Saturday, August 25, 2018

Happy #NationalDogDay!


For so many of us, our pets go beyond an animal presence in our lives; they are our children, extended members of our family who bring our soul love and nourishment. To celebrate our dogs this National Dog Day, I wanted to take a look at some of our fabulous books that celebrate the bonds we have with our dogs - even as they help us solve crimes!

Read if you like: Recipes for homemade pet treats (and human treats!), Joanna Fluke, and cozy mysteries with dogs

Join veterinary technician Carrie Kennersly, owner of the new Barkery & Biscuits Dog Bakery, as she and her canine companions navigate the mysteries of murder.

Grab the latest release in the series, Pick and Chews!

Looking for more Linda O. Johnston mysteries that feature dogs? Check out the Superstition Mystery series!

Read if you like: Recipes for homemade pet treats, books that make you laugh out loud, and cozy mysteries with dogs

Join Cameron Cripps-Hayman and the rest of the Metamora Action Agency as they solve crimes, aided by their canine companions.

The latest release in the series, Fatal Festival Days, is now available for pre-order!

Read if you like: Yoga, German Shepherds, and cozy mysteries

Join yoga instructor Kate Davidson, her German Shepherd Bella, and boyfriend Michael as they solve murder after murder.

Grab the latest release in the series, Pre-Meditated Murder.

Read if you like: Photography, animals of shapes and sizes, and cozy mysteries

Join animal photographer Janet McPhail and her cadre of animal companions as they solve murders.

Grab the latest release in the series, Shepherd's Crook.

Friday, August 10, 2018

When an Entire Novel is Inspired by an Opening Sentence: a Guest Post from THE NEGOTIATOR Author Brendan DuBois

We welcome Brendan DuBois, author of the new Negotiator, to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here he shares the inspiration...a simple opening line...for his latest book.

There are a lot of memorable opening lines in novels.

"Call me Ishmael," from Melville's Moby Dick.

Or, "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again," from Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca.

Then there's my personal favorite: "Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Four shots ripped into my groin and I was off on the greatest adventure of my life!" from Max Shulman's Sleep Til Noon.

The reason I wrote The Negotiator was due to a first line that just popped into my head one day while I was working on a new project, and which I quickly wrote down so I didn't forget it:

"I'm a negotiator, the best in the world."


That one sentence bubbled up in the creative cauldron that is my mind, and lived for a while on an otherwise blank document on my computer.

I didn't know who the narrator was, but I knew he had a cool job. He was a negotiator. Or, rather, the Negotiator.

Imagine you're in the possession of something highly illegal, like stolen bonds, or jewelry lifted from a burglary, or a rare piece of art. You need to get rid of it, but you don't know who to trust to get a fair deal without being ripped off.

That's when The Negotiator steps in. He will appraise your stolen item (no drugs, people, or anything that would threaten the security of the United States) and approach a potential buyer. He will serve as the intermediary, ensuring that both sides of the negotiation feel comfortable with the deal, with him getting a percentage of the sale for making the deal.

It's a win-win-win all around.

And then I started writing The Negotiator, and then started having a lot of fun, more fun than any author should get.

You see, I'm also the author of the Lewis Cole mysteries, and the eleventh novel in that series—Hard Aground—was released this past April. I also write science fiction, and I have a novel coming out in October, Black Triumph, from Baen Books. Oh, and in my spare time (hah-hah-hah), I'm also co-authoring works with New York Times bestselling author James Patterson.

Which meant that when I started writing The Negotiator, it wasn't my first rodeo, but I decided to do something very, very different.

No outline.




There are plotters (writers who write detailed outlines of their works) and "pantsers" (writers who write from the seat of their pants), but at least in those two examples, both sets have some idea of where the story is going.

Not me.

Heck, I didn't even know the name of my main character, the narrator, and to this day, I still don't know his real name. I don't know where he was born, how he was raised, or what his background is. He's a mystery, an enigma, and as I noted in Chapter One:

"…What did I do before I went independent?

Perhaps I was once one of those $500 an hour Wall Street lawyers working for a hedge fund, going line by line through financial documents, yawning desperately in an attempt not to toss myself out of a twentieth floor window. Or maybe I was the best BMW salesman in Southern California, with a wall of plaques and a shelf full of trophies denoting same, complete with my own private parking space and a host of envious fellow salesmen who wished they could dine on my liver. Or maybe I was a Special Forces soldier, with a love of firearms and the canny ability to be dropped into whatever Third World hellhole was making the news that month, and being able to reach an agreement between tribes that have been at war since the time of Charlemagne over a stolen goat.

Take your pick."

But what I quickly learned that writing in ignorance produced a Zen-like bliss, and I had so much fun just writing the story, letting things happen, and trying to puzzle out what happens next.

And part of the fun was having something bad happen to The Negotiator, where a proposed deal quickly turns deadly, leading into a lot of gunfire and the death of The Negotiator's business associate.

That won't stand.

And as the book unfolds, the reader gets to learn more about my main character than his negotiating skills, including his investigative techniques, his attractiveness to members of the opposite sex, and his absolute drive and determination to find justice, no matter what.

For in that case, that's non-negotiable.


The Negotiator "The mysterious George has lots of clout, and the Negotiator has to make some exceptionally sharp and unexpected deals in his quest for payback. DuBois wraps up his clever tale with a few nifty twists. Readers will hope for a sequel."—Publishers Weekly

For the Negotiator, calling 911 isn't an option.

The Negotiator has built a lucrative business on his talent for moving valuable merchandise with no questions asked. As a successful entrepreneur in the criminal underground, he's learned that it's good for business—and for his health—to keep gunplay off the table as much as possible.

But when a deal that promises to deliver a massive payday leads to a bloodbath, he's forced into a no-holds-barred mission for vengeance. And for the Negotiator, when the stakes of a deal are life and death, gunplay is definitely back on the table.

Praise for Brendan DuBois:

"Surprises keep coming until the last page, where we're let in on a vast, circular plot reminiscent of Grisham—and worthy of him."

"A taut, suspenseful thriller."
Library Journal

"DuBois throws in a pleasing final surprise."
Kirkus Reviews

"[DuBois] writes a mean novel."
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

Brendan DuBois (New Hampshire) is the author of Resurrection Day, the Lewis Cole series, and several other novels. His short stories have been included in several "Best of" anthologies, and have won two Barry Awards and an Al Blanchard Crime Fiction Award. Visit him online at

Monday, August 6, 2018

What It Takes to Write a Mystery

by Linda O. Johnston

What does it take to write a mystery?

An imagination, certainly.  Who's your protagonist, and how does she wind up solving crimes--especially if she's an amateur who earns her living in ways far removed from being an investigator?  Someone like a veterinary technician who winds up owning a barkery and bakery... and somehow winds up finding murderers, too, after she and her closest friends sometimes become murder suspects.  That's what happens in my Barkery and Biscuits Mysteries for Midnight Ink.

It takes persistence, sitting down in front of computer screen often enough to get that story fully written, from first draft to a polished manuscript you're ready to send to your editor.  And then going through the edits that are necessary to get the story polished enough for printing and/or making available as an e-book.

It takes a sense of wanting to do all you can to make sure readers know about your books, from social media to personal appearances including attending conferences--which can yank a writer from her comfort zone if she would rather write than get before and audience and crow about what she does and what great stories she's written.

Oh, and yes.  It takes a sense of humor--and maybe a sense of daring.  What do I mean?  Well, a few weeks ago we had a couple of cops visit our house to look at the footage from the security cameras my husband mounted because of some issues in our neighborhood.  That day, there was a problem at the house across the street--which happens a lot.  This time, though, police were called in and needed more information.  We were able to show them some footage that we think was helpful to them.  They even saved some on their body cameras.

And what did I say to them?  Among other things: "I kill people for a living."

Fortunately, they were nice cops and they had a sense of humor, too.  Of course I explained what I meant, that I was a mystery writer.  And I wouldn't have said it at all if I hadn't gotten the impression that they were nice cops with a sense of humor.  They laughed, and so did I


So yes, it takes imagination of many sorts to write a mystery!


Linda O. Johnston is currently writing the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries for Midnight Ink.  Her most recent one is Pick and Chews, a May 2018 release, which is fourth in the series.

Friday, August 3, 2018

When the Stars Align (Or, How it All Began...): a Guest Post from TAIL OF THE DRAGON author Connie di Marco

We welcome Connie di Marco, author of the new Tail of the Dragon, the latest release in the Zodiac Mystery series, to Midnight Ink's blog today! Here she shares the astrological inspiration for the characters of her new book.

Julia Bonatti, my San Francisco astrologer, was born on December 3, 1981 at 11:51 a.m. PST in San Francisco. But really, I believe she was born years before that, most likely the day I cracked open my first Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden or Sherlock Holmes—the day I became a hopelessly addicted and devouring lover of mysteries!

Fast forward many years (hate to tell you how many) and I finally worked up the courage to attempt to write my very own mystery. I wasn't sure I could do it. I had no idea how to go about it and knew even less about the business of writing and publishing. My goal was to write one mystery book and hopefully be traditionally published. I never anticipated the winding path I had embarked upon.

Julia’s practice, I realized, had to be in San Francisco, a city of dank alleyways, brilliant sunshine, secret stairways, vicious winds, fog and shadows–a fascinating, mysterious place. A city that has inspired scores of writers–from Dashiell Hammett to John Lescroart, and many, many more. A perfect setting for a mystery!

As an astrologer, Julia spends a lot of time working in isolation, just like a writer, studying natal charts and calmly advising her clients. But her occupation would put her in touch with a wide spectrum of people, clients who would bring crime to her doorstep. What could be better? An occupation that could get her into lots of trouble!

The Madness of Mercury, the first book in the Zodiac Mysteries, was inspired by the Jim Jones years in San Francisco. My evil preacher, the Reverend Roy of the Prophet's Tabernacle, arrives in town and in short order has made inroads into the police department, swayed politicians and charmed society movers and shakers. Julia, in her astrological advice column, "AskZodia," speaks out against the cult and immediately becomes a target of the Army of the Prophet.

I was very excited about The Madness of Mercury, but before I could complete it, I had to put it on hold when the offer to write the Soup Lovers' Mysteries (as Connie Archer) came about. As much as I enjoyed writing something quite different for a few years, I was frustrated that I hadn't been able to finish The Madness of Mercury and continue with the Zodiac project.

Fast forward again–five books later, and thanks to Midnight Ink, the Zodiac Mysteries were finally ready to see the light of day. The second in the series, All Signs Point to Murder, is based on a real crime of which I had personal knowledge. I didn't believe the woman convicted of the crime was guilty. And so, All Signs Point to Murder was my take on what could have really happened. Did it? Well, I'll never know, but I still believe in my premise.

But how does Julia solve her crimes? With astrology, of course! And that involves working out the charts of the murderer and victim, just so that everything is accurate. For example, in All Signs Point to Murder, the victim was a woman somewhere between 25 to 35 years of age. She had to be of questionable common sense and her life needed to be pretty much out of control. But she was still more a victim than a killer. Was this fair to my character? No, not really. It's fiction, but it had to be within the realm of possibility.

I decided to make her a Sagittarian with her Moon in the same sign. She's too trusting, too outgoing, and more than a little foolhardy. But with Scorpio rising, and a dreadful Mars-Pluto conjunction in the 12th house, sitting on her Ascendant, she could be dangerous–mostly to herself. Her killer needed to be someone who could exert a controlling influence over her. I finally found the perfect birth date for my killer–a Neptune placement that would cloud my victim's judgment. It would be too late before she'd see the truth.

Now your brain is probably short-circuiting with all this astrochat, which is what mine does when I'm trying to sort out these charts. Do I worry that I've painted myself into a corner? Sometimes. But eventually it all works out, enough so that an astrologer could agree with me at least. After all, whatever the birth date, anyone is capable of murder, aren't they?

Julia’s third adventure is the Tail of the Dragon. She's asked to go undercover at her client's law firm in an effort to expose the sender of death threats. The plan soon goes awry and Julia realizes she's dealing with a murderer. Her life is now in mortal danger and she'll need to check her own transits to see if she can survive this tale!


Tail of the Dragon "di Marco does a good job keeping the reader guessing whodunit in this psychic cozy."
Publishers Weekly

A rare astrological event could help San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti avoid a deadly destiny

Julia Bonatti loves the freedom of working for herself as a professional astrologer. But after receiving several unexpected bills, she considers a temp job offer from her old boss a stroke of luck too good to pass up.

On her first day, the posh law office becomes a crime scene when one of the partners is found dead. Julia discovers that a series of death threats have been sent to several employees of the firm, and she uses her astrological expertise to discover possible motives. But before she can convince the authorities of what she knows, the killer strikes again. Will Julia unmask the culprit before he, or she, takes another life?

Praise for the Zodiac Mysteries:

All Signs Point to Murder:
"Di Marco crafts an intricate, twisting plot and layers on the astrological details that fans of psychic mysteries so enjoy."

The Madness of Mercury: "This smartly written debut from di Marco sets the stage for a promising series."
Kirkus Reviews

"Di Marco's series starter features a clever plot and a smart and feisty heroine with feet firmly planted on the ground while she searches the stars."
Library Journal

Connie di Marco (Los Angeles, CA) is the bestselling author of the Soup Lovers Mysteries (Penguin), which she published under the name Connie Archer. She has always been fascinated by astrology and is excited to combine her love of the stars with her love of writing mysteries. Visit her at, on Facebook at Connie di Marco (Author), or on Twitter: @askzodia.