Monday, May 22, 2017

What’s In a Name?


by Tracy Weber

Like many authors, I sometimes struggle when choosing names for my characters.  Some (usually the recurring cast members) are kind enough to introduce themselves. Kate, Bella, Michael, and Rene are all perfect examples. Others are more elusive, forcing me to resort to a variety of name generators. Dale Evans, the goat lawyer in A Killer Retreat and Karma’s a Killer, was created that way, in spite of his famous namesake.
Names have great power. When I was young, someone told me that Tracy meant “courageous one.”  I’ve drawn strength from that during life’s most difficult challenges.  I recently learned that the actual meaning of Tracy is “fighter” or “more powerful one.”  I can live with that, too. After all, names color who we are and how we relate to our world.  I’m happy to go down as a powerful fighter.
I should have remembered that when I adopted my canine companions.
My first German shepherd, Tasha, was the inspiration for Bella, the German shepherd in my Downward Dog Mystery Series.  Tasha was named after Tasha Yar, the head of security in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  She took her role very seriously. She chased yoga students away from my business, thus ending forever her career as yoga studio greeter dog.  Only the members of her most trusted inner circle were allowed to cross our front doorway, and strangers were viewed through a dark lens of watchdog suspicion. She fully embodied my car’s bumper sticker:  Back Seat Barker.

Tracy and Tasha, the Back Seat Barker

When Tasha passed, I honored her by adopting a new love.  I named my new pup Ana, short for Ananda, which is the Sanskrit term for “unending joy.”
I completely failed to consider what unending joy might look through the eyes of a puppy.
Ana Pup Conquering the World

Ana was a crazy, exuberant, razor-toothed terror.  She was fearless, intelligent, and able to escape all confines to get what she wanted.  By her four-month birthday, I’d vowed to name my next dog Coma.  As she’s entered adolescence, she’s calmed down significantly (barring, of course, an evil squirrel sighting.) She greets every stranger with a full body wiggle, sloppy wet kisses, and an invitation to follow her home.

Tracy and Ana, Calming Down but Still Happy

People often exclaim upon meeting her, “She’s so happy!”
And she is. 
I’m pretty sure if a burglar breaks down our door, Ana will flop on her back and beg for a belly rub.  I can live with that.  I wanted a dog filled with joy, and I got a dog filled with joy.  I adore her.
I won’t, however, be adopting Ana’s bulldog friend any time soon.
Seriously? ChewBarka? What on earth were his owners thinking?

Pet lovers and fellow authors, how do your characters and loved ones live up to their names?  Please leave your stories in the comments below.

Tracy Weber


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





Tracy Weber is a certified yoga teacher and the founder of Whole Life Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio in Seattle, where she current­ly lives with her husband, Marc, and precocious German shepherd puppy, Ana. She loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any form possible. When she’s not writing, she spends her time teaching yoga, trying to corral Ana Tasha, and sip­ping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house. Tracy loves connecting with fans.  Find her on her author web page or on Facebook.

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.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

What's Your Creative Type? (Take the Quiz!)

By Lisa Alber

Last week on the Jungle Red Writers blog, author Meta Wagner introduced her book WHAT'S YOUR CREATIVE TYPE?: Harness the Power of Your Artistic Personality. I'm a sucker for this kind of thing, so I took the online quiz, which you can find here: http://snapp.to/2lHVOEY.

I wasn't surprised to find out that I'm a sensitive soul, which is defined as, "Brimming with emotion, you’ll use your art to explore your personal history and as a catharsis."

 The other possibilities are:
  • Artisan: "You’re here to create, you enjoy the process itself."
  • A-Lister: "You want to have an emotional impact on the audience, you live for the applause." 
  • Activist: "Through art, you want to change the world. Wherever you go, you see wrongs ready to be righted."
The most interesting thing about the Jungle Reds blog post were the comments it inspired. People tended toward being sensitive souls and artisans, which you might expect from a bunch of writers and book lovers and aspiring writers. But then, the topic came up that doing any kind of quiz like this is limiting, because we may feel tied between two options.

OK, then, I and many of the commenters went through the quiz again, choosing our second choices. At this point, many people got "a-lister." I found this intriguing because we so often don't want to admit to wanting fame and glory for our creative endeavors. God forbid! However, it strikes me that writers who are artisans or sensitive souls with a-lister tendencies might be highly motivated to "make it" and do all the work required to "make it."

(The question becomes what is your definition of making it? I'm using the notion that many of us creatives have, which is to earn a nice income, which is closest to "a-lister.")

In any case, it's a sliding scale. None of us are only one thing. That said, I was oddly bummed when I took the quiz a second time and came up with "artisan."

WHERE'S MY A-LISTER!??! I'd love to be a little more a-lister, but apparently, I'm not. I'm all about self-expression and the process, and all that airy-fairy stuff. I even tried to be an a-lister, but my second choices didn't lead to that outcome.

I even did it a third time -- and I still got artisan!

Sigh ... Does this mean I'm never going to "make it"?

Of course not, but it did make me think about this: If I'm not an a-lister type, going for the glory, how do I reconcile that with the external pressure to be more of an a-lister? Do I care if I see my fellows who are a-listers get the glory, while I remain a relatively unknown, midlist author? (Of course, I care; we all like to succeed -- I guess the question becomes how I deal with my feelings around this.)

In any case, I had to laugh that even when I try, I'm not a going-for-the-glory kind of person. So figures. But, on the other hand, I don't think that matters in the long run. The work itself matters. That's all. Whether any of us "make it" or not isn't under our control. And not making it doesn't lessen the creative endeavor or the value of our work.

All creative expression is good -- and **necessary** in this weird world we're living in these days.

P.S. I'm going to buy the book ... Just to see, you know, what the author has to say about all of this. :-)

What's your take on all of this?

Friday, May 12, 2017

Guest Post: Nadine Nettmann - Uncorking a Lie

Recent Agatha Award Finalist Nadine Nettmann shares 15 fun facts! 

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



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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

***

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


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

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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Much to Celebrate, More to Learn

Edith here. It's hard to believe Called to Justice launched just a month ago, so much has happened. To celebrate, I'm giving away an ARC of my contemporary mystery, Mulch Ado About Murder, to a commenter here today!


I had a flurry of launch activites, online and in person. My alter ego Maddie Day and I interviewed each other during a fun party at Jabberwocky Books, a fabulous indy bookstore near me, since Maddie's (my) When the Grits Hit the Fan came out ten days before Called to Justice released.

Me with an Indiana Cap for Grits and a Quaker bonnet for Called!
Then Amesbury's Cultural Council sponsored me as one of its Poetry Month events, with the title Poetry and Literature. I talked about Called at the Noshery, and read a couple of poems referenced in the book.


Others read related poems, and Carla Panciera, a local published poet, even read her own original work titled "Midwife in the Barn" that she wrote for me. See a full report of the event.

Alas, Delivering the Truth did not garner the Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery at Malice Domestic, but it was a huge honor to be nominated and to stand with my fellow awesome nominees.

From left panel moderator Harriette Sackler, Nominees Catriona McPherson, Jessica Estevao, me, Meg Mims, Victoria Thompson, and Sharon Pisacreta. Photo by Robin Templeton.
But I have one more new book to celebrate this spring: Mulch Ado About Murder, my fifth Local Foods mystery releases at the end of May and is already getting some pretty nice reviews. "Wonderfully delightful mystery any cozy reader will enjoy." -The Cozy Review. There's a Goodreads giveaway open until midnight tonight to win a ARC of the book, too!


Remember, you can also win an ARC of this book by commenting here today!

Two new short stories featuring my 1888 Quaker midwife Rose Carroll have appeared in print! "The Tragic Death of Miss Edna Fogg" came out in Mystery Most Historical, released at Malice a couple of weeks ago. It's a great collection of historical mysteries from many eras. My story features the unfortunate death of a woman suffrage activist, and Rose's pursuit of the killer.



And my short "Murder in the Summer Kitchen" just released in Murder Among Friends, an anthology of stories all inspired by John Greenleaf Whittier. In my story, a man is shot in Whittier's summer kitchen, an apparent case of mistaken identity. Rose is brave enough to track down the murderer in his second attempt to knock off the famous poet and abolitionist.



To celebrate the release, the editor and some of the authors gathered at the Whittier birthplace in Haverhill, MA.
From left, contributors Susan Olkesiw, me, editor Dave Goudsward (kneeling), Tim Coco, Gregory Norris, and Judi Calhoun.

We read from our stories, met fans, and toured the house. Whittier's boots were on display, as was his quilt and his sister's clothing.





I was entranced by the small scullery, and even got to see the room where Whittier was born in 1807.



Ideas are already percolating on how to incorporate some of these details in Quaker Midwife Mystery #4, soon to be started.

Readers, what fun historical bit have you learned lately? Do you like touring home museums or other places where real times from past times are displayed?

Remember, you can also win an ARC of Mulch Ado About Murder, my fifth Local Foods mystery, by commenting here today!





Thursday, May 4, 2017

New Sins for Old Scores ... Launch!

by Tj O'Connor
May 27, 2017—Launch …. New Sins for Old Scores!

At last, my fourth published novel. This one coming to you from Black Opal Books and my strange, wild imagination. It’s a murder mystery with a paranormal twist! (Go figure, right?) And yes, this is a cheap self-promotion blog.
 
Summary:

Murder, like history, often repeats itself. And when it does, it's the worst kind of murder.
 
Detective Richard Jax was never good at history. After years as a cop, he was about to get the lesson of his life.
 
As Jax lay dying after being gunned down at an old inn while on surveillance, he's saved by Captain Patrick "Trick" McCall—the ghost of a World War II OSS agent—who has been waiting since 1944 for a chance to solve his own murder. Soon, Jax is a suspect in a string of murders—murders linked to smuggling refugees out of the Middle East—a plot similar to the World War II “Operation Paperclip,” an OSS operation that brought scientists out of war-torn Europe. With the aid of a beautiful and intelligent historian, Dr. Alex Vouros, Jax and Trick unravel a seventy year-old plot that began with Trick's murder in 1944. Could the World War II mastermind, code named Harriet, be alive and up to old games? Is history repeating itself?
 
Together, they hunt for the link between their pasts, confronted by some of Washington's elite and one provocative, alluring French Underground agent, Abrielle Chanoux. Somewhere in Trick's memories is a traitor. That traitor killed him. That traitor is killing again.
 
Who framed Jax and who wants Trick's secret to remain secret? The answer may be, who doesn't?
 
End cheap, self-promotion (for now). Look for New Sins for Old Scores!
 
We’ll talk again next month.
 
Tj O’CONNOR IS THE GOLD MEDAL WINNER OF THE 2015 INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS
BOOK AWARDS (IPPY) FOR MYSTERIES. He is the author of New Sins for Old Scores, coming in May 2017 from Black Opal Books, and Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, and Dying to Tell. He recently finished his new thriller, The Consultant: Double Effect and his amazing agent, Kimberley Cameron is finding it a new home. Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism, investigations, and threat analysis—life experiences that drive his novels. With his former life as a government agent and years as a consultant, he has lived and worked around the world in places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and throughout the Americas—among others. He was raised in New York's Hudson Valley and lives with his wife and Lab companions in Virginia where they raised five children. Dying to Know is also the 2015 Bronze Medal winner of the Reader’s Favorite Book Review Awards, a finalist for the Silver Falchion Best Books of 2014, and a finalist for the Foreword Review’s 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award.
 
Learn about Tj’s world at:
 
Web Site:  www.tjoconnor.com
 
 



 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Happy May!

by Linda O. Johnston

  It's May.  Happy May!  I'm happy it's May--as you probably figured after my blog here last month when I said that May was fast approaching.  And why am I happy?  This is the month that my third Barkery & Biscuits Mystery, Bad to the Bone, is published by Midnight Ink.


  As always, it was fun taking Carrie Kennersly, the protagonist I'd created, and throwing her once more into a difficult situation where again she has to solve a murder.


  Carrie is a veterinary technician who developed some nice, healthy treats for dogs, then bought a bakery and turned half into a barkery where she sells some of those treats.  She'd never thought she would wind up becoming an amateur sleuth, too, and start solving so many murders. 


  Oh, I'm chortling here--her creator who's been able to stick her into all of those difficult situations.  But I know she can handle it.


  And it's what happens in cozy mysteries.  Carrie doesn't know she's in a series of stories.  I place myself in her head as I write about her and figure out what she's thinking.  But she's strong.  She's creative.  She's determined.


  Like me, she's a dog lover.


  Also like me, she solves mysteries.  But for me, those murders are all in my mind.  I make 'em real for my Carrie character.


  And guess what, Carrie.  You're destined for more!


So happy May, everyone--including Carrie.