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Guest Blogger Margaret Fenton – Sometimes a Bad Day Turns Into a Good Day, Especially If There’s Gin (click for comments)

Sometimes a Bad Day Turns Into a Good Day, Especially If There’s Gin by Margaret Fenton

2007 was a great year. I went to Killer Nashville in August. I paid a lot of extra dollars and was given the opportunity to pitch my unpublished manuscript to either an agent or a representative from Oceanview Publishing. I chose the agent, a lady from New York whose name I no longer remember. I gave her my carefully prepared statement. I had written a mystery called Little Lamb Lost, about a child welfare social worker who gets to work one day and one of her clients, a boy just under two years old, is dead. The mother is arrested for murder. My protagonist, Claire Conover, was the social worker who was responsible for returning the child to the mother. Mom worked really hard to get her child back and make a good life for them both. Claire makes it her mission to figure out what happened. Sounds great, right?

The agent HATED IT. She berated me for ten minutes about how no one was going to buy a mystery where the victim was a child. Ever. I might as well give up and go home. I left that meeting feeling like my dreams would never come true, and that the two years I had spent on this manuscript were a horrible waste of time. And I had paid quite a bit of money to hear it. I went to the bar.

I ordered the largest gin and tonic the bartender could make. He noted the look on my face and did a great job. I sat in the bar and sipped. And sipped. And sipped. When my friend Don Bruns approached me, I was pretty buzzed. He asked me how the pitch went and I held back tears as I relayed what happened. Don is published by Oceanview, and volunteered to go get the rep from his publisher and let me pitch to her. I agreed and he left and returned with Maryglenn McCombs. I continued sipping.

I don’t remember exactly what I said to Maryglenn. I think it was a version of what I said to the agent, with the added statement that no one wants to read about a dead kid, apparently. She said it sounded interesting and asked to see it. I don’t think I believed her. No, really, send it to me, she said. I agreed, and suddenly the drinking became a celebration.

I mailed the manuscript when I got home and within two months I had a contract, an advance, and a pub date: June 1, 2009. I went on a small tour for the book and had the best time. Somewhere between the publishing of my first novel and my completion of the second novel in the series, Oceanview decided they were only going to publish thrillers. They asked me to make Little Girl Gone a thriller. I tried, but it’s not. It’s an amateur sleuth mystery. I sat on it for over three years, trying to decide what to do. I didn’t want to agent search. Eventually I decided to put it out through Amazon and CreateSpace. I miss having a publisher but like the freedom of making all the decisions. I’m working on the third book in the series, Little White Lies, and I hope it’s going to be out early next year. Thanks for letting me blog here, and I hope all your bad days turn to good days. If not, there’s always gin.

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Margaret Fenton, author of Little Girl Gone, grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and moved to Birmingham in 1996. She received her B.A. in English from the Newcomb College of Tulane University, and her Master of Social Work from Tulane. Fenton spent nearly ten years as a child and family therapist before taking a break to focus on her writing. Her work tends to reflect her interest in social causes and mental health, especially where kids are concerned. She serves as planning coordinator of Murder in the Magic City, a one-day, one-track annual mystery fan conference in Homewood, Alabama. She is President of the Birmingham Chapter of Sisters in Crime and a member of the Mystery Writers of America. Margaret lives in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover with her husband, a software developer.

Juxtaposing “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Where Did the Summer Go?” by Debra H. Goldstein (click for comments)

Juxtaposing “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Where Did the Summer Go?

You know how a song gets caught in your head? Two phrases are ringing in my ears, but I don’t know how or why my brain thinks they go together. Logically, they don’t. There just isn’t an intellectual way to reconcile “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Where did summer go?”

Why I thought of the latter question is easy to understand. We’ve passed the first official day of fall, the temperature has cooled, and leaves are changing colors and falling. If these things didn’t make the point to me, a few shopping trips did. One-minute stores were filled with patriotic July 4th merchandise, the next day they were offering Labor Day specials, and the Halloween stuff was already being pushed aside last week for Thanksgiving cards and turkey decorations. What’s worse, on the internet, besides Black Friday mentions, there already are Christmas countdowns.

“Days of Wine and Roses” doesn’t make as much sense to me. The play and the movie were about a young couple who became alcoholics and their fight for sobriety. Spoiler: one made it, one didn’t, but the open-ending left a slim chance for the future. If I was thinking of apples and honey, I would say my thoughts were influenced by Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement I observed a few weeks ago. Or if it was my anniversary, birthday, or a just because day, I could understand roses (Yellow roses are my favorite, in case you ever need to know). Wine isn’t something that excites or even interests me, so why is this phrase pulsating through my mind?

Maybe it is a combination of my dislike of the change to daylight savings as this is the part of the year where it will get dark sooner and my mood will follow. Perhaps it is because I know we are in the final quarter of the year which means end of the year responsibilities loom – closing committee reports, taxes, and the year itself aging because that means the same for me. Of course, it could be the holiday commercialism that will abound for the next three months.

Then again, it could be that the juxtaposition of these two phrases represent a kind of rebirth. The year ends, but begins anew. Within the confines of family and friends, the holidays represent fun, joy, getting together, and probably partaking of a bit of wine. Days and seasons (not to mention the time to writing deadlines) pass way to quickly, but there is a constant rekindling of hope. The movie was open-ended; our writing and lives are the same.
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Guest Blogger – Leslie Wheeler – Inspired by Edith Wharton and the Berkshires (click for comments)

                Leslie Wheeler

When I moved to the Berkshires many years ago, I was an aspiring writer. So, I naturally sought out other authors who had lived and written there. The author with whom I felt the most kinship and who turned out to be an important influence on a novel I would eventually write was Edith Wharton.

Like Wharton, I built a home in the area—though nowhere near as grand as The Mount, and located in a remote hamlet, instead of fashionable Lenox. As The Mount was to Wharton, my house was my first real home as an adult, and a place where I’ve spent many happy and productive hours, writing, gardening, and entertaining guests like she did.

Also like Wharton, I’ve enjoyed exploring the countryside. Sallying forth on foot or by car, I imagined Wharton touring the Berkshires in her chauffeur-driven motorcar, with Henry James at her side, their “imagination so tantalized by the mystery beyond the next blue hills.”

Like Wharton, I have often been struck by the “somber beauty” of the landscape. This beauty is lyrically described in her two Berkshire novels, Ethan Frome and Summer, and I’ve done my best to convey it in my own novel, Rattlesnake Hill.

Yet, again like Wharton, I’m well aware of the area’s dark side. Wharton found this darkness in the lives of the inhabitants of “villages still bedrowsed in a decaying rural existence,” as she described them in her autobiography, A Backward Glance. And it was these “sad, slow-speaking people living in conditions hardly changed since their forebears held those villages against the Indians” that she wrote about in her Berkshire novels, books whose bleakness puts their author squarely in the tradition of Nathanial Hawthorne and Herman Melville.

Each of the novels was inspired by a horrific, real-life event. In Ethan Frome, it’s a disastrous sledding accident in Lenox. In Summer, it’s the grim tale of a “mountain burial” on Bear Mountain, near Lee, that Wharton heard from the rector of her Lenox church.

In Summer, Bear Mountain is called The Mountain, an evil place that casts an ominous shadow over the surrounding villages. When Wharton’s protagonist, Charity Royall, goes there to witness her mother’s funeral in a squalid shack lit by a single candle, in the company of a motley crew of cursing, quarreling drunkards, she discovers that The Mountain is indeed a frightening place.

In my novel, Rattlesnake Hill replaces The Mountain as the locus of evil. The hill owes its name to the timber rattlesnakes that still haunt its rocky slopes. It’s also home to the Barkers, a wild clan known for their violent tempers, said to stem from the rattlesnake blood in their veins.

At the heart of my novel is a tragic story I heard about a love triangle that ended with the woman’s murder and her lover’s blinding. In Rattlesnake Hill, the tale of these doomed lovers reverberates across the generations until it’s finally repeated, more than a hundred years later, in another triangle that also ends with the woman’s death. When my protagonist, Kathryn Stinson, plunges into a passionate affair with Earl Barker, whose ancestor was involved in the long-ago triangle, and who also figured in the more recent triangle, the story threatens to repeat itself a third time.

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An award-winning author of books about American history and biographies, Leslie Wheeler has written three Miranda Lewis “living history” mysteries: Murder at Plimoth Plantation, Murder at Gettysburg, and Murder at Spouters Point. Her latest novel, Rattlesnake Hill, is the first in a new series of Berkshire Hilltown Mysteries, and will be released in February, 2018. Leslie’s mystery short stories have appeared in various anthologies including Day of the Dark, Stories of Eclipse, and the Best New England Crime Stories series, published by Level Best Books, where she was a co-editor/co-publisher for six years. A member of Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime, she is Speakers Bureau Coordinator for the New England Chapter of SinC. Leslie divides her time between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Berkshires, where she does much of her writing in a house overlooking a pond.

Rattlesnake Hill is available at https://encirclepub.com/product/rattlesnake-hill-by-leslie-wheeler/  or http://bit.ly/2xGNH3G

Las Vegas, Other Tragedies and Humanity (click for comments) by Debra H. Goldstein

Usually, I write my blogs in advance and have them prescheduled to pop up at six in the morning. With Yom Kippur, the most important Jewish holiday, during which we atone for our sins and on which our fate for the next year is sealed, being this past weekend and a number of other things occurring, I wrote part of today’s blog, but never finished it. I was going to sneak it up a few hours late. But then I woke up to the tragic shooting in Las Vegas.

I don’t usually write political blogs nor comment on current events, but the world has gone to hell in a handbag. Whether by the actions of terrorists or lone wolf demented individuals, we no longer live in an Ozzie and Harriett or Leave it to Beaver era. Come to think of it, I never did. I grew up with protests, Vietnam, and the history of Kent State. I also grew up feeling safe to wander the streets of London in early morning to see if char ladies really existed, to run down a street in Boston, to hear a concert in Las Vegas, to dance at a club in Florida, to fly in and out of Paris, and to kiss my children good-bye as they went off to spend terms abroad.

Why?

My heart goes out to those who have been killed or injured in any and all of these instances. The waste of life, the loss of human potential cannot be measured. History teaches us the sins of hatred and violence accomplish nothing except decimating humanity so why are they repeated? I don’t have an answer, but I rile against those who act without thought for others.

We talk of communication, but there is none in these acts. A point is made, but it is lost in the tragedy of the moment. I reach out my hand to all of you for only if we communicate will there be a world and a life for us, our children, our grandchildren, and the generations to come.

Guest Blogger – Nupur Tustin – Touched by the Bard – Shakespeare’s Influence on the Haydn Mysteries (click for comments)

Touched by the Bard Shakespeare’s Influence on the Haydn Mysteries by Nupur Tustin

It was from the Cambridge Companion to Haydn that I learned that the great composer’s library contained the complete volume of Shakespeare’s plays—in the original English at that. Shakespeare’s plays were quite popular in the German-speaking world.

They were enacted in the Esterházy theater, and Haydn would have had to compose incidental music for these performances. They were even popular, Tim Blanning tells us in his biography of Frederick the Great, in Prussia. The king himself denigrated his subjects’ taste in the matter; nevertheless, the plays were widely appreciated by audiences.

That Haydn appreciated them as well pleased me no end. I enjoy Shakespeare. I especially like his comedies, but I’ve immersed myself in the tragedies as well. Naturally, I wondered how to incorporate something of the great bard into my Haydn Mysteries.

Comic writers from Shakespeare and Ben Jonson to Oscar Wilde and G.B. Shaw have used certain stock ideas to elicit laughter: the appearance and disappearance of an item; mistaken identity; characters acting at cross-purposes.

So, in A Minor Deception, the missing violinist Bartó’s travel trunk disappears, reappears, only to disappear all over again. The maids Rosalie and Greta discover it, and their consternation when it vanishes barely an hour later is fairly comic. To make matters worse, only Rosalie has seen it.

Greta, of course, stands staunchly by her friend, although there’s a suggestion Rosalie might be mistaken. As in a Shakespearean play, the reader is Rosalie’s only witness. And theories abound as to the cause of the trunk’s disappearance and the parties responsible for it.

In another scene, Rosalie and Greta bring down, at Haydn’s behest, the musicians’ violin case on the pretext that the Prince has ordered every case be polished in preparation for the upcoming imperial visit.

The maid, however, are actually looking for the emblem of Matthias Corvinus, a bygone Hungarian king said to inspire the Hungarian dissidents’ anti-Habsburg efforts. The musician who sports the emblem will likely be the traitor whom the missing violinist Bartó has maneuvered into the palace.

But in their haste to examine the violin cases, they quite forget the polish and rags that will lend credence to their pretext. And, yes, they are discovered by a key suspect.

It’s the kind of thing you might see on Frasier, a brilliant television comedy featuring a goofy but lovable psychiatrist, Frasier Crane, and his brother, Niles. While obstacles lend comic effect in a comedy, in a mystery, they help to delay the resolution of the mystery, making the solution that much harder to achieve.

In my short story, The Baker’s Boy, Haydn’s involvement in the mystery plot is inspired by an idea from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Like Macbeth, Haydn receives a prophecy: his fortunes will turn. And like Macbeth, Haydn isn’t content with leaving the matter to the fates. He can’t help feeling that he needs to intervene to prove the baker’s boy innocent of the baker’s murder.

The scrap of the Lord’s Shroud they’ve both purchased may not have sufficient power to protect them. But if Haydn can prove the boy innocent, then maybe he can allow himself to believe that the piece of shroud will reverse his own ill fortune.

In Aria to Death, the second Haydn mystery, the plot of The Merchant of Venice provides Haydn with an important clue to the location of the lost operas of Monteverdi that constitute his friend Kaspar’s bequest and for which Kaspar was murdered.

Kaspar’s uncle’s will contains references to Shakespeare’s play and the bequest itself is hidden behind a fake volume of the play in his library.

Portia’s father in Shakespeare’s play leaves behind a test of character for the young men courting his daughter. Kaspar’s uncle does the same for the many men seeking the Monteverdi operas he’s procured. He’s quite sure Kaspar has the strength of character required to earn his bequest. Unfortunately, Kaspar is murdered before he can find it and the solution to this puzzle is left to Haydn.

Needless to say, Haydn does work it out. All thanks to his knowledge of Shakespeare’s works.

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A mystery writer and composer, Nupur Tustin is the author of A Minor Deception, the first in the Joseph Haydn Mystery Series. Aria to Death, the second in the series, will be released later this year. Her short stories have been published in Mystery Weekly and Heater magazines and are available on Amazon.  A Haydn story, The Baker’s Boy, is included in the anthology, Day of the Dark.

Haydn Series: http://ntustin.com
Sample Haydn’s Sleuthing Skills in “Whiff of Murder”:  http://ntustin.com/tasteofmurder
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ntustinauthor/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8616151.Nupur_Tustin
Amazon: http://mybook.to/MinorDeception
Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/a-minor-deception
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1164641370
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-minor-deception-nupur-tustin/1124827923

Guest Blogger: Carol L. Wright – Writing to a Theme (click here for comments)

Writing to a Theme by Carol L. Wright

Remember back in school when the teacher would give you an assignment to write on a particular theme? Something along the lines of “What I Did on my Summer Vacation” or “What I Want to Be When I Grow Up”?

Well, for those of us who grow up to be writers, those assignments never end—especially if we write short stories. Many publications will accept short stories, but only on a prescribed theme. That was the case last winter with Kaye George’s call for submissions for an anthology of eclipse stories, entitled DAY OF THE DARK: STORIES OF ECLIPSE from Wildside Press.

So how do you write a story to that theme? For me, there are several steps:

1. Consider alternate meaning

First I played with the words of the theme—doing a little free association. What spin could I get from Day of the Dark? Darkness . . . night . . . evil . . . blindness . . . Being left “in the dark” about something appealed to me, so I had my starting point.

2. Include required elements

Since I had to tie it to the eclipse, I had to learn more about it: what it would look like, and where and when it would be visible. I knew that before astronomers understood the physics of the event, eclipses were seen as portents of evil or destruction. Surely, that’s a good start—especially since Kaye also wanted the stories to have a mystery element.

3. Explore other treatments of the theme

Going online, I found many quotations about eclipses, but the one that suited me best was from John Milton’s Samson Agonistes:

Oh dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon
Irrecoverable dark, total Eclipse
Without all hope of day!”

Now that’s something I can sink my pen into!

4. Open up more possibilities

“What if’s” are a writer’s best friend. What if there is only one chance to get a picture of something special, but because of the eclipse, there isn’t enough light for it to come out? Or what if, like Mark Twain and Halley’s Comet, someone is born during a solar eclipse and expects to die during the next one? These ideas feed the imagination.

For my story, I went with “What if a husband and a wife were each keeping the other ‘in the dark’ about some life-changing information?” Kind of piques your curiosity, doesn’t it? I hope so!

5. Figure out my characters

Okay—I have a husband and a wife who are not being completely forthcoming with one another. How old are they? How long have they been married? Are they happy? Do they have kids? Where do they live? Where do they work?

6. The fun part—write the first draft

I’m what we writers call a “pantser,” meaning I write from the “seat of my pants” rather than following an outline. I love the crazy, messy, imaginative experience of writing a story without really knowing all the twists and turns it might take in advance. It gives me moments of surprise as my characters say or do things I never saw coming. It feels almost collaborative, and it is usually a lot of fun.

7. The work part—editing

Like many writers, I sometimes find extra words, dangling plot threads, or inconsistencies (probably in part because I’m a pantser). I go through the entire story several times, hoping to catch all the problems, leaving a smooth, coherent, and interesting story that is within the prescribed word count.

Then I might take it to my critique group. They pore over it and give me their perspectives on word choices, plot twists, errors, and omissions. If I’m hitting a snag, their help is indispensable.

After a bit more polish, I’m ready to submit it.

8. The waiting part

It always takes a while for journal or anthology editors to read through the many submissions and make decisions about which to include in their books or journals. And then it takes more time for the publisher to work its magic and produce a finished issue or a book you can hold in your hands.

But it is definitely worth the wait.

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Carol L. Wright is a former book editor, domestic relations attorney, and academic. She is the author of articles and one book on law-related subjects. Now focused on fiction, she has several short stories in literary journals and award-winning anthologies. Her new novel, Death in Glenville Falls, is now available. ( https://www.amazon.com/Death-Glenville-Falls-McIntyre-Mysteries/dp/0974289132) It is the first in her Gracie McIntyre Mystery series.

She is a founding member of the Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC (http://bethlehemwritersgroup.com), is a life member of both Sisters in Crime and the Jane Austen Society of North America, and a member of SinC Guppies, PennWriters, and the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group.

Raised in Massachusetts, she is married to her college sweetheart. They now live in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania with their rescue dog and a clowder of cats. You can follow her Facebook page: (https://www.facebook.com/Carol-L-Wright-Author-190854476717/) or learn more on her website: (http://carollwright.com).

Do You Love Me? (Click here for Comments)

Do You Love Me?  by Debra H. Goldstein

Many of you know I love Broadway shows. There is a Facebook test making the rounds where one identifies how many, out of one hundred shows, one has seen either on Broadway or in some other theater production. I’m so nerdy, my score was over 80 – and that is not counting if I’ve seen a show more than once.

For example, I saw Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway with Zero Mostel and later Herschel Bernardi, in London with Topol, and at least twice in community theaters. As today is Joel and my anniversary (it really is today – August 14 – 34 years), one of the songs that Tevye, the main character, and his wife, Golde, sing to each other comes to mind. The song, Do You Love Me?, is sung after Tevye gives permission to one of his daughters to marry a man she loves. He gives his blessing even though it means her life will be difficult and located in a geographic area where Tevye may never see her again. Confused that marriages are based upon love rather than how his was arranged, he raises the question with Golde whether she loves him.

In the song, they sing of how nervous they were on their arranged wedding day, but how they were assured it would work out. Tevye begs his wife to answer whether she loves him. She replies by listing all the things she does from washing his clothes, making him dinner, milking the cow, giving him children and sharing his bed. Eventually they conclude that after twenty-five years, they love each other.

The song is simple, but it reflects the reality of marriage. Unlike fairy tales, marriage isn’t “They Lived Happily Ever After.” Marriage can be the special wonder of physical attraction and the honeymoon period, but it also has moments of reality that aren’t always beautiful highs. As Golde sings, the day to day reality of marriage includes basic life activities that aren’t romantic. The key is whether, as a couple, one gets through them together. It is the single memories two separate people unite to create.

Sometimes we take these moments for granted. We’ve been there, done that, and gotten used to each other’s habits and interests. There are many distractions that sometimes result in the relationship becoming secondary or even stale. That’s when we stop and take stock of why we fell in love and married.

I could ask Joel if he loves me, but I know the answer is the same as mine. After thirty-four years, it’s nice to know.

 

 

 

Day of the Dark Anthology – Part II (click for comments)

Day of the Dark, an anthology of eclipse related short stories, was published by Wildside Press on July 21, one month before North America experiences its first contiguous total eclipse in forty years. In my last “It’s Not Always a Mystery” blog, I introduced you to the anthology’s creator, Kaye George, my short story, A Golden Eclipse, and ten more of the twenty-four authors and their stories. Today, it is my pleasure to introduce you to the remaining twelve authors and their stories.

L.D. Masterson lives in Dayton, Ohio and writes in a variety of genres. Her story, Picture Perfect, addresses the obsessive need of a photographer to outshine a rival. This obsession leads to dastardly deeds during a solar eclipse. But what will be revealed in the dark?  http://ldmasterson-author.blogspot.com

An Eclipse of Hearts, by Dee McKinney, is a dark supernatural tale. It features Dr. Enid Seward, the great-grand-daughter of alienist Jack Seward from Dracula, who has her hands full when the birth rate spikes during an eclipse in Vancouver. When one of the happy new moms recall getting pregnant, Enid must consult the Seward family journals for clues to find the forgettable lover before he causes any more amorous mayhem. Characters from this story are featured in the novel that Dee, a full time-college professor, associate dean and part-time writer, presently is querying. https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/172149/Dee.McKinney

2013 Shamus winning novelist and 2015 Anthony and Macavity nominated short story writer Paul D. Marks is the author of the dark tale, Blood Moon. www.PaulDMarks.com His facebook author page is www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks

Nupur Tustin, author of A Minor Deception, the first in the Joseph Haydn Mystery series, offers a different eclipse interpretation in The Baker’s Boy. In this story, Haydn, a struggling young composer, learns his brother has eclipsed him by obtaining a lucrative position as a member of a wealthy prelate’s orchestra. His world is overturned. Hoping to reverse his fortunes, he purchases a small scrap of linen, torn apparently from the Lord’s Shroud. When the baker’s boy, who’s also purchased a piece of the same shroud, is arrested for murdering his master, Haydn’s faith wavers. Can a scrap of linen save an innocent boy from the gallows and Haydn from a life in the Church? Or are the baker’s boy and his own musical ambitions equally condemned to die? http://ntustin.com

Agatha Award-Nominated writer Harriette Sackler’s short stories have appeared in a wide variety of mystery fiction anthologies. She is also a Co-Publisher and Editor of Level Best Books. Her story, Rays of Hope, focuses on a young woman’s attempt to uncover the truth about a tragedy that occurred in her early childhood.  Julie Spencer’s memory and her obsession to find closure combine to bring a satisfying story to readers.

In Flying Girl, Toni Goodyear uses a child’s point of view to tell a feel-good story. Her Flying Girl speaks to the mystical, magical heart in all of us. Pretty good for a person who, in real life, loves to hike and camp, but who has trouble finding West, even at sunset.

Katherine Tomlinson is a former reporter who prefers making things up. Her short fiction has appeared online and in print in a number of anthologies; her nonfiction has been published by St. Martin’s Press, Regan Books, and Croce Publishing. She also writes fantasy and science fiction as “Kat Parrish.” The Path of Totality is a politically charged story about ignorance and its collision with science as the eclipse unfolds against the background of a post-rational America.

Three weeks before her due date, Mandy Malone learns of a disturbing connection between pregnant women and the upcoming solar eclipse in the small Ohio college town of Jericho. With that premise, Margaret S. Hamilton creates Baby Killer, a gripping tale. Margaret S. Hamilton has published short stories in Mysterical-E, Kings River Life, and the Darkhouse Destination: Mystery! anthology. She was a finalist in the 2016 Southern Writers Magazine short story contest. Margaret writes a monthly blog for Writers Who Kill and is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. She is completing her debut contemporary cozy novel, Curtains for the Corpse, which is set in the fictional Jericho, Ohio. Margaret lives in Cincinnati. https://margaretshamilton.wordpress.com/

M. K. Waller, author of I’ll Be a Sunbeam, is a former librarian and paralegal whose stories have been published in the crime fiction anthology Murder on Wheels and in Mysterical-E. A resident of Austin, she will watch the 2017 eclipse from Kansas City but hopes to see one scheduled for 2024 from her front yard. In her story, small-town librarian Marva Lu Urquhart, who first appeared in Murder on Wheels, finds, once more, that the best-laid plans can go astray, especially when it’s too dark to see what you’re doing.

In a recent Travel with Kaye blog, anthology editor Kaye George wrote that To the Moon and Back by Kristin Kisska portrays mother-daughter love being examined at the time the eclipse is approaching. In Date Night, Cari Dubiel takes us on a journey which involves more than traveling through space while Laura Olds’ Ocean’s Fifty opens our eyes to a unique swindle.

Although I may not find a way to see the eclipse, it will be okay.  I’ll be holed up somewhere reading Day of the Dark.

Day of the Dark Anthology!!!! – Part I (Click for Comments)

It hasn’t happened in almost four decades.  For some, August 21, 2017 will be the only time in their lives to experience a total solar eclipse passing over the contiguous United States. August 21, will you be somewhere between Oregon and South Carolina, wearing proper eye protection, watching the moon pass between the earth and the sun?  If not, beginning July 21, when Wildside Press releases the eclipse-related short story anthology, Day of the Dark, different versions of the phenomenon can be experienced anytime thanks to the efforts of twenty-four authors and the creative thinking of author/editor Kaye George.

Kaye is the prolific author of ten mystery novels in four series, numerous short stories and the recipient of three Agatha nominations.  Murder on Wheels, an anthology she helped put together with the Austin Mystery Writers, won the 2016 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award. In The Darkest Hour, her Day of the Dark story, characters Tom and Arden live in the path of totality, just south of Knoxville.  When Tom decides to rent out the spare bedroom to eclipse viewers, they come bringing unexpected problems and not everyone survives. http://kayegeorge.com

My story, A Golden Eclipse, a tongue in cheek examination of a young law enforcement agent’s plan to take down a con man also is featured.  The story reminds us that no matter what the event, there are always people ready to use any occasion to take advantage of others. www.DebraHGoldstein.com

Because I’m impressed with the quality of writing found in Day of the Dark, I’m going to spend the remainder of this week’s “It’s Not Always a Mystery,” blog, as well as my July 31st blog, telling you about the other authors and their stories.

Carol L. Wright, the author of The Dark Side of the Light, is a lawyer, book editor and academic who writes short stories in a variety of genres.  Her mystery, Death at Glenville Falls, the first of the Grace McIntyre Mysteries, comes out in August 2017. In The Dark Side of the Light, Carol shows us how a young woman plans the perfect way to reveal an exciting secret to her husband on eclipse day.  What she doesn’t know is that she is in the dark about something crucial he hasn’t shared with her. When each finally learns the other’s secret, they discover what is truly important, even though nothing will ever be the same. http://carollwright.com

Awaiting the Hour by Joseph Walker is a poignant tale of gentleness and brutality, side by side.  It is inspired by research Joseph did on how to prepare and where to go to watch the eclipse. As he read about the eclipse, Joseph, a teacher of college composition and literature courses and a member of Mystery Writers of America, realized some people have planned for the eclipse for years, even if it means traveling thousands of miles to make sure of seeing it. That prompted him to wonder about the type of man who’s been looking forward to the eclipse forever. He questioned why it would be important to him, how it shaped his life, and what exactly such a man would be prepared to do if, at the last minute, someone threatened his ability to carry out his plan.  https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00rTYF3S6

John Clark is a retired Maine librarian with a background in mental health and library systems software support who has been writing for newspapers and magazines for twenty years.  He has one published book and has had several short stories featured in Level Best anthologies. Although he is reads avidly, writes reviews, gardens, and enjoys his granddaughter, in Relatively Annoying, he produces a chilling tale which combines horror and sci-fi elements with a partial eclipse and other heavenly happenings. As he notes, the Maine woods are lovely, dark and deep, but when something is stolen and hidden in them, what happens because of the eclipse has far-reaching and frightening consequences. https://www.facebook.com/wizardofhartland

The prophecy “Near the Devil’s table, between the Devil’s backbones, blood shall seep to the earth. As the moon blots out the sun, the powerful reckoning shall be birthed” is central to Melissa H. Blaine’s The Devil’s Standtable. In the story, Department of Prophecies Agent Poppy Inca just wants to watch the solar eclipse, but she quickly finds herself in the middle of a prophecy showdown she must interpret before her blood is the one spilled. Although Melissa doesn’t worry about spilled blood as much in real life, she spent hours exploring the trails of Giant City State Park and its surrounding areas while earning a master’s degree in sociology at SIU-C.  Now living in Michigan, Melissa enjoys visiting cemeteries, hiking with her dog, and tracking down local legends. www.Melissahblaine.com

A former Level Best Books co-editor/publisher and award-winning writer of biographies and books about American history, Leslie Wheeler, has authored three published Miranda Lewis ‘living history” mysteries and numerous essays and stories. In Chasing the Moon, she examines how the total solar eclipse touches the lives of four people living along the path of totality:  a single mother with a young son, who, together with her mother, runs and Airbnb in Madras, Oregon; a middle-aged man participating in the annual Little Green Men Festival in Hopkinsville, Kentucky; a down-on-his-luck musician in Nashville, Tennessee; and, a fiercely independent elderly African American woman in Columbia, South Carolina. www.lesliewheeler.com

A sampling of other stories included in Day of the Dark are the political Norse historical, Torgnyr the Bastard, Speaker of Law by Suzanne Berube Rorhus; Cheri Vause’s psychological suspense tale, Black Monday; the quirky swindle tale, Open House by Bridges DeiPont, Women’s Work, a historical mystery set in the DC area in 1875 by K.B. Inglee; and suspenseful Ascension into Darkness by Christine Hammar.

Read about the remaining authors and stories in my July 31, 2017 “It’s Not Always a Mystery” blog.

Guest Blogger: Bryan E. Robinson, Ph.D. – Writing “As If” to Reignite your Creative Mojo (click here for comments)

Writing “As If” to Reignite Your Creative Mojo by Bryan E. Robinson, Ph. D.

Act as if you’re a writer. Sit down and begin. Act as if you might just create something beautiful, and by beautiful I mean something authentic and universal. —Dani Shapiro

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been unsure which direction to take with your writing, if self-doubt has nipped at your heels, or if you’ve landed in the clutches of writer’s block or “second book syndrome.”

I thought so.

Most of us who’ve written for any length of time have gotten stuck somewhere along the way. But there’s good news. Twelve Step programs have thrown a phrase around for years called “acting as if.” This principle can help us get through periods of writing paralysis.

What does it mean to act as if? Acting as if is a simple, yet powerful tool that says we can create outer circumstances by acting as if they’re already true. We give ourselves to a certain performance as if it’s how we feel. When we act as if, the mood we pretend becomes a reality.

Suppose we’re angry and unforgiving but want to be forgiving toward someone who offends us. We can come to feel forgiving by acting as if we are forgiving. Perhaps we’re feeling cold and detached but want to be happy for a fellow author’s good news. We can be happy by acting as if we are happy. Maybe we have difficulty getting words on the page, but instead of fighting tooth and nail, we convince ourselves it’s easy, write as if it’s easy, and tackle the difficulty with ease.

Authors of all genres have used this method to jumpstart their writing mojo. The Playwright Tennessee Williams said, “I believe the way to write a good play is to convince yourself it is easy to do then go ahead and do it with ease.” Screenwriter Steven Pressfield also recommends the as if approach: “You and I as writers must write as if we were highly paid, even though we may not be. We must write as if we were top-shelf literary professionals, even though we may not (yet) be.”

When I wrote Limestone Gumption: A Brad Pope and Sisterfriends Mystery and Daily Writing Resilience: 365 Meditations and Inspirations for Writers, I too, use the as if strategy in my fiction and nonfiction work, writing as if my books will be on the shelves beside Lee Child or J. K. Rowling, as if Steven Spielberg will beat down my door to sign me for the screenplay. I’m still waiting for Hollywood to call, but I can testify to the effectiveness of this strategy.

There’s scientific evidence for the old adage when we act as if, the rest of us follows suit. It’s based on the mind-body connection. The cells of our bodies constantly eavesdrop on our thoughts from the wings of our minds. When we’re doubtful or disappointed about our writing, our bodies go with the downturn of our feelings, making us feel worse. We might hold our heads down or slump when we walk.

In the words of motivational writer Tony Robbins, “If you change your physiology—that is your posture, breathing patterns, muscle tension, facial expressions, gestures, movements, words, vocal tonality—you instantly change your internal representations and state.” For example, making the facial expression of a smile can make us happy. Training the body to position itself the way we want to think and feel about ourselves adjusts our thoughts and feelings to the way we want them to be. Making body adjustments—pulling our shoulders back, standing or sitting up straight, walking in a more expansive way—can pull us out of self-doubt, disappointment, or any other self-defeating emotion.

When our minds and bodies proceed with the way we want to be (as if), our attitudes navigate us with easy sailing through choppy writing storms. This tool can salvage a bad writing day, repair or prevent a squabble with a fellow author, or kick-start a marathon in front of a blank screen turning dread into enthusiasm.

So let’s convince ourselves that a writing challenge is actually a piece of cake, act as if it’s true, then notice the ease with which an obstacle becomes a cinch to work though. To say we write “as if” is another way of saying we’re resilient warriors on a literary path, determined to persevere over the long haul.

 

BRYAN E. ROBINSON is consulting editor for International Thriller Writers’ online magazine, The Big Thrill, past coordinator of their Debut Author Forum, and columnist for Southern Writer’s Magazine. After his share of rejection, Bryan authored two murder mysteries (working on the third) and 35 nonfiction books that were translated into thirteen languages. His debut novel, Limestone Gumption, was a multi-award winner for best psychological suspense. His latest books are Daily Writing Resilience: 365 Meditations and Inspirations for Writers (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2018), and the thriller, Bloody Bones (forthcoming). He maintains a private psychotherapy practice in Asheville, NC and resides in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his spouse, three dogs, and occasional bears at night. He is currently working on his third mystery/thriller, Michael Row the BODY Ashore and Crazy Papers: A Southern Memoir.