Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Power of Three

Hilary here, with a special guest: Cathi Stoler, author of Telling Lies (Camel Press, 2011). I first met Cathi several years ago through the New York chapter of Sisters in Crime, and I'm excited about her novel, which is the first installment of a series. David Simon, the creator and executive producer of "Treme" and "The Wire" says: "With Telling Lies, Cathi Stoler uses the intricacies and passions of the art world to take readers on a suspenseful transatlantic journey of deceit, betrayal and heroism. There is a new crime writer on the block, with a fully realized cast of characters and all the mayhem they can bring." How's that for high praise?

Since Cathi and I met through an incredibly supportive writers' group — and she blogs with the amazing Women of Mystery — I thought she'd have an interesting take on this week's question: Are you part of a writers' workshop, or do you prefer to keep your book to yourself until you've typed 'The End'?" Here's what Cathi had to say:

I don’t think that I’d have a book in print, or been able to type “The End” if I weren’t part of a writers’ workshop.

I’d been an advertising copywriter for many years, but I’d never written fiction. When I decided to give it a try, I took a course at Marymount Manhattan College entitled “How to Overcome Your Fear of Writing Your Novel.” I thought about doing this for a while, but the actual sitting down and writing part seemed daunting. I told myself I didn’t have time. Worried about what I would do if I wrote something terrible and everyone hated it. Finally, I ran out of excuses. The title of the class was a challenge I couldn’t ignore. It was now or never time.

So, I signed up. Okay, I thought, I’ll give it a class or two and see how things go. During the first session, I met two terrific writers, Kathy Wilson and Terry Jennings. We hit it off right from the start and encouraged each other week after week. It also helped that we had a very talented novelist, Alyson Richman, as our instructor. As our classes progressed, I realized that I’d made the right decision—being part of a group who were working through the same challenges and concerns gave me the confidence to continue. And, when after two semesters, our course was cancelled, we cajoled Alyson into working with us privately. Eventually, we had to let go and the three of us began to work together on our own.

That was about five years and two books ago. Kathy, Terry and I still meet regularly and critique each other’s work. Each of them has written a fabulous story, one a memoir and one young adult fiction, and I’d like to think I’ve helped them as much as they helped me. They have read and reread every word of TELLING LIES and have offered great suggestions for keeping the story on track to make the novel as good as it could be. Ideas that as enmeshed as I was in the writing process, didn’t always occur to me. From helping make sure my protagonists, magazine editor, Laurel Imperiole, and P.I., Helen McCorkendale, stayed in character, to pointing out where dialogue sounded stilted, to notes for keeping the plot moving and the story line coherent, their insights were invaluable.

TELLING LIES is a complicated tale of murder and suspense told from multiple points of view. It begins in Florence, Italy and ends in New York. With stolen Nazi art, a 9/11 deception and a ruthless Mossad agent crossing their paths, Laurel and Helen are thrown into a maze of deceit and lies that could end in death.

Writing it was an amazing experience. One I know wouldn’t have been the same without my writing buddies, Kathy and Terry, by my side.

P.S. We’re meeting on Tuesday, if you’re in the neighborhood.

Thanks so much for visiting Criminal Minds today, Cathi! For readers who are intrigued by Telling Lies, here's a synopsis of the novel:

How many lies does it take to get away with murder? When a chance encounter in Florence’s Uffizi Museum plunges Women Now editor Laurel Imperiole and private investigator Helen McCorkendale into an investigation of missing persons and stolen Nazi art, the women find themselves ensnared in a deadly maze of greed and deceit.

Could the man Laurel bumped into have been Jeff Sargasso, an art dealer and friend who perished in the World Trade Center on 9/11? Was it possible he was still alive and had disappeared without a trace?

Laurel, who was vacationing in Italy with her boyfriend, Aaron Gerrad, a New York City detective, is thoroughly shaken by the experience of seemingly meeting a dead man. Sargasso was supposedly killed that day during a meeting regarding the sale of a 150 million dollar painting between a Japanese billionaire and a Wall Street tycoon. Determined to get to the bottom of things, she and Helen investigate in Italy and in New York.

As she delves deeper, Laurel leaves the truth behind, telling lies to Aaron about her actions and the liaison she’s formed with Lior Stern, an Israeli Mossad agent with an agenda of his own. One lie leads to another, entangling everyone and everything the women encounter, including murder and the painting at the heart of the affair.

Searching for answers, Laurel and Helen thread their way through a sinister skein of lies that take them on a whirlwind journey that could end in death.

And a little bit more about Cathi herself:

Cathi Stoler was an award-winning advertising copywriter. Telling Lies is her first mystery/suspense novel. Other novels in this series will include Keeping Secrets, which delves into the subject of hidden identity, and, The Hard Way, a story about the international diamond smuggling. She has also written several short stories including "Fatal Flaw," which was published online this April at Beat To A Pulp and "Out of Luck," which will be included in the upcoming New York Sisters in Crime anthology, Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices. In addition to Sisters in Crime, Cathi is also a member of Mystery Writers of America. You can contact Cathi at (You can also find Cathi on Twitter and Facebook.)


Sue said...

Thanks for a great post. I hadn't heard about Cathi's book before but I will check it out!

Meredith Cole said...

Thanks for guest blogging on criminal minds! Love the sound of your critique group & your class--I'm glad it gave you the courage to write your novel. Your book sounds very intriguing...

Hilary Davidson said...

Thanks for stopping by, Sue & Meredith — and thanks for a great guest post, Cathi! Glad to have you visit Criminal Minds.