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!





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 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.

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.

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/.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway: 19 SOULS

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!



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway: 19 SOULS

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.