Tuesday, May 31, 2011

FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY, Memorial Day, BEA and other ramblings

Hi everyone!  I hope you all have recovered from the last week or so.

For those of us who didn't attend BEA, there are many BEA reports, but my favorite is this one by agent Josh Getzler http://heydeadguy.typepad.com/heydeadguy/  Josh talks about the status of epublishers at BEA as well as the dance between epublishers and traditional publishers.

Another sweet blog to check out is Inkspot.  This weekend Jessie Chandler had a great post about Memorial Day - http://midnightwriters.blogspot.com/  I also would like to add my thanks to all of those who have served past and present in our armed forces. 

And while you are on Inkspot, Lois Winston's grammar rant is awesome!

Besides the pure joy of the NCIS marathon yesterday, spring seems to arrived in Minnesota.  Complete with thunderstorms and tornados.  But also with sunshine.  Yesterday the boys and I went swimming.  It was awesome.  This is my favorite time of year, when it's not too hot and the nights cool down.  :)  Soon summer will be here in full force - humidity, mosquitos and sunburns.  But for now, I am thankful with what we have.

Ok, ok.  I know the real reason you are reading.  Did I say FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY?!?  Oh yes, I certainly did.  We at Midnight Ink really do love to make our fans and readers happy.  And what is better than free books?  Seriously?!  Through my blog, we are giving away one set of signed first editions of THE GRAIL CONSPIRACY and THE LAST SECRET by Lynn Sholes and Joe Moore.  The contest runs through June 8th (which happens to be the release date of the new Sholes and Moore book, The Phoenix Apostles.)  And just how do you enter to win??  In the comments sections, please give me some feedback about suspense/thrillers...  such as...

Who is your favorite thriller writer and why?
What type of thriller would like to see MI publish?
What is your favorite Sholes and Moore book?
Is there anything lacking in the thriller genre, like a female assassin as the main character?

One person will be randomly selected from the folks who leave comments.

Please make sure to follow Midnight Ink on all the social media fronts as we'll be doing a lot of giveaways and contests this summer.


And last but certainly not least, happy birthday to my little sister Tiffy.  Tiff, there is no way I could love you any more than I do.  Thank you for keeping me sane.  :)

Tiff and me in Vegas :)

Monday, May 30, 2011


When I was in junior high school (which my kids will tell you was around the time the dinosaurs roamed the earth,) I learned grammar. Boy, did I learn grammar! You had no choice if you had Peggy Riley Hughes for your English teacher. I’ve since come to realize that the world could use a few more Peggys.

As writers, we have the license to take liberties in our writing. When we’re writing dialogue, no one expects us to write in perfectly formed sentences. People don’t always speak in perfectly formed sentences. We speak in sentence fragments. Style often dictates that sentence fragments also be used in narrative. But there are grammar rules that should never be broken.

If you want to be a writer, you need a firm grasp of the English language. You may ask why this is important. Won’t the editor correct whatever needs correcting? Once upon a time that may have been the case but not any more. Editors don’t have the luxury of time to mollycoddle an author who refuses to learn how to write well, no matter how good a storyteller that author is. There are plenty of other well-written manuscripts sitting in piles on editors’ desks. No editor is interested in a high maintenance author. Submit a manuscript full of grammatical errors to an editor/agent and you’ll receive a swift rejection.

As I said above, thanks to Peggy Riley Hughes, I know grammar. However, thanks to Peggy Riley Hughes, when I read books where grammar rules are ignored, I’m pulled right out of a story. The grammar error that grates my nerves the most is the one people deliberately make because they think it sounds more intelligent and educated. Because this is such a pervasive error, I often find it on every other page of many books.

Are you ready to learn that error?

Drumroll, please…

My grammar pet peeve is the misuse of pronouns.

A little background on pronouns. There are 3 types:

Nominative: I, you, he, she, it, we, they, and who

Possessive: my, your, yours, his, her, hers, its, our, ours, their, theirs, and whose

Objective: me, you, him, her, it, us, them, and whom

Too many people substitute the nominative form for the objective form. The nominative form is used when the pronoun is the subject of a sentence. The objective form is used when the pronoun is the direct object of the sentence or is part of a prepositional phrase.

WRONG: He likes Mary and I.

RIGHT: He likes Mary and me.

He gave the papers to Mary and I.

RIGHT: He gave the papers to Mary and me.

You wouldn’t say, He likes I, so why would you say, He likes Mary and I? Nor would you say, He gave the papers to I, so why would you say, He gave the papers to Mary and I?

The use of the nominative in direct objects and prepositional phrases are the worst pronoun rule offenders, but here are a few more pronoun rules to keep in mind:

If a pronoun follows than or as, mentally insert the missing words to determine the correct case.

WRONG: I am as tall as him.

RIGHT: I am as tall as he (is).

WRONG: The coach picks John more often than I.

RIGHT: The coach picks John more often than (he picks) me.

Avoid reflexive pronouns -- pronouns ending in self or selves. Reflexive pronouns are used only when they refer back to the subject: He injured himself.

WRONG: The award was shared by my partner and myself.

RIGHT: The award was shared by my partner and me.

So there you have it. A few simple grammar rules governing pronouns that will make you stand out from the grammar-challenged masses.

Do you have a grammar pet peeve?

Lois Winston is currently hard at work on the third book in her Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series. The first book,
Assault With A Deadly Glue Gun, was a January 2011 release and received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Death by Killer Mop Doll will be a January 2012 release. Visit Lois at
http://www.loiswinston.com and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, http://anastasiapollack.blogspot.com.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day Remembering

So I was chatting with my partner Betty about what I wanted to talk about during my upcoming blog turn here on Inkspot. Betty said to me, "As we celebrate Memorial Day weekend we should take time to thank those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms. Without that sacrifice, the very words you battle to write could've been censored, your true voice drown out."

I thought about her words. She's absolutely right. My Betty is a very smart cookie... and is usually pretty quiet. She's happier to contemplate her next musical CD purchase than think deep and philosophical thoughts. However, every once in awhile she spits out a zinger that's unexpected, eloquent, and spot on. Indeed, because of the noble sacrifices our Armed Forces have made, everyone's voice has a fair chance to be heard, whether their point of view is agreed upon or not.

People write and say many things, sometimes things not everyone agrees with. Having the ability, having the very right, as an author, to pen a book on any topic we choose is something we can't ever forget. Thanks to the 1st Amendment, freedom of speech is one of our core rights. And thanks to our Armed Forces defending, to the death if necessary, our rights--our 1st Amendment, the rest of the Amendments, and our Consitituion--we have the ability to speak and write our minds as we please.

So this blog entry is dedicated to those who have fallen in the defense of our country so that we may continue to have rights and freedoms. So that we may write what is in our hearts. This is for those who have been injured--both mentally and physically--protecting America, protecting my right to independent thought. This is for those who continue to safeguard our way of life. Thank you for your sacrifice.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Inkspot News - May 28, 2011

Beth Groundwater has two signings this weekend for Deadly Currents. Today, Saturday, she has a wine & cheese signing from 2 - 4 PM at Black Cat Books, 720 Manitou Avenue, Manitou Springs, CO. Tomorrow, Sunday, she'll be participating in Paddlefest in Buena Vista, CO, signing in front of Colorado Kayak Supply, 327 E Main Street, from 1 - 4 PM.LinkOver at The Rap Sheet, Keith Raffel tells "The Story Behind the Story" of his new ebook thriller, Drop By Drop. (Click here.)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Holiday Weekend Recipe

I hope everyone has lots of fun plans for the long weekend.  I will spend my weekend reading manuscripts and hanging out with friends.  And hopefully I can drag someone along to see a Twins game with me.  :)

Ah, long weekends...  the anticipation is lovely.  If I were home in Wisconsin this weekend, I would be attending graduation and birthday parties - and eating a lot of homemade desserts.  I love rhubarb and this is the season for it.  Here is a yummy recipe for bars just in case you have a little time on your hands and 3 cups of rhubarb!

Go Anywhere Rhubarb Squares


1 c. flour
1/3 c. powdered sugar
1/3 c. butter


1 c. sugar
1/4 c. flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. finely chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb


Combine flour & powdered sugar; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press into the bottom of a greased 11-inch x 7-inch x 2-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes. For filling, combine first four ingredients. Stir in rhubarb; pour over warm crust. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm if desired. Store in refrigerator.

Happy Memorial Day everyone!!  Have fun, be safe.  Eat a lot and thank a vet.  :)  See y'all next week.

Old News

As I write this, the “May 21, 2011 Rapture” predicted by a California preacher has failed to materialize. It was all over the Internet for a week beforehand and one day after. Now? Not a word on the first page of Google, CNN, Yahoo, or MSN. The world moves so fast today that like the “Rapture moment” any hot news item may be cold and old in 24 hours.

The mystery series I’m writing takes place in the present day. I always have to make certain that I don’t have my characters talking about a fad that couldn’t hold the headlines longer than a month. We can always count on “stupid celebrity tricks” to be in the news, but beyond the expected drugs-and-rehab duet, it’s impossible to predict which celebrity will be all over the headlines by the time my next book goes to press. In addition, I’m a geek who doesn’t keep up on fashion, but fortunately I have co-workers who do.

I mention Paris Hilton in my next book, but will her name make people scratch their heads come February? Will the musician I have my characters listen to be a one-hit wonder? I’ve read recently published books that referenced an event whose fifteen minutes were over six months ago.

Writers: How do you avoid “missing the moment?” Do you keep tabs on current events in news, sports, entertainment? Do you beg your copyeditor to let you make a last-minute change? Or do you only make references to long-lasting celebrities and news—the Beatles and gas prices, for example?

Readers: Do you just chuckle when a present-day book talks about something outdated? Or does it take you out of the story altogether?

If you’ll excuse me, I need to refresh MSNBC again.

Newspaper photo copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Value of Book Trailers?

I have to admit...  I am easily distracted.  Some days it is very difficult for me to read at work because people stop by my cube, emails come in, etc.  I can get totally lost looking and giggling at lolcats.  My newest distraction today... book trailers.

Perhaps I am missing something...  do book trailers work?  How do they get out to the readers?  I found this Sholes and Moore trailer by searching Lynn Sholes.  It seems to me the reader has to actively search for an author's work.  What am I missing?  I suppose they are on an author's website as well.  Can they be uploaded to Amazon?  Do indie stores post trailers on their websites?

I think book trailers are fun.  :)  It's interesting to me what elements an author chooses to highlight, the music selection, if the author uses images of the characters or not... 

Authors - have you seen a positive impact because of book trailers? 

Readers - has seeing a trailer cause you to go out and buy a book?  Or made you not buy one?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Take this Job and ....

By Deborah Sharp

A guy wrote recently in the New York Times Sunday magazine about his worst job ever: Dressed in a gorilla suit, he delivered flowers, cakes, or balloons, even doing a monkey dance or singing songs. He recalled the night that a bunch of drunken college boys celebrated their pal's birthday by dousing the gorilla-gram guy with beer.

Reading about the beer-swilling celebrants got me thinking about awful jobs. High on my list was a cocktail waitress gig at a college bar near the University of Georgia. It was the 80s; I was in grad school, and always short of money. The tips were good, but I had to put up with being pawed at by legions of UGA frat boys. Even worse were the aging alumni, who'd return on game days in huge, tricked-out RVs with horns that blared ''Dixie.'' They were old enough to know better, but there they were: Drunk, stupid, dressed from head-to-toe in red and black to relive their good ol' boy glory days as Georgia Bulldog football fans.

Like the gorilla guy, I had plenty of beers spilled on me when I worked at O'Malley's Tavern. Unlike the pawing, though, I'm pretty sure the dousings were unintentional. A Ph.D. candidate in psychology, I chalked all those beer baths up to alcohol-induced impairment of sensory motor functions. Sloppy drunks, in other words.

That wasn't even my worst job as I worked my way through UGA. Ask me sometime about being a member of the late-summer cleaning crew charged with sprucing up Sanford Stadium for the opening day of football season. My job was washing down the plastic seats. They numbered eighty-some thousand back then, and most of them covered in pigeon poo. The upside: Swabbing bird turds made the spilled beer seem benign.

Joel Lovell, who wrote the Times' essay on wearing the monkey suit, concluded his piece by revealing that one of the beer-swilling college students gave him a $30 tip. He said he could have rejected the money, asserting some pride. But he didn't. ''The pay was worth the humiliation,'' he wrote.

Is it?

I look back, and remember the tips I pocketed at O'Malley's. I kept my mouth shut, plastered a smile on my face, and learned to side-step the worst of the roaming hands. The pay didn't make the humiliation worthwhile ... it just made it a necessary evil.

What was your most humiliating job? Looking back, would you have done things differently?

Once a Fanboy…

meandthecatDuring the past two years, I’ve been to a number of conventions and book festivals, and I’ve enjoyed them all. One of the coolest aspects is getting to meet some authors who I’ve been reading for many (many!) years. And when I do, a strange feeling comes over me, as I morph into Fanboy.

Here’s a sample conversation:

Me: I-I-I-I’m a huge fan of your work.
Big-Name Author: Thank you very much.
B-N A:
B-N A: Well, nice meeting you…

It doesn’t seem to happen with people in other glamour occupations. If I happen to see a movie star or athlete, I’ll notice, but I don’t get weak in the knees. I once talked to Patrick Ewing in a shopping mall, and my pulse didn’t even start racing. For some reason, though, there’s something about meeting a favorite, Big-Name author, in person, that gets me drooling. I mean, come on, these people have written books that have captured my imagination. Taken me to worlds I’d never dreamed of. Kept me enthralled for hours.

Of course I idolize them! I wanna be just like them when I grow up!

I know it’s not cool; I know it’s not professional. I know it’s a bit childish, even. After all, they put their culottes on the same way I do. I just can’t help it! (Maybe it’s because I was a reader—and not a writer—for so many years.)

Some Big-Name Author encounters:

I got blurbs from two of my favorite Big-Name Authors* (thanks again, guys!). I took a picture with Big-Name Author* at Malice Domestic (by the way, Jessie 2 or Vicki, was it taken on one of your cameras?). A very gracious Big-Name Author* moderated my panel at Malice. At a ThrillerFest dinner, I spilled an ice-cold beverage in Big-Name Author’s* lap. At another ThrillerFest event, I got introduced by one Big-Name Author* and met another Big-Name Author*, the keynote speaker. Recently, I chatted with a Big-Name Author* at a local MWA event, and managed not to make a fool of myself. And I’ve shaken hands with a number of other Big-Name Authors* along the way.

(I know what you’re thinking. These Big-Name authors are just people. And you are correct. They. Are. Just. People.)

Not too long ago, I was invited to be in a writer’s group with some Big-Name Authors**, one of whom wrote one of my favorite books EVER. (It’s a wonder I don’t drool every time we get together.) And now that author is asking me for critiques? Positively surreal.

Here’s my question to you MInkers: Does the fanboy (or fangirl) phenomenon ever fade? I kinda hope it doesn’t!


*Big-Name Authors, not in any order

  • Michael Palmer

  • Reed Farrel Coleman

  • Sue Grafton

  • Michael Connelly

  • Andrew Gross

  • Harlan Coben

  • Margaret Maron

  • John Lescroart

  • John Gilstrap

  • P.J. Parrish (both of them)

  • Jeffery Deaver

  • Brad Meltzer

**Sorry, some things should be kept private.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Jennifer Harlow Reporting from the Trenches of BookExpo America

Let me just first say hello and thank you for reading my inaugural posting here on InkSpot. I'm the author of "Mind Over Monsters" out October 2011, pre-order today! Okay, the shameless promotion of this post is over. Time for the good stuff.

When I was first notified I would be attending Book Expo, the biggest book trade show in the world, I was so excited. Trip to NYC! Free books! My first signing! Free books! But really it was as if I had come full circle. Twice I had attended the pre-show where seminars were given on how to break into publishing followed by pitch sessions to agents. My second time at BEA was when I got my agent, so to have a physical copy of my hopes and dreams in my hand with my agent by my side was surreal. Wonderful, but surreal.

I started the day going to the Jacob J. Javitz Convention Center without a clue what I was doing. I knew that I was signing at 11:30 but the rest of the time was mine. Major publishers, minor publishers, book stores, anything related to books had a booth. The booths ran the gamut from just a paper sign over a table to huge displays with spots for authors to sign. I got an autograph (and free book) from Charlaine Harris at the Mystery Writers of America booth and spied a Real Housewife walking to her signing. People would wait in line for half an hour to get a signed copy or advance copy of a book (myself included).

Then came time for my signing. I met my handlers at the Midnight Ink booth and was escorted to the green room where other authors like me waited for our time in the autographing area. (Everyone was bummed Caroline Kennedy had to cancel, rumors abounded.) Then I made my way to my seat, oddly not nervous. I had set my expectations very low. If one person wanted the book I'd be happy. But right away there was a line! And there were only two lulls when no one was there! I think 50ish people came, spoke to me, and had me sign my baby. Most were librarians, some were bloggers and reviewers, some just liked the cover and thought they'd try it out or give it to someone else as a gift. The time just flew by as fast as the books. It went so much better than I expected and the book isn't even out yet.

Now I sit in my hotel room a few blocks from Times Square exhausted but happy. My first professional apperance done with hopefully a ton more to go through the years. But I'll never forget my first.

This is Jennifer Harlow, signing out from BookExpo America.

Reading list

What are y'all reading these days?

funny pictures - Ders nuttin lyke fallin  asleep wit a gud book

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Real Deal on My Ebook

Keith Raffel here.

As I wrote in my last posting here, I’m doing some diversification of my literary portfolio. My agent in New York has a manuscript he’s circulating to publishers. He even has another in his back pocket. So I held back a third manuscript and have decided to publish it as an ebook original. Drop By Drop draws heavily on the four years I spent in Washington working as the counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Once I decided to go down the ebook route, all those housekeeping chores the publisher had done on my first two books became my responsibility. So I figured out how to copyright the manuscript, obtain an ISBN number, and more.

Then there’s coming up with a cover. I didn’t have much to do with the cover on my first two books. The publisher asked for ideas for a cover for Dot Dead. I said any cover was okay with me except for a woman dead in a bed. Guess what showed up on the cover? (See left. Over time, it did grow on me.) When the publisher came up with a preliminary cover for Smasher, I was delighted to be asked for comments. I took the request seriously and showed it to a few trusted booksellers and relayed their suggestions back to the publisher. No changes were made.

With Drop By Drop I was on my own for the cover. I found a designer and told him what I had in mind. I took the first draft of the cover and posted it up on Facebook for comments. It turns out my friends, especially Shelly, know what they’re talking about. This time suggestions were taken into account, and we discarded a tricolor cover and ended up with the one on the left.

Over the weekend I uploaded the text of Drop by Drop onto Amazon (click here) and Smashwords (click here). Smashwords in turn makes certain the ebook goes into the catalogs of Apple’s iBookstore and Barnesandnoble.com. I'll let you know how things go.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hitting the Road

Yep, I am hitting the road again.  This time, via car.  And my three boys.  Noah, Lucas, Elijah and I are headed home to Wisconsin to visit my family.  It'll be a quick weekend, but one I am looking forward to immensely.

First, there will be Friday Night Fish Fry.  Where I come from, there is always fish fry.  It's not a lent thing.  Since moving up here to the Twin Cities, I've found I have to cross back into Wisconsin for a good fish fry.  Sad, but true.

The second cool thing about the trip - my brother in law is willing to show my boys how to fish.  We took Noah when he was little so I doubt he remembers much.  I like to fish and all, but this will be perfect...  the guys will fish and my sister and I can sit and talk.  Rock on. 

Third, and the best part, seeing my family.  When I come home we usually manage to get everyone together for at least one meal.  That is the best part of going home for me.  All of us together, joking, eating, playing games or just sitting around and talking.

The worst part of the trip...  this:

funny pictures of cats with captions

Ah, travelling with kids!  I have a portable DVD player and I know where the McDonald's with playlands are located.  I think we'll manage after all!!  See y'all on Monday.  I hope you all have some exciting weekend plans!

Book Promotion in a Parade

I have an absolutely thrilling (to me) announcement to make.

But first, I have to lay some groundwork. The first book in my Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures series, Deadly Currents, takes place in Salida, Colorado during their annual FIBArk (First in Boating on the Arkansas) whitewater festival. FIBArk is billed as the "oldest and boldest" whitewater festival in the United States, with this year being its 63rd year.

Thousands of people converge on this mountain valley town in mid June (this year, June 16-19) from all over the world to compete in and watch the events. There are a variety of long-distance and sprint races for kayaks, canoes, rafts, and stand-up paddle boards. There are rodeo events where boaters display gymnastic prowess, flipping and twisting their boats in the rapids. There's the famous "Hooligan Race" where teams build creative rafts out of anything that can float, pick a theme and dress up in costumes. And there are junior races for youngsters, running and biking events, karaoke contests, musical performances, and more. Multiple award ceremonies and parties last long into the night.

And on Saturday morning, there's a parade. The FIBArk Parade draws hundreds of spectators who line F Street to cheer everything from homemade raft entries for the Hooligan Race to horse-drawn wagons and monster trucks, all in a spirited family atmosphere. A VIP guest is selected to be honored each year in the parade, riding in a convertible near the front.

Guess who that VIP is this year?


Yes, me!

Is that cool or what? I'm so pleased and proud to be selected that if I was wearing a shirt with buttons, I would be busting them!

To boot, the Book Haven bookstore in Salida will be selling copies of Deadly Currents behind the Boathouse Cantina, which is between the boat ramp and Riverside Park, next to the main walkway along the Arkansas River. I'll be autographing books Friday and Saturday afternoons during the festival at that location.

Since I'll be spending the weekend in Salida for the festival, I volunteered to do whatever else the festival organizers want me to do--hand out awards, speak at ceremonies or dinners, judge costume or crazy river dog contests, try my hand at paddling a watercraft, whatever. This is going to be so much fun! I know I'll be beaming the whole weekend.

My participation in FIBArk is one example of "outside-the-box" book promotion activities I've been doing to target the whitewater paddling community as well as traditional mystery readers. I've guested on river ranger and whitewater outfitter blogs, held a fundraiser booksigning for American Rivers, placed copies of my books in rafting outfitters' stores, will be appearing at PaddleFest in Buena Vista, Colorado over Memorial Day weekend, and more.

Now, I just need to practice my princess wave! :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Discovering a Gem

Today is a reading day.  Actually this whole week should be.  I am very behind on reading manuscripts that have time constraints on them.  I have manuscripts from authors that need to be "accepted", proposals and partials to read to take to acquisitions, a couple from agents with timeframes, manuscripts that I sent back for revisions, etc.  And now, I've been tasked to acquire 3 very specific manuscripts for a project.
I have no complaints there.  Reading manuscripts and finding a "gem" totally rock.  One of the best parts of my job.  And today I am excited because I believe I found a manuscript for my new project.  I know I shouldn't be too excited - I'm on page 45... but still...  the writing and voice are great.  The dead body was found around page 35.  :)  Things are looking good!

Since I started here at MI, I believe I've found a few gems.  Lois Winston, Alice Loweecey, Carol Culver, Jessie Chandler, Robin Allen, Beth Groundwater, Jennifer Harlow and Darrell James all make debuts with Midnight Ink this year.  Wow.  That is amazing.  Besides these new authors, we also have new series by Midnight Ink authors Lynn Sholes and Joe Moore, Alan Orloff, Amy Patricia Meade and a second series by Beth Groundwater.  That makes for a lot of new material for 2011.  2012 won't have as many new authors, but I do have a few surprises up my sleeve.  :)  You'll just have to stay tuned.  One of them may very well be the manuscript I started today.

The Debate

In Sickness and In Death, the third installment of the Broken Vows mystery series, releases September 2011.

Here’s the cover blurb:

“Jolene Parker isn't sure what to think when her police deputy husband, Ray, unexpectedly brings home a new foster child. The impulsive son of a jailed car thief, twelve-year-old Danny has talents that include picking locks and hotwiring cars.

Following Danny's brief joyride in the car that he says is his dad's, a horrific surprise turns up in the trunk: a woman's arm. While Ray hunts down the victim's identity, Jolene tries to determine whether Danny's father did the deed. And it drives her straight into the killer's sights.”

The Broken Vows mysteries have an underlying story arc involving family relations that hangs in the balance from book to book. Those of you who read the first book in the series know it had a happy ending for the protagonist. Book two, not so much. I debated with book three. It could have easily gone either way and the mystery would not have lost any of its punch. I had a perfect moment and a perfect line for a happy or a bittersweet ending.

I debated whether readers who now have a vested interest in the family saga would tolerate two unhappy endings in a row. Is that too much of a downer? Are most readers like me, preferring the “happily ever after” ending? Of course if they are like me, they write that ending in their own heads and wait to see if that’s what occurs in the next book.

So, when you’re vested in a character and a series, do you prefer a happy ending or doesn’t it matter? Does your answer depend on whether the series is more of a cozy or not? Whether it’s the last book in the series or not?

(Psst…In Sickness and In Death is available for pre-order. Pass the word, please.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Guidance from Senior Editor Becky Zins

Sometimes authors run into a bit of confusion because here at Midnight Ink/Llewellyn, authors have two editors.  I am the acquiring editor - the gatekeeper, so to speak.  I acquire manuscripts and often do a revision or two with the author before I formally put the book into production.  My revision requests are generally developmental - I don't correct grammar...

No, iz not! "Ur" iz teh possessive and "UR" iz a contraction for U R!!

That job falls to the production editors.  I picked on one editor today, Becky Zins and asked her a couple questions.  First I asked if she would provide us a short description of her job:

I like to approach a fiction title with the goal of making a comprehensive style sheet that includes not only place names, brand names, etc. but also a list of the characters and their relationships, physical attributes, and quirks. Timelines are also something I keep track of. Characters frequently have name changes throughout a ms from earlier incarnations of the story, so keeping a style sheet is crucial. Also paying attention to physical details—if a character walks from a cafĂ© to the store down the street at the beginning of a chapter, but at the end of the chapter leaves the store and jumps on their bike, then there's some tweaking to do. Perhaps the most challenging aspect is judging whether a character's actions, motives, or speech is consistent with how they've been set up so far in the story, but that's another important aspect of the editorial process.
How about a list of do's or don'ts?  Or, what would make your job easier?

As far as do's or don'ts for authors, I would suggest that if they're not already making up a style sheet for themselves, maybe they should think about doing so. The more mistakes that are fended off before submitting a ms to a publisher, the better, because despite our best efforts, errors do get overlooked! So if I were writing a novel, I'd have a comprehensive timeline, list of characters, and list of terms or phrases that I would want an editor to retain instead of change (for example, say I have a character who repeatedly screws up some aspect of the English language—it's part of their zaniness—I don't want a well-meaning editor or proofreader to come along and make them sound like an English professor!). Submitting this along with the ms would assure greater communication between author and editor(s) and proofreaders.
So there you have it - helpful hints from a production editor!  If you had the ear of an editor - what would you like to know?  Becky would be happy to answer more questions.  She's a sweetie.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Darrell James

I like learning new things. In fact, I’ve always thrilled to it. As an adolescent, I would spend much of my time, not on the playground (although there was plenty of that also), but on some excursion into the unknown in search of something new to learn.

I recall (at the age of eight) attending railroading classes at Cincinnati’s Union Terminal. It was a special learning series, just for kids. The seminars were held once a week, on Saturday mornings, and ran throughout the summer. I went alone (my parents trusted me). It took three buses to get me there, leaving early-morning from my small town of Crescent Springs, Kentucky. I had always been fascinated by trains and wanted to know more about them.

I learned a lot that summer, much of which I still retain. But the big pay-off (the real learning) came on the last day of class when we actually got to take a train ride. The trip was only about fifty miles round trip. But…Wow!... eight-years-old, on my own and riding the rails, feeling the rumble of the wheels beneath my feet, and feeling on top of the world!

On another summer, I took the same buses to attend a series of summer long, children’s theatre productions. The costuming, the lighting, the amplified sounds… not to mention the fairytale storytelling… filled me with delight. Live theatre still does that to me.

A lot of time has transpired since those childhood days, but my love of learning has never diminished. I’ve accumulated degrees in both Engineering and Business Administration (mostly for something new to learn). I’ve learned to play a number of musical instruments. And I’ve taken classes in acting, as well as writing and screenwriting. For something else new, I spent the past six months teaching myself HTML. I now build websites in addition to writing the next book. (You can see my handiwork at: http://www.darrelljames.com/ )

Did I mention I read a lot to learn?

I know I’m not alone in this regard. I have been on several author panels in the last year, speaking to senior groups whose programs are geared toward “learning for life”. (Exploritas is one such.) The audiences at these programs are among the most inquisitive and intuitive I’ve run across. And nearly all are avid readers.

When it comes to writing fiction, I go somewhat against the common wisdom of “write what you know.” Instead, I search for ideas that first teach me something I don’t know. And it’s my hope, that when readers read my work, many will come away feeling they’ve experienced something new, as well.

What about you? As a reader or a writer, what were some of your earliest learning experiences? Do you still have a lust for learning?

Darrell has had close to thirty short stories published in various mystery magazines and book anthologies. His debut novel, Nazareth Child, is forthcoming from Midnight Ink in September. It is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.

Finding Time to Read

Do you ever feel like this:


Yeah, me too.

These days I don't have a lot of time to read for pleasure.  When I do have time, it's on the weekends, which sometimes makes me crabby on Monday mornings, either because I stayed up too late on Sunday night or because I just didn't get to read as much as I would like.  I love reading, but a lot of weeknights, I don't physically want to read.  My eyes are tired or my brain just doesn't want to process more words.  And let's face it, spring may have finally arrived in the midwest and I was busy outside in the sun, playing football with my boys.

Fortunately, I can sometimes find the quiet time I need to slip into another world created by some of my favorite authors.  And who might those be?

William Kent Krueger - the man writes beautifully.  http://www.williamkentkrueger.com/  I am a book behind (like I am with most of my favorite authors - so don't spoil anything for me!!)  Cork O'Connor, the main character, is one of my favorite characters.  Kent is one of the nicest guys on the planet, too.

Fallen: A NovelKarin Slaughter - what a perfect name for a crime fiction writer.  And it fits.  Bad things happen in her books.  Not for the light-hearted.  Karin's books are suspenseful, scary and heart-breaking.  http://www.karinslaughter.com/

Ian and Lee are authors I read when I am in the mood for a "guy" book.  Lots of action.  :)

Charlaine Harris - I have loved most of the books she has written.  I didn't get into the Aurora Teagarden series.  But the Lily Bard, Harper Connolly and Sookie Stackhouse series are all wonderful.  http://www.charlaineharris.com/index.html  The HBO series True Blood starts up again June 26th!  Sweet. 

So what about all of you out there - who are your favorites?  How do you steal some time away to read?  Does you day job ever interfere with your reading time?

(full disclosure - I intentionally left out the Inkers...  seriously, a mom doesn't choose her favorite kid...  I would be starting a riot around here!)


Many years ago, I read a slim little book called A Month in the Country, by J.L. Carr. It’s about a World War I soldier hired for the summer to restore an ancient mural in a village church. It’s on the depressing side: none of the characters are on track for a happy life at the last page. But what makes the book memorable is its flawless evocation of summer. So flawless that I’ve read the book more than once—and I’m one of those readers who like escapism and humor. I can’t remember any particular passage, but sitting here at my keyboard I can recall the book’s summer: endless sun, blue skies, the drone of bumblebees, the scents of earth and grass, the feeling that my entire self, body and mind, is in Paradise.

“The Harlequin Tea Set,” an Agatha Christie short story, almost captures summer this way. Liz Michalski’s novel, Evenfall, also has moments of pure summer—eating peaches warm and ripe from the tree, basking in the sun in an overgrown orchard.

I live in the Northeast US—winter lasts a long, long time here. So it’s no surprise that I favor summery books. Even the one sort-of-winter book that I’ve always loved—The Snowstorm by Beryl Netherclift—isn’t really about snow. The title refers to one of those glass balls you shake to make “snow” fly around a scene inside. (There is a real snowstorm at the end, and the book is one of the better time-travel novels I’ve read.) There’s also Robert McCammon’s Swan Song. He creates nuclear winter so well that the first time I read it, I kept looking out the window to make sure the world was still green.

I scanned my bookshelves for a spring book, and found none. I do have a favorite autumn book: The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope. That’s it—one book—even though Hallowe’en is my favorite holiday. (That’s a post for another time, and a discussion of movies that scare the pants off you. Love ‘em.)

I love to write in the summer. My laptop screen can’t compete with sunshine, so I take my three-ring binder and fountain pen and sit in my backyard. Grass between my toes, iced tea at my side, red-winged blackbirds (among many others) calling in the trees, and katydids everywhere. Yet I’ve written all different kinds of weather into chapters on those days. I’m weird like that. This is also one of my favorite places to read.

Is there a book on your shelves that epitomizes your favorite season? My TBR pile in only 6 books deep at the moment. It needs to grow—after all, summer’s only a few weeks away.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Inkspot News - May 14, 2011

Today, Saturday, May 14th, from 2 - 4 PM, Beth Groundwater will be discussing and signing copies of Deadly Currents at the Barnes & Noble Booksellers across from Chapel Hills Mall at 1565 Briargate Blvd, Colorado Springs, CO.

Tomorrow, May 15 at 2:00, Alan Orloff will be discussing and signing KILLER ROUTINE at One More Page Books in Arlington, VA.

On Saturday, May 21 at 10:00 am, Alan Orloff will be presenting at the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Gaithersburg, MD. He leads off a long list of mystery authors in the Dashiell Hammett Pavilion, including Thomas Kaufman, Rita Mae Brown, Donna Andrews, Alex Berenson, Louis Bayard, Stephen Hunter, and Brad Parks.

On Sunday, May 22 at 2:00, Alan Orloff will be reading from KILLER ROUTINE in a joint reading with former instructor Ann McLaughlin at The Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD.

Friday, May 13, 2011

5 questions with Sue Ann Jaffarian

Sue Ann Jaffarian

Finally, blogger is back up and I can post again!  Today Sue Ann Jaffarian was kind enough to endure my 5 questions!  :)  If you don't know of Sue Ann, you should.  She is the author of three series - Odelia Grey, Granny Apples and Madison Rose series.  Odelia is a plus sized paralegal who has a nose for trouble and dead bodies.  Granny Apples is the great, great (I forget how many greats) grandmother of Emma Whitecastle.  As a ghost, Granny helps Emma help other ghosts to solve mysteries surrounding their lives and deaths - mysteries that keep them from passing over peacefully.  Madison Rose my kind of girl - alone in the world, she fends for herself until one day she is attacked and an elderly vampire couple save her from the attack.  Thus starts Madison's relationship with a group of vampires.  Three very different series yet all fantastic.

Was there an author or a book that inspired you to write?

So many authors have inspired me in different ways.  As a kid, I was a voracious reader. I remember dreaming of seeing my name on a book on a library shelf and my name in the card catalogue.  I wanted to write books like To Kill A Mockingbird and The Yearling.  In the end, it was the late Anne George who inspired me to write humorous mysteries.  When I first decided to turn my attention to writing mysteries, I read a couple dozen books from various series written by women about female sleuths.  While reading Anne George’s Murder Runs In The Family, I realized I wanted to write funny mysteries.  I wanted to make people laugh out loud and invest themselves in the lives of the characters as she did with her down home humor and charming characters.   

You’ve been writing for a while now – how has social media affected your platform/marketing/career?

It has greatly enhanced all three. Through various social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and blogging, I have been able to reach many more potential readers than I might have otherwise.  With social media, midlist authors can compete better with the authors who are benefited by big PR budgets and campaigns.  I also get to know my readers and they get to know me.  Sometimes that can be touchy, but most of the time it helps sales and boosts interest in my work. I can better picture my audience.  During the many hours I spend writing, I imagine the people who are going to read the latest Odelia or Granny or vampire mystery.  It makes me feel like I’m telling my friends a story in a more intimate setting and writing becomes less lonely.

Do you have a favorite movie, book or artist?

Favorite movies:  The Color Purple, As Good As It Gets
Favorite books:  To Kill A Mockingbird, Angela’s Ashes

You and I have talked about being a professional writer.  Would you mind explaining what that means to you?

For me, being a professional writer means taking it seriously and not treating it as a hobby that you do from time to time as you feel like it or when you can squeeze it in.  I view my writing with the same eye I do my paralegal career at the law firm. There are deadlines and expectations in both venues and I strive to meet them in both careers.  In my writing, I make a schedule and stick to it as carefully as I can. A large part of being a professional writer is also understanding that writing is a business.  Learning about and keeping up with the business aspect of it is part of being a professional writer, just as keeping abreast of continuing legal education is important to my being a professional paralegal.

 If you needed to bribe your editor, what you make/buy her? 

Hmmm, if my editor was still Barbara Moore, I’d buy her a pair of very expensive shoes. That would be a no-brainer.  But I’m not sure about you.  Maybe season tickets to your favorite sports team – best seats in the house or a box – with catered food and drink for you and a couple of friends?  Stock in Starbucks? Give me a hint.

You know me pretty well, Sue Ann.  I love sports and Starbucks.  :)

If you haven't read Sue Ann yet, you owe it to yourself to check out her website.  She currently has first chapters from each of her three series posted.  http://www.sueannjaffarian.com/  Sue Ann also posts on the Criminal Minds blog http://7criminalminds.blogspot.com/

Have a great weekend, y'all!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Advice From Sue Grafton

by Kathleen Ernst

Sue Grafton, author of the Kinsey Millhone series, was the Lifetime Achievement honoree at Malice Domestic this year. You may know it as “the Alphabet Series.” Sue published A Is For Alibi in 1982; her latest is U Is For Undertow. All told, she’s officially sold a bazillion books.

Sue Grafton I had never heard Ms. Grafton speak before, and she didn’t disappoint. She managed to convey both humility and pride in her accomplishments; she expressed opinions, but often with a touch of self-deprecating humor.

One of her comments struck me in particular. “You have to be willing to fail,” she said. “You have to work right on the edge of your talent.”

I’ve been thinking about that. Am I willing to fail? Yes, been there, done that. Many times, actually. I have sixteen books in print. I also wrote ten or twelve that were never published, prior to getting my first book contract. Those will never see the light of day, but I have several newer manuscripts I love that have not sold.

Am I working at the edge of my talent? A trickier question.

I am willing to try new things. Does that count? Old World Murder, the first book in my Chloe Ellefson series, is told entirely in alternating 3rd person point of view, in 1982. In the second book, The Heirloom Murders, I experimented with two timelines. Most action still takes place in 1982, but that’s interwoven with a thread from 1876. (The book won’t be published until September, but content reviewers have given it a thumbs-up.)

And I’m not complacent. I know that learning to write good books is a perpetual journey. I don’t take anything for granted, and look for opportunities to learn and grow.

So I’m not sure about the whole “working at the edge of my talent” thing. But I like the concept. I’m going to keep it in mind—an ongoing challenge to do everything I can to make each book stronger than the last.