Blue or brown? We need your help!.

via Blue or brown? We need your help!.

colbymarshall-headshot1 (2)Confession right up front: I am a reader of paper books.

Don’t get me wrong…if you love e-readers because they help you read more often/easier/in a way that ensures no one on your subway commute can see the cover of your self-help book about how to overcome your intense fear of Slinkies, then have at it.  I just know that for me, printed books are my preference.  Maybe this is because I write my own books on the computer, so electronic books often automatically become “work” in my mind no matter the author or topic.  Maybe it’s because I resist change (I do.  I’m pretty much the only person under the age of thirty who still has an AOL e-mail address, and I will cling to my Blackberry until the day someone tries to steal it so fast and violently that they rip my whole hand off with it.).  But while those things might be true, I think the most likely reason I lean towards printed books is because they happen to be less dangerous.

Let me explain.

Books are not safe in my house.  If I was a book, I would be terrified to live here.  Why, you ask?  Because the mortality rate of books in my home is extremely high, and none of the causes of early demise for literature around here are particularly painless.  Methods of torture for books include being ripped apart by a toddler (who may or may not have inherited my penchant for thrillers, but that’s another post for another time), becoming the hairball-catcher for one of the not-so-naked cats (Yes, there is one naked one), and being buried under a pile of other, heavier books when our makeshift book shelves buckle and send our extensive collection raining to the floor.

But as bad as those fates may be, the worst of them—and the one that accounts for the highest percentage of book deaths in this house—is the very reason I steer clear of the e-reader: the bathtub drop.

I can’t count the number of books we’ve laid to rest due to a dip in the bath bubbles.  I’m a tub-reader (Definition: Person who reads in the bathtub, not a person who reads bathtubs).  I’m a perpetual workaholic, so the only time I let myself “off” long enough to squeeze in a respectable chunk of a book for fun is when I can rationalize it by pairing it with general human hygiene (sounds psychologically healthy, huh?).  This habit benefits my favorite authors immensely; any time a copy meets its watery doom, I shell out several dollars for two more—one to pick up reading where I left off, and another as a backup for when, inevitably, the first of the two new copies makes a splash all its own.  I’m pretty sure Katrina Kittle owes a substantial percentage of her sales of The Kindness of Strangers to my serious bathtub addiction.

ColorBlindCV1 (2)Which brings me back to why I’m still quite solidly in the books in print on paper camp and will likely remain there for the foreseeable future.  If I were to let my e-readers take “swims” as often as my paper books, I’d likely need another job to support my book habit. But this time, I wouldn’t be paying the author a second time for another copy of their book I loved so much—I’d be paying a big company for a new e-reader.  So, the idea of simply replacing the damaged merchandise is not only pricier in this situation, but it doesn’t appeal to my sensibilities as much, either.  After all, who would you be happier to give a few extra dollars to on a given day?  An author whose work has informed, helped, or entertained you, or to a stockholder whose name you don’t even know but who happens to hold a few shares of that e-reader company and has so many dollars in various stock statements that he won’t even notice when the investment you shelled out shows up in his statement numbers, because that amount you spent, while significant to you, didn’t even make a blip on his radar?

Besides…while I don’t think you can be electrocuted by making your e-reader your accidental rubber ducky, I’m just not keen on adding anything into water that contains me that happens to carry a charge of any kind.  If by some off-chance it so much as gave me a little zap, I’d probably need to buy a dozen self-help books about how to overcome extreme fear of bathtub shocks.  And given that I’d be too traumatized to ever buy another e-reader, everyone would be able to see those books’ covers on my subway commute.

 Writer by day, ballroom dancer and choreographer by night, Colby Marshall has a tendency to turn every hobby she has into a job, thus ensuring that she is a perpetual workaholic.  In addition to her 9,502 jobs, she is a proud member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.  She is actively involved in local theatres as a choreographer and occasionally indulges her prima donna side by taking the stage as an actress.  She lives in Georgia with her family, two mutts, and a charming array of cats.

About COLOR BLIND: There is something unusual about Dr. Jenna Ramey’s brain, a rare perceptual quirk that punctuates her experiences with flashes of color. They are hard to explain: red can mean anger, or love, or strength. But she can use these spontaneous mental associations, understand and interpret them enough to help her read people and situations in ways others cannot. As an FBI forensic psychiatrist, she used it to profile and catch criminals. Years ago, she used it to save her own family from her charming, sociopathic mother.   Now, the FBI has detained a mass murderer and called for Jenna’s help. Upon interrogation she learns that, behind bars or not, he holds the power to harm more innocents—and is obsessed with gaining power over Jenna herself. He has a partner still on the loose. And Jenna’s unique mind, with its strange and subtle perceptions, may be all that can prevent a terrifying reality…

Color Blind is Now Available:

On Amazon:

On Barnes and Noble:

And other places books are sold!

To learn more about Colby and her books, check out her website at





Author Carolyn J. Rose

Author Carolyn J. Rose

“Move on, already!” I snarled at the female protagonist in a book I attempted to read recently. “Change your life or make the best of it. Stop whining and wallowing.”

When I put the book aside—after skipping over 80% to see if I was correct about the identity of the killer—I felt relieved.

I also felt embarrassed.

My first book had been much the same. The action—what there was of it—was episodic and the scenes were repetitive. My protagonist arrived at the end of almost every chapter in tears or fuming about losing another argument started because she wasn’t enough of an adult to keep her lips zipped.

When an agent pointed that out, I was aghast. I was also argumentative. “My character is under a lot of pressure,” I said. “She’s a murder suspect. Her boss hates her. She’s miserable. She feels helpless.”

About a week after the agent scraped me from the telephone line the way you might scrape dog doo-doo from the sole of your shoe, I had a multi-part reality check:
• By the end of chapter 2, if readers had been paying the least bit of attention, they knew the character and her situation. They didn’t need constant reminding.
• A crying character gets old fast.
• A character holding an endless pity party likely won’t provide an escape for readers who may face the same kind of thing on a regular basis with a friend or family member.
• When a character decides to stop wailing and make changes, that leads to action.
• Action creates new kinds of conflict with other characters.
• Conflict drives the plot.
• A plot in gear and rolling makes readers turn those pages and maybe buy your next book.

I reviewed that teary manuscript and chopped away at the lip chewing, nail biting, pillow pounding, and other emotional outbursts. As I did, I found the objectivity I’d lost. I realized I’d become so close to my characters that I was letting them get away with behavior I’d normally grow tired of in ten minutes and walk away from at a four-mile-an-hour clip powered by a giant go-cup of coffee.

Since then, I’ve been more aware—if not while writing the first draft then in the revision process—of rehashing issues and emotions to the point of wallowing. And I’ve developed techniques to help me shake those clingy characters and see them for what they are.

First, I set the manuscript aside and ignore it for at least three months. That gives me distance.

Second, when I pick it up again, I read through it as fast as possible, without stopping to correct spelling and pick nits. Speed lets me see whether I’ve used angst as a springboard to decision or action, or whether the plot is grinding to a stop. It lets me say, “Sheesh. I’m tired of hearing about your first husband.”

Third, of course, is to ask someone to review the story. Don’t ask a close friend, the kind you drink and commiserate with. Don’t ask a friend who has more problems and issues than you do. Find a friend who, on an honesty scale of 1-10, sends the needle to 16. Thank that person in advance. (Because, let’s face it, how many of us really want thank a critic, even a constructive critic, after we’ve taken a verbal slap?) Then step aside.

Fourth, review that friend’s comments. Put them aside for a week. Then review them again. Rinse, repeat, and revise.

Sucker Punches by Carolyn J. Rose and Mike Nettleton

Sucker Punches by Carolyn J. Rose and Mike Nettleton

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and soon-to-be-released The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, a collection of short stories (Sucker Punches) and five novels written with her husband, Mike Nettleton (The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor).

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking. Website


German Internment Camp in Hot Springs, NC During WWI.

via German Internment Camp in Hot Springs, NC During WWI.

Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose, author

In recent years several best-selling authors announced their retirement from writing. My first reaction was disbelief. These were successful writers. They won prestigious prizes. Their works were rich with theme and message. They had thousands of devoted readers awaiting their next publications.

And maybe that’s one reason they chose to retire. There’s something to be said about knowing when to leave the party, about going out at the top of your game.

I’ve never—to use a baseball analogy for success as an author—hit one out of the park and cleared the bases. If I had, I probably would have 1) wondered how the heck I did it, 2) doubted I could ever do it again, and therefore 3) been afraid and embarrassed to return to the plate.

But I haven’t had that base-clearing slam yet. I haven’t hit the top of my game. Or . . . maybe I have. Maybe I didn’t realize it. Maybe . . . Well, let’s not go there. That leads to self-pity and that leads to the basket of snacks on top of the refrigerator.

In at least one case, a retiring writer used the word “struggle” in connection with the writing process. Now, “struggle” is a word I’ve also been known to apply—but mostly to my attempts to stay at the keyboard and out of the kitchen and away from that basket I mentioned in the last paragraph. The struggles of these successful writers were on a much deeper and/or higher level and probably didn’t involve snacks. And that could be another reason for retiring.

Lurking on a number of chat sites as I’m wont to do when I’m putting off writing, I’ve encountered writers wringing the towel and considering whether to throw it in. Many of them have written just a few books—or perhaps only one—and haven’t had the positive reader response they expected, didn’t make the money they hoped for, or were stung by reviewers. Others stagger under the burden of jobs and obligations, responsibilities and interests that leave them little time to write. They take time out. Often, they return revitalized and with fresh ideas and perspectives. Sometimes, no matter what their intentions, they never return.

I don’t blame them. Writing can be frustrating and discouraging and painful, especially when your expectations don’t mesh with reality. It can give you tunnel vision and put a strain on relationships.

On the other hand, writing can also be rewarding. I’m talking not about financial rewards, but about getting that e-mail from a reader that thanks you for making her laugh, or about someone who drives an hour to a book fair to meet you.

So, I’m not retiring just yet. My husband and I have a collection of short stories called Sucker Punches about to pop up as a digital book and I’m putting the final touches on The Devil’s Tombstone, the 3rd in the Catskill Mountains Mysteries. After I demolish the leftovers from Thanksgiving, I’ll waddle to the keyboard and start on the 4th in the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series.

What about you? Which one of these statements describes when you’ll retire from writing?

When I reach my goals
When I’ve delivered my message
When the thrill is gone
When the idea well runs dry
When the voices in my head stop
When the voices in my head start
When they pry the keyboard from my cold fingers

The Dames and I are looking forward to your comments.

Through a Yellow Wood by Carolyn J. Rose

Through a Yellow Wood by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and soon-to-be-released The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and five novels written with her husband, Mike Nettleton: The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor.

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking


Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Denise! Tell us about your latest book.

My most recent release is Bright as Gold, fourth and final novel of The Georgia Gold Series. The series, which begins with Sautee Shadows in the time of the 1830s Georgia Gold Rush, connects the mountains and the coast as readers follow four fictional families through the mid-1800s. One of my main characters is Mahala Franklin, a half-Cherokee girl who grows up trying to find out who killed her father and stole the gold he mined from the Sautee Valley. Eventually, her white innkeeper grandmother brings her to town to raise her as a proper young lady. There she meets Carolyn Calhoun, an unwilling and shy socialite forced to choose a husband between two very different brothers, and Jack Randall, shipping entrepreneur from Savannah. When Jack buys a competing hotel and the two also fight their attraction to each other, sparks fly. The middle two novels include lots of adventure set during The Civil War, and the most recent one is Reconstruction-era. It’s a more introspective and relational look at how the characters overcome during a very difficult period of time.

When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?

I start the momentum with my research, timeline and plot plans, but the characters have been known to take over at times. I think we have to be deniseweimersensitive to what a certain character would or would not do. If it doesn’t feel true to their personality or development, we need to find a little flexibility.

Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?

I started local, doing signings at book stores, gift shops, festivals, book clubs, etc. I crafted a basic news release that could be altered for each. I also contacted clubs and groups in the region which might have interest in an author’s visit. I supported all that with online publicity. Recently my publisher and I have worked to get the word out past the hour-and-a-half radius where I can personally appear. I’ve joined Goodreads and Twitter as well as Facebook and am doing more guest blogging, author networking, requesting reviews, and conducting giveaways. I’m also planning a book signing tour to a wider area.

How long have you been writing?

I began writing at age 11. We don’t have to talk about how long ago that was, do we? I grew up visiting historic sites with my parents. My active imagination would wonder what type of people had lived in the homes or towns and what their lives might have been like. Eventually I bought spiral-bound notebooks and would whip those out and scribble down the stories from right there in the back seat as we traveled. I went straight to writing novels, of course, although I wouldn’t want anyone to read those now!

What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?

I love this advice. It’s great to apply to selecting the setting for our books, for starters. If we create a story set near where we live, we are more apt to accurately capture the local “feel:” the ins and outs of the way people think, their ethnicity and heritage, the hole-in-the-wall places they frequent, their lingo, their history; the sounds, sights and smells of nature there; the area’s secrets and idiosyncrasies. Research is far easier; we run less risk of either error or the expense of visiting our chosen locale. Marketing is far easier; we have a strong natural geographic starting base for events with an instant niche. I believe it’s also good to write what we know in terms of what we have experienced. If we’ve lived through something, there’s a reason. There’s wisdom in finding the meaning in that experience. We can relate it with authentic emotion that will pierce the consciousness of the reader and share life lessons that may encourage others.

How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.

The Georgia Gold Series is historical fiction or Southern literature (or could be dubbed historical romance). While I will probably write more in that genre in the future, I expect there will be some out-of-genre surprises.

Besides “writer,” what else are you; what is your “day job”?

Wife, mother of two daughters, and keeper of the home. Swim/taxi mom most specifically. I spend a lot of time commuting and sitting in car rider lines. But writing is what has allowed me to be flexible and available for my family. I really feel the flip side of writer is saleswoman. I’ve created a blog article on that shocking conversion as well.

Describe your writing process once you sit down to write—or the preliminaries.

I’m an organized type of person, so I like to do my research first. I put facts in the mental hopper and allow them to percolate. As plot ideas spring forth randomly over time, I overlay those on my timelines. Then I’m free to daydream and let the actual scenes come to me – the fun part! – grab a pen or my laptop, and start composing.

Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?

In my childhood home, academics and literature were greatly appreciated. My parents encouraged me to read the classics and would read aloud to me from series like Little House on the Prairie and The Chronicles of Narnia. My parents provided great examples of how being well-read made you well-educated and able to interact on a variety of subjects.

Any teachers who influenced you…encouraged you or discouraged?

deniseweimer.brightasgoldWell, I had one who scared me, and sometimes that can be motivational. She was my 8th grade English teacher. We’d do these exercises in class where we had to fill in a blank that had to do with the correct form of a verb or part of speech. But she’d do it in rapid-fire succession. We’d try our best to count ahead to which question might hit us, but she liked to mix things up. Everyone in class would be trembling like they were about to be tied to the execution pole. Because if you got the answer wrong she’d explode with something like, “NO! You ding-dong! That’s a dangling modifier!” Or some such nonsense. This was before calling children in a classroom names was politically incorrect. And she had a startling repertoire of originally insulting but not quite cursing names. We won’t even talk about how hard it was to get an ‘A’ in there. But … when I had to recite the balcony scene from “Romeo & Juliet,” she looked quite entranced. And there was a calendar she kept with literary scenes on it. The last month in her class “The Lady of Shalott” graced the wall. Of course I had a fascination with that poem then because the GPTV “Anne of Green Gables” had just come out. I would stare at the romantic depiction of the lady in the boat and wish it was me, “drifting down to Camelot,” away from English class. At the end of the school year, I asked Mrs. S for that page. Her look of surprised pleasure almost cracked into a warm smile. I walked away with a firm command of sentence structure and a print that now hangs matted and framed in my Victorian-style guest bedroom.

Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?

I do have a Kindle. I hear there are some people who are e-reader-only people and others who are print-only people. I’m sure this is true, but I have found for me (and probably others, too) there’s a place for both. I love to find free and discounted books for the Kindle and take it with me on trips for ease of packing. But for books I want to keep forever because I love them that much or a friend wrote them – or a situation like with my Georgia Gold novels where the covers are one-of-a-kind prints done by a regionally collected artist – I value the physical copy on my shelf.

How do your characters “come” to you? Are they based loosely or closely on people you know?

My characters often come to me in those “loosely constructed” or “unplugged” moments described in the question on writer’s block. But before that happens, I spend time pondering what sort of person I want to represent a certain group of people and how I want them to be shaped from beginning to end by the trials and circumstances of history or what’s going on in the story. Mostly they are their own people, but occasionally a real-life person will bear some influence. An example of this would be Maddy, the hotel cook in my Georgia Gold Series. She was my grandma who has since passed away, who cleaned immaculately and was a wonderful cook but was never satisfied with her own efforts.

Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?

I just read some fascinating research having to do with brainstorming. Basically it stated that we use different parts of our brain at different times in the creative process. And that the best thing to do when you’re stuck is to “unplug” your brain for a while … just take a walk or do another task requiring less concentration. The ideas will start to flow. That’s why we have our best inspiration at odd moments. Check out my blog at for an upcoming article on this!

Why do you write?

I write because when God gives you a gifting and a desire in the same area, you don’t squander it. There are so many talented writers out there, and I have no claims or delusions of fame. But I do believe if you’re a writer, you know it, and God will also give you the story or the manuscript, whether it be meant to entertain, instruct or encourage.

Thank for joining us today, Denise. For more information about Denise:



by Betty Dravis

Susan Alcott Jardine is an amazing woman! Not only is she an author, an artist, former actress and an award-winning screenwriter, she and her equally-amazing husband, Neal, are among the most active animal activists in California, and possibly, the nation.

I met Susan about four years ago, shortly after interviewing her former high-school friend, Actor/Producer Tony Tarantino, for Dream Reachers II, a book I co-authored with Chase Von. Susan’s book, The Channel: Stories from L.A., came out about the same time, so I jumped at the chance to review it. A haunting, well-written book… Needless to say, Susan has a way with words… The Channel is available at many online bookstores, including Barnes & Noble and Amazon:

susan triple pic art book and green door

Susan was born and raised in Los Angeles where she majored in theatre arts at El Camino College and California State University, LA. As mentioned above, she worked as an actress in theatre, television and film before working behind the scenes in music production/publishing, as a writer/editor for entertainer Kenny Rogers’s “Special Friends” newsletter, in entertainment law and broadcast television. She and her writing partner Marc Havoc received the WGA Foundation Award for their screenplay Lullabyeland.

susan in bus stop

ECC Theater Production of “Bus Stop,” directed by Joseph D’Agosta who also played Bo to Susan’s Cherie. — with Neal Jardine at El Camino College, Torance, CA.

While playing a role in a film at Paramount Pictures, Susan not only met Tony Bennett and the late Stephen Boyd, she also became friends with the acclaimed screenwriter Harlan Ellison who wrote the screenplay for The Oscar, among many other acclaimed literary/cinematic successes. Ellison became her mentor, actually critiquing her first published story from The Channel: Stories from L.A.,The Metamorphosis of Nathanial Kronstadt, which was first published in Ellery Queens’s Mystery Magazine back in 1985. She acknowledges Ellison as “a turning point and inspiration” in her life. For more about Harlan Ellison, check Wikipedia:

susan with neal by artThis versatile and talented woman is also a painter, and her artwork is in private collections in the US, San Salvador, and Kenya, East Africa, including the permanent collection of Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center. She lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband Neal and many rescued cats.
Art website:

While most of us writers dream of having movies developed from our books, Susan’s dream is much more altruistic: she and her husband Neal dream of founding a Feral and Stray Cat Foundation.

Since 2006, Susan and Neal have been actively rescuing feral and stray cats from the freeway berm that runs behind their home. Over the years they have been trapping, spaying, neutering and moving mother cats, kittens and new litters into their Green Door Editions (GDE) art studio, as well as using it for a recovery area for sick and injured cats. The Jardines named the studio their “temporary kitty hospital.”

susan's neal with cats on bed

Susan confided, “’Life’ and recent unforeseen events sent us into a tailspin here at GDE, forcing us to regroup and formulate a Plan B. But, from the chaos and re-grouping, New Doors opened up to a new path for us here at GDE. Through a loving gift from my late parents’ Trust, as if by magic, there was a ‘Gift’ to be used to start our animal rescue foundation.”

In 2015, the Jardines plan to open their non-profit foundation: “Alex & Friends’ Foundation” which will benefit ‘Feral & Stray Cat Rescue.’ Neal will be working from the legal aspect to set up a non-profit (501) (c) (3) to comply with Federal and state Regulations, and Susan will utilize her art & writing to create the logo and artwork for small gift items that can be added to a new website for the foundation.

dog with poster“It won’t happen overnight,” Susan said, “but by baby steps, we can slowly set it up and connect with other non-profits in the community. We will keep you posted and let you know when we’re finally up and running. A lot of legal work needs to be done before we can go forward, like setting up our Board of Directors, financial account, etc. The good news is that the non-profit status has already been approved by the IRS. We are moving forward and will keep you posted when it is finally up and running as a non-profit animal rescue foundation.”

I’m excited for Susan and Neal…and for all the animals they are helping. I admire them and others who care enough about animals to devote their lives and resources to them. To learn more about all the animals they help, check Susan’s Facebook page at: Don’t forget to check Susan’s site on a regular basis so you can either rescue a pet yourself or donate to this worthy cause.

ENDNOTE: Not essential to this story is a fact I would like to mention before closing: Neal’s brother is the famous Al Jardine of the Beach Boys. Since we and most of our fans love The Beach Boys, I thought you might enjoy that interesting tidbit.

Susan and Neal with Al Jardine

Neal and Susan celebrated with Al Jardine at his performance and book signing on the Target stage at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA. After performing his hit song, “Sloop John B,” Al greeted fans and signed copies of his children’s book, “Sloop John B: A Pirate’s Tale,” which also contained a CD of the song.

al jardine with brian wilson at bb concert in indio ca august 30 2014

BEACH BOYS Brian Wilson & Al Jardine still going strong as they prove at a recent concert in Indio, California. Next year they will take the ever-popular songs of the Boys to the UK.


Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Laurie!  Tell us one strange and provocative tidbit from your life that nobody has heard before.

I used to be a stripper. Yes. That was my job title, although it didn’t involve taking off my clothes. I worked in graphic arts before I segued into writing. In the “old-fashioned” way of creating printing plates, negatives for each ink color had to be sandwiched together precisely on a light table, which were then covered with a thick paper mask, and windows cut so the text and images would show through to make the plate. Hence, I was a negative stripper—which meant I complained about my tips. Just kidding. The tips were really good. Especially the ones about not cutting myself with the razor blade or inhaling developer fumes.

Laughing…Tell us about your latest book.

InPlaying Charlie Cool, television producer Charlie Trager’s secret relationship with Adam Joshua Goldberg (Joshua, to Charlie) gets even more laurie boriscomplicated when the mayoral staffer comes out in a very public way, leaves his post, and starts divorcing his wife. All Joshua wants out of the deal is shared custody of his two children, but with politics and the stress of Charlie’s job involved, what begins as a simple, uncontested proceduregets ugly fast—and might end up being more pressure than the two men can bear.

The book continues the storyline begun in novella The Picture of Cool. It’s also the sequel to Don’t Tell Anyone, if you’re keeping score.This novel has pushed my envelope in several ways: it’s my first sequel, it’s the first story I’ve outlined, and my first full-length gay contemporary novel.

Sounds interesting, Laurie. You’re breaking into a hot genre and I know you’ll do well. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

I’m working on a romantic suspense story and after that, I think Charlie has more to tell me. The Trager Family Secrets series may expand with a few companion novels and perhaps have a little crossover with characters from one of my other books. I’m not ruling anything out yet!

When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?

They are. At least for the first draft. The biggest problems I’ve had in writing have stemmed from defying their true natures and trying to push them into situations Author Me wants them to be in but they might not be ready or even suited for. Sometimes that’s because I don’t know them well enough yet. So I invite them in, let them get cozy, and listen.

Love that answer. What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?

Connecting with readers. I love that. It’s like completing the communication circle. I sit here alone and write a story, but it doesn’t feel complete until someone reads it and gets something from it: understanding a little better how another person lives, or at least some entertainment value. It’s especially gratifying to hear from readers who have connected with Drawing Breath, a story so close to my heart. I’ve heard from readers with loved ones living with cystic fibrosis, I’ve heard from relatives of the man upon whom I based the protagonist. It’s been quite humbling.

I agree. Interacting with readers is so gratifying. If you could talk for thirty minutes with any author (or person), living or dead, who would it be?

If I could get her to stop writing for thirty minutes, I’d want to talk to Joyce Carol Oates. She’s so prolific and deep and her stories are so gorgeously creepy and heartbreaking. I want to know how she does that. I want to know how she made me feel empathy for a serial killer.

What is your strongest and/or your weakest area in the creative process?

I love, love writing dialogue. I love how people in real life speak when they think no one else is listening, I love how they speak when they’re frustrated and the words can’t come fast enough and they’re sometimes the wrong ones. That’s one of my favorite and strongest areas of the creative process. What I’ve been working on over the last few years is my plotting and storytelling. I’ve been a proud, dedicated “pantser,” but I want to stretch and grow as a writer, so I wondered if some form of outlining could help me. I worried that working off too tight an outline would give me hives and completely bore me. But a looser, modified version called story beats, which author Lynne Cantwell shared with me, feels like a comfortable “halfway” step. I’ve used this process on my last two books and I really feel like it’s helped me focus on character motivation and storytelling.

How interesting. I’ll have to try that. What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?

How long do you have? I get a little passionate about this subject. I think it certainly helps to write about what has settled in your pores. But I don’t discount empathy and imagination for writing about things you’d like to explore and learn about. Or else how would we write science fiction? How would male authors write from a female point of view, and vice versa? Has J.K. Rowlings ever been a boy wizard?

Exactly. How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction?Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.

Oh, that’s hard. I write so many different genres. It’s all fiction—at least currently, because there’s a potential biography that’s been poking at me about one of my unsung baseball role models. One day when I can sit down and do all the research that will be required. Since I write so many different types of fiction—women’s fiction, contemporary, romance, romantic comedy, short stories—I’d boil it down to “realistic-style fiction about realistic characters going through sometimes trying situations with pathos and humor, often with an underlying romantic thread.” Yeah. There’s an Amazon category just waiting for me.

I like that. Describe your writing process once you sit down to write—or the preliminaries.

First I light a candle and sacrifice a goat… oh, wait. Wrong interview. Coffee is usually involved. I sit down and do a little deep breathing to clear my head. Then I just start typing. I’m working on a few different projects at any one time, and I think that flexibility helps me to drop pretty quickly into a project I’ve been away from for a bit. It’s like a muscle you need to keep fit, like any of the others.

Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?

I was given one as a gift a few years ago and I love it. Electronic publishing has brought reading into the lives of many people who had otherwise given it a pass. Although there is nothing like a printed book—I love the feel of them and that smell of ink and paper—e-books are not only here to stay but growing in popularity.

It appears ebooks are the future. I know I love my Kindle. Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?

For me, there is no writer’s block. Other forces are often afoot. When the words don’t come, it’s usually because I’m tired or overwhelmedand try to compensate by thinking too hard. Maybe that’s true for other writers; I don’t know. I’ll take a small break and get some fresh air or go swimming. My favorite advertising professor used to tell me that creative blocks dissolve in water. If we were stuck on something, he’d tell us to go fill our heads with information and then take a bath. But for me, the pool works just as well.

I’ll have to try that. Thanks for joining us today, Laurie, for a fun, interesting interview. For more information about Laurie:


First, let me say that I have nothing against cats. I like them. At least six have “owned” me over the course of my life.

But my heart belongs to dogs—both real and fictional.

Carolyn J. Rose, author

Carolyn J. Rose, author

Right now I share my furniture and take long walks with two ten-pound hairballs, Bubba (a miniature Schnauzer/Yorkie mix) and Max (a purebred Maltese with issues). (Pictures on my website, )

I share my office with a trio of fictional canines, Sebastian, Nelson, and Cheese Puff.

That puts me in good company. Dogs reside in far more than a third of all U.S. households. And a heck of a lot of writers have created canine companions—from Argos to Lassie to White Fang to Old Yeller to Winn-Dixie.

Many fictional dogs work hard, serving as symbols or sounding boards and providing pivot points for plot. Some are loyal companions, faithful and protective. Others supply comic relief, clues, or red herrings. Some are smart. Others are goofballs. Many help ratchet up tension.

Some writers hesitate to write kill off a dog (or cat or other creature) because they believe readers won’t forgive them for it. Others, however, create fictional canines that make the ultimate sacrifice.

Do well-drawn, memorable fictional dogs increase sales? Especially sales to dog lovers?


Did I consider that before I created my fictional dogs?


I created them for their value to plot and characterization.

Through a Yellow Wood by Carolyn J. Rose

Through a Yellow Wood by Carolyn J. Rose

My first fictional dog, Sebastian, makes a brief appearance at the beginning of A Place of Forgetting. He’s old, his muscles are limp and stringy, and his eyes are clouded, but protagonist Liz Roark loves him. To disrupt her life and force her to leave her hometown and get on with life, I sent them up a mountain on a perfect autumn day and let him die a peaceful death. Several readers wrote to tell me they loved Sebastian and were sad to see him go, but understood why I did that.

Nelson, the three-legged dog out for vengeance in Through a Yellow Wood, is the lone survivor of a serial killer’s attempt to hide his crimes. I thought long and hard before allowing that killer to shoot Nelson’s seven kennel mates (before the book begins). I finally took the leap in order to deepen and strengthen his character and will.

I created my third fictional dog, Cheese Puff, to get protagonist Barbara Reed out of the dumps and back into the world after a nasty divorce. He’s a shrimp of an orange mutt she finds in No Substitute for Murder, the first book in the Subbing isn’t for Sissies cozy mystery series. Barb’s neighbors find Cheese Puff endearing, but their pampering undermines her efforts to train him and encourages an excess of small-dog attitude.

Cheese Puff has been a hit with readers—especially those who have small dogs as companions. Several have suggested ideas for what might happen to him in future books. Thanks to some of those readers, he found love in No Substitute for Money and broadened his social and cultural life in No Substitute for Maturity. In the fourth book in the series—a book I hope to write this fall—Cheese Puff will be keeping a diary and tangling with Bigfoot.

It will be interesting to see what readers think about that.

The Dames of Dialogue and I would love to hear about your dogs—both real and fictional—and we’re looking forward to your comments.

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity have sold 50,000 electronic copies), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and soon-to-be-released The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and five novels written with her husband, Mike Nettleton: The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor.

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking.  Website

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Interior Designs, by Laurel-Rain Snow

Front Cover-resized-small

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Battered to Death by Gayle Trent


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