Monday, October 7, 2019

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice? Not Hardly

© Can Stock Photo / ezumeimages
Bad reviews—the author’s bane.

They’re never fun, but they can be useful. I examined my treatment of male secondary characters more carefully after reading an insightful critique from a thoughtful reviewer. They can sometimes be hilarious—my favorite negative review was short and not-sweet: “Cursing and homosexuality. One star.” And they are sometimes baffling, like the one reviewer blisteringly mad that he picked up The Dangerous Edge of Things only to discover that my protagonist was—shocker! —a woman! And a feminist! Who could have suspected such from a book with a pistol on the cover!

But there’s one comment I don’t find useful or hilarious, and that’s criticizing a female character for being “unlikable.” Such a dismissive comment smacks of the same sexism that plagues professional women in the real world, especially women in leadership positions. The identical qualities that earn men praise—being assertive, decisive, competitive, driven—are considered flaws when women display them. Women are supposed to be the “tend and befriend” gender, not the “kick ass and take names” gender. And when a woman dares break the stereotypical mold, she gets dinged as stern, demanding, humorless…


My protagonist Tai gets tarred with this brush regularly. I understand why—assertive to the point of aggression, Tai is smart, capable, determined, and confident. She doesn’t worry about her waistline or how her butt looks in certain blue jeans. Direct and often confrontational, she looks people right in the eye and only smiles when she feels like it. She’s sometimes loud, always opinionated, and occasionally reckless, but she’s also compassionate, good humored, and not afraid to cry. Unlike her partner Trey, her moral compass doesn’t have a true north, but she unswervingly follows in whatever direction it points her. She can be challenging, true enough, but if I ever got in trouble, I’d be grateful to have her by my side, especially in a bar fight.

Well-behaved women rarely make history. I’d also argue they rarely solve crimes.

I’m grateful that I have readers (and editors and a publisher) who appreciate Tai. I try to write her exactly as she wants to be written, which can be difficult at times. I have to watch her make mistakes, hurt people, get in someone’s face when silence would be a better tactic. Her way is not my way, which is a good thing—if I were a crime fiction protagonist, my story would be over in the first chapter when I stumbled on a corpse and immediately called the cops and fled for home. The End.

The world has many women like Tai, women who laugh and love and spare not one brain cell on whether or not they’re likable. They do not bend to sexist ideas of how they should act or who they should be. They are fierce and fine and free, and they don’t give a hot damn about the opinions of tiny-minded misogynists.

So here’s to unlikable women—may we know them, may we be them . . . may we read them.

*     *     *

PS: If you'd like to meet Tai and decide for yourself, the e-book version of the first in her series, The Dangerous Edge of Things, is being offered FREE for a limited time. Find it HERE!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Friday, August 24, 2018

Creature Comforts - Coming This Fall!

"Creature Comforts" is an epilogue to Necessary Ends, the sixth book in the Tai Randolph/ Trey Seaver series. It's also a prologue of sorts, with Tai sorting out her feelings about a decision that she's barely spoken into reality. As such, it sets the stage for the next book in their adventures, which I am hard at work upon.

In the meantime, I hope you'll enjoy an idyll at Cumberland Island's Greyfield Inn, where wild horses freely roam, salt scents the air, and a devious criminal plot is underway. And, as always, thank you for being a reader. Tai and Trey thank you too—they told me to tell you that.

Available October 23rd!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Guess Who's a Derringer Finalist?

It's me! My novella “Trouble Like A Freight Train Coming” is a finalist for a Derringer Award for Best Novelette (which the Short Mystery Fiction Society describes as a work between 8001 and 20,000 words). 

“Trouble” is one of four stories in the anthology Lowcountry Crime: Four Novellas published by Wolf’s Echo Press. "Trouble" is a prequel to my Tai Randolph Mysteries (the sixth of which, Necessary Ends, is out now from Poisoned Pen Press). 

Tai is accustomed to murder and mayhem . . . of the fictional variety. As a tour guide in Savannah, Georgia, she’s learned the tips are better when she seasons her stories with a little blood here, a little depravity there. She’s less experienced in real life criminality, however, preferring to spend her days sleeping late and her nights hitting the bars. But when she gets the news that her trouble-making cousin has keeled over while running a marathon, Tai finds herself in a hot mess of treachery and dirty dealings. Worst of all, the clues lead her straight into the moonshine-soaked territory of the most infamous smuggler in Chatham County—her Uncle Boone. 

The novella is set in Savannah several years prior to the inheritance of her Atlanta gun shop and her first encounter with security agent Trey Seaver, who ultimately becomes her partner in both romance and crime solving. For readers familiar with the rest of Tai’s adventures, this story is a chance to watch her develop her sleuthing chops. For those meeting Tai for the first time...welcome to her slightly reckless, somewhat hungover, not-quite-respectable world. 

"Trouble Like a Freight Train Coming" is available on all the usual platforms, including Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook, Kobo, iBooks, and Scribd; you can find all the links at the Wolf's Echo Press website.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Talking Mayhem and Mystery at The Book Lady

Please join me at The Book Lady Bookstore for a mystery Q&A with crime fiction writer J.J. Hensley on Friday, April 27th at 7:00 PM.

There will be wine and noshes and good conversation as we discuss writing and publishing and mystery fiction. Bring your curiosity and your questions - there's sure to be some marvelous mayhem.

J.J. will be signing copies of Bolt Action Remedy, the first in his Trevor Galloway series published by Down & Out Books. A fast-paced, action-packed, hauntingly atmospheric thriller, this novel and its author have earned high praise from James Grady, author of Six Days of the Condor: "J.J. Hensley is a crime writer who deserves readers’ attention and trust, because beyond his ever-stronger prose, he brings his ex-badge carrier’s street smart eyes to this hard world we live in. Hensley goes beyond clich├ęs to the heart of his fictions and his characters, and delivers stories worth your time. Put him on your READ list.”

To learn more about Bolt Action Remedy, visit the Books section of J.J.'s website.

I'll be signing copies of Necessary Ends, the sixth in my Tai Randolph/Trey Seaver series from Poisoned Pen Press. Described as "skillfully plotted" by Publisher's Weekly, Necessary Ends has also earned praise from reviewer Cynthia Chow: "This continues to be an extraordinarily original, witty, and exceptionally written mystery series, and hopefully it will continue for years to come."

To learn more about Necessary Ends, visit the Books section of my website.

And for more information about the event, please contact Joni or Chris at The Book Lady Bookstore, located at 6 E. Liberty Street in lovely Downtown Savannah.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

A Southern Gothic Love Story & NECESSARY ENDS

Thank you, Cora Lockheart, for the fantastic review (and for interviewing me too - it was a pleasure to spend time on your virtual porch -- I rarely get to talk about Tai & Trey, "A Rose for Emily," #2 pencils, and cemeteries in one discussion).

Raising a glass of bourbon to you, lady!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Little Liquor, a Lot of Larceny

It's release day for the Tai & Trey short story, "Liquor, Larceny, and the Ordinal Classification of Courtship Rituals." You can get it now on Amazon Kindle for 99 cents!

It's the story of Tai's first date with Trey, although exactly what constitutes a first date is a point of contention. It takes place right after The Dangerous Edge of Things, the first book in the Tai Randolph series from Poisoned Pen Press.

After a week of murder and mayhem, Tai is eager to enjoy an actual, honest-to-goodness, sit-down dinner date with the new man in her life, ex-SWAT cop Trey. Their very first date, in her estimation. Trey disagrees—surely by this point in their relationship they've already had a date—but before Tai can summon a rebuttal, she realizes that something's going down in their quietly upscale surroundings, something nefarious, and she and Trey are right in the thick of it. Can they discover the bad guys before the bad guys discover them? And most importantly, can they manage to have a romantic evening that doesn't involve bloodshed or gunplay?

I hope you like reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Look for more liquor-themed promotions coming up as we count down to release day for Necessary Ends (including a giveaway of How To Be A Bourbon Badass by Linda Ruffenach).