Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fifteen Fun Facts: Mark Stevens

This week, Midnight Ink presents Fifteen Fun Facts about Mark Stevens, author of the Allison Coil mysteries. His latest, Lake of Fire, was released earlier this month.

1.  I think any meal that involves jalapenos is a good one.
2. I write my first drafts by hand. In old-school notebooks. With a pen.
3. I’m the son of two librarians. (There are very few of us, based on my sampling of the generation population. We are a lucky bunch. Anyone who grows up learning to love to read is lucky.)
4. I covered the devastating 1985 earthquake in Mexico City. I got there in time to ride out a magnitude 7.5 aftershock. I will never forget the sensation.
5. I used to play bass in a band that opened for Styx at the corn festival in western Colorado.
6. I know one really good card trick. I’ve known it since I was about eight years old. I don’t know any others. It’s really easy to learn and it works.
7. I am a big fan of Patricia Highsmith and have read both biographies plus all of Highsmith’s fiction. I’m glad she’s getting her due. Read Suspension of Mercy if you get a chance.
8. I’m a big fan of John Updike and read the terrific biography last year by Adam Begley. True, Patricia Highsmith and John Updike don’t have much in common. Except that they both make you want to keep reading.  Read the “Rabbit” books if you get a chance.
9. I was married in a double wedding.
10. I’ve visited every state. It’s a fluke. It wasn’t a “thing.”
11. I still root for The Colorado Rockies. It doesn’t get much sadder or pathetic than that. I mean, I watch games in September when it hasn’t mattered for a long, long time.
12. I like Project Runway and Top Chef. I’m a sucker. Face Off is really good, too.
13. Give me any reality TV show about survival and I’m there. A friend just turned me on to Alone. The old show Survivorman inspired one of my characters, Devo. Devo plays a big role in my new book, Lake of Fire.
14. Cracker is my all-time favorite band. I will travel a long, long way to see that band. But in late August, they played in Nederland, Colorado. (Here’s a pic I took at that show.) I think David Lowery, the guy on the right, knows the secret to the universe. He's just not telling us.

15. I once was the babysitter for two brothers in the town where I grew up (Lincoln, Mass.) One of the brothers was a 7-year-old. His name was John Flansburgh. John went on to form a terrific band, They Might be Giants. I was a fan of the band’s first album long before I figured out, “hey, I know that guy.” John and his pal John Linnell opened up rock and roll in a whole new lyrical and tuneful way, to my way of thinking. Check out “Birdhouse in My Soul” or, an early one, “Don’t Let’s Start.” They are still making great, great music and they post free songs here every week.

Lake of Fire is available online and in bookstores now!

Midnight Ink | Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Your local bookstore

Monday, September 28, 2015

Attending a Mystery Writers of America Writers Workshop: A Pictorial Review

For those of you who don't know (probably most of you!) I take a writing sabbatical every August.  This is time that I minimize my yoga teaching and studio management duties in the hopes of having a solid chunk of time for my next book.  This year's sabbatical was very productive, and I spoke about it in this blog article.
The last day of Sabbatical was the best, however.  I attended a character development seminar with David Corbett that was hosted by the Mystery Writers of America Pacific Northwest Chapter.  Here is my photo log of the day.  I really did do some writing, I swear!

I got up at the crack of dawn (OK, 6:00) but somehow still managed to miss the ferry by literally seconds.  My car is the red one, first in line for the next boat which would leave an hour later.

My husband has nicknamed me the creepy puppy lady. This photo of my car's bumper hints at why.  Marc is especially fond of the sticker on the upper right. Husband and dog missing. Reward for dog.

Since I had sixty minutes to wait, I took the opportunity to work on revisions for my 4th Downward Dog Mystery, tentatively titled A FATAL TWIST

It was the perfect foggy Seattle day to learn about murder.

 The ferry is pretty dead on Sundays at 8 AM, so I had it almost to myself.

Did I take this photo before or after the zombie slot machine ate my brains? (I obviously haven't quite gotten the hang of taking a selfie yet.)

Even though I caught the ferry an hour late, I arrived  at the picturesque location at the Suquamish resort with enough time to walk around the gorgeous grounds

The resort is on the Suquamish  Indian reservation, with some awesome Native American artwork, like this magnificent totem pole.

I took this photo to prove to my husband that I actually attended a workshop.

And after the workshop, I spent some time in the casino. I wandered around the huge gambling area, taking my time. I vowed not to play until I'd discovered the exact machine that would help me make my millions. When I saw Zombie Outbreak, it was love at first sight. I vowed to spend however long it took to either double or lose the $20 I had allocated.  (Losing it took less than 5 minutes.)

Then it was home to a much brighter Seattle!
 The photos don't show it, but I did learn a lot, and I plan to put it to use with the start of my new series, tentatively called the Murder in Paradise Mystery Series.  Now I just need to find time to write it!

Tracy Weber

Karmas a Killer (4)And if you want to show me some love, you can preorder my newest mystery, KARMA'S A KILLER, now at Amazon Barnes and Noble.

Yee haw, yippee, and yahooey!

Check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Q&A with Sallie Bissell!

This week, we sat down with Sallie Bissell, author of the Mary Crow Novels. Her latest, A Judgment of Whispers, is out now!

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing? 
Sallie Bissell: My parents gave me a typewriter the Christmas I was eight. I’ve been writing at something, ever since. I was an advertising copywriter for a while (this was in Nashville—I wrote radio commercials for the Grand Ole Opry). Then I was a ghost writer for Bonnie Bryant’s Saddle Club series.  I started seriously writing under my own name about twenty years ago.

MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
SB: I read all of William O. Steele’s work when I was a girl—that got me into the outdoor adventure mode, which I guess I’ve never really left. I learned a lot about the scope of a novel from Gail Godwin.  Pacing from Elmore Leonard. Language from John Steinbeck.  Suspense from Richard Wright—I think his Native Son is a masterpiece. Margaret Atwood, Barbara Vine and Sara Paretsky have also expanded my view of what fiction can accomplish.

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing? 
Sallie at work on her typewriter

SB: Something in art, probably. My mother was a painter and I have a modest bit of talent in that area.  I entered college as an art major. My faculty advisor looked greatly relieved when I transferred to the English Department! In my fantasy life, I’d like to be a jet pilot or Serena Williams.

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it? 
SB: I’ve kept my hand in advertising, on a freelance basis. I love birds and I’m helping a local bird seed company expand its customer base. I write their newsletter and mind the shop a couple of afternoons a week. It’s fun and totally different from writing fiction.  Birders are interesting people, always with good stories to tell, usually about squirrels or bears.

MI: What is/are your favorite thing/s to do when you’re not writing or working? 
SB: I love to play tennis, and do so as often as I can. I’m also on a Trivia team that plays at a local restaurant once a week. Writers are good at trivia—we have minds that are stuffed with esoteric information, like what’s the longest river in Chile. I once catapulted the team to victory by knowing who wrote Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. (Dee Brown.) I have no idea what the longest river in Chile is.

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why? 
SB: Probably Sherlock Holmes. I think Conan Doyle took  themes that other writers (Poe, Dickins, Wilkie Collins) had touched on and made a terrific character. It was a perfect storm for success, in a way—you had spiritualism, industrial revolution, scientific discovery—plus the serial formal. The work has endured because the writing is good—the puzzles (plots) are ingenious and the characterizations are interesting, too.

MI: Do you have a favorite murder case from a book (either yours or another author’s)?
SB: My favorite murder case was one my aunt was questioned in (though not as a suspect).  It happened in Nashville in the early '70s and was only recently solved, and not to everyone’s satisfaction.  I used it as the basis for the murder in my next book, A Judgment of Whispers.  Older Nashvillians will know exactly what I’m talking about!

MI: What was your inspiration for this series?
SB: The idea of Mary Crow came about after I moved to Asheville, NC. I went from an urban lifestyle to a rural one, in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains. Also I’d never seen a Cherokee Indian before, and I became fascinated with their culture. In writing the first book, In The Forest of Harm, I re-entered the fictional world I’d loved so much as a girl—woods and forests and trails that led who knows where.

MI: Tell us about Mary Crow.
SB: Mary Crow is a woman of color; a woman with a foot in both the white urban Atlanta culture of her father and the rural Cherokee culture of her mother.  She was orphaned early and bears the scars of losing the people she’s loved. She is smart, a little to the introvert end of the spectrum and is beautiful when she smiles.  She has been in love with Jonathan Walkingstick since the day she first saw him, but can’t quite figure out how to live with him. She loves a good joke, drives a black Miata and owns a Glock 9 that she’s not shy about using. If you were in trouble, she’d help you out, then go kick the butt of whoever got you in trouble in the first place. She’s someone I’d love to have as a friend.


MI: How does this book/series compare to your past works?
SB: A Judgment of Whispers is the most reality based novel I’ve ever written. I use the above mentioned murder case, mixed with the autistic son of a dear friend of mine. Mostly, it’s a novel about how hard people can be on people whose only crime is being different.

MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
SB: I’m the proud owner of Peyton Manning Bissell, a rescue pup who has grown into my 70 pound personal body guard.  Also Princess Tingaling, a rescue cat. If Peyton were human he’d drive a pickup, drink Pabst beer and wear an orange Tennessee baseball cap. If Ting were human she’d sit on a throne and eat caviar with a little spoon. We have some fun times at our house.

Sallie and Peyton Manning Bissell

MI: If you don’t have a pet, do you have a favorite animal?
SB: I can’t think of an animal I don’t like, but I have a particular fondness for elephants and horses. Elephants because they are amazingly smart but overly hunted; horses because I’ve ridden them all my life. Animals, I think, behave far more decently than most humans.  I make a point not to hurt them in my books.

MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
SB: Pizza. Hot for dinner, cold for breakfast. It’s all good!

MI: Do you have a favorite recipe?
SB: There’s a pie we eat in Tennessee called Chess Pie. I got my grandmother’s recipe for it before she died, but I think she forgot a few key ingredients. Mine has never come out as good as hers did. I don’t make it often, since it has about ten million calories a slice.

MI: What’s your favorite part about being an Inker?
SB: Writing stories that people get excited about! The long haul of writing—the sitting down and working for hours and weeks and months is a lot like shouting down a well. It’s lonely, isolating and has driven braver folks than me over the edge. To have colleagues who care about your work and are looking forward to the next rabbit you pull out of your hat makes things a lot more fun!

A Judgment of Whispers is available online and in bookstores now!

Midnight Ink | Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Your local bookstore

Visit Sallie online here.

Writing Women

Can men write about women?

Sheesh, I sure hope so.

Of all the upbeat comments I’ve had recently, this email meant a lot to me:

“Thought I'd say I enjoyed Antler Dust and Buried by the Roan. I like Allison—and I really like Trudy and the relationship between the two women. Not everybody does friendships between women well, but you nailed it—creating a great one that really resonates as true with me.”

“Allison” is Allison Coil, my protagonist, and “Trudy” is Trudy Heath. They live on the edge of the Flat Tops Wilderness in western Colorado. Allison is an outfitter and hunting guide; Trudy worked her way out from under a bad marriage (in Antler Dust) and she now owns a garden center and a line of specialty food products. They live across a small meadow from each other and they are best friends.

This email note was from—yes—a woman.

Allison and Trudy met in the first book and I can state emphatically and without question that I had no idea that they would pair up and become a team through Buried by the Roan, Trapline and the new one, Lake of Fire. Trudy started out, in my mind, as an important but temporary character.

I didn’t think Trudy would stick around for the next three books.

Or resonate.

But readers seem to like her. She’s earthy. She’s crunchy granola, to use a cliché. She’s herbs and organic gardening. She’s slow-moving and serene. She owns a successful business, which started to blossom in the second book, but she’s not all about profits. She cares about the environment but she’s practical, too. She’s healthy and mystical and calm. She’s a good counterpoint to hunting guide Allison Coil, who has her own kind of serenity and, I hope, cool.

But can men write about women?

I ask, why not? I’ve been thinking about this recently. In came up last week during an event at Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins for the fourth book, Lake of Fire. The ability to write across-gender is not a new topic; hardly!

I think if you take a close look, it’s more common than you’d think. To my mind, nobody wrote about men—especially weird, warped men—better than Patricia Highsmith. There are many examples of men writing from a woman’s perspective. Madame Bovary. Anna Karenina. Bleak House. The Fortunate Mistress. The Scarlet Letter. These men aren’t just writing about women—they are writing from a woman’s point of view.

But in genre fiction? The vast majority of the time, you have a female writer and you get a female protagonist. Male writer? Of course, male protagonist.

But don’t all books, save for Lord of the Flies, have both genders? If you are a male writer and you include a woman, shouldn’t she be as fully formed, as fully thought-through, as your men? I’m not thinking about the bit parts, the transitional roles. I’m thinking about the major players—your hero’s wife or girlfriend or mother or co-worker. 

Sure, there are a few things a guy can’t experience quite the same way. Giving birth, for instance. That’s one. But we can read a thousand accounts of what it’s like and draw some conclusions. Can’t we? Isn’t the point to know, specifically, what your character is going through?

General doesn’t cut it.

Writers deal in specificity. At least, I think that’s where the work lies.

As writers, one of our most important jobs is to answer the question of how—how does my specific character do X or Y or Z? How does my specific character feel about doing X or Y or Z? Regardless of gender, who better to answer that question than the writer who created them?

Because neither gender has a corner on certain emotions, do they? Sure, women might be more A and men might be more B. Again, those are generalities. How does your individual character process the events being hurled her way? That’s the question.

Is this pure hubris? Am I being too, um, cocky?

I’ll let you be the judge. All I know is that it’s fun trying to get it right.

Key word: trying.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Q&A with Laura DiSilverio!

This week, we sat down with Laura DiSilverio. Her first suspenseful stand-alone, The Reckoning Stones, is out now!

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing?
Laura DiSilverio: I've been writing all my life, starting with short stories about horses and Viking princesses in a collection I called Let Your Imagination Run Free. It had a construction paper cover on which I drew a picture of a horse and a girl with long, flowing black hair (research wasn't my long suit). As I recall, I spent more time on the drawing than the writing. I started writing for a living when I retired from the Air Force. My first mystery hit bookstore shelves in May 2010, and The Reckoning Stones is my fourteenth published novel.

Laura's Desk
MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
LD: Last year, my New Year's resolution was to read a bunch of classic books I'd never gotten around to (whether or not they were assigned in school). Along the way I rediscovered Steinbeck and he's having an influence on my writing. I aspire to prose as crisp and descriptive as his, and characters as haunting.

I couldn't possibly name all the other writers, living or dead, who have influenced my work in one way or another, whether by brainstorming with me, offering me advice, or blazing a trail so women mystery writers writing about female sleuths could get published and recognized. If I try, I'll leave someone out, so I'm not going to write them down.

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
LD: Don't laugh, but I think I might be an event organizer or a personal trainer. I enjoy working out and have worked with trainers off and on. I enjoy helping folks learn how to get more out of their gym routines. I am also very organized and a multi-tasker, and I get a kick out of putting together events for hundreds of people. 

Despite twenty years in the military, I don't think I could go back to being an "employee" again, unless financial necessity dictated. I like being able to set my own schedule and wear sloppy duds while working. I like the fact that my job doesn't usually feel like work. Please buy The Reckoning Stones so I don't have to work on my delivery of "Do you want fries with that?"

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it?
LD: Unless parenting counts as a job (which I think it does), I don't have another job. I write full-time and am grateful to be able to do so. My hat's off to writers who juggle day jobs and bushels of kids and still write books.
Pikes Peak at Sunset
Laura's Wirehaired Pointing Griffin, Marco
MI: What are your favorite things to do when you’re not writing or working?
LD: I read, of course, but I also work out, hike, walk my Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, volunteer at my church, go to wine tastings or out to dinner with my hubby, and travel.

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
LD: That's  tough question. Hmm. Can I mash up a couple of sleuths? I like Elvis Cole, Vicky Bliss, and Myron Bolitar for their humor, Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot for their intellectual processes, Kinsey Millhone and Barbara Havers for their grit, Adam Dalgleish for his sophistication and melancholy, Annie Laurance and Max Darling for their solid and long-term marriage, and lots of others for relationships or personal struggles that carry through many books.

MI: What was your inspiration for this book?
LD: This is the first book I've ever written that had its genesis in a news story. I read a brief article years ago about police trying to find a girl who had run away from home as a teenager. She'd been abused by her pastor and forced to apologize publicly when she got up the nerve to tell her parents. The police were trying to find her long after the fact because a raft of other girls had come forward more recently with similar tales about abuse.

I started thinking about how awful such a situation would be, and wondering where the girl was, and Mercy/Iris and The Reckoning Stones grew out of that.

Laura's First Stand-alone
Suspense Novel
MI: Tell us about Iris Dashwood.
LD: Iris is a complicated character. The victim of sexual abuse by a person of trust (her pastor), she ran away at fifteen and encountered a lot of the ugly situations you'd imagine a runaway teen might face. She washed up in Portland, Oregon and is lucky enough to be taken in and mentored by Jane, an art gallery owner who recognizes her potential and helps her get training in jewelry design. When the story opens, she's successful, driven, and still prey to demons that make her seek out men who prey on young girls and punish them. She's never had a successful romantic relationship and prefers one-night stands with very young men (early twenties) who don't want marriage or long-term. 

Laura's Debut Novel
When she learns that her abuser has come out of his two decades long coma, her muse deserts her and she must return to her insular community to confront him and learn what really happened the night she left. As she reconnects with her parents, best friend and former boyfriend, she begins to understand herself better, heal some relationships and unearth some secrets.

MI: How does this book compare to your past works?
LD: My previous thirteen books are traditional mysteries or humorous private eye novels. They're all much funnier and more lighthearted than The Reckoning Stones. I greatly enjoyed the challenge of writing The Reckoning Stones, although I finished each day in a somewhat grimmer mood than when I write humorous mysteries.

MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
LD: Our dog is a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. He's eleven years old and still active and spry. He's bred to be a hunting dog, but we don't hunt, so he contents himself with stalking squirrels and bunnies. It's hysterical to watch him stalk bunnies in slow motion. I swear you would never believe that a dog could move so slowly, like a movie-maker working with claymation.

Marco the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
Marco on Deck

MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
LD: No one food would do it. I like variety. Salmon, chocolate, natural peanut butter, pasta, peaches, tea . . . there are too many to confine myself to one.

MI: Do you have a favorite recipe?
LD: Nope.

MI: What’s your favorite part about being an Inker?
LD: I love being part of a community that celebrates good writing and creativity. From the editorial staff to art (the book has an amazing cover!), production and sales and marketing, everyone has been so professional and helpful. I also like how supportive all the MI writers are of each other. It's a blessing to be an Inker.

The Reckoning Stones is available online and in bookstores now!

Midnight Ink | Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Your local bookstore

Visit Laura online here.

5 Foody Tips for a Successful Writer's Retreat (Recipes!)

By Lisa Alber

Oh hey, before I get down to the topic, this week I've got blog posts up in a few spots. If you're curious about how my novel is coming along, read here. If you're curious about general news regarding award nominations (you can vote!) and such, read here. Also, I'll be hosting a cover reveal giveaway (YAY!) soon. You can check in on that on my website.

My morning spot.
There's nothing like a writer's retreat to rejuvenate my writing process. No overstuffed laundry hampers and dog-pooped-upon lawns begging me to do something about them. No pesky social obligations, or family obligations, or anything obligations -- except to the writing. Other than posting pretty pictures, I ignore Facebook and Twitter. I check email once a day and that's it.

I spent last week on retreat at Rockaway Beach, Oregon, a wee village with nothing much to it except railroad tracks running along a not-so-highway-ish Highway 101. Two writer buddies and I stayed at Colonyhouse, a retreat house sponsored by the Oregon Writers Colony.

We all know that location and compatible retreat mates (if any) are crucial to a successful retreat. Location-wise: I need the coast, that's about it. But any beautiful setting with a view and walking opportunities will do. Mates-wise: Please, be the quiet sort and the pick-up-after-yourself sort. Double please, don't be the person who is so addicted to social media that you can't stop yourself from commenting all day long to no one in particular about what your friends (or worse still, celebrities!) are wearing or buying or whatevering.

OK. Enough said. Let's talk about food. My thing is that I don't want to think about it once I'm in super-duper writing mode. I don't want to run to the grocery store. I want meals that are easy to fix. All this assumes that you're driving to your retreat, of course.

1. Coffee, big yes! I bring my own ceramic one-cup dripper that I set on top of my coffee cup. My coffee, my filters, my milk/creamer. It just makes me happy first thing in morning, which is better for my writing. Besides, then I can make my coffee on my schedule and fresh.

2. Breakfast: Oatmeal, but not just any oatmeal. I consider myself quite the genius for thinking this up even though it might be common: double-boiled (so to speak) crock pot oatmeal that's ready for me, warm and gooey and lovely, when I wake up! (Recipes below, by the way.)

3. Lunch: Before leaving for the retreat, I made a big batch of zingy beans, in, yes, my crock pot. (Do you see a theme here?) Tortillas, cheese, anything else you want to bring, and -- ta-da! -- quickie, healthy lunch burritos! Yum!

4. Snack: There comes a point in the afternoon when I get restless and/or start eyeing the bed for a snooze. Snacks help. I like mine to be more decadent than I allow myself to eat at home, just cuz making all aspects of the retreat feel special helps keep me motivated and writing. I brought those peanut-butter-stuffed pretzel thingies that Trade Joe's sells. A tad addictive, but I'm happy to report that I didn't eat the whole bag!

5. Dinner: Crock pot again! I threw everything into the pot in the morning and that was it except for roasting broccoli for extra veg. I made an enchilada casserole. Soo easy. And it made for great lunch leftovers that we shared. Soups are great too. One of my mates made a lentil soup to die for, and I had that for lunch on one of the days.

See how that works? It was utterly perfect. BUT, I forgot something:

6. Wine! I love wine, but I don't drink on a daily basis. It felt special to celebrate my productivity with wine before/during/after (eh hem, yeah, don't sue me for overindulging a bit) dinner. The three of us hung out together at day's end, watching the sunsets, talking writing, and helping each other brainstorm plot problems. We all looked forward to dinner; it was the come together social time.

When I was a kid, my Irish-Catholic aunties from Chicago visited now and then, and the only topic the adults seemed to talk about was the next meal. Boooring. I didn't get it. At all. Now, obviously I do. :-)

Do you have any crock pot recipes or particular food rituals that you perform when on vacation? Any tips and tricks welcome!

Crock Pot Delish Oatmeal
In a bowl that fits inside your crock pot, place the following ingredients in the following order. Do not stir.
1. Sliced apple.
2. Brown sugar and cinnamon to taste.
3. Pinch salt.
4. 1/4-cup steel cut oats
5. 1/2 cup each of water and your milk of choice, plus about 1/8 cup of water to account for evaporation.

Fill the crock pot 1/4-1/3 full with water, set the oatmeal bowl in the water (if it floats, pour out some of the water), and cook on low overnight. Genius, right? No crock pot cleaning!

Crock Pot Delish "Refried" Beans
One onion, peeled and quartered (no need to chop)
1 1/2 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed
1 jalapeño or 1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and chopped
3 Tbsn (or more! to taste) minced garlic
2 tspn salt (or to taste)
1 tspn black pepper (or to taste)
1/8 tspn cumin
4 1/2 cups water

Put everything in the crock pot and cook on low overnight, approximately 10 hours. With a submersible blender, blend until smooth.

Crock Pot Delish Yam and Chorizo Enchilada Casserole
I made this vegan style, but you can layer in shredded cheese too:
1 large yam, thinly sliced
2 12-oz jars of enchilada sauce
bag corn tortilla chips
1 12-oz package of soy chorizo (or use regular chorizo)
2 15-oz cans of black beans, drained and rinsed

Oil the crock pot and coat the bottom of it with enchilada sauce. Then layer the ingredients in the following order, three times: layer of chips, chorizo, yam, beans, enchilada sauce. End with one more layer of corn tortilla chips and the remaining enchilada sauce. Cook on low for 4 or 5 hours.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Fifteen Fun Facts: Catriona McPherson

This week, Midnight Ink presents Fifteen Fun Facts about Catriona McPherson, author of various psychological thrillers. Her latest, The Child Garden, was just released yesterday.

1. I've never been inside a gym.
2. The only food I refuse to eat is eyeballs. (Because they're not food.)
3. I love gardening, but once I killed mint.
4. Doris Day is my style icon.

5. (But) I got married in shorts.
6. Cats are better than dogs.
7. I found my stove in a dumpster.

8. My perfect Friday night sounds like a mobster: Couch Pizzatelli.
9. I've visited twenty-five US states so far.
10. There are seventy-nine dresses in my wardrobe. And one pair of jeans.
11. I've been called 'Sir' while wearing one of the dresses.
12. My decorating style is maximalist. #19patterinsin1livingroom
13. I collect Stavangerflint.

14. Pleasure is not a source of guilt for me. So—loud and proud—Project Runway!
15. I have never owned an i-Anything.

The Child Garden is available online and in bookstores now!

Midnight Ink | Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Your local bookstore

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Doing My Research

Edith here, working on bringing 1888 to life.

In 1888, if you wanted to get somewhere closer than fifty miles away, you generally traveled in a conveyance pulled by horses. There were buggies, carriages, phaetons, wagons, surreys, carts, and plenty of other varieties. Some had two wheels, some had four. They were pulled by one, two, four, or even eight horses.

I've now written two books (one is still a draft, thank goodness) featuring vaguely worded
carriages and buggies. The Quaker Midwife Mysteries are set in Amesbury, which was called the Carriage Capital of the World, shipping graceful, sturdy vehicles shipped all over the US and internationally. I'm a member of the Amesbury Carriage Museum and have seen plenty of antique carriages around, even sat in a couple as they sat unhitched to a steed.

But I'd never ridden in one. So last week I hied myself fifteen minutes north to The Carriage Barn in Kensington, New Hampshire. They provide equine therapy, carriage driving lessons, and much more. The generous director, Ann
Ann Miles, director and guru of the Carriage Barn
Miles, knows more about riding, equine therapy, AND historic carriages than her brain has a right to.

Ann showed me a couple of dozen carriages - no, there was a buggy, a runabout, a couple of sleighs, a governess's cart, a phaeton, a sailor's wagon, a wagonette, and more.
I think this is a runabout.

Governess cart

We talked about the history of the time. She lent me two volumes of the Carriage Journal. She handed me a helmet - because I was about to go riding! One of the people who come and take riding lessons, Sue, had agreed to have her lesson with me aboard.

Sue (behind), Ann, and Emily (in pink) hitching up Casey.
Sue and delightful barn employee Emily brushed and cleaned and harnessed up the patient, calm, strong Casey. Sue and Ann brought a replica carriage out and they all worked together to hitch Casey to it.

I learned that the driver's seat was always on the right, not the left, and the driver mounts first. I'd worn my homemade earlier-century long linen skirt and ankle boots to get the feel of climbing up into the carriage, and yeah, I had to keep the skirt out of the way.

Getting ready to head out in a wagonette.

We walked a few laps, and then trotted quite a few over the grassy field. Wow. The carriage lists from side to side. There's nothing much to hang onto.

Sue, who is a couple of inches shorter than I, was remarkable in holding the whip at the ready but only touching Casey gently with it when she gave him a command (and not letting the whip sag and touch him inadvertently). Casey was voice trained - who knew?

I thanked them all, and Casey, after we finished. It was a hugely useful couple of hours. I know I'll be back.

Readers: What kind of detail do you look for in an historical novel? Or even in a contemporary? Have you ever stopped reading because you found an error in fact? Writers: what do you do for research?