January-February 2007
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Title: Arbor Vitae
Author: Susan X Meagher
ISBN: 0-9770885-0-2
Publisher: Brisk Press
Available From:, Bella Books
Price: $ 16.00
Pages: 461
Genre: Fiction/Romance/Lesbian

Gay or straight-it's easy to fall in love with Clancy O'Connor and Abby Graham in Susan X Meagher's sizzling romance—replete with family drama, compelling character journeys, incredible sex, and unforgettable characters. Arbor Vitae is a thought-provoking page-turner, from the author of the popular, I Found My Heart in San Francisco.

We meet Abby five years after Will's death-as she is starting to come out of mourning. At forty-five, Abby—who was sure that her late husband was probably her last love—finds herself attracted to the landscape architect she hires. Clancy is an honest and open hard worker. She has a heart of gold and exudes enviable self-confidence. Abby may be a straight wealthy widow and devoted mother, but she can't resist the charming and mature twenty-nine-year-old. What starts out as friendship morphs into so much more as the women connect in the most primal way despite a vast array of differences. The ensuing courtship enriches Abby's reason for living, beyond that of the love of her family, friends, and her charity work.

Meagher captures Abby's concerns about her immature seventeen-year-old daughter Hayley, doting twenty-five-year-old son Trevor, and the rest of her family and friends, so well, that I get goose bumps just reading it. The angst Abby goes through while dealing with the issues that come up when a sea change like that occurs is distressing, but watching her transformation from a mother who consistently puts other's needs before her own to a mother who is also a woman in love, is what makes "Arbor Vitae" satisfying and real.

Abby has more to lose by embarking on a lesbian love affair than her young girlfriend. Clancy is out and quite comfortable in her own skin—she makes no apologies for being gay—which in itself is refreshing. Life is difficult enough without throwing a wrench in the mix, but with love, hope, patience, perseverance, and humor, Clancy and Abby strive to have the life they deserve—together.

For readers who enjoy the psychology and fluidity of sexuality; exploring lesbian love from different perspectives; and witnessing two women from different worlds, at different stages in their lives, as they come together, I highly recommend that you read "Arbor Vitae" by Susan X Meagher. Not only is it more book for your buck, but the story is just great and 461 pages goes by in a blink!

Reviewed by Cheri Rosenberg
Title: Burning Dreams
Author: Susan Smith
ISBN: 1933110627
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books, Inc,
Available From: StarCrossed Productions,;; or
Price: $15.95 Pages: 288 pages
Genre: Lesbian Fiction/Romance





Susan Smith's Of Drag Kings and the Wheel of Fate was a powerful story, right on the mark in so many ways. Burning Dreams, its sequel, is even better, and Smith's growth as a storyteller is evident right away.

All of the characters from the first book are back. Taryn's and Rosalind's love story continues with Ellie, Joe and Rhea in strong supporting roles. Paul, Ros' ex, is in the picture now, front and center. He travels to Buffalo because he wants Ros back, and he ends up living with Joe and Rhea while he pursues Ros. This generates friction between Taryn and Ros. And this is where Smith's abilities as a writer shine. She fleshes out the characters well, especially Taryn's. With the threat of Paul, Taryn becomes unlikable and bratty. We, the reader, want her to just grow up because she is doing everything to push Ros away. It is hard to find any redeeming qualities in Taryn, and this is the heart of Burning Dreams. Smith defines the depth of love so succinctly and how it doesn't have to make sense to any of us who are not in the relationship. Only Ros can judge Taryn's behavior as it relates to her.

Smith's style is unique. It envelops the reader with memorable and inspiring passages that are the meat of the story. In my opinion, she is one of the best writers of prose in lesbian fiction today. There is so much emotion mixed with wisdom and clarity in Burning Dreams. It is a story about discovering who we are even in the face of adversity, and it is about creating families to support us so we are not invisible. It is intense yet subtle too, like a velvet hammer. The author again challenges our preconceived notions of love, gender, and what is acceptable. Simply put, she makes us think.

This unusual telling of a modern romance will last a long time. It is hard to predict a classic in the making, but I believe Smith has penned one in Burning Dreams.
Reviewed by Kathi Isserman

Title: Combust the Sun -- A Richfield & Rivers Mystery
Authors: Andrews & Austin
ISBN: 1-933110-52-X
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books, Inc.
Available From: Bella Books,; or StarCrossed Productions,;
Pages: 216 Price: $15.95
Genre: Mystery/Romance

In a succinct film style narrative, with scenes that move, a character-driven plot, and crisp dialogue worthy of a screenplay, Andrews & Austin have successfully crafted an engaging Hollywood mystery. The added bonus is an unpredictable romance between two intelligent and witty women who have a fantastic sense of humor evident on every page, even as danger lurks at every turn. Richfield and Rivers are destined for each other, as if by cosmic command. Combust the Sun doesn't follow the structure of traditional lesbian fiction, yet Andrews & Austin are able to sustain the sensuality/sexuality amidst utter chaos.

Someone is killing Marathon Studio's bigwigs and Teague Richfield, an ex-cop turned screenwriter, ends up in the middle of the mess. After having lunch with the smashingly handsome Barrett Silvers, head of development at Marathon Studios, who had launched Teague's writing career, Teague finds herself in peril and pursued by thugs while Barrett ends up in Intensive Care, and Teague finds herself in peril while being pursued by thugs.

In the meantime, Teague's mom introduces her skeptical daughter to a psychic astrologer, Callie Rivers. Teague is immediately hooked on Callie: "The door swung open to reveal a drop-dead gorgeous blond…I followed her trail of orgasmic perfume pretending to check out the floor-to-ceiling glass that provided a nice view of the river, but mostly I was checking out her fabulously small, tight ass…" (p. 46-7). Teague wonders: "What in the world do we have in common other than my intense desire for her: Maybe that's why God gives us desire, to keep us sexually hooked on one another until we have time to figure out we have other things in common" (p. 69). The mutual attraction occurs early in the novel, without the usual build-up, barriers, and finally earth-shattering consummation of the relationship as in most typical romance novels, but this rollercoaster romance works because real life isn't always neat and predictable.

Teague voices insecurity familiar in the industry: "As a screenwriter, I vacillated between the certainty that I would never be able to write the stories I was given and the fear that I would never be given any stories to write" (p. 19). Getting her break after bedding studio executive Barrett Silvers doesn't exactly bolster her self-esteem, but she's in, so to speak. The fact that her best friend is a basset (basket) hound named Elmo and she is haunted by the prospect of never finding her soul mate, Teague laments what she's missing by living alone, "That moment in the night when fears and frailties take over was the reason God created coupling. It was why the passengers on Noah's Ark didn't proceed up the plank single file. God didn't create couples merely for procreation, because mankind can too easily circumvent the Divine plan with petri dishes and test tubes. God created couples for that moment between 'news and snooze,' that moment when there is comfort in an icy bottom up against a warm belly and the sounds of rhythmic breathing in the night" (p. 32). Teague may be a sarcastic, self-described "psycho" in love with a psychic, but rationalization will not curb her appetite. Human imperfection is especially cute on Teague as her admirable strength, sense of justice, and fierce protectiveness of Callie are endearing traits. And the 41-year-old offers beauty tips too: "I brushed my punked auburn hair straight up. When gravity takes the body south, brush everything north" (p. 32).

The humor is without question the fun part, the mystery is the hook, and the love interest is what I enjoy most. Teague and Callie fighting in public is a classic. At the height of their loud argument, "A tall, thin waiter swished over to us and brandished his pad and pencil. 'Do you two need more time...or would that just make things worse?'" (p. 138).

Andrews & Austin convince me that it's possible for Teague to fall so completely, madly, and deeply in love with a psychic at first sight, and that if Callie Rivers has special powers, then it must be true, or else life is full of some very incredible coincidences.

I could write a book about all that I found clever, witty, and just plain funny amidst the action, adventure, and mystery, but luckily, they already wrote it! Every page has something that tickles my funny bone. I love the truisms they included as it increased my hope for romance, survival, and justice for the main characters. Even a person who doesn't put faith in psychics will wonder about that after reading Combust the Sun.

Combust the Sun will leave you waiting impatiently for the sequels Stellium In Scorpio (2007) and a third book in the Richfield & Rivers Mystery series entitled Venus Besieged, which will be out in 2008. A mystical romance, Mistress of the Runes (2007), is also on the schedule. If you long for a fun diversion in your life, or if you enjoy action sequences that keep you on the edge of your seat, a who-done-it that will keep you guessing, and a stay-tuned for the next episode type of book, then Combust the Sun is for you.
Reviewed by Cheri Rosenberg

Title: Don't Murder Your Mystery: 24 Fiction-Writing Techniques
to Save Your Manuscript from Turning Up D.O.A.
Author: Chris Roerden
ISBN: 1933523131 / 978-1933523132
Publisher: Bella Rosa Books,
Available From: Bella Rosa Books,
Price: $17.95
Genre: Nonfiction

From the beginning of this immensely insightful writing manual, Chris Roerden focuses on what it takes to write novels that will survive both an agent's and a publisher's screening process. I spent a couple of years in the early 1990s reading the slush pile at two nearby publishing houses, and I can affirm Roerden's statement that the vast majority of manuscripts submitted to agents and presses are rejected because the writers fail to submit a solid, well-written, and entertaining product.

In the dog-eat-dog world of publishing, Roerden tells us publishers pick very few new writers - and only those who look like winners - and they "ignore the rest whose work reveals evidence of average writing, aka 'amateur.'" She goes on to tell us: "The publishing industry cannot afford to gamble on writers who are still developing their potential, who show little evidence of having studied the craft of the profession they aspire to, or who fail to reflect the preferences that publishers and agents state in their submission guidelines" (p. 12).

The book setup is clever. In ten parts, she delineates 24 specific fiction-writing areas to focus upon in revisions. To start out, in Part I: DEAD ON ARRIVAL, she lays out all the reasons why writers simply must write, revise, edit, and format their novels or else they won't be published. In that section, Roerden tells us about THE JUDGES: Screener-outers - and what they look for; THE PLAINTIFFS: Writers - and what you hope for; THE DEFENDANTS: Agents and publishers - and why they do what they do; and CORRECTIONS FACILITIES: Self-editors - and how to do what you need to.

Each of the subsequent nine parts features one of the 24 fiction-writing techniques, which Roerden, tongue in cheek, labels CLUES. For instance, in Part III: FIRST OFFENDERS, she's got:

CLUE #1: HOBBLED HOOKS - Replace with high-tensile lines that stretch your holding power;
CLUE #2: PERILOUS PROLOGUES - Beware: May lead to low-tension, post-prologue, backstory ache;
CLUE #3: BLOODY BACKSTORY - To remove the evidence, slice, dice, and splice.

The advice to "slice, dice, and splice" is quite simply wonderful, and with her terrific explanations, it's easy to remember what she means and apply it to work on a manuscript. In concise language steeped in good humor and fabulous examples, Roerden reveals each of the 24 CLUES (including FATAL FLASHBACKS, TOXIC TRANSCRIPTS, DECEPTIVE DREAMS, DASTARDLY DESCRIPTION, DYING DIALOGUE, KILLED BY CLICHÉ, GESTURED TO DEATH, and many more). She systematically provides tips and techniques for avoiding these pitfalls. The 24 "Clues," when properly understood and applied, will make any author's well-told tale a winner.

She rounds out this well-written guide with an index and four "Exhibits," including: instructions for standard manuscript formatting; a bibliography of the multitude of books she cited throughout the text; a list of popular Internet crime-writing sites; and recommended nonfiction in the areas of general writing, mystery, editing, character building, marketing, etc.

All too often How-To guides warn you about basic no-no's, but I've never before seen a guide that does such a great job detailing HOW TO AVOID those no-no's. Using clear-headed explanations, Roerden creates outstanding examples of poor form and uses shining examples of good form from 150 published novels, all of which provides thorough and easy-to-understand instruction.

Despite the title of this book, this How-To manual is *not* only for mystery writers. I would recommend it for anyone who is attempting to create a finished draft for publication. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Reviewed by Lori L. Lake
Title: Fresh Tracks
Author: Georgia Beers
ISBN: 1933110635
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books,
Available From: StarCrossed Productions,; and
Price: $15.95 Pages: 240 pages
Genre: Lesbian Fiction/Romance

What better way to spend a holiday than surrounded by friends in a place that you love? This is the opening premise of Fresh Tracks by Georgia Beers. What starts out looking like a simple story of friendships however, quickly becomes a study of relationships - how they change, how they affect the ways we view each other and how they can be threatened if they aren't nurtured properly.

Amy Forrester and Jo Cooper have been partners for many years. They share an extremely stable and loving relationship that is still nurtured with a healthy sexual desire for each other. No lesbian bed death here. They share many interests and friends and open their cabin in the woods to four of their friends to spend the holidays between Christmas and New Year's with them. The surprise addition of Jo's niece Darby to the mix doesn't seem to be a problem, at first.

What Amy and Jo don't know is that their friends are not as happy as they themselves are. Molly and Kristen are in serious trouble, struggling to restore a relationship that is being killed by overwork and misunderstandings. If they aren't careful, they can lose everything they share with just a few harsh words. Darby, who has a reputation for loving and leaving her women, doesn't intend to be the troublemaker in this situation, but finds herself drawn to Molly in a way she's never felt before. If Kristen isn't careful, she's going to find that all of the hours of work she's been spending creating a career to support her dreams for herself and Molly will have built a future for no one.

Sophie is trying not to let her broken heart ruin the holiday for everyone else. She's struggling to survive her first holiday alone since discovering that her lover had been cheating on her and left her. She vacillates between bitter anger and despair that she will ever trust anyone again. Unfortunately, Sophie finds herself rooming with a woman who represents her own betrayal.

Laura is living on her own for the first time since cheating on her unsuspecting husband with a woman she found out didn't love her after all. She's trying to cope with a new understanding of herself and the guilt she feels over how she treated her husband. What she doesn't need is the condemnation that radiates from Sophie, who just can't help herself.

Amy and Jo find that, instead of a pleasant few days enjoying the wilderness with their friends, they have to deal with all of the drama spilling over from this group. They have to strike a balance between supporting their friends and letting them solve their own problems. More than once they're going to wonder if they should have just kept the cabin to themselves.

Fresh Tracks is Georgia Beers' most thought-provoking book so far. She takes a nice story and turns it into something more. All of the characters are likeable, but some of them do some very unlikeable things. What is interesting is the way the relationships are juxtaposed to force the reader to examine them as opposites. There are lessons in how actions that are taken for the best of reasons can sometimes lead to negative results and that people who make terrible mistakes can have other redeeming qualities about them. There is also a subtle message about the power of forgiving people for what they have done as a release for the person who is doing the forgiving. Too often in real life it seems easier to carry a grudge than to try and understand things from another person's perspective. Different characters struggle to understand that other perspective. The story in Fresh Tracks isn't new, but the way it shows the interactions between the characters makes it interesting. Beers always provides a good story. This one might also make you think.
Reviewed by Lynne Pierce

Title: Lavender Secrets
Author: Sandra Barret
ISBN: 9781932300734
Publisher: Regal Crest Enterprises
Available at: StarCrossed Productions,
Price: $14.95
Pages: 184Genre: Lesbian Romance

Relationships are complex. They can be nurturing and supportive or the most destructive aspect in a person's life. They shape how a person thinks and reacts to situations and other people. Learning how to deal with them, especially if the relationship isn't positive, can be the most difficult part of living.

Lavender Secrets is about relationships. Emma Levanteur has a number of issues to cope with. She comes from a working class background and aspires to be more, so she is in graduate school working on a degree in mathematics. Emma shares an apartment with a former girlfriend and has to adjust to the new and dangerous relationship that the ex-girlfriend is involved in. How far should she or does she have the right to involve herself in the situation to protect an old love?

She also must deal with the bitter emotions that she and her mother share over the fact that Emma's father deserted them years before. To complicate matters further, there's Nicole Davis, an attractive, captivating and straight professor of English literature who has Emma's emotions in turmoil. When Emma is hired to be the consultant for Nicole's wedding, the women find themselves being drawn to each other, which confuses Nicole and the plans she has made for her future. Can a lesbian and a straight woman truly just be friends when one of them knows she is in love with the other? What type of relationship does Nicole have with her future husband and his family? Does she really want to spend her life with these pompous, self-important people or could there be happiness in a new kind of relationship with Emma? Emma can't escape questions either when her father suddenly reappears with a new family. How does she establish a relationship with him while not destroying the one she has with her mother? Life is usually complex and it certainly is in this book.

At first, Lavender Secrets appears to be another romance, but, as the story unfolds, it is clear that much more is developing. These people are trying to learn how they fit into each other's lives. They are also struggling to understand what they want from those lives and the people who are involved in them. It is about making connections, altering some connections and learning to sever others. The book is about learning how to put the pieces of your puzzle together so that you get the best fit possible between all of your relationships to create the most satisfying life that you can. And the bonus in this book is that everything takes place in what is a plain good story. Lavender Secrets is well worth the time you will spend reading it.
Reviewed by Lynne Pierce

Title: Lesbian Pulp Fiction: The Sexually Intrepid World
of Lesbian Paperback Novels 1950-1965
Author: Selected and Introduced by Katherine V. Forrest
ISBN: 1573442100
Publisher: Cleis Press,
Available From: Cleis Press,
Price: $18.95 -- Pages: 415
Genre: Lesbian Fiction Anthology

Once upon a time, the multitude of lesbians lived closeted, secret lives, isolated from others and often from their own true feelings and aspirations. There was no Internet, no gay radio, no magazine or journal or organization to turn to for affirmation. Until the 1950s, precious few books reflected anything at all about the lesbian experience. This changed in 1950 when Fawcett Publications inaugurated the Gold Medal imprint and kicked off a wave of pulp fiction publishing that included both gay and lesbian novels. For the first time in history, women could find cheap paperbacks featuring lesbians, and the books sold in the millions.

Pulp novels constituted one of the first steps toward lesbians having a written presence in any kind of literature. As Katherine V. Forrest writes in the introduction to Lesbian Pulp Fiction: "The importance of all our pulp fiction novels cannot possibly be overstated. Whatever their negative images or messages, they told us we were not alone. Because they told us about each other, they led us to look for and find each other, they led us to the end of the isolation that had divided and conquered us. And once we found each other, once we began to question the judgments made of us, our civil rights movement was born," (p. xviii).

In moving style, Forrest also writes of finding in 1957 a copy of Ann Bannon's Odd Girl Out, "a book as necessary to me as air" (p. ix). How fitting that Forrest should edit this wonderful homage to these early writers when her own works are frequently cited as having the same effect upon other women as Bannon's work had upon her. Curious Wine (1983) is frequently cited by lesbians as a book that saved their lives. I believe it when Forrest writes, "I write my books out of the profound wish that no one will ever have to be there again" (p. ix).

To spotlight those early pulp novels, Forrest has selected twenty-two excerpts by nineteen authors including Ann Bannon, Vin Packer, Paula Christian, Tereska Torres, Valerie Taylor, and Marion Zimmer Bradley writing as Miriam Gardner. Among reasons for selecting these particular excerpts, Forrest cites pioneering status, sexual content, happy endings, reflections of the times, and quality of writing.

Many of these books have been reprinted (several by Cleis Press), and with a little diligence, all of them can be located and purchased. Each of them is well worth reading in its entirety, but this wonderful collection will provide hours of delight and enjoyment to anyone willing to enter into the sexually intrepid world of lesbian paperback novels. An essential text for all libraries, both private and public, this book is highly recommended.
Reviewed by Lori L. Lake

Title: Lessons
Author: Kim Pritekel
ISBN: 1933720085
Publisher: P.D. Publishing, Inc.
Available at: StarCrossed Productions,
Price: $19.99
Pages: 295
Genre: Lesbian Romance

There are certain stories that are repeated in literature, told again and again by different writers. What is it about one version that makes it stand out? Makes it more than the pat retelling of something that the reader is already familiar with? Since it can't be the story itself, it has to be the skill of the writer in drawing the reader in and causing her to want to know how this version ends. Lessons by Kim Pritekel is such a book.

Chase Marin is just beginning college, more of an escape from her family than a real interest in education. Many things are changing in Chase's life and she's feeling very uncomfortable trying to sort out what is causing them and, more importantly, how to react to them. Things seem to get a little easier when she discovers that the graduate student who is teaching one of her classes is an old friend from when she was much younger.

Dagny Robertson is a few years older than Chase and was once her babysitter. She always seemed to understand the younger Chase when her family didn't and they reestablish their friendship based on the same kind of understanding for each other. As Chase moves through the process of establishing more mature relationships with her friends and family, Dagny becomes the stabilizer she can always turn to. The reader is allowed to follow them as they help each other through difficult situations and as they simply meet at the coffee shop to spend some time together. As time passes though, Chase comes to realize that her feelings for Dagny go beyond the hero worship she felt as a child and the friendship she feels as an adult. She's concerned about this because she isn't sure how Dagny perceives the relationship, so she has to hide her feelings. This is refreshing because the friendship is important enough to Chase that she's willing to suppress the desire for anything else to keep from threatening it.

As the story continues to unfold, the challenge for both Chase and Dagny will become to decide which is more important, the friendship which has become so crucial for both of them or a relationship that neither is certain she's ready for.

What makes Pritekel's book stand out is that she takes the time to develop her characters. They don't rush through a few pages making instant discoveries and proclaiming undying love for each other. More than once the story takes a turn that leaves its outcome in suspense.

The reader also gets to know these two women and their friends. They have lives that involve other people besides the two of them. Chase particularly is surrounded by a cast of well-developed characters. There is the childhood best friend who seems to be on a path of self destruction no matter what Chase does; the extremely religious roommate who appears to have nothing in common with Chase, but opens a new world of experiences to her and ultimately understands what is going on with Chase before she does herself; and the members of the band Chase performs with who give her a dimension beyond the relationship with Dagny. Dagny is not a monotone character either, but richly crafted for depth. The story is told from Chase's perspective though, so she is the more complete character.

Again, though, what makes this book interesting is the time the reader can take to get to know the characters. Anyone who has read many romances already has an idea of where the story is heading. It's how the book gets there that makes this one appealing. By the end of the book, Chase and Dagny are people you wish you really did know. Lessons is well worth reading in order to feel that experience.
Reviewed by Lynne Pierce

Title: Night Vision: A Jane Lawless Mystery
Author: Ellen Hart
ISBN: 0312349440
Publisher: St Martin's Minotaur
Available From: StarCrossed Productions,
Price: $24.95
Pages: 336 pages
Genre: Lesbian Fiction/mystery

It took me a while to discover Ellen Hart's award-winning Jane Lawless Mystery series. The Iron Girl had just released and I grabbed it up because of the great reviews it had garnered. While it was the 13th in the series, it was the first that I read, and I was hooked. I devoured every one in the series after that over a four month period. Then I anxiously anticipated Night Vision, the next in the series, and the wait was well worth it. This tightly written page turner was so enjoyable that it can be reread many times over.

Hart sets up the intrigue from the first pages. Actress Joanna Kasimir's stalker is back after a 10 year absence and jail term. He has raised the stakes this time and is more terrifying. At the same time Joanna's brother, David, an old high school chum of restaurateur Jane Lawless', goes missing for a month. We are led to believe that his disappearance may be related to his sister's stalker, but while Joanna is in Minneapolis starring in a theater production, David shows up unexpectedly. Both are seeking refuge but for different reasons. Hart though does not give away any details too early, and we must read on to uncover the mysteries. Private Investigator AJ Nolan is hired by Joanna. He makes Jane an offer she can't refuse, and she is on the case, trying to get to the bottom of the puzzling clues.

Night Vision floats effortlessly back and forth between the present day action and the stalking history between Joanna and Gordon Luberman, an ex-boyfriend. What Luberman is capable of has a chilling effect on the overall story. Hart's description of their disturbing history generates an element of dread and moves the plot along at a fast clip.

All is not foreboding though in a Jane Lawless mystery. Hart balances the story by peppering it with subtle Midwest humor. The continuity of characters in the series gives the reader a sense that we are visiting old friends. Her storytelling is clever, but not simple. She does not confuse the reader and leads us straight down the path to the logical conclusion, if we pay attention.

Night Vision was a fun Sunday afternoon read, but don't wait until Sunday for this entertaining story. I highly recommend any Jane Lawless mystery especially the latest, Night Vision.
Reviewed by Kathi Isserman

Title: Night Vision: A Jane Lawless Mystery
Author: Ellen Hart
ISBN: 0312349440
Publisher: St Martin's Minotaur
Available From: StarCrossed Productions,
Price: $24.95
Pages: 336 pages
Genre: Lesbian Fiction/mystery

Ellen Hart has done it again. In Night Vision, Jane Lawless and friends, old and new, work their way through another great mystery.

When actress Joanna Kasimir returns to Minneapolis to star in one of Cordelia Thorn's productions, she is already shaken to the core. The upheaval surrounding Joanna begins again when a dozen pink roses, the second delivery she's received in a week, arrives at the loft complex where Cordelia lives and where Joanna is staying. Joanna reveals that many years ago, she received roses from an old boyfriend who subsequently spent time in jail for stalking her. But as the story unfolds, we learn that, as a well-known star, Joanna has quite a number of fans with fantasies that could lead to trouble for her, and a few try to wheedle their way into her life and heart with various ploys.

Meanwhile, David Carlson, Joanna's brother and an old friend of Jane's, appears unexpectedly on Jane's doorstep, looking as though something is very wrong. Although David has come to Jane for help, he can't seem to talk about what's troubling him. When Jane realizes that David has become a nocturnal animal, leaving the house late at night, or behaving strangely when he stays in, she doesn't know what to do. In addition, Cordelia is in crisis because, with the reappearance of her sister Olivia and her new boyfriend, she finds that she may lose Hattie, her beloved three-year-old niece, who has been living with Cordelia.

Jane is forced to juggle all this turmoil while trying to keep her own life from being forfeit when she unexpectedly encounters the object of Joanna's fears, Gordon Luberman. Hart has masterfully created in Gordon one of those disturbing characters that has the reader continually thinking about the story and looking for every opportunity to read on and find out what happens next. Counterbalancing the terror that Gordon's actions convey is the trademark laugh-out-loud exchanges between Jane and Cordelia.

This is Hart's best Lawless whodunit yet. The large cast of characters are richly drawn, and the story, with its subplots, twists, and turns keeps the reader turning pages from beginning to end. Don't miss Night Vision, the 14th offering in the Jane Lawless Mystery series.
Reviewed by Anna Furtado

Title: No Margins: Writing Canadian Fiction in Lesbian
Edited by: Catherine Lake and Nairne Holtz with an introduction by Susan Knutson
ISBN: 1590210603
Publisher: Insomniac Press,
Available From: Insomniac Press,
Price: $18.00 - Pages: 332
Genre: Lesbian Fiction Anthology

At long last, we finally have an anthology of stories and excerpts from fifteen of Canada's very best lesbian writers. From the gutsy feel of Dionne Brand's heroine to the beauty of language in Lydia Kwa's work to the subtle humor Marnie Woodrow employs, each of the short pieces in No Margins is a wonderful read. Skillfully selected and introduced by editors Catherine Lake and Nairne Holtz, each piece includes notes from the writer to acquaint us with the attitudes and ideas of each woman and ends with a brief bio for that author.

US readers may be familiar with the work of Ann-Marie MacDonald, Karen X. Tulchinsky, Nicole Brossard, and Emma Donoghue, but the other fantastic lesbian authors here are also writing remarkable fiction. Anne Fleming, Larissa Lai, Elizabeth Ruth, Marion Douglas, Jane Eaton Hamilton, Shani Mootoo, Luanne Armstrong, and Daphne Marlatt should not be missed.

Editor Catherine Lake, in the Editor's Note, writes: "We are not only a readership but also a community that thrives on the words, images, and creativity of our writers." This collection is chock-full of marvelous words and images by some wonderfully creative writers who are writing outside the margin, and I highly recommend it.
Reviewed by Lori L. Lake

Title: Pipeline
Author: Brenda Adcock
ISBN: 978-1-932300-64-2
Publisher: Regal Crest Enterprises, LLC
Available From: StarCrossed Productions,
Price: $ 15.95
Pages: 175
Genre: Fiction/Mystery/Lesbian

Pipeline by Brenda Adcock captured my attention from the first six lines and held me captive for the entire ride. Joanna Carlisle is tough, lives life on the edge, and before retirement, she was one of those work-obsessed women who put her career before her family with disastrous results. Jo didn't know what she had until it was gone. The reclusive photojournalist, part-time sleuth is leading a relaxing life out on her Texas ranch until her ex shows up after a fifteen-year absence. Jo feels a familiar pang when Cate discloses the reason for the visit, but her stubborn, self-destructive nature thwarts her ability to repair past regrets. Will Jo learn from her mistakes?

Cate Hammond, an attractive and successful attorney, manages to get back under Jo's skin. Adcock flawlessly weaves the past and present to show the love lost between two passionate women who are so right for each other that the reader prays for reconciliation.

Pipeline is a classic romance as much as it is a mystery. When Cate enlists Jo's help, Jo, against her better judgment, gets in over her head while investigating the attempted murder of her estranged journalist son, Kyle. She risks her life uncovering the unscrupulous stench of the men running the ABP meatpacking business. Watching Jo take on the villains is as compelling as reminiscing about Jo and Cate when they were happy together. Jo's lack of concern for her own safety shows a caring woman of substance, even though she has trouble expressing her love in as many words. There's also the hope that Jo and her son will renew their relationship.

Every scene shows who Jo is and what makes her tic. Adcock's characterization is consistent, convincing, and gives the reader well-rounded, three-dimensional characters. Despite Jo's foul butch mouth or her penchant for pushing away the people she loves, the flawed, yet heroic, woman clinches the reader's wish for her happiness.

Pipeline is touching. I highly recommend you get a copy of this five star romantic mystery that is hot without being sexually explicit and intriguing without being gory. Adcock successfully validates older women in our youth-obsessed society. At 57, Jo is just as feisty, sexy, and adventurous as women who are half her age.

Discovering Pipeline by Brenda Adcock is just the beginning of what I hope is many memorable reads by this talented author. I can't wait for Reiko's Garden, due May 2007, and Redress of Grievances, tentatively due August 2007.
Reviewed by Cheri Rosenberg

Title: Scarlet E
Author: Lois Glenn
ISBN: 978-1-932300-75-8
Publisher: Regal Crest Enterprises, LLC
Available from: StarCrossed Productions,
Price: $11.95
Pages: 118
Genre: Poetry/Erotica/Lesbian

A sensual, insightful, and satisfying compilation of poems, Scarlet E, by Lois Glenn, is an enticing, thought-provoking journey that expresses a whole gamut of human emotion ranging through sorrow, hope, jealousy, desire, and love. Predominantly free verse, Scarlet E has it all, depicting everything from momentary pleasure garnered at a stranger's touch to a yearning for surrender, safety, and commitment. In this her praiseworthy debut poetic collection, Glenn uses sensuous imagery and melodic phrases to describe the human need for touch, acceptance, and, ultimately, unconditional love.

While each poem is a separate entity, the whole volume tells the story of love, loss, and renewal. Each reader will be able to find personal favorites based on her own taste and experiences. From the first poem, "Just a Dance" to the last, "Forever," Glenn speaks with candor and grace in a style that tantalizes the imagination and stimulates the soul. Her vivid imagery is captivating and draws the reader along on the introspective journey.

The language of Glenn's poems changes to fit the mood and tone. Although most of the poems have no rhyme, she does use it here and there to call attention to a particular phrase or set a mood as in
"Guttural Surrender" (p. 47):

Emotions swirling in misty eyes
released mighty and soulful cries.
Lips moved to swallow her groan,
completely surrendered with a guttural moan.

Throughout, the poems are enriched by the words Glenn chooses as much for meaning as for sound. In "Stranger's Embrace" (p. 9) the use of sibilants is soft and caressing and works neatly with the meaning.

Long moments of silence passed,
allowing the sun's warmth to caress
the side of my face, while I listened
to her comforting voice
melt the ice from my lips.

She also varies the tone of the poems. At times conversational with stanzas formed of complete sentences, they can also be cryptic as in "Afterglow" (p. 23) which is a series of unpunctuated stanzas each consisting of a single noun with an adjective phrase. It is pure imagery. And it moves!

But always her poems are dominated by the images. Frequently Glenn creates a juxtaposition of one thing with another completely different to emphasize their one esoteric similarity such as this stanza from "Stray Home" (p. 69). It is such an effective way to express the tenuous thread that keeps a jilted lover sane.

A breeze jangles the leaves;
knowing better than to admit weakness,
they cling tighter to the tree.

These unusual and powerful images are evocative of sensory experience that gives a lushness and resonant timbre to the physical and emotional substance of the poems.

Nowhere is this more strongly evidenced than in the breathtaking and heartrending sorrow of "Malignancy" (p. 98).

© Lois Glenn
(Reprinted with permission from the author)

Echoes of a shadow
proved her dreaded suspicion,
silencing her vigor
with endless nausea
and eternal torture.

One day her pains disappeared
with the thunder of tears
sweeping up the front stairs.
Now clumps of mowed grass
cling to all who pass.

Rainwater swirls as a reminder
over my bare feet;
beneath the cold surface
is no place for
life's triumphant defeat.

Lois Glenn expresses personal thoughts in an intense and intimate writing style through images appealing to all the senses. With verses that explore the full range of the lesbian love experience, Scarlet E is worthy of many readings.

Do not miss Scarlet E. I highly recommend it, and it is a great gift idea too.
Reviewed by Cheri Rosenberg

Title: Shadow Work
Author: Cynthia Tyler
ISBN: 1-56023-622-1
Publisher: Harrington Park Press, Alice Street Editions
Available From: Haworth Press Inc.,
Price: $17.95
Pages: 192
Genre: Fiction/Lesbian

Shadow Work is a continuation of the story of Chris Cameron begun in Descanso (Haworth Press 2005). Having overcome the grief of losing her partner as a result of a violent crime in the first book, Chris now faces new challenges both in her personal and professional life.

First, there is the political turmoil at the clinic where Chris is a psychotherapist. It begins when the executive director, Billy Sullivan, dies suddenly. A battle develops as a string of applicants for Billy's job present their philosophies of the mental health profession and their qualifications. Chris tries to hold the Center together at the request of the Board of Directors, but she discovers that all is not as it appears. Billy has nearly brought the place to bankruptcy squandering the funds on activities unbecoming to a Minister and mental health professional.

While all this is unfolding, Chris' friends try to convince her that she is the right person to take the helm of the Center. Chris, however, doesn't think that she wants the position, feeling that she would have to compromise too many of her professional principles and her personal integrity. But is that really what's stopping her? Or is she afraid of the responsibility? Most of all, Chris isn't even sure that there will be a Center for her to manage when all this is over.

Chris' fledgling relationship with Linda Vasquez continues to unfold in Shadow Work. Chris met Linda when Linda responded in her capacity as a police officer to some of the problems that arose in Descanso. In Shadow Work, the two grow closer together and Linda takes Chris home to meet her family, allowing Chris to learn a great deal more about the depths of the woman with whom she is falling in love. The character of Linda Vasquez is a fascinating one. She speaks with an economy of words but Tyler puts some true gems into her mouth.

Meanwhile, Chris' friend Corey is coming to grips with her own demons. If Corey's partner, Kaye, finds out exactly what kind of trouble she has gotten into, it could jeopardize their relationship. Chris tries to offer support and guidance, but she's not sure that she can succeed where Corey is concerned.

Chris' aunt, Willa, and her partner make a brief appearance in the story and, as with the first book, Chris' encounters with Aunt Willa are both funny and touching. Chris has a special relationship with her aunt and Willa helps to break the tension of the story while presenting the fresh outlook that only a wise elder can.

Through it all, Chris finds that dreams are significant for her, as they were in the first book, and she calls upon Ellie James, the shamanic practitioner who lives in the Mojave Desert town of Joshua Tree that we met in the first book. If there is anything wanting in this story, it is more detail about Ellie James, who seems an interesting character. Ellie's support and guidance helps Chris with her continuing personal growth. With Ellie and Linda's guidance, Chris finally finds meaning in the chaos happening all around her.

In Shadow Work, Tyler gives us a fine continuation of the tale of Chris Cameron's personal and professional growth, while introducing some interesting characters whose own stories add to this appealing account.
Reviewed by Anna Furtado

Title: Sweetwater
Author: Mickey Minner
ISBN: 9781932300635
Publisher: Yellow Rose Books (Regal Crest Enterprises)
Available From: StarCrossed Productions,
Price: $16.95
Pages: 217
Genre: Western/Romance

Western movies and novels used to be a staple of the American entertainment industry, but they seem to have been supplanted in recent years by products with a more scientific theme, although films like Star Wars are nothing more than cowboys and Indians in space. Sweetwater is dedicated to Mickey Minner's grandfather who probably, like many people of the pre-television era, had many memories of the Saturday movies that often featured serialized Western stories. He must have shared those memories with the author because there is a definite tone of them about Sweetwater.

Jennifer Kensington finds her life too constraining. She wants to work in the family business, but her father wants her to do what other young women in Boston in the late 1800s do - get married to someone who will enhance the family's standing in business and society. When Jennifer can't convince him that she's not interested in that, her answer is to run off to the West to become a teacher and experience some of the adventure she craves.

In Sweetwater, Montana, she meets Jesse Branson, who owns The Silver Slipper, a successful restaurant and rooming house, and a ranch. The two women are instantly drawn to each other, but immediately encounter problems. Someone who is trying to destroy Jesse's reputation also threatens her life. That is followed by a dangerous visit to the town of Bannack, where they have to deal with a murderous sheriff and a foundling child. As the women struggle to clear Jesse's name and deal with these other incidents, they build a relationship that brings them both the warmth and acceptance for being themselves that never existed in their respective families. Around them are clustered a supporting cast of characters that adds depth to the story and a flavor of the Old West.

The book starts with a disclaimer that says "…it describes a West that the author wishes had existed and not the historical reality of many situations." If the reader has any knowledge of the true history of the West, there will have to be some suspension of belief when this story is read. It's difficult to believe that a town would accept a 16-year-old school teacher who lives openly in a lesbian relationship with another woman, no matter how respected that woman is. The character of Jesse rings a little truer as a woman who gambles with men, runs her own business and has a ranch, because the West was famous for the increased opportunities it provided to women, but sometimes it's a stretch to think that she would be accepted also with no questions.

Once you get past those images however, Sweetwater is an entertaining book. The descriptions of the environment are vivid. The settings can be clearly visualized and what detail there is appears to be accurate. There is the sense of being in one of the old serials as the reader gallops from one adventure to another and the characters are appealing. Because Jesse and Jennifer are somewhat naïve, their growing awareness of each other and their attraction is tender and will remind the reader of the discovery and awkwardness of first love. The story could have been set in any time and place, but the choice of 1800's Montana gives the book a unique flavor. It should provide several hours of pleasant entertainment.
Reviewed by Lynne Pierce

Title: Sword of the Guardian
Author: Merry Shannon
ISBN: 1933110368
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books,
Available From: StarCrossed Productions,; and Bella Books,
Price: $15.95 -- Pages: 380
Genre: Lesbian Fantasy





Princess Shasta is a spoiled young teen who's got everything: royal blood, beauty, wealth, power, and influence. But her life is turned upside down when her dashing twin brother - heir to the kingdom - is murdered at a party in front of the royalty, nobles, and others. If not for the quick intercession of Talon, a young acrobat performing at the party, Shasta would have been stabbed, too.

The king decrees that Talon be Shasta's bodyguard, not realizing that "he" is actually a she. What follows is a terrific adventure, coming of age story, a romance, and tale of courtly intrigue, attempted assassination, and gender confusion as the young princess learns, grows, and comes into her own.

This is a rollicking fun book and a must-read for those who enjoy courtly light fantasy in a medieval-seeming time. Merry Shannon is a bright new voice in lesbian fantasy fiction, and this one's highly recommended.
Reviewed by Lori L. Lake

Title: The Clinic - Book One in the Tristaine Series
Author: Cate Culpepper
ISBN: 1933110422
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books,
Available From: StarCrossed Productions,; and Bella Books,
Price: $15.95 - Pages: 190
Genre: Lesbian Fantasy





When Brenna begins work as a medic at a clinic where political prisoners are held and interrogated, she's not supposed to feel anything for the miscreants she doctors. Despite cultural and political expectations, however, Brenna can't help but feel for her patients. In particular, one named Jess piques her curiosity, and Brenna can't resist the gradual slide into involvement, even if it's dangerous and the clinic director, Caster, may find out.

In contrast to the repressive world where Brenna now lives, the village of Tristaine that she learns about from Jess sounds like a haven, and as she gets to know Jess, Brenna finds herself longing for things she'd never considered. Will she acquiesce to the powers that be - or take a chance and follow her heart? Even more troubling, will Jess survive the ordeals she is put through?

The first of what is so far a three-part series (Battle for Tristaine: Book II; Tristaine Rises: Book III), The Clinic sets the tone for what promises to be a terrific series. Culpepper's writing style is spare and evocative, her plotting precise. You can't help but feel strongly for the Amazon warrior women and their plight, and this book is a must-read for all those who enjoy light fantasy coupled with a powerful story of survival and adventure. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Lori L. Lake

Title: The Nesting Place
Author: Sarah Aldridge
ISBN: 0-930044-26-6
Publisher: A&M Books (originally Naiad)
Distributed by A&M Books,
Price: $12.95
Pages: 218
Genre: Fiction/Lesbian





In The Nesting Place, the reader will find a familiar Aldridge subject about a woman with humble beginnings becoming a doctor and establishing a relationship with a wealthy matron. However, this story is set in more contemporary times and the relationship with the wealthy matron has a twist.

Dr. Sabina Hill runs a clinic for disadvantaged young women. Befriended by Claire Duane, a rich socialite who makes a pet project of Sabina's clinic, Claire calls upon Sabina when she faces her own personal tragedy when her beloved beach house, a family heirloom, burns to the ground. Claire, attracted to Sabina, soon overcomes remoteness, and much to Sabina's surprise, the two become lovers.

Claire's husband, Phillip, also Claire's first cousin, has his hand in the affairs of the family wealth, especially the art collection of the couple's grandfather, Walter Curry. As the story unfolds, we meet another "family member" in the person of Letty, also known as Madame Grandi, a musical prodigy, who was "adopted" by Phillip's mother to be trained on the piano. Letty is a winsome creature, often doing as she pleases, much to Claire's consternation. Claire is especially concerned when Letty refuses to perform on tour and her reputation begins to falter among her critics.

Claire is not without influence with Letty, but there is a problem—Phillip has forbidden Claire to go to the family house in Florida in which Letty has become a recluse. In order to try to reach Letty, Claire sends Sabina to try to convince Letty to leave, but Claire doesn't bargain for what happens when Sabina arrives at Casa Aurea.

Aldridge's voice suspends time in this story, and except for the telltale references to the Korean War and a character in a bikini on the beach, the story may have taken place at the turn of the century.

There are parts of this story that the reader may feel Aldridge could have expanded. For example, Phillip seems enamored with a room full of knives at Casa Aurea, but we never really find out what bearing that all has on the story. Also, the shady character of Claire's brother lurks as a threat in the shadows, often talked about, but never encountered.

Still, The Nesting Place is a richly constructed story for the tale that it tells and it cannot be discounted for the classic that it is. As with all of Aldridge's earlier books, this one shows the evolution of her writing and belongs in any lesbian library as another enduring tale from a great writer who paved the way for all the authors of lesbian fiction who came after her.
Reviewed by Anna Furtado

Title: Unkindness of Ravens
Author: Kathleen Tracy
ISBN: 1933705825
Publisher: Paribus Publishing, LTD
Available From: StarCrossed Productions,
Price: $15.95
Pages: 287
Genre: Mystery





Unkindness of Ravens introduces a new mystery series starring Sam Perry, a highly successful crime reporter. Sam has fled Los Angeles, where she covered many sensational murders and made a career writing books about her experiences, and is living in Palm Springs. Sam had reached the limit of her tolerance for murder and mayhem and needed a change of life, but now she's getting restless, which her editor realizes, so Sam is sent to cover the story of a body found in the desert, a body that has no identity and has been slowly and mercilessly tortured to death.

As Sam begins to unravel the mystery of this young man, she finds that every answer simply opens up more questions. Some of those questions involve the campaign of Ellen Konrad, former movie queen and television star, who is running for the position of mayor in Palm Springs. Was the man murdered because of his unusually close relationship with Konrad or did he know something that was damaging to her political career? Or maybe the murder is tied to his fondness for hanging out in a strip club that has shady overtones.

Sam and Ellen find themselves being drawn to each other by strong emotions, emotions that threaten Sam's ability to remain impartial and solve the murder, no matter who is hurt. The trick will be to answer the questions without destroying her new friendship with Ellen and the possibility of a future before them.

Tracy has introduced a promising new mystery series. Sam Perry is a highly likeable character and having her approach mysteries from the angle of being a reporter provides a different twist on the genre. It's interesting to see Sam move through the process of collecting bits and pieces of information that slowly put the puzzle together.

Tracy has written other books and, although not in the mystery genre, this probably gives her the writing experience to be able to twist and turn Unkindness of Ravens in believable ways so that the mystery is not solved until the very last of the story. This is a valuable skill in a genre where too often the answer to the puzzle is all too obvious before the story has progressed half way.

The attraction between Sam and Ellen is also handled extremely well. Though there is definitely the possibility of a relationship, whether or not it will progress is still not clear at the end of the book. It takes a confident writer to be able to leave a relationship dangling without resolution, but it fits this book perfectly. The second book in the Sam Perry Mystery series, Plague of Locusts, is already in preparation. If it follows the quality of this story, the series should progress into a number of more volumes.
Reviewed by Lynne Pierce

Title: 1001 ways to Market Your Books: Sixth Edition
Author: John Kremer
ISBN: 091241149X
Publisher: Open Horizons,
Available From: Open Horizons,
Price: $27.95
Pages: 704
Genre: Nonfiction/Writing





Marketing and promotions wizard John Kremer has at long last issued the sixth edition of his incredibly smart and useful How-To book for marketing and selling books. In twenty-one chapters and over 700 pages, Kremer covers EVERYTHING: from fundamentals of promoting books to publicizing, advertising, networking, and advice about never giving up.

Particularly wonderful chapters include "How to Sell More Books via the Internet," "Getting Distribution," and "How to Sell Subsidiary Rights," but every single chapter contains commonsense, clever techniques and ideas for marketing and selling. Kremer includes articles and web links to dozens of other experts, including great advice by Pam Lontos in "14 Most Common Publicity Mistakes Authors Make," Kathi Dunn's "Design Your Book to Build Your Brand," and Chris Roerden and Pat Miller's "Market-Savvy Editing."

A virtual cornucopia of tips, ideas, activities, and techniques, this is one of the greatest books on book promotions ever written. If you're a publisher or author, don't miss this tremendous resource. I can't recommend it more highly.
Reviewed by Lori L. Lake

Title: When Dreams Tremble
Author: Radclyffe
ISBN: 1-933110-64-3 / 978-1-933110-64-6
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books, Inc.,
Available From: Bella Books,; StarCrossed Productions,; and
Pages: 288 - Price: $15.95
Genre: Lesbian Romance





When Dreams Tremble takes place in Bolton Landing, New York, and environmental biologist Dr. Devon Weber would like to preserve the beauty of the popular scenic tourist town. For readers who live near, or have been to Lake George, Radclyffe's description brings back fond memories. Those who haven't had the pleasure will be able to visualize the three hundred square miles of parkland that surround the enormous lake nestled in the Adirondack Mountains.

Radclyffe clearly depicts "the unmistakable sounds of morning in the mountains." Imagine a small rustic cabin in the woods, revel in the crisp clean scent of nature, and feel yourself relax. High-powered Manhattan attorney Leslie Harris is going home for much needed rest and relaxation in the rustic setting of her parents' lodge at Lakeview Cottages. What she doesn't count on is bridging the gap between her and her mother or dredging up past regrets when she reunites with her childhood friend Devon—making the trip an emotional rollercoaster.

Devon and Leslie are both haunted by the past. The longing Dev feels as she revisits the pain of rejection intensifies when they reunite after fifteen years. Devon has changed since her troubled youth but she is not over her first love. Radclyffe uses powerful metaphors to emphasize her points, for example, "The tension in [Devon's] chest and groin began to ease. She remembered who she was, where she was, and she remembered, too, how that long ago kiss had ended. The phantom passion, like the taunting memory of a lost limb, might refuse to die, but she did not need to breathe life into it" (p. 62). When Dev finds she can't let go and Les confronts what she has known for a long time, that she's in love with Dev, the complications threaten to destroy each woman's heart. Radclyffe explores how they suffer because of homophobia and what happens when young people grow up without support for their feelings in a less than accepting world.

With an authoritative flair, Radclyffe honestly depicts vulnerability and strength better than most authors I've read, thereby achieving a higher level of connection to the characters. When Dreams Tremble explores innocence, friendship, and love through memories and current situations. The hardships in our lives either kill us or make us stronger. Discover how Dev and Les overcome obstacles to become the women they are as you root for their happiness.

Devon and Leslie have become part of my long list of characters I'd love to hang out with in real life. Radclyffe's 25th novel adds a few new touches that you will have to experience for yourself. Romance lovers will be satisfied with When Dreams Tremble, but will hunger for more. Here's hoping this stand-alone novel is the beginning of another excellent series by the award-winning author.
Reviewed by Cheri Rosenberg

Title: Writing & Selling Your Mystery Novel: How to Knock 'Em Dead with Style
Author: Hallie Ephron, with Foreword by S.J. Rozan
ISBN: 1582973768
Publisher: Writer's Digest Books,
Available From: Online booksellers
Price: $16.99 - Pages: 248
Genre: Nonfiction/Writing





Hallie Ephron's new How-To book is one of the best books on writing mysteries that I've ever read. Ephron, one half of the best-selling mystery duo, G.H. Ephron, knows exactly how to construct interesting, twisty, and effective plots and characters, and she doesn't hesitate to divulge her secrets.

The book is divided into four sections: Planning, Writing, Revising, and Selling Your Mystery Novel. Ephron provides apt examples, excellent charts, and interactive exercises that will help both the neophyte and the long-time practitioner. She includes an appendix of resources as well.

As SJ Rozan writes in her introduction: "The map in this book will make the process of writing your novel controllable, understandable, and as close to fun as it gets. You'll still have to do the work; this book won't write your book. But it will show you what work to do, so you can plan, structure, and write. And revise, rework, and rewrite. It will show you how to start, what to do when you're mired in the middle, and how to come to a triumphant finish. And, if you're still standing, it will help you market it to an agent or editor so that your book can end up, finally, in the hands of those most elusive, legendary, and desirable inhabitants of this loony Land: readers."

If you've ever wanted to write mysteries or if you seek merely to improve your mystery-writing craft and technique, this book will help you get there. Run right out and get this one. I can't recommend it highly enough.
Reviewed by Lori L. Lake

Our Reviewers
Bios of Authors

Our Reviewers

Sandra Barret
Sandra Barret grew up in New England, where she spent more years than she cares to mention as a software programmer. She lives with her partner, two children, and a menagerie of pets. Sandra has been an avid reader of fantasy, horror, and lesbian romance. This interest has led her to pen her own creations in novel and short story format.

Contact her at

Anna Furtado
Book Reviewer for Just About Write, The East Bay Voice, and The L-Word Literature section; Author of The Heart's Desire – Book One of The Briarcrest Chronicles, a 2005 GCLS Goldie Award Finalist.

Anna's Web site: Contact her at

Arlene Germain
For many years a teacher of English and Creative Writing, Arlene Germain lives with her partner in Massachusetts. She is a book reviewer for The Midwest Book Review, The Independent Gay Writer, the Just About Write Newsletter/E-zine, The Crown—the Golden Crown Literary Society newsletter, and The

Arlene is also a fiction editor. Contact her at

Kathi Isserman
Kathi lives with her partner and two very spoiled cats outside Washington, D.C. When not reading all kinds of books, she can be found on the golf course attempting to hit that little white ball. Her reviews can also be read at,, and The Independent Gay Writer.

Write to her at

Lori L. Lake
Minnesotan Lori L. Lake is the author of the Gun series, Different Dress, Ricochet in Time, and a book of short stories called Stepping Out. She also edited the 2005 Lammy finalist The Milk of Human Kindness: Lesbian Authors Write About Mothers and Daughters. Lori is currently at work on her sixth novel, Snow Moon Rising, which comes out in February. She teaches fiction writing at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis and often reviews books for various print and online journals.

Contact Lori at

Lynne Pierce
Lynne Pierce is a life-long resident of Virginia who has spent the last thirty-two years trying to convince high school students that history is relevant to their lives and leading them through the process of learning to think for themselves about issues. Her main hobby since the age of five has been reading and she has spent the last ten years consuming every work of lesbian fiction that she can get her hands on. Lynne's reviews also can be read at
lesfic_unbound and

You can reach Lynne at

Cheri Rosenberg
Cheri Rosenberg is a reviewer for Independent Gay Writer, Just About Write, Midwest Book Review, The L Life, and other venues posting book reviews for the lesbian community.

Cheri's published works, written under the pen name Cheri Crystal, can be found in Lessons in Love: Erotic Interludes 3 and After Midnight: True Lesbian Erotic Confessions. She is currently writing her second novel while adding the finishing touches to her first.

When she is not working part-time as a Consultant Dietitian in a nursing home, she is reading, reviewing, and writing lesbian fiction. Cheri is an "activist reader," a wife and mother to a wonderful husband and three terrific children, and she maintains that if more heterosexuals would read the works of lesbian authors they would realize they are talented, intelligent, articulate, admirable, and their books are equally as praiseworthy as anything published for the mainstream market in the literary world. Cheri hopes to enlighten the world and make it a more tolerant place where lesbian fiction is every bit as respected as straight fiction.

Contact her at

Author Bios

Brenda Adcock
Originally from the Appalachian region of Eastern Tennessee, Brenda now lives in Central Texas, near Austin. She began writing in junior high school where she wrote an admittedly hokey western serial to entertain her friends. Completing her graduate studies in Eastern European history in 1971, she worked as a graphic artist, a public relations specialist for the military and a display advertising specialist until she finally had to admit that her mother might have been right and earned her teaching certification. For the last twenty-plus years she has taught world history and political science. Brenda and her partner of ten years, Cheryl, are the parents of three grown children and one still in high school, as well as two grandchildren. Rounding out their home are three temperamental cats, an occasionally conscious Bassett Hound and a hyperactive puppy of undetermined lineage. When she is not writing, Brenda creates stained glass and shoots pool at her favorite bar. She may be contacted at and welcomes all comments.

Sarah Aldridge
Sarah Aldridge is the pseudonym of Anyda Marchant who spent the forty years of her working life in New York City and Washington, D.C. as a lawyer in both public and private practice. Upon retiring in 1972, she began a career as a writer and publisher. She originated the Naiad Press and was co-founder when it was incorporated in 1974. In 1995 she and her lifelong companion Muriel Crawford withdrew as co-owners of the Naiad Press and founded a new publishing venture, A&M Books, which thus became the publisher of the Sarah Aldridge novels. Journalist Andrea Peterson has called her books "perhaps the most substantive and enjoyable lesbian novels ever written." Anyda and Muriel lived in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, until their deaths. Anyda passed away in January and Muriel in June of this year.

Andrews (of Andrews & Austin)
Andrews was a radio broadcaster in NYC before leaving to become Creative VP of the largest ad agency in the southeast. She later joined one of the most extensive movie studio conglomerates in the world, where she managed a division of network programming. After forming her own production company, she spent a decade in Hollywood developing and writing screenplays for studios and independents before joining an international entertainment and publishing powerhouse as a division president overseeing television production. Andrews is an accomplished writer, producer, and public speaker.

Austin (of Andrews & Austin)
Austin is a talented Writer/Producer, a former on-air talent, and co-founder of a Hollywood production company. She has served as a segment producer for network specials and animated sports programming and has developed and optioned Movies of the Week and Theatricals for studios, networks, and independents. Prior to owning her own production company, Austin was the co-producer and on-air host of a shopping network. Austin is also a gifted astrologer and psychic.

Sandra Barret
Sandra Barret grew up in New England, where she spent more years than she cares to mention as a software programmer. She lives on a small horse farm with her partner, two children, and more pets than it's probably legal to own. She's an avid reader of lesbian SF, fantasy, horror, and romance and is now writing her own stories in these genres. Sandra also contributes articles and book reviews to Just About Write.

Georgia Beers
Georgia Beers and Bonnie, her partner of over a decade, live in upstate New York where they have a cozy little house, two dogs, and a disdain for the winter weather. They plan to retire somewhere warm…eventually. In the meantime, Georgia gets her ideas for characters and stories from virtually anywhere…television, the grocery store, the Eddie Bauer catalog. She's been writing for as long as she can remember and has only recently begun to embrace the title of "romance novelist." After all, who doesn't love a little romance?

Cate Culpepper
Cate Culpepper is a Golden Crown Literary Society 2005 Goldie Award winner in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy category. She grew up in southern New Mexico, where she served as the state lesbian for several years, before moving to the Pacific Northwest almost twenty years ago. She now resides in Seattle with her faithful sidekick, Kirby, Warrior Westie. Cate supervises a housing program for homeless young gay adults. She proudly cites Xena: Warrior Princess™ as a much-loved inspiration for the strong women she portrays in her original fiction.

Hallie Ephron
Hallie Ephron is the author of Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel: How to Knock 'Em Dead with Style (Writers Digest Books, 2005), the book about mystery writing that cracks the code. The book was nominated for a 2006 Edgar award for Best Critical/ Biographical and for a 2006 Anthony Award for Best Critical/ Nonfiction.

Hallie is also co-author of five Dr. Peter Zak mystery/medical thrillers by G. H. Ephron and crime fiction book reviewer for the Boston Globe. She is the winner of the Ellen Nehr Award for Excellence in Mystery Reviewing given in September, 2005.

Katherine V. Forrest
Katherine V. Forrest is the author of 15 novels, including Hancock Park, Curious Wine, and Daughters of a Coral Dawn. A winner of the Lambda Literary Foundation's Pioneer Award, she lives in San Francisco.

Lois Glenn
Lois likes to build sand castles with quicksand, jump in and out of things, including moving vehicles, play with frogs, and walk through pits of angry rattlesnakes. Lois's poetry has been showcased at
Web site:

Ellen Hart
Ellen Hart is the author of twenty-two crime novels in two different series: The Jane Lawless Mysteries, published by St. Martin's, and the Sophie Greenway Mysteries published by Ballantine. Ellen's novels have received five Lambda Literary Awards for Best Lesbian Mystery, three Minnesota Book Awards for Best Popular Fiction, and two Golden Crown Literary Society Goldie Awards for Best Mystery/ Thriller/Adventure. In 2005, Ellen was made an official "GLBT Literary Saint" at the Saints and Sinners Literary convention in New Orleans. She was also honored with the 2005 Alice B. Reader's Appreciation Medal, a career achievement award. For the past eleven years she has taught mystery writing through the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.

Nairne Holtz
Nairne Holtz, a writer, librarian, and avid reader, lives in Montreal, Quebec.

John Kremer
John Kremer is an acknowledged expert on book publishing and marketing. Besides being the owner of a publishing company (Open Horizons in Taos, New Mexico), he has been the editor of the "Book Marketing Update" newsletter for over 20 years. John is the author of a number of books on publishing and marketing, including 1001 Ways to Market Your Books: For Authors and Publishers (5th Edition), The Complete Direct Marketing Sourcebook, High Impact Marketing on a Low Impact Budget, and Celebrate Today. He has also designed the Do-It-Yourself Book Publicity Kit, Book Publishing Reports on CD-Rom, and The Kremer 100 Program.

Catherine Lake
Catherine Lake is the editor of QPress, an Insomniac Press imprint, and lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Susan X. Meagher
Susan X Meagher is the author of the serial novel I Found My Heart in San Francisco, Arbor Vitae, and All that Matters. She is also a contributing author in the anthologies Undercover Tales, At First Blush, Infinite Pleasures, The Milk of Human Kindness, and Telltale Kisses. For more information about Susan X Meagher, check out her website,, and browse.

Mickey Minner
Born and raised in Southern California, Mickey Minner has lived in New Mexico, Washington, and for the past several years in western Montana. Since her childhood, she's enjoyed a love of the Old West and of writing; and living in the Rocky Mountains gives her plenty of opportunity to enjoy walking in the woods, fishing, camping and exploring the numerous historical sites in the area.

Kim Pritekel
Kim Pritekel was born and raised in Colorado, where she still lives with her two pesky furry, four-legged children Sebastian and Emily, a.k.a. Bubba and Munchkin. Writing is her life, and she's been at it since she was nine years old. Kim has posted many stories on web sites and her first published book was First. P.D. Publishing has just announced that her new book Storm will be available in the Fall of 2007. She can be reached at

Radclyffe is the author of over twenty lesbian romances and anthologies including the
2005 Lambda Literary Award winners Erotic Interludes 2: Stolen Moments, ed. with Stacia Seaman and the romance, Distant Shores, Silent Thunder. She is the recipient of the 2003 and 2004 Alice B. Readers' award, a 2005 Golden Crown Literary Society Award winner in both the romance category (Fated Love) and the mystery/intrigue/action category (Justice in the Shadows), and a 2006 GCLS Award finalist in the romance category (Distant Shores, Silent Thunder) and winner in the mystery/intrigue/action category (Justice Served).

Radclyffe has selections in multiple anthologies including Call of the Dark and The Perfect Valentine (Bella Books), Best Lesbian Erotica 2006 and After Midnight (Cleis), First-Timers and Ultimate Undies: Erotic Stories About Lingerie and Underwear (Alyson), and Naughty Spanking Stories 2 and Sex and Candy (Pretty Things Press). She is also the president of Bold Strokes Books, a lesbian publishing company.

Chris Roerden
Chris Roerden is an award-winning editor whose clients have won numerous awards, including an Agatha. They are published by St. Martin's, Berkley Prime Crime, Viking, Rodale, Midnight Ink, Walker, and others. During her 43 years in publishing she served 6 years on the SE regional board of Mystery Writers of America, was president of a 250-member trade association of Midwest publishers, and wrote 10 books and a game. She holds an MA in English and a BA summa cum laude, taught college writing, and enjoys traveling to meet with writers' groups.

Merry Shannon
Merry Shannon was born in California in 1979 and grew up a military brat. An avid reader with a deep love of language, Merry began writing at the age of seven and completed her first novel-length story when she was thirteen. She graduated in 2001 with a BA in English and currently resides in Colorado with one very noisy cat. In addition to writing, she works full-time as a child support case manager, and in her free time enjoys sewing glittery costumes and drooling over the gorgeous women of the Japanese Takarazuka theater.

Susan Smith
Susan Smith is a handsome, brooding warrior king novelist. Smith was once described as a nice, small town boy educated well beyond necessary, but not nearly enough to please her. Smitty is in love with books - from reading them to writing them. She's been a writer, drag king, director, and librarian. Perhaps by luck, or fate, Smitty has lived in Buffalo, New York, and spends an inordinate amount of time in Toronto, Ontario. While old fashioned in a very modern way, Smitty still does not understand that coffee is never just coffee.

Kathleen Tracy
Kathleen Tracy has written over 30 books, including Don Imus: America's Cowboy (Carroll & Graf), Ellen DeGeneres (Simon & Shuster) and The Secret Story of Polygamy (Sourcebooks), an investigation into the Utah child abuse trial that shed light on polygamy in modern America.

Cynthia Tyler
Cynthia Tyler is the author of Descanso (Haworth), which received an Alice B. Readers Appreciation award for lesbian fiction in 2005, and was a 2005 InsightOut Book Club selection.