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