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Category: Apples & Oranges

Marianne H. Donley's column
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The Painted Queen

May 17, 2017 by in category Apples & Oranges tagged as , ,

I’ve been a fan of Elizabeth Peters in all her incarnations, from her Barbara Mertz non-fiction, to her gothic mysteries as Barbara Michaels. I like her short stories, the stand alone books, and the series. I’ve read and reread all her books.

I found out last week, quite by accident, that The Painted Queen, a brand new Amelia Peabody, is scheduled to be published. I clicked the link because Elizabeth Peters has been dead these past four years, and I was very curious as to how a new book could be possible. Much to my surprise the book has been co-written by Joan Hess from Ms. Peter’s unfinished manuscript.

Evidently, I’ve been living is a fog for a while because the book was first announced several years ago, and it will, finally, be published in July of this year.

From reading all of Ms. Peters’ author notes over the years, I know that she was friends with Joan Hess (and wouldn’t I have liked to be a fly on THAT front porch), so I think it’s very fitting that Ms. Hess finished the book. I’ve read just about all of Joan Hess’s books as well, so I know that she is more than qualified to handle this task. And it’s fitting that a friend finish her book as she finished Charlotte MacLeod’s The Balloon Man. (You can read about it on the Remembering Barbara Mertz website.)

While I was on the Remembering Barbara Mertz website I found a Rafflecopter giveaway for 20 pre-publication versions of The Painted Queen. (Which, of course I entered.)  Part of the giveaway asks fans to tell how they were introduced to Sitt Hakim.

I remember that well!

Both Mémère (my grandma) and Grandma Trudy (my husband’s grandma) love to read murder mysteries, and they both belonged to The Detective Book Club. Some of you may be old enough to remember these books. They arrived monthly, and there were usually three mystery novels in each volume. Both grandmas were very generous about donating their books to me when they had finished reading them.

The Detective Book Club | Marianne H. Donley | A Slice of Orange







Just look at the authors featured in these books: Erle Stanley Gardner, P. D. James, Ellis Peters, Tony Hillerman, Charlotte Macleod/Alisa Craig, John D. MacDonald, Donald E. Westlake, Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen among many many others. In The Detective Book Club, I found Georges Simeon’s Inspector Mairget, Leslie Charteris’ The Saint, Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax (senior citizen and CIA spy), Hamilton Crane’s Miss Seeton, and Rae Foley’s Mr. Potter (which is who I always thought of when reading about the wizard and kept waiting for someone to say, It’s Murder, Mr. Potter).

It was here I read Amiee, Come Home by Barbara Michaels while I was still in high school. And a few years Elizabeth Peter’s Crocodile on the Sandbank, the first Amelia Peabody novel.

Like my grandmas I passed the books to others–usually to my mother and sisters (all reader!), but I kept the copy of Crocodile on The Sandbank. That book was funny; Emerson was very cool, and it was about Egypt. (My family was stranded in Cairo in the early 60s. Our plane had mechanical trouble and an hour layover turned into a week stay, complete with a trip to the pyramids, my seven-year-old sister escaping the hotel, and a jewelry merchant who tried to buy my mother. So, I’m partial to books set in Egypt.)

I read other Barbara Michaels and Elizabeth Peters novels in The Detective Book Club over the years but didn’t really connect any of the novels with Crocodile on the Sandbank. Then I got one of the books from 1981 with the second Amelia Peabody, The Curse of the Pharaohs, as lead novel.   The Curse of the Pharaohs | Marianne H. Donley | A Slice of Orange

Within the first sentence, I knew that this was the sequel to Crocodile on the Sandbank. I read it in one night and then went to the bookstore the next day. I showed the book to the clerk, and she showed me a whole bookcase of Elizabeth Peters novels and then mentioned that she was also Barbara Michaels.

I may have heard angels singing.

I did hear my hubby tell the kids we were eating out that night because Mommy would be busy. And that he was going to have to get another job, because that bookstore bookcase full of Elizabeth Peters’/Barbara Michaels’ books was going to bankrupt him. (He wasn’t much of a reader then, but I’ve corrupted him.)

And that was how I was introduced to Sitt Hakim.

Amazon has pages of The Detective Book Club available. You can probably find volumes at every garage sale in the US. There are books on Etsy and ebay  and for some weird reason they are listed as decorator books for ‘man caves’ I’m not sure why.

Did you ever read novels in the The Detective Book Club?

Where and when were you introduced to Sitt Hakim?

Will you be reading The Painted Queen?

And that Rafflecopter give away—I won a copy!

Marianne H. Donley | A Slice of Orange


Marianne H. Donley makes her home in Tennessee with her husband and son. She is a member of Bethlehem Writers Group, Romance Writers of America, OCC/RWA, and Music City Romance Writers. When Marianne isn’t working on A Slice of Orange, she might be writing short stories, funny romances or quirky murder mysteries, but this could be a rumor.

You can find her short mystery, Tomato Blight, in  ONCE AROUND THE SUN.

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Happy May Day!

May 1, 2017 by in category Apples & Oranges tagged as , ,


Happy May Day!

This month on A Slice of Orange, Jann Ryan will interview Rita nominee, Beth Yarnell. Debut author, Jenna Barwin will be featured in a Pick Six Author Interview, and New York Times Bestselling Author, Kat Martin will be doing a guest post. Of course, all our regular authors will be blogging, and The Extra Squeeze Team is looking for questions from you.

A Slice of Orange (the all new and revised) is celebrating its one month anniversary. If you’re new to our site here are some great posts you might have missed from last month:

Jann Ryan’s An Interview with Carol L. Wright

Tari Jewett’s Accidental Writer

Sally Paradyzs’ A Slice of Nature

Veronica Jorge’s Fireflies

Geralyn Corcillo’s Harvest of Friends

Our featured May author is Linda O. Johnston.

Linda O Johnston | A Slice of OrangeLinda first novel was the 1995 Love Spell time travel romance A Glimpse of Forever. Since then she has published over 40 novels—mysteries and romances, including paranormal romance and romantic suspense.

Linda has two new books out for 2017. May 8th will see the release of BAD TO THE BONE, the third book in the Barkery & Biscuits Mystery Series. On June 1st, her book PROTECTOR WOLF (Alpha Force) a part of the popular Harlequin Nocturne series of paranormal romances will be published. Both books are available for preorder.

If you’re in the San Diego area, Linda will be at the Mysterious Galaxy Birthday Bash on Saturday, May 13th



$11.35eBook: $9.49
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$5.75eBook: $4.99
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Genre: Paranormal
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Marianne H. Donley | A Slice of Orange



Marianne H. Donley makes her home in Tennessee with her husband and son. She is a member of Bethlehem Writers Group, Romance Writers of America, OCC/RWA, and Music City Romance Writers. When Marianne isn’t working on A Slice of Orange, she might be writing short stories, funny romances or quirky murder mysteries, but this could be a rumor. 




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How NOT to Write

April 26, 2017 by in category Apples & Oranges tagged as , ,


Not Writing | Marianne H. Donley | A Slice of OrangeThis was going to be a blog about how to write with a day job.

Unfortunately, writing with a day job is incredibly easy. You simply keep writing material with you at all time. Paper and pencil work as well as an iPad. Then when you find a block of time  (like I usually have to wait for that student who never shows up for a scheduled appointment or arriving hours early for my appointment because the 60 freeway is completely and inexplicably free from traffic) you write. After dishes are done and the family is watching reruns on TV, you write. When you awaken hours before the rest of the world, you write. I imagined my whole blog would be one word long:


That would be the world’s shortest blog. In addition, I suspected I would be preaching to the choir. People who write and have day jobs know this. Who else would care? Maybe, I should blog about something else. But what?

Inspiration struck while I wandered the local bookstore and sipping my venti café mocha I noticed a whole wall of thick serious books on how to write everything from baby picture books to novels to true-crime police procedurals. Stuck in the middle of all this writing information were two thin books on How NOT to Write.

Heck, not even Nora can want to write all day every day. I would have thought there would be a bit more information on how not to write. Constant writing must be some type of mental illness or at the very least a nasty bad habit. Surely, there must be tons of books on breaking such a habit. I looked. There wasn’t. Just two tiny little books all alone in the vast sea of heavy writing advice.

Clearly, not writing was a topic few writers were comfortable discussing. I’m pretty brave. I can handle controversy. I’ll write a blog on how not to write. I could come up with a set of rules. Break new ground. Give out sage advice.

So here it is:

How Not to Write in Twelve Hard Steps. *

Not Writing with coffee | Marianne H. Donley | A Slice of Orange1. Pay attention, this is important. Not writing is the hardest work you will ever do. It is not for the faint of heart. Not writing takes planning, dedication, and a tenacity that many writers lack. Don’t try it unless you have the necessary backbone.

2. To not write you must get up early in the morning. The perfect time is 4:30 A.M. but for you sleepy heads 5:00 A.M. will work as well. If you sleep until 8, half the day is gone and you may as well just waste the rest by writing.

3. To not write you must have a full pot of coffee. Dedicated non-writers program their coffee pots so they can start their day with a fresh cup as soon as they leap out of bed. I suspect that tea drinkers can’t help themselves and start writing as soon as the tea bag hits the trash can, so if you really want to not write break your tea drinking habit immediately.

4. To not write you must have an outfit. You can write in your PJs and no one will care. Not writing takes more style, especially if you want to avoid pointed questions about your mental health. Your outfit can’t just be jeans and a tee-shirt unless of course, you’re male. Females must have a complete, color-coordinated outfit with jewelry, makeup, and styled hair. For women, I strongly advise pantyhose and two-inch heels as well. For men, not shaving is NOT an option.

5. To not write you must have a clean office or not-writing space. If your space is messy and cluttered, then you must take the time to make it tidy. Organizing it would be even better. I recommend categorizing all the bookshelves in your house by subject and author. Should you use the kitchen as your office, alphabetizing your spice rack while you’re at it is always an excellent idea. It wouldn’t hurt to get some of those cute little bins for all your rubber bands and paper clips. You should also consider sharpening all your pencils and testing all your pens to see if they still work. However, cleaning the bathroom or doing laundry is a bit excessive. Should you find yourself contemplating such work, just give up and write. Let’s face it if you’re going to work that hard you may as well get some recognition for it. Completing your manuscript and sending it out will, at the very least, get you an RWA Pro pin and a round of applause at the next chapter meeting. Only your mother will notice whether or not you clean the bathroom.

6. To not write you must play computer solitaire until you win. None of that two-game only nonsense; this takes a real commitment. You must win. Four Suit Spider Solitaire is an excellent choice for those truly dedicated to not writing. Less adventuresome types can try the Two Suit version or Free Cell. However, should you select One Suit Spider and not win in 30 seconds or less, well, just don’t tell me. I firmly believe everyone I know is smart enough to get an advanced degree in rocket science if only they had the time. Shattering my world view like that is just plain cruel.

7. To not write you must build into your schedule time for physical exercise. As I mentioned above, not writing is hard work. Drinking coffee, while playing Free Cell, in your spanking clean office, and keeping your outfit stylish is quite emotionally draining. If you are not careful you could actually get bored and open up your WIP. Your whole day of not writing will be shot to heck. Walking around the block, especially if you live on a steep hill should help.

8. To not write, I must caution you, taking two dogs for a walk as your scheduled physical activity will invariably set you right back on the writing path. How you may ask? Two dogs are not going to agree on speed, direction, or when to leave odorous land mines for you to pick up. This lack of coordination on their part will provide comic relief at your expense for your neighbors. If one of them says something like, “Martha, ya got to come see this” while you, of course, are in the middle of the street, tangled up in dog leashes attached to a white dog going North and a black dog going South, juggling three baggies of land mines, a pouch of special doggie treats, the training clicker that supposed to help train the dogs, but actually makes the black dog cry and the white dog sit until he gets to eat all the treats. Well, can plotting this neighbor’s death be far behind? If he’s going to die, you’re going to have to think of a better reason then laughing at you to kill him. Then you’re going to need several characters who also want him dead for equally good reasons, and finally, the proper sleuth and her love interest will just pop right into your head. The next thing you know a whole series will be in the planning stages and you won’t be able to not write for months.

9. To not write you must have a not writing buddy or sponsor. This buddy is someone you can call any time of the day or night whenever that uncontrollable urge to break out Chapter Four and fix it threatens. Your mother or sisters cannot be your not writing buddy. This is considered cheating as it is much too easy to get them chatting and waste valuable not writing time. No, your buddy must be trustworthy and kind and also dedicated to not writing. She must intuitively know when not to ask how you worked out that problem you accidentally but cleverly wrote into Chapter Eight. She should NEVER tell you she’s finished her WIP. She should always know when to invite you to Starbucks for venti mochas or to Nordstrom’s for a good day of shoe shopping. Shoe shopping is, by the way, the only shopping for which you can indulge without guilt.

10. All not writing writers should know that guilt free shoe shopping is a rule. I think it was left over from the Regan administration. Subversive media types, probably male, tried to kill this rule with cruel stories featuring Imelda Marcos and her shoe closet. (Can you imagine the press if she has attended a public event wearing pre-worn shoes? The press coverage would have rivaled the media frenzy surrounding a certain female prosecutor and her new hair cut.) More sensible wisdom prevailed and shoes are officially guilt free. I must point out that as a corollary to this rule, any other type of shopping is not only riddled with real stomach turning guilt, and it requires an actual paycheck. This will naturally require you finish that book, not a good situation for your not writing goals.

11. To not write you should avoid the Internet like the plague, especially emails. Some people think the Internet is the perfect not writing tool. They are sadly mistaken. Consider, if you will, the simple task of checking your emails. You are going to get them from your weak-willed friends who are writing. Those people are unfortunately smart. Good writing ideas follow them around like ants at a picnic and they SHARE. Read one email and you’re going to get enough ideas to keep you writing for the rest of your natural life and that of your youngest child’s. You’ll have to make a pack with the devil just to finish. Really, do you want to risk your immortal soul just for email? And if that wasn’t bad enough, they’ll answer your emails by says, “Gee that idea would make a great (pick one) book, novel, short story, article, online class, workshop.”

12. To not write you should also drop out of all your critiques groups. (See above for the primary reason.) Secondary reason: Every conversation will start with, “So how’s the writing?” You’ll feel guilty. You’ll write. That clever accident in Chapter Eight, they’ll not only fix it, they’ll give you enough material for three sequels, two novellas, and cookbook. You’ll feel guilty. You’ll write.

*This was originally titled Twelve Easy Steps, but someone recently complained that I say everything is easy. She pointed out that if I would just say things were hard she would feel heaps better when she figured out how the heck to do it. When I tell her it’s easy, she gets no sense of accomplishment. Heaven knows I want people to have a real sense of accomplishment when not writing.

Marianne H. Donley | A Slice of Orange




Marianne H. Donley makes her home in Tennessee with her husband and son. She is a member of Bethlehem Writers Group, Romance Writers of America, OCC/RWA, and Music City Romance Writers. When Marianne is NOT not writing, she might be writing short stories, funny romances or quirky murder mysteries, but this could be a rumor. 

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April 1, 2017 by in category Apples & Oranges tagged as , , , ,


Welcome | A Slice of Orange

Welcome. Welcome. Welcome, to the all new A Slice of Orange.

Our new website is up, running, and ready for you to explore.

Boy, have we changed!

In addition to our lively and informative posts, we now have a Book Store featuring the titles of our authors and guests. We have a page dedicated to books On Sale (or free) and a New Release page. Our Events page features Contests for both published and unpublished authors, Conferences, Online Classes and workshops and Reader events.

If you are a long time reader of A Slice of Orange you will find your favorite writers, Jann Ryan, Tracy Reed, Linda O. Johnston, Kitty Bucholtz, Jina Bacarr, Rebecca Forster, Linda McLaughlin/Lyndi Lamont, Meriam Wilhelm, Isabel Swift, and Geralyn Corcillo still writing columns every month.

We are pleased to introduce several new bloggers to A Slice of Orange: H.O. Charles, Tari Lynn Jewett, Denise Colby, Sally Paradysz, Jenny Jensen, Robin Blakely, Veronica Jorge and partners Janet Lynn and Will Zeilinger.

On the last day of every month, we will feature The Extra Squeeze–four different perspectives on one topic. The team consists of Rebecca Forster, H.O. Charles, Jenny Jensen, and Robin Blakely. This month they will be tackling sensitivity editors. You can read this article from the Chicago Tribune now and then come back on April 30th to see what The Extra Squeeze thinks about the subject. You can also get in on the fun by asking questions or proposing topics you would like to see the team cover. Use The Extra Squeeze contact form to send them your ideas.

We’ve come a long way from 2006 and that small blog written by authors from Orange County, California. We now include not just California authors but with authors from the UK, all across the US to New Zealand–we nearly span the globe.  We hope you poke around, read some posts, buy some books.  Then, let us know how you like our new and improved version of A Slice of Orange.

Marianne H. Donley | A Slice of Orange


Marianne H. Donley

A Slice of Orange

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