Book Reviews: Can Cleveland and Bohjalian Live Up to the Hype?

(Image by Twin Cities Media)


Can a book get too much praise? Reviews help me decide what to pull from my heaping TBR pile, and when I read good reviews from readers whom I trust, my expectations are high. These expectations led me to look at two recent thrillers in different ways.

Readers have raved about the clever plot in Karen Clevelend’s Need to Know, and any book Louise Penny loves is bound to be good. I was very excited when my book group chose this thriller that had generated so much buzz. Indeed, the smart plotting does not disappoint! One great twist hit me from out of nowhere. However, the characters seem more like concepts than living, breathing people. I could not draw one character in this book with a paper and pencil when I puy the book down. After a great read, I can usually sketch at least the main chapter or the  scariest antagonist. Viv’s interior monologue also becomes a vehicle for telling and not showing. CIA details are mildly interesting. The intriguing theoretical questions asked in the publicity for the book and implied in the book’s opening, “What would you do if it were your husband?” do not make up for the lack of rich characterization.

In contrast, the much anticipated thriller The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian soars even when it seems to stall. It begins with a brutal, fascinating crime and ends with a bang. In the middle, it seems to meander down a  dirty NYC street. But the journey is on the road to a memorable character portrait. Sure it’s a thriller, but it’s also an honest, poignant, and memorable portrait of a female alcoholic. Vivid details even make one realize how international travel can be a lot less glamorous if it’s your day job. Fans of character-driven fiction will find this novel well worth the trip.


Horror Author Jae Mazer: My Three Favorite Books


Author Jae Mazer has a penchant for all things horror, supernatural, science fiction, and beyond.  She likes to spin a good yarn, draw readers deep into tense tales, and support fellow fiction writers! I had the pleasure of presenting with her on a panel on horror writing at Comicpalooza Houston 2018, and I’ve become a big fan of her writing. I am excited to get my hands on her new collection “Beautiful Beasts: A Collection of Visceral Horror,” which comes out this month. Jae and I both urge you to read Shirley Jackson. Say tonight.     

Without further ado, her three favorite books are…

Swan Song by Robert McCammon: I read this book at a young age–I believe I was ten or eleven. It was sitting on the shelf in my dad’s bedroom. The cover intrigued me. Plus, we lived in a town whose mascot was the trumpeter swan, so the title was cool, too. This book almost single-handedly launched me into my love of horror. I have read it twice more in my adult years, and it remains firmly placed as my favourite book of all time. Hands down.

Swan Song starts with the nuclear war the destroys the world. In the same vein as Stephen King’s The Stand, Swan Song follows several groups of survivors as they navigate through the confusion and destruction of a nuclear holocaust. What do I love about this book? Though there is a large cast of characters, the powerful protagonists are two women: a homeless woman named Sister Creep, and a young girl named Sue Wanda—Swan. Second, is the gorgeous and visceral horror we see through scenes and setting, action, heart wrenching character development, and the supernatural twist that drives the plot forward.

Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson. Dark Tales is a collection of horror I will never forget. I won’t forget the stories, the characters, or the emotions I experienced while reading every one. It is true horror, without the blood, gore, and violence we’ve all come to expect from the genre. Jackson goes for unsettling terror, the discomfort that burrows deep in our thoughts and lingers well after the story is over: The image of an elderly woman as the villain who spreads hate through neatly written letters, Hell as a never-ending loop of a day that’s just not quite right, and the wife who lives knowing that her husband is a serial killer who killed his former wives. Imagery, voice, dialogue, and quiet terror are Jackson’s specialties, and ones that have resonated with me for many years.

Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury: My dad was a big fan of the old sci-fi greats: Bradbury, Asimov, and the like. Needless to say, I’m a fan of them, too. Though Dandelion Wine and Fahrenheit 451 were excellent novels, Something Wicked This Way Comes holds a special place in my heart. I can still picture the image of the old carnival witch floating above the houses in her hot air balloon, marking them in silver with the tip of her finger—true nightmare fodder for children sleeping alone in their beds! Like Jackson, Bradbury gives the reader a sense of dread and horror with no violence at all. His voice is artistic and gorgeous, almost poetic. The father and son form a special relationship through the course of the plot. The father himself is a complex and heartwarming character who likens their current plight to the adventures he had as a child. The ringmaster of the traveling circus is a dark character that propels the truly macabre plot along at a terrifying pace. The creation of characters in my own stories has been heavily influenced by Bradbury. I admire his strength for using the characters themselves to conjure the emotions that make his stories so powerful.

Jae Mazer has six full-length novels published by Netherworld Books in the UK, and one novel published under her own imprint, Feathered Tentacle Press. Jae penned the story Flight of the Crow, which was first published in an anthology by Inklings Publishing, Eclectically Heroic. Two more of Jae’s short stories, The Waif and the Witch and Need, were published in an anthology by Mad Girl’s Publishing, Hair Raising Tales of Villainous Confessions edited by Melissa Algood and Chantell Renee. Jae has won several awards, including first place in the horror category in the ATAB book awards for her novel, Chrysalis and Clan. Her story, The Wish, won second place in the 2017 Channillo short story contest, and was later published in Sicklit Magazine.

Look for Jae’s upcoming anthology of horror short stories and flash fiction, Beautiful Beasts: A Collection of Visceral Horror, which will be released on September 13th, 2018. Check her website and Amazon author page for more info on her work:

Three Books I Love by Poet & Flash Fiction Spinner Holly Lyn Walrath

I am excited to introduce you to three books recommended by Houston-area talent Holly Lyn Walrath. Not only is she a gifted poet, an inventive flash fiction writer, and the editor of quality anthologies, she is a stalwart member of the Texas writing community. If Holly can find a way to give another local writer a hand, she will. Including her prize-winning flash piece in the bonus flash fiction section of  Approaching Footsteps felt like a win-win. Recently, I got an advanced peek at her new chapbook Glimmerglass Girl from Finishing Line Press and it’s excellent. Let’s learn which three books have stolen her heart… 

When I was a kid I always hated that question “What’s your favorite book?” How the heck am I supposed to pick? In middle school it was The Lord of the Ringsby J.R.R. Tolkien. In high school I loved The Dark Tower by Stephen King. In college, it was the Brontë sisters. But as I get older, I tend to find an author I like and read their entire body of work at once, over the course of a year. Here are some of those authors that I’ve been obsessing over lately.

  1. The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu: This book is a collection of short stories by a speculative writer who is also a translator. What I love about this book is how Liu teaches the reader to read his work and to understand his characters on an emotional level. Liu is a writer’s writer and I’ve learned so much from his work about nuance, structure, and voice.
  2. Gutshot by Amelia Gray: A collection of flash fiction and short story pieces that is truly a gutshot. This book is so raw it almost hurts to read, but in a good way, like when you tear away a hangnail that’s been niggling you. Gray’s phrasing and lyrical style is radical and wild and oh so good.
  3. Milk and Honeyby Rupi Kaur: Kaur’s poetry has been circulating Instagram for a long time now, but it’s totally worth picking up her books to feel her words on the page. What I love about Kaur is how she pairs image and text in an accessible way that redefines what we call contemporary poetry. If you’re curious about new poetic forms but don’t consider yourself a poetry reader, this book is perfect for you.

Holly Lyn Walrath and I will be appearing together at Comicpalooza 2018. We will be among the writers speaking on the panel Writing About Violence Effectively in Speculative Fiction at 3 pm on Saturday, May 26th at the George R. Brown Convention Center. We will also be reading at the Spec Fic writers’ open mic that night, which Holly & Spider Road Press consultant J.T. Haven will be hosting. Hope to see you there!

PS: I also highly recommend The Paper Menagerie

Holly Lyn Walrath’s poetry and short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Fireside Fiction, Luna Station Quarterly, Liminality, and elsewhere. Her chapbook of words and images, Glimmerglass Girl, is available to pre-order from Finishing Line Press. She holds a B.A. in English from The University of Texas and a Master’s in Creative Writing from the University of Denver. She is a freelance editor and host of The Weird Circular, an e-newsletter for writers containing submission calls and writing prompts. You can find her canoeing the bayou in Seabrook, Texas, on Twitter @HollyLynWalrath, or at

For more information on her books see:



Three Books I Love by Award Winning Author Jennifer Leeper

Cultural Insights and Epic Stories Enchant Her.

Good books inspire our minds, seed our stories, and fill our hearts. This week, Jennifer Leeper, author of the compelling novella The Reiger File, shares the “three books I love” that she recommends for all adult and young adult readers…

Book #1 The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck

This book is a favorite of mine because long before I lived in Asia, Buck Buck introduced me to Eastern culture through one Chinese family navigating a changing culture as well as family relationships. Buck deftly universalizes the experience of family and adaptation to cultural shifts across multiple generations in this work aimed at adolescent readers and older.

Book #2 Elmer Gantry, Sinclair Lewis

Although I love anything penned by Sinclair Lewis, this book stands out for me even among his others because Lewis perfectly captures the complex workings of the human soul and heart. Lewis’ protagonist, Gantry, isn’t cut solely from a morally bankrupt cloth, but his character is more of a patchwork quilt of moral ambivalence, reflecting the spirit of the age Lewis often mirrored in his fiction. This book is geared for adolescent readers and older.

Book #3 The Call of the Wild, Jack London

What I love most about this story is its epic-sized adventure packed into a novella’s worth of words. London’s transference of humanity to man’s best friend is genius to me, becauseThe Call of the Wild is more than a story about dogs who have thought bubbles, but it’s a chance to view, reflect on and analyze our humanity with fresh eyes, literally. We see ourselves as Buck sees us, or more precisely as London would like us to see ourselves. This book is geared for adolescent readers and older.

Thank you, Jennifer! Reading about a kind person recommending good books is always a lovely way to end the day. Read Jenifer’s novella in the suspenseful collection Approaching Footsteps from Spider Road PressLook for her award winning flash fiction piece, “The Bottle,” in the special Spider’s Web Flash Fiction Prize section of Spider Road Press’ upcoming release, Companion of the Ash.

Learn more about her other books and stories at:

Follow her on Twitter: @JenLeeper1


Check Your Email: Cover Reveal for “Enduring Spirit”



I am excited to announce that the fabulous cover that talented designer Heidi Dorey created for my new collection of speculative and literary short fiction, Enduring Spirt, will be released in the Spider Road Press newsletter this week! Heidi created the intriguing cover for Approaching Footsteps. The disquieting keyhole image continues to draw readers to the book. Working with creative talents like Heidi is one of my favorite things about being involved with the woman-powered Spider Road Press. My short collection Enduring Spirit, featuring Heidi’s wonderful cover,  will be released in May.

In celebration of the upcoming cover reveal, I am sharing some of the artful covers that jump off my bookshelf and say “look at me.” (My battered copy of The Catcher in the Rye, complete with the classic red cover, is on loan to a relative.) Check out some of my favorites below. Hmm… they all have a rather dark edge… what does that say about me?



For more information about my upcoming release and to join the SRP newsletter, see:

My Gratitude Book

Spider Road's New Collection of 4 Novellas & Bonus Flash Fiction
Spider Road’s New Collection of 4 Novellas & Bonus Flash Fiction

The first collection that I have curated since becoming a working mom comes out in less than two weeks! I am thrilled! And I am also a little nervous, very proud and pretty gosh-darned tired. I can’t wait for y’all to read the four unique and suspenseful novellas in here.

This book has been a literary journey taken with four talented writers who are clever, determined, responsive and willing to “kill a darling” word or two. I admire writers who take risks. I enjoy the work of authors who put a truly new slant on a satisfying standard. As an editor, I am grateful to writers who respond to questions about work and requests for help with promotion with consideration and enthusiasm. I recommend the fiction of these four writers. I also recommend hiring and/or working with these four writers if you ever get the chance.

The reader’s bonus flash fiction section makes my heart happy. The award-winning flash pieces featuring complex female protagonists will move readers. The editor’s bonus is that the award-winners and judges involved are also good people.

Another bonus-becoming a working mom has been amazing, gratifying, and humbling. We got my wee son into a wonderful Montessori program. Then he promptly picked up all the independently minded & skill building germs there, and he got the croup. Then he stayed home to get healthy and gave all his sweet boy germs and snot to Mama. So, as I watch the release of this wonderful book approach from behind my tray of chicken soup and vials of antibiotics and bronchitis-battling steroids, I want to thank some of the people who helped and are continuing to help Spider Road Press midwife this great collection into the world:

The writers. Skilled and brave souls all.

The Spider Road Press 2015 Kickstarter donors who generously funded the production costs.

The designers who did such amazing work. Heidi Dorey’s cover and David Welling’s interior design bring the stories to life.

Kessika Johnson-Spider Road Press worker bee and role model for caring working moms everywhere.

My husband! I can’t write the foreword to a new book and change diapers at the same time. Thanks, Papa Steve!

SRP’s deft consultants Lilia Fabry and Vi Moore.

My writing critique group. For every time I said, “Thanks for the feedback on my flash fiction. Can I ask you for a reader’s opinion on….” (Insert new idea about book design or book promotion).

The talents at SkipJack Publishing. For learning all the the nitty gritty, only sometimes pretty, truth of indie publishing. And then generously sharing it. And sharing it. And always being open to exchanging ideas.

The Houston Writers House & The Houston Writers Guild. For all that they do to support local presses and emerging writers.

Writespace Houston. For maintaining a creative haven.

The stellar, crunchy, loyal Goddard College MFA in creative writing community. For more than I can say in this list.

Jody T. Morse-for bursting onto the Spider Road Press scene with talent, an open mind, creative ideas, and enthusiasm just when the book launch process sped up. Girl, I owe you a bottle of wine for weathering the storm with humor and grace.

Our beta readers-both generous and honest.

Enos Rusell-eBook style whisperer. And a patient, patient writer pal.

My family & close friends. For all of your love, loyalty and support. If good karma counts, y’all will be rewarded with champagne and cheesecake in the next life.

EQ Heights Cafe- For fueling the process with mocha hazelnut lattes & good vibes. And for being so nice to my messy wee son.

As I snuggle under the multi-colored quilt my friend Amber made my husband and I as a wedding gift, and dream of boxes of fresh-smelling books, let me say to everyone on this list, everyone I’ve forgotten, and all my fellow lovers of books…


Thank You!


If y’all are interested in supporting feminist, indie publishing and great fiction by preordering Approaching Footsteps, please visit Spider Road Press: 



Guest Blog: Birth of An Intriguing Novel

Spy novels? Aren’t they a bit macho? Until recently, that’s what I would have said if a woman writer told me she was excited about writing a novel about espionage. I would have thought of male characters and car chases. I would’ve noted the loyal male readers (like my dad). I would have argued that novels in which the political operatives and terrorists crash into the emotional lives of everyday people, such as Edna O’Brien’s House of Splendid Isolation, made for a better read.

I would have been wrong. Yes, you should read Edna O’Brien’s excellent novel. But no, spy novels are not just about macho thrills. Case in point, Houston author Mel Algood recently published a gripping, sarcastic, violent novel about espionage and revenge, Blood on the Potomac. I had the pleasure of reading it as it progressed and loved her jaded female characters and their twisted humor. Mel joins us on the blog today to give her impressions of birthing her first book.

The Birth of Blood On The Potomac

Matthew Hale, ex-navy SEAL, joined Erebus at his friend, Jack’s, insistence. Now Jack has been murdered and the newest member of the private spy organization, Samantha Locke, seems to be the key to uncovering the truth behind Jack’s death. Samantha Locke, rogue assassin, has one goal in life, to find her father’s killer. Blackmailed by Erebus to work for them in exchange for the identity of the woman she’s hunted all her life, Samantha finds herself falling in love with her hunky handler,Matthew Hale. As they sift through the web of lies, their passionate attraction draws them closer together. But can they ever truly trust each other? Will their love help them find the truth, or will it tear them apart?

The story of Samantha Locke and Matthew Hale took time to reach readers. Which made the night of my book release even sweeter. The night started off as many spring evenings in Houston-pouring down rain. Thankfully by the time my handsome man Israel and I made it to Gratifi Kitchen and Bar, in the heart of Montrose, the water abated. The weather reminded me of my personal experience while writing the novel. There were pitfalls, and a fair share of challenges, but after three years, my novel was finally available to the reading public.

I was excited when I saw that the menu had named a drink after my debut novel “Blood On The Potomac,” which proved delicious. The venue was crowded, and when I read scenes from the novel there were gasps and laughs at the right times from the audience.

The people that joined me on the evening my novel was released ranged from old friends, fellow writers, and avid readers that were excited to start reading. One of the attendees-a college student and talented author told me that after I read the infamous ‘roof top’ scene in the ‘Looking Glass’ chapter she “couldn’t stop reading even after you did. I just had to find out what happened next!” Gratitude swelled in me that so many people came to support me.

The most memorable moment for me was when someone made a toast to me, easily one of the people who has known me personally for the shortest amount of time. Sherrie along with several of my co-workers from Green Apple Salon- Montrose, came to the event just a few blocks from our salon. I was elated that they attended-a friend mentioned that no one from my previous salon attended any of my previous, yet numerous, writing events. My fellow hair stylist, Sherrie, stood up, and tapped a knife against her glass. She called the room to attention and began to speak. Her words were moving, and the night was long, thus I can’t quote anything for sure other than how she concluded her toast of love and admiration with “you are a true artist, Mel, and we love you.”

Knowing that others appreciate your gift for the written word is the greatest gift I’ve ever received. Thank you to all my friends, family, and the readers that attended any past or future event-without you I’d be telling stories to myself. Thank you for helping me bring Samantha and Matthew into the world.

You can purchase my debut novel Blood On The Potomac on Amazon or from Inklings Publishing at Check out updates on my blog,, and follow me on Twitter @MelAlgood.

Graphic Novel Review: "Blacksad"


Philosophical Noir, Neo-Nazis & a Tough Feline Hero

A graphic novel has to tell a damn good story to garner my attention. Until five years ago, the only graphic novel I really admired was the powerful Holocaust story Maus. Boy, was I missing out on a rich, diverse genre. Mystery fans, take note of Blacksad, an unlikely gem. Even if you’re not “a graphic novel person.” Canales and Guarnidno anchor their exciting yet philosophical graphic novel of danger and passion by depicting a surprisingly complex feline protagonist in both text and illustrations. This is not a story for kids. Both the ideas and the illustrations are for readers at least 16 and up. Yet, even in translation, the author and illustrator convey that Blacksad is much more than a noir-style anthropomorphized detective trying to solve two intriguing murders, a kidnapping, and the disappearance of a nuclear scientist. P.I. John Blacksad uses all of his skills to seek his own brand of justice; he’s both a fixer and a thinker.

Capable, Blacksad scares off a stalker for a famous actress in a manner that is firm and “efficient.” Both the text and the illustrations, which reveal a gun flashing and a teeth baring panther, keep the reader engaged. I certainly agree that Blacksad could handle any villain when he “puts his mind to it.” In an unusual twist, Canales and Guarnidno further stress Blacksad’s ability to dodge lies and bullets by portraying him as able to circumvent both family drama and neo-Nazis as he tries to return a kidnapped girl to her dedicated teacher. Guiding the reader from solving murders into a battle with Neo-Nazis seems unlikely, but the author and illustrator pull it off with ease. That’s because you believe that this man- er, I mean cat -Blacksad is worth following. Furthermore, the author and illustrator highlight not just the panther’s ability to land a punch and solve a case, but also to think deeply. They render one of Blacksad’s reflective moments as he discusses the unfinished train station in a racially divided suburb known only as The Line. Drawn in black silhouette against a snowy sky, Blacksad notes that the unused train station remains “an image of what could have been, but never was” in the poor suburb.

I recommend Blacksad to fans of both noir fiction and graphic novels because the author and illustrator work in concert to create a feline hero as real and complicated as any human being. They use text and artwork to communicate both Blacksad’s streetwise problem solving and his deep meditations. Discover this unique read yourself: Blacksad by Juan Diaz Calales, illustrated by Juanjo Guarnido., an published by Dark Horse Books is available on Amazon and in indie bookstores and some comic shops. Become “a graphic novel person” for a little while and you’ll enjoy it.

Ongoing Passion: The Joys and Challenges of Writing A Series


What’s so special about writing a series? Today I sit down with a best-selling author to find out exactly that. Affable, talented and driven, Pamela Fagan Hutchins is a pro at writing best-selling romantic mysteries featuring engaging characters. Her fans can’t wait to see what will happen next to her feisty heroines. I gave my sister one of her mysteries for Christmas two years ago, and now she looks forward to a P.F.H mystery every birthday and holiday! Engaging series are satisfying to readers (like my sister) and sometimes easier to sell to agents and publishers. But how do you keep readers hooked and keep telling a tight story??]

Pamela, what are the two best things about writing a series peopled with strong characters?

Readers engage with and follow characters far more than they follow an author who told a good story. So if I can write a great character or characters, the reader will develop an attachment, even a relationship with that character that they want to continue. Think about the success of authors like Sue Grafton with Kinsey Milhone or Janet Evanovich with Stephanie Plum. Their characters’ names are as well known as the authors.

As an author, I enjoy sitting back down to start the next book in a series with strong characters. I look forward to spending time with them, to seeing what trouble they’ve gotten themselves into, and—most of all—to seeing them grow in the latest installment. Give me a series with strong, complex characters who experience authentic personal growth in each installment, and I’m yours forever.

You teach helpful workshops on creating great scenes and authorpreneurship. Imagine that you taught a class specifically about crafting an exciting fiction series. What challenges would you point out to writers?

Each book in a series needs to be able to standalone on its own merit, so it’s more important to write one really great book than a series. I find my readers don’t like to be “forced” to read the next book either. They want to feel compelled from within to read it, rather than having a cliffhanger where they don’t know the ending unless they continued. I also find readers who read my books in reverse order or start in the middle. The only way that’s possible is if your books can standalone.
Readers expect that if you use a character they’ll appear again in later books, if they don’t die or go to prison. Write characters with the potential to play further roles down the line, then use them in interesting ways. Readers welcome them back like old friends, or hiss and boo when the villain reappears onstage.
Series writers must not repeat themselves in terms of plot, but they must absolutely be consistent on the details of their characters and worlds. Keep a style sheet/series Bible to keep it all straight. You’ll thank me later.

Can you think of themes common to the books in your current series? For example, readers & reviewers have noted that the themes of transformation, tenacity & grief reoccur in my stories in Trail Ways Pilgrims: Stories and Our Space. Which issues do you rest from book to book?

I explore two common themes in trying to write strong characters within a rich setting while still pacing and delivering a pulse-pounding mystery.
The impact of regional history and culture on our contemporary views of spirituality
In Going for Kona—What Doesn’t Kill You #4—the protagonist, Michele, learned of Itzpapalotl, a knife-winged butterfly goddess in Aztec mythology, from her Mexican grandmother. Her father nicknames her Itzpa, and the mythology exerts a powerful influence on her in the novel.
The role and self-view of modern women in family and relationships
For instance, in Heaven to Betsy—the fifth book in my What Doesn’t Kill You series and the 2015 WINNER of the USA Best Book Award in Cross Genre Fiction—Emily loses a husband to divorce and a baby to miscarriage, moves back to her hometown, and begins trying to adopt as a single woman. It’s a confusing and painful time for her, and she has to figure out who she is, at the same time as she has to learn to care less what others think.

Speaking of your current series, your readers are excited that you have
a new novel coming soon. What’s it about?

Hell to Pay is the seventh book in my What Doesn’t Kill You romantic mystery series. In her third and final turn as one of the series’ protagonists, big-haired paralegal and former rodeo queen Emily has her life back on track. Her adoption of Betsy seems like a done deal, her parents have reunited, and she’s engaged to her sexy boss Jack. Then client Phil Escalante’s childhood buddy Dennis drops dead, face first into a penis cake at the adult novelty store Phil owns with his fiancée Nadine, one of Emily’s best friends. The cops charge Phil with murder right on the heels of his acquittal in a trial for burglarizing the Mighty is His Word church offices. Emily’s nemesis ADA Melinda Stafford claims a witness overheard Phil fighting with Dennis over a woman. Before he can mount a defense, Phil falls into a diabetic coma, leaving Nadine shaken and terrified. Meanwhile Betsy’s ultra-religious foster parents apply to adopt her, and Jack starts acting weird and evasive. Emily feels like a calf out of a chute, pulled between the ropes of the header and the heeler, as she fights to help Phil and Nadine without losing Betsy and Jack. It’s a pulse-pounder of a book, but with lots of heart and humor. I love this one.

Your What Doesn’t Kill You character-driven series features strong female protagonists, and readers enjoy the woman’s adventures all the way through to the end of that character’s journey. Do you have any advice to emerging writers about how to keep each new book in a series fresh?

This is actually a really important question to me. I have had series in the past that I fell in love with, but lost interest in after three or four books, because the characters didn’t grow. In series, especially in mystery/thriller/suspense series, we tend to focus too hard on plot and forget that it is compelling, complex characters who readers follow. Give your protagonist and other main characters interesting stories that keep evolving with your series. Personally, this is the reason that I decided to create a revolving cast of protagonists in my fictional world for my series. I only want to write books where the protagonists experience personal growth and development. I’ve capped it at three books per protagonist, which I think of as a three-act structure, where those three books as the three acts in a larger story in that protagonist’s “life.”

Thanks, Pamela! I can’t wait for my copy of Hell to Pay to arrive. And, don’t worry, sis, you are getting a copy for your upcoming birthday, too.

Hell to Pay, and all the fun, fast-paced romantic mysteries in Pamela Fagan Hutchins series are available as ebooks and books on Amazon and ibooks, as well as in bookstores. To find out more, read Pamela’s fun and informative blog (bonus: you’ll learn about her cute baby goats):

Exclusive Collection Celebrates Diverse Voices

This exclusive collection features poetry and art by 28 talent women.
This exclusive collection features poetry and art by 28 talented women.

I am thrilled to announce the upcoming publication of a unique, diverse collection of poetry and art by women from all over the world, In the Questions! It is not only an embodiment of a range of women’s experiences expressed poetically, but also the result of generous, skilled poets and artists banding together to help the mission-oriented indie publisher that I founded, Spider Road Press.

Recently, I donated a piece to the Writespace fundraiser anthology, Our Space. I was proud to support this helpful community writing center. Writespace donors were happy to receive the volume, which showcased the writers that Writespace encourages. When I held the book in my hand, a little green lightbulb went off in my brain (what, your mental lightbulbs aren’t green?). To help us forego reading fees, keep contest entry fees low, and pay our staff and designers fairly, Spider Road had planned our own fundraising campaign. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I asked the always gracious Writespace director, Elizabeth White-Olsen, if I could borrow her idea and curate my own collection connected to Spider Road’s October indiegogo campaign. Wonderful poets generously donated the one-time use of their work, and In the Questions was born.

Editing a poetry collection was a new adventure for me. I haven’t considered poetry submissions since my days as a poetry reader on the staff of The Pitkin Review at Goddard College. There are so many different styles of poetry! My assistant editor Kessika Johnson and I learned a lot through the editorial process. We were lucky to be able to work with experienced copyeditor Lizz Schumer. Some interesting and fun issues arose. Consider poets who intentionally reject standard capitalization and syntax in the style of E.E. Cummings. They presented a fun challenge of balancing quality editing with poetic style.

Exclusive to Spider Road Press, In the Questions marries many distinct voices. It also means a lot to me personally – I feel truly blessed to have worked with the poets and artists involved. Spider Road Press is rewarding supporters who donate $25 or more to our campaign by 11/1/15 with this exciting anthology (among other perks). Please support Spider Road and women writers by donating here:

In The Questions contains many excellent poems, but I want to share one of my favorites, “Hyacinth,” by gifted Vermont writer Eileen M. Brunetto. Enjoy.


She’d set the house ready,

Whisking away winter‘s grime,
She wiped the windows of our souls clean,
Then poured the used-up water on the roots of a backyard forsythia

Lenten offerings made in silence

I recall the bulb, its fragrance like a prayer Leaves firm, pointed toward heaven
A scent not unlike her own
All my springs ever since