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?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Unlucky Charms' First Month

by Linda O. Johnston

Once again the first Monday of the month turns out to occur during the second week.  Happy November, everyone!  Hope you're all ready for the year to end soon.  It's certainly going fast.

As I said last month, my third Superstition Mystery, UNLUCKY CHARMS, was released on October 8.  Fun!   

To help introduce it, I did my standard and enjoyable blog tour and also guest blogged where invited.  I attended in-person events and visited bookstores to sign copies and leave bookmarks.  If there weren't any copies, I requested that they order them, and most managers were highly accommodating, at least in my local area.

I introduced it on Facebook, my standard social media resource.  I know a lot of you reading this use other social media as well but when I've tried others I wind up going back to focus on FB.  My quirk, perhaps, but I think it works well for me.

Since the release, I also took a family trip to Indiana and New York City.  When I could, I also popped into bookstores there and at least left bookmarks.  It was fun to see UNLUCKY CHARMS in bookstores both in Indiana and NYC.

So... UNLUCKY CHARMS is being lucky for me.  My fingers are crossed that all of you have a great November, too.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Guest Post: C.S. Challinor - Judgment of Murder

The Story Behind the Story
by C.S. Challinor

C.S. Challinor, author of the Rex Graves Cozy Mystery series, tells all in her blog post, "The Story Behind the Story."

The recent updating and revamping of my author website at (plug, plug) prompted the subject of this blog, which I trust you will read with the breathless anticipation you would feel for a new season of “Downton Abbey.”

Christmas Is Murder (2008) was the debut novel for my mystery series, which features Scottish barrister-sleuth, Rex Graves QC, and there was some debate at Midnight Ink as to whether it might prove too seasonal, and thereby have a limited shelf life. The acquisitions editor at the time prevailed, and it still sells best of all the Rex Graves titles to-date. I heavily brainstormed the title for that particular novel, as when naming one’s first child. It wasn't, in fact, intended to be the first book in the series. I had started writing Murder in the Raw, but the Christmas idea just sort of took over.

For Murder in the Raw (2009) I really did spend three weeks au naturel (with my husband) at an exclusive naturist resort on Saint Martin in the French West Indies, the setting for the novel. It was the best beach on the island, picture postcard perfect, and when in Rome... Would I do it again now, a decade later? Probably not. For my conservative Scots barrister, it was certainly an eye-opener.

After Phi Beta Kappa came out in 2010, I had several members of the Phi Beta Kappa Society write to my website informing me that theirs was the most prestigious and oldest existing academic honor society in America, founded at The College of William and Mary in 1776. My fraternity at a private university in Jacksonville, Florida, is quite the reverse. I should have called it Phi Beta Kaput, or similar, to avoid any confusion. Mea culpa. I was educated in the UK, and we didn't have "Greek" sororities and fraternities, though I did study ancient Greek in school and can still recite the entire alphabet. My husband who went to a non-ivy league college in Florida came up with the ΦBK, simply because the letters readily sprang to mind. One member of the illustrious society and a fan of my books, bless her, actually took the time to go through each Rex Graves book and send me a list of editorially missed typos for the “Errata” section on my website, an honor indeed.

Murder on the Moor (2011). In 2010, I returned after a long absence to the Scottish Highlands, which I used to visit as a child when living near Edinburgh from age four to fourteen. I picked out the precise spot for Gleneagle Lodge, Rex's fictional “retreat” on a loch near Spean Bridge, a village known to tourists as the crossroads of the Highlands. The euphemistically-termed retreat hosts two separate murderous events in the series and all the ensuing mayhem. I took numerous photos and made a map of the surrounding untamed countryside to refer to for Murder on the Moor and, later, Murder at Midnight.

Murder of the Bride (2012). You will always find a disclaimer at the front of a work of fiction to the effect that any resemblance of characters in the novel to people in real life is purely coincidental. Not so much. Writers inevitably draw on people they have known or met, if only in one or two physical or personality traits. A character in my wedding mystery is loosely based on someone I knew, although the fictitious person is different in nationality, age, profession, and impending familial status. I just couldn't help myself. Most authors leave a little of themselves in their books, subconsciously dipping into the great computer that is the brain where memory lies dormant, and recapturing fragments.

With Murder at Midnight (2014), I tried to emulate Christmas Is Murder, the first novel in the series, but as a New Year's Eve murder mystery; although I was aiming for more sinister and foreboding. The sort of ending I thought, retrospectively, I should have put in, I incorporated into a subsequent novel. I sometimes wish rewriting real life could be so easy!

A third of Murder Comes Calling (2015) was written on the deck of a cruise ship on the way to Aruba. While solving a spate of murders in a sleepy community in central England, Rex’s fiancée takes this same Caribbean cruise. I would get up early, grab breakfast before the hangover rush, and scribble away in a small legal pad on the newly scrubbed deck. This would go on for hours. I was in the “zone,” which I attribute to the invigorating sea breeze. Traveling is my passion. My son is a licensed boat captain, but I hardly ever get to go out on his boat. If I had my own vessel, I would probably call it Wanderlust. (I just love naming things.)

Judgment of Murder (Nov 8, 2016; Election Day!!) evolved from a short story. The publisher asked if I had a new Rex Graves novel in the works. At the time, I was writing a short story featuring my indefatigable and problem-solving barrister-sleuth. My head was in it, so away I went. The initial plot was about the murder of Lord Gordon Murgatroyd, a once redoubtable judge, in Canterbury, England (where I attended university). I added the abduction of a young girl in nearby Dover, of White Cliffs fame. Somehow the two plots forged together and a book was born of a story.

When people ask where I get my ideas from, I can never come up with a single answer. It starts from a concept (such as a snowbound hotel, a fatal wedding reception, a targeted community of homeowners); a place (a luxury resort, a Florida college); a mood (a desolate moor, a murder on the final midnight of the year); a name (a judge whose surname sounds like murder).

The next Rex Graves novel, which I'm within tantalizing sight of finishinghopefully before Christmaswas based on what I decided was a totally brilliant idea, and I even have a brilliant title for it, not an easy feat, since my titles are never more than four words, including any definite article and preposition, and must feature the all-important word MURDER. The second most important word aims to give an inkling as to what the mystery is about. A bit of alliteration can help give it a good ring. I write more confidently when I have a satisfactory title locked down. It's my signpost. It informs the story and keeps me on track.

Thank you for letting me share some of my inspirations and experiences with you.

Happy writing and reading!

It’s a dark day for Scottish barrister Rex Graves when he learns that Lord Gordon Murgatroyd has passed away. Referred to as “Judge Murder” by Rex’s colleagues, the famously severe judge supposedly died of natural causes—but his daughter Phoebe thinks otherwise. Wanting to honor the man who’d always been uncharacteristically kind to him, Rex thinks it would be a good idea to follow up on Phoebe’s suspicions . . . until a meeting with his first suspect. With a target on his back and a child abduction case gripping the region, Rex fears that the judge’s death won’t be an isolated incident.

C.S. Challinor (Florida) was educated in England and Scotland, and has traveled extensively.  Her short stories have been published in women’s magazines in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Visit all of C.S. Challinor's titles at

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Dying to Kill My Darlings

Kill ’em! Kill ’em all! Die my darlings, die!

Phew, now that I got that out. Let me explain.

William Faulkner—you know, that slouch author—is famed for many things like his 1949 Nobel for Literature and The Sound and the Fury not least among them. He is also noted for giving perhaps the most sage advice authors can get—“In writing, you must all kill your darlings.” A truer statement has never been made. Oh, Bill, what a guy ... if only I'd listened to you sooner.
Lesson for new authors and writers—be careful loving your own characters and story too much. When you do, three things happen: first, you can’t see your own story flaws; second, your agent and editor will see them and it hurts to hear; and third—the most painful one—you must kill them. Kill the characters you don’t need. Kill the subplot that gets in the way. Kill the clever chapters and cool action scenes that were dynamite to write and fun to read but truly don’t matter to the story.

Yes. You must kill. Coldly, with extreme prejudice.

Can you tell I’m a mystery and thriller writer? Just talking about killing my characters and subplots makes me tingle all over. (Not really, but it’s fun to say.)

This past summer, I failed to take my own advice. Yes siree, I totally let my own perceptions and love of the characters get in the way of a better story—almost. If not for my agent, the lovely and magnanimous Kimberley Cameron, I would have blown it. She saw my flaws for what they were—and the knives came out!

Let me explain.

I recently completed my new thriller, Double Effect. I’d written the original version a couple years ago with my mentor, Wally. It was written as a murder mystery with a terrorism subplot. I loved the original story and so did Wally. Unfortunately, sitting for a couple years while writing my mystery series, the Gumshoe Ghost, ended up dating the story too far back and I had to rewrite it. As I did, my mentor suddenly passed away. It was crushing to me and literally on his deathbed, he gave his last counsel on my writing—finish Double Effect as a thriller and get the damn thing done!

Off I went and there was where the trouble began. Double Effect was originally the story of a Latino street gang caught up with a cell of terrorists plotting to attack the US. The gang and the cell were at cross purposes and it caused hell to pay. Oh, there were other facets—a vixen FBI agent stumbling around, a corrupt cop, a wayward gang leader with a blood lust, and even a cell of foreign government operatives with their own agenda. All of them were in conflict with the hero, a long forgotten government operative who returned home to witness his brother’s murder. Confused yet? You should be. My agent was. My editor was. Regrettably, and the reason for this blog … I wasn’t.

I think authors suffer from the same illness sometimes. We know our stories too well and even after edits on edits, we have the story so fixed in our heads that we forget the edits changed things. So, after two full edits and rewrites of my story, all the subplots were twisted together and I totally failed to see it. I knew the underlying story and it was clear to me. I knew the characters and how they thought and moved through the story. I got it. It was great!

Ah, no. It wasn’t. It had potential, but only after a good bloodletting.

When my agent told me that she liked the underlying story but couldn’t get connected to the subplots, I was taken aback—aghast! What? Kill my characters? Lessen the subplots? How could you even think such a thing? I tried to explain… and I found myself tied in knots. Gulp. I’d created Frankenstein the subplot! So many moving pieces and part mystery, part thriller, and 100 proof too dense. It was two novels, not one. I just hadn’t seen it. My brain knew the story and the characters too well. I was hostage to my own novel. Those characters held me. Controlled me. Refused to allow me to let them go.

Alas, there was only one thing to do. I found a new story-line editor—enter the amazing and gifted Terri—and within a couple weeks, she untangled my story and gave me my marching orders. Cut. Kill. Rewrite. Focus …

It was painful reading her ideas and changes. There would be blood. Lots of blood. An entire subplot would require surgical extraction—a beheading of grammatical proportions! It was going to be a long few weeks and sleepless nights. Crying and teeth gnashing. Oh the horrors! Of all the humanities!

Then, one night about three a.m. (I sleep very little when I’m working on a book), it struck me like a bullet … they were right. It was time to kill them … kill them all. Those little darlings of mine who had corrupted me and forced me to protect them.  By six that morning, I’d gone through my outline and hacked away at what I needed to do. I compared my slaughter to what my new editor wanted and it was damn close. Then, through the tears and whimperings of those characters I’d given life to, it began.

Now, for the past two weeks—weekends and late night hours until I am ready to drop—I’ve cut and slashed and killed off a chunk of Double Effect. As I continued, an amazing thing began to take place—clarity. I no longer had to justify this character or that one. I didn’t have to find a way to connect one subplot into the ending. It was painful. Bloody painful. It felt like I’d killed my best friends and had to disavow parts of my own life. But as the rewrite continues, I’m having fun with it … challenging myself at every chapter to see if something should go. I fear what I’ve become … a serial killer?

So, here’s the moral to the story for anyone who listens. Kill ’em. Kill ’em all. Step back from your own work for a few weeks before you read it again. Ask three questions for each character: does it matter if they aren’t there? What do they contribute to the ending and plot? What if I just got rid of them, what would happen? If you find yourself searching for the answers, kill ’em. And for those subplots you love so much, three more questions: How does this strengthen the ending? Does it move the story faster or slower? And of course, what if I just pulled it out—would the story notice? Again, if your heart isn’t palpitating on the answers … kill ’em.

So, for you finishing your book, sit the story down for a while. Come back in a few weeks and bring your courage. Kill ’em … kill ’em cold and fast. Kill those little darlings before they kill you.

We’ll talk again next month.

Tj O’CONNOR IS THE GOLD MEDAL WINNER OF THE 2015 INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS BOOK AWARDS (IPPY) FOR MYSTERIES. He is the author of Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, and Dying to Tell—and New Sins for Old Scores, a new paranormal mystery coming in 2017! He recently finished his new thriller and is beginning three sequels to previous series. Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism, investigations, and threat analysis—life experiences that drive his novels. With his former life as a government agent and years as a consultant, he has lived and worked around the world in places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and throughout the Americas—among others. He was raised in New York's Hudson Valley and lives with his wife and Lab companions in Virginia where they raised five children. Dying to Know is also the 2015 Bronze Medal winner of the Reader’s Favorite Book Review Awards, a finalist for the Silver Falchion Best Books of 2014, and a finalist for the Foreword Review’s 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award.

Learn about Tj’s world at:
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