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 :)

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.

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?

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!

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.

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

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!)

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!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Report from the Trenches

This last weekend I was at the Houston Writers Guild conference in Houston, TX.  Unlike my friend, agent Josh Getzler, I did not take 53 pitches!  (check out his thoughts on the conference at http://heydeadguy.typepad.com/heydeadguy/)  I only took 23.  But I also did a seminar on mysteries.  It was a learning experience for me as well.

Like Josh noted, many authors can't properly place themselves in the market.  Almost every single manuscript that I was pitched was described as a thriller.  When I looked at the writing sample, it was clear to me that several were actually cozies or soft boiled.  I spent a good deal of time talking about subgenres and giving examples.

One question that surprised me was "do you buy on proposal?"  Ummm... no.  Not unless you have a serious body of work under your belt and I therefore the author can deliver a finished and acceptable manuscript.  I would certainly make an offer on a proposal from Lee Child, for example!  Or Maggie Sefton.  :)

Another question - "do you have an assistant who pre-reads for you?"  Good Lord.  After I managed to pick myself off the floor and wipe the tears from my eyes, I simply said, "No.  No, I don't."

I also extensively explain the publishing process, from the submission to the finished product hitting the market.  Oh, I probably forgot one or two of the seemingly endless steps, but I am fairly certain the folks walked away with a little more understanding of the amount of work that goes into publishing a book.

Novel SituationAnd of course, I emphasized the most important part.  Write, write, write.  Revise, revise, revise.  Write, write, write.  Before you send it off to an agent or an editor, make sure you have put together the best possible product you can!  You often only have one shot at an agent or an editor.  Make sure you are putting your best work forward.

Before the conference in Houston, I was able to make a side trip to Austin to meet Inkers Karen MacInerney and Robin Allen.  I have to say, I love my Inkers!  The food was excellent and the company was outstanding.  To Karen and Robin - thank you for the warm welcome.  :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

InkSpot: My Dumb Ugly Baby

Do y'all read Inkspot?  Well, you should.  Go check it out now.  :)

InkSpot: My Dumb Ugly Baby: "By Deborah Sharp Why don't people like my middle child? Don't work yourselves into a lather, parents. I'm not about to cyber-humiliate ..."


Wednesday, May 4, 2011


And, the winners are...

Jessica and Molly Swoboda
and because I love you all so much, I am also going to send 3 books to garfan1

Please email me (submissions@midnightinkbooks.com) and provide me with you full name
and mailing address!!

And, I am hitting the road again.  This time I heading to Houston for a writer's conference.  And considering my turbulance filled flights lately, I give you this sweet lolcat:

Moshun sick kitteh needz dramamine!

Pictures from Malice Domestic 2011

I uploaded pics from Malice to my facebook page.  Feel free to friend me if you would like to take a look.  Here is a group shot from the banquet:

Front row left to right: Lois Winston, Deborah Sharp, Jessie Chandler, Alice Loweecey, Jess Lourey
Back row: Vicki Doudera, Terri Bischoff, Kathleen Ernst, Alan Orloff, Beth Groundwater

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Home Again / Last Chance to Enter for Free Books!

Well, I am back home in Minnesota!  The flights to and from DC were a bit bumpy and left me feeling green, but that didn't stop me from having a fabulous time at Malice Domestic.  These are a few photos from my phone, which are not the best quality.  I took a ton of photos with my camera and will get those up soon.

Jess Lourey (second from right) next to
Sue Grafton (second from left)

Alan Orloff - Agatha finalist
for Best First Novel

Deborah Sharp (L) and Jessie Chandler (R)

Midnight Ink had a great showing at Malice.  Attending authors were:

Jess Lourey
Jessie Chandler
Deborah Sharp
Alan Orloff
Alice Loweecey
Kathleen Ernst
Joanna Campbell Slan
Vicki Doudera
Beth Groundwater
Lois Winston
and Maggie Sefton

If you are a fan of cozies and soft-boiled mysteries, you have to attend Malice Domestic.  It is always a well-run convention and you never know who you might run into... Such as Sue Grafton, this years lifetime achievement honoree.


Today is your last day to sign up to follow my blog and be in the drawing for free books!  Don't delay!!  The cut off is at 2pm CST.  Then I will print up the names, put them in my stylish throwback Milwaukee Brewers hat and pick some winners!