Monday, December 26, 2016

Inspirations in Fiction

By Tracy Weber

I tend not to write about my real-life friends in my Downward Dog Mystery Series. It just seems mean somehow. Most of the characters I portray are either murder victims or suspects. Where’s the fun in that?

There are two notable exceptions though, and both are key characters in the entire series, including my newest mystery, A Fatal Twist. Both were important influences on my life, and I loved them more than anything. As the universe would have it, I lost both of them last July, and on the same day. July 22, 2016 to be exact.
Most of my friends know that Bella, the German shepherd in my series, was modeled after my own German shepherd, Tasha. Tasha and I spent twelve years together. She was simultaneously one of the biggest challenges of my life and my greatest teacher. Like Bella, she lived with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) an autoimmune disease that left her unable to digest food unless prescription enzymes were added to every meal. Also like Bella, she was reactive, meaning that she barked, lunged, and made herself scary-looking to strangers, other dogs, and every feline that crossed her path. As a German shepherd, she was pretty good at it.
Tasha loved me to a fault, and she protected me fiercely. She was intelligent, loyal, gorgeous, and empathetic. She changed my life, in every way for the better.
My best teenage friend, Michelle, was the model for Rene in my series. We met at age fifteen and quickly became inseparable. Michelle was smart as a whip, funny, gorgeous, and had some magical hold over every man who ever laid eyes on her. She worked as a fashion model for a number of years. As teenagers, we wore matching t-shirts with our school mascot (the Billings West High Golden Bears) on them and the word “Huggable” written below. We spent so much time together that many people didn’t know which one of us was which, so they simply called us “The Huggables.”
Rene is Kate’s touchstone, like Michelle was for me. She knows all of Kate’s inner bullshit and loves her anyway. We all need a friend like that. I had Michelle, and I miss her dearly.
I’m still not sure why my two best friends passed on the same day, but I like to think that it’s because they needed each other. I like to think that they are keeping each other company in the afterlife, having a great time until I can join them. In the meantime, I’m honored to keep them alive in my mysteries.
May I do their memories justice.

Tracy Weber
All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Happy Flaky Holiday Season

By Lisa Alber

Happy holidays! I hope you're having a wonderful season. I'm not paying much attention to the holidays this year. I probably should care, but I find that I don't, and that's a huge relief. The holiday season sometimes brings out the perfectionist in me: gotta buy all the right gifts, gotta send cards with personalized notes to everyone, gotta deck the halls with every Christmas decoration I own (which is a lot).

This year, I'm rebelling. I'm enjoying a flaky holiday season, and it's fantastic! It helped that from Wednesday to Monday this past week I was holed up on extended snow days. My car had broken down anyhow, as luck would have it, so I really couldn't drive anywhere even if I'd wanted to risk the icy, snowy streets in my hilly neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. (Portland isn't equipped for snow--the city basically stops for anything over an inch.)

I baked banana muffins, slow-cooked black beans, and wallowed in holiday flakiness. No shopping, no errand-running, no nothing except working from my cozy writing spot at the dining room table with my little dog Fawn keeping me company.

And I think this is okay. I've been under a lot of stress for various reasons and not sleeping well. Sometimes flakiness is just the antidote, don't you think?

Now, my car is fixed (split radiator), and I'm back in the world ... BUT, maintaining my flaky attitude toward the holiday season. Last year, as I recall, I barely got any fiction accomplished in December because of my Christmas perfectionism. And this year? Lots. PATH IN DARKNESS, coming out August 2017, is coming along nicely. I'm at the fine-tuning editorial stage.

Wishing you the best for the rest of 2016 and Happy New Year. See you in 2017!

Cheers, Lisa

Lisa Alber is the author of the County Clare mysteries. Her debut novel, Kilmoon, has been called "utterly poetic" and "a stirring debut." Her second in the County Clare mysteries, WHISPERS IN THE MIST came out in August from Midnight Ink Books. Ever distractible, you may find her staring out windows, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging round out her distractions. Facebook | Twitter

Monday, December 19, 2016

Guest Post: Eve Seymour - Don't Tell Anyone

I would like to introduce Midnight Ink author Eve Seymour, who will be sharing thoughts on her latest title (written under the pseudonym Eleanor Gray) Don't Tell Anyone and her upcoming March title An Imperfect Past.

A Note from Eve Seymour

As I write, we are fast approaching Christmas, an occasion when, traditionally, families spend time with each other.  Without putting a downer on it, by January, divorce lawyers across the globe will be filling their appointment diaries with glee! 

It’s not exactly rocket science to fathom the reason why.  Couples who ‘rub along’ during the rest of the year, separated by work and, in many cases, child commitments often don’t fare so well when cooped up for the Christmas holidays.  Throw in the odd visiting relative, second time around spouses, stepchildren and half-siblings, occasionally too much booze, and, even in the most loving family unit, cracks appear, tensions exacerbate and old enmities surface.  In short, a toxic mix is there for the taking and with, sometimes, combustible results.  So where am I going with this?

My latest novels, ‘Don’t Tell Anyone’ under pseudonym Eleanor Gray, and ‘An Imperfect Past’, the sequel to ‘Beautiful Losers,’ revolve around family ties that sustain, but can also be dysfunctional.  Conflict is the name of the game in stories, and family units provide a rich seam for writers to mine.  Where else do passions run high and hatreds deep?   And I haven’t even started on secrets.

There is a saying:  ‘Write what you know’.  I’ve never been particularly sold on the idea because what most people ‘know’ is fairly commonplace.  When writing spy fiction, I did a lot of research and reading about what I patently didn’t know and then used my findings as a backdrop for unfolding drama.  However with my Kim Slade novels and ‘Don’t Tell...’ I confess I drew on my own family background.  Grace Neville in ‘Don’t Tell...’ loses her only daughter.  I have never lost a child, thank goodness, but, as a mother of five children, I could go some way to imagining what it must be like.  I was also able to use my own childhood experience of loss to feed into Grace’s grief.  In a similar vein, Kim Slade the clinical psychologist in ‘Beautiful Losers’ and ‘An Imperfect Past’ is consumed by the absence of a mom in her life and the secrets that unfold prior to her mother’s disappearance and, later, reappearance.   Despite my assertion ‘don’t write what you know’, I appear to have shot myself in the proverbial foot!

However you look at it, Kim and Grace’s stories are everyday tales with which many can empathize, the dramatic element only necessary for the purposes of fiction.  Whatever your story, I hope you and your family have a fabulous, healthy and peaceful 2017. 

Nearly lost in a fog of grief over the fatal stabbing of her daughter, art historian Grace Neville feels only sorrow as Jordan Dukes is found guilty of murder. Days after the sentencing, Grace receives a visit from Jordan’s father, who claims that his son is innocent and a grave miscarriage of justice has taken place. Jordan’s history of gang-related violence and the fact that he doesn’t have an alibi make his father’s plea hard to believe. But then why does somebody break into Grace’s home and go through her daughter’s belongings?

In Don’t Tell Anyone, Eleanor Gray explores the relationship between a mother and a daughter, and the secrets that drive Grace to seek the truth no matter what the cost.

Eleanor Gray/Eve Seymour (England) has written nine novels under several pseudonyms. She began writing after a successful career in public relations and raising five children. She has published articles in Devon Today magazine and had a number of her short stories broadcast on BBC Radio. Visit her at

An Imperfect Past is available March 8, 2017

The past can be a foreign country and, for Kim Slade, a clinical psychologist specializing in young women with eating disorders, it's deadly, too.

No sooner than Kim returns to work after a mental breakdown, she's summoned to the deathbed of a former client, Mimi Vellender. Mimi's dying wish is that Kim finds her brother, Nicholas, who mysteriously disappeared five years ago.

Just as mysteriously, Kim's long-estranged mother, Monica, comes back into her life following the suspicious death of the judge she worked for as a live-in housekeeper. Is the sudden desire for a family reunion all it seems, or does Monica have something to hide?

Also, have a wonderful holiday season!

And a Very Happy Holiday to You!

Almost anyone who knows me knows that this is not my favorite time of the year. I find the holidays stressful. They're expensive. They take time. They take thought. Yet, I still have to do everything else I usually do and pay for all the things I usually pay for and think about all the things I usually think about.

This year seems to be different. Maybe it's because my kids are older and don't expect the holidays to be magical. Maybe it's because I don't have quite as many events that I have to attend out of a sense of duty rather than pleasure. Maybe it's because this buttercup has just decided to suck it up.

Last night, however, was a holiday event that I always enjoy: my friend Carol's annual Hanukkah party or, as it has been dubbed, Latkepalooza.

Carol and I have been getting our families together to celebrate Hanukkah for around fourteen years now. What started as a little event with her family and mine centered around the kids has turned into a rip-roaring party where a lot of wine gets consumed along with pounds of brisket and latkes. We have one friend who insists on bring Hamantaschen every year despite the fact that we keep politely explaining that it's like bringing Easter eggs to a Christmas party. They're still tasty so, you know, whatever.

Then, at some point in the evening, I pull out my autoharp and perform (with audience participation please!) the Adam Sandler Hanukkah Song (photo of this year's performance above). I won't lie. I like how everyone gathers around.I like getting the big laughs at the OJ Simpson line. I like the applause at the end.

All this is to say, I hope you enjoy whatever holiday traditions you have in health and prosperity this year.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Christmas Surprise

Edith here, feeling the holiday spirit now we have snow on the ground! This post, a short tale told by midwife Rose Carroll's niece, Faith Bailey, first appeared on the Killer Characters blog. Take it away, Faith.

I confess to feeling a bit melancholy of late. 'Tis the Yule season, after all. Everywhere I walk in our bustling mill and factory town of Amesbury people are getting ready to celebrate the Christ's birthday. Surely no town in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts decorates in a more festive style than do we.

Green garlands loop over windows. Red balls and bows adorn even the carriage traces. Ladies and girls sport green and red garments, with beribboned holiday hats and fancy dress slippers. White candles in windows light up the dark nights.

So why do I profess unhappy sentiments? I am a teenaged Quaker mill girl with a secret longing for just a touch of frippery. How I would love to wear a lacy cuff on a stylish frock and a colored feather in a smartly trimmed hat. 

Photo by Edward Gerrish Mair
Even on normal days we dress plainly and soberly, and I am not allowed to play a part in the gaiety of the season. Our faith does not believe in celebrating Christmas as more special than any other day. Our plainly dressed Meetinghouse is lovely in the snow, it is true. But it does not hold an evergreen tree festooned with cranberries and gifts within.

And so imagine my surprise when I awoke on the twenty-fifth of Twelfth Month, 1888, to find five packages wrapped in red paper and tied with curly green ribbon on our kitchen table. They were labeled with my sister's and my names and those of my three brothers. 

My aunt Rose, the midwife, who lives with us since my mother's death a year ago, stood at the stove stirring the cornmeal porridge with a tiny smile playing about her lips. 

"Rose, did thee..." I began to ask after I recovered from my surprise.

Now beaming, she held up her hand. "I believe a man in red stopped by late last night." 

My mouth dropped open. "Santa Claus? But--"

She beckoned me closer. "Don't tell the younger ones," she whispered, but his middle name was David."

I covered my mouth and giggled. Her handsome beau - not a Friend - was David Dodge of Newburyport. 

The twins, little Betsy, even eleven-year old Luke, all were charmed by their candy and  gift, as was I. And we had a bit more holiday cheer, as it turned out, when David came in the large Dodge carriage that afternoon to fetch the entire family away for Christmas dinner. 

Readers: what was your biggest Christmas surprise?

Monday, December 5, 2016

My Last Post of the Year

by Linda O. Johnston

   The first Monday of the month crept up on me.  I realized yesterday that it was almost time for me to post on InkSpot again while I was waiting for my turn to join the Winter Online Book Party hosted by blogger and Internet presence Kathleen Kaminski.  Fun event!  I offered a prize consisting of a copy of my third Superstition Mystery, UNLUCKY CHARMS, plus some superstition swag, and had lots of people liking and commenting on my posts.  Online parties can be hectic with all those posts and comments but they're definitely something I enjoy.

   And not only is this the first Monday of the month.  It's the first Monday of December--the last month of the year.  Where did the time go?  Well, I did spend a lot of it with my nose nearly against the computer screen as I wrote and edited books.  That certainly helps to make the time go fast. 

   I'm anticipating another busy year in 2017.  I've registered for several conferences already, including Malice Domestic and the California Crime Writers Conference.  I've got deadlines and new books to look forward to as well.

   Enjoy your last month of the year.  Next time I post here it'll be the new year!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Guest Post: Sue Ann Jaffarian - Rhythm & Clues

I've Got a Million of Them!
by Sue Ann Jaffarian

As I write this blog post, I am hard at work on my 12th Odelia Grey novel. Yes, you read that right - #12. Blows my mind.

I currently have 24 published books, spread across four different series. It’s been an amazing journey and there is no end in sight, thankfully.

One of the most common questions I get at book events is: How do you come up with so many new ideas?

Hmmmm, frankly, I don’t know, but I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth.

I am always puzzled when other authors say they have no idea what to write next. Not because I think that’s silly, but because I’ve never experienced an empty faucet. I have new book ideas stacked up like planes over Chicago, just waiting for their turn to land. Some are for current series, some are for new series, and some are for stand-alone novels. I hope to be writing until someone slips a toe-tag on me.

So how can a writer avoid the empty well problem? Here are my tips:

Be Observant. About everything. I look for plots ideas everywhere. And sometimes they strike me when I’m not looking. Once a billboard caught my eye and bingo I saw the beginning of a book plot. Another time I was in a restaurant, overhead a conversation, and an idea hit. I immediately jotted it down on a napkin, mid-meal.

Read and Watch. The news, TV shows, books, movies, commercials, magazine articles, social media, etc., are all great breeding grounds for new ideas. I’m not saying to copy those ideas, but sometimes the smallest detail or character trait in someone else’s writing can trigger an entirely new book idea for you. That’s happened to me many times. You’re watching a show and suddenly the old what if? hits you, and you’re off and running.

Dismiss Nothing. If you get an idea that you think is too silly or weird, don’t toss it aside. It might just be the best foundation for a book plot you ever had. Go down the path a bit and see what turns up. You might be surprised.

Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone. You don’t write romance? So, give it a try. You don’t write about the paranormal? I didn’t either until I got the idea for my very popular Ghost of Granny Apples series. If you write police procedurals, try your hand at an amateur sleuth novel. Don’t be afraid to write about things you don’t know about. You can learn.

Throw Nothing Away. If you find an article or idea that interests you, but you’re not ready to use it, don’t dismiss it. Write it down and save it. Print it out and save it. Save it in a hard folder or on your computer, but save it. Several of my books involved plots that came to me years before I actually used them. Ideas do not need to be immediate. They do not have a shelf life like milk. Even a lot of topical ideas can be written long after they occur in the news.

Add New Recurring Characters to Existing Series. This is a great way to bring in new plot ideas. Or beef up a minor character from earlier books and slowly weave them into the main fabric of the series.

Keeping it fresh. One of the biggest problems with writing a long-running series is coming up with new plots. Avoid regurgitating old ideas for lack of new ones, and look out for becoming too formulaic in your plots. Stretch your legs and your mind and be open to ideas that are different. If you don’t, both you and your readers will become bored with your writing, and it’s difficult to recover from that situation.

Now get out there and write and flourish. I’ve got a book to finish!


Amateur sleuth Odelia Grey tries to get a band back together—and get her mother off the hook—in book eleven of the award-winning series

It’s a rockin’ flashback for Odelia Grey when her mother asks her to look into the disappearance of her neighbor Bo Shank, the former lead singer for a band Odelia idolized in her youth. But when a body is found in Bo Shank’s house, everything quickly gets thrown out of tune.

Sue Ann Jaffarian is a full-time paralegal who lives and works in Los Angeles. A member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters In Crime, Sue Ann is the author of three mystery series—Odelia Grey, Ghost of Granny Apples, and Madison Rose—and also writes general fiction and short stories. She is widely sought after as a motivational and humorous speaker.

For the most up-to-date list of all Sue Ann's activities, visit the calendar page at

Monday, November 28, 2016

I present to you: Chapter 1 of A FATAL TWIST!

By Tracy Weber

Book 4 in my Downward Dog Mystery series, A Fatal Twist, officially launches on January 8, but now's the perfect time to put it on your Christmas list for some Santa preorder love! For a partial list of sellers, please see my author website:  

In case you're wondering what the book's all about, I present to you Chapter 1.  Enjoy, and please let me know what you think in the comments!

When I entered the cold, darkened room a lifetime ago, I thought I was ready. I’d trained for this day. Looked forward to it, even. I’d prepared for the hunger, the exhaustion. Steeled myself for the blood. But I’d never anticipated the sounds. The low, tortured moans of the young blonde woman crouched before me. I tentatively reached out my hand, hoping to provide her some minimal form of comfort. She growled at me through bared teeth. A feral dog ready to snap.

“Touch me again and I’ll slice off your fingers.”

I could only hope that my live-in boyfriend, Michael, wouldn’t want to get frisky anytime soon. Witnessing six hours—and counting—of Rhonda’s unmedicated labor might put me off sex forever.

The stream of invectives she spewed next would have offended a drunken sailor, which was particularly impressive considering they came from the mouth of a twenty-four-year-old grade school teacher wearing teddy bear slipper-socks and a fuzzy pink bathrobe. I inhaled a deep breath of lavender-scented air, gave her my most serene yoga teacher smile, and backed away. Summer, my doula trainer, motioned me to the side with her eyes.

In spite of my obvious fumbling, Summer seemed unphased, which she probably was. She’d already assisted in over two hundred births. This was my first.

Like a submissive wolf pacifying her alpha, I avoided direct eye contact. I glanced around the room, pretending to take in my surroundings. The upscale birthing suite was different from any hospital room I’d been in before, which wasn’t surprising. A Better Birth Association (ABBA—not to be confused with the band of the same name) was a one-of-its-kind birthing center that blended Western medical approaches with a home-birthing-like atmosphere, all housed in a converted 1920s apartment building in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood.

ABBA’s birth center had been specifically designed to meet the need of an emerging market in Seattle’s childbirth industry: parents of means who wanted low intervention, home-like births while remaining only seconds away from the latest cutting-edge equipment and liberal pain medication, should they change their minds. ABBA’s tagline read, The Comforts of Home, the Benefits of Modern Medicine.

If these were the comforts of home, my house needed an upgrade. The interior of the birthing suite had been restored with period-appropriate touches: double-hung windows, detailed millwork, freshly painted wainscoting. Live ferns and ficus trees flourished near the windows. The soft, soothing tones of Bach’s Canon No. 1 filtered through the air. A pull-out couch, a rocking chair, and an end table with a granite fountain sat across the room. The only nods to the medical nature of the facility were the hospital bed, which was covered in a purple-blue quilt, and several pieces of high-tech medical equipment that were shielded from view by bamboo shoji screens. The room was elegant enough that if giving birth weren’t a requirement, I would have asked to vacation there.

Summer squatted on the ground, leaned forward, and took Rhonda’s hands. Her soft, voluptuous curves and gray-streaked dark hair seemed maternal, comforting somehow. As if they were medals of honor—proof that she’d survived the birth process countless times before. The tired-looking circles under her eyes didn’t detract from the power of her voice.

“It’s okay, Rhonda. Look at me. Focus. Breathe. Just like we practiced. This contraction’s almost over. All you need to do is hang on for a few more seconds.”

Tears pooled behind Rhonda’s lashes. “I can’t.”

“Yes, you can. We’ll do it together.”

For the next twenty seconds, the room was filled with deep breaths, low moans, and Summer’s whispered assurances. I stood helplessly next to Rhonda’s husband, who looked more distraught than I felt.

At the end of the contraction, Rhonda’s eyes glazed over. She slumped against the wall.

“I think I should go back to the bed now.”

I grabbed one arm; Summer, the other. I smiled at Rhonda as we guided her to the partially raised hospital bed. “Whew. That was a tough one.”

Rhonda gave me a wan smile. “I’m so sorry, Kate. I never swear. It’s like I’ve developed some sort of pain-induced Tourette’s. I can’t stop myself.”

Her husband grinned. “I can’t even say the word ‘damn’ in our house without putting a dollar in the cookie jar.” He slid a pillow behind Rhonda’s back and offered her a paper cup filled with ice chips. “Believe me, babe, I’m keeping track. At the rate you’re going, we’ll have enough in there for Baby Jane’s college tuition.” He pretended to duck, as if expecting Rhonda to slug him.

“Stop calling her that.” Rhonda wrinkled her lips, but her eyes showed no irritation. “I haven’t picked out a name yet, but she’s not going to be a Jane Doe. She’ll tell me her name when I see her.”

I had to give the man extra-credit karma points for courage. Michael would never crack a joke while I was preparing to push a living seven-pound bowling ball out of my lady parts. I’d worked hard over the past nine months to cool down my Hulk-like temper, but all bets would be off in the middle of a contraction. One bad joke, and I’d probably smack him over the head with a bedpan.

If he was lucky.

“Don’t worry, Rhonda,” Summer replied. “Women say all kinds of things in the middle of a contraction. What happens in the delivery room stays in the delivery room.” She leveled a stern look at the father. “And there will be no keeping track of swearing—or anything else—Dad.”

The labor nurse, whose name tag read Tamara Phillips, turned to Rhonda. Her strawberry-blonde hair was tied back in a severe-looking bun, but her blue-green eyes radiated compassionate concern. “You’ve been stuck at four centimeters for a while now. Are you sure you don’t want an epidural? We’re going to be at this for a long time. Possibly all night and well into tomorrow.”

I glanced at the room’s Buddha-shaped wall clock. Three minutes after midnight. Ugh.

Nurse Tamara continued. “I know you don’t want Pitocin, but I wish you’d reconsider an epidural. Sometimes getting rid of the pain helps labor progress.”

Rhonda’s expression grew worried. “Is the baby all right?”

The nurse glanced behind the shoji screen at the monitor. “The heartbeat looks great. Steady as a drum.” She furrowed her brow. “You, on the other hand, are suffering. You can give birth without benefit of pain medication, but you don’t have to. We live in the twenty-first century. There’s no reason for childbirth to be torture.” She pointed to a black phone on the wall. “I can have our nurse anesthetist here with a single phone call.”

Summer gave Nurse Tamara a look. The kind Dad used to give right before he dragged me out of the room for a good scolding. She spoke through clenched teeth. “Can I talk to you for a second?”

Forced smile notwithstanding, Summer’s question wasn’t really a request. She nodded toward the baby’s father. “Dad, you stay here with Rhonda. We’ll be back in a minute.” She motioned for the nurse and me to follow her into the hall.

Summer spoke as soon as the door closed behind us. “I know you mean well,” she began, sounding like she knew nothing of the sort, “but as I pointed out to you an hour ago, Rhonda specifically asked in her birth plan not to be offered pain medication. Giving birth naturally is important to her. If she changes her mind, she’ll tell me.”

Nurse Tamara’s lips tightened. “There’s simply no reason for her to suffer. It could be twelve hours before that baby comes.”

Summer crossed her arms and stepped her feet wide. “Her birth, her choice.”

The nurse’s frown lines deepened.

The two women glared at each other in silence, each waiting for the other to give ground. I wondered—not for the first time today— if their conflict had anything to do with Rhonda or her supposed birth plan. From the moment I’d entered the birthing suite, I’d felt a palpable, tense energy between the two women. As if every interaction was the next move in a covert battle for dominance.

After several long moments, Nurse Tamara caved.“Fine, for now. But you’re not helping her.” She spun on her heel and marched back through the door.

I sagged against the wall, grateful for once that I wasn’t the source of the tumult. When I’d volunteered to be the doula at my best friend Rene’s upcoming birth, I’d thought a doula was a labor coach with a fancy title. Since then, I’d learned that the job included so much more: helping the couple determine a birth plan, advocating for the needs of the entire family—dad included—and occasionally running interference with the mom-to-be’s healthcare professionals.

I hadn’t expected the last part to be quite so heated.

“Is it always this intense?” I asked Summer.

“Work as a doula can be challenging,” she replied. “But honestly, we’ve barely been at this six hours. If I were you, I’d prepare to settle in. First babies can take a long time.”

“No worries there. I’m here for the duration.” I gestured to the door. “I meant with the nurse. Is a doula’s relationship with the medical team supposed to be that confrontational?”

Summer’s eyebrows lifted. “Oh, you mean my spat with Nurse Doom and Gloom.” She frowned at the closed door, as if replaying the scene on its smooth oak surface. When she turned back toward me, her face wore a resigned expression.

“Tamara and I have a history, but you’re right. I should back off. I’m being a terrible example for you. A doula’s job is to facilitate, not berate.” She sighed. “Take a lesson from that, Kate, especially since your friend plans to give birth in a hospital. If you want to support hospital births, you’ll have to learn how to partner with Western healthcare providers.”

“Is a hospital birth that much different than one here at ABBA?”

She shrugged. “Depends on the hospital. Frankly, depends on the labor and delivery nurse, too. Personally, I prefer home births. But as far as medical facilities go, ABBA is one of the best. It only grants privileges to highly regarded private practice OB/GYNs who support natural childbirth. Most hospitals advocate interventions, like that epidural Nurse Tamara keeps pushing. Drives me batty. Epidurals, Pitocin, C-sections … they simply aren’t needed most of the time. Natural childbirth is far healthier for both mom and her baby.”

I wasn’t sure I agreed with Summer’s steadfast devotion to “natural” childbirth. (Was there any other kind?) But she was right about ABBA, which was one of the most prestigious birthing centers in the Pacific Northwest. There was no better place in Seattle to have a baby. If you could afford it.

A low groan came from Rhonda’s suite. “We’d better go back in,” Summer said. “Tamara’s right. We could be here awhile.”

Summer coached Rhonda through the next set of contractions, skillfully holding her attention while the nurse did something I didn’t care to think about underneath the sheets. When the contraction ended, Nurse Tamara sat back and frowned.

“Still four centimeters.”

Rhonda moaned. “Seriously? Maybe I should get an epidural after all.” Her eyes begged Summer for permission. “What do you think?”

Summer’s face remained blank. “It doesn’t matter what I think. It’s your choice.”

The nurse reached for the phone, preparing to dial her magic number.

The thought of watching someone insert a three-and-a-half inch needle into Rhonda’s spine made my stomach feel woozy. From the expression on her husband’s face, he felt downright ill.

Rhonda seemed conflicted. “If I get an epidural, I’ll be confined to the bed, right?”

Summer nodded. “Yes, for the rest of the labor. Do you want to stick with less invasive options for now?”

Rhonda didn’t reply.

Summer took that to mean yes. “Good choice.” She gestured toward the husband. “You look like you could use some fresh air. Why don’t you take a break while I get Rhonda into the jetted tub?”

He took a step toward the door, then turned back to his wife. “You okay with this, hon?”

Rhonda nodded.

Summer patted him on the back. “Go on now. We’ll call your cell if we need anything.” As the door closed behind him, she pulled me aside and whispered, “You look like you’re about to faint. Did you eat dinner before you left home?”

I shook my head no.

“Didn’t you listen in training? Rule number one of being a doula: eat before you leave for the birth. Things can get crazy, quick.” She frowned. “The last thing I need is for you to pass out on me. Go to the family room and have a snack, but don’t be gone long. Bring me back a bottle of water.”

The family room was another of ABBA’s many perks: a lounge in which families and support staff could get sustenance without leaving the facility. I wasn’t sure doulas-in-training were the intended customers, but who was I to quibble?

I stopped in the restroom for a quick bio break, then headed down the facility’s light pink hallway. The spicy scent of Kung Pao Tofu taunted my stomach, courtesy of an open window and the twenty-four-hour Chinese restaurant next door.

A quick left turn later, I was foraging through the empty family room, which was furnished with overstuffed chairs, ornately detailed wooden end tables, and a large selection of puzzles, games, and current magazines. A cabinet topped with a sign labeled Snacks was stocked with protein bars, crackers, and single-serve packages of peanut butter. A refrigerator in the corner held sodas and bottled water. I smothered an individually wrapped graham cracker with a thick coating of peanut butter, added some honey, and placed another cracker on top—my version of a home-cooked meal. I popped the concoction into my mouth, wiped the stray honey from my lips, and groaned. Stale crackers and sweetening-laced peanuts never tasted so good. I slammed down three more, coated with an extra layer of honey for good measure.

Low blood sugar catastrophe averted, I pulled out my cell phone to call Michael.

He answered on the second ring. “Hey, babe. Are you on your way home?”

“Not even close. At the rate things are going, I might still be here next week. Sorry to call so late, but I wanted to let you know not to expect me tonight.”

A cupboard door closed on the other end of the line.

“Aren’t you in bed yet?” I asked.

“Nope. I can’t sleep without you here, so I’m making a sandwich. If you’re nice to me, I’ll make a batch of those vegan brownies you love so much.”

I grinned. Michael was learning. I wouldn’t complain about coming home to a messy kitchen if he’d baked something worth cleaning it for.

A metallic rendition of Brahms’ Lullaby floated through the birth center’s sound system, signaling that a new baby had been delivered. Hopefully Rhonda’s wouldn’t be far behind.

“I need to get back, Michael, but I’ll call again in the morning. Give Bella a kiss for me.” Bella’s distinctive sharp bark sounded in the background.

“Bella says she misses you.”

Michael’s intention was sweet, but we both knew what my hundred-pound German shepherd was actually saying: Give me a bite of that sandwich. Now.

I smiled. “Tell her I miss her, too. I miss both of you. Don’t feed her too many treats, and try not to make a mess.”

“Me? When have I ever made a mess?”

I ignored his obvious sarcasm, told him I loved him, and clicked off the phone.


A vegan protein bar and another peanut-butter-coated cracker later, I grabbed two bottles of water from the fridge and started to head back.

Whispered voices stopped me at the family room door.

“I told you, we can’t do this here.”

I peeked into the hall, toward the sound. Four doors down, a fiftyish man in a white doctor’s coat leaned over a woman wearing a black cocktail dress and red stilettos. The female, a mid-thirties Hispanic woman with heavily lined, deep cocoa eyes, gave him a sultry pout.

“If not here, where? I’ve been waiting in that hotel room for hours.” She nuzzled his neck. Her right hand lay flat against his chest. Her left explored significantly further south.

The man’s voice turned low and throaty. “You’re killing me.” He reluctantly pushed her away, exposing his handsome face, designer glasses, and perfectly tousled George Clooney–like hair. “I told you I’d call as soon as I could leave, and I will. But we can’t be seen like this. Not here. Especially not now.”

She ran a burgundy fingernail down the center of his sternum. “So what if someone sees us? I’m tired of sneaking around. It’s time for you to get a divorce. Past time.”

The man flashed a conciliatory smile. “Patience, Mariella. Patience. I told you. As soon as the lawsuit is settled, I’ll leave her.”

She grabbed his lapels and pulled him closer. “In case you haven’t noticed, patience isn’t my strong suit.”

This time, he didn’t resist her. Their show zoomed right past PG on the fast track to R.

And they were blocking my way back to Rhonda’s birthing suite.


What was I supposed to do now? I considered tiptoeing past the two lovers, hoping they wouldn’t notice me. I considered announcing myself loudly, in hopes that they’d scurry away. I even considered spraying them both with the nearest fire extinguisher in an attempt to cool them down before the building ignited.

Their show was that hot.

In the end, I didn’t have to do anything.

Nurse Tamara appeared behind them and froze. At first she seemed angry, but then the right corner of her mouth slowly lifted, forming a grin that seemed more contemptuous than friendly. She tapped the man on the shoulder, surprising him.

“You certainly live up to your nickname, don’t you, Dr. Dick? Can’t even keep it in your pants for a few hours at work? My lawyer’s going to love this.”

The man’s mouth dropped open, but he remained silent.

Mariella grabbed Nurse Tamara’s arm. “Back off, Tamara.”

Nurse Tamara shoved her away. “You back off, you little gold digger. If you think you two are going to live happily ever after, you’re a fool.” She gave Dr. Dick a scathing look. “That scumbag won’t leave his wife until the day he dies.”

She pushed past the shocked-looking couple and marched up to me. “Summer wants you to go back and meet the new nurse. My shift’s over.” She continued to the end of the hallway, then stopped at the exit and growled over her shoulder. “I’m out of here. I’ve had enough of this circus for one day.”

“Tamara, wait!” Dr. Dick ran after her. The heavy metal door slammed behind them.

Mariella stared at the glowing green-and-white exit sign, face locked in an expression of surprised frustration. After several long, uncomfortable seconds, she frowned at me. “What’re you staring at?”

“Nothing. Sorry.”

I scooted past her and jogged back to the birthing suite. When I opened the door, Summer and a new nurse were whispering in the corner. Rhonda squatted on a dark green birthing ball, holding her belly and rocking back and forth.

Still at four centimeters.

Pre-order your copy of A Fatal Twist now at these online booksellers!

About A Fatal Twist: Yoga instructor Kate Davidson’s life takes a chaotic turn once she agrees to not only be the doula for her pregnant best friend, but also play foster mother to two puppies. The chaos only gets worse when Kate finds the dead body of a philandering fertility doctor and Rachel, one of her yoga students, fleeing the scene. 

Kate is convinced her student is innocent, and she sets out to find the real killer before her testimony condemns Rachel to a life behind bars. But her hands are full with caring for three dogs, teaching yoga classes, and gaining an unexpected crime-solving partner. If she’s not careful, Kate’s next yoga pose may be a fatal one.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Mysteries of Thanksgiving


A quick search of Thanksgiving mysteries will give you oodles of reading options for a themed holiday weekend, but if you google mysterious things about Thanksgiving, you get quite diverse list. Here are a few.

First, from National Geographic news: Does Turkey Make You Sleepy? Hmmm... this one might surprise you!

Second, from the Daily Mail: Who's that mystery man in the Kardashian's Thanksgiving photo? I know you won't be able to sleep off all that turkey without finding out.

And finally, from NY Daily News: 6 Thanksgiving mysteries solved. You're welcome.

This Thanksgiving in addition to being thankful for my family, friends, health, and home, I'm thankful for finding a fun new genre to write--cozies! It's a blast and I look forward to writing the next book in my Dog Days series. The characters have become old friends I look forward to sitting down and visiting and getting into trouble with.

I wish you all a day filled with food, family, friends, love, and laughter.

All My Best,

Jamie Blair

Deadly Dog Days

Monday, November 21, 2016

Guest Post: Patricia Smiley—Pacific Homicide

A Police Procedural? What Was I Thinking?
by Patricia Smiley

After writing four novels about an amateur sleuth with a sense of humor, I decided to mix things up a bit. PACIFIC HOMICIDE is the first in a new series and a change of pace for me. It’s a police procedural featuring Homicide Detective Davina “Davie” Richards, a petite, red-haired woman, a second-generation LAPD detective, an expert marksman who carries a Smith & Wesson .45, and a composite of every strong woman I’ve ever known.

Most people don’t realize that patrol officers in high crime areas might draw their weapons every workday but most cops spend their entire careers without firing a gun in the line of duty. Davie is an outlier, a cop who killed a suspect to save her partner’s life.

Here’s what Library Journal said about PACIFIC HOMICIDE: "...Smiley kicks off a hard-boiled series with a bang in this fast-paced novel that sweeps readers along quickly. Davie is an engaging sleuth; her tough exterior hides a fragile heart. VERDICT This classic police procedural, with the obligatory cop humor included, recalls titles by Robin Burcell or Alafair Burke."

The Los Angeles Police Department: A whole slew of authors have written about the LAPD, many of them with connections to the department. Michael Connelly’s early books were set in Hollywood Division, as are those of multiple other authors. Paul Bishop’s detective Fey Croaker is assigned to West L.A. Joseph Wambaugh has varied the locations of his novels.

My book is set in the LAPD’s Pacific Area Police Station, which covers the Westside of Los Angeles from Venice Beach and Playa del Rey to LAX, with Culver City to the east, extending northeast to the intersection of Westwood and National Boulevards. Pac-14 is a diverse area that includes public housing, upscale homes, movie stars, and thirty-five known street gangs. It’s also near where I live.

The LAPD and me: Back when I was writing the first book in my amateur sleuth series, False Profits, I wanted to place a scene in a police station, but I’d never been in one before. That’s a good thing, right? One night I went to a Neighborhood Watch meeting and a Senior Lead Officer from Pacific Division asked for a volunteer to create a flyer for a neighborhood cleanup. I raised my hand. She was impressed with the result and encouraged me to volunteer at the station. One of the first things they asked me to do was lead a guided tour for an open house. Divine providence?

I worked with the LAPD for fifteen years as a volunteer and Specialist Reserve Officer (non sworn), mostly assigned to Pacific Division but for a time with detectives at the LAX substation and on a short-term project at Hollywood Homicide. The last five years was spent in the detective squad room. My supervisor saw potential and sent me to law enforcement computer database training, detective school, and homicide investigation school. He taught me how to investigate burglaries and thefts, interview witnesses, victims, and suspects, write search warrants, and present cases to the DA’s office. During my time interacting with patrol officers and detectives, I also learned how easy it was for the best of cops to run afoul of the disciplinary system. Those and other stories inspired PACIFIC HOMICIDE.

Set in Los Angeles: “Why write about L.A.?” you ask. “It’s so been done before.” True, but there are over three million people in the city, over ten million in the county, and over 150 languages spoken in the city’s schools. At the end of every freeway exit is a new neighborhood and another writer’s story. There’s plenty of room for everybody.

Mostly I write about L.A. because I live here, which gives me access to the sensory and cultural details of the city. But Davie’s travels won’t be limited to the city. Homicide detectives travel far and wide to track down leads. In the second book in the series, I take her outside the city and the state in search of justice.

Research: I learned volumes from my past volunteer experience, but to supplement that knowledge I read the Los Angeles Times, which provides extensive coverage of police issues. While I was writing PACIFIC HOMICIDE, the LAPD switched their department-issued duty weapons from Glock to Smith & Wesson. It’s a small but important detail I wouldn’t have known about except for an article I read in the newspaper.  Another valuable research tool is the official department website But the most important sources of information come from my contacts in the department. They tell me what’s possible, what’s reasonable and more importantly, what I got wrong. They also forgive me when I don’t take their advice.

Happy reading!

For more information please visit my website or follow me on Facebook at


Most cops spend their entire careers without firing a weapon in the line of duty. LAPD Homicide Detective Davie Richards is an outlier, a cop who killed a suspect to save another officer’s life. While she waits for the police commission to rule on the shooting, she’s called out to probe the gruesome homicide of Anya Nosova, a nineteen-year-old Russian beauty whose body is found in the Los Angeles sewer system. With her own case in limbo, Davie knows that any mistakes in the investigation could end her career. As she hunts for the murderer, somebody begins to hunt her . . . and it’s no longer just her job that’s on the line.

Patricia Smiley (Los Angeles, CA) is a bestselling mystery author whose short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Two of the Deadliest, an anthology edited by Elizabeth George. Patricia has taught writing classes at various conferences throughout the US and Canada, and she served on the board of directors of the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and as president of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles. Visit her online at

Cover Me in Darkness ready to launch

In about two and a half weeks, my first book with Midnight Ink is going to launch. Cover Me in Darkness is scheduled to hit stores December 8. Friends who pre-ordered are telling me that Amazon is already shipping.

This is always an odd time for me as it is for a lot of authors. I'm filled with excitement, dread, wild hope, despair. Will the public love it? Hate it? Not care about it at all? All of that is possible. Right now, I'm mainly hopeful because of the reviews. Here's a smattering:

Library Journal (starred review):
Better known for her lighthearted chick lit and paranormal series, Rendahl, who also writes romantic suspense under the Eileen Carr pseudonym and cozies as Kristi Abbott, has penned a hard-to-put-down psychological thriller that also offers a nuanced look at a damaged woman.

Publisher's Weekly:

Pressure at work and home unexpectedly conjoin, driving emotionally fragile Amanda to the brink as the book builds to its melodramatic finish.

Bonus: They called it "disturbing."

Kirkus Reviews:

Unlikely allies drive a story in which Rendahl (Dead Letter Day, 2013, etc.) never lets her heroine escape her past.

Romantic Times:

Cover Me in Darkness appeals to mystery lovers with by starting off with a puzzling suicide to keep readers rapt.

ForeWord Reviews:

Cover Me in Darkness is about family, loyalty, and trust. Rendahl’s writing is light and sharp, perfect for a story that moves quickly—from initial crime to deep investigation—while handling intense subject material.

So, yeah, hopeful, but still nervous.

Cover Me in Darkness ready to launch

Thursday, November 17, 2016


By Lisa Alber

Whew! OK, are we back to regularly scheduled programming yet? I, like so many of us, have been obsessed with politics for the past few months. But now, it's time to return to my writing, get back into routines, and keep abreast of the news without letting emotions run away from me.

That said, look what I have--a cover! PATH INTO DARKNESS comes out in August 2017, and it's available for preorder right here.

I love those brooding clouds on the horizon and the fact that the terrain reminds me of County Clare, where the story takes place. I have many similar photos of rural lanes, rock walls, and limestone hills.

A haunting tale of family secrets, madness, and healing in small-town Ireland

Lisfenora is known across the British Isles for its yearly matchmaking festival. But a local man’s murder and the grim discovery in his home have cast a somber mood over the town. Detective Sergeant Danny Ahern tries to make sense of the chaotic scene while struggling to set aside moral conflicts and grief for his comatose wife. Within days, he’s plunged into even darker terrain when the investigation leads him on a collision course with the Tate family: troubled Nathan, who conceals secrets within ghastly secrets, and beautiful Mari, the daughter he abandoned years ago.

As darkness asserts its grip on Nathan, propelling him toward a tragic downfall, Danny finds himself traveling down his own dark path between life and death.

Lisa Alber is the author of the County Clare mysteries. Her debut novel, Kilmoon, has been called "utterly poetic" and "a stirring debut." Her second in the County Clare mysteries, WHISPERS IN THE MIST came out in August from Midnight Ink Books. Ever distractible, you may find her staring out windows, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging round out her distractions. Facebook | Twitter

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

News From Midnight Ink

A New Cover for Don't Tell Anyone

Happy Tuesday!

We don't do this a lot, but Midnight Ink decided to recover Don't Tell Anyone by Eleanor Gray (aka Eve Seymour).  Eve took a few moments to give me her thoughts on the new cover. She says,"I'm just getting used to the cover but, from what others tell me, they prefer it to the original. Sure as hell, it's lovely to see the quote on the front.  Seriously, I think the cover captures the mood and drama of the story.   I'm not normally a fan of faces on cover images but this works because it perfectly conveys the wary and bewildered expression in the girl's eyes."

Don't Tell Anyone will be available December 8! 
 At Midnight InkBarnes & NobleAmazonIndiebound and your local bookseller.

"Eleanor Gray's Don't Tell Anyone is a book you'll be telling your friends about. The voice—and anguish—of Grace Neville compels us toward answering the question we may have all wondered: What if we don't really know the people closest to us?"—Lori Rader-Day, Mary Higgins Clark and Anthony Award winning author of The Black Hour and Little Pretty Things

Nearly lost in a fog of grief over the fatal stabbing of her daughter, art historian Grace Neville feels only sorrow as Jordan Dukes is found guilty of murder. Days after the sentencing, Grace receives a visit from Jordan’s father, who claims that his son is innocent and a grave miscarriage of justice has taken place. Jordan’s history of gang-related violence and the fact that he doesn’t have an alibi make his father’s plea hard to believe. But then why does somebody break into Grace’s home and go through her daughter’s belongings?

In Don’t Tell Anyone, Eleanor Gray explores the relationship between a mother and a daughter, and the secrets that drive Grace to seek the truth no matter what the cost.

Eleanor Gray (England) has written nine novels under several pseudonyms. She began writing after a successful career in public relations and raising five children. She has published articles in Devon Today magazine and had a number of her short stories broadcast on BBC Radio. You can visit her at

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Election Week, 1888

Edith here.

I'm writing this the day before the 2016 election, but it's going to appear two days after. Since this is not a political blog, what I write doesn't have to relate to the results of the nation's vote. So I thought I'd give you a quick taste of my fictional Election Day from 1888, which will appear in Turning the Tide, book three in this series, releasing in April, 2018.

Midwife Rose Carroll's mother, a suffrage activist, has come to visit, and the Amesbury Woman Suffrage Association turns out in force across from the poll on Election day. Elizabeth Cady Stanton has also come to town to support the women. 

Here's part of the scene:

The Amesbury Armory, now Town Hall
Voting was taking place at the Armory, a recently completed town building, and the polls had already been open for an hour. I wore my bright yellow sash slung diagonally across my torso, and Mother wore one from a previous event, since the color was a symbol of the movement. She’d told me using the color of sunflowers was chosen because the flower always turns its face to the light and follows the course of the sun, as if worshiping the archetype of righteousness. She’d brought a sash for Faith, too. We received a couple of rude comments from men we passed on our way here, one glare from an older matron, and several admiring glances from women in shops we walked by.

Now I gasped. In front of a three-story brick home on the other side of the street from the Armory a hundred women in matching yellow sashes lined the sidewalk. The women stood mostly in silence, watching men file in and out of the polling place. One demonstrator held a placard reading, “Women Bring All Voters Into The World. Let Women Vote,” and it showed a drawing of a mother cradling a baby. I wished I’d thought to create a poster like hers. Other signs read, “Ballots for Both” or “Equal Suffrage,” and number of others simply had, “Votes for Women” printed in large block letters. Many were decorated with a yellow matching our sashes.

Elizabeth Stanton stood in the middle of the line next to a woman holding an American flag on a pole and I spotted Zula at the far end handing out sashes to newcomers who needed them.

Faith’s eyes went big. “Granny Dot, this is stunning. Has thee ever seen a demonstration so big?”

I have, but today’s numbers are quite impressive for a town this size.” 

Two tall and wide arched windows flanked the arched door in the middle of the red brick building opposite, which was draped with red-white-and-blue bunting. Representatives from both the Democratic and Republican parties handed colored ballots to the men entering, the Republicans wearing tall white hats with black bands, the Democrats the same hat but with a pearl-colored band. A half dozen men held posters mounted on sticks. Several featured the President’s and A.G. Thurman’s images, and others had the faces of Benjamin Harrison and his running mate, Levi Morton. An older police officer stood with his hands behind his back, his eyes roaming constantly.

A thickset man in a bowler and overcoat approached the polls. When he saw us, he lifted his fist and shook it, an angry look on his face. The flag holder raised her standard, smiled, and waved it at him in return. It was our flag, too, after all. He turned and stomped up the steps into the building.

Edith back in 2016: Readers, what do you think? Did you know who ran that year? How about who won? What's your favorite presidential election year?