30 Days of the 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly

5-2 Tour Badge

April is National Poetry Month, and Women of Mystery are joining the celebration by participating in the “30 Days of the 5-2″ blog tour. Each Monday of the year, the 5-2 posts an original poem in text and audio/video. The diligent editor of the 5-2 is poet, reviewer, and moderator Gerald So.

On April 24, my blog-mate, Clare Toohey, will join the tour and discuss one of her favorite poems from “The 5-2 Crime Poetry Weekly.” (BTW, Clare is one of the many talented “Voices of the 5-2.” Listen to her recent reading of “The New Ireland” by Seamus Scanlon.)


One of my favorite features of the 5-2 is the intriguing “signed confession” by the poet; it reveals the inspiration behind his/her poem.

Here’s the ‘confession’ by Stevie Cenko, the poet of “Why?” which debuted on The 5-2 Crime Poetry Weekly on November 25, 2013:

Stevie confesses: “When Crime Equals Horror – Occasionally, we read of a crime committed that is pure, evil horror. When I first learned of the horror Mr. Anthony Blakely suffered, I could only conclude Foster Rayfield Leon was sentenced to two life terms with one sentence for each eye.”

Her poem and her confession struck a chord with me.

As a retired 21-year veteran police officer, I know too well how some tragedies tend to haunt. Many of my stories have been influenced by a crime or a tragedy that has refused to let go.

Here’s the haunting poem, “Why?” by Stevie Cenko:


Star light, star bright, the last star I will see
tonight. Jacksonville will still always be
my home. I was the DJ at the Starlite Café.
I played rock, reggae and requests. I looked at
everyone. I loved to get them dancing and see
them hugging. I made friends with Leon,
a popular guy. One night, outside, he argued
with me, said I looked at his girlfriend, wouldn’t
play her request: a contradiction to me. He beat
me that night. I crawled a few blocks away
and passed out. When I woke up, my eyeballs
were sitting on my cheeks, my right ear sliced off.
A good Samaritan found me and phoned 911.
Leon received two life sentences:
one for each eye sliced out.


If you are interested in submitting a poem to the 5-2, check out the guidelines

You can follow the 5-2 on Twitter @PoemsOnCrime. One of the hashtags in use is #30OfThe52


All April revenue from 5-2 and Lineup books and merchandise is donated to the nonprofit Academy of American Poets, supporting poets at all stages of their careers and fostering the appreciation of contemporary poetry.

Follow me on Twitter @katcop13.

Out Today: The Hard Way by Cathi Stoler

StolerIt’s new-release day! The Hard Way by Cathi Stoler marks the return of her great characters, Helen McCorkendale and Laurel Imperiole. Not only are they two strong, interesting women, they get involved in some very interesting situations. This time, it includes glitz and glamor from New York City to Las Vegas.

Helen and Mike Imperiole take a trip in Jimmy Scanlan’s private jet to see the opening of January, the newest and most sumptuous resort and casino in Las Vegas. The two have been together for a while, and Helen’s having thoughts about what will happen if their relationship moves to the next level. Once they’ve celebrated the grand opening and been awed by the famous people and lavishness of January, they’re headed back to New York City.

Helen is so impressed with the casino and so happy for the success of her long-time friend,Jimmy, she convinces Laurel to pitch the idea of doing a contest with Woman Now, the magazine where she’s senior editor, and the casino. Helen hopes to help Jimmy garner some positive publicity on the East Coast. Convincing the editor it’s a good idea turns out to be easier than convincing the winner, Dawn Chapman, to go to Las Vegas and enjoy herself! When Dawn ends up the victim of a vicious murder, Helen returns to Vegas to help Jimmy with the ensuing mystery and bad publicity. And what does her untimely death have to do with the big wigs of the diamond industry who are in town?

Gotta read it to find out!

Cathi does a skillful job of weaving an intricate mystery amid the slot machines and poker tables of Sin City. Helen is a great private investigator, and she doesn’t avoid dangerous situations or people. Keeping the connection between New York City and Las Vegas made the book more interesting and exciting.

I love a good mystery, and Cathi surprised me with whodunit! For me, it was completely unexpected when the bad person was revealed.

If you’re looking for a real page-turner, this is one to read! It’s out today so get your copy now! The Hard Way by Cathi Stoler is a mystery that will keep you guessing to the end!



The Interloper by Dave Zeltserman winners

And the winners are: Cori Lynn Arnold and stephendrogers. I have email addys for you both, so if you haven’t received an email from me, please comment below and I’ll try again.

Congratulations! Dave says that The Interloper is super hard-boiled so rather than wish you happy reading, I wish you exciting reading.


Your Book Marketing Can Also Be Art


10th century ivory book plaque, for use as front or back cover, featuring the feverishly-working Pope Gregory the Great.

I was recently talking to someone who responded to the concept of marketing with visceral disdain, as if the whole practice were inherently dishonest. Now this same person had recently enjoyed and distributed a YouTube clip showing a detailed behind-the-scenes look at a unique industry. But because it was welcome and enjoyable, it wasn’t assumed to have been conceived and generated within a marketing context (which it almost certainly was). And that’s my point here.

I’ve posted about how good marketing, or branding yourself, is actually a service to your prospective readers, but the definition of “marketing” is conditional. When information about a book is clumsy, badly targeted, or pushy, the unwanted message gets seen as “marketing” (with a sneer, just like unwanted music becomes “noise”). When book marketing’s done well, it’s seen as informational or entertaining communication that has its own value, and can even become almost invisible as far as sales-oriented promotion is concerned. I was thinking about this idea when I came across a post by a video game designer, aeiowu:

Marketing is a bad word and a shitty thing. It has been selling us stuff our whole lives. When I see a billboard yelling at me to try the new CrunchMeatwich 5000 for just $2.99, I clench up. Most of us do when we’re sold something. It’s an uncomfortable spot that we don’t want to put anyone else in. “Hey, try this it’s free! TRY IT!!!” makes us feel like we’re not artists but instead, hucksters. It’s a distraction from what’s important: our work.

I’m right there with you. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to “do marketing”. This isn’t french fries, paper towels or cleaning products; it’s art! It’s whatever you want to express for whatever goals you have for your work of art…

The discussion moves into how director Stanley Kubrick cut his own movie trailers (go see the samples!) and how obviously his creative sensibility permeates them. Then, onto the agonies of coming up with that concise, perfect tagline:

We searched for a single sentence for 8 straight months…

Even though he’s speaking from a different creative world, you fictioneers must have déjà vu now, right? Here’s a link to Threes, the number puzzle for IOS he’s discussing, because it looks super-fun, yes, but also so you can see how the thrashing and struggle was eventually distilled into something elegantly simple.

For the duration of your works development, search long and hard for what makes it special. That beating core of phosphorous hidden inside that makes your eyes widen when you finally see it. It’s never not taken me the whole time and it’s never not felt amazing when after dozens of concepts and false-starts I finally Get It and everything is in its right place… It feels great because we’ve managed to make our game that much richer outside of the space it resides in. It feels honest. When you get it, and you put in the work, it’s the opposite feeling of “marketing”.

…Whether your game is about an interpersonal relationship, classism or desserts, the same search for the soul of your work applies… I’m not saying this is easy stuff. I’m not even saying we even have the kind of time required. But if you’re letting yourself off the hook because you “don’t know how” or hate “marketing” you’ve missed a step in the process of bearing [sic] your soul through your artworks.

Don’t cheat yourself or your work.

I Learned it at the Movies: Nebraska

My favorite film of 2013, Nebraska, directed by Alexander Payne and written by Bob Nelson, is now available on DVD. This makes me very happy because I can watch it again.

It’s not a perfect film. It’s got a slightly flabby middle and also treats some minornebraska characters in a way that I found condescending. However, I forgave the flaws for three reasons: the Bruce Dern character grabbed me from the first scene and didn’t let go; the question posed by the script was compelling; the mid-Western setting, integral to the story and shown in digital black and white, was stark and bleak and gorgeous all at the same time.

The story in brief: An old man sets off on foot, planning to walk from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska in order to collect the money he believes he’s won after receiving a letter from a publisher’s clearinghouse sort of operation. His son intervenes, picking him up on the road and eventually agreeing to drive him, with a stopover to visit family in the town where the old man grew up.

Obviously, the compelling question in this film is not whether the old man will get his money, but rather what will happen to him when he doesn’t. How will he survive—will he survive—the disappointment? As movie questions go these days, this one is small in scale, but we hang in because, thanks to the writing and to Bruce Dern’s brilliant performance, we care about this often unpleasant old man.

The lessons here for writers may not be new, but they’re ones I need to hear again and again. Every element in a book, as in a film, needs to work in terms of story, including the setting which should be more than a backdrop. And of course in the end it’s all about character. Without that, the most high-stakes-end-of-the universe scenario is nothing but a gimmick.

 As always, I’m interested in your thoughts on this.

Mystery Writing Competition

Mystery Competition

Hofstra Law, along with Professor Alafair Burke and Mulholland Books, is hosting a “Mystery Writing Competition,” in which three best-selling authors will serve as judges. Three prizes are being offered (see more below). There is no entry fee.


1. Your story must feature a lawyer as a main character.

2. Your story must be original, unpublished, and less than 3,500 words.

3. Submissions must be in Microsoft Word, using a 12-point font and double-spaced. The document must be emailed as an attachment to lawasb@hofstra.edu by May 1, 2014, with the subject line “mystery writing competition.”

4. The first-place story will be published on the website of Mulholland Books, an imprint of Little, Brown and Company devoted to publishing the best in suspense fiction. All authors will retain copyright.



FIRST PRIZE: $500 and Online publication and promotion by Mulholland Books




JUDGES: Lee Child, Marcia Clark, and Alafair Burke.

Check out the competition flyer – print and hang it as a reminder to work on your entry. Need a nudge? Read these suggestions for writing a mystery short story.

The clock is ticking ~ send off your best by/before the May 1 deadline. Are you going to participate? Got a story ‘in the hopper’ or ‘in the drawer’? Starting from scratch? (Don’t forget the MC must be a lawyer ~ keep that in mind).

If you submit a story, best wishes!


Follow me on Twitter @katcop13. 

The Interloper by Dave Zeltserman

davezYou probably know the fabulous author Dave Zeltserman as the creator of the wildly popular Julius Katz series but I can tell you that the variety of Dave’s writing knows no bounds. I once said of a short story he wrote, “Just when I think Dave can’t surprise me anymore, he writes something that stuns me.”

I lifted this quick description from Dave’s website:

“Dave Zeltserman is an award-winning author of crime, mystery and horror fiction. His crime novels SMALL CRIMES and PARIAH were both named by the Washington Post as best books of the year with SMALL CRIMES also being named by National Public Radio as one of the top 3 crime and mystery novels of 2008, his horror novel, THE CARETAKER OF THE LORNE FIELD, was short listed by the American Library Association for best horror novel of 2010 and was a Black Quill nominee, and his mystery fiction is regularly published by Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and has won Shamus, Derringer, and Ellery Queen’s Readers Choice awards.”

Well, Dave has a fascinating new novel coming out very shortly. Dave organized a Kickstarter project for the super hardboiled novel, The Interloper. As a contributor to the project, I have access to a couple of e-copies and I will be delighted to give one copy each to two avid readers who comment on this post by midnight ,Monday, April 14th. Please include your email addy and indicate which e-format you would prefer.


Hoard Your Pennies…Auction Action in May!

As you may or may not know, every year Brenda Novak spearheads an auction that benefits research into juvenile diabetes. “So what,” you may say, “auctions happen every day!” And they do. But this one is different because it’s run by authors, readers, agents, editors…people who love books and people who create them. There are, indeed, really cool pieces of jewelry, vintage purses, etc, but there are also signed books, editor and agent critiques, website designs, cover designs, ad space…things specifically of interest to readers and writers.

Last year, Sarah M. Anderson donated her Lego trailer skills, and I won the auction. Sarah doesn’t take money for videos…I couldn’t have gotten a video without the auction. The final product was the hilarious trailer for Twisted.

I also won the design for my website, which ended up being considerably less than it would have been otherwise. In fact, I can’t actually afford DreamForge’s regular prices, so although I’d admired their sites before, I’d crossed them off my list of designers.

This year, I wanted to contribute to the auction myself. Plus, it’s one more way to get my name out there–I’d be lying if I said that didn’t play into the decision at all. The two items I’m contributing are a bracelet and a necklace. You can see bigger pictures of the items on my blog.

Go over to the auction site and create an account. Check out the different items in the different sections. And start saving…I’ve been saving since last May!

My Town Monday: The Macy’s Flower Show

Every spring, Macy’s Herald Square invites visitors and customers to their Annual Flower Show. An extravagant display of trees and blooms, it turns the store into a floral fantasy.

This year, the show, which has been staged in a tent outside in Herald Square for the last few years, returns to the main floor.  Entitled  ”The Secret Garden” it tempts visitors to wander through beautiful winding paths filled with gorgeous floral displays including blankets of roses, pansies, lilies, orchids, irises and more.

Here are a few images of the mysterious “Secret Garden.” It’s a wonderful way for the store to entertain their customers and definitely attracts a lot of shoppers.

IMG_0752 IMG_0753 IMG_0746 IMG_0747

Visit me at www.cathistoler.com. Look for excerpts of my new novels, KEEPING SECRETS and THE HARD WAY, my novella, NICK OF TIME, and my latest news and events.

Watching Paint Dry

clock_waitingMy writing partner and I just finished our latest manuscript on Monday and submitted it to our editor. Since then, I feel as if I’ve been sitting around watching paint dry. I know we’re in a good place, having sold a book and sent it in. But, frankly, I’m watching the clock and twiddling my thumbs.

For three weeks we were facing that April 1 deadline and it felt like we were working constantly. If we weren’t sending emails, we were on the phone with each other, finalizing plot issues and making sure we had covered everything we’d promised in our synopsis. Now after all that busyness, I’m not twiddling my thumbs, but I do feel a loss.

This week has been strange. I can’t find the concentration to read, but I keep feeling like there’s something I should be doing.

I guess this is just another part of the writing cycle, and it is interesting to be experiencing the other side of the circle. Before this, everything was centered around planning and writing.

magic_hat_4But wait…what’s that I hear? Is my magic hat rattling with an idea?

Oh yeah, let the good times roll!