Thursday, May 26, 2016

Watt, Watt? Wattpad.

Have you heard of Wattpad? If so, you're likely to associate it with teen readers and fanfiction writers, but if you haven't checked out the mystery/thriller section, you should! It's a great place to find new and emerging, and even a few established authors for FREE!

Authors write their novels, get a cover and upload them onto Wattpad where readers download them to read, make comments, and vote for their favorites. Yearly, the most loved novels win Watty awards.

Since Wattpad is a community of writers who do it for the love of writing, some novels might not be edited to the standard you find in the bookstore, but many are, and if you're able to put a few grammar blips aside, you can find many a gem!




If you're an author looking to build your fanbase or newsletter list, this is a great way to find new readers. They might not turn into buyers, but if you're looking for word of mouth, Wattpad and other sites like it have been known to house rabid fans of favorite authors.

It's free for readers or authors, so why not give it a try?

Do you have any reading or publishing experience on Wattpad? Tell us what you think in the comments!

~Jamie Blair
Deadly Dog Days (available for pre-order!)




Monday, May 23, 2016

The Psychology of Murder



I had a fabulous time at Malice Domestic the last weekend in April. I was lucky enough to be on a panel with three other fabulous authors (Lori Rader-Day, Sheyna Galyan, and R.J. Harlick). Our wonderful moderator was Patti Ruocco. Our topic? The Psychology of Murder. The questions Pattti asked made me think more deeply about the motives and backgrounds of my characters, and I wished I could share my answers with my readers. So I figured, why not?

Without further ado, I present to you The Psychology of Murder—or at least the psychology of a murder-writing yoga teacher, as interviewed by Patti Ruocco.  Questions in bold were asked by Patti.  Responses are from me.

In your Kate Davidson series, Kate has some deep-seated psychological issues of her own.  (Pogonophobia (fear of beards), fear of abandonment, anger management issues, and early childhood trauma.)  Tell us about them, and why they interest you as a writer?

I enjoy exploring dichotomies—people who don’t always act the way we’d expect. Most people I know expect yoga teachers to be flexible, fit, and emotionally balanced. So I wondered: what if I wrote about a yoga teacher who was none of the above?

Which brings me to Kate: a slightly overweight (at least in the first two books), neurotic yoga teacher with anger management issues. As soon as I visualized her, I began to wonder: what made Kate who she is, and how would her less-than-perfect characteristics manifest themselves in the rest of her life? I answered those questions by writing Murder Strikes a Pose.

At first Kate’s aversion to beards was simply a plot device. I needed Kate and her crazy German shepherd, Bella, to both not like beards, for reasons I won’t go into here. But the neurosis quickly grew to mean more than that.

I was driving home from the grocery store one day when I thought, Fear of beards. I’ll bet there’s a psychological term for that! I drove home as fast as I could and powered up my computer. Sure enough, there was: pogonophobia. Fear of beards was a diagnosed medical condition.

The why of it all has revealed itself to me in future books. Much of it has to do with Kate’s early childhood traumas. Suffice it to say, she didn’t have an easy life before Rene, Michael, and Bella arrived on the scene.

Kate’s past would have crushed most people. She’s still recovering. She’s still trying.

As my readers know, she fails all too often, but somehow she always manages to get back up again. Kate has an internal strength I truly admire. She is a person in transition: growing from a woman who is generous and kind, but damaged, to a person with great fortitude and strength. The best part of writing my series is discovering Kate.

At what point in the development of the story did you realize that one of these characters – possibly one you have been fond of – is actually a murderer? And how does that affect your development of that character after that point?

I usually know the identity of the killer when I start writing. In my first two books, I didn’t like my murderers much. By the third and the fourth, I began to sympathize with them. As I’ve matured in my writing, I’ve worked to make my characters more three-dimensional. Not fully good, not fully bad. Kind of like real life, don’t you think?

The villains (if there really is such a thing) in my stories are simply flawed individuals who have done a horrible act. My writing therefore explores why normally good people are driven to do something evil.

I don’t think this new mindset affects my development of the character after the killing, but it does change how I write them as fully formed humans before it.

How do you reveal the psychology of the characters in your book?

I write in first person, so I have to reveal everything in my series through Kate. What she sees, what she feels energetically, what she hears in conversations.

Karma’s a Killer, my most recent book, involves arson. When writing this book, I researched FBI profiles of arsonists. Some of this research showed up in the arsonist’s habits, some in his or her appearance. Some is revealed in the character’s back story, which is revealed later in the book. I try to be fair to my readers, which means that everything they need to know to solve the crime is contained within the pages of the mystery. That includes revealing characteristics of the criminals.

Patti: How do your normal characters stay normal against the staggering events in your novel?

What is “normal?” If you ever see it, please point it out to me. I’ll take a picture. ;-)

In all seriousness though, my characters are never unchanged by death. How could they be? Much of Karma’s a Killer, for example, revolves around Kate’s coming to terms with her responsibility for a death in A Killer Retreat.

Kate stays sane, if you will, through her yoga practice, her connection to family, and by drinking quite a bit more wine than is good for her. Pretty soon she’ll have to start seeing a psychologist.

How are your characters influenced by other characters around them?

According to my teacher, we can see ourselves most clearly in the mirror of our relationships. In other words, like it or not, we are influenced by those around us. Supposedly, when we achieve the true state of yoga, we are as uncolored as clear crystals. Unfazed, if you will, by the people and events around us. I haven’t gotten there yet, nor has anyone else I’ve met. How could my characters?

Diagnose your characters: what do they fear? What pressures are playing out on them during the course of the book?

Kate suffers from depression in my most recent book, and she’s dangerously close to developing an alcohol addiction. The events that take place A Killer Retreat weigh heavily on her. She’s afraid that she’s not nearly as good a person as her friends think she is. Primarily, she fears letting down the people she loves.

A classic psychology technique is to explore the patient’s childhood. Do you create character background sketches as part of your process in fleshing out the characters? Does their past impact their present?

I don’t specifically write background sketches, but I reflect a lot on my characters’ histories. Kate is like a real person to me—a friend who wants to tell me her story. And like a real person, she reveals more about herself over time as she learns to trust me. I didn’t discover the origins of her pogonophobia, for example, until midway through writing Karma’s a Killer. Then again, neither did Kate.

Lastly, as a writer, how do you handle the psychology of rejection?

Very carefully! I want so much for my readers to love my work, and most of the time they do. Sometimes, however, they don’t. I give myself twenty-four hours to brush it off, then I move on. After all, Kate and I have another murder to solve!


Tracy Weber


books available

PS--all three books in my Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at http://tracyweberauthor.com.  Thanks for reading!


 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

This Writing Life: Springing a Leak, Author-Style

Happy one year in the house!

By Lisa Alber

A year ago, exactly, to this day, May 19th, 2015, I closed on my very first house, my own little sanctuary away from the world. Cheers! To one year!

Alas, this little house of mine, it had a dry rot problem, which is common in the Pacific Northwest, so I shelled out major moulah to get it fixed. Fine. Fixed. Yay!

A year later, my house sprang a leak. I hoped and prayed that the contractor's guy had fixed the problem last month, but, no, he had not <insert your expletive here>.

The funny thing is that I think my house channeled my inner writing demons, because I've been having the worst problem with the ending of my work-in-progress. I know the ending--I've always known whodunit and whydunit, so why can't I get to "The End"? I keep writing scenes that aren't getting me there.

Over the weekend, as the rain poured down, and as raindrops tap-tap-tap-ed into a bucket, I had an epiphany: My plot had sprung a leak somewhere. That's why I couldn't finish--

and, to continue this awkward leakage metaphor, I couldn't help but think of a garden hose, and how you don't get no water pressure out the end of the thing if it's leaking somewhere along the way to the end.

Despite my anxiety about finishing by deadline (at one point I started to whimper, which I sometimes do under extreme stress), I decided to slow down for a day or two. It was no use trying to force a bad end to the story. It just wasn't feeling right. Instead, I called the contractor, waited around for him (isn't that always the way?), and realized that I felt relief along with the anxiety.

When it comes to the writing, I've learned to trust my gut, and my gut said, Oh yeah, baby, now you're thinking about it the right way--which is to say, thinking outside my own box, the box I'd written myself into by the end that wouldn't end itself.

I was still freaking out--deadlines will do that--but as I watched my cute contractor walk up the stairs ahead of me and do his thing with plastic and hammer and nails and a long piece of wood (now, now, no double entendre meant by that!), I decided it was no use freaking out. My contractor wasn't. He was doing the next logical task. He didn't appear phased by the leak, and as he said, Yes, leaks happen, but they're fixable. Sometimes you just gotta dig a little deeper than the first obvious, easy fix.

So it goes with my novel. I talked myself off the ledge of total hysteria that my story required a complete tear down. No, no, no-ditty no no. Was the contractor going to have to tear down the house? Of course not.

And wouldn't you know it, as soon as I let it be okay to think about revisions before officially finishing the first draft, some new and interesting plot ideas came to me -- changes that I can already tell will allow me to get to the end.

How well do you trust your gut in life? Has it ever failed you?

Lisa Alber is the author of the County Clare mysteries. Her debut novel, Kilmoon, has been called "utterly poetic" and "a stirring debut." Her second in the County Clare mysteries, WHISPERS IN THE MIST will be available in August 2016 from Midnight Ink Books. Ever distractible, you may find her staring out windows, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging round out her distractions. You can find Lisa on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Edith Hits the Movies

Edith Maxwell here. Well, not quite the movies, but I am the proud owner of a YouTube channel. And yes, I can't quite believe I just typed that!

Delivering the Truth, my first Quaker Midwife Mystery, released from Midnight Ink a month ago. To celebrate, I created an historical walking tour through Amesbury, Massachusetts, where the book is set. Sixty - sixty! - people showed up for it. I led them along a route featuring places in town where events in the book are set. We visited the Powow River, the Friends Meetinghouse, John Greenleaf Whittier's home, and the Upper Falls, site of several thriving textile mills in the day, among other sites.

The tour, complete with map, was the brainchild of publicist Skye Wentworth.

When my videographer and social-media-maven friend Christine Green suggested filming the walk, I jumped on the offer. Both my adults sons, Allan and JD, flew in for the weekend and acted as walk captains and book salespersons. I ordered a Quaker dress from a local seamstress. I started stressing, saying, "What if we get fifty people?"

But it was all fine. Everyone followed along and acted like they could hear. They sure looked like they were having a good time.

We had a party afterward, complete with cake (my very first book cake!), at a local restaurant housed in the old train depot building. We schmoozed, I signed books, everybody got a drink. I was happy.

So the day was a big success! But so many out-of-town fans and friends couldn't come. And now you can. The edited video, from Christine Green's Creative Factory, is now on my YouTube channel (I still can't believe I just typed that).

And now the cover is released for book two, Called to Justice, and it's equally as stunning as the first book cover.

Please take a look and tell me what you think. Have you done other book-related walking tours? Would you want to go on this walk in person when you come to the northeastern corner of Massachusetts?


Monday, May 9, 2016

BOOK LAUNCH MONDAY | Nadine Nettmann on her Debut Novel Set in Wine Country


Web mistress Lisa here to introduce Nadine Nettmann, whose debut novel, DECANTING A MURDER, has just released. Today she shares her decision about choosing the location for her novel. Please welcome Nadine! ~Lisa

Setting a Novel in Napa

When it came time to choose a location for my debut novel, Decanting a Murder, I had a decision to make. Although I knew the novel would take place in a winery, I had to decide where the winery would be set. Which one of the many wine regions would be home to the start of my series?

After I became a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2011, I immediately wanted to visit wine regions around the world. There’s something to be said for seeing where the grapes are grown, the topography of the area, and the way the sun shines on the vineyard. You learn so much more about the wine, and I truly love knowing the story behind each and every bottle.

Although I was only outlining the story at this point, I wanted to have the location set before I put words on the page. Because, as you’ll find, the essence of the wine region flows throughout the story. I’ve traveled to wine regions around the world from Chile to South Africa to vineyards all over Europe, but after some consideration, I decided on California’s Napa Valley which has more than four hundred wineries.

There were a few reasons for choosing Napa, but the main tipping point was because I’m a native of California and I thought it would be fun to start the series close to home.

But why set it at a winery if my main character is a sommelier who works in a restaurant? I wanted to start the series where the wine’s journey begins, which is in the vineyard. It’s the start of each bottle’s story before it’s opened at a restaurant or at home.

Though the first book takes place in Napa, I would like to have each book set in a different wine region. For example, the next book, Uncorking a Lie, takes place at a dinner party in Sonoma, a wine region not too far from Napa.

I hope readers enjoy a glimpse of Napa Valley in Decanting a Murder. Every chapter is paired with a wine so get your drinking glasses ready!

Thanks for joining us, Nadine! Do we have any wine lovers in the house? Are you a red wine person or a white wine person? 

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, from Chile to South Africa to every region in France, but chose Napa as the setting for Decanting a Murder, her debut novel. Nadine is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She lives in California with her husband. Find out more about Nadine at Nadinenettmann.com

Decanting a Murder is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Dying For The Little Things

Every author is driven by different things. Each of us shares one or two common ones—love of books and creating stories. A few are driven by money and reward—good luck with that. Me, I’m driven by something inside that haunts me in my sleep and near every waking moment. I’m not quite sure what it is sometimes. Maybe it’s the solitude of writing and creating. Maybe it’s that my characters are my best friends. Maybe it’s brain damage from my earlier days chasing adventures.

But for me, writing began when I was a very young child—the fifth grade—and the biggest encouragement came from my grandparents, Oscar and Irene. They bought me books, coaxed me to read and write more and more, and were some of my biggest cheerleaders on simple things like being the high school newspaper editor and writing short stories for class. When I disappeared for years into the military to chase adventures, my grandmother remained steadfastly in my corner and always reminded me of my first love—to be an author. It took years for me to settle down and begin that journey with deliberation and not as some fanciful pipedream.  But all the way, I could hear my grandparents pushing me on until the years—and they—had gone by before I knew it.

Age has taken its toll on me one day at a time—and oh hell, I ain’t that old! My swashbuckling days are in the past with great memories and lost friends. No more hot surveillance through the streets of Athens and Istanbul. No homicide interrogations or drug deals. I can’t go days without sleep on operations looking for Abu Nidal or 17 November. No more protecting world leaders or celebrities. Crime scenes have been replaced by desk tops and keyboards. My steadfast partner replaced by two Labradors and a Mastiff. Fast cars and cool guns are replaced by, well, fast motorcycles and cool guns—okay some things never change.

I miss those days being an adventurer and pseudo-tough guy (that definition is very loose, mind you). In my earlier days, it took a lot to control me or keep me in line. And in those early days, I learned to  kept my emotions and weaknesses protected. It took a lot to break through the outer shell and get inside. I always kept my real persona hidden because of a business most only read about in books or see on the six o’clock news.

Not anymore. Age and green eyes felled me. 

My youngest grandchild—oops, sorry Jack, you just joined us—second youngest grandchild—Rail, is not deterred by my gruff exterior or locked doors of solitude. She demands one thing and one thing only—my utmost attention. To fail to deliver places me in peril—a stolen keyboard or mouse, missing car keys, books removed from my shelves and less-than-neatly piled in the middle of my floor. This tiny little child sitting in the middle of my desk blocking my monitor and saying, “Papa, you and me, Papa. You and me.”

How could the toughest of men not melt to that?

Rail waiting on Papa to stop writing
Since moving in with us—her mom and dad are building a new house—Rail has installed herself as my constant companion, editor, supervisor, and chief-assistant. My other five kids—all adults and most married with kids of their own—cannot believe that this hardcore, workaholic, blustering rock has been felled by a three year old.

Neither can I.

Now mind you, I’ve chased terrorists and criminals, spent sleepless days-on-end running operations in foreign countries during wartime, and had my share of nail-biting moments and terrifying misadventures (bad guys and divorce lawyers included). But never in my days have I ever felt so helpless and not in control as when I hear the words, “Papa, you and me, let’s … play ball, watch Doc, make breakfast, play hide and seek, watch Doc, watch Ponies, play Barbies, make popcorn, watch Doc, hide from mommy, watch Doc, read another story …”
Teaching Papa to cook
 

When did I become a little girl’s teddy bear? When did this metamorphosis occur and what happened to the real me—you know, the gruff, solitary, biker-dude? Is there a peapod growing in my basement? An unreported alien abduction?

Nope. Just green eyes. And every time I think of it, I remember Oscar and Irene.

When my kids were young, I spent most of my time on the road—often times, not even in the same country. Later on, in their teenage years, I worked a billion hours a week and travelled constantly. Stress, exhaustion, and career were bad combinations and I dare say I missed some of the best years of my life. Thankfully, they’ve grown into very successful people on their own. Now, they are experiencing those same things and it makes it hard to have family close all the time. Understand, I have six wonderful grandchildren spread from Virginia to Japan. They all have a different, but personal bond with me. Jack, of course, joined the family last week and I've yet to introduce myself. No worries, Jack, you're part of the crew. With all six, the one bond I value the most is that bond that binds all of them together - regardless of me - as cousins. I know, I know, I'm too young for all this. Tell me about it!

Despite her rank as second to youngest, young Rail moreso benefits from location. She’s with me every day and night and never far away. If Papa is working, he must stop. If Papa is writing, he must move over and let her sit on the desk and instruct him on prose and grammar and Doc McStuffins. If Papa is cooking dinner, move her stool up and let her show me how to stir and spill and drop eggs and create a mushroom cloud of flour.

Why is it, Papa, that you can’t work, write, cook, and clean and still have time for hide and seek and Doc? Hmmmm? What the hell, Papa? What’s wrong? Are you tired?

Never too tired. Yes, Oscar and Irene, I hear you whispering in my ear.
 
And she loves books too—something from me in her DNA that couldn’t have come from my blood. We read everywhere and she loves to sit on my desk while I write—normally in the middle of my desk, on front of the monitor, holding my keyboard. And she knows my novels on the bookshelf and likes to look at them often. Once, she carried one around for an hour and kept telling me, “Papa you did this.” Yes, sweetie, I did. Maybe you will one day, too.

I have no doubts. Do you hear me Irene?

One only has to look at the young biker chick to know who wears the leathers in this household. Last year, my Harley scared her to death. A month ago, she began asking for a ride, but there’s no way I can do that yet. Instead, I told her she had to be old enough to take the noise, had to be able to sit on the bike safely, and had to be able to wear the gear. 
 


Last night, she had enough of my solemn mood and writing. I didn’t have time for hide and seek and wasn’t up for another episode of Doc. Instead, she grabbed my hand, dragged me to the garage, and insisted I begin her training as my biker chick and backseat companion. Sure, the leather jacket weighs more than she does. The gloves are elbow length and the glasses can’t find a hold. But the helmet ... that has possibilities! 

So this once toughguy and world traveler extraordinaire has been tamed. It took youth and green eyes to laugh in this old guy’s face and command my obedience, playtime, stories, and of course, Doc. Soon, it’ll be, “Papa, take me on the Harley.” Yes, ma’am—get your helmet, kid, let’s ride.

My grandparents were my biggest fans even before I’d published a book. They knew it would happen. In being there for me, I learned a lot about how to be one—a writer and a grandparent—even in my very, very young Papa-age. If I can do nothing else for these youngs ones, I’ll show them that whatever they want in life, whatever dreams they have, they can have them.

I did.

Now, other dreams—those new ones I hope I’m not too old to chase (naw)—better look out. I’m ready to go—adventure, new novels, life’s missing pieces, and yup, many Harley travels.

Someday—soon I hope—my rear Harley seat will have a passenger for those new stories. It’s empty now and just waiting for those green eyes. Until then, I’ll just write my adventures and wait …

Thank you Irene and Oscar for showing me the way. I’ll pass it all along. 
 

Tj O’CONNOR IS THE GOLD MEDAL WINNER OF THE 2015 INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS BOOK AWARDS (IPPY) FOR MYSTERIES. He is the author of Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, and Dying to Tell—and New Sins for Old Scores, a new paranormal mystery coming in 2017! He is currently working on a new thriller. 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
Facebook: www.facebook.com/tjoconnor.author
Blog: http://tjoconnorbooks.blogspot.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7148441.T_J_O_Connor

Monday, May 2, 2016

Delightful Malice Domestic

by Linda O. Johnston

Today is the second day of May--and its first Monday, my InkSpot blogging day. 

Last weekend I attended one of the most fun conferences for cozy mystery authors and fans--Malice Domestic.  But a lot of you reading this might already know that since you were there, too!

I've gone to many Malices for more than ten years, and the annual conference has moved around the Washington, D.C., area.  This one was located at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bethesda, MD, as it has been for several years.  That hotel could perhaps use some remodeling or refurbishing--and, lo and behold, I was told by one of the lobby stewards that when the conference returns next year the lobby, at least, will be different.  I don't know about the rest of the hotel, though.

In any event, it's a great facility and location for Malice, with lots of places to meet and eat and have events and panels and a lot of fun.

I got to meet up with some existing writer and reader friends and make new friends, too.  I saw my delightful Midnight Ink editor, Terri Bischoff, there several times, including joining her and other Inkers for dinner on Friday night.

My panel was The "Paws" That Detect: Animal Sidekicks, appropriate, considering all the dogs who appear in my two Midnight Ink mystery series--the Superstition Mysteries and the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries.  My fellow panelists also write animal-related mysteries, so I think we and our audience had a lot of fun.

I noted that some copies of LOST UNDER A LADDER, my first Superstition Mystery, were included in the book bags given to Malice participants.  My second Barkery & Biscuits Mystery, TO CATCH A TREAT, was also available at the conference even though its official publication date isn't until May 8.  I had a great time signing copies at my group signing after my panel.


In all, it was a very enjoyable weekend.  Will I do it again next year?  Don't be surprised if I do!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Male Amateur Sleuths!



When I think of cozy mysteries, I think of a female main character acting as the amateur sleuth, solving murders in a small town populated with somewhat quirky neighbors. But there is the rare exception--the male amateur sleuth.

One of my favorite T.V. series is Grantchester, based on the series by James Runcie. I haven't read the books yet (they're on my exceedingly long TBR list), but set in the 1950's in a small, English town of Grantchester, they feature Sydney Chambers, a vicar, who teams up with Inspector Geordie Keating. And I can't forget Sydney's black lab, Dickens!

Sometimes I define a book as cozy, but it's not categorized as such. For example, the Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling). The description for The Cuckoo's Calling does say it's a mystery in the classic vein, which, to me, suggests an Agatha-esque novel. If you've read The Cuckoo's Calling or The Silkworm, let me know if the comments if you would classify them as cozies.

It seems as though most detective or mystery novels with a male lead character are hard-boiled or feature a man associated with a crime-fighting agency, such as an FBI agent. For the cozy-loving reader, it's a nice to have diverse options for our beloved genre. I will always adore my strong heroines, the bakers, realtors, and book collectors who stumble into murder and can't resist the urge to figure out who done it. But every now and then it's nice to find a series that opens the door wider, broadening the cozy landscape.

What are your thoughts? Do you enjoy reading from a male POV, or do you prefer to stick with female sleuths? Any recommendations? Please let us know in the comments!

If you're looking for male amateur sleuths, here's a list from The Cozy Mystery List Blog:
Mystery Books With Men As Sleuths*

*note - this list is dated 2012, however, it's been updated in the comments