Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Under the Radar

This has been a very quiet year for us in terms of announcements about the books we've published or stories we've written. We've been dealing with home repairs (free air conditioning should be a constitutional right in Florida), getting involved with our new Sisters in Crime chapter, and facing our first official hurricane in the Sunshine State. You can assume from this post that we survived Hermine. It was odd, though, to get time off for bad weather in the summer.

Oh, and we had a vacation. A real vacation, the first in several years that was longer than a three-day weekend. Gwen cooked many lovely things, we swam daily, and we also got to read for pleasure, something that we don't get to do as often as we'd like.
During this quiet summer, though, after the release of Strangely Funny III, Gwen and I were very busy, but not so you'd notice on our business page. We were finishing our first novel together. You're probably wondering how we accomplished that: she's a plotter who writes very serious, often dark, mysteries set in the 1870s; I'm a snarker with a short attention span, and most of my stories are set in the present day. I think you'll like our compromise: a mystery set during the 1920s Florida land boom. It has poison, car chases, mobsters, and some serious hangovers. Oh, and one Gertrude Stein book.

Murder on the Mullet Express will be coming out in early 2017.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Guest Post: L Andrew Cooper - Jane Austen, Revulsion, and Revolution

Chances are, you won’t look at the intestines on the cover of my new collection of horror stories, Peritoneum, and think, “This guy has read every Jane Austen novel at least twice!” While I suppose Northanger Abbey should be my favorite, on some days it’s Sense and Sensibility. Austen was doing a lot of her best writing in the 1790s, which was when some of the most important early horror novels were written. Austen’s marriageable women characters seem to be in mortal danger, but their danger is murky. Gothic novelist Ann Radcliffe, Austen’s contemporary, like Austen’s phenomenally successful “domestic novelist” predecessor Samuel Richardson, made the danger much clearer: women of certain classes who lacked the protection of men were under constant threat of rape. In such an unbalanced society, even the most trivial-seeming social interactions had extreme stakes. A simple tea could make your heart jump out of your chest.
Ladies dreamt of Pemberley, and meanwhile, the French mounted heads on spikes. The 1700s were not tame or polite. Google the paintings of William Hogarth, or read the Marquis de Sade. It was a time of revolutionary extremes.
For the Peritoneum epigraph, I chose a quote from 1700s-superstar Jonathan Swift. A line from Swift: “Last week I saw a woman flayed, and you will hardly believe how much it altered her person for the worse.” A classic Swiftian bit of ironic understatement, it’s also a really gory joke. Swift uses the joke to thoughtful ends, and one of his points is this: probing beneath the surface of things, for reasons and truths, might produce ugliness instead of answers. That’s a bracing bit of wisdom from a time known as “The Age of Reason.” But when the alternative to Pemberley might be rape, women might very well feel unsafe in their skin. Austen kept the skin on, but she showed its vulnerability. Our reasons for feeling unsafe in our skin in the 2000s are different. Sexual violence remains real enough, but we have a different brand of social unbalance. We’re scared of terrorists and mass shootings and viruses and politicians and scientists, but the ugliness is still in our guts, ready to alter our persons for the worse. Ours is a time of revolutionary extremes.
Nowadays Jane Austen gets marketed with zombies and sea monsters. We don’t seem to be in a subtle, skin-on mood, which is fine with me (cf my book cover, which I adore), although I have to admit I prefer my Austen the old way. I’m not advocating for a return to Austen’s indirect manner of suggesting the horrors beneath the skin during her high-stakes ballroom soirees, nor do I think we ought to flay all the people all the time to accommodate twenty-first-century extremism. I’m saying that the 1700s, in Austen’s politeness and Swift’s abattoirs, gave us what we need for our times: both skin-on and skin-off techniques for exploring revolutionary ugliness. Austen and Swift didn’t take anything for granted. She kept the skin on because she wrote about society’s surfaces, their fragility, commenting on how she maneuvered her little brush on two little inches of delicate ivory. While Austen’s writing is as controlled as her heroines must be to survive the gauntlet of courtship, Swift’s is wild and digressive, as chaotic as a flaying, as his satirical work is itself a flaying of society to expose the guts unsusceptible to control. To explore their worlds’ revolting undersides, Austen and Swift wrote in revolutionary ways. Understated or uproarious, dancing or flayed, the characters writers suspend before readers contain glorious imperfections, the exposure of which can tantalize and horrify. The 1700s gave us blueprints for exposure. It’s time we followed them to destinations fit for modern revolt.

L. Andrew Cooper scribbles horror: novels Burning the Middle Ground and Descending Lines as well as anthologies of experimental shorts Leaping at Thorns (2014 /2016) and Peritoneum (2016). He also co-edited the anthology Imagination Reimagined (2014). His book Dario Argento (2012) examines the maestro’s movies from the 70s to the present. Cooper’s other works on horror include his non-fiction study Gothic Realities (2010), a co-edited textbook, Monsters (2012), and recent essays that discuss 2012’s Cabin in the Woods (2014) and 2010’s A Serbian Film (2015). His B.A. is from Harvard, Ph.D. from Princeton. Louisville locals might recognize him from his year-long stint as WDRB-TV’s “movie guy.” Find him at,, and


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Love those Libraries!

We were treated very well by the people at Gulf Gate. They had the rooms set up with chairs and tables, plus they had fruit and bottled water available in a nearby room. The Friends of the Library provided us with lunch, which was generous and much appreciated.

Adult Services Coordinator Ellen India was in charge of the event, and she introduced us as the newest Sisters in Crime chapter in Florida.

Ellen wore the Headdress of Power, which was subsequently passed on to me.

I did a short talk about using dialogue as a tool in writing - how it could provide useful information in a "showing" rather than a "telling" way (which sounds counterintuitive), but could also be used to reveal character.

Naturally, I gave examples. I chose from the best: Agatha Christie, Alexander McCall Smith, Len Deighton, Robert B. Parker, and Sarasota's favorite son John D. MacDonald.

I fear my serious manner may have suffered slightly while I wore The Headdress of Power.

Louise Titchener followed up with a writing workshop on the practical aspects of dialogue - tags, surrounding narrative, adding action, etc. The fun part was the 'pencils on' section.

First, we read a passage of dialogue that was turgid with excess narration and adverbs. We were invited to edit the passage and present the new (and improved) version to the group.

Then, we took a passage from John D. MacDonald that had been stripped down to only what was spoken, and asked to fill in the blank spaces between the lines. After we'd finished, Titchener read what MacDonald had written.

The Suncoast News Network was there to interview Ellen India about the Sisters in Crime program, and we were later especially gratified to see Gwen's book covers featured in the footage.

Naturally, Gwen Mayo and I had a table set up in the authors' room. We had some sales, and I got to try out Square on the new phone.

I'm afraid we were out of copies of History and Mystery, Oh My!, which contained the stories that were finalists for the Agatha Awards. Time to reorder!

In the afternoon, we had a panel discussion on unraveling the mysteries of publishing. The panelists were Gwen, representing Mystery and Horror, LLC, Brenda Spaulding, who had started by self-publishing, and Janet Heijens, a traditionally published author. The moderator was Yours Truly, who probably gave too many asides.

The panel was followed by a Q and A session that was pleasingly active.

Unfortunately, everyone who shared pictures with me was on the panel. So, I will end here with another pic of me wearing The Headdress.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sarasota, June 18: Sisters Sizzle in Sarasota Mayo and I will be at the Gulf Gate Library in Sarasota this coming Saturday as part of a double event - one held at the Barnes & Noble in Sarasota, the other at the library. Please, please come to see us if you're in the Sarasota area.

Address for the library:
7112 Curtiss Ave
Sarasota FL 34231

Author Signings from 10:30am until 4:00pm

10:30am – 11:30am
Workshop: Dazzling Dialogue – Creating Voice
Instructors; Sarah Glenn and Louise Titchner
11:30am – 11:45am Q&A

1:15pm – 2:15pm
Panel Discussion: Solving the Mysteries of Publishing
Moderator: Sarah Glenn
Panelists: Janet Heijens, Gwen Mayo, Brenda Spalding
2:15pm – 2:30pm Q&A

I hope you can come!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Nothing for Money

From Mobile Commerce Daily. Click to read article.
Conservatives are crowing victory at Wendy's latest response to the increase in minimum wages. Instead of employing cashiers, they're laying them off in favor of automated kiosks. They say this is a matter of survival in this soft economy. Other companies, whose labor cannot yet be replaced by automation or computers, continue to send jobs offshore. In some cases, I'm sure it is a matter of survival for the businesses in question. In many cases, they're having to compete with a McDonald's or a Wal-Mart. 

In other cases, the development of new technology has changed how products are delivered, and the market has changed accordingly. E-books have driven many bookstores into bankruptcy, for example, but no author or publisher can cut Amazon out of the equation without losing money. It has a near-monopoly on book sales.
Then, there's the matter of employee benefits. Many companies hire temp workers or only employ workers part-time to avoid the cost of employee benefits. I've even heard people argue that it provides an opportunity to 'monetize free time' and allows workers to travel to where the jobs are with an On The Road sort of virtue. That's fine for young, healthy, childless people or couples. It doesn't really work for older people or for people with kids. 

Children have weaker immune systems and used to die before medical care became accessible to everyone. When you get past forty, perhaps fifty if you're in good shape, the warranties start to expire on your body parts and things will start going to hell. Plus, when you get past fifty, your parents will be in their seventies and they're going to need your help. That nomadic lifestyle will end with children or with age.

There will come a point when many people in the United States can afford to buy basic products, whether it be $15 or $3, because there are not enough service jobs to go around. People like to talk about bringing manufacturing jobs back; those have already been offshored and automated out of existence. The service jobs are the new victims, and many people will not be able to find new employment. Unless a job requires the presence of a human being in person, or it requires special talents and skills, it's going somewhere else. Not everyone is a rocket scientist, though, and Wendy's doesn't need rocket scientists. 
I have a harsh message for American workers, with a follow-up for businesses who operate in the United States: the workers here are never going to be able to beat people in India who will work for a few rupees a day (never mind how I know this), or automated kiosks... unless the price of everything sold in the USA, including the products businesses require, drops to the price people pay in poorer countries. You know how ex-pats used to talk about living like kings in Mexico with a few bucks? Yeah, that's coming here or there's going to be food riots. We're going to have 'extra people' that are a 'burden on the economy', and it's not because they're lazy.

Will everything be on the dollar menu? Will the government have to increase taxes further on companies and citizens, to subsidize basic necessities for all the 'extra people' our country won't employ? Or will we have another price and wage freeze, like the one Nixon imposed?

I don't really have a great answer here; the truth is, many smaller companies are struggling to survive, and if they go belly up there will be no jobs. I get that. I do know, though, that I won't be eating at Wendy's any time soon... especially since my first job was as a Wendy's cashier.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Strangely Funny III: D J Tyrer Interview

DJ Tyrer, who is the person behind Atlantean Publishing, was short-listed for the 2015 Carillon 'Let's Be Absurd' Fiction Competition, and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines in the UK, USA and elsewhere, such as Warlords of the Asteroid Belt (Rogue Planet Press), Strangely Funny II (Mystery & Horror LLC), Destroy All Robots (Dynatox Ministries), Steam Chronicles (Zimbell House) and Chilling Horror Short Stories (Flame Tree), State of Horror: Illinois (Charon Coin Press), and Irrational Fears (FTB Press), as well as issues of Sirens Call and Tigershark ezines, and also has a novella available on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor).

What would you like people to know about you?
As little as possible! Perhaps, that I edit the Atlantean Publishing small press, which is currently working with the press Carrion Blue 555 on a King in Yellow anthology titled A Terrible Thing which is planned for release in paperback towards the end of 2016.

When did you begin writing?

Well, I've been writing ever since I could hold a pen, but in a published sense, around twenty years, for the first decade within the British small presses, but internationally and with greater visibility in recent years.

How did you get the idea for your story in Strangely Funny III, "Attack of the Rad-Zombies"?
Bad B-movies!

Is there a genre you haven't written in, but would like to?
I've tried most genres (whether successfully or not is another question!) as I enjoy the challenge of tackling the unfamiliar, but the ones I would like to do more of and have success with are crime and thrillers (without a supernatural element). I'd also like to have the time to tackle my ideas for novels!

Who are your current favorite authors? What do you enjoy about them?
I frequently reread HP Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and RW Chambers, while I enjoy James Patterson and Clive Cussler for relaxation with a fun adventure. Naturally, I read a lot of fiction and poetry submissions and review material for Atlantean Publishing and I always look forward to work by writers such as Neal Wilgus, Steve Sneyd and Cardinal Cox in particular.

Strangely Funny IIIWhat are you working on next?
Other than the usual round of short stories and poetry for submission to various anthologies and magazines, I've got three novellas in various states of progress, as well as a couple of collections that I would like to progress to the publication stage.

What is your favorite writing snack food/drink?
I seldom snack when writing, but I do drink a lot of Pepsi Max (although I've been cutting back in favour of water recently).

Thanks for your virtual visit!

To read "Attack of the Rad-Zombies" and a bunch of other hilarious stories, check out Strangely Funny III, now available at Amazon in print and Kindle formats.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Should Have Played Poker: Debra H. Goldstein

Today, I'm pleased to introduce you to Judge Debra H. Goldstein. She's the author of Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery (Five Star Publishing – April 2016) and the 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue, a mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus. Her short stories and essays have been published in numerous periodicals and anthologies, including Mardi Gras Murder and The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fourth Meal of Mayhem. Debra serves on the national Sisters in Crime, Guppy Chapter and Alabama Writers Conclave boards and is a MWA member. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband, Joel, whose blood runs crimson.

When did you first decide to become an author, and why did you shift your focus from publishing to law?
As far back as my first memories, I wanted to tell stories – of course, they were usually tales aimed at getting one of my cousins in trouble.  As time passed, I wrote short stories and plays for school and my neighborhood friends, but I thought, when I went to college, I probably would end up being a journalist who occasionally wrote creatively on the side. Two days after graduating early from the University of Michigan, I went to New York seeking a job in publishing and an opportunity to get on Jeopardy.  In case things didn’t work out, I spent evenings of the days I was job-hunting typing up law school applications for the following fall.  I was lucky enough to meet my goals, but realized I wanted to attend law school. Once I did that, my author career was put on a back burner, except for briefs, decisions, and social writings, for most of the years that I was a litigator and judge. In 2010, I became interested in creative writing again. After my 2012 IPPY winning book, Maze in Blue, a mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus in the 1970’s, was published, I became so involved in the publishing world that I decided being an author rather than a judge was the career I wanted to pursue.

You were on Jeopardy!  How did they choose you? What was it like?
I became hooked on Jeopardy when I was in elementary school.  It became a dream to become a contestant.  When I was graduating from college, I sent in an application and was assigned an interview time. This was when they still did in person interviews in New York and occasionally other cities, fifty to sixty people at a time, rather than the computer application process. We were brought into a large room where Polaroid pictures of us were taken and attached to a written application we filled out.  Once the applications were collected, the moderator threw out an answer and went around the room seeking questions from us, not changing until we ran out of possibilities.  Because I followed the advice I received to sit in the front row and be eager, I was lucky to receive the answer “blue,” so I could pose the question “What color is the sky?” After we played this oral game, we all were handed answer sheets and together responded to fifty “answers” flashed in front of us on all possible topics.  The answer sheets were then collected and we waited while our tests were ostensibly graded. As this was not scan sheet grading, there was no way our papers could have been graded during the period the Jeopardy staff left the room.  Rather, I believe our behavior was being observed.  A few minutes later, the staff returned, thanked and dismissed everyone except four people whose applications allegedly had a problem. I was one of the four.  When the room cleared, and we leaned forward to find out what was wrong with our applications, we discovered we were the only four selected from the group to be contestants. Although I lost to a five day champion, the experience was a blast.

Do you have a writing routine and/or special writing space?
I only wish I had a writing routine!  I envy those who do, but as structured as I was throughout my legal career, my present juggling of family, writing, volunteer work and friends, is predicated on flexibility and fun.  The result of my non-routine is that I write short stories and novels in spurts, often to the pace of show music playing in the background.
My favorite place to write is anywhere I can see water, but I don’t get much opportunity to get to the beach.  Consequently, I have created different places in the house that I write depending upon the task.  Drafts are written in a chair in my bedroom or one in the living room while first draft revisions are done in the living room and final revisions are done in the room I dedicated to being my office.

Have you read anything good lately? 
I’m an avid reader whose taste includes bestsellers, books by brand new authors, and biographies.  Unlike some, I usually read the entire book, whether I like it or not.  Recent literary ones I enjoyed are My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  I’ll plead the fifth respecting mystery choices.

Tell us a little bit about Should Have Played Poker.
In Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery, Carrie Martin's precarious balancing of her corporate law job and visiting her father at the Sunshine Village retirement home is upset when her mother appears, out of the blue, in Carrie's office twenty-six years after abandoning her family. Her mother leaves her with a sealed envelope and the confession she once considered killing Carrie’s father.  Confused, Carrie seeks answers about her past from her father prior to opening the envelope, but before she can reach his room, she finds her mother murdered.
Instructed to leave the sleuthing to the police, Carrie's continued efforts to discover why someone murdered her mother quickly puts her at odds with her former lover--the detective assigned to her mother's case. As Carrie and her co-sleuths, the Sunshine Village Mah jongg players, attempt to unravel Wahoo, Alabama's past secrets in this fast paced cozy mystery, their efforts put Carrie in danger and show her that truth and integrity aren't always what she was taught to believe.

Since this book is described as “A Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery”, will there be future stories featuring Carrie Martin?

I like these characters and hope they will reappear in many of my writings.  Although this is Carrie’s first public outing, the Mah Jongg Players and the son of the group’s ringleader appeared in my first published short story, "Legal Magic". When I came up with this plot involving Carrie, I needed a comic balance and realized the Legal Magic characters would be a perfect foil for her.

Tell us about the donations that go to YWCA and CARES.
Thank you for asking about the fact that all royalties I earn from any hardcover or e-book sales from the pre-order point through May 30, 2016 are being donated evenly between the YWCA of Central Alabama’s domestic violence and the CJFS CARES dementia relief programs.  I serve on the boards of both of these organizations and know the impact these programs have.  I’ve been so fortunate to have a successful legal career and be at the beginning of a really wonderful second opportunity that I believe it important to give back.  Hopefully, my writing will provide fun and enjoyment for readers and accomplish some good.

Thank you for stopping by!