Writers Inspirer Other Writers

It never fails, each time I go to a Sisters-in-Crime meeting I’m inspired.

Jenny Milchman, our guest this month, couldn’t have been more inspirational for it took years and many books before Jenny’s first novel, Cover of Snow,  A Novel, finally got published and reached great success.


But with any meeting I’m inspired. Most of us are in the process of writing, there are veteran writers, new writers, and aspiring writers.

The energy in the room is enough to charge your batteries.

I’ve come home inspired to finish the book I had doubts about.

Jenny introduced her new novel, As Night Falls to be published June 30th, her novel, Ruin Falls, is also captivating. Jenny’s books are filled with interesting and unlikely characters, and a poet at heart, her writing is lyrical. It was such a pleasure to read Cover of Snow, that after finishing it I turned right around and reread it.Unknown

But writing groups are wonderful assets to writers because we practice this solitary life, and with a giant leap of faith we write books that can take years, and may never get into print; maybe nobody will ever read them.

When we get together it is the gathering of courageous and passionate souls. Jenny Milchman is a fine example.






Juror # 5

I am on jury duty this week and I have been selected for a trial. This is actually my third time as a jury member. One homicide. One dental malpractice civil suit. One criminal misdemeanor.


Did you ever see the thrilling drama Twelve Angry Men, in the classic movie, the excellent tv version or on stage a few years ago? 12-Angry-Men-Images

And of course who could ever forget the trial scene in To Kill a Mockingbird? Peck

Ah, actually it isn’t much like that. However, anyone who writes or reads about fictional crime would find this an interesting experience. Even the dental suit – a week of dental charts! – became interesting for the human interactions in the jury room. I met a man who works for Spike Lee on that one.

Since I cannot write about this time until it is done, and am kind of trapped, far from my computer, for the duration, this will be my brief post for today. A full report is promised as soon as I am sprung.

Come Visit Me at MYSTERICAL-E

I am delighted to announce that the magnificent  Christine Verstraete interviewed me for an Author Snapshot in the latest issue of MYSTERICAL-E. We talked about the past, the future, characters and settings. The article even includes a tiny excerpt from the soon to be released Caught Read-Handed.


So, pop on over to MYSTERICAL-E, where you’ll find some great short stories and articles including an Author Snapshot that I hope you’ll enjoy.


Bone to be Wild by Carolyn Haines

HainesBone to be Wild is the fifteenth book in the Sarah Booth Delaney Mysteries. Sarah Booth’s old friend, Scott Hampton, is bringing his special brand of the blues back to Zinnia in the wonderful old club located at the crossroads of Sawmill and Pentecost roads. It was rumored to be “the location where the devil made more than one bargain for a musician’s soul.” Playin’ the Bones would be the happening place—unless someone kept Scott from fulfilling his dream.

See my full review at Criminal Element. Carolyn Haines is a prolific writer from Mississippi, and her heroine Sarah Booth Delaney is a charming private investigator who doesn’t let her Southern politeness keep her from digging up the truth when it’s needed.

Check out www.criminalelement.com!

Writing is a Time Machine

time-machineBy the time you read this, something will have happened to a story I’m working on. Something critical. The horrible, awful first draft will be done, and at the moment I’m writing this post, I have absolutely no clue (ha) how that will have happened. I don’t know how I will have worked through the grinding uncertainty, the problems, the compromises. As I compose this post, it isn’t accomplished. But by the time you read it, everything will be different.

That’s because writing is a time machine.

“Years passed.” Readers and writers alike accept sentences like that without question.

If you’re writing, there’s no limit to how much time you can compress: centuries, eons, the ages of universes. You can freeze a moment as long as you want. Spend days writing pages that will take hours to read describing something that unfolds in mere minutes, even seconds. You can send a character back into any moment, again and again. You could change that past every time or never alter a thing. Zip someone forward into a future that you’ll steal in the next scene. Readers add their own variability of speeds, and they’ll dip in and out of your timeline as their own availability and interest allows. They could finish your story over years or in one night.

Movies have a frame rate. Music has a tempo. Most visual art tends to fix time, its own rebellion against the beastliness, but different. Theatrical events have curtain times and stage cues and planned intermissions.There is kinetic and performance art that’s more flexible, but often it’s so intergrated with the everyday that it doesn’t defy time, but simply runs at the speed of life.

But with writing, above all these other forms, the prosaic, regulated tick-tick of time is meaningless, except as it serves the story. Time becomes elastic and forgiving, the way it seldom feels in reality.

That’s one thing to love especially. I wonder how far along I am in that story now?

A Day at Henry’s Palace

Neely Powell 2014-31-1Jan Powell and I make up the writing team called Neely Powell. We recently were privileged to go to England together and explore the familiar landmarks while visiting with my son and his family, who live in Weybridge.

Not far from Weybridge is the town of Hampton Court, where the famous Hampton Court Palace, a favorite home away from home for Henry VIII. It’s just ten miles from London and rises up beside the River Thames. Stepping through the gates takes you back in time 500 years. You actually feel the enormity of the history. All of Henry VIII’s wives came here. Henry’s heirs were born here.

HCPalaceThe first thing you notice is the immensity of it. There’s no way you can stand in the grounds and fully comprehend how big the palace is. There’s also no way you can see everything in its mighty walls in just one day, so I’m sharing some of the highlights that we really enjoyed. It was one of 50 or 60 palaces Henry owned, but it was by far his favorite.

You can feel the power still hovering in the corridors. Epic decisions and petty jealousies were familiar guests in the royal bedrooms. The amount of food and wine consumed in one day is staggering. The court required 600,000 gallons of bear every year and around 10,000 gallons of wine. FountainThere is actually a replica of a wine fountain in the courtyard used to provide unending red wine during a peace conference, complete with resident drunkards. A temporary palace made to look like Hampton Court was erected just for the conference, which was called “Field of Cloth of Gold” because of the many gold-plated tents used for housing.

Henry’s life was defined by his lavish lifestyle and preponderance of wealth. When he visited Hampton Court Palace, he had a court of 1,000 people. It’s interesting to note that the Great Hall, where Henry and his court dined was the last medieval great hall built for English royalty. Henry was so anxious to have it done, he made the masons work by candlelight at night.

When we walked down The Gallery outside Henry’s chambers, we hoped for a sighting of the ghost of Catherine Howard. Throughout the day a number of events are portrayed by actors in the palace. We happened upon the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, just outside the king’s court. He confided in us that he had found evidence of the queen’s deceit and had informed the king. However, Henry was reluctant to believe him, and he was distressed. Of course, Henry came to believe the Cardinal, and Catherine was beheaded for adultery while married to the king.

CardinalIt was fascinating to speak with the actor who portrayed the Cardinal. He never dropped character. We felt like a part of the tense drama going on in the palace. As we watched the dialogue between Henry and members of his court, the audience weighed in with their opinions on matters. It was great fun.

Unfortunately, we had to leave the grounds when they were closing for the night. We strolled along the river as we made our way back to the busy 21st street with its traffic and familiar noises.

We finished our day enjoying Sticky Toffee Pudding at a pub across the street from the palace called The Mute Swan, where we promptly began plotting a short story. We are now working on this little murder mystery, which will include a visit to one of Henry VIII’s favorite palaces.

Church Book Signing

St. John’s Episcopal Church in downtown, Stamford, CT will host a book signing for Broken Window at 11:30 AM, so please drop-by to say hello.Broken Low res on line 45_med

This occurs after service at coffee hour. I sing in the choir, so it’s a quick change out of the choir robes to head to the signing table. It’s a great deal of fun and support from my church and choir members. Our rector Jim Wheeler will say a few words of praise for my book.

This is a special moment or me for many reasons.

All proceeds go to St. John’s.


Happy Valley For A Writer

I hope I’m not giving away my age when I say that I remember when I used to watch Netflix on DVD’s. Those – I believe the right adjective is ubiquitous – red and white envelopes which used to appear regularly in my mail box. Binge watching used to mean subscribing to the plan which allowed you to have more than one disc at a time. I mean, how else could you have watched The Wire? Do you honestly think I could have waited days for another disc of episodes to come in the mail?

With the advent of streaming, everything has changed. No more runs to the post office to speed up the arrival of the next Netflix disc. The next disc will load in eighteen seconds. Bless you person who came up with that feature.

As a mystery writer, my viewing habits tend to go heavy on crime series. And I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for British mysteries. You can watch a lot of them on PBS but definitely not everything that is out there. And certainly you usually can’t watch more than one episode at a time!

I’m always happy to find a new streaming series, and the one I’ve just finished watching is a British mini-series called Happy Valley. The main character is a police sergeant named Catherine Cawood, and her patch is a gritty part of northern England where drugs and despair dominate the environment. BBC did the original shows which Netflix bought for its own programming.

One thing I like about British TV is the preponderance of women officers in the police shows, a lot of them at the Superintendent and Inspector level. I’ve often wondered if that is a true picture of the state of British policing. Or does it exist because some clever marketer understands the desire of women like me to watch shows which feature women in prominent authority roles?

When we first meet Happy Valley’s Catherine Cawood she is at a children’s playground, holding a fire extinguisher and trying to talk an addict out of setting himself on fire. “Keep him talking” is her directive and so she tells him about herself.

I’m forty-seven. I’m divorced. I live with my sister who is a recovering heroin addict. I have two grown up children. One dead, one who doesn’t speak to me. And a grandson.

The first question the addict has is Why doesn’t he speak to you?.p10714895_b_v7_ab[1]

Sarah Lancashire who plays Catherine has done a lot of film and stage work in Britain. The role is perfect for her. The show’s writer, Sally Wainwright, is also the writer of the popular Scott & Bailey series, which features two women as police officers in Manchester, England, and has been showing on PBS channels. With two women as lead characters – Rachel Bailey and Janet Scott – Scott & Bailey has the double whammy of the police unit’s having a female Detective Chief Inspector, Gill Murray.

Having exhausted Happy Valley’s six episodes, I’ve been in search of another streaming offering. Happy to report that I have found it, a French police procedural series called Witnesses. So far I’m finding the plot is strong, and the characters engage me.

Witnesses_les_temois[1]Two of the recurring characters are women – Lt. Sandra Winckler, and Police Chief Maxine Dubriel. The dialogue is in French, with English subtitles. But unlike a lot of shows on the smaller TV screen, the subtitles are easy to read. Plus it’s a great opportunity to recall all that French I studied in school and don’t get to use.



Anne of the Fens: Giveaway Winner!

Anne of the Fens by Gretchen Gibbs

On Friday, we ran an Interview and Giveaway of Anne of the Fens  (The Bradstreet Chronicles) by Gretchen Gibbs. I’m happy to announce the winner of the free paperback copy is Anne Wein! 

Thanks to all who expressed interest in the book.  Anne of the Fens is available in paperback and ebook at all online retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble,  iBookstore, Google Play Books, Kobo, Powells, Books-a-Million

You can read more about Gretchen Gibbs here and Anne of the Fens here.

What others are saying about Anne of the Fens

“Gibbs weaves a story of a young girl coping with adult feelings and questioning her religious beliefs. Anne of the Fens takes the reader on a historical journey from the marshes of England to the wilds of a new land.” ― Gayle C. Krause, author of the award nominated YA novel, Ratgirl: Song of the Viper

“Set against the dark, threatening landscape of pre-English Civil War, when men and women were hanged or burned alive for their religious beliefs, Anne of the Fens is a very quick read and easy to fall into.” ― Jenny Maloney, CriminalElement.com

“Take one part spunky adolescent, two parts woman-to-be, a generous helping of smarts, and you’ve got Gibbs’s extraordinary protagonist. Whether she’s reading forbidden literature or making her way through the dangerous fens, we are right there, rooting for her. Anne of the Fens is a breathless ride.” ― Carole Howard, author of About Face and Deadly Adagio

“With wit and an eye to sumptuous detail, Gretchen Gibbs catapults us into 1627 England. This is a terrific book, and Anne’s story is both romantic and harrowing. From its opening scene at Lincolnshire’s fair to its unpredictable end, I couldn’t put it down.” ― Donna Reis, author of No Passing Zone and Certain