Thursday, February 8, 2018

New Year's Resolutions: A Guest Blog Post from Lissa Marie Redmond

We welcome Lissa Marie Redmond, author of the new Cold Day in Hell (the first book in the Cold Case Investigation Mystery Series), to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here she shares her New Year's Resolutions.

It's 2018, and that means a brand-new year of resolutions. Only this year, instead of vowing to lose fifteen pounds and sending out more thank you cards, I'm resolving to be a better writer. The first book of my new series with Midnight Ink, A Cold Day in Hell, is set for release on February 8th. With a new book coming out I am resolving to work on my fiction differently this year. Here's my 2018 list of writing resolutions:
  1. I am going to hit my word count every day. About a year and a half ago, I set a 1,000 word minimum for myself. I figured if I set it any higher, the first time I didn't hit my goal I'd get discouraged and dump the minimum altogether. I'm happy to report I've been pretty good with this one, so I might up the ante a little. Maybe I'll set it for 1,500 words and see what happens. If I find myself falling short, I can always revert to 1,000.
  2. I am not going to be so hard on myself. Is everything I write going to be perfect and wonderful and deserving of publication? Absolutely not. Things fall flat, words don't come together, and stories burn out. I think as writers we tend to be our own harshest critics. I have to allow myself to fail sometimes, recognize when it's time to shelf a project, and learn from the experience.
  3. I am going to write outside my comfort zone. Even if I'm the only one who ever reads it, I'm going to experiment in other genres this year. Maybe I'll try romance or non-fiction or historical anything. I want to expand my writing boundaries. Who knows? It's almost like visiting a foreign country. I might find my next big project in a completely new area.
  4. In the same vein as resolution #4, I am going to try new things. Being a writer can be a very solitary and sedentary life. This year I resolve to get out of my house more, taking my notebook with me, and writing wherever I happen to find myself. Maybe if I wander from my chair, out onto a beach or an amusement park or a ski slope, I might find brand new things to inspire my writing. If nothing else, the fresh air will clear the cobwebs from my brain.
  5. I am going to support my fellow writers. Whether it's by going to a book signing, or leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads, or joining a new critique group, I am going to encourage my fellow writers this year. There are so many ways to be negative in this digital age that I resolve to be a positive presence, especially to writers just starting out. I appreciate all the wonderful and kind things perfect strangers have done for me during my own journey to publication that I resolve to pay it forward in the new year.

This year's resolutions won't make me thinner or wealthier or more popular, but they will make my writing better and more creative. Hopefully, they'll help me spread some love and encouragement in the coming year as well. Happy 2018, everyone!


A Cold Day in Hell Lauren's job as a cold case homicide detective is her life. And life just got complicated.

Lauren Riley is an accomplished detective who has always been on the opposite side of the courtroom from slick defense attorney Frank Violanti. But now he's begging to hire her as a private investigator to help clear his client of murder. At first Lauren refuses, wanting nothing to do with the media circus surrounding the case—until she meets the eighteen-year-old suspect.

To keep an innocent teen from life in prison, Lauren must unravel the conflicting evidence and changing stories to get at the buried facts. But the more she digs, the more she discovers that nothing is what it first appears to be. As Lauren puts her career and life in danger, doubt lurks on every corner . . . and so does her stalker.

Praise for A Cold Day in Hell:

"A retired detective, Lissa Marie Redmond gives it to the reader without the sugarcoating and lifts the veil off how the system really works . . . or doesn't."
—Reed Farrel Coleman, New York Times bestselling author of What You Break

"Recommend this one to anyone who loves courtroom dramas where lawyers tear into witnesses like pit bulls. And to anyone hot for a police procedural where tired cops make mistakes but slowly, relentlessly—and with morbid humor—get the job done. Redmond delivers both in one package. . . . The real attraction here is a keyhole view into a world that turns our expectations upside down—a world where a bullying, quasi-fascist cop can be the only one with a handle on reality. Keep your eyes on Redmond, a retired cop who knows how to write."

Lisa Marie Redmond is a recently retired cold case homicide detective of the Buffalo Police Department. She's also a member of Sisters in Crime.

Twice Honored

Edith here, still riding on a joy cloud!

Why am I riding on a joy cloud? I learned last week that Called to Justice, my second Quaker Midwife Mystery, has been nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel! Delivering the Truth was nominated last year, so I've twice been honored in this category.

I am nominated with four other stellar authors:

Rhys Bowen for In Farleigh Field
Jessica Ellicott for Murder in an English Village
Susan Elia MacNeal for The Paris Spy
Renee Patrick for Dangerous to Know

I know all these authors, and they are all gracious, talented, and friendly. I've read Rhys and Jessica's books - and loved both of them.

In Farleigh Field is a standalone mystery and tells the story of an upper-class English woman doing her bit during World War II by working with the top-secret codebreakers. Plus a mystery, of course.

Murder in an English Village, Jessica's debut in a new series, is a delightful 1920s tale of two old friends meeting up again - and then solving a murder in the village. (Jessica Ellicott is a new pen name for my good friend and Wicked Cozy Authors blogmate Jessie Crockett.)

The Paris Spy is a suspense-filled Maggie Hope spy novel, set during World War II. This time she's on a double mission in occupied Paris, and it's very dangerous, indeed.

The only one I haven't yet read is Dangerous to Know. This series is about movie fashion designer Edith Head and amateur sleuth Lillian Frost solving crimes in the late 1930s in Los Angeles. How can't I enjoy a book with a character named Edith?

What isn't dangerous to know is what talented authors I am nominated with. I hope you'll pick up a copy of each of these fabulous historical stories.

The Agathas are awarded by attendees at Malice Domestic, the annual conference for the traditional mystery, held in Bethesda, Maryland every year at the end of April. From the Malice web site: The Agatha Awards honor the “traditional mystery,” books typified by the works of Agatha Christie and others. For our purposes, the genre is loosely defined as mysteries that contain no explicit sex, excessive gore or gratuitous violence, and are not classified as “hard-boiled.”

Of course I hope Called to Justice wins in this category, but if not I can heartily applaud the book that does

Readers: Which of these awesome authors have you read? Will you be at Malice this year?

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Fun of Plotting

by Linda O. Johnston

It's plotting time!

I'm currently finishing the editorial process for the fourth of my Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries for Midnight Ink.  Pick and Chews will be a May release.

I also have a deadline coming up in a few months for number five in the series.  No name yet.  I started plotting it a while ago and had to set it aside because of other writing commitments... but I'm back!

As always, it's fun to reunite with established characters and create new ones that'll be important to this new book.  That includes the dogs, of course. 

How to plot?  Well, I've established a general procedure over many years of writing that I call my plot skeleton.  It's somewhat based on screenplay plotting.  Yes, I'm a plotter, not a pantser.  In other words, I start by creating a plot that I turn into a loose synopsis and work from there.  I don't write by the seat of my pants as pantsers do--at least not much.  Sometimes my characters aren't completely willing to follow my established plot, and I tend to listen to them.

Every writer's procedure is different, of course, even though some might have similarities.  I've been at this for a while and so my subconscious, on whom I rely, tends to follow it even if I don't give it orders to do so.

So, subconscious of mine, plot on!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Guest Blog Post: James Scarantino on THE PRICE OF VENGEANCE

We welcome James Scarantino, author of the new Price of Vengeance (the third book in the Denise Aragon Mystery Series), to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here he shares some insight into his latest book.

Creating her own messes is nothing new for Detective Denise Aragon. Her mouth has always been a problem. This time it sets off a chain of events that make her the target of an FBI investigation into kidnapping and terrorism.

All the while she's on her back in a hospital bed, terrified she may never walk again.

The circumstances in The Price of Vengeance open a new side for the stiff-necked Aragon. Her vulnerability, her sense of responsibility for the consequences of her loose words, and her need to depend completely on others snap the steel bands she has wrapped around her heart. As readers know, she has added muscle to her body like armor. Now none of it can help her. Only friends, a returned lover, her detective partner and a Sergeant with his own agenda can help her out of the pit she has dug for herself.

In previous books I have explored the limits of acceptance of the losers in the criminal justice system. I've always wondered how a family who has lost someone to murder can stand again to be victimized by the system that is supposed to give them justice. Denise Aragon, with her buzz cut and muscles, grew out of this tension. Walter Fager in books 1 (The Drum Within) and 2 (Compromised), a criminal defense lawyer who delivered injustice for the right price, faced it when his wife was murdered and her killer went free (thanks to Aragon's blunder).

In The Price of Vengeance Pete Cervantes can no longer take it. He blames the loss of his family on the grand schemes of powerful men. A speech by Senator Sam Baca Valles sets him off, and he sets his sights on this self-centered politician. Careless words by Aragon strike a match to the fuse.

I like the trap Cervantes sets for the Senator. Without spoiling the story, let me just say that I wonder about those people in Congress with their expensive suits and haircuts, flying first class while soldiers returning from war pass them on their way back to cramped economy seats. What are they made of? They send men and women off to die in strange countries for stupid reasons. They pass laws that result in lives lost here in the USA. How would they act when they had to live in the same world as the people whose destinies they shape and control? Would any of them measure up?

Would they risk their careers and power, their own lives, for others?

The sweet thing about Cervantes's trap is Valles has no way out. Either he's through or he's dead.

This story unfolds in the pricey neighborhoods of tony Santa Fe, whereas previous cases had taken Aragon to the gritty side of town where she grew up. Those books painted the division between the brown and white sections of Santa Fe pretty starkly. This book has the hostage situation sited in one of Santa Fe's loftiest neighborhoods, but where, as Detective Rich Lewis observes in the one profound thought Aragon allows him per day, the dust on cars is the same dust on the hoods of pickups in the city's trailer parks.

The interior mystery around which the hostage situation is wrapped centers on the Sandia Mountain Wilderness high above Albuquerque and just about two miles above sea level. I know those mountains well; I used to hike and run them end to end on my birthday, with a cold six pack and steak dinner waiting at the end. The distance comes to the equivalent of running a marathon, but at over 10,000 feet, over rocks and boulders and in places in temperature approaching one hundred degrees. A couple times it was so hot I thought I would die near the end.

Hey! There's an idea for a mystery: a crazy wilderness runner dies on the mountain. Was it accidental, caused by over-exertion, dehydration, heat stroke, or was it…murder?

In conducting the research that provides the answers for Aragon, I got to learn much about what EMTs do and shouldn't do, toxicology, and what happens to the human body when pushed beyond its limits.

Pushing one's body beyond its natural limits fit right in with Denise Aragon's character. She would understand and be fascinated. And, as luck had it, just like me, she had run the same mountain trails where the body was found.

I'm glad this story presented some opportunities for humor. Aragon in The Drum Within let her sense of humor tame her anger against her incompetent and corrupt supervisor. In this book she has some irreverent fun with the FBI agent who wants to nail her for Pete Cervantes' actions.

Even with Aragon paralyzed for a chunk of the story, she's still an action figure. As with all the bumps in the road of her life, each jolt just makes her stronger.


The Price of Vengeance There Is Always a Price to Pay

Detective Denise Aragon finds herself in the middle of a desperate standoff she may have caused with a single phrase: take him out. On one side is Peter Cervantes, her grieving friend and now a hostage-taker who blames the deaths of his sons on the grand schemes of powerful politicians. On the other side is a United States senator with a dark past whose family is being held at gunpoint by Cervantes.

The FBI targets Aragon as an accomplice to kidnapping and terrorism, and her only way out is to drag the senator's crimes into the light. She can only pray that the price of vengeance won't be paid in blood.

Praise for Compromised:

"Mayhem and more."—Kirkus Reviews

"[Scarantino] is skilled with complex plotting and has a talent for expository dialogue...Though she is fictional, Aragon, who sports a crewcut and a baby face, is an intelligent, hard-boiled heroine of whom Santa Fe can be proud."
Santa Fe New Mexican

Praise for The Drum Within:
"The Drum Within is a superb novel, and this is a hearty welcome to an insanely talented newcomer, Jim Scarantino."
—Lisa Scottoline, New York Times bestselling author

"The Drum Within is a gritty police procedural that will make you rethink everything you know about justice. A tour de force of good guys and bad guys. A masterpiece. I loved it."
—Robert Dugoni, #1 Amazon and New York Times bestselling author

"The Drum Within keeps many ducks in a row through a maze of gritty encounters, bitter confrontations, and some very clever red herrings."
Santa Fe New Mexican

"A thrilling police story."—Suspense Magazine

James Scarantino is a prosecutor, defense attorney, investigative reporter, and award-winning author. His novel Cooney County was named best mystery/crime novel in the Southwest Writers Workshop International Writing Competition.