Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Q&A with Mark Stevens!

This week, we sat down with Mark Stevens, who just made his Midnight Ink debut with Trapline!

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing?
Mark Stevens: Since 1984. Yikes! Thirty years. I wasn’t published until 2007 (seven short years ago). Stubborn? A bit.  I learned so much before finally “breaking through” and even more since then.

MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
MS: Wow. How long do you have? An hour? All day? From Joseph Conrad to John Updike, from Patricia Highsmith to Nevada Barr and Tony Hillerman, writers I love show me there are many ways of capturing humanity on a page. I’m the son of two librarians (it’s true) so books and reading have been a way of life since I was old enough to hold a book.

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
MS: Bass player in the band Cracker, one of the best rock bands on the planet.  Speaking of writers—the songwriters in that band, David Lowery and Johnny Hickman, are strong writers. Great imagery and ideas in the lyrics. That bass-playing job is not currently open, alas. But while I have your attention, Cracker has a new double album coming out next month: “From Berkeley to Bakersfield.” Can’t wait. And the band is playing Denver on New Year’s Eve this year. Please don’t me going about this band. I might never stop.  I think David Lowery knows the secret to the universe. (But he’s just not telling us.) 

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it?
MS: I have my own public relations and communications business and work with a number of very cool clients—a small school district in the Denver area, a non-profit that works with poor families, and Denver’s shared-bike system, Denver B-cycle. Among others.

MI: What is/are your favorite thing/s to do when you’re not writing or working?
MS: I’m a decent cook and enjoy it. I’m a decent bass player (and should get better). And I love hanging out in Denver (restaurants, movies, theater) and around Colorado.  Must do more camping and hiking next year, especially in the Flat Tops Wilderness where the Allison Coil Mysteries are set.  I know that sounds self-serving but it’s one of the most beautiful places on the state. Just don’t tell anyone. Please. Whatever you do, keep this between us.

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
MS: I’m a big fan of Walt Longmire—in the series of mystery novels by Craig Johnson. (I thought the television version didn’t quite nail the Longmire character.) Johnson’s Longmire is a restrained intellect and regards humanity with a near-poetic eye. I also liked Jim Chee in Tony Hillerman’s books and Anna Pigeon in the Nevada Barr series. Anna is highly underrated. She is such a strong character and delivers strong “point of view” every time. I like good crime-solving in mysteries. But I also dig good crimes and criminals. Got a dark side.

MI: Do you have a favorite murder case from a book (either yours or another author’s)?
MS: How about a favorite plot? I love Suspension of Mercy by Patricia Highsmith. A frustrated mystery writer decides one weekend, while his wife is away, to go through the motions of pretending to murder her.  So, of course, he can “feel” what it’s like. And what happens? Well, the wife goes missing. And our “hero” is investigated for her death. I really can’t give away the ending. OK, yes I can. I’ll be obtuse. Pretend turns real. That doesn’t give away too much, does it. A spine-chilling read. 

MI: What was your inspiration for the Allison Coil mysteries?
MS: She’s based on someone I met! Today she’s a veterinarian in Western Colorado but at the time she was a hunting guide in the Flat Tops Wilderness.  (Again, the most beautiful area in the state, but don’t tell anyone.) I remember the moment I met her and thought, boom, here’s a perfect character for a mystery novel. I mean, a strong woman in a man’s world of hunting. So, you’ve got guns handy. And harsh conditions, rugged terrain, and usually some alcohol around the hunting camps. So the inspiration for Allison Coil was both the woman and the setting. The day that happened was like finding out you had two winning lottery tickets.  

MI: Tell us about Allison Coil!
MS: First, she’s a refugee from the city. She survived a commercial airplane crash in New York City. The crash haunts her. Surviving haunts her. Seatmates died. She didn’t. She was a typical big-city young professional and, then, as part of recovering from her injuries she recuperated in the Flat Tops Wilderness (have I mentioned this is an amazing part of the state?). She now considers the Flat Tops her healing spot. She isn’t leaving. She learned to ride horses, learned to guide hunts and now owns an outfitting business. She will do whatever it takes to protect the Flat Tops. 

MI: How does this series compare to your other works?
MS: It’s more “outdoors.” My other three completed mysteries are all city-based.  All set in Denver. 

MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
MS: In late October, we said goodbye to our black lab mix Hercules, who was with us for nearly 15 years. He was two when we got him and he watched our two daughters grow up from little girls to young women. Isn’t incredible how dogs become part of the family? Just unbelievable. We also have two black cats, Zipper and Sadie. Two very different cats who have found a way to cohabitate. Sort of.

MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
MS: A perfectly spicy tortilla soup. Or anything Mexican, really. Or Italian. Or Mediterranean, you know, like Greek food is wonderful. Or . . .

MI: Do you have a favorite recipe?
MS: This one from is like one I’ve been making for decades.  The best part is slathering on amazing mango chutney or something . . . store-bought or homemade.  Apple chutney is great, too.  So when the recipe mentions about sour cream at the end, imagine a few scoops of chutney, too. This recipe is an excuse to eat great chutney.

1 lb. ground turkey
2 green onions, diced
1 (7 1/2 oz.) can tomatoes, cut up—drain the juice off !
1 med. green pepper, chopped (totally optional)
1/2 c. shredded carrot
1/4 c. raisins
1 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 (9") unbaked pie crusts
1 beaten egg
Plain yogurt or sour cream
Chives, optional

For Filling: In 10 inch skillet cook turkey and onion until brown; drain fat, stir in undrained tomatoes, pepper, carrot, raisins, curry powder, cumin and pepper. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Remove cover and cook until liquid evaporates. Spoon into bowl and cool.

For Pastry: Roll out two 9 inch circular pastries and sprinkle with flour. Spread filling on half of pie crust and fold. Seal and flute edges. Cut side in crust to let steam escape. Transfer to cookie sheet for baking. Brush with beaten egg. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with dollops of plain yogurt or sour cream mixed with chives. 4-6 servings.

MI: What is your favorite part about being an Inker?

MS: Having the whole team behind me—editors (Terri and Connie), publicist (Beth), and cover designers. (I sure hope Lisa Novak designs the cover of my next book because how much I love the cover for Trapline).

Trapline, An Allison Coil Mystery, is available online and in bookstores now! And, if you're in the Denver-area, don't miss Mark's launch party this Friday (November 21) at 7:00 p.m.!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

November 2014 Books Available Now!

Don't miss Midnight Ink's latest releases!

"Allison's third adventure . . . combines a loving portrait of a beautiful area with an ugly, all-too-believable conspiracy that could have been ripped from today's headlines."
Kirkus Reviews on Trapline

"Ernst keeps getting better with each entry in this fascinating series."
Library Journal on Tradition of Deceit

“Action-filled . . . Jaffarian neatly pulls all the plot lines together for a satisfying outcome."
Publishers Weekly on Hell on Wheels

"A strong protagonist."
Library Journal on Bloody Politics

Now available from Midnight InkBarnes & NobleAmazon, Indiebound, and your local bookseller!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Q&A with Sheila Webster Boneham

This week, we sat down with Sheila Webster Boneham, author of the Animals in Focus mysteries. Her latest, Catwalk, is available now!

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing?
Sheila Webster Boneham: I started writing as a child. I wrote my first “book” when I was 7 or 8—it was about a Cocker Spaniel named Sandy, illustrated with pictures I cut out of magazines. My first publication was a poem in a state-wide magazine when I was in seventh grade. In high school I was on the school newspaper and took journalism as an elective. I don’t think I even considered not writing! My first grown-up publications were in academic journals (I have a PhD in folklore), and from there I moved to feature articles for a variety of magazines. Breed Rescue was published in 1998 by Alpine Publications and was the first of seventeen nonfiction books about dogs and cats. I guess the publication of Drop Dead on Recall, the first Animals in Focus mystery, brought me full circle!

MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
SWB: Tremendous influence. No one writes in a vacuum—as writers, we are part of a long heritage and a global community of ideas, traditions, and techniques. When I read, even for pleasure, I can’t help noticing what other authors do that works—or doesn’t work—for me as a reader.

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
SWB: Honestly, I can’t imagine not being a writer, but I do also enjoy many things—photography, hiking, training and showing my dogs, travel, teaching. In fact, I do all those things, and without them I wouldn’t have much to write about. It all fits together.

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it?
SWB: I write full time now. I used to teach university writing, literature, and folklore, and I still teach writing classes and workshops.

MI: What is/are your favorite thing/s to do when you’re not writing or working?
SWB: On a day-to-day basis, I would say take long walks in natural places, read, and play with animals. If I can get away, I love to travel. I’m especially fond of train travel, and have written about it.

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
SWB: I assume you mean aside from Janet MacPhail of my series! I get a kick out of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum because she makes me laugh, and I also like J.A. Jance’s Joanna Brady. Both strong women in different ways.

MI: Do you have a favorite murder case from a book (either yours or another author’s)?
SWB: Not really. I like cases that keep me guessing (as a writer as well as a reader), but there are so many excellent mysteries out there, and so many ways to structure a plot, that I don’t think I can pick a favorite.

MI: What was your inspiration for  the Animals in Focus Mysteries?
SWB: The characters, human and animal, all come from my own experiences in the world of serious animal fanciers. I’ve been involved for decades with showing dogs, rescue work, volunteering with dogs and cats in shelters, teaching obedience classes, training and competing with my dogs, breeding highly competitive Australian Shepherds, volunteering with my therapy dogs, and just playing with animals. In the course of doing all those things, I’ve met all kinds of people and animals, and the fictional characters in my books are inspired (but not copied!) from life. As far as being inspired to write myteries with animals, I must credit Susan Conant and Laurien Berenson for leading the way with their brilliant work. Like me, they both had extensive experience beyond pet ownership, and I have always appreicated that the animals in their books are realistic. When I started Drop Dead on Recall, there weren’t many dog mysteries; now there are packs of them! But Conant and Berenson led the way.
Jay, the inspiration for fictional Jay
MI: How do the Animals in Focus Mysteries compare to your past works?
SWB: The mysteries are a whole new venture for me as all my previous writing was nonfiction.  In addition to many feature articles in magazines, I had written seventeen nonfiction books, several of them winners of awards from the Dog Writers Association of America and the Cat Writers’ Association, before I wrote Drop Dead on Recall. My background has given me the knowledge based to keep the animals realistic and the information accurate in the mysteries, which many readers and reviewers have noted. Drop Dead on Recall won the 2013 Maxwell Award for Fiction from the Dog Writers Association of America in peer-judged competition, and was an NBD Petside Top Ten Dog Book of 2012 in an almost all nonfiction field.

MI: Tell us about Janet MacPhail (and Leo and Jay)!
SWB: Janet is a mildly eccentric animal lover and professional photographer in her fifties. She loves to play with her Australian Shepherd, Jay, and her orange tabby, Leo, both of whom are full-fledged characters—and heroes!—in the series. Janet becomes an accidental

Lily with her books

sleuth in each of the books while also wrestling with issues well-known to many women her age. She’s been divorced and independent for years, and isn’t sure she wants to give that up, but a good-looking guy with a good-looking dog show up and stick around. Janet’s mother is battling dementia, and since Janet’s brother isn’t dealing with it very well, Janet has to make a lot of decisions. She’s also battling those ten (okay, twenty) pounds that just won’t seem to go away. And then there are those pesky dead bodies to deal with!

MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
Jay shows off his agility skills
SWB: Of course! At the moment we have only one dog, an eight-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever named Lily. This is the first time in decades, though, that we haven’t had multiple dogs and cats. The real Jay, who was born into my hands in 1998, died in 2012. Fictional Jay is based largely on Jay’s loving personality, with some behaviors added from the many other Australian Shepherds we’ve had. And Drake, Tom’s Lab in the books, is a composite of Lily and my two previous Labs, Raja and Annie. Janet’s tabby Leo is based on several cats in my life—Leo, Malcolm, George, Mary, Kitty, and Smokey, as well as cats I’ve known in shelters.
Jay and Lily

MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
SWB: Beans (red or black) and brown rice, with some salsa on top! (Okay, and carrot cake with cream cheese icing. That’s dairy and veggies, right?)

MI: Do you have a favorite recipe?
SWB: Confession: while I am not Janet and Janet is not me, we do share some traits, and one is not cooking. Luckily, my husband, Roger, is a great cook, and of all his yummies, I’d have to say his spaghetti sauce is my favorite.

MI: What is your favorite part about being an Inker?
SWB: Sense of community with my fellow authors. This is a great bunch of people with a wonderfully diverse assortment of stories to tell, and I’ve found them also to be very supportive and generous with information, mutual promotion, and friendship.

Catwalk, the third Animals in Focus mystery, is available in bookstores and online now!

Monday, October 27, 2014

How To: Kill Someone with a Toaster

How To: Kill Someone with a Toaster
  1. Electrocution. Simple, and effective.
  2. Use the toaster as a weapon to bash someone over the head.
  3. Strangle someone with the cord.
  4. Make poison toast.
  5. Start a fire with the toaster.
  6. Drop a pallet of toasters on someone, of course.
For more on toaster-related murder, pick up Linda Joffe Hull's latest, Black Thursday, available online and in bookstores now!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Q&A with Jeff Cohen

This week, Midnight Ink sat down with Jeff Cohen (sometimes known as E.J. Copperman), author of the new Asperger's Mystery series.

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing?
Jeff Cohen: What’s today . . . pretty much since I was eight.

MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
JC: I don’t know that other writers influence the way I write. Obviously I have read a lot of writers who are important to me, like Irwin Shaw, Robert B. Parker, William Goldman, and many others. But I’ve always pretty much written the way I write. I think.

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
JC: Living in a refrigerator carton. I don’t know how to do anything else. Luckily I married well. For any number of reasons.

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it?
JC: I don’t. This is it. So buy my books; I still have student loans to pay off. (Actually I do a little teaching, but that’s much more part-time than writing.)

MI: What is/are your favorite thing/s to do when you’re not writing or working?
JC: It’s such a cliché: I like to spend time with my family. I play guitar when nobody can hear. I watch a lot of movies and I read. I am a remarkably dull person.

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
JC: Besides my own? Probably Sherlock Holmes, although he’s something of a know-it-all. I like Spenser, at least in the first 30 or 40 books. And Chris Grabenstein’s John Ceepak/Danny Boyle series is something I’ll always stop my day to read.

MI: Do you have a favorite murder case from a book (either yours or another author’s)?
JC: I’m going to get in such trouble for saying this: The murder is the least interesting part of the story to me. I’m much more involved in the characters and their relationships, and hopefully in making the reader laugh. I come up with different ways to kill fictional people because it’s part of the form and it makes the story go, but the murder itself? In other people’s books, I barely pay attention. In my own, it’s always the thing that causes me the most headaches.

MI: What was your inspiration for the Asperger’s Mystery series?

JC: I have a son who has Asperger’s (or whatever they’re calling it this week) and his challenges and triumphs in dealing with the world are an inspiration all the time. As for the Asperger’s series itself, I thought it would be interesting to get inside the head of someone who thought like that and give him something difficult to figure out.  The whole thing came in a flash—the missing head, Questions Answered, Ms. Washburn (although she didn’t have a name yet), everything. It was just a question of figuring out the mechanics of it once I started writing. And that’s always the hardest part. For me.

MI: How does this series compare to your past works?
JC: It’s not as desperate to make you laugh, although hopefully people will find it funny. Aaron Tucker was a joke machine; the plot was secondary to him riffing on things. Elliot Freed was Aaron Tucker on steroids—he lived for comedy, almost literally. The Haunted Guesthouse series has Alison Kerby’s attitude throughout and the situations are set up to be funnier. With Samuel (in the Asperger’s series), he would not be anxious to make jokes because he’d be worried people wouldn’t find them funny. It’s more the reactions of other characters to what he does that carries the humor here.

MI: Tell us about Samuel Hoenig.
JC: Samuel is right on the edge of a lot of things. He has Asperger’s, but he’s very high-functioning, so he almost doesn’t have Asperger’s—at least outwardly. He’s not quite a genius, but he’s really close. He’s an adult in his 30s who lives with his mother because he wants to. And he opens a business at which people can get any question answered—if it interests Samuel. He believes Asperger’s is less a disorder and more a personality trait, so he’ll get a little testy if people treat him like he’s afflicted… but he’s not above using that to his advantage when necessary. Samuel’s complicated, more than might immediately be obvious.

MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
JC: As a matter of fact, we adopted a beagle name Gizmo (and the four of us debated for three days about a new name before leaving the one he’d been given at the shelter) who’s just over a year old and hasn’t figured out he’s not a puppy anymore. He’s a very small beagle (they call him a teacup beagle, but my vet says there’s no such thing). He’s heavily into chewing and getting picked up. He’s settling into the family nicely.

MI: If you don’t have a pet, do you have a favorite animal?
JC: Does Bullwinkle J. Moose count?

MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
JC: Pasta, but I prefer having a choice.

MI: Do you have a favorite recipe?
JC: You’re assuming I cook. That’s adorable.

MI: What is your favorite part about being an Inker?
JC: I am very big on personal relationships—I like doing business with people I like. So I’ve been really impressed with everybody at Midnight Ink and their incredibly supportive attitude toward Samuel and the series.

The Question of the Missing Head is now available online and in bookstores!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Q&A with Linda Joffe Hull

This week, we sat down with Mrs. Frugalicious Shopping Mystery author Linda Joffe Hull, whose latest Black Thursday, was just released.

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing?
Linda Joffe Hull: I dabbled from the day I got out of college (cough) years ago, but didn’t start writing seriously until my boys started school in 2001. They are both in college now.

MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
LJH: My mom claims she found me hiding under the covers with a flashlight and a book on a regular basis starting at three years old. I have been influenced by everything from the Nancy Drew series to David Sedaris.

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
LJH: I often say that at this point I would be a stripper at a nursing home, but I would probably be in sales and advertising, which I did in a former life.

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it?
LJH: I do freelance editing and ghostwriting and work on everything from self-help and memoirs to fiction projects.

MI: What is/are your favorite thing/s to do when you’re not writing or working?
LJH: My boys are collegiate divers, so I love travelling to watch them compete. Go Hoosiers and Hawkeyes!

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
LJH: I change my mind every time I read a new mystery, but the first favorite that came to mind was Precious Ramotswe.

MI: Do you have a favorite murder case from a book (either yours or another author’s)?
LJH: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote really sticks with me.

MI: What was your inspiration for the Mrs. Frugalicious Mysteries? 

LJH: I was flipping through the channels one night and found myself watching Extreme Couponing. I realized, almost immediately, that anyone with the math brain and the ability to think on the fly the way couponers do, would make a crack amateur sleuth. Mrs. Fruglicious was born soon after.

MI: How does the Mrs. Frugalicious Mystery series compare to your past works?
LJH: I like to write about the suburbs—specifically, the unexpected dangers and pitfalls of suburban existence. I describe my first novel, The Big Bang, as a suburban satire/pregnancy whodunit. The Mrs. Frugalicious mysteries are far lighter and have a lot less, shall we say, dark blue subject matter.

MI: Tell us about Maddie Michaels.
LJH: Maddie Michaels is the wife of local TV financial guru Frank Finance Michaels. When he loses all their money in a ponzi scheme, she reinvents herself as bargain shopper and coupon clipper Mrs. Frugalicious to (surreptitiously) save the family from financial ruin. I enjoy writing her because she is plucky and is endlessly able to look at the increasingly dire situations she faces with humor and a sense of optimism that some people (I’m looking in the mirror here) can’t always summon up.

MI: Tell us your top 3 couponing tips.
  1. Always, always go through your Sunday paper and clip coupons for things you will buy anyway. There’s no reason not to save money every time you shop.
  2. When you use coupons, grocery and discount stores recognize you as a coupon clipper and give you additional discounts and savings offers in the form of Catalinas, those printed coupons that come with your receipt.
  3. Never ever go shopping without going online to check for coupons or specials. Practically every national retailer offers discounts and/or specials simply by going to their website.
Linda and Hazel
MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
LJH: I have two pets, Andi the gecko who currently resides in my oldest son’s room. She was named Andrew (after him) until we discovered she is a girl. As my second son, Evan was headed off to college we adopted Hazel. She is a four-month-old Lab/Blue Heeler mix. Adorable only begins to describe her. Coincidentally, her kennel name was Eliza, which happens to be my daughter’s name. Clearly, she was meant to be in my brood.

MI: If you don’t have a pet, do you have a favorite animal? 
LJH: I love exotic animals, many of whom are unsuitable for domestic life. Luckily we have Andi and Hazel.

MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
LJH: Homemade chocolate chip cookies.

MI: Do you have a favorite recipe?
LJH: I’m not the best cook, but I do make an easy, incredible grilled salmon marinated in soy sauce, lemon wedges, sugar and garlic.  

MI: What is your favorite part about being an Inker?
LJH: Aside from working with the amazing Terri Bischoff? I guess I’d have to say the camaraderie amongst the authors who write for Midnight Ink. I’ve made and continue to make very close friends. What a great group of people!

Black Thursday, the second Mrs. Frugalicious Shopping Mystery, is now available in bookstores and online!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Midnight Ink Monthly: October Edition

Midnight Ink Monthly's October Edition featured an excerpt from The Question of the Missing Head by E.J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen.

Can Samuel Hoenig Solve The Question of the Missing Head?: 
An Excerpt

"It's a cryogenics lab, Jesse," she said.  "It's legal."

"Cryonics," I corrected. "Cryogenics is simply the science of very low temperatures. Cryonics is the activity practiced here."

But the officer named Jesse, whose name tag read "Crawford," pointed at Dr. Springer's body.  "What about that?"

"That is one of our doctors," Ackerman said.  

"She's dead?" Crawford asked.

Ackerman nodded.

"Call it in," Crawford told his partner, and she reached for her communications link on her shoulder.  

"That might not work down here," Ackerman told her, and pointed to the phone.  The female officer started to call to her headquarters.
"You were coming out of there when we came in," Crawford said to me. "You shouldn't have been in there."

"We weren't sure she was dead," Ms. Washburn explained. "Mr. Hoenig was trying . . ." 

"I answer people's questions for them," I told the officer. "I needed to be in there to answer a question for Dr. Ackerman."

"Did you touch anything?"

"No," I said. "I was extremely careful."

Crawford leaned into the preservation chamber, and Ackerman looked nervously after him.  I think he was nervous—it might have been an expression of disapproval.  

"No blood," Crawford said. "Looks like natural causes."

"Oh, no," I told him. "Dr. Springer was murdered."             

Discover who murdered Dr. Springer in The Question of the Missing Head by E.J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen, available now!

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