up, but they still need me the same way
they did when they were toddlers.

I have
a birthday coming up. For that event, there will be many dinners and lunches
with various groups of friends. One will be bittersweet because it will be the
first one missing a friend – the youngest in that group. We’ll raise a glass in
her memory, and then we’ll laugh and cut-up because we’ll still be there
together supporting and, if I can say it, loving each other.

husband and I are thinking of downsizing again. After twenty-three years in our
first house, we downsized fifteen years ago. We never looked back. The idea of
going into something smaller, but on one floor, is daunting, but I bet once we
find the right house and get settled, it will feel like we always lived there.

writing is like that – ideas come; ideas go, but the beat goes on. That’s what
it’s all about, isn’t it?

Where I Work

I Work by Debra H. Goldstein

When I wrote my first author bio, I noted my ideas and my
writings are diverse. Consequently, I named my personal blog (www.DebraHGoldstein.com/blog) “It’s
Not Always a Mystery.” That blog title still captures my personality and
authored works perfectly, but recently, I noticed there is another area in
which I vary what I do – where I write.

I’ve always kidded if I can see water, even if it is
bathwater, I am my most productive. That holds true – rolling ocean or gulf
waves, rippling lakes, or placid tub water all calm me enough to create or
clarify thoughts. Unfortunately, I live in a landlocked area and since my November foot
surgery, I’ve been limited to showers (that’s another story to be told —
think fat naked lady trying to decide if she needs to call 911). Consequently,
I’ve had to find other places for stimulation.

As I write this and later today do a final edit on what I
hope will be my next book, I’m sitting in my living room in a one-hundred plus
year old chair (recovered a couple of times during that period) that originally
belonged to my grandmother. This room, decorated in blue, gold and orange is my
favorite in the house we downsized to twelve years ago. It is bright, but
comforting. The colors are restful, but bold. Two chairs, an ornate couch, and four
mahogany tables belonged to my grandmother, my aunt, and then to me. Two end
chairs, with backs that make me think of a harp, perhaps because they are
placed near the piano bought for me when I was six, were my mother’s pride and
joy. There is a mirror and vases over the fireplace, inherited from my

mother-in-law, that match the two Capodimonte lamps that no one in the family
treasured except my grandmother and me. Although I may play music on the piano
or through an iPod, there is no television or other distractions. I work
diligently in this room and I am at peace.

Working in the over-sized club chair in my bedroom is
different. That chair, which was designed for my father, who like me had long
legs, has an extra depth of two inches. Add those two inches to the ottoman
that can be pulled to touch the chair, and perfect comfort can be achieved. It
is a room for drafts – for starts and stops – for formulating ideas and letting
them percolate while the television in front of me calls my name to turn it on
and make short shrift of my work. Despite my willingness to be distracted in
this room, I am proud of the work product produced there.

Ironically, my least productive writing room is my office
even though I spend most of my time there. In our former house, my office was a
600-square foot sanctuary with a wall lined with bookcases. When we downsized,
I adopted a 13×15 bedroom and placed my computer on a credenza between the two
windows so I could write looking over the tops of the neighborhood’s houses. I
hung an inspirational picture above the credenza. Turning my back to the
credenza, brings me to my oversized desk which sits before a smart television.
The sides of the room have free standing floor to ceiling bookcases – biography
on one wall, mysteries overflowing on the other. Because of the limited space,
I had to move novels and literature to the hallway, children’s books, plays,
and non-fiction to another bedroom. Although I write some drafts in this room,
most of the time, I use my stand-alone desktop to polish manuscripts, make sure
spacing and formatting is correct, and to send the final copy from. Paperwork,
social media, promotional activities, and all business-related chores are
handled in my office. There is creativity present in the room, but it is tinged
with reality.

Having had my step climbing limited the past six months, I moved
key parts of my office into my dining room (computer, printer, paper, pens).
That elegant room now looks like the Martians have landed and it wasn’t pretty.
It is not restful or enjoyable to work there. My chair, wonderful for formal
dinner parties, is stiff for creativity. The room, which is fun to laugh and
spend an evening in with friends, is lonely when I’m alone. Working in there is
a stop and go process interspersed with games of spider solitaire. I want my
dining room back the way it was meant to be.

The interesting thing to me is how different the places I
write or do author related things are. As diverse as they are, they represent
the diversity that is part of being an author and what makes me who I am as a
person. Where do you write and how does it impact you?

Transitioning in Age and Writing

Transitioning in Age and Writing by Debra H. Goldstein

For the past few months, many
members of the Stiletto Gang have given you the opportunity to learn about our
similarities and differences through our 4th Thursday Clicking Our
Heels column or by interpreting the same topic in one of our monthly
posts.  Unfortunately, although I usually
pull Clicking Our Heels together, I’ve missed the monthly topics because my
travel schedule necessitated pre-scheduling my blog post before it was picked.  Not this month!  This time, you get my take on whether my
maturity as a writer (translate that to transition in chronological years) affects
my manuscripts.
The problem addressing this topic is
that even as the years pass, I don’t think I’ve matured yet.  Sure, I know more of my strengths (plotting)
and weaknesses (I’m reserved in life and have to go back and let you know more
of my characters’ inner thoughts), but I’m a writing neophyte.  I only began seriously writing in the past
five years. 
What comes to mind when you think of
a five-year-old? Curiosity? Incessant why, what, when, where

Exploration? Or, perhaps that adorable moment when the whirlwind falls asleep?

For the first few years, I punted. I
often was too naïve to ask the right questions, but I observed. Today, my
writing life is exactly like a five-year-old. 
I can’t soak up enough knowledge. 

I’m reading, taking a class, or talking to someone, I want to
learn everything.  Sometimes, I pick up a
habit or a concept that impresses me, but isn’t right for my writing. Other
times, I have a eureka lightbulb moment during which my writing jumps to a new
level.  Hopefully, the result of my
five-year-old wonder is that both my short and long pieces have improved. 

Whether I’m writing flash fiction, a
six-thousand-word story, or a novel, the length is dictated by what is required
to share the tale with you rather than my maturity as a writer. I remove boring
parts more easily because I am a better editor than I was five years ago, but
those edited parts may be replaced by longer passages of enhanced

So, my answer as to whether maturity affects the
length of my manuscript is “It depends.” The only thing I am certain of is my
prayer that as I transition in years, my writing never loses the wonder of
being a five-year-old

Clicking Our Heels – Our Last Supper – Mystery Writer Style

Our Last
Supper – Mystery Writer Style

Most of the Stiletto Gang enjoys food and murder,
so it seemed natural to find out what some of us would want to eat for our Last

Marilyn Meredith – Crab cakes, lobster tail,
garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus

Jennae M. Phillippe – A series of small plates of
delicious dishes, like the hangar steak I had at a French-Vietnamese restaurant
the other day, each paired perfectly with wine, and finishing with at least
three kinds of dessert, most of which included chocolate.  I would aim for as much flavor variety as
possible.  And, no mushrooms!

Paffi Flood – A filet mignon, cooked medium well,
with a Caesars salad and a vodka tonic

Sparkle Abbey – That’s so hard, we like all types
of food.  Italian, Mediterranean
inspired.  We do better with the
drink.  For us that would be a margarita!

Bethany Maines – I would order something with a
lot of courses that took a lot of time cook and eat.  Let’s just see how long we can make this
last. J

Juliana Aragon Fatula – Tamales, arroz, frijoles,
cheese, quacamole, sopapillas.  My mom
was the greatest cook in my hometown. She sold tamales to make money for Christmas gifts.  She was very popular with the community because of her cooking. Tamales always remind
me of the tamalera in my mom’s kitchen once or twice a year with all the Viejas,
tias, cousins, comadres.  It was beer and
chisme and I learned a lot about life from those parties.

Kay Kendall – Cold shrimp with cocktail
sauce.  Hot French bread with lots of
garlic butter. Hagen

Daz coffee ice cream.

Dru Ann Love – I would have collard greens, rice,
fried chicken, baked macaroni & cheese and for dessert, chocolate frosted
yellow cake.  This is the holiday meal I
grew up with and its comfort food and makes me think of years past with the

Debra H. Goldstein – I’d keep it simple and in
line with my usual cooking style: a cheese pizza followed by coffee, chocolate
mint, or German chocolate cake ice cream.

Paula Benson – For my last supper, I would ask to go back in time to a place no longer existing called “The Captain’s Kitchen.” They served wonderful fried seafood in paper bowls and would bring all you could eat of shrimp, scallops, oysters, and perch (with delicious cocktail and tartar sauce) as well as hush puppies and cole slaw. Just when the servers thought my father had no room for more, he would ask for one last bowl of shrimp, “for dessert.”

Rain and Rainbows

Rain and Rainbows by Debra H.

“Rain, Rain, Go Away. Come again
another day.”  If this was California or
during a summer draught in Alabama, this refrain would be the last thing coming
out of my mouth.  Right now, the storms have
been so intense we are in a state far from water rationing.  Sadly, during the past few weeks, tornados
and floods have destroyed homes, possessions, and people.  Thunder, lightning, and sheering winds have
sent people to their shelters, caused dogs to run amuck in fear, and knocked
out power sources with regularity. The rain has pummeled everything.

There have been a few high
points.  Gardens are still lush and
green.  Flowers, not realizing that this
is winter, are blooming early and those that have blossomed are retaining their
beauty.  Kids are loving the abundance of
puddles to jump in.

At times, my mood reflects the
rain. Somber, dark, unrelenting but then there are days that the rain is
constant, but soft, and I find myself curled in a chair reading, peaceful,
sleepy and content.  My writing reflects
the difference in these days.  The rain
keeps me indoors so I am keeping my resolution of writing regularly, but in
reading it back, I see the impact of the weather.  A gloomy short story, a tale with a ray of sunshine. 

I want the rain to be replaced by
a rainbow, but it probably won’t happen. 
At least, not in the real world, but isn’t it wonderful that as a writer
we can make it happen in the world we are creating?

My wish for you this week –

Words of Death by Debra H. Goldstein

Words of Death by Debra H. Goldstein
When I was a child and read book titles like A Death in the Family, Death of a Salesman, Death Be Not Proud, they didn’t have much impact except to foreshadow an event that would probably impact the author’s story.  It wasn’t a big deal that so much of literature includes scenes of death.  Rather, death created drama or conflict – something important in good storytelling.

Now that I am older, I realize there was more than conflict or sappy sentiment being expressed by the writers.  For the most part, each author had reached a point in life where friends and relatives die, where chronic illness and pills are standard fare for many, and where mortality is a topic thought about and just as quickly avoided. 

The problem is that whether one stares death down or pretends it doesn’t exist, death eventually has the final say.  During the past weeks, friends have lost parents, children and spouses. The funeral tributes have been lovely and varied, but all share the inevitable fact that the person now is but a memory.

We build upon the shoulders of those who came before us, but the memory of those individuals is only as good as how much we share our memories of them. A single heart and mind can retain the essence of someone for a lifetime, while a community, through named donations like a statute, park, or scholarship can help perpetuate an individual’s name for longer.  It is the author who can remember a friend, a lover, a child into perpetuity. 

The writer uses words to catch the meaning of one’s life, the individual’s characteristics, the smell of one’s cologne, and all the little details that comprise the person.  These written word descriptions long bring to life Jay Follet, Willy Loman and Johnny Gunther as new generations meet them for the first time.  Thank goodness.

Do Mystery Writers See the World in a Different Way??????

Do Mystery Writers See the World in a Different Way?? 
by Debra H. Goldstein

Do you think mystery writers see the world in a different way? My husband, children and friends do.

For the past few years they have accused me of seeing events in our lives as fodder for storytelling. Recently, they complained that when we go on vacation I view the sites as possible crime settings instead of for the beauty of the moment. I heartily disagreed; but, between us, maybe they’re right.

I try to keep my reactions in check. For example, when I saw the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls, I didn’t immediately say, “If someone fell off….” Art gallerias and museums in Santa Fe, New York, London, Florence and Paris impressed me, but I couldn’t help wondering what it would take to slip a crown jewel, Mona Lisa, or a simple watercolor out the door. During the water architecture cruises in Seattle and Chicago, my mind wandered to the infinite possibilities created by approaching one of the imposing buildings or homes (think Bill Gates) from the water.

This past weekend, we visited the Biltmore House in Asheville. In addition to the normal house tour, there was a special Downton Abbey costume exhibit. Dresses, suits, and uniforms were shown in the rooms they might have been worn in. While my family oohed and aahed at the architecture and clothing, I couldn’t help but think “if I was in the in drawing room with …” or “the servant’s bell rang, but the housemaid never came.”

Even when I stay home, people question my intentions. One of my best beta readers, who has read Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery (February 2016 from Five Star) and most of the short stories published in 2014 and 2015, recently took my husband aside to warn him “don’t eat Debra’s oatmeal. She has a propensity for killing off spouses.”

These accusations hurt, but what can I say? At least for me, they’re true. I do see the world in a different way. What about you?

Things Aren’t What They Used to Be

Things Aren’t What They Used to Be by Debra H. Goldstein

I am a dinosaur.  The signs have been there for awhile – my friends are talking about or getting plastic surgery, cruise brochures are more exciting than the ones we looked at when we booked a trip to climb The Great Wall of China eight years ago, and I know what writers are talking about when they refer to the day they traded in their Royal or Olympia typewriters for an electric Smith Corona (remember the hard-shell case?).  More importantly, somewhere in the last few years I opted to work with a trainer so that I can stay fit without injuring myself.

My trainer is the one who brought my age home to me.  I was making my usual jokes about not being quite as flexible and he was giving me his usual assurances that I was doing fine even if I can’t touch my toes, do ups and downs, or hold a plank position for more than a few seconds. “I’ve never been much of an athlete.  In fact, in gym class or team sports, I was the kid everyone wanted to make captain so I wouldn’t actually bring the team down with my athletic prowess and because I could figure out and effectively utilize everyone else’s strengths and weaknesses so we usually won.”

The trainer smiled and tapped his head.  “Intellect,” he said.  “Very important.”  I agreed.
“That’s what Jeopardy players have and I enjoy watching the show everyday when I’m on the treadmill.  I understand those players go through a whole set of tests.”

“They do.  I was a contestant.”

“You met Alex Trebeck?  I think he’s fantastic!  What was he really like?”

“Actually, Art Fleming was the host when I did the show.”

“Never heard of him. Who’s he?”

“The original host of Jeopardy.”

My trainer looked at me as if I had lost my mind and then I realized where the disconnect was coming from.  “I was on the show in 1974.”

“I wasn’t even born then.”

I got it.  He’ll never know who Art Fleming, Smith Corona, or probably even John F. Kennedy was. It’s a shame.

Spring Has Come – Time for a New Resolution by Debra H. Goldstein


The snow is melting!  The snow is melting! Spring is here!  There’s actually a jonquil popping its head up in my yard (sorry guys, we’ve had some 60-70 degree days).  As a writer, I am reborn when the sun comes out.

With rebirth comes a new sense of responsibility.  It is one that I have been sorely lacking since I stepped down from the bench.  It is the willingness to commit my time and energies where my mouth has claimed to be.  Sure, I’ve produced one sold book (Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery coming from Five Star Publications in 2016) and ten published short stories in the past sixteen months, but I’ve done that writing in spurts.  I’ve repeatedly said, I can’t discipline myself enough to write daily but I write up a storm when the mood moves me.  In the meantime, I’ve organized and executed a wedding for 326 people, gotten into a regular mah jongg game, been active on many civic boards, taken on numerous isolated projects, traveled for pleasure and writing, and been hit by the biggest continuing wallop when I lost my mother in November.

People tell me they’re amazed at what I’ve accomplished and I smile and accept their nice words, but deep down, I know I am a fraud.  Secretly, I watch with envy and astonishment the accomplishments of three somewhat early in their career authors whose work I enjoy and who I greatly admire as people – Edith Maxwell, Leslie Budewitz, and Terry Shames.  Each has produced multiple books and in Edith and Leslie’s cases, multiple series, in the same time period.  They also do a million things outside of their writing.  What’s the difference?

Don’t even go there with the obvious answer – their talent, writing skills, and wonderful characterizations.  Leaving those givens aside for a moment, it is their discipline.  Each sets a daily or weekly word goal and they reach it.  They set further goals for revisions.  Their results speak for themselves – well written, well-edited books they can be proud to put their names on and which fans, including me, can’t wait to read.

Many of us can string words together, but without self-discipline we are condemned to be writers of excuses instead of multiple works.  Spring is here and with the rebirth of the year, we all have an opportunity to start anew.