Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway: MINING FOR JUSTICE

Head over to Goodreads and enter to win 1 of 5 Advanced Reader's Copies of 19 SOULS, by JD Allen!

Hurry! Contest is open September 22 - September 29, so enter now!



Friday, September 15, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway: A CHRISTMAS PERIL

Head over to Goodreads and enter to win 1 of 3 copies of A CHRISTMAS PERIL, by J.A. Hennrikus!

Hurry! Contest is open September 15 - September 22, so enter now!



Friday, September 8, 2017

Friday, September 1, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway: A COLD DAY IN HELL

Head over to Goodreads and enter to win 1 of 5 Advanced Reader's Copies of A COLD DAY IN HELL, by Lissa Marie Redmond

Hurry! Contest is open September 1 - September 8, so enter now!




Friday, August 18, 2017

Monday, August 7, 2017

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Monday, July 24, 2017

It's Summer – Time for Book Club! A Guest Post from Julia Thomas

We welcome Julia Thomas, author of THE ENGLISH BOYS and her latest release PENHALE WOOD, to Midnight Ink's blog today! Julia shares the beauty of book clubs, especially during these sweltering summer months.

Like a lot of authors, I not only write, I love to read, too. Several years ago, long before I finished my first book, I started a book club with several friends at work. I didn't know any of them particularly well, but over time, we've bonded in special ways, discovering books that have made us laugh, cry, and grow along the way. It's morphed into something very different from our first formal book club, where we sat rigidly in a circle of chairs and discussed Julie and Julia by Julie Powell, taking turns as we went around the circle to contribute one polite thought about the book club guide questions asked. That group of women is unrecognizable from the group of friends who gather in each other's kitchens today, pouring wine and having deep discussions about our current book choices.

There are many benefits to having a book club.
  1. First, you'll discipline yourself to read more books. There were all levels of readers when we first started our book club. Some of us were hardcore booklovers who enjoyed classics and award-winning books, who had been serious readers for years. Others were casual readers who picked up a book occasionally but might not even finish it. You might think that such a wide range wouldn't be conducive to a good book club, but all of us became better readers for the journey and we learned to value each other's opinions.
  2. You will begin to read "outside the box" of your normal book choices. I'll admit, as an avid reader, it was difficult to accept some of the choices that were offered. But I quickly found that there's something to be learned from nearly every book we've discussed. We haven't stuck with a single genre, either. We've read fiction and nonfiction, mysteries, romances, literary novels, and classics; everything from Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick (my favorite so far) to The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, a surprising and thought-provoking book.
  3. You'll discuss things in books that can address your own emotional needs. Each of us has found books that we are passionate about, books that take us on common journeys and speak to the issues we face today. For every life twist and turn, there is comfort in knowing that others have gone before us and light torches for our path.
  4. You'll make—and strengthen—friendships. Readers (and writers) are so often introverts who are shy about making friends. We struggled through our first few book club meetings dealing with that very problem, and have come through it as more confident and happy women.
This summer, it's my turn to host, and we’ll be discussing Elin Hilderbrand's The Castaways. It's the perfect blend of beach read and a juicy mystery. We'll gather at my house for lunch, and one of the perks of hosting is the chance to set a pretty table.
However, we've been flexible in our book club, meaning that we don't always serve a meal. Sometimes we meet in a restaurant, or even poolside to chat about books. The important thing is that we're reading, growing, and challenging ourselves in the best possible way: through the joy of reading.


***

Penhale Wood by Julia Thomas If it's the last thing she ever does, Iris will find Sophie's killer and make her pay. On a cold December night in Cornwall, nanny Karen Peterson disappeared with three-year-old Sophie Flynn. The next day, the child’s body was found on a riverbank in Penhale Wood. A year later, Sophie’s mother, Iris Flynn, appears on the doorstep of investigating officer Rob McIntyre, determined to make him reopen her daughter’s case. McIntyre has his own personal demons, but Iris hijacks his life in order to find the woman she thinks is responsible for Sophie’s death. Following the slimmest of leads, they are soon confronting ghosts from the past and a chameleon-like killer who will do anything to stay hidden.

Praise:
"An entertaining contemporary crime novel about love and revenge."—Library Journal (starred review) and Debut of the Month

"A real gem . . . This is an excellent mystery and readers are in for quite a surprise at the end." —Suspense Magazine

"[An] eminently readable debut."—Kirkus Review

"A tightly sequenced tale with the many flashbacks expertly woven in."
Reviewing the Evidence


Julia ThomasJulia Thomas (Oklahoma) is a graduate of Northeastern State University and an educator. She is married to Will Thomas, author of the Barker and Llewelyn mystery series (Minotaur Books). The English Boys is her debut novel.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The July Issue of the Midnight Ink Newsletter Is Here!


Our July 2017 issue of the Midnight Ink, our email newsletter for consumers, was mailed this morning. This issue includes:
Didn't receive a copy in your email inbox? You can also view it here: Midnight Ink Newsletter, July 2017 Issue.

You can also visit our website to subscribe!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Not Every Bucket List Needs Checkmarks: A Guest Post from Tony Perona


We welcome Tony Perona, one half of the father-daughter writing team Elizabeth Perona, to Midnight Ink's blog today! Tony explores bucket lists...and why writing them down and checking them off may not be so important, after all. 

(Although, checking off bucket list items can be entertaining...when you're the characters of the Bucket List mystery series! The third in the series, Murder at the Male Revue, is available now!)


My father-in-law died in March of this year, just a week shy of his 95th birthday. I realize now that I never asked him if he'd had a bucket list, or if he did, if he'd accomplished all of the things on it. This is strange, considering that Liz and I write the Bucket List mystery series about older people knocking items off their bucket lists. We ask a lot of people questions about what's on their bucket lists. But for whatever reason, not him.

But as I look back on it, I don't think we needed to. The way Jim lived his life made it clear that if he didn't have a formal list, he embraced the spirit of a bucket list. He and my mother-in-law Marge (who died in 2010) were adventurous souls who were engaged with life right up until the end. The two were "bucket list buddies," even if they didn't define it that way.

Here's what I mean by "bucket list buddies:" In late 2012, two researchers writing for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology cited evidence indicating that spending discretionary money with the intention of acquiring life experiences makes people happier than spending money with the intention of acquiring material possessions. They then demonstrated that the inclusion of others is a key dimension of how people derive happiness from discretionary spending.

In other words, if your goal is to have experiences (which frequently show up as bucket list items), then accomplishing them with others makes you happier. Thus, the "bucket list buddy."

Jim and Marge led extraordinary lives. In his life span, Jim lived through the Great Depression, put himself through college, became an engineer, fought against Japan as a pilot in WWII, worked for General Motors for 40 years on aircraft engines, and raised a family that included a software developer, an engineer, and a pharmacist, two of whom were women. He retired to Florida for over 20 happy years before health issues brought he and Marge back to be with family in Indiana. Though he started with a slide rule for calculations, he adapted to electronic calculators, computers, the Internet and even a cell phone. He used a personal computer to keep track of his finances even to the end. In his last couple of months, he was asking my daughter Katy to explain the "cloud" to him.

He and Marge traveled extensively. They dragged their kids through national parks during summer vacations. When Jim was given the chance to go to Europe to work on a GM program with a British-based aircraft engine manufacturer, he packed up the family and they lived in England for three years. They extensively explored Europe while they were there. After retirement, they traveled around the US in a travel trailer, returned to Europe on occasion, and took cruises to Alaska and Asia.

Some of this took money, of course, and he was blessed to have that. But even stripping away experiences that required money, what I see in his life is an appreciation for the adventure of daily life—and sharing it with others.

He enjoyed golf, perhaps the prime reason he retired to Florida. He golfed frequently with Marge, his son Russ, with longtime golfing buddies, with strangers he met on golf courses. After Marge died, he played with the "Round Bellies," a group of retirees who were ten and twenty years younger than he was. When he had to give up golf at age 92, the Round Bellies loved him so much they kept in touch. He was an active church member, and he and Marge were valued members of congregations wherever they lived. They also enjoyed doing things for the good of their community. In his seventies, I remember Jim helped build a playground in a needy area of Punta Gorda. He was generous with his time, and he had a true heart for making the world a better place.

A bucket list does its best work when it engages its author in life. It's not necessarily about what's on the list or about how many items you can check off. Its value, I would argue—and I think the authors of the study in the Journal would back me up on this—is that it always has us looking forward to the next day. As our Bucket List characters Francine, Charlotte, Mary Ruth, Joy, and Alice can attest—along with Jim and Marge—it brings the promise of great happiness.
***

The Skinny-Dipping Grandmas enjoy a male stripper show . . . until it gets too hot to handle and nearly goes up in flames

When Mary Ruth's company is hired to cater a fundraiser featuring the Royal Buckingham Male Dance Revue, the ladies see the chance to cross another item off their bucket list: helping divorcée Joy McQueen get over her decades-old fear of men in the buff. But when fundraiser sponsor Camille Ledfelter is stabbed to death, the women must uncover the naked truth about who wanted her dead.

Proving who did it, however, will require dodging a persistent stripper-for-hire, surviving the American Legion Bingo, drinking high-end cognac, searching for a certain 3D printer, and laying bare the motives of a dangerous killer.

Elizabeth Perona (Plainfield, Indiana) is the father/daughter writing team of Tony Perona and Elizabeth Dombrosky.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Retro Rec - June 2017


With a little history, a little mystery and a little romance Kathleen Ernst has successfully penned eight Chloe Ellefson mysteries. She’ll be releasing the highly anticipated eighth book, Mining for Justice, in October. With the next book arriving in a few months, it might be fun to learn a little more about Kathleen and look back at the third Chloe Ellefson mystery, The Light Keeper’s Legacy.

Relax and unwind as we enter Wisconsin’s picturesque Door County, at the historic lighthouse on Rock Island.


Working with historic sites for twelve years, and loving it, inspired Kathleen to write the series, “after moving on, I missed the work, the places, the people involved. Enter Chloe Ellefson, fictional curator.  Every book comes from my heart, and I love having the opportunity to feature different historic places and themes within the series. And goodness, are they ever popular!

It all begins with Chloe. “She is a curator of collections at Old World Wisconsin, where I once worked. When the series begins she is recovering from a series of personal crises, and starting fresh at the historic site. She meets Roelke McKenna, police officer, while investigating a missing artifact.  They have a complicated relationship, but he’s good for her!” 

Chloe is passionate about preserving historic places and telling the stories of people forgotten. Her knowledge of history is needed to help solve the murders presented in each book. For example, in The Light Keeper’s Legacy, she does research on the lighthouse’s past residents as a dead body washes ashore. Kathleen says, “While she and I have some things in common, she is smarter and braver than I am, and much better at speaking her mind.” Which makes her a protagonist you’ll want to stand behind.

It’s September 1982 and museum curator Chloe Ellefson jumps at the chance to spend time on Wisconsin’s Rock Island, a state park with no electricity or roads. She’s there on temporary assignment from Old World Wisconsin to consult on restoring the island’s historic 1858 lighthouse.

Chloe’s research into the island’s history turns up fascinating, tough-as-nails women from the past. But her tranquility is spoiled when a dead woman washes ashore. She begins research as Chloe does not believe this is an accidental drowning. Local tensions over Lake Michigan commercial fishing regulations have sparked conflict, and Chloe believes this may be the epicenter of what’s going wrong on this little island.  When Chloe discovers a second body, she finds herself trapped alone with a killer on remote Rock Island.

Kirkus Reviews declares The Light Keeper’s Legacy as, “a good mystery,” along with Library Journal stating, “A haunted island makes for fun escape reading. Ernst’s third amateur sleuth cozy is just the ticket for lighthouse fans and genealogy buffs. Deftly flipping back and forth in time in alternating chapters, the author builds up two mystery cases and cleverly weaves them back together.” And Jane Kirkpatrick, New York Times bestselling author, praises the book with, “Once again in The Light Keeper’s Legacy Kathleen Ernst wraps history with mystery in a fresh and compelling read.” Jane, “[Marvels] at Kathleen’s ability to deepen her series characters while deftly introducing us to a new setting and unique people.”

Kathleen started writing short stories when she was about 10, “I wrote my first novel at 15 (the manuscript was awful, but the experience was empowering). Ten or twelve practice manuscripts later, I got my first book contract. That was twenty-five years and thirty-six books ago!”

She’s often inspired by authors, such as Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, Marguerite Henry, and Anya Seton. They showed her, “history is all about stories. I still read a lot of historical fiction, and of course many mysteries. I love mysteries that are character-driven and have a strong sense of place.”

Pick up your copy of The Light Keeper’s Legacy now, or start at the very beginning with Old World Murder!

All are available at Midnight Ink, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound and your local bookstore.

***

Kathleen Ernst is an award-winning and bestselling author, educator, and social historian. She has published over thirty novels and two nonfiction books.  Her books for young readers include the Caroline Abbott series for American Girl.  Honors for her children's mysteries include Edgar and Agatha Award nominations.  Kathleen worked as an Interpreter and Curator of Interpretation and Collections at Old World Wisconsin, and her time at the historic site served as inspiration for the Chloe Ellefson mysteries.  The Heirloom Murders won the Anne Powers Fiction Book Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers, and The Light Keeper's Legacy  won the Lovey Award for Best Traditional Mystery from Love Is Murder.  Ernst served as project director/scriptwriter for several instructional television series, one of which earned her an Emmy Award.  She lives in Middleton, Wisconsin.  For more information, visit her online at KathleenErnst.com.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Guest Post: Ray Daniel - Hacked

I'm not going to lie, this is one of the most useful guest posts we've ever had. Stolen passwords haunt our lives on the daily. Thankfully, Ray Daniel gives us some tips on how to protect ourselves from those pesky hackers, in correlation with his latest release, Hacked. The fourth book in the Tucker Mysteries, which is available now!


Hackers love passwords. They love to use them, sell them, and trade them with their friends. Once they have passwords they can steal identities, publish secrets, and create a wide variety of mischief and mayhem.  So, how do they get them?  Most importantly, how could they get yours.

It's perhaps comforting to know that they don't get your password because they know your birthday, your dog's name, or the names of your loved ones.  While not using any of that personal information to create a password is good advice, we don't live in a creepy world where hackers are omniscient.

Hackers have two primary ways of getting your password: they can guess it, or they can trick you into giving it to them.  Let's look at both of those approaches and then see what we can do to protect ourselves.


When it comes to guessing passwords, one imagines the hacker going to Amazon.com and trying passwords until one hits.  This, of course, does not work.  Amazon.com and other sites place limits on the number of guesses.

Instead hackers need to steal databases full of email addresses and their associated encrypted password.  Encryption takes your password and turns it into an unintelligible string of letters.  For example, the password 'password' becomes the following:

5E884898DA28047151D0E56F8DC6292773603D0D6AABBDD62A11EF721D1542D8

There's no way to figure out the word 'password' from that.  The very similar password 'Password' looks like this:

E7CF3EF4F17C3999A94F2C6F612E8A888E5B1026878E4E19398B23BD38EC221A

As you can see there's no discernable pattern between them even though they are similar passwords.  However, if I told you that my password was password but I didn't tell you whether the P was capitalized, you could figure out which password was mine by guessing.  You'd encrypt password and then encrypt Password and check to see which one matched the encrypted string.  That's exactly how hackers guess your password except on a huge scale.

Hackers regularly break into insecure servers and steal databases of email addresses and encrypted passwords.  When you heard that hackers broke into Yahoo and stole information for one billion (billion with a B!) accounts these username-password pairs were some of the information stolen.

Once they have the encrypted passwords, hackers use bastardized graphics engines to create hacking machines that can guess a billion passwords in a second.  They take your password and compare it to lists of previously guessed passwords, then they compare it to words in a dictionary, then they replace the 'e' with '3' and add numbers and letters to the end, they use advanced prediction mechanisms to create guesses from a first letter such as 's'.

Using techniques such as these hackers can guess between 60 and 80% of passwords in a typical stolen database.  If you'd like to know whether your password information is in the hands of hackers, follow this link to this New York Times article:

Or to be more precise type your email address into http://haveibeenpwned.com.

Both sites will tell you whether your information may be out there. (But, come on, we almost all have a Yahoo account.)

The other way hackers get your password is by asking for it with a phishing attack.  In this approach hackers send you an email that looks to be from a coworker or, even better, a boss or the IRS.  The message says something like, "You had better read this right now or you're screwed!" The goal is to get you to panic, click on a link, and log in to see the information.  Once you do that, the hackers have your password.  This is how John Podesta of the Hillary Clinton campaign lost his password to Russian hackers.  To be fair to Podesta, he shared the email with his IT department who told him it was legitimate when the person had meant to type illegitimate. (One cannot make this up.)

If you think you're immune to being phished I suggest listening to the Reply All podcast from Gimlet Media named What Kind of Idiot Gets Phished?. https://gimletmedia.com/episode/97-what-kind-of-idiot-gets-phished/

There are three things you can do to minimize password-related damage:
1. Use a different password on every site.  I'd worry if I had used my Yahoo password to protect my bank account.
2. Use a password manager to generate unguessable random strings to all sites and save them.  That way you only need to remember one password. (Here is a comparison of password managers: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2407168,00.asp)
3. Set up two-factor authentication on all sites that allow it.  John Podesta would have survived losing his password if he had turned this on.  Two-factor authentication requires the hackers to have both your password and your cell phone to get into your account. They probably don't have your cell phone. (Two-factor authentication saves Tucker in Hacked.)

The modern world of hacking and password can seem like a scary place, but it's not difficult to stay safe.  If you use a password manager to generate different random passwords for all your sites and turn on two-factor authentication you won't wind up like John Podesta. 
***

Aloysius Tucker vows vengeance when a hacker terrorizes his ten-year-old cousin online. But the situation goes sideways fast, threatening to take Tucker off-line for good. #TuckerGate

Promising his cousin that he’ll get an apology from an Internet bully, Tucker finds himself in a flame war that goes nuclear after a hacker is murdered. Now more hackers, the whole Twitterverse, and a relentless bounty hunter agree on one thing—Tucker is the killer and he must be stopped.
With death threats filling his inbox, Tucker battles Anonymous, Chinese spies, and his own self-destructive rage while chasing a murderer the online community has named the HackMaster. Can Tucker clear his name and build a case against the killer before the death threats come true?


Ray Daniel (Framingham, MA) writes first-person, wisecracking, Boston-based crime fiction. His story Driving Miss Rachel (published in Blood Moon by Level Best Books) was chosen as a 2013 distinguished short story by Otto Penzler, editor of The Best American Mystery Stories 2013. Daniel's work has been published in the Level Best Books anthologies Thin IceBlood Moon, and Stone ColdTerminated is Ray Daniel's first novel. For more information, visit him online at raydanielmystery.com/.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Guest Post: R. Jean Reid - Perdition

We welcome R. Jean Reid (Jean Redmann) to Midnight Ink's blog today! Jean delves into setting and why she wrote a series set in Mississippi. The second in her gripping Nell McGraw Investigation series, Perdition, was just released yesterday. 


I grew up in a small town on the Mississippi Gulf coast, Ocean Springs. It’s been decades since I lived there, but the past, our memories, the slant of the light, seeing a world new through a growing child’s eyes; keep it tightly in memory. This town and my growing up there had stories to tell. These stories became the Nell McGraw series.

There is no real Pelican Bay and I’ve stretched the Mississippi coast from 3 counties to 4 to add my fictional one. The city is loosely—very loosely—based on Ocean Springs, but mainly because it’s easier to pull something from memory (and a map) than to create it out of whole cloth. There is no town square, so please don’t ask where it is. (Ocean Springs is a lovely, sleepy town, miles of natural beaches and worth a trip if you’re in the area. But missing an expanse of green at its heart.)

The first story I wanted to tell, in Roots of Murder, was to dig back into the hidden—or forgotten—struggles of the civil rights era. When I was a child, those lovely beaches were segregated. As difficult as it is, I wanted to take a hard look at that past, at least as much as a mystery, a fictional world, could do. How do those long ago sins still resonate? The mystery genre, at its heart, is a search for justice. Too often in real life we can’t find it; truth hidden and smudged under everyone’s version of it. But the mystery novel can give it to us.

For this kind of story, the only possible setting seemed to be one based on my childhood home, a small town with secrets.

In my research for the book, I stumbled over a memoir titled Blood, Ballots and Beaches, by Dr. Gilbert Mason, Sr., an African-American doctor. It was the story of the desegregation of the beaches in Biloxi, Mississippi, a struggle overshadowed by the more bloody violence going on in other parts of the state.

My parents are long gone. I can’t ask them what it was like, even if I dared (would I find answers I didn’t want to find?) I only had small clues, some only later revealing themselves. In 8th grade, I was given an assignment to ask my parents to name someone they admired, a historical figure. My mother chose Eleanor Roosevelt. Only later, did I realize what a major statement that was for Mississippi in the late sixties. (The state was still fighting Brown v. Education, finally losing at the Supreme Court in 1969.) Eleanor Roosevelt, who resigned from the Daughters of the American Revolution, when it refused to let the African-American singer Marianne Anderson perform in its hall. Who climbed into a bi-plane with one of the Tuskegee Airmen to show her utter confidence that they could fly as well as any white pilot.

In Dr. Mason’s book, he only named those who helped support him in his struggle. I saw the name of my pediatrician, my mother’s cancer doctor, others that were part of my parent’s social circle.

A small kindness, to find that perhaps in that flawed time with its all too flawed men, my parents, had at least been part of those who were willing to hope for a better world. They weren’t fighters for civil rights, not on the front lines. Even in my sealed childhood world, I would have remembered that. I can’t claim any great heroism from my family—only that perhaps they weren’t as flawed—shading into evil—as many in that time and place.

And I had to write a story that helps, in a very, very small way, to atone for the sunny days at the beach that were denied to others. To remind us that, as Faulkner says, ‘The past is never gone; it’s isn’t even past.”

That was the genesis of Nell McGraw and Pelican Bay. (Please note, it’s a large small town and part of the well populated Gulf Coast area, keeping the murder rate well below that of Cabot Cove.)

In Perdition, the second Nell McGraw, I also wanted to draw on secrets, the assumptions we make about others, especially when we think we know them.

Mississippi, and my memories, still have stories to tell. 
***

What happens when a killer who can’t be caught threatens to kill your children next?

A town and a mother are forced to confront their worst fears in this hair-raising suspense novel from the author of Roots of Murder.

Newly widowed mother Nell McGraw struggles with her outsider status as she runs the newspaper founded by her husband’s grandfather. But a paper can’t turn away from the stories that others ignore, like the body of a child found in the Gulf. At first it seems tragic, a child lost because of carelessness.


Then another child goes missing.

Disgusted by the turf war between the sheriff and the police chief, Nell barely manages to keep her journalistic distance . . . until the killer contacts her, telling her that her children could be next. Now Nell must match wits with a psychopath who taunts her, daring her and the police to catch him before he can kill again.

R. Jean Reid lives and works in New Orleans. She grew up on the Mississippi Gulf coast. As J.M. Redmann, she is the author of multi-Lambda Award-winning Micky Knight Mystery series, including The Intersection of Law and Desire, Death of a Dying Man and Ill Will. Her day job is in public health as the director of prevention at NO/AIDS Task Force. You can visit her at www.RJeanReid.com.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Guest Post: Amanda Flower - The Final Vow

Join Amanda Flower as she shares a peek into the life of Laura Fellow, a character in Amanda's latest Living History Museum Mystery, The Final Vow. There's also a recipe included!



Most of the year, I'm a high school history teacher, but during the summer, I dress up in long skirts and shirtwaists as a historical interpreter at Barton Farm. In this getup, I pretend to be living in 1863 and spout off mostly accurate Ohio and America Civil War history. My best friend, Kelsey Cambridge, is the director of Barton Farm, and she always tells me not to share bad historical facts. My philosophy is different. If I can make a student or visitor think by feeding them questionable facts, that’s when really learning can occur. The ability to question something lead to true critical thinking. Unfortunately, Kelsey doesn’t see it that way and thinks the Farm will be sued some day for my misrepresentation of history. She worries too much.

Another aspect of my job at Barton Farm is to cook meals in a hearth, so that tourists can taste test the delicacies of years gone by. To be honest, it's hot and steamy work. There are no air conditioning in any of the historical buildings on Barton Farm where I cook. The recipes are usually labor intensive and need my constant attention, which means many long hours over the fire. However, when I see a child taste of my recipes and smile, it is all worth it because now that child has a taste for history. As a history teacher and historical interpreter, I can’t think of anything better.

However this year, a typically peaceful summer of stories and recipes at Barton Farm has been interrupted with the upcoming wedding of Eddie Cambridge and Krissie Pumpernickel. Yes, you read that last name right. It’s the same as Kelsey. She is hosting her ex-husband’s wedding at Barton Farm. She doesn’t have any choice in the matter. The Cherry Foundation, which sponsors the Farm, agreed to it. To make matters worse, Krissie got it into her head that she wants a Civil War-themed wedding.  I’m helping her anyway that I can, so she asked me to help her with the Civil War era menu since that’s my expertise at the Farm. I agreed it do it for Kelsey. I certainly have no interest in helping Eddie or Krissie. I even have gone so far as to share my rice pudding recipe. I sure hope Krissie appreciates it. Knowing that bridezilla she won’t.

But maybe you will. You will find the recipe below. Enjoy!

Recipe for Barton Farm Rice Pudding
Ingredients:
1/2 cup rice
1/3 cup of sugar
1 quart of milk
4 tbsp. butter, diced
dash of salt
1/2 cup raisins

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl and allow it to sit for half hour, so that rice can soak up the milk. Bake mixture in baking dish at 275 degrees F for 2-3 hours. Stir twice during the first hour at 20 minute mark and 40 minute mark.

Serves four. Serve hot or cold.

***


Summer weddings at Barton Farm’s picturesque church were standard procedure for museum director Kelsey Cambridge—until the Cherry Foundation, which supports the museum, ordered Kelsey to host her ex-husband’s wedding on Farm grounds.


Ambitious wedding planner Vianna Pine is determined to make the bride’s Civil War-themed wedding perfect. But each time Vianna’s vision threatens the integrity and safety of the Farm, Kelsey has to intervene. And when she finds Vianna’s dead body at the foot of the church steps, everyone’s plans fall apart. With both the wedding and Barton Farm at risk of being permanently shut down, Kelsey has to work hard to save her own happily ever after.

Amanda Flower (Tallmadge, OH) is an academic librarian and the Agatha Award-nominated author of Maid of Murder, the Appleseed Creek Mysteries, and the India Hayes Mysteries. She also writes the Amish Quilt Shop Mysteries under the name Isabella Alan. You can visit Amanda at www.AmandaFlower.com.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Guest Post: Nadine Nettmann - Uncorking a Lie

Recent Agatha Award Finalist Nadine Nettmann shares 15 fun facts! 

Take a moment to learn more about Nadine 
and her latest title Uncorking a Lie, available now!



1. I’m addicted to Jeopardy and pub trivia.

2. It took five books, ten years, and 421 queries to get published. My advice is to never give up.

3. I decided to pursue my sommelier certification after I was pulled onto a wine panel at a food and wine festival.

4. I was in an excellent blind tasting group for a few years where we met weekly and tested each other on wines. However, the characters in my books are not based on the members of the tasting group.

5. In the photo of Decanting a Murder with the two glasses of wine, my mom poured both bottles at the same time while I took the photo. We did about four takes (and I mean, putting the wine back into the bottle and starting over) and had a lot of laughs.



6. The corks in the photo of Uncorking a Lie are all special corks I’ve saved over the years from anniversaries, special moments, or truly amazing bottles. I keep them in a vase on the shelf by my desk.



7. I can do a few magic tricks and sometimes carry a deck of cards in my purse.

8. I often eat dinner food for breakfast and breakfast food for dinner.

9. I drink massive amounts of tea (milk, no sugar) daily in an extra large mug I bought while I was in London.

10. I prefer baking to cooking and love making cakes and pastries.

11. I was once in a book club where I made a themed cake for each book. The photo is a carrot cake for the meeting where we discussed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.



12. My husband and I moved to Hawaii on a whim with only two suitcases each … and ended up staying there for five years.

13. I learned how to drive stick shift on the road to Hana, Maui.

14. My first passion is writing but my second is music and I’ve played the guitar since I was sixteen.

15. My favorite movie is Psycho because I saw it without knowing (spoiler alert!) that Norman Bates was his mother so I received the full effect Hitchcock was trying to achieve. It stunned me and sparked a love of twist endings.

***

It was the kind of invitation sommelier Katie Stillwell had only dreamed about: a dinner party at the Sonoma mansion of famed wine collector Paul Rafferty to celebrate a rare bottle. Everyone enjoys drinking the $19,000 wine, but Katie realizes it’s not the vintage listed on the label.


When she confides in Mr. Rafferty, he asks her to investigate, and she soon discovers the deception goes beyond money—it includes an accidental death that might just be murder. As Katie falls deeper into the world of counterfeit wine, she learns everything is at stake . . . even her life.

Nadine Nettmann, a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, is always on the lookout for great wines and the stories behind them. She has visited wine regions around the world including Chile, South Africa, Spain, Germany and every region in France. Nadine is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. She lives in California with her husband. You can visit Nadine at www.NadineNettmann.com.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Guest Post: Brian Klingborg - Kill Devil Falls

Midnight Ink would like to welcome debut author Brian Klingborg to our blog! 

Brian takes a moment to explain why he is extremely into writing those terrifying, scary, creepy, dark mysteries. His first thriller/horror/suspense novel Kill Devil Falls is available now.


I like my mysteries and thrillers the same way I like my coffee – pitch black.

I’ve always been drawn to flawed protagonists, sympathetic villains, gallows humor, frequent violence, and moral ambiguity.

Don’t get me wrong -- I coo over babies and puppies, offer up my subway seat to those in need and never fail to mist up when watching the “You had me at hello” scene in Jerry McGuire.  In other words, I’m a big softie.

But I’m attracted to dark-hearted tales like a sailor to a siren.  I’ve pondered the reasons why, and I think I finally have an answer.  It’s my parents fault.

Let me explain.

When I was about five, my mother decided it was time to provide me with some exposure to religion.  Not that she was particularly devout, but she was raised in a family that went to church most Sundays, and derived some sense of community from doing so, and anyway, why the hell not?
So off I went to a preschool church group.  I don’t remember what the program consisted of, but I assume it involved a few games, a couple of Bible stories, milk and cookies, and then the grand finale – an invitation to establish a personal relationship with Jesus.

What the church group didn’t know was that my father was a veterinarian.  One who was justifiably proud of his skills, and not above a bit of grand-standing.  Docking puppy tails in our garage, performing emergency suturing on our dining table, that sort of thing.  As a result, even at that tender age I was no stranger to actual blood and guts in all their technicolor glory.  So, when the unsuspecting church group leader asked if I was ready to “accept Jesus into your heart,” I took his meaning literally and freaked out. Big time.  He had to call my mother to come pick me up.  And I was not invited back.

During those formative years, my parents worked hard to make ends meet, and there wasn’t a lot of money for extras.  When they wanted to splurge, they went to the movies.  And because they couldn’t afford a babysitter, they took my older brother and me along.  That’s how I ended up as a toddler watching The Godfather on the big screen, complete with its severed horse’s head and toll-booth machine gun rub-out of Sonny Corleone.  (Side note:  The Godfather remains one of my favorite movies today.)  I also recall seeing MASH, The Poseidon Adventure, and a few other 70’s classics with rather high body counts.


I’m not saying my fondness for scary stories, noir and gore are entirely a result of this early introduction to gross anatomy and celluloid shocks – some folks naturally like kittens, while others prefer extraterrestrial creatures with acidic blood.  But certainly, in my own writing, I reach back to those childhood influences for inspiration.

For example, has there ever been a scene more fraught with the anticipation of impending violence than the one in The Godfather where Michael Corleone sits down for dinner with Virgil “the Turk” Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey?  Watch as the tension slowly, excruciatingly ratchets up to eleven, punctuated by Michael’s nervous eye-shifting and the jarring crescendo of an approaching subway train. Quentin Tarantino has based his entire film career on emulating that kind of cinematic brilliance.  As a writer, I’d love nothing more than to put my audience on the edge of their seats the way that scene does to me.


Likewise, having a front row seat at live births, operations and autopsies (animal, not human) has given me an eye for detail when it comes to things such as medical procedures and the odor of various kinds of bodily fluids.  What many people might find disgusting, or at least off-putting, was a common topic of conversation around our dinner table.

Fast forward many years and I have two children myself.  When my kids were young, I carefully curated what they read and viewed.  Nothing too violent or disturbing.  They are in their teens now, so I let them make their own choices, but I still issue a verbal warning if they are about to enter the room when I’m watching zombies or a bloody shoot-out on TV.   Thus far, neither of them have demonstrated the same love for the grotesque that I possess, but time will tell whether these preferences are a matter of nature or nurture.

In the meantime, my youthful experiences continue to inform my work.  As a parent, I probably wouldn’t have considered taking my kids to see The Godfather.  But as a storyteller, I appreciate having a deep well of visceral memories from which to draw.  Without it, I’d probably be writing about stuff like dragons and iron thrones.  And who needs more of that nonsense?  (Kidding – I love you George R. R. Martin!)


Anyway, what I guess what I’m really trying to say is -- thanks mom and dad!

***

When U.S. Marshal Helen Morrissey is tasked with collecting a fugitive bank robber from a remote town in the Sierra Nevadas, she braces for a rough trip. After all, with a name like Kill Devil Falls, her destination must be a real hellhole.

Turns out that it’s worse than she imagined. Much worse. After barely surviving a white-knuckle drive in what she suspects is a sabotaged car, she’s stuck in a virtual ghost town populated by a handful of oddballs and outcasts. But it’s not until her prisoner turns up dead that Helen realizes she’s in real trouble. There are secrets buried below the surface of Kill Devil Falls. Secrets worth killing for.


Brian Klingborg works in the educational publishing field. He’s written books on Kung Fu, and he wrote for the Winx Club television series. Kill Devil Falls is his first novel. He lives in New York City. You can follow Brian on Twitter: @OjiiKlingborg.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Guest Post: Steve Hockensmith - Give the Devil His Due


Give the Devil His Due, the third entry in the Tarot Mystery series by Steve Hockensmith with Lisa Falco, came out this month, and to celebrate we asked Steve to stop by the blog and share some thoughts on the book. As you’ll see, he had a lot to share about not having a lot to share.


Point Blank

I have nothing to say. Which is really saying something. Aren’t writers supposed to write because they’re burning with a feverish desire to share their most passionate feelings and important ideas?

Nope. That’s internet trolls. Oh, and some writers, too. But not me.

I do have passionate feelings. “Love Actually” is terrible! “The Big Lebowski” is wonderful! Wheat beer is an abomination! Stout is the stuff of life! See? But did I make the world a better place by sharing all that? Did I change your mind about anything? Did I get you to buy my latest book? I doubt it.

I have ideas, too, but I don’t presume that they have any importance. A lot of them are about books and stories I (or someone) should write, and that ain’t gonna change the world. My ideas about life and people and politics are important, I suppose, but they’re not original. Other people are saying the same thing — and getting shouted at by people who have different ideas about life and people and politics.

I don’t like being shouted at. If I were the renegade cop in a ‘70s movie — the one called in to see the precinct captain, who barks something like “You’ve really screwed the pooch this time, McCloskey! That was the mayor’s son you just shot!” — I’d whimper and turn in my badge and gun immediately. (Even before the later scene where the captain tells me to turn in my badge and gun because I just threw the mayor off a bridge.)

Yet we can’t help but say something sometimes, even when we don’t think we’re opening up our big yaps. Cozy mysteries get knocked because they’re supposedly disposable escapist fluff. Well, allow me to actually say something: Hurrah for supposedly disposable escapist fluff! And supposedly disposable escapist fluff can make a statement — even when it doesn’t have a point per se beyond entertainment — because it’s a reflection of its creator.

Or creators in the case of the tarot mystery books I do with Lisa Falco. Lisa, a knowledgeable and sincere tarot expert, came up with the general idea for the series: a tarot reader uses her skills with the cards to help her clients. Then I, a cynical writer, added my own spin: Why not make the protagonist a reformed con artist so we can show how the tarot can be abused? A lot of the people peddling prognostication are charlatans. Shouldn’t the books reflect that?

And they do…while simultaneously offering readers a “How to –” guide for using the tarot. So what is it that says? Maybe “The tarot is a cool tool for finding personal insights, but don’t forget it can be used to manipulate you, too.”

The books don’t hit you over the head with that message, though. Because at the end of the day, here’s the main thing I’m trying to say to our readers — the real point of all the writing I do:

Enjoy!

***

Alanis McLachlan, reformed con artist turned tarot reader, gets paid for predicting the future—too bad she didn’t see all the trouble in hers. First a figure from her past tries to drag her back into the life of crime she thought she’d le behind. Then a new suitor tries to sweep Alanis off her feet, threatening her on-again, off-again romance with hunky teacher Victor Castellanos. And there’s the little matter of the ominous reading she gives to a new client, which could have deadly consequences. Danger is in the cards for Alanis, and she’ll need all her skills at reading both people and tarot if she’s going to survive.

Steve Hockensmith is the author of between fourteen and nineteen books (he’s lost count), including the first two entries in the Tarot Mystery series (The White Magic Five and Dime and Fool Me Once) and the Edgar finalists Holmes on the Range and Nick and Tesla’s Secret Agent Gadget Battle.

He can be found on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/steve.hockensmith.7

And on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/MrHockensmith

And his website is here: http://www.stevehockensmith.com


And this is a cat eating a banana: