Saturday, March 30, 2013

INKSPOT NEWS - March 30, 2013

On Friday, April 5th, 2013, from 6:00 to 7:00 PM during the Breckenridge Lady's First Friday event, Midnight Ink author Beth Groundwater will sign copies of her Claire Hanover gift basket designer titles at The French Kiss, 226 South Main Street, Breckenridge, CO 80424.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Guest Post- Names Are Important

Today we are happy to have guest poster James R. Callan, author of A Ton of Gold here to talk about the importance of naming characters. Welcome James!

Names Are Important   by James R. Callan

Is selecting a name for you characters important?  Have you ever just picked up the telephone directory, opened it at random and grabbed a name?

Suppose Margaret Mitchell had named her protagonist Jane.  Would she have started the reader with a different impression than she did when she selected Scarlett?  Before we even meet Scarlett we have a feeling about her.  Scarlett reminds us of heat, emotion, energy, fire.  We expect a fiery, energetic, volatile woman. 

Do we start out with a different impression if the man guy is named Winston or Joe?
J.K. Rowling is one of the most successful writers of our time.  Do you think she spent time on her characters’ names – and not just the major characters?  And did they start us out with an impression?  Draco Malfoy?  Nymphadora Tonks?  Ron Wesley? Servius Snape?  Those names did not just trip off her tongue; she worked to come up with them.   Why, with all those great names, did she name the protagonist a rather plain name – Harry Potter?  Perhaps she wanted to give us the impression that he was an ordinary person, a reluctant hero. 

The name is part of the character.  Why do people change their name in real life?  Because they want a different persona, a different outward expression that better reflects how they feel about themselves, how they want to be viewed.  So you, the writer who is creating this character, need to decide how the character views herself.

In Deadly Additive,  Donn Taylor named a secondary character who always operated on the edge, Brinkman.  An accident?  I don’t think so.  Ian Fleming gave us some insight into the character of his antagonist in The Richest Man in the World when he named him Auric Goldfinger. 

Can the name mislead us?  Certainly, if you want it to.  Just don’t let it happen by mistake.  Tiffany can be a person who spends her life helping the homeless, living and eating with them, and then returning to her one room under the Elevated. Maybe her parents are rich and she was to be a debutant.  But the girl wanted to do something more important. 

You can use the name to help make the case for who this person is, or who the parents imagined she might be.  Holly Golightly was a happy, carefree woman.  Sam Spade was a straight forward, no frills, hard working person who dug for clues. 

Suppose your heroine is named Catherine. If she calls herself Cat, that tells us how she sees herself, and how the reader should view her.

Select the names of your characters carefully.  Do not use the name as simply a way to distinguish one character from another.  Make a conscious effort to select a name that helps build your character.

You work hard to give your book a name that will entice the reader to pick it up and read.  Select your character name to make your book memorable.

A Ton of Gold
A contemporary mystery / suspense novel

Can long forgotten, old folk tales affect the lives of people today? In A Ton of Gold, one certainly affected young, brilliant Crystal Moore. She stands on the brink of losing everything – her only family, her self-esteem, her career and quite possibly her life.  Two people are killed, others threatened, a house burned and an office fire-bombed – all because of an old folk tale, greed and ignorance. 

On top of that, the man who nearly destroyed Crystal emotionally is coming back.  This time he can destroy her career.  She’ll need all the help she can get from a former bull rider, her streetwise housemate and her feisty 76 year-old grandmother.

About James Callen
After a successful career in mathematics and computer science, receiving grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA, and being listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science and Two Thousand Notable Americans, James R. Callan turned to his first love—writing.  He wrote a monthly column for a national magazine for two years, and published several non-fiction books.  He now concentrates on his favorite genre, mystery/suspense, with his fourth book, A Ton of Gold, released in February, 2013.

Facebook:  James Callan
Twitter:  @jamesrcallan

On Amazon, in paperback, at: 
Or the Kindle edition at:       
Or from Oak Tree Press at:  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Historical Fiction?

by Kathleen Ernst

Recently, a reader asked if my Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites Mysteries are historical fiction.

The first three books in the series are set in 1982.  I was in my early twenties then, so for much of the cultural context, I simply tap my own memories.  For me, and for some of my readers, the '80s were the good old days.

On the other hand, some of my readers weren't born until well after 1982. I occasionally get emails from people wondering about details like coiled telephone cords.

So, are the Chloe books historical fiction?  Depends on who you ask.  Some writers' organizations set an arbitrary date---if a book is set before 1960, for example, it is indeed "historical."

The Historical Novel Society takes a different approach.  That group considers any novel historical if it takes place before the author was born.  That means an author approaches the setting through research, not memory.  I like that definition because it focuses on process.  It does set a sliding scale, though.  A book set in 1990 might be classified as historical fiction, while a book set in 1943 might not.

When I'm writing for kids, the whole notion of historical fiction presents a different challenge.  My latest children's mystery is set during the War of 1812.  It's hard for an eight-year-old to get a handle on "two hundred years ago."

I sometimes get letters from kids who seem to think I lived through the War of 1812.

I cherish the curiosity evident in that letter.  How cool that the young letter-writer finished a book and felt compelled to write to the author!  The literal meaning of "two centuries ago" doesn't matter.

Bottom line:  I don't really care how my books are classified.  I hope they tell good stories and touch readers' hearts.  If they foster an interest in history... that's frosting on the proverbial cake.

Speaking of cake, I'm celebrating the publication of my 25th book--Traitor in the Shipyard--with 25 weeks of book giveaways.  Interested?  You can find all the details on my own blog, or on my Facebook Author Page.  Readers make everything possible, and I'm grateful!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Thank you? How Rude!

By Deborah Sharp

A New York Times columnist sparked an online skirmish about etiquette this month with a grumpy tirade against what he sees as digital time-wasters: 
Some people are so rude, wrote the Times' Nick Bilton. Really, who sends an e-mail or text message that just says 'Thank you?' Who leaves a voice mail when you don't answer, rather than texting you? Who asks for a fact easily found on Google?

Don't these people realize that they're wasting your time?

The column generated upwards of 600 comments, with the most negative reserved for how Bilton's apparently harried life plays out in his communication mandates to Mom and Dad: 
My father learned this lesson last year after leaving me a dozen voice mail messages, none of which I listened to, Bilton wrote. Exasperated, he called my sister to complain that I never returned his calls. 'Why are you leaving him voice mails?' my sister asked. 'No one listens to voice mail anymore. Just text him.' 

My mother realized this long ago. Now we communicate mostly through Twitter. . . 


One comment summed up what many readers seemed to be feeling: ''My heart breaks for this man's father.''

Count me as squarely in that commenter's camp. 

Even so, Bilton did make some good points about the perils of trying to communicate in our over-connected, over-wired world. I think there's a special place in hell for people who insist on texting me, even after I've repeatedly said I'd rather get an old-fashioned phone call or the dreaded email. My nieces and nephews, though, are about as likely to pick up a telephone as they are to motor down to the Western Union office in a Model T and send me a telegram. So I text. 

Loved U on Utube. LOL

Bilton is also irritated by people who ask questions easily answered on the Internet. The weather. Directions. If his column portends the end of a civil society. (Just kidding on that last one).

He interviewed another curmudgeon for the article, a man who happened to be an author. This guy carped about people who ask him via social media where they can buy his book, rather than simply turning to Google for that information. I don't know about you, but I'm HAPPY when somebody asks how to buy my book. No way would I snarkily reply with the link, which stands for Let Me Google That For You.  

How about you? What's your preferred communication mode? Do you send thank-you emails, or consider them time-wasters? Do you make your mother reach out and touch you through Twitter? 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

INKSPOT NEWS - March 23, 2013

This weekend, a plethora of Midnight Ink authors have descended on Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the Left Coast Crime 2013 conference. Three Midnight Ink books have been nominated for awards at the conference, as shown below:

The Lefty has been awarded for the best humorous mystery novel since 1996, and Midnight Ink author Jess Lourey's December Dread mystery is one of six nominees.

The Rocky, for the best mystery novel set in the Left Coast Crime Geographical Region, was first awarded in 2004 and two Midnight Ink authors have nominated books: Beth Groundwater's Wicked Eddies and Darrell James' Sonora Crossing.

The Bruce Alexander Memorial Award for best historical mystery began in 2004. New Midnight Ink author, Catriona McPherson is nominated for her Minotaur release Dandy Gilver and An Unsuitable Day for a Murder.

Midnight Ink authors are appearing on panels and at other special events throughout the conference. If you are attending, please stop by the following events today and tomorrow:

Saturday 7:30–9:00 AM - Meet the Established Authors Breakfast, Beth Groundwater, G.M. Malliet, Catriona McPherson

Saturday 9:00–9:45 AM - Traditional Mysteries: Murder by the Book, G. M. Malliet

Saturday 9:00–9:45 AM - You Say Teepee, I Say Hogan: Writing Other Cultures, Shannon Baker

Saturday 11:00–11:45 AM - Sex! Now That We Have Your Attention, Do You Write for One Sex, or Both?, Darrell James

Saturday 2:15 - 3:00 PM: The Sporting Side of Murder, Beth Groundwater

Saturday 2:15–3:00 PM: Foreign Affairs: Thrills from Other Countries, G. M. Malliet, Catriona McPherson

Saturday 3:15 - 4:00 PM: Writing the West: The Rocky Nominees, Beth Groundwater, Darrell James

Sunday 9:00–9:45 AM - Breaking and Entering: Tales of the First Sale, Linda Joffee Hull, Catriona McPherson

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Greetings from Left Coast Crime!

I'm making no apologies for using this blogspot to showcase the many minkers and honorary minkers who're here at Left Coast Crime in Colorado Springs, hanging out, getting nominated for things, having the odd cocktail or two.

Here, in the nominee line-up for the Rocky - best mystery novel set in the LCC region (half the country, if anyone's asking me), are not one but two minkers, Darrell James and Beth Groundwater, along with Craig Johnson, Chuck Greaves and Margaret Coel.

One thing I love about LCC is their award categories.  Here are some of the nominees for the Lefty - the funniest mystery novel: Nancy West, Brad Parks, Laura Disilverio and known geezer Mike Befeler

And since her smile could light up the Rockies at night, here's Laura again:

There is an minker nominated in this category - Jess Lourey.  Here she is doing her fabled Terri Bischoff impersonation:
Another original category - my favourite, I think - is the Watson award, for best sidekick.  And here's LC Haydn, sidekickless as it happens, but unbowed.
Finally the nominees for the Bruce Alexander award for historical mysteries about the 1920s and 30s, set overseas and written by blonde Brits living in Northern California:
Niche?  We don't think so, Rhys Bowen and me.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My Awesome WPA Weekend

By: Maegan Beaumont

This week, registration for Lee Lofland's Writer's Police Academy is underway. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend this fantastic event last year....

I’ve had a lot of highlights in my life. Getting married. Having babies. Adopting my sons. Landing a literary agent. Getting my first publishing contract…

Attending WPA definitely made the list.

Thursday night was my ride along with Greensboro PD and I had the good fortune to be assigned to Officer Henley. It was a quiet night. Not one traffic stop. Not one call. I won’t lie, I was a bit disappointed, but he was such a great guy—very patient and easy to talk to. He answered my questions and even apologized a few times that there wasn’t more to show me. I told him that a quiet night was a good thing for him and I was just happy to be there.

And I was.

Friday brought FATs training. It looks like a video game, but the gun they give you is real (just fit with a compressed air cartridge so if feels and sounds close to the real thing). They put us through two training scenarios… scenario #1 had me chasing an armed prison escapee. I shot him in the throat. #2 had me trying to deescalate an armed man who took his co-worker hostage. He got it in the head. Good times!

The rest of my day was filled with great, informative talks on such light-hearted topics as human trafficking, analyzing blood evidence and learning how to lift fingerprints.

Every single one of my instructors was an expert in their field, and they really seemed to want to help make my writing better. The day ended in the auditorium of GTCC, with two hundred other writers, listening to a very fascinating talk given by Dr. Beth Murray, a forensic anthropologist.

Back at the hotel, we had the privilege of listening to Dr. Kathrine Ramsland give a night-owl talk on observation and how to sharpen your skills and apply them to your writing… and Lee Child was there, sitting at the table next to mine. We chatted briefly before the talk—he is probably one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. No joke.

Saturday started with a bang! Literally. As soon as we got off the bus, we were herded over to the side parking lot where a trained sniper started giving us a demonstration… but before he could get the good part—like shooting—a SUV ripped past us, followed by three squad cars, light flashing and sirens blaring! We watched as the SUV spun through the parking lot, police cruisers close behind, before it came to a sudden stop. Police piled out and began shouting commands at the driver and his passenger… it was an felony stop re-enactment.

And it was awesome.
The rest of the day brought me lectures on suicides, hanging and auto-erotic deaths (already got ideas for this one… go figure), police gun fights, handcuffing and arrest procedures and the highlight of my weekend (along with my ride along) … the shallow grave exercise.
About thirty of us were turned loose in the woods to find a body—like some sort of gruesome Easter egg hunt, and who’s the lucky girl that found him?? That’s right—me!

The day ended with another fabulous talk about the judicial system, led by Marcia Clark—yes, that Marcia Clark. She was funny and engaging—and she’s a writer herself. Sometimes other writers are a bit selfish with sharing ideas and techniques. Not Marcia Clark—she gave ‘til it hurt!
Saturday night was the big night. A silent auction, followed by a banquet and then the keynote speech given by Lee Child himself. He’s a wonderful speaker, very relatable—you can tell that he has a passion, not only for writing, but for other writers as well. It was a wonderful thing to see in someone so well-known.
Afterward, he signed books. When it was my turn, I had one signed for my mom and when asked if I wanted my picture taken with him, I declined (because I’m an idiot, that’s why.) and then shook his hand like I’d just interviewed him for a job (I’m not only an idiot, I’m a socially awkward idiot, to boot). He looked a bit confused but played along… my plans to ask him for a book blurb flew out the window.
Sunday brought me home. Close to 20 hours spent between airports and planes before I was able to crawl into my own bed in over four days…. And the last thing I remember thinking before drifting off to sleep was—
I wonder what Lee Lofland will have cooked up for next year…

This year WPA's keynote speaker is Lisa Gardner with appearances by Kathy Reichs and Dr.Katherine Ramsland, among others. This one of the greatest experiences a mystery writer can have and each year, it gets better and better!

Maegan Beaumont is the author of  Carved in Darknessbook #1 in the Sabrina Vaughn thriller series available through Midnight Ink, May 8th, 2013.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Breaking The Rules

I decided to talk about rules today. I hate them! I have never been one to follow them, so why start now? I remember when I penned my first book, SHATTERED DREAMS, a million years ago. At the time I thought I was a romance writer and SD is a great woman in jeopardy romance if I have to say so myself. I still cry when I think about certain scenes. You can imagine my surprise when it started getting dinged in contests by judges who felt compelled to tell me I was not playing by the rules. Guess the fact that I had 2 male heroes in the story, one of whom doesn’t meet up with the heroine until the middle of the book drove them nuts.

Crap! To change the story to fit the rules would have ruined the story. My heroine gets kidnapped and smuggled into Colombia where she eventually fights with her captors against a powerful cartel. Enter guns, dead bodies and explosions.

“Romances don’t have those sort of things,” I was told. Well crap, again. Usually in contests, I would get two people who loved the story, and one who absolutely hated it because I broke the rules. Rejection comments from professionals included, “You can’t have a romance in a Third-World country,” and “You can’t have two heroes,” etc.

To this day I can still remember the way I felt when my agent called and said, “I love this story.” Unfortunately, she couldn’t sell it, either, for the very same reasons. But I thought it should have some readers, so I put it up myself a few weeks ago. (Shortened the title to SHATTERED.)

 Anyway, it made me think of my aversion to rules. My Berkley editor was always reminding me that I was writing “un-cozy-like.” I called her the cozy police. She was right, of course, but it didn’t seem to change the way I think when I write. I like big stories with lots of action, bad words and humorous sarcasm. So, I still try to slip a few ‘uncozy” things in.

Terri, on the other hand, loves my sarcastic potty mouth and wants more. HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE, my new series, is considered soft-boiled, and therefore I have more leeway. I’m anxious to see the response to it.

Back to the point of this blog…rules. Recently, I ran across this list from Kurt Vonnegut about writing fiction. I agree with most of them, but even if I didn’t I write mysteries, I would totally disagree with the last one. Read them and let me know what you think. And BTW, I am anxiously looking forward to meeting al the wonderful MI authors at Malice this year.

Eight rules for writing fiction:
     Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
     Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3.     Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4.     Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
5.     Start as close to the end as possible.
6.     Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7.     Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8.     Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
- Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1999), 9-10.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

INKSPOT NEWS - March 16, 2013

Next weekend, a plethora of Midnight Ink authors will descend on Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the Left Coast Crime 2013 conference. Three Midnight Ink books have been nominated for awards at the conference, as shown below:

The Lefty has been awarded for the best humorous mystery novel since 1996, and Midnight Ink author Jess Lourey's December Dread mystery is one of six nominees.

The Rocky, for the best mystery novel set in the Left Coast Crime Geographical Region, was first awarded in 2004 and two Midnight Ink authors have nominated books: Beth Groundwater's Wicked Eddies and Darrell James' Sonora Crossing.

The Bruce Alexander Memorial Award for best historical mystery began in 2004. New Midnight Ink author, Catriona McPherson is nominated for her Minotaur release Dandy Gilver and An Unsuitable Day for a Murder.

Midnight Ink authors will appear on panels and at other special events throughout the conference. If you are attending, please stop by the following events:

Thursday 1:30–2:30 PM - A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to LCC: The Lefty Nominees Panel, Jess Lourey

Friday 1:00–1:45 PM - If There’s a Bad Pun in the Title, It Must Be a Funny Cozy, Linda Joffe Hull, Jess Lourey

Friday 1:00–1:45 PM - The Character: The “Why” in a Mystery, Shannon Baker

Friday 2:00–2:45 PM - The Nuts and Bolts of Traditional Mysteries, Cricket McRae

Friday 3:00–3:45 PM - Authors With Altitude: Colorado Authors, Beth Groundwater

Friday 3:00–3:45 PM - Bruce Alexander and Watson Finalists, Catriona McPherson

Saturday 7:30–9:00 AM - Meet the Established Authors Breakfast, Beth Groundwater, Catriona McPherson

Saturday 9:00–9:45 AM - Traditional Mysteries: Murder by the Book, G. M. Malliet

Saturday 9:00–9:45 AM - You Say Teepee, I Say Hogan: Writing Other Cultures, Shannon Baker

Saturday 11:00–11:45 AM - Sex! Now That We Have Your Attention, Do You Write for One Sex, or Both?, Darrell James

Saturday 2:15 - 3:00 PM: The Sporting Side of Murder, Beth Groundwater

Saturday 2:15–3:00 PM: Foreign Affairs: Thrills from Other Countries, G. M. Malliet, Catriona McPherson

Saturday 3:15 - 4:00 PM: Writing the West: The Rocky Nominees, Beth Groundwater, Darrell James

Sunday 9:00–9:45 AM - Breaking & Entering: Tales of the First Sale, Linda Joffee Hull, Catriona McPherson

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Like a Rolling Stone

by Shannon Baker
I’m adaptable. Until I went to high school, I’d never lived in the same place for more than two and a half years.  My father worked for a big retailer and we moved every two or three years as he climbed up the corporate ladder. We grew up like Army brats, until my mother had enough and forced us all back to my parents’ hometown in western Nebraska. When I graduated from college (Go Big Red) I’d lived in Lincoln, NE for the longest I’d lived anywhere.

I marvel at people who still live in the town they in which they grew up. Or live in the same house for twenty years. I have friends whose children graduated from the same high school where they marched to Pomp and Circumstance. That kind of continuity seems like a fantasy to me.

Then I got married and moved to the Nebraska Sandhills. I had a couple of kids and put down roots enough to feed me for twenty years. I even lived in the same house for fifteen of those. When I left, I didn’t take much with me.

Since then, I’ve been light on my feet. I moved from Nebraska to Colorado, from big family house to apartment to townhouse. Then from Colorado to Flagstaff, AZ, a rental house and then a small cabin. And now, whew, I’m back up on the Front Range and loving it. But we have a house in Tucson, too, and I hope to bounce back and forth with some regularity.  (The pic is Mt. Humphreys just outside of Flagstaff and the ski area I used as inspiration for Tainted Mountain.)

Modern communication makes accumulating friends in all these places fairly easy. I can email, text, catch up on Facebook and call friends several hundred miles away with as much frequency as when we lived in the same town. It’s a little harder to share a bottle of wine at happy hour, though. 

Each place brings challenges and new experiences. As a child, that first day of school could be intimidating but soon I’d have a whole posse of friends. Now, it’s an adventure to find a new dentist, figure out the best grocery store, and learn the walking paths and routes around town. While I have been known to pull into a random parking lot and yell obscenities because I’ve been lost for the last half hour and keep going the wrong way on one way streets, for the most part, I love discovering my new digs.

Is it any wonder that without giving it much thought, I’ve ended up taking Nora Abbott, the main character in the (duh) Nora Abbott Mystery Series, all over the west? She seems to have the same transient spirit I do. The first book is set in Flagstaff and book 2, Broken Trust, is in Boulder. (You see a trend?) Book 3 takes her back south to Moab, UT. (The pic is in Canyonlands, where Nora will find trouble in Book 3.)  I’ve got ideas for her doing time in Nebraska and Wyoming and maybe even Tucson.

As a reader, I’m drawn to books with a strong sense of place. I love the way writers set me down in bustling London or in the middle of a nor’ easter in Maine, or on a sweltering New Orleans veranda.  For now, I’m keeping Nora in the west. It is a landscape I know and love. But I don’t see her gathering any moss in the near future.

What are some of your favorite settings in books you’ve read? Where would you like to read about?

Monday, March 11, 2013

How a Rural Colorado Sheriff’s Office Works

by Beth Groundwater

The first two books in my RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series, Deadly Currents and Wicked Eddies (both shown above), take place in rural Chaffee County, situated in the upper Arkansas River valley in central Colorado.

The county has about 17,000 residents in the winter. Most of them live in the small city of Salida, where my whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner lives, and in the two towns of Buena Vista to the north and Poncha Springs to the west, at the base of the Monarch Mountain ski area, where Mandy works as a ski patroller in the winter. The Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) headquarters building, where Mandy works spring through fall, is in downtown Salida, one block from the river.

The county population doubles in the summer when tourists and part-timers flood in. They scamper around the county, engaging in whitewater rafting, mountain biking, hiking, climbing, fly fishing, off-roading, birding, horseback riding, antiquing and all the other warm weather activities the valley offers.

One fourth of Colorado’s 54 “fourteeners”, mountain peaks measuring over 14,000 feet in altitude, are located in the Chaffee County. One of those, Mt. Shavano appears on the patch of the Chaffee County Sheriff’s office (in the photo below). The patch shows the “Angel of Shavano,” an angel-shaped area of snow that appears on Mt. Shavano each June as snows melt (see second photo).

To learn how the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office operates, I interviewed Undersheriff Keith Pinkston, who is their lead detective. He is in charge of two other detectives in their small Investigations Division. He educated me on how their procedures differ from those I learned in El Paso County Sheriff’s Citizen’s Academy, where I used to live. Because the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office has only three detectives, patrol officers conduct their own investigations of crimes, except when the crimes are major, such as murder.

Chaffee County averages about one murder case a year, though the detectives need to investigate many more unintended deaths, fatal accidents, and suicides to rule out murder. Their (imaginary) murder rate has soared with the releases of Deadly Currents and Wicked Eddies!

Since the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office is small, they request outside help for many of the tasks associated with a murder investigation, and they are adept at coordinating with outsiders. They rely on the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to process much of the forensic evidence they collect at crime scenes. They may call in the investigator from the District Attorney’s Office to help. And, they may request officers from the Colorado State Patrol to work with their detectives to solve major cases.

While the county has an elected coroner, he is not a forensic pathologist. So, if an autopsy is needed, the body is sent outside the county to the Pueblo County Coroner’s Office located in the city of Pueblo, Colorado. This is what happens to the body of Tom King, the person Mandy Tanner pulls out of the Arkansas River in Deadly Currents, who dies on the river bank.

Keith Pinkston also explained how the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office works with river rangers like Mandy who discover dead bodies in or alongside the Arkansas River, or who pull people out of the river who later die. While the Sheriff’s Office is responsible for investigating deaths, the river ranger(s) who are the “first responders” are a part of the investigative team. The river rangers’ primary responsibility is extracting the body from the river, but they also share information with the detectives about what they found, and they may testify in court.

Mandy Tanner has a personal stake in the murder cases she becomes involved in the two books because they affect people she is very close to. Therefore, she gets tangled up in the investigations much more than river rangers usually do. Victor Quintana, the detective assigned to both cases (and Keith Pinkston's fictional counterpart), is willing to share information with her, because in Chaffee County, as in many rural counties, all of the law enforcement and fire/rescue personnel work and train together on search and rescue teams and become a close-knit community.

The vehicles the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office use are 4-wheel drive Ford Broncos (for frequent snowy or muddy road conditions) and Crown Victoria patrol cars. Every vehicle contains a rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun with lethal ammunition, and another one with non-lethal ammunition, all stored in brackets. Each deputy has their own patrol car.

Like many rural Sheriff’s Offices, Chaffee County’s constantly could use more funding. Only some of the deputies have Kevlar helmets and vests. And, the deputies are responsible for supplying their own sidearm, so there’s quite a variety. They also carry shoulder radios, handcuffs, pepper spray, and either an ASP tactical baton or a TASER.

The Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office may be small, and on a tight budget, but the deputies I met there had a friendly, professional attitude and took their assignments seriously. They were also very willing to help this mystery author with her research. What interactions have you had with your local sheriff's office or police department? What is your impression of them? If you'd like to learn more, you should see if they offer a citizen's academy like the one I attended in El Paso County.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

INKSPOT NEWS - March 9, 2013

Here are the new releases (and NEWS releases) from Midnight Ink for March, 2013. They're both exciting reads!

Tainted Mountain by Shannon Baker

"Baker’s series debut brings Native American culture and big business together into a clash that can be heard across the mountains. Fans of J.A. Jance’s Joanna Brady will see similarities in Nora Abbott."

What's a Witch to Do? by Jennifer Harlow

"Hell's bells! Harlow's balanced blend of romance and intrigue makes this one a winner."

In other NEWS: Midnight Ink writer Deborah Sharp (author of the Mace Bauer Mysteries) will appear next Saturday, March 16, at the Southwest Florida Reading Festival in Fort Myers, Fla. The FREE, all-day event includes activities and entertainment for all ages, as well as more than 20 best-selling authors in panels and presentations. The Florida forecast is for warm, sunny FUN.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


by Lois Winston

I don’t like change. I much prefer the security and comfort of habit. So when I’m forced to make a change, the decision is one that takes much soul-searching and deliberation on my part. I’m not the kind of person who climbs a mountain just because it’s there. I need a really good reason to step out of my comfort zone, lace up my hiking boots, and ascend upwards into the unknown.

Unfortunately, the publishing industry is fraught with change lately. Gone are the days when an author had a home for life and the people she worked with at the publishing house became like a second family to her. These days there’s a lot of divorce going on in publishing. More and more authors are being dropped because their sales aren’t strong enough. Or authors decide for various reasons that they need to leave their publisher. Both situations are very scary for the author. No matter which party institutes the divorce proceedings, fear of the unknown can overwhelm an author.

Several months ago I realized I needed to institute a change in my life. I didn’t want to, but after countless weeks of soul-searching, I knew it was time to climb the mountain. So I laced up those hiking boots and decided not to sign another contract with Midnight Ink for more Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery books.

However, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, which came out in January, will not be the last book in the series. Hopefully, Anastasia and I will find another home. We’re looking. Along with all the negative change in the publishing industry lately, there are also opportunities opening for authors that never existed prior to a few years ago. If all else fails, I’ll be able to publish more Anastasia books on my own. Anastasia has a lot more of her story yet to tell, and I fully plan to tell it.

To that end, I recently published Crewel Intentions, an Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mystery. Crewel Intentions is a 10,000 word short story that takes Anastasia on a side adventure.

Crewel Intentions sells for $1.99 and is available only as an ebook. I plan to write more mini-mysteries. I’m also working on Book 4, the next book in the main series. Time will tell if that book is published by a traditional publisher or in the brave new world of indie publishing. It all depends on what I find at the top of the mountain.

Crewel Intentions Blurb:

In this short story addition to the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack receives a desperate phone call from former American Woman fashion editor Erica Milano. Erica is now in Witness Protection and living under a new identity in Western Pennsylvania. But someone is stalking her, and Erica has compelling reasons why she can’t go to the police or notify her Witsec handlers. Anastasia is the only person she can trust to help her, and she knows Anastasia won’t let her down. After all, Erica once saved Anastasia’s life. But will Anastasia be able to return the favor before the stalker strikes?

Crewel Intentions is available for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo.

Award-winning author Lois Winston writes the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series featuring magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Kirkus Reviews dubbed it, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” The series also includes Death By Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse and Crewel Intentions, an Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mystery.

Lois is also published in women’s fiction, romance, romantic suspense, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. In addition, she’s an award-winning crafts and needlework designer and an agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. She’s also the author of the recently released Top Ten Reasons Your Novel is Rejected. Visit Lois at, visit Emma at, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog

Monday, March 4, 2013

Sales conference - Fall 2013

I think I might thrive under pressure.  I say that because this week, here at Llewellyn headquarters, we will be doing our Fall 2013 sales conference and I have been slow to get prepared.  For those of you unfamiliar with sales conference, it is a huge meeting where the acquiring editors showcase the fall titles for the sales, marketing, and publicity departments.  For each title, we create a document that gives those departments all the information it needs, such as:
  • release date
  • cover image
  • synopsis
  • author bio
  • physical book description (page count, sub-genre, ISBN)
  • who the audience is
  • a one to two sentence sound bite
  • three comparable titles with book description and life to date sales

We also create a powerpoint to go with the presentation.  During the presentation, I give a verbal summary of the book and often go deeper into why I chose the applicable comp titles.  I also talk a bit about the author, especially if I have personally met the author.
After each title presentation, I ask if there are any questions or other information to add.
Is it stressful?  Heck yeah.  The most stressful part for me is the question time, because I have no idea what might come up!
But in general, I find sales conference to be fun and exciting.  I acquire books that I love and often refer to them as my children.  And at sales conference, I get to whip all my baby pics!  I tell stories of hanging out with authors and getting to know them.  I might go on and on about how much I loved a manuscript.  I can talk about a series - where it has been and where it is going.  I also work in my vision of Midnight Ink.  Where we have been and where I see us going.
But alas, I procrastinate.  Which means I should be filling in my powerpoint rather than typing up a blog post.  By noon today, I will start feeling anxious and stressed out.  Tuesday I will probably be a wreck and finish up my powerpoint.  Wednesday starts the sales conference with nonfiction lines.  Thursday we do fiction.  I can't wait...  now to just finish this powerpoint!

I give a big shout out to Kelly Van Sant who did the heavy lifting on my onesheets.  And to Brian Farrey-Latz who put the bones of my powerpoint together.  :)