Friday, January 19, 2018

Why Fairfax County Is the Perfect Setting for a Mystery: A Guest Post from Aimee Hix




We welcome Aimee Hix, author of the new What Doesn't Kill You (the first in the Willa Pennington, PI Mystery Series), to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here she shares why a bucolic suburb can make the perfect setting for a murder.

When I was little I didn't think much about the place I grew up. Most of us don't. We have school, we have our friends, we have activities, and that's about it; we don't focus on what makes it a great place to raise a family…or set a book.

Fairfax County, Virginia flies below the radar a lot. Established in 1742, history is practically pushing up out of the ground, like the towering trees that ring our national, state, and county parks. It's the second richest county in the United States. What? You thought those mega-wealthy enclaves where the rich and famous summer or winter or party would be number two? Nope. (Number one richest county in the US is our immediate neighbor to the west, Loudon County, and they're beating us by only about five grand in annual income.) We've got excellent schools (the 10th largest school system in the nation), the previously mentioned parks, plus the county has strict green space zoning rules to make sure you see trees (and not just in those parks). We have nice homes, a truly stellar library system, and more Starbucks and Whole Foods locations than you can shake the proverbial stick at.

It's a HUGE place. Over 400 square miles. That's 100 square miles more than NYC, and 100 square miles less than LA. With just over a million residents it's also only 1/8 as populated as either city. There are urban, suburban, and rural areas all melding into one another, and a pretty diverse population. How diverse? Over 182 different languages are spoken in the homes of the elementary school attendees. 182! Did you even know there were 182 languages spoken worldwide? (Be ready to be stunned, because according to Ethnologue.com there are currently 7,099 languages spoken in the world currently - the vast majority of which are spoken by fewer than 1,000 people and are often referred to as dialects...but still, you were shocked at 182, right?)

Okay, so, I've sung the praises of Fairfax County as a nice place to raise a family, but what about the place makes it good setting for a book?

As high as the annual income averages, for the most part there are still regular people who live here. Solidly middle class families like the one my main character, Willa, was raised in—--her father is retired military and a retired cop, her stepmother is a nurse. They live in a nice neighborhood--but not too nice--and they drive nice cars - but not too nice.

The carpets roll up at dark here, too. People get up early to work, so it doesn't get very wild at night. Not even on the weekends. Just 20 miles away, DC is, of course, built for intrigue, but its suburbs are a slow burn. What's happening in that office building? Did you get a peek through those trees? Why has that car been parked in far end of the grocery store so long that mud has caked around its tires?

Do you know what goes on in your neighbor's home? Would you really want to? You may think you do, but I'll bet you'd be surprised. I know Willa was.

***

What Doesn't Kill You A favor for a friend turns into a murder investigation, drawing apprentice PI Willa Pennington into a labyrinth of lies and deception in the shadows of Washington, D.C.

Willa Pennington thought that becoming a PI would be better than being a cop. She thought she'd never have to make another death notification or don a bulletproof vest again. She thought she could move past the pain of losing her best friend. She thought she'd be safe.
But she couldn't have been more wrong.

Now, agreeing to do a simple favor has brought her to a dead body, a missing person, and a battle of wits with an old friend who has dangerous secrets. If Willa can keep her focus, she could solve the murder, find the missing girl, and figure out if the person she's trusted with her life is the one trying to end it.

Praise for What Doesn't Kill You:

"One of the best debut efforts I've ever seen. Tight plotting, edge-of-your-seat suspense and a protagonist in PI Willa Pennington you'll want to read about again and again. I couldn't put this book down."—Maggie Barbieri, author of Once Upon a Lie





Aimee Hix is a former defense contractor turned mystery writer. She's a member of Sisters in Crime. What Doesn't Kill You is her debut novel. You can visit her at www.AimeeHix.com.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Goodreads Giveaway: WHAT DOESN'T KILL YOU

Head over to Goodreads and enter to win 1 of 5 copies of WHAT DOESN'T KILL YOU, the first book in the new Willa Pennington, PI Mystery series, by Aimee Hix!

Hurry! Contest is open January 18 - January 25, so enter now!













Friday, January 12, 2018

Sometimes, It's Just Like Being There: A Guest Post from Maddy Hunter




We welcome Maddy Hunter, author of the Passport to Peril Mystery Series (and the latest release in the series, Say No Moor) to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here she shares what it's like when your trip is cancelled...and your book depends on it.

When you write a cozy mystery series called Passport to Peril, where each book is set in a different location abroad and is part travelogue, it's a good idea to visit the country where your potential murder plot is going to take place. I like to imagine myself as a sponge, soaking up the culture, the food, the historic sites, the language, the social quirks. I've had the good fortune to tour every country my fictional tour guests have visited, but for my January release, Say No Moor, I was confronted with a challenging dilemma.

We had an illness in the family that was going to prevent my visiting the book's locale, Cornwall, England. I'd already started writing the book so I was locked into that setting, but I feared that without a recent visit, I'd be giving the travelogue theme of the story short shrift. What to do?

I'd visited Cornwall eighteen years earlier, so I knew where I'd like to set some pivotal scenes.

The Bedruthan Steps in northern Cornwall was a must—a beach with giant chimney stacks of stone that tower over a narrow strand that disappears at high tide. It was only accessible by descending a truly frightening staircase that clung to the side of a cliff. But the atmospherics on the beach were so eerie that I was reminded of the place James Mason and company reached in the original Journey to the Center of the Earth movie, where they descended into a volcano and arrived at an inland sea whose beach was stalked by prehistoric beasts. I half expected to see winged creatures with spiny talons fly out of the caves that tunneled into the face of the cliff…or at least a flying monkey or two, but I failed to encounter any beasts. However, I figured this would be a perfect place for my intrepid Iowa senior citizens to try their hand at metal detecting. But had the beach changed in eighteen years?

St. Michael's Mount was another must. I remembered arriving in Marazion at high tide and having to board a launch to the Mount, then walking back to shore on the causeway that had appeared at low tide. I remembered climbing impossibly steep stairs to reach the castle, but all the other details of my visit were fuzzy. How could I not write about this iconic landmark in a book set in Cornwall, though?

Plan A. Luckily, I'd taken pictures on my initial trip. The downside was that all my photos were still in their photo development envelopes, unlabeled, tucked away in closets and beneath beds, in plastic storage containers. I'd never quite gotten around to organizing decades of photos, and what made it worse was that my husband loved shooting pictures of our trips, so we literally had hundreds, maybe thousands, of photos of nondescript stuff that he'd viewed once, then stashed away in our photo swamp.

Talk about a thankless task! But, I weeded through every bin and opened every envelope and eventually found my England photos. Yeah!

They were terrible. No wonder I'd hidden them away! They were dark and grainy, and even though I'd shot a few good pictures of the Bedruthan Steps and St. Michael's Mount, I didn't have enough source material on which to base a travelogue.

Plan B. Had the Google Earth car passed through Cornwall anytime recently?

Yes! That little car had traveled everywhere—major highways, country lanes, and everywhere in between. So I undertook a virtual tour of Cornwall, revisiting all my favorite places and finding a few new ones. The camera even allowed me to walk across the St. Michael's Mount causeway at low tide and explore the island at my leisure, without having to climb the wonky stairs again. It was better than being there in person! I visited Port Isaac, where Doc Martin is filmed, and Clovelly, which is another iconic village, and drove right into the parking lot that leads to the entrance of the Bedruthan Steps. But that's where my tour ended. The Google Earth people had opted not to descend the stairs. Nuts. Now what?

Plan C. YouTube! I found a few short clips of a rescue on the Bedruthan Steps and a drone flyover of the beach, but they weren't very helpful. Then I struck the mother lode. One camcorder-toting tourist had recorded his entire visit, from the entrance at the top of the stairs to the beach. He even explored a cave that tunneled through the headland and exited onto another rock-strewn beach. Missed that the first time. The cliffs had crumbled dramatically since my original visit, so metal fencing now clung to the cliff face to protect tourists from avalanching rock. And this new information would allow me to write about the site as it currently appeared. I was thrilled.

Having rebooted my visual memories of Cornwall, I forged ahead with the book, grateful that modern technology had allowed me to remain where I was needed rather than cross an ocean to do research. I finished the manuscript on time and sent it off to my editor, unsure if I'd successfully pulled off the geographical authenticity element of the book, but hoping I had.

My editor's reaction?

And I quote, "I think I really, really need to go to Cornwall."

My reaction?

Whew.

***

Say No Moor Tour escort Emily Andrew-Miceli's plan to boost her business with social media threatens to backfire in merry old England

Hoping to reach an expanded clientele of senior travelers, Emily Andrew-Miceli invites a handful of bloggers to join her group's tour of England's Cornwall region. But when the quarrelsome host of a historic inn dies under suspicious circumstances, Emily worries that the bloggers' online reviews will torpedo her travel agency.

To make matters worse, Emily is roped into running the inn, and not even a team effort from her friends can prevent impending disaster. As one guest goes missing and another turns up dead, Emily discovers that well-kept secrets can provide more than enough motive for murder.

Praise for the Passport to Peril Mystery Series:

"A bit of humor, a bit of travel information and a bit of mystery add up to some pleasant light reading."—Kirkus Reviews

"The cast of characters is highly entertaining and the murder mystery mixed with good humor!"—Suspense Magazine

"Maddy Hunter's Passport to Peril series is a first-class ticket to entertainment."—Carrie Bebris, award-winning author of the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery series





Maddy Hunter has endured disastrous vacations on three continents in the past five years. The first six titles in the Passport to Peril Mystery series are available from Pocket Books; books seven through eleven are available through Midnight Ink Books. The first in the series, Alpine for You, was an Agatha Award finalist and a Daphne du Maurier Award finalist. Also, Hula Done It?, Pasta Imperfect, and Top O' the Mournin' were named to the Independent Mystery Bookseller's Association bestseller list. The author resides in Madison, Wisconsin. For more information, go to MaddyHunter.com.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Goodreads Giveaway: PRE-MEDITATED MURDER

Head over to Goodreads and enter to win 1 of 5 copies of PRE-MEDITATED MURDER, the fifth book in the Downward Dog Mystery series, by Tracy Weber!

Hurry! Contest is open January 9 - January 17, so enter now!












Friday, January 5, 2018

Scenes of the Crime: A Guest Post from Tracy Weber



We welcome Tracy Weber, author of the Downward Dog Mystery Series (and the latest release in the series, Pre-Meditated Murder) to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here she shares a photo tour of Cannon Beach, Oregon, the setting of Pre-Meditated Murder...and apparently a good place to hide bodies.

In my newest Downward Dog Mystery, Pre-Meditated Murder, Kate and crew take a trip to the town of Cannon Beach, Oregon for … Well, I don’t want to spoil the surprise! I do, however, want to share some photos of this sweet little town on the Oregon Coast and the locations that inspired the scenes in the story. Enjoy!

Cannon Beach is best known for glorious beaches and an amazing rock formation called Haystack Rock. No trip to Cannon Beach can truly begin before my German shepherd pup, Ana, and I put our paw prints in the sand.



Haystack rock is a basalt monolith that provides home to colorful sea gardens perfect for exploring at low tide.




Or, if you're an athletic German shepherd like Bella in the series, you can spend your vacation time chasing tennis balls. Ana was happy to be Bella's body double for this photo.



The city itself is filled with quaint shops and delicious restaurants.



I re-imagined this courtyard for some of the book’s pivotal scenes.


There’s also a pet store. (What dog-related mystery would be complete without one?)


A stairway like this plays a role in the mystery…



And a key event takes place in Whale Park.


Wouldn’t this be a great place to hide a body?


No trip to Cannon Beach would be complete without a photo at my favorite statue. Hopefully Ana and I will be together for annual photos for many years to come.



There’s much more of Cannon Beach in the book, as well as humor, social dialogue, and a bit of a love story. I hope that you grow to love this quaint coastal town through the pages! Enjoy!


***

Pre-Meditated Murder If Kate Doesn't Act Fast, the Only "I Do" in Michael's Future Will Be at His Trial

Yoga instructor Kate Davidson is ready to marry her boyfriend Michael, so she’s disappointed when a special dinner doesn’t end with a proposal. But disappointment turns to dismay and outrage as she learns the real problem: Michael is already married and his estranged wife is blackmailing him.

When his wife's body is found—by Kate and her dog, no less—Michael is strangely unable to remember where he was the night she died. Since Michael has no alibi, Kate steps up to uncover what happened. What she walks into is a tangled web of deceit, obsession, and immigration fraud . . . with Michael trapped in the middle.

Praise for the Downward Dog Mystery Series:

A Fatal Twist:
"If you’re a fan of yoga, dogs, childbirth and murder cases, then Tracy Weber's A Fatal Twist is just what the fertility doctor ordered."—The Seattle Times

Karma's a Killer:

"Weber's clever assemblage of suspects is eliminated one by one in her entertaining novel."—RT Book Reviews

Karma's a Killer continues Tracy Weber's charming series."—The Seattle Times

"[Weber's] characters are likeable and amusing, the background is interesting, and the story is ultimately satisfying."—Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

"Weber keeps readers guessing and populates the action with plenty of kooky characters."—Mystery Scene

"Crazy, quirky critters and their odd yet utterly relatable human counterparts make Karma's a Killer an appealing story. But when you add the keep-you-guessing mystery with both laugh-out-loud one-liners and touching moments of pure poignancy, the result is a truly great book!"—Laura Morrigan, national bestselling author of the Call of the Wilde Mystery Series

"Tracy Weber's Karma's a Killer delivers on all fronts—a likably feisty protagonist, a great supporting cast, a puzzler of a mystery and, best of all, lots of heart. This book has more snap than a brand-new pair of yoga capris. Pure joy for yoga aficionados, animal lovers ... heck, for anyone who loves a top-notch mystery."—Laura DiSilverio, national bestselling author of The Readaholics Book Club Mysteries, two-time Lefty finalist for best humorous mystery, and Colorado Book Award finalist

"Yogatta love this latest in the series when Kate exercises her brain cells trying to figure out who deactivated an animal rights activist."—Mary Daheim, author of the Bed-and-Breakfast and Emma Lord Alpine Mysteries





Tracy Weber is author of the award-winning Downward Dog Mystery series. Her first book in the series, Murder Strikes a Pose, won the Maxwell Award for Fiction and was nominated for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. A certified yoga therapist, Tracy is the owner of Whole Life Yoga, a Seattle yoga studio, and she loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any way possible. Tracy and her husband Marc live in Seattle with their precocious German Shepherd pup Ana. When she's not writing, Tracy spends her time teaching yoga, trying to corral Ana, and sipping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house. Visit her at TracyWeberAuthor.com.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway: TURNING THE TIDE

Head over to Goodreads and enter to win 1 of 3 Advanced Reader's copies of TURNING THE TIDE, the third book in the Anthony Award-nominated Quaker Midwife Mystery series, by Edith Maxwell!

Hurry! Contest is open December 24 - December 31, so enter now!











Monday, December 18, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway: SCOT FREE

Head over to Goodreads and enter to win 1 of 3 Advanced Reader's copies of SCOT FREE, the first book in the new Last Ditch Mystery series, by award-winning author Catriona McPherson!

Hurry! Contest is open December 18 - December 25, so enter now!