Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Writing About What You Know...Even When That Means Filling Seats at the Emmys: A Guest Post from HOLLYWOOD ENDING Author Kellye Garre

We welcome Kellye Garrett, author of the new Hollywood Ending, the second in the Detective by Day Mystery Series, to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here she talks about writing what you know...including being a seat filler at the Emmy Awards.

Everyone knows the adage, "Write what you know."

That’s definitely true for me. My Detective by Day series focuses on a semi-famous black actress who uses her Hollywood insider knowledge to solve murders. Whereas, I was a semi-successful black TV writer who uses my Hollywood insider knowledge to write murder mysteries.

With each book in the series, I try to focus on a different element of Hollywood. For book two—Hollywood Ending, out August 8—I set it during awards season. If you’re wondering what awards season is, this is how I describe it in the book:
"Awards season was all about getting dressed, getting drunk, and getting tiny gold statues that usually meant an extra zero in your paycheck and an extra line in your obituary. The three-month stretch kicked off with the Independent Spirit Award nominations in November and culminated with the grand dame of them all—the Oscars—in February. In between, everyone and their mama gave out awards like candy on Halloween."

Although I've never been to the Oscars, I have been to the Emmy Awards, which ironically is probably the only acting awards show that doesn't take place during Awards season. It airs in September to coincide with the new broadcast TV show premieres.

You're probably wondering why I was at the Emmys. It definitely wasn't because I was nominated.

I was a seat filler!

Have you ever noticed that there are never any empty seats whenever they show the crowd at an awards show? That’s because of seat fillers. A seat filler is a person who literally will sit in Tom Cruise’s seat while he takes a bathroom break.

I know other awards shows will put out casting calls for seat fillers. I got the gig because of another Hollywood staple: I knew someone.

In Hollywood Ending, Day heads to the Silver Sphere Awards, which I created just for the book. Here’s her prep process:
"I had to hand it to Sienna. We both looked great. Her Glam Squad had given me the full second-season-of-a-reality-show-makeover complete with clip-on hair extensions and enough nose and cheek contouring to make a Kardashian weep with joy. Clothing-wise, Sienna had opted for a low-cut Jessica Rabbit inspired number and I’d gone for an off the shoulder purple classic silhouette that flaunted way less boob and way more booty. We both wore our hair down. The hair stylist opted for a stick straight look for Sienna and flowy beach waves for me. I was impressed."

My own process was nowhere near as glam. I definitely was not wearing anything designer. Nope. I found a cute (and cheap) turquoise dress at my local Ross. Instead of hiring a hairdresser to put in extensions, I just plopped on a wig. And I did my own make-up. And these were the days before contouring and highlighting and all that other fancy stuff. You just put on some powder and foundation and called it a day.

Still, even without the entire glam squad, I felt gorgeous.

I arrived at the Shrine Auditorium ready to do my duty!

Because you don’t actually have a seat, they line you up in a loading area by the lobby. You literally move conveyor style to the front of the line and wait until it’s your turn to temporarily take ownership of a seat in the actual auditorium.

I ended up acting as a seat filler for both the Creative Arts Emmy Awards—which recognizes the more behind-the-screen categories like set decorator—and the Primetime Emmy Awards we all know and watch.

At the Creative Arts Emmys, I hit the seat filler jackpot, meaning someone in the first row never bothered to show up. So I basically sat down and watched the entire show in the best seat in the house. At one point, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Gardner came and sat next to me. This was when they first started dating and I was totally eavesdropping on their conversation. (It was nothing juicy, unfortunately.)

I moved around a lot more at the Primetime Emmy show and even managed to get some screen-time when I happened to be sitting in front of a winner when they announced his category. Soon after I had to give up my seat because its true owner arrived.

Ruby Dee.

I was a huge fan of her work, especially as a woman of color trying to make it in Hollywood in the 50s. Truth be told, I would’ve given up my seat for her anyway.


Hollywood Ending And the award goes to . . .

. . . Dayna Anderson, the semi-famous actress turned PI who steps up her sleuthing swagger in this follow-up to breakout hit Hollywood Homicide, winner of the Lefty Award and the Agatha Award for Best First Novel!

Tinseltown's awards season is in full swing, and everyone is obsessed with dressing up, scoring free swag, and getting invited to the biggest awards shows of the year. But when celebrity publicist Lyla Davis is killed, the festive mood comes to an abrupt halt.

Apprentice private eye Dayna Anderson thinks she's uncovered the killer. Unfortunately, what starts as an open-and-shut case turns out to be anything but. Diving deeper into the investigation, Dayna gets a backstage look at gossip blogging, Hollywood royalty, and one of entertainment's most respected awards shows—all while trying to avoid her own Hollywood ending.

Praise for Hollywood Ending

"Day's funny and determined, the sort of woman who really WOULD make a wisecrack when faced with danger. She's done her time in the tinsel factory and seen the light. She's the perfect guide to the lifestyles of the rich, famous, and homicidally inclined."
—Donna Andrews, New York Times bestselling author of the Meg Langslow series

"Kellye Garrett's Hollywood Ending glitters with stardust. A fun, fast-paced mystery, it's definitely an A-lister."
—Elaine Viets, author of the Dead-End Job mysteries

"Fasten your seatbelts. A star is born!"
—Nancy Martin, author of the Blackbird Sisters mysteries

"Kellye Garrett's Hollywood Ending is an entertaining whodunit that provides readers a peek behind Hollywood's star-studded curtain."
—Diane Kelly, award-winning author of the Paw Enforcement, Tara Holloway, and House-Flipper mystery series

Praise for Hollywood Homicide:
Winner of the 2018 Lefty Award for Best Debut

Winner of the 2018 Agatha Award for Best First Novel

Winner of the 2018 IPPY Gold Medal for Best First Book

"[A] winning first novel and series launch…Garrett writes with humor and insight about the Hollywood scene. Readers will look forward to Day's further adventures."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A smart, sassy debut, introducing an appealing protagonist with amusing friends."
Library Journal (starred review) and Debut of the Month

"Veteran TV writer Garrett uses her Cold Case experience to inform her debut, which sets up more than one charming character and isn't afraid to go cynical on all things LA."
Kirkus Reviews

"Funny, lively characters populate this new Detective by Day series…this will be an entertaining entry into the amateur sleuth genre."
RT Book Reviews

Kellye Garrett (East Orange, NJ) spent eight years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for Cold Case. A former magazine editor, she holds a BS in magazine writing from Florida A&M and an MFA in screenwriting from USC’s famed film school. She now works for a leading media company and brainstorms ways to commit murder for her novels.

Friday, July 20, 2018

The True, Eerie Story that Inspired BIG WOODS: A Guest Post from author May Cobb

We welcome May Cobb, author of the new Big Woods, to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here she shares the true, eerie story that inspired her new book.

Although my debut thriller, Big Woods, is strictly a work of fiction, the idea for this novel is based in part on a story my mother once told me while I was growing up in East Texas.

My mother, a nurse, worked the graveyard shift in the psychiatric unit of our small town's hospital. One night, a frantic young woman in bloodied and ripped clothing appeared in the doorway and begged for the staff to take her into hiding. The woman claimed she had been held captive by a group of powerful men, but had managed to escape. She whispered to my mother that the men—all town elders—had formed a secret cult and forced women into performing ritualistic sex acts.

My mom's co-workers thought the woman was insane, but my mother believed her. On a scrap of paper, she drew my mom a map to a nearby cemetery where she said the rituals were held. One weekend while my mom was off work, the hospital released the woman and my mom was never able to find her, or find out what happened to her.

Soon after, she followed the woman's map to the backwoods cemetery and walked up on the remains of a recently-smoldering fire ring.

My mother never forgot her, and it forever changed the way we saw our small southern town: an eerie place that has always been a center of religious fanaticism mixed with whispers of the occult.


Big Woods "Stephen King's Stand by Me collides with Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects in this exceptional thriller. Gutsy, gripping—and pitch-perfect in its resurrection of an era long gone."
—A. J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window

It's 1989 in the sleepy town of Longview, Texas, when ten-year-old Lucy disappears. Her parents, the police, and the community all brace for the worst, assuming her body will soon be found in Big Woods. Just like the other unsolved kidnappings.

But then Lucy's fourteen-year-old sister, Leah, starts having dreams about Lucy—dreams that reveal startling clues as to what happened. Leah begins her own investigation, and soon she meets a reclusive widow who may hold the key to finding Lucy . . . if only she can find the courage to come forward.

Delving into the paranoia surrounding satanic cults in the 1980s, Big Woods is an emotionally wrought, propulsive thriller about the enormity of grief, the magical bond between sisters, and a small town's dark secrets.

Praise for Big Woods:

"Big Woods is a nuanced family story and also a heart-stopping thriller with surprising twists. Cobb taps into the fabulous 80s sensibility of Stranger Things and also into our deepest fears about safety, evil, trust, and the power of faith in what we don't understand. I couldn't put it down."
—Amanda Eyre Ward, author of The Nearness of You and The Same Sky

"Compulsively readable."
—Rosamund Lupton, New York Times bestselling author of Sister

"Big Woods is brilliant! Cobb has crafted a haunting thriller that dives deep into grief, family connections, and the dreadful power of fear. The novel succeeds as a rich exploration of emotion and a not-so-distant time while also shining as a riveting page-turner."
—Owen Egerton, author of Hollow and writer/director of horror-comedy Bloodfest

"The novel's plot is well twisted, and author May Cobb draws out terrifying moments with clarity. Big Woods is perfectly timed to take advantage of the 1980s horror revival. Its historic details are excellent, down to the songs on Leah's car stereo. Cobb paints in Day-Glo and brings terrors of the night to life."
Foreword Magazine

May Cobb is a novelist and freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. Big Woods was selected as the winner in the 2015 Writer's League of Texas Manuscript Contest, and the pitch to Big Woods was selected as the Winner for the 2016 NaNoWriMo Pitchapalooza. May earned her MA in Literature from San Francisco State University and has spent the past several years researching and writing a book about the late jazz great Rahsaan Roland Kirk (forthcoming). Her essays and interviews have appeared in The Washington Post, The Rumpus, Edible Austin, and Austin Monthly. Visit her online at www.maycobb.com.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Remembering Your Book Is About to Be Published: A Guest Post from LAST CALL Author Paula Matter

We welcome Paula Matter, author of the new Last Call (the first book in the Maggie Lewis Mystery Series), to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here she shares some insight into remembering that she has a book coming out.

Last Call, my debut mystery, is going to be released on July 8th. I've been practicing saying those words lately. In the past several months when asked where I'm working, I responded with, "I’m retired. No, wait! I mean, I'm an author now. My first book, Last Call, comes out in July. It's a Maggie Lewis Mystery. She's a VFW bartender who gets framed for the murder of her least favorite customer. I started writing the book after I got fired from my bartending job at the VFW."

I really suck at self-promotion. But I'm getting better. I'm even remembering to tell people that the book is available to pre-order on Amazon and Midnight Ink.

Now that the release date is getting closer (ack!), I'm coming to terms with the fact that I HAVE A BOOK COMING OUT! Sorry for shouting. This whole experience is fresh, so I get a little excited when I remember that it's actually going to happen. Me, an author. I know it must be true because I have an ARC of Last Call sitting right here on my desk. I'm getting reviews from Goodreads, NetGalley, and Kirkus. Fabulous, best-selling, award-winning authors have graciously written blurbs for me. I'm getting invitations from wonderful bloggers to contribute a post. I have bookmarks. I have a contract. I have emails from my agent, editor, publicist. I HAVE A PUBLICIST! Oops, sorry.

So. I guess it's real. I do have a book coming out. Last Call, my debut mystery, is going to be released on July 8th. I hope I remember to breathe. And to tell people it's available.


Last Call A bartender at a Florida VFW has to clear her name or she'll be serving time instead of drinks

Bartender Maggie Lewis can't hold her beer, her tongue, or her temper. On a bad day at work she'd love to kill a customer or two. On a very bad day she becomes the primary suspect accused of doing just that.

Suspended from her job after being set up for the murder of Korean war veteran Jack Hoffman, Maggie has no intention of letting herself be framed. And since the police have yet to arrest anybody for the last major crime in town—the murder of Maggie's husband—she's sure they won't try too hard to collar the real culprit. So Maggie must produce enough evidence to clear her name, get her job back, and find the killer before she ends up behind the wrong kind of bars.

Praise for Last Call:

"Matter's debut provides...a heroine who's not only feisty, but...downright funny as well."
Kirkus Reviews

"Fans of Terry Shames, Bill Crider, and Steven F. Havill will want to get to know Maggie."

"You will love Paula Matter's delightful debut mystery. Her misfit heroine will win your heart and keep you guessing with her determined efforts to find the truth and clear her name."
—Victoria Thompson, bestselling author of Murder on Union Square

"Last Call is 'Cheers' with bodies, set in North Florida, with Carla tending bar. Smart, funny. You'll want to run a tab."
—Hallie Ephron, New York Times bestselling author of You'll Never Know, Dear

Paula Matter (rhymes with otter) is the author of the Maggie Lewis mysteries, which take place in a small town in North Florida. Paula's short stories have been published in anthologies in the US and Germany. Originally from Miami, Florida, Paula kept moving north until she arrived in north central Pennsylvania, where she lives with her family.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Lord Peter Wimsey, and Father Brown: A Guest Post from UPSTAGED BY MURDER author C.S. Challinor

We welcome C.S. Challinor, author of the new Upstaged by Murder (the ninth book in the Rex Graves Mystery Series), to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here she shares some insight into the cast of famous characters from her latest mystery.

I thought it might be fun to incorporate some big-name literary sleuths into my latest amateur-detective novel, Upstaged by Murder, which features a cast of community theater actors performing a whodunit on opening night. Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Lord Peter Wimsey, and Father Brown each come under suspicion when the leading lady is murdered onstage. In other words, it is "Curtains for Cassie," as pronounced by one Rodney Snyder, aka Holmes.

Some of the actors have more difficulty than others in shedding their characters, but behind their disguises are real people: a librarian, insurance salesman, florist, publisher, and deli worker, all of whom might have a motive for actual murder, along with the rest of the cast and crew. And it is the role of my Scottish barrister and part-time detective, Rex Graves, who has been attending Peril at Pinegrove Hall in the front row with his new wife, to pull aside the curtains and peer into their all lives.

In this ninth installment of the Rex Graves Mystery Series, inspiration came through watching my neighbor's daughter star in local plays. I studied drama as an elective at university, too, and, like any writer of amateur detection, have read all the Golden Age mystery classics. I took a hiatus from writing cozy mystery to pursue another genre for which I have a passion, that of psychological suspense, and, coming back to Rex Graves, constructed Upstaged by Murder to be read as both a standalone work as well as a continuation of the series.

There are two murders to solve in this latest title: the fictional one in the play, which Miss Marple & co. have been invited to Pinegrove Hall to solve in the traditional manor house mystery tradition; and the "real" one central to the novel, where the killer could be anyone onstage at the end of Act One, or else an unsuspected stranger lurking in the wings...


Upstaged by Murder

Rex Graves and his new wife, Helen, attend the opening night of a play in which five famous literary sleuths of a bygone era are invited to Pinegrove Hall to solve the mystery of a missing heirloom. When the heroine meets with a sinister end, the audience applauds, unaware the real drama has only just begun.

Rex, a Scottish barrister and private detective, is called upon to help discover who among the cast and crew staged the death of the beautiful young actress. But this challenging mystery has many complications waiting in the wings, and Rex must use all his skills to unmask the true culprit.

Praise for Upstaged by Murder:

"Challinor, who often modernizes and repurposes golden-age mystery ploys, this time takes the further step of recruiting the stars of those classic novels to help solve the case."
Kirkus Reviews

"Fans—and there are many—will be shouting, 'Bravo!'"

C.S. Challinor was raised and educated in Scotland and England (University of Kent, Canterbury: Joint Hons Latin & French). She also holds a diploma in Russian from the Pushkin Institute in Moscow. She now lives in Southwest Florida. Christmas Is Murder, the first in the Rex Graves Mystery series, reached #1 on the Kindle Bestseller List. The fifth in the series, Murder of the Bride, was a Mystery Guild Book Club pick (hardcover) and a Top Five Books of 2011 Selection by Crime Fiction Lover. Challinor is a member of the Authors Guild. Her author website may be found at www.rexgraves.com.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Mystery of Mysteries

Hi from Linda O. Johnston!  And Happy July.

I've been reading, and writing, mysteries for a long time.  I enjoy them, as do lots of other people.

I sometimes wonder why, though.  In mysteries, people get hurt and sometimes die.  In reality, too, people get hurt and sometimes die.  We all hate to see such horrible things in the news and of course it's so much worse if they happen to people we know or care about, let alone ourselves.

So why read about such things intentionally?  Why subject ourselves to fictionalized versions of such difficult reality?

Because, in fiction, there's almost always a resolution.  The good guys solve the mysteries and the bad guys get caught.  Sometimes it's even done with humor.  Yes, that's not true in all stories, but at least we can assume that's the case in many stories, and certainly in cozy mysteries.

So, for a while at least, we can immerse ourselves in fiction, whether reading it or writing it or both, and know that there will be a solution, if not a happily ever after.

That's the situation in my Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries.  My protagonist Carrie Kennersly isn't a detective, but she keeps being drawn into solving murders because she or a friend is accused of the killing.  It takes her a while--the length of each book--to solve the murder, but she does it.  Plus, there are always dogs in the stories which hopefully can help cheer the reader up while getting into the story.

Yes, mysteries can deal with people and their issues.  So does living.  But it doesn't hurt to take time out of one's own life to relax with a good mystery... and wait for that satisfying ending.