Monday, December 25, 2017

My Christmas Gift to you: Chapter 1 of Pre-Meditated Murder

Merry Christmas, everyone!  Without further ado, I present to you the first chapter of Pre-Meditated Murder.  It officially releases on January 8, but it is available for pre--order now! Let me know what you think!


 
CHAPTER 1:
 
I slipped through the restroom door, leaned my back against the counter, and tried—unsuccessfully—to slow the pounding in my chest.

Dad’s voice echoed inside my head. Take it easy now, Kate-Girl. Remember what Rene told you. You have to act like everything’s normal. You don’t want to ruin tonight for Michael.

Almost three years after his death, Dad was still right. Tonight wasn’t about me. At least not just about me. It was Michael’s night, too. Or it would be, provided I didn’t die of heart failure.

Public restroom or not, I could think of worse places to die. The floor’s shiny black marble was spotless. A trio of lavender-scented candles cast dancing light beams across the matching countertop. The purple blooms of a phalaenopsis orchid cascaded from a dark green plant in the corner. The place even sounded inviting, thanks to soothing classical music floating through hidden speakers.

Normally, I would have been enchanted by the room’s painstaking ornamentation. Not today. Today, I was too busy trying not to hyperventilate to revel.

My adrenaline-laced anticipation surprised me, especially since I’d spent almost a year avoiding the very conversation Michael and I were about to have. Then again, maybe I was worked up because I’d been avoiding it for so long. Until recently, I’d had no idea how important our future was to me.

Maybe a relaxing breath practice would help me calm down. I closed my eyes and inhaled, mentally coaching myself as I would one of my yoga students. Inhale and slowly count to four. One, two, three, four. Exhale, one, two …

A few cycles later, my heartbeat slowed. The chattering of my monkey mind subsided. My hands were still trembling too hard to touch up my makeup, so I picked stray dog hairs off the black cocktail dress I’d borrowed for the evening and ran a comb through my shoulder-length hair. I smiled to make sure lipstick hadn’t coated my teeth, pinched my cheeks to give them some color, and headed back to join Michael at our table.

Every part of SkyCity, the Seattle Space Needle’s upscale restaurant, had been designed to seduce multiple senses. The heels of my three-inch stilettos sank into the lobby’s lush oriental carpet. Notes from a baby grand piano caressed my eardrums. Swirls of color burst from a Chihuly painting, exploding the piano’s overture on canvas. A kaleidoscope of scents arranged and rearranged themselves in my nostrils, creating a fluid collage: garlicky pasta Alfredo, musky perfume, the sweet floral bouquet of deep red roses.

For most Seattleites, dinner at SkyCity was reserved for special occasions. For practically broke small business owners like Michael and me, the experience might be once in a lifetime. But man, was it worth it. SkyCity served more than delicious food. It provided unparalleled atmosphere and a rotating, panoramic view of the entire city.

Any other evening, I would have been glued to my seat for every one of the forty-seven minutes it took for the restaurant to complete a full rotation. Any other evening, I would have been transfixed by the view: toy-like rooftops, tiny ferries, the stark lines of the Olympic Mountains. Any other evening, I would have been drunk on the surroundings before I took my first sip of champagne.

This evening, however, I’d barely noticed any of it. I hadn’t even tasted the pasta I’d picked at for dinner. I was too preoccupied. Waiting. Waiting for Michael to stop pretending that we were here to celebrate my thirty-fourth birthday. Waiting for him to pull out the jewelry bag that Rene had spotted him carrying two days ago. Waiting for him to ask me to marry him.

Michael stood and pulled out my chair, grinning. “You were gone for an awfully long time. I was about to send in a search party.”

“Sorry about that.”

I glanced at him over my wine glass as he nodded discreetly to our waiter. On a bad day, Michael was pretty darned handsome, and today was far from a bad day. His sexy, blue-green eyes sparkled. The tailored suit he wore accented his broad shoulders and six-foot-tall frame. Curly brown hair brushed delightfully above his ear lobes, as if daring me to nibble them. Unmentionable body parts tingled. If Michael didn’t hurry up and give me that ring soon, I might consummate our engagement before the proposal.

I grinned. Now wouldn’t that give new meaning to SkyCity’s 360-degree view.

“Care to let me in on the joke?” Michael asked.

“Sorry. Nothing. I was just thinking about how happy I am.”

As if on cue, a line of wait staff approached our table. One carried a huge ice cream concoction enveloped in a thick dry-ice fog. Another brandished a bottle of my favorite bubbly and two crystal champagne flutes. The rest surrounded our table in a black-and-white semicircle. Conversations around us grew muted as people stopped eating to watch the theatrics. I felt my face redden. Leave it to Michael to embarrass me with a grand gesture.

Michael grinned like a madman; a cork popped through the air; the entire restaurant burst into song.
“Happy birthday to you …”

Huh?

Ten seconds later, I blew out the candle and watched as the wait staff disappeared. The other diners resumed their conversations.

I surreptitiously picked through the ice cream, hoping to find buried treasure. Nothing but frozen dairy products and chunks of rich dark chocolate. No diamond lurked in the bottom of my champagne glass, either. My unmentionables stopped tingling, replaced by an awkward unease. Could Rene have been wrong?

Michael leaned across the table and clinked his glass against mine. “Happy birthday, Kate. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.”

The smile I flashed back felt so stiff, it could have been molded from plastic. “Tonight has been wonderful, Michael, truly. The flowers, the dinner, the champagne …” My voice trembled. “Everything.”

Michael frowned, confused. “What is it? Don’t like the dessert? The reviews said it wasn’t too rich, so I asked for extra dark chocolate.”

“It’s delicious, Michael.” I lifted the spoon to my mouth, but pasta with garlic sauce threatened to leap for my throat. I laid the spoon back on the table.

“It was that damned birthday song, wasn’t it?” Michael grumbled. “I should have known better. I know how you hate it when people make a fuss over you. I just thought … well, I thought it would be fun.”

“It was fun,” I assured him. “And the dessert is awesome. It looks like an erupting volcano.” Tears burned the back of my eyes. If I didn’t get out of this restaurant soon, I might erupt right alongside it. I looked pointedly at my watch and waved to get the waiter’s attention. “It’s almost eight. We should leave soon to pick up Bella.”

“Already?” Michael didn’t hide his disappointment.

“The twins have been fussy lately. I promised Rene we wouldn’t be out late.”

I lied. My German shepherd, Bella, suffered from significant separation anxiety, so I never left her alone for more than an hour or two. Michael already knew that Rene was dog-sitting tonight. What he didn’t know was that Bella’s visit was supposed to be a sleepover. Rene had insisted, claiming that my engagement night would be significantly more romantic without a furry, hundred-pound bed hog.

Make that supposed engagement night.

Michael didn’t look convinced, but he didn’t argue. “Before we go, I have something for you.” He reached into his jacket and pulled out a small, foil-wrapped box stamped Trinity Jewelers.

In that moment, the entire world seemed to freeze. I would have sworn that the Space Needle stopped spinning. I was so excited—so relieved—that I didn’t grasp the significance of the box’s flat, three-inch-square shape.

Michael slid it across the table. “Go on, open it.”

My hands trembled again, but I managed to unwrap the paper, ease the top off the box, and gaze down at—

A necklace?

A simple gold heart suspended on a delicate chain. A locket.

Michael reached across the table and opened it. Two tiny pictures were nestled inside. On the left, a grinning Michael. On the right, Bella. “I know you don’t wear much jewelry,” he said, “but I wanted to give you something special. This way Bella and I will always be close to your heart.”

The necklace was gorgeous. Breathtaking, really. Michael had obviously put a lot of thought into the gift. Normally, I would have been stunned—in a good way.

But tonight wasn’t supposed to be normal.

The tears threatening my eyes spilled down my cheeks. “It’s exquisite.”

Michael dropped the necklace back into the box and took my hand. “Kate, honey, what’s wrong? You’ve been acting weird all night. I’m starting to get worried.”

“Nothing. It’s just that …” I swallowed. “I thought you were giving me a ring.”

At first Michael looked confused. “A ring? In a necklace box?” Then his face turned ashen. “Oh.”

Disappointment flashed to embarrassment, which I covered up by pretending to be angry. “Oh? That’s all you have to say? Oh?

Michael opened his mouth, then closed it again without speaking.

The silence between us echoed like a shot to the gut, but it felt significantly more painful. The waiter eased next to Michael, slid the bill onto the table, and scurried away.

“I’m sorry, Kate,” Michael said. “Really, I am. I didn’t mean to disappoint you. But what made you think I was proposing tonight?”

I stared at the tablecloth, wishing I could disappear underneath it. “Rene went shopping for the twins at Westlake Center on Thursday.”

Michael groaned and rubbed the crease between his eyebrows.

I pointed at the box. “She saw you walk out of Trinity’s carrying this. We both assumed—” My voice cracked.

The restaurant’s energy—or at least my experience of it—shifted. The room grew quiet. Sympathetic eyes burned the back of my neck. The dry-ice fog surrounding my uneaten dessert threatened to suffocate me. I gripped the seat of my chair with both hands, willing myself not to bolt.

“Kate, I will propose to you someday, I promise. But not tonight. I can’t.”

“Can’t?”

Michael refused to look at me.

Deep inside my gut, I knew that I shouldn’t keep pressing. If I kept pressing, Michael’s explanation might change our relationship forever.

I pressed anyway.

“Michael, what aren’t you telling me?”

His jaw trembled. “You know I love you, right?”

I did.

I loved Michael, too. More than I’d ever loved anyone, except maybe Bella. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to say the words back. “Out with it, already.”

Michael stared at the floor for what felt like an eternity. When he looked up again, his eyes were wet.
“I’m sorry, Kate. I’m already married.”

Tracy

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

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway: TURNING THE TIDE

Head over to Goodreads and enter to win 1 of 3 Advanced Reader's copies of TURNING THE TIDE, the third book in the Anthony Award-nominated Quaker Midwife Mystery series, by Edith Maxwell!

Hurry! Contest is open December 24 - December 31, so enter now!











Monday, December 18, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway: SCOT FREE

Head over to Goodreads and enter to win 1 of 3 Advanced Reader's copies of SCOT FREE, the first book in the new Last Ditch Mystery series, by award-winning author Catriona McPherson!

Hurry! Contest is open December 18 - December 25, so enter now!










Thursday, December 14, 2017

An Almost Rose Carroll Story

Edith here, feeling just a little stressed about the holidays and various authorly tasks also on my to-do list. So I thought I would de-stress by asking you to celebrate with me. 'Cause who doesn't love a party?

My newest story, "An Ominous Silence," came out last month in Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017 from Level Best Books! Cue the cries of "Bravo!" and pop the champagne. It is my sixteenth published story (see the whole list here on my beautifully rehabbed new web site), and I have one more  story accepted for publication next spring.

So I thought I'd tell you the origin story behind the, well, story. Get comfy, kids, and put up your feet.

Five of my short crime stories feature Quaker midwife Rose Carroll from my Quaker Midwife Mysteries. One was even nominated for an Agatha Award last year. I had written a sixth for this year's Bouchercon anthology, the theme of which was travel, since the big mystery conference was held in Toronto, Canada. In the new story, Rose and her apprentice are on a train to Montreal in a snowy New England 1890s winter when the train is snowed in on a desolate stretch of tracks. A man is murdered, and his wife goes into labor. Rose comes to the rescue on both counts.

I was about to click Send when I checked the guidelines one more time. Ack! Because the committee wanted truly anonymous judging, authors couldn't use characters from any published book or series. That pretty much trashed Rose Carroll as the protagonist. I was cutting the deadline close, but I still had a few days left before they closed submissions.

So what does the creative mind do? Change the names to protect the innocent, of course. Or the series protag, as the case may be. Rose Carroll became midwife Catherine Colby--not a Quaker--and her apprentice Annie morphed into Genevieve Rousseau. I changed the date to a few years after the published Quaker Midwife mysteries take place and fixed the midwife's speech so she doesn't talk like a Quaker. I printed out the story, checked it one more time, and hit Submit.

Did they accept it? Alas, no. I'm a pretty seasoned author by now, however, and the word "No" no
longer devastates. We find a new venue and try again. Lucky for me, I heard about the rejection before the deadline for this year's Level Best anthology. I hit Submit again. And this time got a hit.

I hope you'll check out the anthology, which is full of dozens of amazing authors and delightful stories. And don't forget, Turning the Tide, Quaker Midwife Mystery #3, will be out April 8 and is available for preorder wherever books are sold!

Readers: What kinds of rejection have you bounced back from, and how? Which sow's ear have you  found a silver lining in, or which storm cloud have you turned into silk (to mix a couple of clichéd metaphors just for the heck of it)?

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway: FICTION CAN BE MURDER

Head over to Goodreads and enter to win 1 of 3 Advanced Reader's copies of FICTION CAN BE MURDER, the first book in the Mystery Writer's Mystery series, by Becky Clark!

Hurry! Contest is open December 9 - December 17, so enter now!









Monday, December 4, 2017

Promotion Pluses


by Linda O. Johnston

Holiday time seems to be a good time for book promotional events this year, or at least it is for me.  There are lots of kinds of events, too.  Over time, I have participated in quite a few different kinds and have considered the pros and cons of each of them.


Why get out there and promote?  There are a variety of good reasons. 


For example, it's fun to be on a panel and share information about my stories, how I came up with ideas for them, how I wrote them.  It's also fun to be on my own in front of a group and let 'em know what's on my mind and how I do things.  It's fun, as an author, to get to know readers and other authors.  It's hopefully fun for readers to meet other authors they've read and other readers who enjoy them--and to get an intro to those they haven't read--yet.


Last weekend I was on a panel with other mystery authors and had a good time--as I'd anticipated.  This in fact was my second time sitting on a mystery panel there.  The program was held at a women's club, and a moderator had sent us the questions she would ask so it easy to prepare.  The audience was interested and interesting, and seemed to enjoy the panel as much as I did. 


As I said, I do enjoy panels. I tend to go to several writers conferences each year where I generally participate in programs, again mostly on panels.  That way the audience can choose to hear a group of authors they may have read--or want to learn more about.  And the panelists can get to learn more about each other, too.


Next weekend I'll be at a book event at a local library.  Although there are speakers, this time I won't be among them.  But I'll get to meet potential and actual readers and discuss my books with them.


And over time, I've given talks myself at libraries and bookstores and more.  I've even given a few extension classes at colleges, hoping to help other authors start or polish their work.


Long ago, when I started writing, I assumed writers just wrote and got published and had fun that way.  Sure, that's fun, but I learned from experience that writing isn't just writing.  We need to get out there and make sure prospective readers find us.  And so, though I used to be shy and uncomfortable with public speaking, which isn't surprising for a writer, I've learned through experience to face the world and an audience and talk to the crowd.



It's all part of writing... and it's fun.





Linda O. Johnston is currently writing the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries for Midnight Ink.  Her most recent one was Bad to the Bone, and the next in the series, Pick and Chews, will be a May 2018 release.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway: TOO BIG TO DIE

Head over to Goodreads and enter to win 1 of 5 copies of TOO BIG TO DIE, the twelfth and LAST book in the Odelia Grey Mystery Series, by Sue Ann Jaffarian!

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








Too Big to End: A Guest Post from Sue Ann Jaffarian




We welcome Sue Ann Jaffarian, author of the Odelia Grey Mystery Series (and the latest release and last release in the series, TOO BIG TO DIE) to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here she shares how Odelia got her start...and what it's like, after twelve (!) books, to have her end.

Recently I hit a major milestone in my writing career: I completed the twelfth Odelia Grey mystery novel, Too Big To Die. Twelve. An even dozen. Not a baker's dozen, but an even dozen. When I first set out to write the Odelia Grey series, I didn't imagine it would run so long, but along about the third or fourth book, I saw the story arc as it spanned out over Odelia's life and pitched Midnight Ink on the idea of a twelve-book series. They saw the potential and agreed.

In the first book, Too Big To Miss, Odelia was a single woman in her mid-forties. She'd built a nice life for herself, had an established career as a paralegal, and owned her own home. But she was bored.
"Rut was written all over my life. R-U-T in big bold letters, outlined in neon tube lighting." – Too Big To Miss

It was the death of one of her friends in that first book that quickly changed all that, launching Odelia on a path of murder and mayhem and even love that would be the basis of a long-running mystery series and the foundation of my career. In Too Big To Die, we find Odelia in her mid-fifties and married to the man of her dreams, but her career is teetering on the brink of chaos and there are still dead bodies.

Too Big To Die is the last of the Odelia Grey series under contract to Midnight Ink, and it is dedicated to them. Over a decade ago, Barbara Moore, then the acquiring editor of Midnight Ink, saw great potential in my work and the publisher took on Odelia and me and launched my writing career. Later they published the first three books in my popular Ghost of Granny Apples series, and even the Madison Rose Vampire Mysteries. For all of this, I am eternally grateful, no matter where my path takes me in the future.

But is Odelia dead and gone, publishing-wise? Readers are concerned and have asked me about this many times. I don't see the series as ending, but I do intend to take a short hiatus from it while I develop new adventures and story arcs. I'm doing the same with Granny Apples. I've been cranking out two books a year for a very long time, and am eager to turn my attention to new ideas, characters, and stories.

But no matter where my writing career leads me, Odelia Grey will always be my main gal pal. We started this journey together, and she's been the best friend a writer could want, a boon-companion during the long hours, days, and years of writing.


***

Too Big to Die Viral videos and dangerous criminals turn Odelia and Greg's good deed into accusations of murder

It's the dog days of summer for Odelia and Greg after they rescue a dog from a closed car on a blistering hot day. The culprit is former reality star Marla Kingston, who's married to a client of Odelia's law firm. The dog was saved, but Odelia's job might not be when Kingston demands blood. Things get even stickier when a video of the rescue goes viral, and the man who helped them winds up dead. And who is the mysterious young woman who shows up about the same time? Is she connected or just an opportunist looking to cash in on their reluctant Internet fame?

Praise for the Odelia Grey Mysteries:

Rhythm & Clues:
"Jaffarian's fun, frenzied eleventh mystery featuring plucky plus-size paralegal Odelia Grey...is a fluffly mélange of danger, humor, and surprises."—Publishers Weekly

"[A] delightful series."—Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

"More corpses surely lie in wait for [Odelia]... But it's fun to see her ditzy niece share the spotlight this time around."—Kirkus Reviews





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 www.sueannjaffarian.com.

"Sue Ann Jaffarian never fails to make me chuckle with her three mystery series starring paralegal Odelia Grey, ghost Granny Apples, and now Murder in Vein, starring friendly, and not-so-friendly, neighborhood vampires."
—Joanne Fluke, New York Times bestselling author of the Hannah Swensen Mysteries

Monday, November 27, 2017

Dedications, Gratitude, and Appreciation, Oh My!



The Monday after Thanksgiving seems appropriate to share my intense gratitude for all of the people who have helped me on the path to publication for my newest book, Pre-Meditated Murder.  Even though it's not out until January, the individuals mentioned below helped me over a year ago, meaning that this thanks is well overdue.  To all of the people who help me every day of this life, I probably don't say it enough, but I appreciate you!!

Dedication:

To my precocious German shepherd pup, Ana. Thank you for filling my days with laughter and my nights with warmth.

Acknowledgements:

The longer I write, the more I realize that writing is a team sport.

Thanks, as always, to editor Sandy Sullivan at Midnight Ink and freelance editor Marta Tanrikulu. Your insights and feedback both amaze and humble me. Thanks also to my agent, Margaret Bail, and editor Terri Bischoff at Midnight Ink. I am grateful that you were willing to take a chance on this newbie author five years ago.  Without you, my series would still be gathering dust at the bottom of my closet.

Special thanks to Jane Gorman, Brandy Reinke, and Renee Turner, who helped me understand the complex process of immigration and the particular challenges faced by immigrants coming to the United States from Mexico. Any errors are solely my own.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the town of Cannon Beach, Oregon, which is one of my favorite places in the world. I took some liberties with the Sand Castle Festival, including moving it to autumn instead of early summer, but the loveliness of the town is unchanged. I hope to retire there someday.

My husband, Marc, gets extra kudos for designing and maintaining my author website, as well as for listening to all of my grumbles and supporting me through all of my challenges. Ana Pup, the new canine love of my life, gets my eternal gratitude for keeping life interesting.

Finally, thank you to all of my readers, who keep me glued to the keyboard even when I feel like giving up. I write for you.

Tracy

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway: UNDER THE SHADOWS

Head over to Goodreads and enter to win 1 of 3 Advanced Reader's Copies of UNDER THE SHADOWS, the fifth book in the Lola Wicks Mystery Series, by Gwen Florio!

Hurry! Contest is open November 19 - November 27, so enter now!







Saturday, November 18, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway: PHOENIX BURNING

Head over to Goodreads and enter to win 1 of 3 Advanced Reader's Copies of PHOENIX BURNING, the second book in the Veranda Cruz Mystery Series, by Isabella Maldonado!

Hurry! Contest is open November 18 - November 25, so enter now!






Thursday, November 9, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway: OUTSIDE THE WIRE

Head over to Goodreads and enter to win 1 of 5 copies of OUTSIDE THE WIRE, the second book in the Pacific Homicide Mystery Series, by Patricia Smiley!

Hurry! Contest is open November 9 - November 17, so enter now!





The New England Crime Bake

Edith here north of Boston, packing and checking items off her To-Bring list.

What am I packing for, you ask? Why, the New England Crime Bake, of course. 





Now in its 15th year, the "Bake" is co-sponsored by Sisters in Crime New England and Mystery Writers of America New England. As I am the current president of the SINC chapter, I am expected to be there. But I wouldn't miss it for anything. I started going in 2006, and have missed only one year since.

Unlike some of the big fan conferences -- think Bouchercon or Malice Domestic -- this one is a writers' conference. It offers master classes on the first day. Agent and editor pitch opportunities. Manuscript critiques. Forensics workshops. The audience is almost exclusively made up of published and aspiring crime fiction writers.

So we all come to learn, to network. But we have lots and lots of fun, too. There's usually a panel where the panelists make up mysteries on the spot. Friday night there's a pizza party. Our SINC chapter presents a game, which this year is Pin the Wound on the Corpse. All attendees get a bingo card at the beginning, and have to go around finding authors fitting the description to sign each square: Writes Three Series might be one. Former SINC National president might be another. MWA member from Vermont another. It's a great ice breaker. 


Sheriff Edith with cowgirls Shari Randall and Kim Gray.
The banquet always has a theme related to the guest of honor and attendees are encourage to dress up in appropriate costumes. When Craig Johnson of Longmire fame was guest of honor, for example, we all turned out in cowboy (or cowgirl) gear. The year Charlaine Harris was our honored guest, Saturday night was the Vampire Ball. You get the idea! This year the guest is Lisa Gardner, and the banquet theme is the Red Carpet, so the dress will be of the more conventional fancy awards-ceremony sort. As with every year, there will be dancing!

And then there's always the bar. For me by now, attending Crime Bake is like going back to summer camp and connecting with people you've missed all year. Next year and the year after I will be co-chair of the conference, sharing the duties with someone from the MWA chapter, so I expect my responsibilities might cut into my fun a bit. But that's okay - it's my turn to give back.

Readers: Are you going to Crime Bake or have you? Which annual conference do you attend where it's like going back to summer camp?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Creating Characters


by Linda O. Johnston

I love creating characters for my novels. 

Or do I create them?  Maybe they create me.

There is, after all, an element of me in all of them, or at least in my protagonists.  For example, Carrie Kennersly, from my Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries, is a veterinary technician who buys a bakery from a friend and turns half into a barkery where she sells healthy dog treats that she created.


There appears to be very little of Carrie in me.  I'm not much of a cook, for one thing.  I've been fortunate enough to get most of the recipes in my books from friends.


But once upon a time I wanted to be a veterinarian, and Carrie as a vet tech has to do a lot of the things that her vet bosses do.  I realized that I wouldn't be able to deal with being around sick animals, even to help them.  And I especially couldn't handle cutting them open, even to save their lives.  So, I became a lawyer--and a writer. But I'm delighted that Carrie can deal with the bad as well as the good to take the best care of ill animals.


And believe it or not, there actually is a lot of Carrie in me--or me in Carrie.  We both love animals, especially dogs.  We both solve murders.  Of course I happen to create those murders in my stories for her to solve, but in a way we join forces to put together a mystery and incorporate it into a book that will hopefully be fun to read.


Plus, Carrie owns a dog, Biscuit.  Biscuit is always in her life.  And I am owned by a couple of dogs, Mystie and Cari.  They probably control my life more than Biscuit controls Carrie's, but that's fine with me.



Yes, there are other characters in the books who are important to the story.  There is possibly a touch of me in all of them--maybe even the murderers.  I'll have to consider that more and possibly write about that here sometime in the future.



www.LindaOJohnston.com

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway: A FATAL COLLECTION

Head over to Goodreads and enter to win 1 of 5 copies of A FATAL COLLECTION, the first in the Keepsake Cove Mystery Series, by Mary Ellen Hughes!

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




Monday, October 23, 2017

Will the Real Yoga Teacher Please Stand Up?



As a novelist, I’ve been blessed to meet many generous writers who have mentored me on the bumpy path to publication. Pretty much every seasoned writer I’ve met so far has given me one sage piece of advice: never read reviews.

I have to admit, I read them anyway.
Maybe it’s curiosity; maybe it’s excitement; maybe it’s simply my need to look for that ever-elusive stamp of approval, but I can’t seem to stop myself. I dig and I search and I devour every new review I can find. Most of the time, they make me smile. Occasionally, I learn something from a reader’s comments that will make me a better writer. Sometimes, however, a review leaves me shaking my head.
Some time ago, I came across one such review. I don’t remember now if the reader liked my book, or even which book she was reviewing. Something tells me it wasn’t her favorite. But one criticism stuck in my memory. She said that my protagonist wasn’t a realistic yoga teacher. If Kate were a real yoga teacher, the reader asserted, she’d be much thinner, more flexible, and less likely to lose her temper.
My protagonist is 5’3” tall and at the beginning of the series weighed 130 pounds, which is normal by most standards. Like many women, Kate has body image issues and hates her “chunky” thighs. All in all, she’s not a heck of a lot different than me, and she can do significantly more challenging yoga poses than I can. I’ve made my living teaching yoga for over seventeen years.
Yoga teachers (like yoga practitioners) come in all shapes and sizes. Some are lithe and can do amazing things with their bodies. Some are overweight. Some suffer from chronic illnesses and perpetually tight hamstrings. Some even start their yoga teaching career after retirement. The best yoga teachers know how to teach the students in front of them, in spite of their own personal limitations—or lack thereof. In fact, many great yoga teachers have imperfect bodies. If you can’t do a pose, learning how to observe your students and describe that pose becomes even more important.
Why do I care about this enough to write a blog article about it? The comment in the review highlights the very misperception of yoga that I’m trying to destroy: that yoga is only for the fit, the flexible, and the young. I have certified over three hundred teachers in the past fifteen years, and I have met privately to discuss Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training with at least three times that many. And yes, I've had teacher training students that smoke and most have known to have a drink on occasion.

My heart always breaks a little when an otherwise wonderful candidate decides not to pursue teaching yoga because they can’t do all of the poses, they don’t have a size-four body, or they think they are too old. The world loses a lot of great yoga teachers that way.
Is the protagonist in my book likely to grace the cover of Yoga Journal? Probably not. But perhaps it’s time we let go of the yoga stereotypes. If yoga teachers are more diverse, our students will be as well.
What do you think?

Tracy Weber’s author page
Kate's author buddy, Tracy Weber, on Facebook

Catch up on all four of the Downward Dog Mysteries.  Available at booksellers everywhere!
 
 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway: MINING FOR JUSTICE

Head over to Goodreads and enter to win 1 of 5 copies of MINING FOR JUSTICE, the latest in the Chloe Ellefson Mystery Series by Kathleen Ernst!

Hurry! Contest is open October 16 - October 23, so enter now!



Quirky Characters: A Guest Post from Jeff Cohen



We welcome Jeff Cohen, author of the Asperger's Mystery Series (and the latest release, THE QUESTION OF THE ABSENTEE FATHER) to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here he shares how quirky characters in the media are becoming more prevalent...and why that's so great.

These days it feels like we are inundated in popular culture with depictions of people with characteristics that are described as being on the autism spectrum. A young man's family deals with his autism (which probably would have been diagnosed as Asperger's syndrome until recently) on the Netflix series Atypical. A young physician has autism (see previous parenthetical expression) and savant syndrome on the new drama The Good Doctor. There is a Muppet with autism on Sesame Street.

That's just scratching the surface. Books, films, video games, and comics are all dealing with autism in one way or another, and then there are the depictions of characters whose spectrum disorders—if you choose to see them that way—are not diagnosed or mentioned. The popular Big Bang Theory's Sheldon Cooper is now headlining two situation comedies in which his "quirky" behavior is played for laughs.

All that is absolutely fine. There was a time not long ago when no one understood that those "oddballs" among them might actually have a difference in their brains. Autism was rarely discussed and not often diagnosed. Asperger's syndrome was barely heard about before the 1990s.

And it is good that depictions of people with autism are not all the same. The word "spectrum" isn't used arbitrarily; the effects of autism on a personality fall into a very broad range of behaviors. Some people with autism are perfectly verbal, in fact to the point that they seem difficult to stop from talking. Others have no words at all. In between there are countless shades of difference.

So when we decided to start a mystery series surrounding a man with Asperger's syndrome (which was a diagnosis when we started), we wanted to find a way to make our books stand out but also to offer a depiction that wasn't what every other such story might be. So we let our character Samuel Hoenig speak for himself.

The books are written as first-person narratives, meaning Samuel is telling you the story himself. Everything that happens in the course of the tale will be filtered through Samuel's perspective. And he will tell you what he's thinking at any given point.

For example, in the newest novel in the series, The Question of the Absentee Father, Samuel, who runs a business called Questions Answered (and that's what it is), is asked a question he'd rather not answer—his mother wants to know where Samuel's father, who left the family when his son was only four, is living now. And her behavior convinces Samuel that the matter is urgent.

Samuel has no feelings about his father. That's not because of his Asperger's syndrome; the idea that people with spectrum characteristics have no emotions is false. To Samuel, his father's absence for twenty-seven years has simply served to remove Reuben Hoenig from Samuel's life, and that makes him irrelevant.

But his associate Janet Washburn—with whom Samuel is developing a slowly building unprofessional relationship—convinces him it's important to find Reuben even if Samuel doesn't see the need. That will require that Samuel leave his comfortable routine, something he absolutely doesn't want to do, and eventually leads Samuel, Janet, and Samuel's friend Mike the taxicab driver to Los Angeles.

And that, Samuel will tell you, is when things start to get weird.


***

The Question of the Absentee Father "WHERE IS YOUR FATHER LIVING NOW?"

Samuel Hoenig, proprietor of a business called Questions Answered, doesn't have strong feelings about his estranged father. After all, you can't miss what you never had. But when Samuel's mother receives an enigmatic letter and asks him where his father lives, Samuel is duty bound to provide an answer.

Unfortunately, answering this question means taking a trip to Los Angeles with his associate, Ms. Washburn. The personality traits of Asperger's Syndrome make flying across the country a major challenge for Samuel. Little does he know that as troubling as flying is, it's nothing compared to the danger they'll face when they land.

Praise:

"The reader has the satisfaction of getting a mystery, a romp, and a respectful treatment of a neuroatypical protagonist."—Publishers Weekly

"Fans coast to coast can take pleasure in seeing Copperman's quirky hero remain his rational, literal self, even out in fabulous La La Land."—Kirkus Reviews




E.J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen write the Asperger's mystery series featuring Samuel Hoenig and his business Questions Answered. The latest installment, The Question of the Absentee Father, publishes in October.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Real Life Research

Edith Maxwell here, reporting on some inadvertent research I did last week. And giving away a large-print version of CALLED TO JUSTICE!

So I write mysteries featuring a long-ago midwife. Turning the Tide releases next April. Native to Massachusetts, Rose Carroll catches babies, hears secrets, and solves crimes back in the late 1880s. I had a part-time gig as a childbirth educator and labor coach a couple of decades ago. Until last week, the last birth I'd attended in any role was over twenty years ago.

Thirty-two years ago my best friend gave birth to my goddaughter, and I was in the room helping as best I could when she was born at home with the help of independent midwives. Last weekend that goddaughter gave birth to her own first baby, and once again I was there in a supporting role. I was so honored and thrilled to have that circle come round again.

She chose to give birth in a free-standing birth center which is affiliated with the hospital across the street.

Birthing figures from the birth center's living room
Over and over again through out my goddaughter's forty-hour unmedicated labor - mostly at home until the very end - I thought of Rose Carroll. Even though working nurse-midwife (and mystery fan) Risa Rispoli vets all my midwifery scenes before I turn them in, I still wondered if I had been writing details correctly.

Here are a few things I'll be incorporating in my next Quaker Midwife mystery:
  • A woman in labor with her first child looks at her husband and says, "No more babies!"
  • During the first phase, the mom-to-be goes inward with each contraction, very quietly, very stoically.
  • Before active labor kicks in, her contractions slow overnight to every eight to ten minutes, and she snoozes in between.
  • After active labor start, with pains coming every three minutes and lasting two, the woman despairs, weeping and swearing, but persevering.
  • She throws off any hand or touch that she doesn't want.
  • She pushes on her hands and knees for almost two hours.
  • The midwife checks the heartbeat during pushing, and has to get the listening device in just the right position to hear the baby's heart.
  • The woman swears and grunts as she pushes, her whole body taking part.
  • The midwife uses oil and eases the head out slowly so the mom doesn't tear.
  • Once the head is out, the baby looks around and smacks its lips together, already alert.
  • The cord is a tough membrane and beautiful, silvery and translucent.
  • Instantly after birth the mom feels better and speaks softly to her child at the breast.
I'm sure there are more, but this experience - a miracle and an honor for me - really brought birthing alive again.

Readers: Any vivid birth memories you'd like to share?  Your own or that of others? One commenter will win a copy of Called to Justice (make sure I know your email address so I can find the winner).

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Book Boyfriends and More: MINING FOR JUSTICE Author Kathleen Ernst on Character Roelke McKenna




We welcome Kathleen Ernst, author of the Chloe Ellefson Mystery Series (and the latest release, MINING FOR JUSTICE), to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here she shares how one supporting character has quickly become readers' favorite (and...gasp!..a book boyfriend!).

The protagonist of the Chloe Ellefson Mysteries works as a curator at a large living history museum. She gets involved in crime-solving because her knowledge of the past is needed to solve contemporary crimes. Since Chloe is a reluctant sleuth, I knew from the beginning that I needed a recurring cop character to handle real police work.

What I didn't know was that Roelke McKenna, beat cop in the Village of Eagle, Wisconsin, would get more fan mail than Chloe does. One woman asked, "Can I have Roelke when Chloe is finished with him?" Another reader-friend has deemed Roelke her "book boyfriend." And one man drove two hours to a signing so he could tell me, "Whatever you do in this series, do not kill off Roelke." I love comments like these!

Roelke (pronounced Rell-kee) is not perfect. He has a temper, particularly when confronting a killer. He makes mistakes. He takes risks.

But Roelke also has a big heart. When he screws up, he tries to learn and move on. He wants desperately to be a good cop–to make his boss proud and do right by the citizens of Eagle. He has a sound sense of right and wrong, and holds himself to high standards. He's a strong character. He also has his vulnerabilities.

The eighth Chloe Ellefson Mystery, Mining For Justice, presents Roelke with a moral dilemma. His family is being threatened. As much as he wants to go beat up the guy responsible, he insists that the local cops must be left to do their jobs and handle the problem. But when justice is slow in coming, and the threats intensify, he faces an impossible choice.

How far would you go to protect the people you love?

Mining For Justice features other plotlines as well. Chloe is visiting a sister historic site in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, and struggling to solve murders past and present. A separate thread presents a young Cornish woman who settles in the area and sets off a chain of events that ripple into the future. I suspect, though, that Roelke fans will particularly enjoy his story.

What do you think? Is there a series where your favorite character does not have her/his name on the cover?


***

Mining for Justice Digging Up Secrets Uncovers a Legacy of Peril

Chloe Ellefson is excited to be learning about Wisconsin’s Cornish immigrants and mining history while on temporary assignment at Pendarvis, a historic site in charming Mineral Point. But when her boyfriend, police officer Roelke McKenna, discovers long-buried human remains in the root cellar of an old Cornish cottage, Chloe reluctantly agrees to mine the historical record for answers. She soon finds herself in the middle of a heated and deadly controversy that threatens to close Pendarvis. While struggling to help the historic site, Chloe must unearth dark secrets, past and present, before a killer comes to bury her.


Praise:

"Richly imagined and compelling, Mining for Justice once again highlights Kathleen Ernst's prowess as a storyteller . . . Ernst is a master of reconstructing the past."—Susanna Calkins, author of the Macavity-winning Lucy Campion Mysteries




Kathleen Ernst(Wisconsin) 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. Visit her online at KathleenErnst.com.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway: WEYCOMBE

Head over to Goodreads and enter to win 1 of 5 copies of WEYCOMBE, the latest release from G.M. Malliet!

Hurry! Contest is open October 3 - October 10, so enter now!



Monday, October 2, 2017

A Writer's Education: A Guest Post from C.M. Wendelboe


We welcome C.M. Wendelboe, author of the new HUNTING THE FIVE POINT KILLER to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here he shares how his history with in law enforcement—and encounters with death—inspires the dead bodies on his pages.

Much has been written about the education a writer should obtain—often along the lines that a writer must earn an advanced degree such an MFA in writing. Though I don't discredit the value of such a degree, with the quiet retreats alone with one's thoughts, and the lofty discussions with other writers, I confess the only advanced degree I have is a PHD (Post Hole Diggin'.)

What education I have is more on the practical side—I worked as a lawman for nearly forty years. During that time, I was fortunate enough (though some may think unfortunate) to be called to so many dead body calls I can still taste the tragedy. A great many were natural, which was of limited value to me as a writer, but valuable to me in honing my death-notification skills and empathy with the deceased kin.

It was those folks that died violent, often gruesome deaths that taught me what I wished to include in my stories, and that gives authenticity to them. While most writers don't have this background, and have to rely on law enforcement and medical examiners and text books to construct their scenes, all I have to do is set back and close my eyes. And the crime scenes come back.

Vividly.

Even though none of the deaths that my novels portray are based entirely on any of these calls, the scenes relay a composite of what I have seen—a gunshot victim from one call, the house arrangements from another death call, a gun or weapon from yet another. I have tried to tone down the graphics of what I import to my scenes, but it is often difficult to expel images from my memory, hard not to include many of the things that would made a reader retch. As I have done on more than one occasion responding to them.

I hope readers of my novels will never feel they have been BS'd. I hope they feel that when they read about a death scene and the aftermath, they will know that it was written from the mind of a working lawman. And know that the nearest they really have to get to the nastiness is waiting just on the next page.


***

Hunting the Five Point Killer by C.M. Wendelboe On the tenth anniversary of a series of unsolved murders, the Five Point Killer is back for blood—and retired cop Arn Anderson could be the next investigator who gets too close to the truth.

Retired detective Arn Anderson never thought he'd be broke enough to take on a cold murder case. Or desperate enough to team up with a TV reporter. Or pathetic enough to go back to his rundown childhood home after he swore he'd left Cheyenne for good. But here he is, hunting a serial killer who also appears to have come out of retirement. On the anniversary of the Five Point Killer's crimes, Arn's only option is to survive the carnage of a murderer who may be too twisted—and too brilliant—to catch.

Praise:

"A terrific debut . . . Wendelboe is a skilled writer who ratchets up the suspense."—Margaret Coel, New York Times bestselling author of Winter's Child

"A slow-burning cold case with copious clues, conscientious detection, a high body count, periodic interruptions from the killer's viewpoint, and all the pages and pages of unraveling you'd expect from such a generously plotted mystery."—Kirkus Reviews




C. M. Wendelboe (Cheyenne, WY) is the author of the Spirit Road Mysteries (Penguin). During his thirty-eight-year career in law enforcement, he served successful stints as a sheriff's deputy, police chief, policy adviser, and supervisor for several agencies. He was a patrol supervisor when he retired to pursue his true vocation as a fiction writer. Visit him online at www.SpiritRoadMysteries.com.

Why Write Mysteries?


by Linda O. Johnston

The answer to that question, if posed to most mystery writers, will probably yield a lot of answers.


Because I love to read mysteries, is one of the primary ones, I suspect. 


Some others?


Because I love to stump others who read my work.


Because I enjoy creating smart, creative protagonists--and bad guys, too.


Because I enjoy belonging to organizations of mystery writers.


Because I have fun writing mysteries--and editing and even re-reading my own work.


Because I like my publisher.


Because it's a challenge, and I enjoy challenges.


Because I enjoy writing blog posts about mysteries.


Because... well, those of us who are active on this blog write mysteries for Midnight Ink, of course. Some of you might identify with what I've already said.  Others might have a lot more ideas of your own about what spurred you to start writing mysteries. 



But one that probably all will identify with?  Because it's who I am and what I love.

Friday, September 29, 2017

It Started with Harvey: A Guest Post from G. M. Malliet




We welcome G.M. Malliet, author of the St. Just Mystery Series and the new release WEYCOMBE to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here she shares how this year's deadly hurricane season has inspired her to help out—and how you can do the same!

Houston, where it all started, at least in terms of national awareness that this was bad—very bad indeed—is still bailing out. Harvey landed right about the time my new standalone WEYCOMBE was set to launch, and somehow, my struggles and worries to get this book written and published just paled in comparison. Really, did not matter. I've experienced catastrophic loss in my life, but nothing that came close to what people in Houston were suffering. Also, I have a special affinity for Houston: I lived there briefly as a child.

And there is a mystery bookstore there that has always been welcoming to me: Murder by the Book. They opened their doors during the aftermath of the storm to give people somewhere to escape to, somewhere to take their minds off their losses, if just for a minute. Books have a wonderful way of helping people cope.

I wanted to do something similar. I wanted to help, but I didn't have a lot to offer. Then I had an idea. To express my sympathies to all whose lives and properties were impacted by the destruction, I decided to do the only thing that might help. I could pledge money, which is generally more welcome than anything. To be honest, what I could pledge is, forgive the pun, a drop in the bucket. Houston and all the communities affected face a long road to recovery.

I have pledged to send 10% of my author royalties for WEYCOMBE, up to $5,000, to the Red Cross in Houston. So, if you purchase this book or ask your library to, a small fraction of the cost will go to help people buy food, clothing, and shelter.

What is the book about? A summary is on the graphic above that accompanies this blog, and reviews are on my website. But essentially, a lonely American in the UK begins to fill her days snooping about with an investigation when her neighbor is murdered. With a few (major) changes, this is the story of my life living in the UK. But I rush to assure you, there was no murder.

I hope you enjoy it. It goes on sale October 8, 2017. If you buy it or ask your library to acquire it, you are helping me with that drop in the bucket. Thank you.

***

The Question of the Absentee Father To those on the outside, Weycombe is perfect. For those on the inside, the cost of perfection is deadly.

Living in the gated, wealthy village of Weycombe with her titled English husband is a fantasy come true for American Jillian White. But the murder of a local estate agent mars the so-pretty surface of her life and home. Worried about a killer on the loose, Jill tries to piece together clues hidden in the many versions of truth she hears from her suspicious neighbors. As Jill plunges deep into the investigation, her own suspicions grow into a warped web of lies and treachery.

From award-winning author G.M. Malliet comes a gripping psychological tale of murder and deception in which few can be trusted and nothing is as perfect as it seems.




G. M. Malliet worked as a journalist and copywriter for national and international news publications and public broadcasters. Winner of the Malice Domestic Grant (Death of a Cozy Writer), Malliet attended Oxford University and holds a graduate degree from the University of Cambridge.

Malliet's first novel Death of a Cozy Writer was chosen by Kirkus Reviews as a Best Book of 2008, nominated for a Left Coast Crime award (the "Hawaii Five-O" for best police procedural), short-listed for the Macavity Award for Best First Mystery, nominated for the Anthony Award for Best First Novel and was a finalist for the David G. Sasher, Sr. Award for Best Mystery Novel. You can visit her online at http://gmmalliet.com/.