Friday, March 9, 2018

In Praise of Editors: A Guest Post from UNDER THE SHADOWS Author Gwen Florio

We welcome Gwen Florio, author of the new Under the Shadows (the fifth book in the Lola Wicks Mystery Series), to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here she shares some of the reasons that editors are just plain awesome.

In my series featuring journalist Lola Wicks, I have a lot of fun with Lola's disdain of editors. If Lola adheres to any credo, it comprises the three rules espoused by legendary Miami Herald crime reporter Edna Buchanan: "Never trust an editor. Never trust an editor. Never trust an editor."

That attitude gives me plausible deniability when people ask how much of me there is in Lola. Yes, we're both journalists; yes, we've both worked overseas and ended up—happily in my case; not so much, at least initially, in Lola's—working for smaller papers in the West. But I know something that Lola has yet to learn: A good editor can save your ass.

I was reminded of this for about the millionth time when I turned in my most recent book, Under the Shadows. It's my fifth book and was the toughest to write. I've tried to follow a friend's maxim with my books—each better than the one before—and figured part of my struggle lay in trying to up the ante. And, I was proud of applying lessons I'd learned in previous books to this one.

Still, I was uncomfortable when I sent the manuscript in to editor Terri Bischoff, and remained queasy even after the first round of revisions. To me, it didn't feel quite there yet. On the one hand, after spending so much time with a manuscript, it's hard to like anything about it. On the other ... what if that uneasy feeling were justified?

I finally emailed Terri, expressing those concerns. "This one feels as though it falls short."

A couple of days later, I got back a list of a dozen places in the manuscript where it did just that. Terri is one of those lovely editors who keys in on problems, but lets you figure out the solutions yourself. I'd been so wrapped up in an overall sense of not-rightness that I couldn't see the specifics that were bogging things down. Basically, she handed me a compass and let me find my own way out of the weeds.

Things improved yet again with the handoff to copy editor Sandy Sullivan, who for some reason has yet to kill me for not making a timeline on any of my novels.

The result of their combined assistance? The first review of this, my most troublesome novel, was from Kirkus, who awarded it a star. Publishers Weekly chimed in a few weeks later with another positive review.

I'm still gobsmacked. I like to say that I've made my protagonist younger and thinner and smarter than I. But in one respect, I'm way smarter than Lola: I know that an editor can be your story's best friend.


Under the Shadows Grief has nearly consumed journalist Lola Wicks, but her latest assignment leads to a darkness she may never escape.

Lola Wicks is in bad shape—a family tragedy has nearly broken her in a way that her years reporting from war zones never did. Her friends, alarmed by signs that Lola is in the grip of a destructive addiction, hope that a freelance assignment will get her back on her feet. Only the threat of having her child removed persuades Lola to head to Salt Lake City to work on a puff piece about overseas adoptions.

But the assignment takes a dark turn when the teenager at the center of her story lands in jail facing a murder charge. Setting out to prove the youth's innocence takes Lola to her own dark place, and she's not sure if she'll ever be able to find her way back.

Praise for the Lola Wicks Mystery series:

"Florio's flawed, complex, compelling heroine faces challenges that are both gut-wrenchingly difficult and all too common today . . . Far above the crowd."
Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

"Compelling, realistically flawed characters and a timely story line . . . make this one of Florio's hardest-hitting mysteries yet."
Library Journal (starred review)

"Maldonado's a writer to watch, and she showcases her own extensive law enforcement background in this tightly plotted police procedural."
Publishers Weekly on Blood's Echo (starred review)

"A gutsy series."
The New York Times

"Florio captures the culture and poverty on reservations still suffering from greed and mismanagement in a ripped-from-the-headlines story with a shocking ending."
Kirkus Reviews

Gwen Florio (Missoula, MT) has won several journalism awards and been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Denver Post, and the Missoulian, and her short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and Women Writing the West.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

What's an ARC, Anyway?

Edith Maxwell, reporting from north of Boston.

Authors and editors often throw around terms like ARC, but some readers might not be familiar with it. So that's my topic for the month!

ARC is an acronym for Advance Reader Copy or Advance Review Copy, depending on who you ask. They are normally the finished manuscript before it has had its final proofreading stage, so readers inevitably find errors. But it's clearly labeled as such somewhere on the front cover.

In this ARC of Turning the Tide, a label on the top reads, UNCORRECTED PROOF FOR LIMITED DISTRIBUTION. The spine is different from what the released copy will be - see, this one is white and gives the On Sale date.

The back is different, too. The back copy - book blurb and various praise quotes - are the same, but in addition it includes marketing and publicity information, details that won't be on the final cover.

This is a print ARC, but publishers create ebook versions, too, and sometimes PDFs. ARCs normally are ready three to six months before the publication date.

ARCs are really important for authors and publishers. Why? They get the book into the hands of reviewers, primarily. Positive pre-release reviews build hype, let libraries order the book so it is available on the release date, and encourage pre-orders, which translate to built-in sales. ARCs can also be sent to "influencers" who might write an endorsement, and can be used as prizes in contests or giveaways. NetGalley sends ebook versions for approved reviewers who request them. The paper copies can be sent through the mail or handed out at speaking events.

Midnight Ink sent me five paper copies of Turning the Tide for my own pre-release publicity push. So...drumroll please...I'm giving away one copy today (US only)! And if you like the story and post a positive review - before release date on Goodreads and on release date for Amazon - you will have my eternal gratitude and a hug if I meet you in person at a conference or elsewhere. Reviews are easy to write. They don't have to be long, they don't have to rehash the story, and should never include plot spoilers. It can be as simple as, "I loved this book. Rose Carroll is a great amateur sleuth, I love the historical setting, and I can't wait for her next adventure."

Readers: Have you read other ARCs? Do you post reviews? And do other people's reviews and an author's rating influence your buying/reading decisions? (Please include a coded email address with your reply so I can contact the winner.)

Agatha- and Macavity-nominated author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, and award-winning short crime fiction. Called to Justice, Maxwell’s second Quaker Midwife mystery, is nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel. As Maddie Day she writes the popular Country Store Mysteries and the new Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. As Tace Baker she wrote two books in the Lauren Rousseau Mysteries.

Maxwell is president of Sisters in Crime New England and lives north of Boston with her beau, two elderly cats, and an impressive array of garden statuary. She blogs at, and Under the Cover of Midnight. Read about all her personalities and her work at

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Burning of the Christmas Cow: A Guest Post from Kirsten Weiss

We welcome Kirsten Weiss, author of the new Déjà Moo (the third book in the Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum Mystery Series), to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here she shares the story of the Swedish Christmas Cow, which inspired Déjà Moo.

Every year, the city of Gävle, Sweden, builds a giant straw Christmas goat. And nearly every year, someone burns it down.

Occasionally, the goat actually survives the holiday season. One year the goat was knocked down by a runaway RV. But it's gotten to the point where betting houses in London make odds on if and when the goat will be destroyed.

The story of the Gävle goat was too funny to ignore, and so my mythical California wine town of San Benedetto has its very own straw Christmas Cow, managed by the Dairy Association and Ladies' Aid. In my third paranormal museum cozy mystery, Déjà Moo, the cow meets a similar fate as Gävle's—but with murderous consequences.

The proprietor of the paranormal museum, Maddie Kosloski, has mixed emotions about the cow's demise. After all, it drops her museum from the town's number two tourist destination to the number three spot for six weeks out of every year. But this holiday season, she's decided to take advantage of the cow, acquiring the set of "cursed" cowbells that the original Christmas Cow Committee was gifted by Gävle in the eighties. Every member of that committee died within a year of accepting the bells.

Is the curse back? Did it ever exist? Is Maddie's mom, who's on the new Christmas Cow committee, in danger? And will Maddie's love life get back on track? You'll have to read the book to find out. But one thing I'm sure of is the world news will continue to provide ludicrous stories to inspire.


Deja Moo A holiday tradition turns deadly, but is the paranormal museum to blame?

Maddie Kosloski is no fan of San Benedetto's Christmas Cow, a thirty-foot straw bovine that graces the town square every December. For one thing, the cow displaces her paranormal museum as the number one tourist attraction. Plus, every year, despite around-the-clock surveillance, the cow goes up in flames.

But this year, there's more than just a fire blazing in Maddie's wine-country hometown. One of the Christmas Cow guards has been found with an arrow in his chest, and Maddie's new haunted cowbell exhibit is fueling a panic. Are the spirits in her museum getting too hot to handle? If Maddie can't stop the hysteria—and the murderous archer—her holiday plans might not be the only thing full of holes.

Praise for The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum Mysteries>:

"Well-drawn characters and tantalizing wine talk help balance the quirky aspects of this paranormal mystery."
Publishers Weekly

"A delightful new series."
Library Journal (starred review)

"Weiss' many quirky ongoing characters add charm and humor."
Kirkus Reviews

Kirsten Weiss (San Mateo, CA) writes paranormal mysteries, blending her experiences and imagination to create a vivid world of magic and mayhem. She is also the author of the Riga Hayworth series and the Pie Town series (Kensington).

Monday, March 5, 2018

Blog Transformation

I am posting this on the first Monday of the month, as I've been scheduled to for a while on the InkSpot blog.  But this is no longer Inkspot.  It's Under Cover of Midnight, which now consists of a combo of Inkspot and the original Under Cover of Midnight blog hosted by Midnight Ink.

I like the idea of combining them.  The readership will hopefully be broader, and so will the number of bloggers.  A good change.

I've found this a time of other changes within blogs I write for, too.  In one, some of the authors who post decided to post less and even suggested shutting the blog down, although we'd keep a face-to-face friendship.  However, I wasn't the only one who wasn't happy with that, so most of those who blog there will continue for now and also bring in more guest bloggers.  So--another good change.

An additional one of my blogs was affiliated with a chapter of a major writing organization, and that organization said that no writer could promote her books on those kinds of blogs.  As a result, the moderator restarted it as a separate blog not affiliated with the chapter, and it's expanded greatly--and enjoyably.  We can promote our books there.  So, yes, another good change.

And these aren't the only blogs I contribute to.

Why do I do it?  Because I enjoy blogging, and I enjoy reading my co-bloggers' posts.  I like to tell those who read my blogs what's happening in my life, mostly related to my writing--and my dogs.  To let readers know more about my books, and when new ones are about to be published.  And perhaps give other new or established authors--and readers--my opinions on various aspects of writing.

For Under Cover of Midnight, therefore, I want to be sure to post here that I'm happy to say that my fourth Barkery & Biscuits Mystery, Pick and Chews, will be a May release.  I'm busily making sure to let people know about the first three in the series as well, including at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, coming up in April.  Which books?  Bad to the Bone, To Catch a Treat, and Bite the Biscuit!

I know the popularity of blogs, like everything else, comes and goes.  Well, I'm still one of those who enjoy them, and I hope you are, too.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Please Excuse My Badge: A Guest Post from Author Isabella Maldonado

We welcome Isabella Maldonado, author of the new Phoenix Burning (the second book in the Veranda Cruz Mystery Series), to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here she shares some of the quirks that remain after retiring from the force.

As a retired police officer with over two decades in uniform, transitioning into civilian life has been…challenging at times. It seems that being a cop requires certain behaviors and skills that don’t transition well. Here are a few examples:
  • Driving fast–Full disclosure: I love to drive fast. I've also had the training to be able to do it. Getting to a dentist appointment, however, is not considered a valid reason for doing so. This fact has led to some tickets. Had to learn how to slow wayyyy down. Now I drive at a sedate pace most of the time. Safer, but not as much fun.
  • Taking charge–When I retired, my rank was Captain. I had been in some sort of supervisory role for over ten years. Before that, even as a patrol cop, people looked to me to handle the situation when I arrived at a scene. After all, that's why people call the police, right? Well, when you're a regular person—and a woman to boot—such behavior can earn you the title "pushy broad." I've had to learn to bite my tongue and let situations play themselves out rather than offer suggestions.
  • Investigating–Police are taught to ask a lot of questions. We dig for information from witnesses, suspects, victims, and even passersby. This is good police work. But when your well-honed cop curiosity comes out in regular life, it's called "being nosy." I had to shut that down immediately upon leaving the force.
  • Gallows humor–I don't think this will ever go away. After getting a few hard looks, I've learned to keep the jokes to myself. Kind of a shame. Some of that stuff is hilarious.
  • Jumping when the phone rings–Years of being on call 24/7 have conditioned me with the Pavlovian response to snatch the phone every time it buzzes. In the shower. On the toilet. In the bathtub. Pushing my cart down the aisle at the supermarket. Yeah, I need a 12-step program for this one.
  • Constant vigilance–Cops incessantly plan for worst case scenarios and imminent attack. This keeps them alive while on the job, but has a weird effect when grocery shopping. A friend of mine (also a retired cop) once dropped into a crouch and reached for his gun when a small child's balloon popped at a play park. Turns out he wasn't wearing his duty weapon–because he was no longer on duty–so he ended up patting his empty waist band. I think he would have cleared leather if he'd been wearing a sidearm.

So the trick is to have a positive outlook and to forgive yourself for certain lapses. Fortunately, I'm blessed with wonderful friends and a supportive family who truly get me, quirks and all. It's a package deal.


Phoenix Burning The battle between Veranda Cruz and the Villalobos cartel turns Phoenix into a war zone

Homicide Detective Veranda Cruz will stop at nothing to take down the Villalobos cartel. But when a wave of violence in the city escalates, she fears that the secrets of her past will take her down instead.

Adolfo Villalobos is a crime boss who's determined to stake his claim. To prove that he's ready to run his family's sprawling criminal empire, he devises a plan to silence his siblings and destroy Veranda, leaving a trail of destruction through downtown Phoenix that makes national headlines. Veranda believes the task force she's been assigned to lead will end the cartel's reign of terror, until Adolfo's revenge takes a cruel—and highly personal—twist.

Praise for the Veranda Cruz Mystery series:

"...[A] tightly plotted police procedural."
Publishers Weekly on Phoenix Burning (Starred Review)

"A highly entertaining police procedural . . . Hang on tight for the ride of a lifetime across Southern Arizona as Maldonado rises to her written challenge to entertain, enthrall and engage readers in this high octane thriller."
Suspense Magazine

"Maldonado's a writer to watch, and she showcases her own extensive law enforcement background in this tightly plotted police procedural."
Publishers Weekly on Blood's Echo (starred review)

Isabella Maldonado retired from law enforcement as a Commander of Special Investigations and Forensics. During her long career, she was recognized with a Meritorious Service Award and a Lifesaving Award, and she was selected to attend executive management training at the FBI's National Academy. Isabella is the immediate past president of the Phoenix chapter of Sisters In Crime. She lives in Mesa, Arizona. You can visit her at

Thursday, February 8, 2018

New Year's Resolutions: A Guest Blog Post from Lissa Marie Redmond

We welcome Lissa Marie Redmond, author of the new Cold Day in Hell (the first book in the Cold Case Investigation Mystery Series), to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here she shares her New Year's Resolutions.

It's 2018, and that means a brand-new year of resolutions. Only this year, instead of vowing to lose fifteen pounds and sending out more thank you cards, I'm resolving to be a better writer. The first book of my new series with Midnight Ink, A Cold Day in Hell, is set for release on February 8th. With a new book coming out I am resolving to work on my fiction differently this year. Here's my 2018 list of writing resolutions:
  1. I am going to hit my word count every day. About a year and a half ago, I set a 1,000 word minimum for myself. I figured if I set it any higher, the first time I didn't hit my goal I'd get discouraged and dump the minimum altogether. I'm happy to report I've been pretty good with this one, so I might up the ante a little. Maybe I'll set it for 1,500 words and see what happens. If I find myself falling short, I can always revert to 1,000.
  2. I am not going to be so hard on myself. Is everything I write going to be perfect and wonderful and deserving of publication? Absolutely not. Things fall flat, words don't come together, and stories burn out. I think as writers we tend to be our own harshest critics. I have to allow myself to fail sometimes, recognize when it's time to shelf a project, and learn from the experience.
  3. I am going to write outside my comfort zone. Even if I'm the only one who ever reads it, I'm going to experiment in other genres this year. Maybe I'll try romance or non-fiction or historical anything. I want to expand my writing boundaries. Who knows? It's almost like visiting a foreign country. I might find my next big project in a completely new area.
  4. In the same vein as resolution #4, I am going to try new things. Being a writer can be a very solitary and sedentary life. This year I resolve to get out of my house more, taking my notebook with me, and writing wherever I happen to find myself. Maybe if I wander from my chair, out onto a beach or an amusement park or a ski slope, I might find brand new things to inspire my writing. If nothing else, the fresh air will clear the cobwebs from my brain.
  5. I am going to support my fellow writers. Whether it's by going to a book signing, or leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads, or joining a new critique group, I am going to encourage my fellow writers this year. There are so many ways to be negative in this digital age that I resolve to be a positive presence, especially to writers just starting out. I appreciate all the wonderful and kind things perfect strangers have done for me during my own journey to publication that I resolve to pay it forward in the new year.

This year's resolutions won't make me thinner or wealthier or more popular, but they will make my writing better and more creative. Hopefully, they'll help me spread some love and encouragement in the coming year as well. Happy 2018, everyone!


A Cold Day in Hell Lauren's job as a cold case homicide detective is her life. And life just got complicated.

Lauren Riley is an accomplished detective who has always been on the opposite side of the courtroom from slick defense attorney Frank Violanti. But now he's begging to hire her as a private investigator to help clear his client of murder. At first Lauren refuses, wanting nothing to do with the media circus surrounding the case—until she meets the eighteen-year-old suspect.

To keep an innocent teen from life in prison, Lauren must unravel the conflicting evidence and changing stories to get at the buried facts. But the more she digs, the more she discovers that nothing is what it first appears to be. As Lauren puts her career and life in danger, doubt lurks on every corner . . . and so does her stalker.

Praise for A Cold Day in Hell:

"A retired detective, Lissa Marie Redmond gives it to the reader without the sugarcoating and lifts the veil off how the system really works . . . or doesn't."
—Reed Farrel Coleman, New York Times bestselling author of What You Break

"Recommend this one to anyone who loves courtroom dramas where lawyers tear into witnesses like pit bulls. And to anyone hot for a police procedural where tired cops make mistakes but slowly, relentlessly—and with morbid humor—get the job done. Redmond delivers both in one package. . . . The real attraction here is a keyhole view into a world that turns our expectations upside down—a world where a bullying, quasi-fascist cop can be the only one with a handle on reality. Keep your eyes on Redmond, a retired cop who knows how to write."

Lisa Marie Redmond is a recently retired cold case homicide detective of the Buffalo Police Department. She's also a member of Sisters in Crime.

Twice Honored

Edith here, still riding on a joy cloud!

Why am I riding on a joy cloud? I learned last week that Called to Justice, my second Quaker Midwife Mystery, has been nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel! Delivering the Truth was nominated last year, so I've twice been honored in this category.

I am nominated with four other stellar authors:

Rhys Bowen for In Farleigh Field
Jessica Ellicott for Murder in an English Village
Susan Elia MacNeal for The Paris Spy
Renee Patrick for Dangerous to Know

I know all these authors, and they are all gracious, talented, and friendly. I've read Rhys and Jessica's books - and loved both of them.

In Farleigh Field is a standalone mystery and tells the story of an upper-class English woman doing her bit during World War II by working with the top-secret codebreakers. Plus a mystery, of course.

Murder in an English Village, Jessica's debut in a new series, is a delightful 1920s tale of two old friends meeting up again - and then solving a murder in the village. (Jessica Ellicott is a new pen name for my good friend and Wicked Cozy Authors blogmate Jessie Crockett.)

The Paris Spy is a suspense-filled Maggie Hope spy novel, set during World War II. This time she's on a double mission in occupied Paris, and it's very dangerous, indeed.

The only one I haven't yet read is Dangerous to Know. This series is about movie fashion designer Edith Head and amateur sleuth Lillian Frost solving crimes in the late 1930s in Los Angeles. How can't I enjoy a book with a character named Edith?

What isn't dangerous to know is what talented authors I am nominated with. I hope you'll pick up a copy of each of these fabulous historical stories.

The Agathas are awarded by attendees at Malice Domestic, the annual conference for the traditional mystery, held in Bethesda, Maryland every year at the end of April. From the Malice web site: The Agatha Awards honor the “traditional mystery,” books typified by the works of Agatha Christie and others. For our purposes, the genre is loosely defined as mysteries that contain no explicit sex, excessive gore or gratuitous violence, and are not classified as “hard-boiled.”

Of course I hope Called to Justice wins in this category, but if not I can heartily applaud the book that does

Readers: Which of these awesome authors have you read? Will you be at Malice this year?