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!

To subscribe to Midnight Ink's monthly publicity newsletters, please email publicity (at) midnightinkbooks (dot) com.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Q&A with Linda O. Johnston

This week, we sat down with Linda O. Johnston, author of Lost Under a Ladder.

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing?
Linda O. Johnston: All my life! I recently remembered a high school Advanced English assignment I completed way back when in which I was supposed to do my own Chaucer-like verse form. I always collected ideas for assignments but this one was particularly special. If I kept it in written form I haven't found it yet, but it began, "Five bodies in the morgue lie still."

MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
LOJ: I loved reading Mary Stuart, Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt as a child. Their stories enthralled me and made me want to try writing my own romantic suspense and mystery stories.

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing? 
LOJ: Lawyering. My law license is currently inactive since I'm writing full-time, but I enjoyed writing and negotiating contracts. They're just another form of fiction, after all. And if not lawyering or writing, I'd do more to help rescue endangered pets. But I really enjoy writing . . . 

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it?
LOJ: As I mentioned, I was a transactional lawyer for many years. I specialized in real estate. I haven't practiced law for several years, though.

MI: What is/are your favorite thing/s to do when you’re not writing or working?
LOJ: Following my dogs' orders. And when I'm able, I visit with my grand-toddlers, who live in another state.

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
LOJ: My favorites are always my own sleuths! I adore Rory Chasen from my Superstition Mysteries and her determination to come to terms with superstitions . . . and murders. I loved Lauren Vancouver from my Pet Rescue Mysteries because of her determination, too—to save animals. And then there was Kendra Ballantyne, from my Pet-Sitter mysteries. Kendra was a lawyer, like I was. She lived in the Hollywood Hills, like I do. And she had a tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Lexie, as I do! Of course, I've fortunately never tripped over dead bodies like Kendra . . . 

MI: Do you have a favorite murder case from a book (either yours or another author’s)?
LOJ: Nope, no favorites. They're usually whatever I happen to be reading . . . or writing.

MI: What was your inspiration for the Superstition Mysteries?
LOJ: I happened to be knocking on wood one day in the hope that a wish I'd just made would come true—that I'd come up with an idea for yet another fun mystery series. It occurred to me nearly immediately: I'd just come up with that idea!

MI: How does the Superstition Mystery series compare to your past works?
LOJ: The similarities to my past cozy mysteries (I also write romances) include the fact that I love having my mysteries feature pets, especially dogs. In this case, Rory Chasen winds up running the Lucky Dog Boutique, so there are plenty of dogs involved, as well as superstitions about them. Differences include the fact that, instead of setting this series in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, as my earlier mystery series were, I invented the enjoyable superstition-centered town of Destiny, California. But like the protagonists in my earlier series, Rory doesn't especially want to solve murders yet finds that she has to, because her friends and close acquaintances keep becoming primary suspects.

MI: Tell us about Rory Chasen (and Pluckie)!
LOJ: Rory is an avowed animal lover who used to be an assistant manager at a chain pet store in the Los Angeles area. Her world was rocked when her beloved fianc√© Warren walked under a ladder and died a few minutes later when he was hit by a car. Rory doesn't really believe in superstitions, and yet she needs closure. Are superstitions real? She has to go to Destiny, California, a town that's all about superstitions, to find out.

Of course she takes her beloved black and white spaniel-terrier mix Pluckie along. And a short while after they reach Destiny Pluckie insists that Rory go into the Lucky Dog Boutique—where they find its owner, Martha, lying on the floor in a back room. She's ill but well enough to know she'll be fine since she'd been on her way to a business meeting—and seeing a black and white dog on the way to a business meeting is good luck!

Rory and Pluckie run into a lot more superstitions in Destiny, yet Rory remains skeptical. She also remains in town, still seeking answers—and soon winds up helping to solve a murder where Martha is the main suspect.

MI: Do you have a favorite superstition?
LOJ: I do knock on wood, as well as crossing my fingers. Who doesn't? But it's also a lot of fun to me if I happen to find a heads-up penny or even another coin on the ground. 

MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
LOJ: I have two pets, Lexie and Mystie, both Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Lexie, the older one, is a tricolor, and Mystie's a Blenheim (auburn and white). They have me very well trained, and I'm always at their bark and call. I obey them well—a lot better than they obey me.
Linda with Mystie (left) and Lexie (right)

MI: If you don’t have a pet, do you have a favorite animal?
LOJ: I do have pets, and my favorite animals remain dogs. I love 'em all, although my very favorites for a very long time have been Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. In fact, I'm addicted to Cavaliers. 

MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
LOJ: Dark chocolate! They say these days that it has some qualities that are good for you . . . 

MI: Do you have a favorite recipe?
LOJ: I'm working on some for my Barkery and Biscuits series, but although I used to cook more I take easier routes these days, including using my Crock-Pot. My personal people favorites are entrees like casseroles that contain mushrooms.

MI: What’s your favorite part about being an Inker?
LOJ: So far I've really loved the Inker community of other authors, who are all delightful and supportive and caring. Then there are my editor and publicist—also very friendly and supportive. Plus, I love the book covers. And the anticipation of starting this new series as well as a second series that will start next year: Barkery and Biscuits. In fact, there's a lot I enjoy about being an Inker!

Lost Under a Ladder, the first Superstition Mystery, is now available online and in bookstores!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

October 2014 Books Available Now!

Don't miss Midnight Ink's latest releases!

 "Smart characters and intricate plotting."
Booklist on Catwalk

"Doggone cute."
Library Journal on Lost Under a Ladder

"A fun and savvy mystery."
Booklist on Black Thursday

"[A] delightful and clever mystery."
Publishers Weekly on The Question of the Missing Head

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

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Midnight Ink Pet-themed Giveaway!

To celebrate the release of Catwalk and Lost Under a Ladder, we are running a fabulous, pet-themed giveaway on our Facebook page to enter our fabulous, pet-themed giveaway!


Additional information:

The Midnight Ink staff pets LOVE our pet-focused cozy series so much that they insisted on sharing with your pets as well!

You can help our pets celebrate this month’s releases, CATWALK and LOST UNDER A LADDER, by sending a picture of your pet (we *know* you have tons of them) to by Friday, October 10, at 8:00 a.m. Central. At noon, we will post all of the pictures we received and choose four winners at random.
One Grand Prize winner will receive:
- The first Superstition Mystery: LOST UNDER A LADDER
- The Animals in Focus series: DROP DEAD ON RECALL, THE MONEY BIRD, and CATWALK
- The Downward Dog mysteries: MURDER STRIKES A POSE and an advance copy of A KILLER RETREAT
- Pet toys and treats
- A mug featuring LOST UNDER A LADDER’s Pluckie

Three additional winners will receive this month’s new pet cozies:

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Q&A with M.C. Grant

This week, we sat down with M.C. Grant (also known as Grant McKenzie), author of Beauty with a Bomb.

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing?
M.C. Grant: I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t writing—and even before I knew how to string the words together, I loved to create adventures with my toys. And when I didn’t have toys, I would sit on the sidewalk and create stories using bottle caps and discarded cigarette butts, or twigs, seaweed, stones, cardboard boxes, anything really. I was one of those kids who could play by himself for hours and, actually preferred it. Of course, if you don’t play with others, you’re labeled odd, but I never minded being odd. It came as a shock to me when I first started school and the teacher told my mum that I would need to transfer to “special school” because I was writing some of my words backwards. This was before they understood or even had a word for dyslexia. Fortunately, my mum insisted that despite my quirks, I didn’t have a learning disability—and I soon taught myself how to put the letters in the “correct” order. My first recollection of showing my writing to others was when I wrote and performed a series of short plays in elementary school. I attempted my fist novel in junior high, and after several rewrites, including the purchase of my first typewriter, finished it by Grade 12.

MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
MCG: I’ve always been a voracious reader with a strong attraction to crime thrillers and mysteries. My first mysteries were Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, followed by S. E. Hinton’s amazing YA novels, which led into collecting the entire Mickey Spillane library, plus Gregory McDonald, Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammett. From there, it has been a smorgasbord of talented writers from Robert McCammon to John Sandford, Andrew Vachss, Stephen Hunter, James Rollins, James P. Hogan, Ben Bova, and Isaac Asimov to name a few.

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
MCG: It would have to be something creative: working behind the scenes in theatre, television or movies seems like a natural fit. In high school, I was the stage lighting designer for our theatre department and loved it. I also acted and wrote, plus I was the assistant editor of our school newspaper. I actually debated between studying journalism or theatre in university, but writing won out.

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it?
MCG: I was a newspaper journalist for 30 years, but I am presently the Director of Communications for Our Place Society, a unique inner-city community center that provides over 1,200 meals per day for the poor and vulnerable citizens of Greater Victoria.

MI: What is/are your favorite thing/s to do when you’re not writing or working?
MCG: I love to read, dabble in art, and relax with my wife and daughter.

MI: What was your inspiration for this series?
MCG: Interestingly, I wrote the first draft of Angel With A Bullet, the first Dixie Flynn novel, many, many years before it was published. I wanted to write a noir-style mystery series that contained both explosive action and dark humour. Dixie also allowed me to give the series its heart.

MI: How does the Dixie Flynn series compare to your past works?
MCG: Dixie is quite a bit different from the stand-alone thrillers that I write as Grant McKenzie. For one, Dixie is written in first-person, present-tense, female perspective, while my thrillers are third-person, past-tense. I also try and have more fun with the Dixie books by including more humour and quirky, fun characters. With that said, however, the plots can be dark and dangerous, but only because I know Dixie can handle them.

MI: Tell us about Dixie Flynn. What inspired you to write a feisty newspaper reporter?
MCG: Dixie is such a fun character: she’s fierce, witty, sassy, and headstrong. And although she’s proven unlucky in love, she’s a loyal friend and protector to those she cares about. As a veteran journalist myself, I wanted to explore how that profession has changed, but also bring back some of the grimy glamour of the sliver age when the best reporters were the rebels and not necessarily the nicest people. In the 1960s, ‘70s, and early ‘80s, editorial meetings were more like cage matches of passion and intelligence, with everyone fighting to showcase the best story. Today, the decisions are made from the top down without any real input from editorial at all. Dixie is a bit of the antithesis to this, one of the last rebels working the crime beat of San Francisco.

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
MCG: My favorite has to be Mike Hammer as I just love the way Spillane could tell a fists-clenched, uncompromising story. The pulp era heroes never apologized for taking the law into their own hands and getting a bit bloody.

MI: Do you have a favorite murder case from a book (either yours or another author’s)?
MCG: I really love the mystery in The Fear In Her Eyes. A distraught father receives a note from the person who killed his daughter in a drunk-driving accident one year earlier. The note includes a visitor’s pass to the prison where the driver is incarcerated, plus seven life-changing words: "I was paid to kill your daughter."

Grant at work with Flower and Boo
MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
MCG: I can’t imagine not having a cat. I have two at the moment and they love to curl up on my lap when I’m writing. Flower was found frozen in a barn in the middle of winter by a farmer who rushed to put her in a low-heat oven. Remarkably, she survived and has been with us for 16 years now. Boo is a pure black cat who spent a whole year in an animal shelter before we adopted him. It has taken some gentle coaxing to earn his trust, but now his purrs fill the room.


MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
MCG: I’m a big fan of soup. All different kinds of soup. I could probably have a bowl of soup and a chunk of San Francisco sourdough bread every day for lunch.

MI: Do you have a favorite recipe?
MCG: I do, but I’m one of those cooks who doesn’t follow recipes. I love to eat something new and then make a guess at how I would re-create it at home. So I rarely make the same dish in the same way twice as I’m always changing a bit here and there, or adding something new. I would love to try Turducken one of these days though—it sounds delicious.

MI: What’s your favorite part about being an Inker?
 It’s an absolute thrill to be published alongside such a great bunch of talented writers. And the editorial team is such a wonderful support—they really want the books to succeed.

Beauty with a Bomb, the third Dixie Flynn Mystery, is available online and in bookstores now!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Q&A with Nina Milton

This week, Midnight Ink sat down with Nina Milton, author of Unraveled Visions, A Shaman Mystery #2.

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing?
Nina Milton: When I was five, my infant school teacher Mrs. Marsden read a story to the class. It might have been the fable "The Mouse and the Lion", but I can't really remember. Then she asked the class to write a story. I was dumbfounded. For the first time I realized that the books I loved were written by real human beings. Before that, I believed they must have fallen from some sort of story heaven. It was a revelation—from then on I was scribbling down stories all the time.

MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
NM: My early influence was Iris Murdoch; I l devoured all her books in my twenties and thirties alongside Woolf, Dickens and Harvey. But having babies scrambled my brain for years and I discovered crime fiction—anything from PD James to Patricia Cornwell. I also loved John le Carr√©’s novels from my first read.

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it?
NM: I trained to be a nurse, but I don’t have the brain for all that technical stuff. Drug rounds scared me stiff in case I fell into dreaming up the next story. I worked in palliative care for ten years, but I’ve now given up the day job to write full time. Not that nursing is precisely a ‘day job’!

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
NM: A better question is, if you’re not writing, what are you doing, which is almost always . . . gardening!

MI: What is/are your favorite thing/s to do when you’re not writing or working?
NM: When I’m not gardening I love reading, cooking, watching movies, seeing friends. Note that a glass of red [wine] goes well with all the above activities.

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
NM: I particularly like Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie, and Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins. But for real class, you can’t beat Sherlock Holmes, who’s planet-sized brain holds every fact and can see round every twisted corner.

MI: Do you have a favorite murder case from a book (either yours or another author’s)?
NM: I love complex plots, slightly ironic and uber-cool sleuths and elegant writing. So that accolade has to go the The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. Apparently the plot was always secondary to Chandler . . . this is hard to believe, as the story is so more raveled than the wool in my knitting basket.

MI: What was your inspiration for this series?
NM: The idea for my Shaman Mysteries came to me when Sabbie walked right into my head and  spoke directly to me—sort of —‘“Hi, Nina, I’m Sabbie. I’m 28 and I’m a shaman and a complimentary therapist. I love my job, but sometimes some very strange people come into my therapy room . . .”

At around that time, I went on a walk with my son on the Somerset Levels, a moorland in the west of England. As we hiked along, the day became gloomy and we were almost lost because each field on the levels is surrounded by water; rivers,dykes, rhynes, ditches and canals. We came upon the areas where they extract peat industrially; huge chunks like empty back swimming pools are cut from the earth and they slowly fill with water becoming reed beds and marshes. My first thought? “That would be a great place to bury a body!”

MI: Tell us about Sabbie Dare.
NM: Sabbie Dare is the force majeure of the Shaman Mystery series. She lives a self-sufficient life in the sleepy town of Bridgwater, England, but still struggles with the memories of her difficult start in life, gaining the strength to get through each day from her shamanism and her pagan beliefs She has an open heart, and is adept at inviting trouble into her life.
Sabbie walks between worlds. She is able to tap into the spirit world through her shamanic trances, and that dimension helps her clients solve their problems. Trouble is, her client’s problems sometimes lead to terror and peril.
When a detective called Reynard walks into her life, she’s suspicious of him at first. Rey is the archetypal humourless, maverick policeman, and their relationship begins like an upmarket cocktail—bitter and full of ice, with a sparkler fizzing at the edge. But in the second of the series their relationship takes a new direction . . . 

MI: How do the Shaman Mysteries compare to your past works?
NM: Before Sabbie started her adventures, I wrote for children. My books for confident readers of 8 or 9 plus are not about crime, but they usually have some sort of mystery at their center.

MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
NM: We love cats and dogs in our family but we haven’t yet replaced Honey the cat, who died aged 18, and Jessie, our Border Collie who died of leukemia aged 14. We’re still thinking about it! However, we do have hens, which include growing babies and two combative cocks; they’re like part of the family and bring a chuckle every day.

MI: If you don’t have a pet, do you have a favorite animal?
NM: I love standard poodles—can someone please convince my husband that they’re perfectly butch when they’re not clipped in daft ways?

MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
NM: I was about to righteously say ‘any vegetable’ when I realized that would be a fib. It’s actually buttered toast. Sometimes, when everyone’s out and I’m writing all day long, I practically do live off it.

MI:Do you have a favorite recipe?
NM: Utterly rich and tomatoey pasta dishes.

MI: What is your favorite part about being an Inker?
NM: I think Midnight Ink supports its writers so well, and the other writers are friendly with each other—friendly and helpful. I’ve experienced massive, conglomerate publishing houses and really tiny indies, and Midnight Ink is my best experience yet.

Unraveled Visions, the second Shaman Mystery, is available online and in bookstores now!