“Old School” is Open

“These stories are EXACTLY what I like to read, and I don’t say that lightly. So many books today are all plot with little description and minimal character development. Jane Thornley writes “old school”. You understand her characters and their motivations. You see the exotic locations. You taste the food and feel the breeze. You have no idea what’s behind the mystery until it all comes together at the end. Oh, and you’ll need a vocabulary that exceeds fifth grade. These books are chock-full of adventure, romance, and mystery…and knitting, but you don’t have to be a fiber-fiend to enjoy them (I’m not). Can’t wait to read more from Jane Thornley! –Maria Romana, Romantic Suspense author
Once in awhile, I troll through my reviews, re-reading each one, searching for pithy lines that illuminate problem areas or places where I seem to have hit my stride. I came across the review above not long ago and was floored. I do not know this author, I hasten to add,  but I’m very grateful to her for illuminating something about my writing that hadn’t occurred to me before: I’m “old school”.
So what does that mean? You see, since I write a form of thriller, I frequently attract criticism that my novels are slow-starting, meaning that I ease the reader into the lives of the characters before hurling them along the Amalfi coast, plunging them into ancient tombs, and otherwise accelerating the action into breathless. I don’t shy away from description; I want you to feel that sense of being there. I also want you to get to know the characters, and become a part of their lives before the thrills begin. OLD SCHOOL. And, my friends, please note her comment that “…you need a vocabulary that exceeds fifth grade.” My readers are literate. Thank you for that, everybody. Hey, I’m okay with all of it, in fact.
So,  book four of the Greater of Two Evils  is ready to roll, and you’ll have a bit of time to spend with the characters you love while the suspense thickens. though I’m still holding off until my return from Italy (more research) in November. In the meantime, I have a riddle for you: what does knitting socks have to do with Ivan the Terrible and Phoebe McCabe? Ah, there’s the dilemma. Of course, Russian rulers wore socks in the 15th century–this was Russia, after all–but Phoebe doesn’t knit socks. That’s more Sir Rupert’s domain. In any case, those seemingly diverse elements come together in book four of Crime by Design in a way that will keep you at the edge of your seat and in stitches. In the end, I aim to thrill and surprise.
Remember that, as well as being available on all online vendors, the Crime by Design Series is available as REAL books in paperback format, too,  for my old school readers.

Beautiful Survivor–Book 3 in the Crime by Design Series

Final cover Beautiful Survivor even smaller

I am a great admirer of the survivor, whether it be an ancient artifact or a living being. In fact, anything or anyone who has withstood time and trauma deserves accolades and the deepest respect. That could be a Syrian refugee or a Roman amphitheater.  Or you, if you’re over forty. Not everybody gets the chance to grow older.

Because time is a wildcard. Time is a disaster not waiting to happen because it already has–successively and with impact. Look back into the centuries, or even across the days of a human life, and you’ll see wars, earthquakes, explosions, personal losses, heath crises, and heartbreak. Those that walk away, those that withstand the ravages of time, have stories to tell, and authors are tasked with the telling. All right, I admit, we embellish our tales and take license with the facts, but the core of truth is what matters.

I prefer my truths served with humor. It’s a necessary element of survival, perhaps the most important one. For that reason, you’ll never find my stories to be too serious. Even when I touch on weighty topics like crime, murder, death, and destruction, I lightened the load. Let the nightly news handle the raw matter. I’m here to entertain. I’m here to help you survive.

Beautiful Survivor, book three in the Crime by Design series, is soon to be released and, at its heart, it’s about survival, too. Yes, there is trauma, crime, fear, pain, but, you’ll still recognize the personal sinew that keeps the characters powering on.

This action suspense picks up where Phoebe McCabe left off in The Warp in the Weave and, as with the first two books in the series, it’s humorous, fast-paced, filled with vivid characters, a little romance, and bound to take you by surprise. This book is set in one of my favorite lands, Italy, a country that takes survival seriously. Think of the Etruscans, the Romans, the dolce vita.

Pick up your copy January 27th or pre-order from Amazon today.

What does an Antique Textile have to do with how Men Worshiped Women Thousands of Years Ago?

Ancient Goddess sm

Men used to worship women, I mean really worship them.

Our value wasn’t weighed by how thin we were (lean was mean), or how young, or even how pretty. We were valued based on our contribution as the life-givers, our ability to generate new life to continue the tribe and, following our fecund years, honor was bestowed on all we’ve been and done.

Research on ancient humans plunging way back to the Bronze Age, have unearthed round, bountiful female statues that would never make the cover of Vogue. Fertility Figures they’re referred to now, as if that can tidy them away among the fossils and dinosaur bones.

Ancient sites like Turkey’s Çatal Hüyük discovered an advance civilization where men and women appear to live in a harmonious balance of mutual admiration. The Goddess sits on her leopard throne in a shrine surrounded by symbols of male energy, the bull (some things never change), as if the male hunters and warriors served the giver of life rather than ruled her.

And the Goddess looks more like your great aunt Mable than Gisselle Bündchen .

Think about it. Was this ancient civilization so much more advanced than ourselves that we actually valued multiple kinds of womanhood? Could it be that we didn’t lose our value in society as we aged and ‘lost our looks’?

Which brings me to the title of this post: how does an antique textile relate to how men worshiped women thousands of years ago? That question lays in the heart of my second book in the Crime by Design series, Warp in the Weave.

The answer may surprise you. It certainly should change how you look at traditional carpet patterns in the future and, just maybe, how you view women, ancient or otherwise.



Give me History and I’ll Give you Life

Cover for Frozen Angel

Research, some writers love it and some find it a chore. I fall into the the first category. Give me an excuse to imagine life in another time, in another place, and I’ll take it on completely. Writers of historical fiction obviously need a sound background in the century of  their book, not just in terms of history but also social mores, clothing, food, and every single detail between. Some writers go so far as to research old cookbooks and make whatever dish that is to be served to a character so the reader may share the experience. That’s dedication. Pass the pig trotters and mead, boys. I can only imagine what Diana Gabaldon had with Outlander.

Every story is a human story. It’s all about plunging a reader into a place and time so real they can experience being human in another century, under a different set of challenges.  When society in the fictive world differs from the way you’ve grown up, the way you think is challenged, too.

What if you were an French-speaking Acadian girl banished from your colony up the Atlantic coast (now known as Nova Scotia) by the British in 1755 and shipped off to boggy Louisiana, just saying? What if you manage to find your way into the Ursuline convent, a convent sheltering young women from good French homes, with the view to marrying them off to the French settlers? The French King at the time, Louis XIV, fretted that New Orleans would grow into a cesspool of rowdies if they continued to breed with unsuitable women. His royal self decreed that the Order of St. Ursuline might properly harbor these French ‘Casket Girls’ shipped over from good French families as a way to improve the gene pool. Presumably, the irony of nuns training girls to be wives didn’t occur to him.

And then, circumstances change, as circumstances are wont to do. France gives Louisiana away in treaty to Spain in 1763 and a Spanish governor arrives to rule the French.  Now you have a French convent housing French girls for the marriage market and the Spaniards are coming. Oh, just imagine the fun!

Back to the Acadian girl, for a moment. Her status as an orphaned peasant farmer’s daughter thrust her to the bottom of the French social heap from the beginning. Hierarchies existed even in convents. She would never be a mate for a proper French gentleman, not that there were many of those in New Orleans at the time. However, it turns out she’s clever, can speak both French and Spanish, and burns with rage. What a perfect pawn, what a perfect spy…

This is how a human story is born, this one playing out in two centuries inside the pages of   Frozen Angel. Yes, I researched it to bits but the story drove me. The heart and mind of someone struggling to decide what is wrong and right in competing ideologies has always fascinated me. History provides such rich fodder.  Stir in a lot of fact and even more imagination, and the writer creates a heady brew. Continue reading

Sanity, Disembodied Voices, and the Writer’s Life


I am crazy. Certainly by some definition, I probably qualify. I walk around the house talking to people who aren’t there; I live in a parallel universe which can seem as real as the one surrounding me; and there are always multiple voices chattering away inside my head. In other words, I am a writer.

I am also a murderer, a liar, a manipulator of emotions. I can’t help myself. When a story begins taking hold, the morality inside my fictive world shifts polarities constantly. In order to write emotions, I must feel them.

Once, while lunching with a friend, she commented on how troubled I seemed. I confessed how I had just flung a character down the stairs and left her bleeding, alone and afraid. Equal parts guilt and worry interrupted my enjoyment of both her company and the chowder. It didn’t make sense by anybody’s definition, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the longer I stayed away from my desk, the more I risked Phoebe dying a long and painful death. I mean, I’m not completely heartless. Let’s just say I skipped dessert.

And then there’s talking to myself.  You remember the sayings about people who talk to themselves?  In my case, this means I’m holding a lively debate with a character, testing dialogue, and sussing out the authenticity of a tone in certain circumstances.  Yes, I’m the one in the otherwise empty car chatting away to the nonexistent passengers, something I did long before hands-free cell phones. You’ll also find me in the kitchen arguing away to the invisible while  busy with some menial task.  My life runs a parallel course, with me coexisting in both worlds simultaneously, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s me, crazy and loving it.

Why Must a Favorite Character Die? Or, why Authors have Murderous Hearts.

Jane Button Collector wrap Selfie

When I’m watching a movie, especially thrillers or films with plenty of characters, I’m always looking for the ‘dead meat’ , or DM’s for short. DM characters are usually primed to attract our sympathies but are guaranteed to be bumped off somewhere before the end of the movie. It’s kind of a predictable, watch-for-it moment, but it still gets me every time. After all, I cared about those characters. They snaked their way into my heart with good deeds and decent, good-guy actions until I had no choice but to feel their loss, regardless of whether I saw it coming.

Movies reveal their DMs more easily than novels which, due to the differences in length and form, take longer to unfold and may include more subtle character detail. Still, almost all engrossing fiction has a character or two who will meet an untimely end. Remember Little Women?  Louisa May Alcott breathed life into a cast of characters, made us love them all, and then killed off  beloved Beth. I can think of hundreds of examples, as probably you can, too. Nearly every piece of literature features the death of a beloved character. In fact, when you think of it, we writers are a murderous lot. Fellow writers, hold up your hands.

In a recent book club meeting, one of my readers asked why I felt it necessary to kill off a certain character. I felt on trial, she was that unhappy with this character’s passing. She liked that person, identified with the personality, and hoped to become reacquainted in a future book. I explained that, in fictional terms, I was only doing my job. If you’re not experiencing real human emotions, if you don’t care about the people you spend time with inside the covers of a book, the author hasn’t hooked you.

But, all that aside, what turns a writer’s heart to murder?  The simple answer is because we must. In many cases, we love our characters, too. They emerge from our imaginations in some alchemy of creativity and intense observation, and almost like children, we watch them develop. In my case, I don’t give  birth to a character to see him or her die, but as the story world unfolds, often someone must. Writing, like art, should move you. Readers want to laugh and cry so that, when they turn the last page of the fictive world, they feel as though they’ve experienced something authentic.

Were you moved? Did you shed a tear? Good, because I did, too. I promise never to take a reader anywhere I wouldn’t go myself.  Rest assured that while you cry over the demise of a favorite character, I did the same while bumping them off. Otherwise, I am guilty as charged.