Monthly Archives: June 2009

New Review for Lady Anne

I’m so excited… it’s always nice after your book has been out a few months, and you’ve seen all the reviews, to get an exciting new one. It’s like when you get a great Christmas gift in January; unexpected is sometimes nice!

Fresh Fiction, a wonderful review site, has said this about Lady Anne:

“Those who are longing for a nice gothic read will want to pick up LADY ANNE AND THE HOWL IN THE DARK. The atmosphere and mystery written by Donna Lea Simpson is top notch.”

Here’s the link:

Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark

Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark

The only negative… the reviewer is concerned about the way the romance is developed, but there is a sequel! (Lady Anne and the Ghost’s Revenge) and a sequel to a sequel! (Lady Anne and the Gypsy Curse) I didn’t want to throw every romantic bit between Anne and Darkefell into the first book; I wanted the series to come to a nice, steamy boil, and by Book Three – Lady Anne and the Gypsy Curse, does it boil!!!

Anyway… I’m so pleased by the great review!


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Fun Site of the Day!

I found this great website that I think anyone who writes or reads Regency romances would enjoy. I was looking for female names that would be proper to use in a Regency-set historical (that gives you a hint of what I’m doing right now… coming up with a proposal for a Regency-set romance trilogy) and found the Regency Name Generator!

Now I’ve seen lots of name generators for everyone from elves to vampires, but this one is kinda cool. Check out some of the other links for the Regency Story Generator, too! Lots of fun.


Just click on the ‘Generate’ button!!

Have fun!

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The Guilty Author

I’m one of those people, you know, the kind who will run herself ragged doing stuff that ‘needs’ to be done or feel guilty for it. I’m a rule follower. I’m a sign obeyer. I do not litter, I wait for the walk signal, I won’t sit on the seats on the bus reserved for senior citizens.

I’ve learned, in my life, that the very minute I play fast and loose with the rules (you know, like taking 9 items into the 8 items or less cashier line?) I end up in trouble.

How does that translate to my writing life?

Well… ‘everyone knows’ that an author should scrupulously outline her books, conducting ‘character interviews’ to learn more about characters to keep them consistent. She should plan ahead. She should…

Should, should, should!

Dammit, but I’m tired of being a good little rule follower. And the thing is, I don’t even know if it makes my books any better in the long run. See, I’m not such a good planner. I get muddled, and have too many threads going, and end up spending a lot of time on ‘the plan’.

I wonder, should I just throw out the rule book?

What inspired this chain of thought was a bit on Carolyn Hart’s website, her page ‘On Writing’. she says,

I do not outline. This isn’t to say that I start off on the first page with nothing in mind. I know these particulars:

  • The protagonist. The personality and attitudes of the sleuth determine the background, style and possibilities of the book.
  • The victim. The personality and identity of the victim determine the cast of characters. Those who surrounded the victim in life will be suspects after the death.
  • The murderer. I know who committed the crime and why.
  • I have a working title. I can’t write a book unless I have a title. It may not be the title of the published book but the working title gives me a sense of the book.

That’s all I know. When I start Page 1, I have no idea how I will get to Page 300. This is where the importance of character comes in. The story will unfold because of the dictates of character.

The drawback to this openended fashion of writing is the panicked feeling that there is no way to get there (the conclusion) from here (the beginning). I wish I were smart enough to plot in advance. My mind doesn’t work that way (or doesn’t work well enough to do it that way!). But one of the great joys of writing is coming up against a blank wall and then little squiggles of thought begin and suddenly something happens, a character appears, a door opens, a message is left and hey, we’re off and running again.”

When I read that it was as if the window opened and bluebirds tweeted. You mean… you mean someone else feels that way????? She has described so exactly my deepest process, the “panicked feeling that there is no way to get there (the conclusion) from here (the beginning)”, then “little squiggles of thought begin and suddenly something happens, a character appears, a door opens, a message is left and hey, we’re off and running again”. That is all so familiar to me, and for the first time I felt the ‘sisterhood’ feeling, that sense that someone else out there felt as I do.

It was a relief, frankly. I’ve heard so many writers detail their writing process, the detailed notes, the copious notebooks, the planning, and I feel inadequate.

But I’m a good writer. I’m a natural writer. I don’t know how to shape my day if I don’t write. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. There is no vacation from this, because it happens whether I want it to or not. Words flows from my fingers to the keyboard, and when I get stuck, if I go away and keep my mind ‘open’ (can’t explain the process any better than that; I keep my mind ‘open’ and little bits of idea will cling to the problem, solving it, if I just pay attention) it all begins to resolve like one of those pixilated pictures that they gradually resolve into an image.

I need to trust myself more. I think that all the time. I need to trust myself and make my own rules. There are no rules. I will write how I write, and not beat myself up for not following Writing 101;Thou Shalt Follow The Rules.

I need to make that my mantra; writer, trust yourself!

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Great Mystery Series and the authors who left them behind – Part II

The other day I posted on great mystery authors who have passed on, but there are other ways mystery series end. Sometimes an author just runs out of juice, or has some other reason for calling it quits.

I’ve come across two such cases with favorite series lately.

First, and sadly, the inimitable Gillian Roberts has packed in her Amanda Pepper series. In her own words “It seemed time for both Amanda and me (and C.K., too) to move on to new challenges. The parting was bittersweet for me—but I suspect that Amanda was overjoyed to be given a little time off from crime. And so, All’s Well That Ends.”

Of course, I’m wondering, what will happen at Philly Prep when it appears that all of a sudden all the murders have stopped happening?? Everyone must have gotten used to all those corpses piling up.

Ms. Roberts goes on to say, “I’m saying farewell to her, at least for now, but I hope I’m not saying goodbye to you. These days, I’m obsessed with seventeenth century Mexico. (I did say I wanted something different, remember.) Even if you’re not a historical mystery buff, I hope you’ll give the book a try when it’s ready. I’m hoping to create a mystery with unique characters, a good story, and some amazing history that’s relevant to our world today.”

Now, I’m most definitely not interested in 17th Century Mexico, but for Gillian Roberts I might give it a go.

Another sad departure, for me, is Selma Eichler’s Desiree Shapiro series. Selma says, on her site, “After months of vacillating like crazy, I’ve decided, for a variety of fairly substantial reasons, to take some time off from my writing. So although I’ll miss Desiree—after all, she’s been a big part of my life for more than fifteen years now—Murder Can Crash Your Party will be the final book in the Desiree Shapiro series. And I say this with more than a tinge of regret. ”

Sigh. That’s okay, I suppose. Grudgingly I will concede that the authors do have a right to call it quits. Just barely, I’ll admit it. The bright spot is, I have not read every book in either series yet, so I have some to savor. Truthfully, my main problem these days is finding time to read, when I barely have time to write!

So farewell Desiree and Amanda. I’ll miss you both.

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Great Mystery series and the authors who left them behind!

I’ve been reading series mysteries as long as I can remember. It kind of started with the old Walter Brooks Freddy the Pig Detective book (it was the best book of the series, I thought) and continued when my mom got me involved in reading Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and the rest.

And speaking of those great ladies… here is my Top Five List of great mystery authors who are no longer with us.

5 – Virginia Rich – wrote a series of culinary murder mysteries I read many years ago, featuring Eugenia Potter. A few of her books were finished and written after her death by the excellent murder mystery author Nancy Pickard.
4 – Ngaio Marsh– April 23, 1895 to February 18, 1982 – I cut my teeth on Marsh’s Roderick Alleyn series. She was a New Zealander who wrote very much in the Dorothy L. Sayers tradition.
3 – Charlotte MacLeod (aka Alisa Craig) November 12th, 1922 to January 14th, 2005 – known for her delightful Sarah and Max mysteries, she also wrote on set in Lobelia Falls Ontario… the Grub-and-Staker’s Club mysteries and another series set in the Canadian Maritimes.  Great fun!
2 – Dorothy L. Sayers – June 13th, 1893 to December 17th, 1957 – Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane are two of the most interesting sleuths ever created.
1 – Of course, who else but the Grande Dame,  Agatha Christie herself??? September 15th, 1890 to January 12th, 1976 – Christie was and always will be known as the most famous creator of the amateur sleuth, in Miss Marple, and the semi-professional in Hercule Poirot.

If you ever have the chance, read Agatha Christie’s autobiography for a glimpse at England before the wars and a look into the mind of a writer. It is wonderful.

I’m having so much fun remembering all the mystery novels series I have read through the years. Next, I think I will relate the sad tale of series whose authors have abandoned them… boo hoo!

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Thank Heaven for Cozies!

I am writing this entry to try to get something out of my mind; what I’m trying to avoid thinking about is that some sick bastard thought it was a nifty idea to put photos of poor David Carradine’s body online. I saw the headline, and I am terrified of coming across the photos.

So… thank heaven for cozy murder mystery novels!

I often think of the fact that though I read loads of murder mysteries, almost all of them are in the ‘cozy’ sub-genre because I have no taste for brutality, and treasure life so very much. Cozy murder mysteries avoid graphic depictions of violence, and are mostly about the characters and bringing order and justice to a troubled world. They will always, but always, have a solution, unlike real life murder mysteries that all too often have no solution discovered.

So, here are my Top Ten recommendations for cozy murder mystery series:

10 – Cookie Jar Mysteries- Joanne Fluke

9 – Elli Haskell ‘Thin Woman’ – Dorothy Cannell

8 – Faith Fairchild ‘The Body in the…’ Mysteries – Katherine Hall Page

7 – Bed & Breakfast Mysteries – Mary Daheim

6 – Death On Demand – Carolyn G. Hart

5 – Goldy Bear Schulz Catering – Diane Mott Davidson

4 – Amanda Pepper – Gillian Roberts

3 – 1st Ladies Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith

2 – Claire Malloy Bookseller – Joan Hess

1 – Maggody, Arkansas – Joan Hess

1 – Agatha Raisin – M. C. Beaton (all right, I know, I can’t have more than one ‘Number One’, but I do.)

They mostly bring humor to a dark world, and lightness to a dark subject.

To find out more about ‘cozy’ murder mysteries, I have just found a brilliant website! Visit

Next, I am going to name the Top Ten series I love by authors who are no longer with us. It is a sad thing that there are so many!!

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