Alison Armstrong and the Independent Creators Alliance FB group


Roger Howarth, Alison Armstrong and Michael Easton last summer.

Alison Armstrong is a gifted author I met through online fan groups for Michael Easton, the General Hospital actor who inspired my vampire soap opera thriller Hope Dawns Eternal. Alison and I met in person at a GH fan event in New Jersey in 2014. This morning she’ll be meeting Michael and his GH buddy Roger Howarth at another event in New Jersey. Since I couldn’t afford the trip this time around, I sent Alison a copy of Hope Dawns Eternal in hopes that she can hand it to him directly, along with a letter and a couple of poems I hope he’ll enjoy.

Back on October 8, 2016, Alison and I both participated at an Indie Authors Day held at libraries nationwide. Soon after, at my request, she sent me the following post about the event:

Having attended an Indie Book Fair recently as an author, I learned some valuable information regarding marketing and distribution; however, the overall message of the advice left me feeling disheartened regarding the arbitrary standardization of the publishing industry and upset about the commoditization of the arts in general.  Instead of focusing on creativity and literary talent, the speakers at the book event emphasized orthodoxy in page design (justified text, avoidance of stylistic content-driven page and paragraph breaks, etc.) .

Although I support the importance of proper grammar and punctuation and feel that these aspects, along with originality in content, expression, and style, are essential in quality writing, I do not believe that standardization of font, margins, and other traditional publishing practices should be given such a high priority.  Nevertheless, despite the increasing numbers of indie authors, the publishing industry persists in perpetuating typographic conventions that are usually not used in Word or other common writing programs.  In so doing, the publishing industry imposes an arbitrary standard to differentiate between traditionally published and print-on-demand authors so that the “indie” writers may feel pressured into purchasing services to make their work appear more like traditional published materials, thereby making their work less independent, more restricted by financial concerns.   Along with the standardization of text format , book publishers seem to be promoting an increasingly conventional approach to cover design, resulting in a glut of covers featuring monotonously similar figurative clichés associated with the book’s genre,  such as the faceless torsos displayed like slabs of cosmetically enhanced meat on the covers of lurid romance novels.

The arts in general, especially in the United States, are generally viewed in a similar way as those hunky yet generic slabs of flesh, something to readily consume as entertainment or profit from.  Favoring the familiar, the already established, the tried and true moneymakers,  publishing companies, recording companies, and movie studios sign fewer new authors, musicians, and filmmakers.  The newbies and the “indies,” therefore, seek new ways of gaining exposure for their work.  However, as with the “indie” book fair example, even some resources and organizations presuming to work on behalf of the independent artists devalue certain aspects of individualistic expression.

Independent authors, musicians, artists and filmmakers represent a challenge to the financially-driven industries that struggle to maintain a monopoly on the arts by propagating lookalike, superficially pleasing but often substanceless clones. The literary renegades, such as William Burroughs and J. G. Ballard, the ravaged voices of Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith, these muses of rebellion and individuality epitomize the freedom, intensity, and expressive potential of the independent, creative spirit.  

Inspired by artists such as these, I have created the Independent Creators Alliance group on Facebook ( ). I invite creators in any of the arts to join in solidarity, supporting each other and the ideal of artistic freedom. I envision this group as a place to express our ideas regarding the arts and integrity to our vision while connecting with other creative people. It can be a place to network, brainstorm ideas, share sources of inspiration, and collaborate perhaps on projects. In these rather depressing times, we need the arts more than ever to heal the soul.


Alison Armstrong at Indie Book Fair last October.

Alison makes some provocative points that are deserving of further discussion. I’ve joined her Independent Creators Alliance group on Facebook, and I hope you will too. And by all means check out her books Revenance and Toxicosis, both available on Amazon. But don’t confuse her with the other Alison Armstrong, who writes books about how women can please and communicate better with men. That’s definitely the wrong Alison!


Emily Hanlon’s Ten New Year’s Resolutions for the Fiction Writer


Emily Hanlon

Emily Hanlon posted these New Year’s resolutions for fiction writers, and she’s given me permission to reprint them here. I first encountered Emily through the International Women’s Writing Guild years ago, when they were holding their annual summer conferences at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. I gained a lot from her five-day workshop, and I’m delighted to be back in touch with her. She gives workshops both live and online as well as mentoring individual fiction writers.

Reading Emily’s bio, I just learned that like me, she’s a graduate of Barnard.

Ten New Year’s Resolutions for Fiction Writers!

Forged in Fire: Creativity and the Writer’s Journey!

  1. When I begin a new piece, I write without thinking or planning.
  2. I welcome the unexpected in my writing.
  3. My best writing comes from my heart and the fire in my belly.
  4. I become my characters, they do not become me. I go where my characters take me.
  5. I love my first draft writing for its chaos, fertility, and uncovered gems.
  6. I do not think about being published until the piece is finished.
  7. I set up a writing schedule that supports, not defeats, my writing. I will not use failure to keep to my schedule as a reason to give up.
  8. I write the story that is gestating within me—even if it scares me or makes me think I am losing my mind.
  9. Writing is a craft. Craft supports writing, it does not define it.
  10. I am a fierce warrior for my writing and creativity!

Excellent advice for all writers, fiction or nonfiction. It’s especially applicable to “pantsers,” who write by the seat of their pants without outlines or preconceived ideas. Planners who like to know where they’re going before they embark on their creative journeys may find some of the ideas intimidating, even downright scary, but you can take what you need and leave the rest.


Personally, I’m a pantser. My novels are character-driven, and the plots evolve chapter by chapter. I like E.L. Doctorow’s quote: “Writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” But I’m not gutsy enough to carry that method to the extreme. I prefer having at least a rudimentary map, though not a GPS; I don’t like taking directions from anyone else.

Of the ten resolutions above, I have the most trouble with #6: I do not think about being published until the piece is finished. For me, it’s impossible not to think about publishing; it’s the omnipresent elephant in the room. But when the writing is going well and I’m in a state of flow, I forget about publishing. It’s only in the before and after times, or when my inner critic kicks in, that publishing becomes an issue.

My favorite may be #7: I set up a writing schedule that supports, not defeats, my writing. I will not use failure to keep to my schedule as a reason to give up. Schedules are a major nemesis for me, one I’ll discuss in a future post. Even in retirement, with few fixed obligations, I have trouble maintaining a regular writing schedule, and that danged inner critic makes me miserable when I let distractions lure me away from my desk.


Edvard Munch

Much of Emily’s coaching focuses on getting in touch with our shadow sides. Lately she’s been giving hour-long online workshops where students from throughout the country and abroad can participate free of charge. You can learn more about Emily Hanlon, her coaching and workshops, by visiting her website:

What do you think of these ten resolutions? Which ones inspire you, and which ones scare you? I’d love to hear from you, so please leave comments. And subscribe to my blog by leaving your email address in the column to the right. Creatively speaking, I feel 2017 will be a great year, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Jean Henry Mead’s blog becomes book

Jean Henry Mead

Today I’m delighted to welcome Jean Henry Mead, whose Mysterious People blog has given birth to a brand-new book with Poisoned Pen Press.

 *The Blog That Became a Book*

*By Jean Henry Mead*
           When I first began interviewing mystery novelists for my blog site, Mysterious People, I had no idea they would wind up in a book, although I had published three other books of interviews with Western and Hollywood screen writers, politicians, artists and ordinary people who had accomplished extraordinary things.

           So it made sense that a book about mystery writers was in order, but who would publish interviews that had already appeared online? Bestselling novelists such as Carolyn Hart, Jeffrey Deaver, Louise Penny and John Gilstrap undoubtedly sold the book. Three publishers were interested and I decided to go with Poisoned Pen Press, the number two mystery publisher in the U.S.  Coincidentally, quite a few of PPP’s authors had already been interviewed.

           Because mysteries appear in a variety of subgenres, I divided the writers according to their specialties: the traditional mystery or cozy, historicals, suspense and thriller novels, crime, police procedurals, private eyes and senior sleuths (sometimes called “geezer lit”). There are also medical thrillers, romantic suspense as well as science fiction mysteries and the niche novels which cover endless subjects. I had no idea there was such diversity until I started categorizing them.

           Those I’d interviewed had fortunately written articles about various aspects of publishing, including writing tips, marketing and promotional advice, and their opinions on the current state of the publishing industry, among other topics. So the book is a good read for aspiring mystery writers as well as readers. I can say that objectively because I didn’t write the book, I just asked the questions.

           Carolyn Hart, bestselling author of the /Henrie O and Death on Demand /series, talks about her new protagonist, Bailey Ruth Raeburn, who returns to earth as a ghost to anonymously unravel complicated mysteries. John Gilstrap explains why a bestselling novelist still holds down a fulltime job and international bestseller Rick Mofina provides sixteen great tips for writing thriller novels as well as discussing his struggle to the top of the charts.

           A number of Canadian and UK authors share their publishing views as well as comparing books from their countries with those of the US. Suspense novelist Paul Johnston writes from his native Scotland as well as his home in Greece while Tim Hallinan divides his time between Thailand and southern California, writing much of his work in Bangkok cafes. Gillian Phillip writes YA mystery novels from Barbados and her native Scottish highlands, and international airline pilot Mark W. Danielson composes his suspense novels during layovers in various parts of the world.  One of my favorite interviews was with Bill Kirton, whose humor and compassion led to an Internet friendship. I also enjoy his writing.

           Another English native, Carola Dunn, writes historical mysteries about her countrymen as does Rhys Bowen, who lives and writes in California about historical English royals. Other historical novelists include Larry Karp, who writes about Ragtime music and the people who made the genre popular during its heyday.  And Beverle Graves Myers, who brings operatic mysteries to life from eighteen century Venice.

           Jeff Cohen, Tim Maleeny, Morgan St. James, Phillice Bradner and Carl Brookins add humor to their mysterious plots, so prepare to laugh when you pick up their books. There are police procedurals, medical thrillers and romantic suspense novelists represented here as well as niche mysteries designed for readers who love dogs, scrapbooking, zoos, the Arizona desert, space shuttles, weight loss clinics, actors, designer gift baskets and other specialty subjects.

           Nonfiction books about the mystery genre round out this eclectic collection with Edgar winner E.J. Warner, Agatha winner Chris Roerden, Lee Lofland, Jeffrey Marks, and small press publishers Vivian Zabel and Tony Burton. So there’s something for everyone who enjoys some or all the mysterious subgenres.

           The book is currently only available on Kindle at: as well as Barnes & Noble and Sony readers.

Jean Henry Mead began her career as a news reporter, later serving as a news, magazine and small press editor. The author of four novels, she has also published nine nonfiction books. Her magazine articles have won state, regional and national awards and have appeared domestically as well as abroad.


Marketing Tips from Larry Thacker

Are there any authors out there who honestly love marketing their books? We all know it’s an absolute necessity, but if you’re anything like me, you find excuses not to do it nearly as much as you should. Larry Thacker, author of Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia, seems genuinely to enjoy it, and he has a lot of great tips I’m passing on today. Larry’s book is chock full of fascinating tales of supernatural sightings in Appalachia. I hope you’ll check it out, and leave comments too.


By Larry Thacker

As you’re already finding out, marketing your book, even when others at the publishing house may also have that responsibility, can be a wonderful and challenging experience. Besides the pleasant anxieties of having to learn – often by teaching yourself – how to be a self-promoter, you have to get quickly comfortable with everything from interviews to tabletop displays, from speaking gigs to press releases. At the end of the day, the only person losing any sleep over who hasn’t heard about your dynamic personality and your world-changing book, however, is you. Whether you like it or not, it’s mostly your job to get that book in the hands of readers. This is a fine arrangement since, of course, no one knows your material better than you, no one can give that twenty second blurb about your work better, and no one should be more excited about what your book has to say to the world. In other words, you are your best marketer.

Unfortunately, most of us authors are not marketing managers. Most of us don’t have MBAs and wouldn’t know a viable marketing plan if one crashed from the sky and split our signing table in half. In fact, depending on our personalities, self-promotion may be quite an uncomfortable expectation. Your silent attitude might be, I’m an author not a marketing manager, but if you want to get your book and message out, get used to it.

If you’re not quite comfortable yet with the salesperson role in this endless sea of struggling authors, perhaps thinking about your work as a message will make it taste better while you wait on that next curious-looking, but only window shopping book buyer. Your book, no matter what the genre, is your message; a message about something important that you are passionate about. People need to hear what you have to say, don’t they? When I’m most frustrated, reminding myself of the purpose of my work re-energizes me.       

We have to eventually realize there are no days off. Like most of our day jobs, work stays at work when we go home. Not so with writing. We are author’s 24-hours a day. People will approach you all the time about your book. They’re interested. And though you might not be in your best mood and may be tired of parroting your same spiel a thousand times, you must approach the conversation like it was your first ever. Being ready for those out-of-the-ordinary situations is a must. Expected opportunities can sometimes disappoint, while unexpected opportunities can be fruitful. Your constant awareness will bring opportunity. I promise. 

New authors often associate “promotion” with the romance of book signings. That’s what popular culture has shown us as the writer’s public life. I’ve had mixed experiences with these and have determined that book signings alone don’t accomplish much. Unless you’re a huge name that draws lines before the store opens, sitting behind a table at a signing on a slow day will most likely frustrate and discourage you, perhaps even make you wonder why you bothered pouring your life into such a project in the first place (we have such delicate egos, do we not?) But sitting alone waiting for a “bite” offers a lot of self-reflection. Finish that doodling and make good with your time.  

Here are a few suggestions for marketing your work:

Speak first, then sign: Book signings by themselves? Not so great. Book signings AFTER a presentation? Guaranteed better results. In these difficult economic days, people are more apt to purchase after they’ve been drawn into your unquenchable enthusiasm and convinced they have to be reading your book before the night ends. Other means of getting your word out before you sign can be press releases, radio and television interviews, and classroom presentations. If you can’t talk first, have a table with several authors. A crowd draws interest.

Holidays: Figure out what popular holidays mesh with your topic and plan for presentations and events during the two weeks leading up to the holiday. Additionally, that familiar crazed look in shoppers’ eyes the week before Christmas says, “Get out of my way! I need something unique and I need it now!” Be that unique item. Get yourself a visible table at the entrance of your local bookstore and watch that stack of books melt away. I once sold twenty books in two hours like this.

Speakers Bureaus: Get on a speakers circuit. Though your talk may only be vaguely connected with your book topic, that can lead to other talks and additional interest in your writing work. For instance, I am a member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. One of my presentations is closely related to my book, Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia. You can bet I’ll have copies of my book there post-speech.   

First impressions: Have more on your table than just your book and an eager autograph pen. My publisher has been great at providing stacks of slick bookmarks and promotional postcards covered with reviews and quotes. I display these in a nice twisted antique basket that fits the mood of my book. Whether they buy or not, give them a business card or a bookmark. Send them away with a reminder.

 Search out your book: Always search for your books at whatever store you’re in. If you can’t find any, approach a manager and ask where you might find your book. If they’re not carrying them, offer some promotional material and ask them to consider making an order. 

Autograph your books: When you do find your books on the shelves, gather them up and take them to the counter and ask – with an assuming attitude – if you can autograph them. Autographed books sell faster. They’ll more than likely have “signed by the author” stickers as well. If they’re low, suggest they reorder.

Your own website: Nothing is more frustrating when someone wanting to buy your book finds the publisher’s website down. Not everyone wants to purchase through Amazon and the like. Even if it’s a single page, have your own just in case. Include ordering information, reviews, blurbs, important links, past and upcoming events. Make it eye catching, professional, and update it regularly. 

The trunk: Consider the trunk of your car as your mobile sales office. Have copies at all times. Be able to put a copy in anyone’s hand whenever the opportunity presents itself. And be flexible on the price! Selling it for a little less might make the sell. Hopefully they’ll talk.

A second book: Be working on a second book. Or a third. Or a fourth. I’ve been asked many times when “the next book” is coming out by satisfied readers of the first. Having two or more published books on your table will lead to additional sales. If your second work isn’t out yet, have examples of your other types of writing to show you’re not a “one hit wonder.”

Enjoy yourself: Above all, have a good time introducing the world to your writing! The moment it’s no longer fun, re-evaluate what you’re doing. It should be more fun than work. 

Larry Thacker is author of Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia (now in its second printing, 2007, published by The Overmountain Press, He is a frequent speaker and a published columnist, a blogger for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, non-fiction writer and poet. He is editor of the on-line Roadkill Zen Journal ( A seventh-generation Cumberland Gap area native, Larry serves as Director of Student Success and Career Planning at his alma mater, Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee.


Getting the call from Ruth Cavin – Gerrie Ferris Finger’s story

Gerrie Ferris Finger with her poodle Bogey

Today I’m excited to welcome guest blogger Gerrie Ferris Finger, the latest winner of the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition for The End Game, scheduled for release on April 27th. I just finished reading the advance review copy she sent me. The novel’s thoroughly engrossing, and much edgier than I’d expect from a Malice Domestic winner.

Next week I’ll review the book and give you some of my thoughts on Gerrie’s story. Here’s her description of the many years of dues she paid before getting the call from Ruth Cavin telling her she was a winner. I hope you’ll find it as inspiring as I do.


By Gerrie Ferris Finger

I wrote my first novel before I began my newspaper career, right after I got out of college, while I was babysitting my two children. It was a war novel – hey, why not start with something you know everything about, right? It’s a good thing I love to research.

I sent it off to an agent friend, a classmate in college. He told me it was hard to believe a woman wrote the book, and that if he sold it, I should use initials so buyers would think I was a man. Then he gave me friendly advice. He said I should write women’s non-fiction like the stuff in “Cosmopolitan”. Sex positions was going to propel me to the top of the Best Seller List.

I went to work for a newspaper instead. After twenty years as a writer, editor and columnist, I retired to write novels in earnest. Like most journalists, I had a few manuscript starts, but never finished them.  My first effort was a mystery overlaid with romance. I didn’t consider genre when writing the manuscript. I just wanted to tell a story, sell it to a publisher and have a large reading audience. I hired an agent and wrote four books in what she called the romantic suspense genre, before she told me romantic suspense wasn’t selling well.

So okay, let’s do something else. I created Moriah Dru, a former cop turned child finder. Already in love with a detective, Dru wouldn’t be drifting into romance. My agent didn’t like The End Game, because she didn’t like the heroine. Dru had too much angst. After three years, my agent and I parted, and I sent The End Game to large independent publishers (of which there are few) and got requests for the “full” manuscript from all. I wrote the second book while waiting for offers that didn’t come.  

I entered The End Game into the Malice Domestic/St. Martin’s Minotaur competition for Best First Traditional Mystery novel and started another mystery series. I’d forgotten about the Minotaur contest. Who wins contests anyway? Then my contest reader called to tell me she’d sent the novel on to St. Martin’s. The process starts with readers who receive manuscripts from all over the country. They choose the best in their estimation and send them to St. Martin’s.

A couple months went by, and I “got the call” from Ruth Cavin. I was working on a straight romance and almost let the phone ring. Instead, I said “Hello”.

I swear my heart stopped beating as I listened to her words that went something like: “This is Ruth Cavin with St. Martin’s. I’m calling to tell you that your novel won the St. Martin’s contest. Congratulations.”

It couldn’t be any of my joker friends. They didn’t know I’d entered the contest. My husband didn’t know.

My mouth was open and dried-out when I stuttered, “You’re kidding?”

She laughed and said, “I had some wonderful manuscripts to choose from, but I thought yours was just the best.” Just the best. Her wonderful voice still resounds in my head.

When I told my husband I was going to be published by a big New York house, he said, “At last!”  

Thank you Julie for letting me relive that call on your wonderful blog.

Gerrie Ferris Finger

TGIF Blog Party – Drop in, lose the winter blues and do some shameless BSP!

Back in August, I threw a TGIF blog party, and lots of folks stopped by, so I decided to throw another one. The view from my window is wintry, but not in a good way – cold, gray, and windy, with the limbs of the dead tree outside my window threatening to crash down on the roof. Beep, my ginger cat, is peering out, looking in vain for birds.

Time to party and banish those deep winter blues. Here in upstate New York, the weather’s been more than enough to enhance any tendencies to Seasonal Affective Disorder, aka SAD. So as Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett would sing, “Pour me something tall and strong – it’s five o’clock somewhere!” Stop in, bring your favorite dish, and introduce yourself – the party will run all weekend.

I’m bringing my standard potluck contribution, a WalMart special: a huge cheesecake that combines four different styles, all with abundant chocolate. I’ll throw in a bottle of Australian Shiraz – Yellowtail and Alice White are both good – in honor of Torah Bright, who won halfpipe gold at the Olympics last night. Speaking of Australia, picture some hunky party guests like Keith Urban and Hugh Jackman. Guys, I guess you can picture Nicole Kidman.*

I borrowed this idea from Alexis Grant. I’m adding my own twist with a little creative visualization. Writers, envision yourself at a great cocktail party at your favorite conference. Personally, I’m picturing the party the Mystery Writers of America throw after their Edgars Symposium in New York City. Now imagine you’re introduced to someone you’ve always wanted to meet – a top agent, maybe, or your favorite author. You’ve got only a minute or two to captivate them so much that they’ll be dying to read your book.

Okay, now write down that speech and post it here as a comment! Be sure to include a link to your website or blog if you have one. But you don’t have to be a writer to join the party – readers of all persuasions are welcome too! Come on in out of lurking mode and let us hear from you. I hope we can all discover some folks we’d like to know better.

Thanks again to Alexis for this idea. Please feel free to pass it on and throw a party of your own – and don’t forget to mention my blog and pass along the link!

*Congratulations to Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman for hanging in there for over two years of marriage and producing a beautiful baby girl, Sunday Rose. Unfortunately, marriage to Nicole hasn’t done Keith’s music any good, in my opinion. I preferred him when he had a darker, more tortured edge and substance abuse problems.

**I know I said I’d write more about hoarding and cluttering, and I will, but I’m just not in the mood today. By now I should know better than to promise any particular logic or predictable schedule for this blog!

Enid Wilson’s retelling of Pride and Prejudice has a steamy angelic twist

Today I’m delighted to welcome Enid Wilson, one of my colleagues from last year’s Blog Book Tours course. Enid’s book Really Angelic: Pride and Prejudice with a paranormal twist arrived in today’s mail, and I’ve had a hard time putting it down long enough to write this post.

Really Angelic is a melding of three genres I’m unaccustomed to reading: it’s a retelling of a Jane Austen novel, it has a strong supernatural aspect, and it’s over-the-top romantic and sexy. Enid explores what would have happened if Elizabeth Bennet were actually Darcy’s guardian angel. I’ve read about a third of the book, and Elizabeth is still somewhat perplexed by her newfound powers, including the ability to sprout wings and fly when the occasion demands. She and Darcy have already had some steamy and highly explicit encounters, but they haven’t fully consummated their relationship. They’ve just been abducted by highwaymen . . .

Enid has me hooked, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I also plan to reread Pride and Prejudice. I became newly intrigued by Jane Austen when I saw the wonderful exhibit about her at the Morgan Library in New York City last December, and I wrote about her early self-published status in my December 4th, titled “Was Jane Austen a professional writer? Not according to the Mystery Writers of America.” I hope you’ll check it out, and by all means, leave some comments for Enid on today’s post.

 Enid sent me this article about the mother-daughter relationship in Pride and Prejudice. Read to the end to learn how to win a copy of Really Angelic!


“Come here, child,” cried her father as she appeared.  “I have sent for you on an affair of importance.  I understand that Mr. Collins has made you an offer of marriage.  Is it true?”  Elizabeth replied that it was.  “Very well–and this offer of marriage you have refused?”

 “I have, sir.”

“Very well.  We now come to the point.  Your mother insists upon your accepting it.  Is it not so, Mrs. Bennet?”

“Yes, or I will never see her again.”

“An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth.  From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents.  Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.” – Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 20.

If you still remember Pride and Prejudice, one of the most interesting issues of the book was Elizabeth Bennet’s relationship with her parents, especially her mother. Mrs Bennet “disliked” her for refusing to marry the heir of Longbourn Mr. Collins, thus failing to save the family from destitute should Mr. Bennet met his destiny.

Many Pride and Prejudice retelling stories explore this aspect to the fullest. On the one hand, there are stories which found Mrs. Bennet to be a woman of sense and took care of her daughters financial needs while her neglectful husband hid in the library with his books.

On the other hand, there are many scenarios which talked about Mrs. Bennet’s dislike of Elizabeth:

  •  Mrs. Bennet tried to drug Lizzy and compromised her with a rich suitor
  • She tried to kill Elizabeth because her second daughter happened to be alive, while the male twin heir was a still born
  • She tried to sell Lizzy to Mr. Darcy to repay a debt

Ecstasy of St. Theresa by Bernini

In my latest novel, Really Angelic, Pride and Prejudice with a paranormal twist, I’ve given a reason for Mrs. Bennet’s fluttering about Lizzy’s escapades and marrying well.

Elizabeth is in fact an angel fallen from Heaven found by Mrs. Bennet, as a “compensation” for a goddess snatching away her baby Lizzy.

Too far fetched? It may be. But that’s a retelling. In the beginning of the novel, mother and daughter had a similar relationship as in Jane Austen’s original tale but towards the end of the novel when Lizzy’s life was threatened, her mother’s genuine love for her was shown.

Below is an adapted excerpt from Really Angelic about this.

         “Lizzy! Oh, my Lizzy, you are safe!” Mrs. Bennet, rushing to her side, hugged her tightly and sobbed aloud. “I cannot bear it if you are taken away from me again.”

          Elizabeth was stunned. Her mother did not consider her the favourite and had seldom shown her much affection. She knew that her mother loved her, in her own peculiar way, but she was very touched by her expression of worry over her safety. Elizabeth hugged her back.

       “Come, Fanny, we should go inside.” Mr. Bennet said. Elizabeth was surprised at the tender tone of his voice.

       “I do not see the reason for all this fuss and the rush,” a new voice said, and Elizabeth turned to see her youngest sister Lydia jumping down from the coach. “Lizzy, did the highwaymen ravish you? Did you enjoy it? Were they handsome?”

        At that, Mrs. Bennet gasped and swooned.

Well, what do you think of the relationship of Elizabeth with her parents, in the original Pride and Prejudice or some of the retelling stories?

Enid is delighted to offer a paperback copy of Really Angelic to one of you. Warning: The book contains mature content and is not for the Jane Austen purist. Just tell us what you think by commenting below before 5 February and you have a chance to win the book. Entry opens to worldwide readers. To read more about Enid’s books, you can visit

Rebecca Cantrell’s mysteries explore Berlin in the 1930’s

Rebecca Cantrell

I’m delighted to welcome Rebecca Cantrell as today’s guest blogger. She writes the critically acclaimed Hannah Vogel mystery series set in 1930s Berlin, including A Trace of Smoke and A Night of Long Knives. Her screenplays “A Taste For Blood” and “The Humanitarian” have been finalists at Shriekfest: The Los Angeles Horror/Sci-fi Film Festival. Her short stories are included the “Missing” and the upcoming “First Thrills” anthologies. Currently, she lives in Hawaii with her husband, her son, and too many geckoes to count. You can learn more at her website,

The following essay first appeared as part of the Poisoned Pen Web Con last fall. I moderated two panels for the event as well, and I blogged about it on October 21st.  You can still check out the proceedings online at – there’s lots of great reading there.

Where Do I Get My Ideas?

By Rebecca Cantrell

The idea for my first novel, A TRACE OF SMOKE, captured my imagination almost thirty years ago. I was living in Berlin, a city crammed with ghosts and stories, but the idea came to me when I left it.

I went on a Spring Break trip to Munich. Unlike my more well-adjusted peers, I skipped out on the drinking and went to Dachau. Because everyone else was swilling beer and gulping pretzels, I had the place to myself.

Wind moaned through the open wooden barracks and I shivered in my 1980s fashionable black leather ankle boots as I clomped through the buildings. It gets dark early in Germany in the spring, especially on an overcast day, and I wished for a flashlight to drive away the shadows and ghosts.

But I had none, so I headed inside and stopped in front of a plain wall. It held a row of colored triangles worn by actual prisoners: yellow, red, green, blue, purple, pink, brown, and black scraps of fabric. Above each now faded triangle, thick Gothic letters spelled out the categories: Jewish, political prisoner, habitual criminals, emigrant, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, gypsies, and asocials (a catchall term used for murderers, thieves, and those who violated the laws prohibiting Aryans from having intercourse with Jews).

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TGIF Blog Party – you’re cordially invited!

CocktailParty Anon painting Wash PostFriday’s officially my day for guest bloggers, but I haven’t had time to choose someone and pull together a coherent post, so I’m throwing a party instead. As Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett would sing, “Pour me something tall and strong – it’s five o’clock somewhere!” Stop in, bring your favorite dish, and introduce yourself – the party will run all weekend. I’m bringing pasta with my raunchy homemade pesto featuring basil from my garden and a big box of Franzia chardonnay (when it comes to wine, I’m cheap and easy.)

I borrowed this idea from Alexis Grant, who got it from literary agent Rachelle Gardner, but in keeping with my former career as an art therapist, I’m adding my own twist with a little creative visualization. Writers, envision yourself at a great cocktail party at your favorite conference. Personally, I’m picturing the party the Mystery Writers of America throw after their Alex Katz the-cocktail-partyEdgars Symposium in New York City. Now imagine you’re introduced to someone you’ve always wanted to meet – a top agent, maybe, or your favorite author. You’ve got only a minute or two to captivate them so much that they’ll be dying to read your book.


Okay, now write down that speech and post it here as a comment! Be sure to include a link to your website or blog if you have one. But you don’t have to be a writer to join the party – readers of all persuasions are welcome too! Come on in out of lurking mode and let us hear from you. I hope we can all discover some folks we’d like to know better.

If there’s something exciting going on in your life that you’d love to share, feel free to do that too. I’ll start: I’ve been spending much of the week in Woodstock helping my daughter Stacey paint the rooms in her new house. Her daughters, Kaya, age 10 and Jasper, age 3, spent the past week with the other grandparents in Connecticut, so the moving and painting blitz could happen without distraction. But they’re driving the kids back today, and we’ll all converge on the house this afternoon. It’ll be the girls’ first night sleeping in their new home. I’m hoping Kaya will like the celadon green we picked for her room, and we’re pretty sure Jasper will love her pale pink walls. On the way there, my husband and I will pick up a fancy cake and get an appropriate message inscribed.

The day will be especially meaningful because Stacey’s husband, Adam, died unexpectedly on August 25th last year. As you can imagine, they’ve been through a difficult journey since then, and it’s marvelous that they have the chance to celebrate this new beginning. Sometimes the joys of family surpass the pleasures of the writing life.

Hosting Guest Bloggers: 20 questions about best practices

Butterfly on pink flowerThis past Friday, I hosted my first guest blogger, Sunny Frazier. How did she get the gig? Simple – she sent me an e-mail attachment with an engaging essay titled “Am I A Writer?” I read it, liked it, and voila – my first guest. I’ve heard from other potential guests as well, but Sunny was the first to send me a post that was ready to cut and paste.

All of a sudden, I have more empathy for agents and editors who have to handle queries. I’ve received several e-mails from people saying they’d like to be guests on my blog. Sometimes they include the name of a book they’ve written, sometimes not. This tells me next to nothing. Often they ask what I’d like them to write about. Damned if I know – if I did, I’d write it myself! If they would read my blog, react to it, and then send me something they think would be a good fit, I’d be a lot more likely to invite them as guests. If I have to send them individualized e-mails explaining what to do and offering suggested topics, their odds diminish radically.

Gosh, I’m sounding grouchy – please don’t take it personally, anyone. Today I’d planned to post some guidelines for guest bloggers, but I’ve realized I have more questions than answers. Here are some of them:

How do you decide whom to invite as a guest blogger? How would you rank the following in order of importance?

Reputation and/or quality of their published books?

Quality and/or entertainment value of the writing on their blogs?

Number of stats they get on their blogs?

Relevance of the genre they write in?

Reciprocity – the fact that they’ve been a faithful visitor to your blog?

Personal friendship?

What if someone sends you a post you consider mediocre or worse? Do you publish it anyway? Do you think the quality of your guests will influence people not to revisit your blog?

What if someone sends you a review copy and you really dislike it?

Do you encourage guests to submit posts that consist primarily of promoting their own books?

Are you willing to run posts people have already published elsewhere?

How much do you edit and/or cut your guests’ posts?

How much should you expect them to promote their visit to your blog? Where would you like them to promote it, and when should they start?

What about comments? Should they visit on the day of their posting to reply to peoples’ comments?

For that matter, how important is it for the blog host to reply to comments in general? I know it’s common courtesy, but does anyone really expect those comments about comments? (This is a bit off-topic, but it’s something I’ve been wondering about.)

Is there something else I’ve forgotten that I should be asking about?

 There, that’s 20 questions, more or less. I was going to number them so that people could comment by the number, but that would mess up the formatting, so I won’t be that compulsive. Nevertheless, I hope you’ll respond by commenting on those questions that may strike your fancy, or by contributing new questions of your own. Once I’ve sifted through all the answers, maybe I’ll be ready to write up my guidelines for guest bloggers. Oh, and I still haven’t decided on a guest for Friday. If you send me an essay of 400 to 600 words ASAP, maybe you can be the chosen one! Send them to me by email:

Stay tuned for my next post, when I’ll revert to my 60’s nostalgia thread and talk about my close encounters with Jimi Hendrix and other superstars (SPOILER ALERT: don’t get your hopes up – the encounters weren’t all THAT close!)