The Pawn Game

From the Pen of Crime Writer/Blogger Margot Kinberg:

Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...

The watch must have come off when she hit the ground. It was a nice one, too – a Bulova. See, that’s why I even saw her in the first place. I noticed it lying there on the street. You don’t see Bulovas just anywhere. When I went over to pick up the watch, I could just see her hand and part of her arm showing from behind the dumpster. I didn’t want to go any closer. There was no way I was going to get mixed up in it if someone was dead. I’m not heartless, though. She was somebody’s sister, or girlfriend, or something. So, I went down a couple of blocks and found an open bar. The guy there let me use their telephone when I told him mine was dead. I called the cops and told them about the body, but I didn’t give my name.

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Political Correctness, Censorship, and the Writer


“Being Politically Correct means always having to say you’re sorry.”

–Charles Osgood

“Well, the man who first translated the Bible into English was burned at the stake, and they’ve been at it ever since. Must be all that adultery, murder, and incest. But not to worry. It’s back on the shelves.”

–Phyliss Reynolds Naylor


In today’s Politically Correct US of A, we Americans must tread carefully on eggshells. We must be ever vigilant of what we say, what we write, and even of what we think, lest we offend the sensitivities of the many “holier than thou” factions inhabiting today’s society. God forbid we utter a wrong word,  a word that has been deemed by our Big Brother government or our institutions of higher learning (I use the term very, very loosely!) as offensive, or insensitive, or racist, or sexist, or homophobic. We must exercise extreme caution not to step on anyone’s toes or offend them in any way, shape, or form. Should we slip up and cross the line drawn in the sand by the PC Police, there might well be hell to pay.

Little Black Sambo 1948

Back in the long ago days of yesteryear and my misspent youth, one of my favorite children’s books was The Story of Little Black Sambo. Written and illustrated in 1899 by Scottish author Helen Bannerman for her own young tykes, LBS was a favorite among children everywhere until the 1970s when Political Correctness reared its ugly head and the book largely vanished from library and bookstore shelves. Yes, Political Correctness has existed long before the rather benevolent name came into everyday use and household popularity (or repugnance, choose your poison). A much more defining term for Political Correctness would be Cultural Marxism. Think about it. Research it if need be.


When the racist uproar over LBS reached the ears of the all-knowing censors, they zeroed their focus and targeted the name “Sambo” as a shameful put down for the young black protagonist of the story. Uh . . . okey-dokey. I fail to see the damaging implication, but if the know-it-alls say it’s so, it must be so. However, they somehow failed to mention the real relevancy of Mrs. Bannerman’s tale. Or realize the morals the story teaches, and the positive attributes the story showers generously upon our young (and yes, black) hero. For those not familiar with Bannerman’s gem, I offer a brief synopsis of The Story of Little Black Sambo.

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Sambo’s mother sews him a new red coat and bright blue trousers. At the local bazaar, his father buys Sambo a pair of purple shoes and a beautiful green umbrella. All decked out in his dandy new outfit, Little Black Sambo decides to take a stroll through the jungle. Along the way, he encounters four hungry tigers, one at a time. Each tiger threatens to make a meal of poor Sambo, but he persuades them to accept an article of his new ensemble in exchange for not eating him. The tigers agree, and each strolls away thinking that they are the “grandest tiger in all the Jungle!” Bereft of his dandy new outfit, a dejected Sambo begins his journey home. But then he hears a terrific commotion and sees the four tigers arguing over just who is the grandest tiger of them all. The argument heats up, and the tigers remove their prized items (to avoid damage—this is a winner take all battle to the death) and begin fighting. They are soon running in circles around a big palm tree, ripping at one another’s backside, none willing to concede the title of dandiest tiger to the others. They are soon zipping around the tree in a blur, and before long they’ve become so heated they begin to melt. As Little Black Sambo approaches the tree, he finds the tigers have turned into a great ring of delicious melted butter. His father appears on his return from work carrying a big brass pot. They fill the pot with the tiger butter and take it home. That night the family enjoys a meal of delicious pancakes fried in, and flavored with, the tiger butter, all thanks to Sambo and his ingenuity of outwitting the four powerful tigers of the Jungle.

sambo77        sambo78         sambo61

So, what lessons does our little tale have to teach us? Bullying is an ongoing problem in the schools and playgrounds of today. The hungry tigers are prime examples of the typical bully—big, mean, threatening, and boastful. Always preying on the small and weak. However, Sambo, faced with being eaten by each of the four bullies, used his wits to outsmart them. Instead of allowing them to make a meal of him, Sambo kept his cool, devising a plan with his quick thinking, knowing the boastful tigers would try to outdo one other to win the title of the “grandest tiger of all the Jungle.”


Sambo displayed calmness in the face of danger, the ability to process a threatening situation (times four!), and the smarts to devise a plan on the spot. I ask you, are these attributes in any way demeaning to Sambo, despite the color of his skin? No, just the opposite. His calm, cool, and collected demeanor shows exactly the opposite—Little Black Sambo displayed intuition, intelligence, and bravery in the face of a very precarious situation.


However, instead of concentrating on these overwhelmingly  positive and admirable attributes of character that our young hero obviously possesses, the offended, chip-on-the-shoulder-carrying politically correct faction cries “foul,” all the while pointing accusing fingers at Sambo’s name and how he appeared in the author’s original illustration (created, I remind you, in 1899).

little black sambo new

The Story of Little Black Sambo has, in recent years, made a comeback of sorts. There are now several revised versions of Helen Bannerman’s classic tale available on the market. However, most have been revised with deviations of the narrative, location, and especially the illustrations accentuating our young brave hero’s exploits. Even, in some cases, the names have been changed to protect the innocent. (God forbid they should hear such a racist name as Little Black Sambo, never mind Sambo’s heroic reasoning and exploits). All the revisers, in my honest opinion, have missed the point. (See my arguments/defense above.)


I had intended to list numerous works of literature, their authors, and the reasons they had been banned, but alas, time and space restraints beckon me to refrain. Most of you can name your own favorite works that have endured the dull culling of the Politically Correct and ignorant censors. First Amendment be damned! I believe choosing an innocent children’s book written in the 19th Century will suffice getting my point across.

sweep under the rug

We writers—and readers, are faced with an ever-intensifying attempt to sweep our Constitutional rights under the rug to please and placate the whining of those who care not a damn for the principles upon which this nation was founded. It has become, “That offends me, and I’m not going to put up with it! Big Brother, make them cease and desist!”

banned (1)

Our nation is facing a precarious turning point. Do we succumb to the Politically Correct and their continual push for more censorship, or do we throw off those shackles and recapture the rights once held so precious and dear to the heart of every American patriot? The choice is yours, dear reader.

Michael Helms enjoys hearing from fans and critics alike. Never fear, he can listen to and entertain opinions that deviate from his own viewpoint (no matter how misguided they might be). Contact him through this blog, or



The 2nd PLACE WINNER in the March 2018 Word Weaver Writing Contest: Anne Clare, “Dark Corners”

An historical contest-winning short story from writer Anne Clare!

Dan Alatorre

img_2351-11 YOUR HUMBLE HOST

It is my pleasure to present to you the second place winner from the March 2018 Word Weaver Writing Contest, Anne Clare’s “Dark Corners.”

Anne Clare’s story was a blast to read. She hooked me from the opening and held me straight through to the end. Obviously, it was a fave of the celebrity judges, too.

Have a good time reading this story. I’ll give you my reasons for why I liked it, as well as including comments by the celebrity judges, at the bottom of the post.




“Dark Corners”

Anne Clare

Bonny tiptoed to the library door and peered around the frame, holding her breath. Miss Worther sat in the far corner, back bent over the desk, pen scratching across a sheet of paper.

She must be writing to that sweetheart we’re not supposed to know about. She’ll not notice I’m gone…

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Eye Witness Account to Okinawa

Remembering a true yet humble hero!

Pacific Paratrooper

This story was contributed by fellow blogger, Mike Tuggle, in tribute to his father, who sailed his final voyage this past Saturday.

My account of the Invasion of Okinawa

By:  Clayton C. Tuggle

I was one of the approximately twelve hundred men aboard the USS Birmingham CL-62. We set out for Okinawa in March, 1945.

Clayton Tuggle

Arriving in Okinawa, we were stationed about five miles from shore. We bombarded the island with 6-inch guns at night hitting several ammunition dumps and shore guns of several sizes. This went on until the invasion began on April 1, 1945. This battle was something entirely different from any the Navy had experienced. Torpedoes were exploding all around our ship, the skies were full of explosions from guns on both sides.

On the 5th of May, 1945, I was cleaning officers’ quarters when the captain [John Wilkes] came on the PA system…

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Book Review: The Private War of Corporal Henson by E. Michael Helms

Author/blogger James J. Cudney reviews The Private War of Corporal Henson

This Is My Truth Now

Before I get into my review, I wanted to share with everyone that this author is a blogger many of us have interacted with before. He shares writing advice. He is very supportive of other writers. He shares, tweets and re-blogs content to help market books, posts and thoughts from other people. He’s a solid guy and I’m privileged to be part of his online life… that said, I chose to read his book without him even bringing it up. And my review is completely free and clear of impacts from knowing him. He’s genuine and I thank him for the opportunity to read his work and about parts of his life. If you’re interested in reading more about him, check out his blog and other books. He’s also written a mystery series I can’t wait to get my hands on! But that will be another review later this summer……

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Never Elaborate But Sometimes Vague: Logline and Tagline

Loglines & Taglines, by writer E. Denise Billups

E. Denise Billups, Writer

In the midst of preparing my third novel’s synopsis, logline, and tagline, I researched other author’s book covers and came across numerous taglines that inspired a satisfactory completion of my own. With all the subplots, twists, and characters it took many drafts before I successfully summarized an 80,000-word novel into one sentence, and it left me wondering if one-liners and catchy phrases are necessary.

Yes! Taglines and loglines are essential parts of a writer’s media kit. Especially Indie Authors who may not have the followers or media endorsement bestselling authors have to promote their books. But before you start crafting your own, understand taglines and loglines aren’t synonymous. They both serve different purposes, but the one element they have in common is they’re not elaborate descriptions of your book but succinct statements.


A logline is essentially an elevator pitch, a concise, succinct summary of your book in one or…

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Not Guilty

A Short-short crime story from Mystery-Crime writer/blogger Margot Kinberg!

Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...

They were looking at me. They were making eye contact. Celia told me that’s a good sign. It means they see you as a person, and that was going to make it harder for them to convict me. And I could use all the good signs I could get.

I felt bad for Celia. She had to really work hard for me. I mean, I was drunk that night. A few of us from Delta Epsilon were at Patricio’s, where we used to drink when we were in school. It was no big deal, just an Alumni Weekend thing. I told them that, too, when I was on the stand. It didn’t look good that I had too much to drink, but Celia told me not to lie. And I didn’t. Lying is perjury. I may not be a lawyer, but I know that.

Now, the other lawyer was looking…

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KaylaAnn featured in Summer Lane’s magazine “Writing Belle: The Art of Storytelling”

Great news from writer/blogger KaylaAnn!


Today, I am being featured in Writing Belle Magazine, which is pretty awesome! Writing Belle Magazine is run by Summer Lane, author of 20 bestselling books.

In the Magazine, Lane features my upcoming book The Agency Games (working title) and a little bit about me. I even got to submit a guest article in which I discuss why “Consistency is Crucial.”

Be sure to CLICK HERE to read the full article!

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Crash Course: Improving Dialogue in Your Writing



Good dialogue is one of the most important elements in fiction. Some might argue that dialogue is the key to a “can’t put it down” novel. Here are a few things about dialogue I hope you’ll find helpful.



A definitionShut Up! He ExplainedDialogue is an invented language. Dialogue is not a reproduction of how people actually speak. It is the writer’s job to create effective, believable dialogue for the reader.

Here’s a book I highly recommend. There’s a newer version now available.


He said, She said: Tagverbs, Adverbs, and other Miscreant Uses of Dialogue
It’s ’fess up time. All writers are guilty of it. No matter how experienced a writer one may be, it’s a pitfall we must always be vigilant to avoid. So, at the risk of offending writers everywhere, I present a brief refresher course on dialogue.  
Overusing colorful verbs (or “tagverbs,” as I like to call them) as dialogue tags
In dialogue, the overuse of strong verbs used as tags tends to draw attention to the words themselves and become distracting to the reader. It’s an easy trap to fall into. Here’s what The New York Times Book Review had to say about best-selling author Robert Ludlum’s, The Bourne Ultimatum (yes, that Robert Ludlum):
bourne“Mr. Ludlum has other peculiarities.  For example, he hates . . . “he said” . . . and avoids it as much as possible. Characters in The Bourne Ultimatum seldom “say” anything. Instead, they cry, interject, interrupt, muse, state, counter, conclude, mumble, whisper . . . intone, roar, exclaim, fume, explode, mutter. There is one especially unforgettable (one): ‘I repeat,’ repeated Alex.”
Another common fault is using adverbs to describe how a character speaks. It’s so much easier to “tell” the reader how the character said something than “show” how it was said. Here are a few examples from McNally’s Secret, by Lawrence Sanders (yes, that Lawrence Sanders):
I said resignedly; father asked idly; I said heartily; I said hastily; he inquired anxiously; she said darkly; she said lightly; she said cheerily; I said cheerfully; he cried with unexpected fury; she said fondly; I said politely; he said proudly; he said with unnecessary vehemence; he said coldly; he said hotly; she said faintly; she said bitterly; she said crisply; I asked eagerly; she said doubtfully; he said grudgingly; he said mournfully; I added earnestly; she said hesitantly; I said gratefully; she said in a doleful voice; and my two personal favorites: someone remarked sententiously; I caroled as melodiously as I could.
*Examples for Your Perusal—which sounds better to your ear?*
“You’re fired!” Fred blurted hotly. (Tagverb ‘blurted’ and adverb ‘hotly’)
“You’re fired,” Fred said, slamming the folder on the desk. (“said” is hardly noticed)
Fred slammed the folder on his desk. “You’re fired.” (action denotes speaker’s temperament)
            “You always manage to spoil the evening,” Mary sobbed pitifully.
            “You always manage to spoil the evening,” Mary said, bursting into tears.
            Mary turned away to hide her tears. “You always manage to spoil the evening.”
A good rule: When a tag is needed, “he said/she said” works just fine in most situations. Use more colorful tags occasionally if you must. Always try to “show” how something was said rather than “telling” how it was said. 
Loaded dialogue (or, lazily packing dialogue with information)
*Do people really talk like this?*
“I suppose we could ask our son, Joe, to handle the lawsuit,” Mr. Jones suggested. “After all, he is one of the best attorneys in town, and we did put him through law school.”
“I know, dear,” Mrs. Jones replied, “but he is already representing his sister, the Harvard professor, with her slander case against the university newspaper.”
*Well no, but they might reasonably say something like this:*
“Let’s ask Joe to handle the lawsuit,” Mr. Jones said. “There’s no conflict of interest for an attorney to represent his parents.  Besides, it’s about time he did something for us. If he can afford to drive a Ferrari, he can afford to pay us back something for five years of law school.”    
“I know, dear,” Mrs. Jones said, “but I’m afraid it will conflict with his handling of Susan’s case.  If she doesn’t get tenure because of those lies the Harvard Heraldprinted, she’ll be devastated.  Joe won’t let that happen. You know what a protective big brother he’s always been.”  
The lesson?  If needed, you can impart information to the reader if you word the dialogue carefully.
word count
Dispensable dialogue (or, empty, wordcount-building dialogue)
“Good morning, Joe,” Sharon said, seeing her friend approaching down the hallway. “How are you today?”
“Fine, Sharon, and you?”
Sharon smiled warmly. “I couldn’t be better. Nice weather we’re having, isn’t it?”
“Sure is. Couldn’t ask for better. Makes you want to skip work and go on a picnic.”
“It sure does,” she said, glancing at her watch. “Oh, well, back to the grindstone. Nice seeing you, Joe.”
“Nice seeing you, too, Sharon. Tell Steve ‘hello’ for me, would you?”
“I sure will, and please give Tammy my best.”
“I will. Well, have a nice day.”
“You, too. Bye-bye.”
(ZZZZzzzzz — While the above exchange is technically okay, it’s boring and does absolutely nothing to reveal character, show conflict, or propel the plot.)
A Reminder 
Dialogue is an invented language, not how people actually speak. Don't Forget
Dialogue is action and conflict (characters interacting with one another).        
Dialogue is drama (the story is unfolding, or moving forward by what the characters say).
Dialogue is immediate scene (characters are on-stage, acting out scenes before the reader’s eyes).
Closing Words from author P.G. Wodehouse 
“[A]lways get to the dialogue as soon as possible. I always feel the thing to go for is speed. Nothing puts the reader off more than a big slab of prose at the start.”

Deep Breathing

A Short-short Crime Story from Writer/Blogger Margot Kinberg!

Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...

Brittany hurried into the gym, almost catching her towel in the front door as it swung shut behind her. One minute to go. She quickly checked in at the front desk and rushed up the staircase to the second floor, where the evening yoga class had already gathered.

When she got to the second floor, Brittany slipped in as inconspicuously as she could and found a place towards the back of the room. The lights had already been dimmed, and most of the other people in the class were sitting on their mats, meditating. Brittany hated to interrupt other people’s focus, so, as silently as she could, she unrolled her yoga mat, took off her trainers and socks, and sat down. She had time for two deep breaths before Kimberly, the instructor, started the class.

As the hour went by, Brittany started to feel calmer. It had been a crap…

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