If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

August Interview Schedule
8/7 Rhys Bowen Love and Death Among the Cheetahs
8/14 Heather Gilbert Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass
8/21 Lynn Chandler Willis Tell Me No Secrets
8/28 Cynthia Kuhn The Subject of Malice
8/31 Bernard Schaffer An Unsettled Grave

Saturday Guest Bloggers: 8/3 M. S. Spencer, 8/10 Zaida Alfaro

WWK Satuday Bloggers: 8/24 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!

Susan Van Kirk's A Death At Tippett Pond was released on June 15th. Read E. B. Davis's interview with Susan.

KM Rockwood's "Frozen Daiquiris" appears in The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. The anthology will be released on June 18th.

Congratulations to Margaret S. Hamilton for being a finalist in the Daphne Du Maurier contest. Margaret competes in the Unpublished/Mainstream mystery/suspense category.

Congratulations to Shari Randall for WINNING the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Her book, Curses, Boiled Again was published by St. Martin's last year. Read the interview about the book here. Yay, Shari!

Fishy Business anthology authors include KM Rockwood, Debra Goldstein, and James M. Jackson. This volume was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Please read Margaret S. Hamilton and Debra Goldstein's short stories (don't ask about their modus operandi) in a new anthology, Cooked To Death Vol. IV: Cold Cut Files

Warren Bull's Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories was released. It is available at: GoRead: https://www.goread.com/book/abraham-lincoln-seldom-told-stories or at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ydaklx8p

Grace Topping's mystery, Staging is Murder was released April 30.

James M. Jackson extends the Seamus McCree series with the May 25th publication of #6, False Bottom.


Monday, August 19, 2019

It Started With an Article in the Community Paper by Judy Penz Sheluk

It was March 2018, a cold and blustery day in my small town of Alliston, Ontario, Canada, the groundhog getting his forecast for an early spring wrong once again. I sat down at the kitchen table with a cup of cinnamon rooibos tea and the community paper, setting aside the grocery store flyers for later perusal. As I scanned obituaries (yes, I do that) and stories of local politics, restaurant openings, and high school sports accomplishments, one article grabbed my attention:


The article went on to report that in 2005, a 24-year-old man had dropped out of college, moved back home, and then, one day, when he was supposed to be out job hunting, left a note for his family on the kitchen counter: he was leaving to find himself. No one has seen or heard from him since.

The photo of the young man accompanying the piece was credited to Ontario Missing Adults. I’d never heard of it, and googled to find out more. What I discovered took my breath away: eighteen pages, 25 entries per page, of missing adults, some dating back as far as 1935. Another 200 entries of Unidentified Adults, remains found, identity unknown.

And this was just for Ontario. Further research showed that in 2017, 78,000+ adults were reported to the RCMP as missing in Canada. And while the majority of cases were solved within a few days, far too many remained unsolved.

I reached out to the founder of the Missing Adults Registry, Lusia Dion. “Dealing with missing adults is a difficult issue,” she told me. “There is no law that prevents an adult from voluntarily picking up and starting a new life somewhere else. The situation is further complicated in cases where there is no clear indication of foul play. It’s a delicate balance between respecting the adult’s privacy, while trying to determine exactly what has happened to them. At the same time, family and friends of the missing person are left to grapple with feelings and situations for which there is no guidebook. I created the Ontario Registry of Missing and Unidentified Adults as a first step in helping those families.”

While the young man featured in the article initially inspired the story behind A Fool’s Journey, the novel is a compilation of many cases fueled by countless hours of scouring the Registry, and the invaluable and compassionate input of Lusia Dion, who has a small role in the book as Lucy Daneluk, founder of the fictional Ontario Registry for Missing and Unidentified Adults.

And now, here’s a bit about the book:

 In March 2000, twenty-year old Brandon Colbeck left home to find himself on a self-proclaimed “fool’s journey.” No one—not friends or family—has seen or heard from him since, until a phone call from a man claiming to be Brandon brings everything back to the forefront. Calamity (Callie) Barnstable and her team at Past & Present Investigations have been hired to find out what happened to Brandon, and, if still alive, where he might be. As Callie follows a trail of buried secrets and decades-old deceptions only one thing is certain: whatever the outcome, there is no such thing as closure.

Now available for pre-order, A Fool’s Journey, book 3 in Judy’s Marketville Mystery series, will be released on August 21 in trade paperback at all the usual suspects, and on Kindle.
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Fools-Journey-Marketville-Mystery-ebook/dp/B07VM4751B
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-fools-journey-judy-penz-sheluk/1132632054

Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of the Glass Dolphin Mystery and Marketville Mystery series, and the editor of The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense. Her short stories can be found in several collections. Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves as Vice Chair on the Board of Directors. Find her at judypenzsheluk.com.

Sunday, August 18, 2019


Serendipity: Noun. The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

I’m always in awe of my fellow authors who pound out two, three, four, or even more books each year. I wish I could be that productive. But I’m too easily distracted—squirrel! Or too intent on making sure every detail is accurate, hence a day spent on research. Or too…fill in the blank.

My contract calls for a book every eight months, and that’s about all I can handle. The weeks where two books are in different stages of creation generally have me tripping the fine line of madness. Currently, I’m drafting the tenth in the Zoe Chambers series and working on edits on the ninth one. I spend mornings drafting #10, afternoons revising #9.

Which book am I working on? That scene happened when? In what book?

Most of the time, I gnash my teeth and refer to my series bible and my outline in Scrivener to keep things straight.

The first draft is coming along. Slowly. The revisions are coming along as well and moving forward at a nice clip. Or were, until I hit my freelance editor’s notes for chapter ten.

Without giving anything away, one of my secondary characters, a reporter, knows things thanks to a “source.” Zoe questions her about the identity of this informant, but the reporter smugly avoids answering.

I didn’t feel the identity of her source was vital to the story. The truth is, I had no clue who it was! I thought I could let it slide. Reporters always have confidential informants, right?


My editor wasn’t buying it. She insisted I—I mean my character—had to reveal the name.

The annoying part is two of my beta readers had said the same thing. I’d ignored them. But I pay this editor good money to keep me honest. Which means, I had to put the screws to my reporter character and get her to tell me her secrets.

She stubbornly refused. For days. I tried all my usual tricks. Nothing worked.

Until one night I decided enough was enough. Waiting for a secretive character to cough up information was akin to waiting for the Muse to inspire me to write.

I can’t wait that long!

I sat down and thought it out. Who would know this information that the reporter’s privy to?

And it came to me. Like the proverbial bolt of lightning. I slapped my head. Of course! It made perfect sense. So perfect, in fact, I’m ashamed Zoe didn’t figure it out already!

The best parts? It will require two sentences to fix #9. Even better, I can continue the thread in #10, where it fits perfectly!


So, readers, care to share any moments of serendipity in your own lives?

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Welcome to Our Guest Author, Sherry Harris

Welcome to our guest, Sherry Harris.

Thank you for having me on Writers Who Kill! I get asked lots of questions about publishing and my career, so I picked a few to answer here.

What was it like to have your first book published?

Thrilling and terrifying. After years of dreaming about being published, to have it finally happen was unbelievable! But about two weeks before the publication of my first book Tagged for Death, I started having a lot of anxiety. What if everyone hated it? Maybe I could buy all the copies and no one would ever read it. Well, duh, that’s not going to work. I can’t buy all the ebook copies. It felt like I was about to take my baby out into the world for the first time, and I was worried someone would say, “Did you see the nose on that thing?” or “Boy, that is one ugly baby!”

However, going to the bookstore and seeing it on the shelf? Sheer joy. My husband and daughter went with me and there was screaming involved. Enough that a couple of people came over. One bought my book and I signed it for her.

Is the publishing world anything like you thought it would be?

It has many more ups and downs than I dreamed were possible. I’ve seen author friends’ wonderful series cancelled for no apparent reason. I’ve heard tales of shady agents and terrible contracts. Publishers cancel lines or go out of business with no warning. It’s tough out there. I’m grateful for every book that comes out.

How much money do you make?

I used to say I make enough to live in a cardboard box under a bridge. Now I say I could live in a nicer box under a nicer bridge. If my husband didn’t have a good job and didn’t support my career, I couldn’t write full time. Most authors don’t make enough to live on.

Do you read your reviews?

I do. I wish I could stay away but it’s like the Sirens calling sailors to their rocky shores.

What about bad reviews?

My first few were devastating. My daughter painted me a saying: You can have the sweetest, juiciest peach, but not everyone likes peaches. So if you ever see me muttering, “Not everyone likes peaches,” you know I read a bad review. To be honest, now I don’t usually mind them, some have valid points. What I don’t like are the ones who are mean for no reason or inaccurate. Read the whole book if you are going to leave a bad review.

Who comes up with your titles?

My editor and I work on them together. Sometimes we duke it out – he wins.

Who is your favorite author?

I know too many and could never pick just one.

What do you read?

I tend to read darker than I write. I’ve never figured out what that is about. I read mostly crime fiction with a bit of women’s fiction if I need a palate cleanser. I also read nonfiction that is applicable for research.

Have you ever been rejected?

Many times! I have a stack of rejection letters that I keep to remind me of where I’ve been and how hard it is to get published. You have to develop a thick skin to be in this business. Rejection is part of the process. I just kept working at my craft—taking classes, going to conferences, reading books on writing. I still do because I always want the next book to be better than the last one.

What’s next?

Let’s Fake a Deal just came out and Sell Low, Sweet Harriet comes out on December 31, 2019. Both are part of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries. Also, the first book in a new series, From Beer to Eternity, A Chloe Jackson Sand Dollar Saloon mystery comes out in August of 2020. It’s set in a bar on the white, sandy beaches of the panhandle of Florida. And that’s a story for another day.

About Sherry Harris

Sherry Harris is the Agatha Award nominated author of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mystery
series. She is the President of Sisters in Crime, a member of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers.

In her spare time Sherry loves reading and is a patent holding inventor. Sherry, her husband, and guard dog Lily are living in northern Virginia until they figure out where they want to move to next.

Twitter: @SHarrisAuthor
Instagram: SherryHarrisAuthor

Friday, August 16, 2019

Books Crying Out to be Written - Warren Bull

Image by Putika Ayura on Upsplash

Z is for Zealot by Sue Grafton.
We really miss you, Sue. It is a shame that your alphabet ended with Y.
Every book in the series showed your growth and willingness to experiment with the craft of writing. You were utterly fearless blogging about your work even while you were in the process of writing. I wish you had aged as slowly as Kinsey did so you could continue to demonstrate what authentic writing looks like. Even your minor characters came across as real people. Your research was impeccable. What I especially miss is your subtle humor and the way you could “lay it between the lines.”

The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens

When he died in 1870, Dickens had completed only six of his planned dozen installments for The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Unfortunately, his death meant that the identity of the story’s murderer was never revealed—but things might have been different if Queen Victoria had been into spoilers: Three months before his death Dickens sent a letter to the Queen offering to tell her "a little more of it in advance of her subjects.” She declined the offer, and now we’ll never know what he might have told her. That hasn’t stopped at least a dozen people from writing continuations and adaptations, including one from a Vermont printer who claimed to have channeled Dickens’s ghost with his “spirit pen.”

The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain

At his death in 1910, Twain left behind three unfinished manuscripts of three different but related stories—"The Chronicle of Young Satan," "Schoolhouse Hill," and "No. 44, the Mysterious Stranger.” All involved Satan, Satan's nephew, or “No. 44.” Twain’s biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine, cobbled the three together into a 1916 book called The Mysterious Stranger, based mostly on “The Chronicle of Young Satan” but with the ending from “No. 44.” The extent to which the work was Paine’s product, as opposed to Twain’s, wasn’t known until the 1960s, when editors published a second version that supposedly stuck closer to Twain’s original intent. The dark, dreamlike story is now considered Twain’s last great work.

The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway began The Garden of Eden in 1946 and worked on it intermittently for more than 15 years until his death in 1961, when he left it unfinished. However, the book was finally published in 1986, after a controversial editing process that cut it down by at least two-thirds and ripped out an entire subplot. Intriguingly, some scholars have argued that Hemingway was forging a new direction with the work, both in style and content, which the editing sacrificed and compressed.

Answered Prayers by Truman Capote

During the last years of his life, Truman Capote frequently claimed to be working on a book called Answered Prayers. (He signed the contract just two weeks before In Cold Blood hit bookstores and became a spectacular success.) But despite repeatedly extended deadlines with his editors and a generous advance, Answered Prayers was never completed. In 1971, during an appearance on The Dick Cavett Show, Capote referred to it as his “posthumous novel,” saying "either I'm going to kill it, or it's going to kill me.’”
Four chapters of the book were finally published in Esquire in 1975 and 1976, with disastrous results: the book was a thinly veiled account of the lifestyles of the rich and famous, many of whom were Capote’s friends. Stunned after recognizing themselves in the chapters, most of Capote’s friends abandoned him—sending the writer into a depressive spiral of drugs and alcohol from which some say he never recovered.
The book’s remaining chapters are something of a mystery. They may still be languishing in a safe deposit box somewhere (some think they’re in a locker at the Los Angeles Greyhound Bus Depot). Others think they may have never existed, despite all of Capote’s talk. Nevertheless, three of the chapters from Esquire were published in book form in 1987 (three years after Capote died) under the title Answered Prayers: The Unfinished Novel. Critics weren’t kind. One said: "It was never finished because it wasn't going anywhere."

The Journey Abandoned by Lionel Trilling

In 1947, Lionel Trilling, the prominent literary critic, published a novel entitled The Middle of the Journey. While conducting research in the archives at Columbia University, Geraldine Murphy discovered a second novel-a clean, well-crafted "third" of a book that Trilling described as having "point, immediacy, warmth under control, drama, and even size." The Journey Abandoned was supposed to be a novel about the anomalies of heroic action in a conformist age. Published with Geraldine Murphy’s writing and editing, the finished book offers a personal portrait of the life of letters in America. 

The Fellowship Continues by JRR Tolkien
I, for one, cannot believe that the Hobbits who returned from the quest lived out the rest of their lives without further adventures and daring deeds. I regret that Tolkien did not tell us what they were. I was particularly taken with Samwise “Sam” Gangee. He even wore the one ring briefly. He was tempted, but not swayed by the powers it promised. His unflagging loyalty, even in the face of impossible odds and hopelessness makes him one of the most deserving under-developed characters of all time. Oh, how I want a sequel.
Sanditon by Jane Austen

Who knows what wonders the novel, which would have included 11 chapters she had completed when she died, would have contained. Set in the bright, but absurd new seaside resort of Sanditon, it promised to be a satire of Regency follies, as only she could have written.

Which author left you hungering for more? What book would you love to see written?

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Why I Write Cozies

     Like many novelists who have been writing for several years, I have written in several genres—mysteries, romantic suspense and books for kids. Recently, I find myself drawn to writing cozies. Here's why:

1. I enjoy writing mysteries and prefer leaving the CSI end of it to others. I’m interested in the puzzle aspect. The human factor. How my characters relate to one another. Why was a person or persons murdered? How does my sleuth track him or her down and prove his or her guilt?

2. I love writing a mystery from an amateur sleuth’s perspective. Not a homicide detective armed and trained to solve murders, but a so-called “average” citizen with enough intelligence, drive, and curiosity to solve a mystery. Like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, cozy sleuths observe suspects. They ask questions. They eavesdrop. They do research. They befriend the police investigating the murder. In my Haunted Library mystery series written as Allison Brook, Carrie Singleton is the head of Programs and Events of the Clover Ridge Library in Connecticut. Sleuths in my other mystery series are a high school English teacher, a retired CEO, and a college professor who leads a Golden Age of Mystery book club.

3. While I enjoy plotting, my characters are my priority. What makes each of them tick? How do they relate to one another? Why do they behave the way they do? Some of my characters are quirky. Others are likable. They are very real to me. They have to be since they appear in one book after another.

4. I love writing cozies because they’re written in series. I love writing series because with each new book, readers get a chance to learn more about my sleuth and her friends, family, love interests and enemies. My characters evolve and mature. In the Haunted Library series, Carrie Singleton starts out as an unhappy loner who dyes her hair purple and wears Goth-style clothing. Over time she develops friendships, a romantic relationship, and a growing concern for the town where she lives.

5. I ADORE secrets. Many of my characters have secrets that impact their current behavior. Secrets can make a character look guilty when she isn’t. Secrets can drive a character to murder.

6. Cozies are set in small towns where everyone knows everyone else. A cozy’s setting is another character of the story because it affects all the characters. My Haunted Library mystery series takes place in Clover Ridge, CT, a small town with centuries-old homes, restaurants, and shops built around a village green. The library where my sleuth, Carrie Singleton, works is housed in one of these large former residences.

7. Romance winds its way in many cozies. In DEATH OVERDUE, the first book in my Haunted Library series, Carrie finds herself attracting the attention of two very different men.

8. Animals and cozies go hand-in-hand. In DEATH OVERDUE, a stray half-grown cat attaches himself to Carrie and she ends up bringing him to work with her. Smoky Joe proves to be very sociable and becomes the Library Cat. In one book in the series he helps solve a mystery.

9. Cozies are resolved on a happy note. The murderer is caught. Future books in the series give one’s sleuth an opportunity to forge more adventures and solve more mysteries.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

An Interview with Heather Day Gilbert by E. B. Davis

“You know they’re just going to waste it on alcohol or drugs, BB,” she’d say,
using my initials as a pet name to soften me.
I didn’t really care how the homeless spent it. All I knew was that I had a
little money and they didn’t, and I couldn’t walk on by and do nothing.
I felt the same way about Margo’s death. I’d found her, so it seemed I should
go one step further and search for the one who’d viciously strangled her.
Heather Day Gilbert, Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass, Kindle Loc. 587

Pet-sitter Belinda Blake doesn’t rattle easily, but move-in day has been eventful, to say the least. The python in her care tried to slither to freedom—just as she met Stone Carrington V, her landlords’ disarmingly handsome son. With the constrictor back in its cage, she heads out to the garden, only to discover a designer shoe poking out of the boxwood hedge—attached to a woman’s dead body.

The victim, Margo Fenton, was a Carrington family friend, and no one in their circle seems above suspicion. Between client trips to Manhattan and visits to her family in upstate New York, Belinda begins to put the pieces together. But though she’s falling for Stone’s numerous charms, Belinda wonders if she’s cozying up to a killer. And soon, daily contact with a deadly reptile might be the least dangerous part of her life . . .

Heather Day Gilbert’s Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass, her first Exotic Pet-Sitter mystery, is also her first traditionally published mystery. She’s self-published many novels and has written a nonfiction book on self-publishing. She’s also garnished a few nominations and awards in faith-based fiction. To me, that’s an interesting way to get traditionally published.

Belinda Blake, Heather’s main character, pet-sits for exotic animals. When she moves from NYC to tony Greenwich, Connecticut, her rental is a carriage house on the Carrington family’s estate. Behind the carriage house is a garden, which seems to grow corpses. In life, those bodies were friends of the estate owners’ son, Stone Carrington V. He has lots of issues. Whether or not he is guilty of murder is Belinda’s problem. Her family, in upstate NY, is wary for her.

Please welcome Heather Day Gilbert to WWK.
E. B. Davis

How and why did Belinda start her pet-sitting business?

Belinda is the kind of person who doesn't relish a desk job. She likes adventure and is easily bored, so she kind of stumbled into sitting exotic pets when she was sitting more "normal" pets in Manhattan. She's comfortable with many kinds of pets because her father, who lives in upstate New York, is a veterinarian and she grew up working in his office and going on house calls with him.

What is Belinda’s sideline business?

She's a video game reviewer. As the series progresses, this aspect of her life starts to take on a bigger role, as her blogposts/articles become extremely popular in gamer circles. I grew up with video games and I still enjoy playing in my free time, so the gamer side job was quite natural for me to write about.

Although Belinda doesn’t seem fearful of Rasputin, a ball python, she also doesn’t seem very knowledgeable about snakes other than what the owner has told her. Is lack of fear the best attribute of an exotic pet-sitter? Does she have experience?

She does have some experience with unusual pets—after all, her dad was a vet in an area where farms are par for the course, so she's been around cows, chickens, and more. But in this book, we see this is her first encounter snake-sitting. She does her research ahead of time and she consults her vet dad before accepting jobs, and in this case, the doting snake's owner gave her a bullet-point list of expectations for his snake's care. :) She basically goes into it ready to follow the owner's wishes, because that's why he's paying her the big bucks!

Belinda knows Rasputin is a constrictor. Why would she allow the snake to rope itself around her neck? Is she suicidal?

I think she likely watched the same kind of YouTube videos I did, where you'll see ball python owners handling their snakes and allowing them to slither around on them (or even watch TV with them!). She was also following the owner's careful instructions about "walking" his pet so it could get fresh air. And Belinda's personality is not one given to fear. She's done some riskier things in her life, so this is just another on her list. She tends to dive into things before realizing she might be in over her head.

Why do ball pythons need humidity? How often do they shed? Eat?

From what I can tell in my research, answers vary with each snake. Some advise bathing the snake (as Belinda does in this book), and some don't. Some advise feeding rats, some mice. The pythons need humidity as they gear up to shed, which can be once a month, with younger snakes shedding more often and older snakes shedding less often. Feeding can vary, as well, but can be every ten days, give or take.

When Belinda finds Margo Fenton’s body in her garden, why doesn’t she just dial 911?

Hm. I'd have to reread it, but she might not have had her phone, and there are people milling around nearby at the manor house where the owner lives, so she runs for help first. Greenwich is a very exclusive town and I suspect she wanted to make sure the homeowners knew there was a dead body in their yard and see how they wanted to proceed, especially since she'd just moved into their carriage house and the Carringtons have a private security team. But the bottom line is that she was probably in shock, despite keeping a relatively cool head when she discovered the body.

Do formidable people usually have something to hide?

I wouldn't say that—I've known many formidable older people who are quite transparent. On the other hand, I'd say many people are hiding at least one thing.

Stone Carrington V is about Belinda’s age. Why does he start to investigate Margo’s murder?

He was a close family friend of Margo, and he regularly played pool ("billiards") with her. He wants to know why she died on his family's estate.

How is Katrina, Belinda’s older sister, who is an Albany psychologist, the direct opposite of Belinda?

Katrina is quite practical and has a "mama bear" personality—she's always advising Belinda to be careful. Belinda, of course, rarely listens. Katrina instinctively distrusts people, and Belinda tends to trust a little too easily. Katrina has always been an over-achiever, and Belinda is a fly-by-night personality who really doesn't plan ahead. And in looks, Katrina has dark, curly hair and porcelain skin, whereas Belinda has curly naturally blonde hair and freckles/light tan. You'll see how their personalities work together as the series goes on—Katrina often helps her sister by giving her take on the possible psyches of the murderers.

Why didn’t Belinda go to college?

Actually, she did, but then she went directly into the Peace Corps in China. Predictable jobs don't interest her much.

When Stone asks Belinda to help him interview mutual friends of his and the victim’s, Belinda thinks of the outing as a date. Why?

That would be because Stone set it up that way, at a very posh restaurant, etc. He also seems to be hitting on Belinda from the start of the book, which tends to confuse things for her. After all, he is incredibly rich and handsome, but he's also approachable, even though he's the "lord of the manor," so to speak. She's impressed he's so rich and yet so friendly to her. She instinctively likes him...but sometimes Belinda's instincts are wrong. ;) Still, she's not the type to sit around second-guessing herself when she likes someone.

Tell readers about Red, my favorite character, if you would?

I like Red too. Let's see...you'll get to know more about Red in the second and third books, so I'm not sure how much to tell! Let's just say he's a chauffeur, but he seems to carry out some bodyguard duties along the way. He used to be in the Army before he took the chauffeur job with the Carrington family.

Even though Belinda finds out Stone has kept secrets from her, she defends him to her mother, sister, and an old friend from back home, Jonas Hawthorne. Why does she have faith in Stone?

Again, Belinda kind of acts on her instinct about people, and she tends to look for the good in people (unlike her sister). She likes that Stone isn't stuck-up and that he seems to genuinely enjoy her company, even though she's not a Greenwich socialite.

Why does Belinda need alone-time?

She's a bookish introvert, so give her a rainy day, a book, and a cup of coffee, and she's happy. She doesn't love big groups, but she's great one-on-one with people. Sometimes I think she doesn't realize how winsome she is, because she spends a lot of time feeling she's messed things up. Like most introverts, she needs time alone to decompress and process the events of the day.

What’s next for Belinda?
She's about to accept a rather dangerous job at a wolf preserve. I had an absolute blast researching for book two, Belinda Blake and the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, which is available for preorder here and will release this October. And she'll have another adventure—book 3 releases in February of 2020. I'm hoping this series will do well and I can write even more books about Belinda, because she's so fun!

Heather Day Gilbert, an ECPA Christy award finalist and Grace award winner, writes contemporary mysteries and Viking historicals. Her novels feature small towns, family relationships, and women who aren’t afraid to protect those they love. Like Belinda Blake, Heather plays video games, although so far she hasn't done any exotic pet-sitting or hunted any murderers. Find out more on HeatherDayGilbert.com.

 Heather Day Gilbert and Liesel, her Shiloh Shepherd

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Release from Prison by KM Rockwood

One of my assorted past jobs was in a medium security state prison, where I supervised a work crew
of about ten inmates.

Working day in and day out with a small group of convicted criminals offers an interesting perspective on our law enforcement, courts, corrections and some of the people who get caught up in the system.

As long as I worked for the state, I was careful to follow the regulations surrounding interaction between staff and inmates. Not everyone is. One of my co-workers became pregnant by an inmate, and married him when he was released.

When budget cutbacks and changes in administrative practices gutted most of the programs and services available in the prison, changing the entire atmosphere, I decided to move on. Once I was no longer a state employee, I was free to keep in touch with many of the inmates, primarily by mail. For some, I was their only contact with anyone outside prison.

Having access to inside information on how things worked, from a convict’s point of view, has been a wonderful asset for my writing.

At some point, I promised one guy, Smitty, that I’d pick him up and take him to lunch when he got released from prison. And drive him to whatever program or housing he managed to find.

To tell the truth, I never thought the day would come.

Smitty’d been caught in the revolving recidivism cycle for most of his life, starting as a fifteen-year-old, and understandably a judge finally got fed up with it. He sentenced Smitty close to forty years for a whole slew of burglary, robbery and drug offenses.

He’d have parole hearings, of course, but who’d ever vote to parole him?

Prisons got more and more overcrowded. Budgets got cut. Public and political opinion on “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” thinking began to change.

Smitty got older and mellowed out. He started working as an observation aide. In that position, he took eight-hour shifts sitting outside the cell of an inmate on suicide watch, checking on him and making a notation every ten minutes. It paid a little over a dollar a shift. He was careful and conscientious.

Finally, he was granted parole on a delayed release.

He didn’t realize it at the time, but another factor probably figured into the decision. He was at a very high risk for liver cancer. If he developed it while he was incarcerated, the prison system would be responsible for providing expensive care, probably including trips to outside facilities. Each trip would take several corrections officers and a vehicle, a considerable expense. And always a security risk.

The eighteen months before his release date were supposed to prepare him for re-entry to society. Transfer to a minimum security/prerelease program. Participate in Narcotics Anonymous. Be assigned to an outside work detail, probably picking up trash along the highway. Finally get a job on work release, preferably somewhere he could save up some money and continue to work after he walked out that gate.

Something went wrong with these plans. Smitty wouldn’t tell me exactly what happened, but he ended up being charged with a disciplinary violation that resulted in an overnight transfer from the prerelease program to a maximum-security prison miles away.

Whatever the violation was, the charges didn’t stick, and there was no re-consideration of his release date. He would be released on schedule.

But now he was in a prison which didn’t expect and wasn’t equipped to release inmates directly. It didn’t have the cadre of social workers, drug counselors, re-entry specialists, and programs the pre-release centers had.

Since it was a long-term, maximum security facility, re-classifications were held annually. Smitty had one at the pre-release program the night they transferred him, which increased his security level to maximum. He wouldn’t get another one for a year. Well after his scheduled release date.

He would step directly from one of the most restrictive environments in the corrections system to the street. With the clothes on his back and fifty dollars gate money.

One of the few people to whom he could appeal for help was the chaplain. To give the man the credit he’s due, he set Smitty up with a religious re-entry program that would house and support him for six months as he found a job and a place to live.

To stay in the program, he’d have to attend religious services and NA meetings regularly, but the meetings would be required by the terms of his parole, anyhow. As would an ankle monitor and periodic drug tests.

When I arrived to pick him up, at the time the prison’s information officer gave me, Smitty’s release hadn’t been processed yet.

The actual release took place in an auxiliary building across the huge, wind-swept parking lot that separated it from the main prison. He was escorted, handcuffed and shackled, by two corrections officers. Until he had the paperwork signed and approved, he was a maximum-security inmate and would be treated as such.

The officers had jackets, but Smitty was shivering by the time they arrived.

I wasn’t surprised at the delay. If there’s one thing prison inmates have an abundance of, it’s time. Very seldom does anyone have a sense of urgency. I knew I’d just have to wait while he was unshackled and a clerk went through a whole pile of paperwork with him.

Sign away a number of rights. Agree to parole search and detention, which meant no warrant or even reasonable suspicion was needed. Promise to pay the not-inconsiderable costs of drug testing, the ankle monitor and all parole-related expenses. Report to the parole office within 24 hours.

Property returned. The clothes in which he’d been arrested, a pair of shorts & a T-shirt, no longer fit. He hadn’t been wearing shoes.

A few coins, no folding money. A paper clip. A worn wallet with an expired drivers license and a scrap of paper with phone numbers of people he hadn’t heard from in twenty years and probably were no longer in service, at least to anybody he knew.

Aware that he’d be released with one set of clothes, I had been visiting thrift stores for the past few months looking for what he’d need. I also got some basic, easily fixed, food supplies. I went to the car and got him the jacket I’d found.

When he was finally done, both of the officers shook his hand and wished him luck. “Don’t let us see you back here.”

Holding his emotions firmly in check, Smitty slipped on the jacket and followed me out the door.

He marveled as I unlocked the car using my key fob. He had never seen a seatbelt with a shoulder strap, and struggled with that.

As I settled into the driver’s seat, he said, “Let’s get far away from here. Fast.”

I will continue the saga of Smitty’s re-introduction to the world outside prison on my next blog.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Travel Wisdom from the Camino de Santiago

By Shari Randall

The Camino de Santiago (the Road of St. James) is a pilgrimage that leads across Europe to the green hills of northwest Spain and Santiago de Compostela, home of a spectacular cathedral that the faithful believe houses the bones of the apostle James. The pilgrimage was popular in the Middle Ages and then slowly declined. In the seventies, the work of a Spanish professor renewed interest in the Camino, and in 2010 the movie, The Way, brought the route even more attention.

My husband and I saw The Way and were fascinated by the Camino’s combination of outdoor beauty, culture, spirituality, and physical challenge. This summer we decided to join the over 200,00 people who walk “The Way,” every year — all seekers, each seeking something different, in the steps of those long ago pilgrims.
The traditional pilgrim travels with everything on his back, a sturdy walking stick in hand, staying the night at bare bones dormitory-style hostels called refugios. But companies have sprung up to serve the needs of modern pilgrims and will shuttle suitcases from one hotel or albergue to the next while the pilgrim carries only the day’s needs in a pack. Full disclosure: we used one such company. I confess: we did the one week “slacker” Camino — or as my husband put it, the “executive” Camino.
The Camino isn’t just one trail. There are many routes to Santiago. We took the one called the Primitivo, the oldest route, and as you’ve guessed from the name, one of the most primitive, the least traveled, with the fewest services along the road. We carried packs with our daily needs: water, a little food, tissues, foot remedies, sunscreen, guidebook, and raingear, just in case.

Having to carry everything shifts your mindset. It’s surprising what you need, what you don’t need, and how what you think you need turns out to be the last thing you need.

Let me explain.

Along with the traditional symbol of the pilgrim, or peregrino, the scallop shell, many on the trail use walking sticks. Very pilgrim-ish. I’d struggled on many steep uphill sections of trail and I thought having a stick would help. However, we were on the primitive path – no stores, heck, we walked for miles seeing no buildings. As we walked, I auditioned a couple of fallen tree limbs, but nothing was strong enough – other pilgrims had had the same idea and had snatched up any sturdy branches.

As we walked into the village of Villamor, we stopped at fountain outside a church. Well, my husband stopped, I collapsed – this was Day Two and we’d walked 26 km on Day One. To my right against the stone wall were three walking sticks, an abandoned package of sponge cake, and a bottle of water. 
I looked around. No other pilgrims were in sight. The church building was closed. The cake didn’t appeal to me. But one of the sticks, a branch bleached white by the sun…
I picked it up. Smooth, the perfect size for my hand. I took a few steps, swinging it. It felt good. It matched my jacket. “Perfect,” I said. “The Camino provides.” We’d heard that along the way. Here was an example!
My husband shook his head as he munched the cake.
New energy surged through me. Now I felt like a real peregrina. As we continued our trek, I focused to coordinate the stick and my stride. Swing stick, plant stick, step, swing stick…
A few kilometers later we climbed the road toward Arzua, a small city. The stick helped, but…I had to think about coordinating the stick and my steps — a lot.
In Arzua, walking past a mix of centuries old churches, cafes, bars, motorcycle shops (two!), my energy shifted to trying not to hit anyone with my stick. Finally, we arrived at our hotel.
I leaned my stick against the brick wall by the front door and stepped back. 
“It might not be here later,” my husband said.
“That’s okay.”
Later, as I washed away the dust of the road, I considered. It would have been great to write about how the Camino provided just what I needed, when I needed it. Instead the Camino provided what I thought I needed and taught me that I didn’t need it after all. 

Probably a better lesson.

Readers, do you have any travel wisdom to share?