Monday, January 23, 2017

Puppies are Killer

By Tracy Weber


Life sometimes imitates fiction. I send my completed manuscripts to my publisher over a year before they hit the shelves. A Fatal Twist was out of my hands in mid-December of 2015. I decided to include two puppies (Mutt and Jeff) in the book, because … well, because I like puppies. And nothing is funnier than crazy puppy antics. At least if those puppies belong to somebody else.
My own dog, Tasha (who inspired Bella, the German shepherd in my Downward Dog Mystery Series) was eleven when I wrote A Fatal Twist. Tasha was an unbelievably easy puppy, though I didn’t realize it at the time. Calm, never destructive. She always wanted to be by my side. If I told her not to do something, once was enough. Don’t get me wrong: She had lots of behavior issues as an adult, and she was impossible to potty train. Other than that, she was a dream puppy.
So I had to reach deep into my imagination to create Mutt and Jeff, the two tiny labradoodle monsters introduced in A Fatal Twist. Mutt and Jeff love to chew—everything. They dig up Kate’s garden. They abhor confinement and make it their life’s work to escape. They adore other dogs, especially when they’re biting them in the face, and they play-attack shoes—while people are walking in them. When I finished the book, I wondered: Did I make the puppies too unbelievable?
Ha!
In July of 2016, my lovely girl Tasha passed away. A few weeks later, I adopted a new best friend. She’s an all-black German shepherd puppy named Ana, and as I write this, she just turned five months old. Her name is short for Ananda, which means “unending joy.” When I chose her name, I failed to consider what unending joy might look like in the eyes of a puppy.
 
She loves to chew paper—$20 bills and unfinished manuscripts are her favorites. She digs holes in my yard faster than my husband can fix them. She refuses to be confined. Thus far she’s learned how to wiggle out of three styles of harnesses and jump four-foot fences. Yesterday, she decided to start opening doorknobs. She likes to play “bitey-face” with all other canines, whether they enjoy the game or not. She attacks my pant legs when I walk. I’ve had to replace half of my wardrobe.
See any parallels?
My Facebook friends tell me to train her. Believe me, I’m trying. Her trainers (two primary and an additional three at puppy camp) look at me, shake their heads, and smile. “Ana is very independent,” they say. “Ana is a challenge. When she wants to do something, she figures out how to do it.” Then they add. “Ana is fearless.” Her breeder told me the week before I got her, “Ana is adventuresome,” and “Ana is brilliant.”
Ana can also be a pain in the patootie.
She is going to be a fabulous adult, not at all plagued by the fears that haunted Tasha. She’s smart, confident, loving, athletic, empathetic, and stubborn.

I adore her.
But I have to admit that as I re-read the scenes describing Mutt and Jeff’s chaos, I wonder if I was somehow channeling my future. Did I subconsciously know that my next puppy would be one that “shouldn’t go to an inexperienced owner?” Tasha taught be how to love, help, and learn from a flawed, fearful, health-compromised being. Maybe Ana is here to teach me the opposite: how to embrace, love, and learn from an independent soul who thwarts me at every turn.
My gut tells me yes.
My readers often ask if Ana will show up in my future books. I answer yes, and with great confidence.
She already has.

Tracy Weber

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

 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Casting Light

Yesterday I had brunch with a group of friends, several of whom were writers. All of us are working on mysteries or thrillers at the moment. One of them mentioned that she was struggling with the whole idea of writing about murder. She felt that by writing a murder mystery, she was somehow aggrandizing the idea of killing.

Unsurprisingly, the other authors disagreed. We talked about how all fiction has to do with examining both human nature and the human condition and that murder mysteries make us dig down and look at what might motivate the most craven acts of violence and the most brave acts of searching for the truth. We talked about how mysteries almost always seek to right the wrong of violence, to restore the balance of the world, to maintain justice.

I'm still thinking about this today on Martin Luther King Day. His beautiful quote about only light being able to chase out the darkness touches me every time I hear it. I do think it is what all authors try to do. We try to shine a little light into the world. Whether we write to entertain or to edify, we are always trying to shine a light on who we are, how we are the same and how we are different.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sneak peak at JUSTICE


Edith Maxwell here. Sometimes with publisher schedules, the time between when we submit a manuscript and the publication date seems impossibly long. And then suddenly it's upon us! 

The wait for Called to Justice has been like that, but now the April 8 release date is rushing ever closer. I'm busy arranging guest blog posts, nailing down a date for a launch party, and requesting early reviews. A well-known historical fiction author said this about the second Quaker Midwife Mystery: 

"Edith Maxwell has given readers a wonderful gift with Called to Justice. It's a riveting historical mystery featuring a refreshingly different kind of heroine, a Quaker midwife who also solves crimes with wit, intelligence, and gentle grace. It's a page turner. It's a fascinating look at nineteenth-century American faith, culture, and small-town life. And best of all, it's the second of what is sure to be a long and beloved series." -- William Martin, New York Times bestselling Author of Cape Cod and The Lincoln Letter

And of course the book is available for preorder wherever books are sold. So I thought I'd give you a taste of the very first page:

The day had seemed an unlikely one to include death.

On a sunny, hot Independence Day, citizens from miles around had flocked in carriages, by trolley, even on bicycle to the streets of Amesbury, Massachusetts to celebrate our country’s one-hundred-and-twelfth birthday. Colorful buntings hung from buildings, including John W. Higgins, Boots and Shoes across from where I stood. I strained to keep my place at the edge of Main Street that morning while others jostled for an advantageous spot from which to watch the parade.


I’d walked down from the modest home where I lodged with my late sister’s husband and his five children. My beau, David Dodge, was taking me to watch the fireworks tonight, but he needed to make rounds at the hospital today so I was on my own for the morning.

I was laughing along with the crowd at one of the horribles, a policeman dressed as a British bobby pulling an outhouse on a cart labeled “Amesbury Lockup,” when someone tugged at my sleeve.

“Rose,” she whispered.

“Hannah,” I said to the young woman at my side. Hannah Breed was a Quaker like me and one of my niece Faith’s fellow employees at the Hamilton Mill. The smile slid off my face when I focused on her pale visage and drawn, frightened eyes. “What’s wrong?”

“Faith has said thee is a midwife.”

“I am.” I touched her shoulder. “Thee is troubled.”

“I need to talk with thee.”

I took Hannah’s hand and pushed through the crowd behind us until we gained the relative quiet of Currier Street. I stood facing Hannah in the welcome shade of one of the Salisbury Manufacturing Company’s buildings.

“Please tell me what ails thee,” I said, although I suspected the cause. She attended Amesbury Friends Meeting, as did I, and I’d detected a change in her the last couple of months.

Hannah gazed at the embroidered handkerchief she twisted in her hands. As she glanced up at me, a roar erupted from the crowd we’d left behind.

“I’m in trouble, Rose. I don’t know where to turn, what to do.”

I clasped my hands and waited without speaking. As a member of the Religious Society of Friends, I was accustomed to silence.

“I have not been well. I’m sick often throughout the day. I thought it was a touch of illness.” She paused, lifting her chin. “But then I missed my monthly.”

Readers, what do you think? I hope you're as excited as I am. So tell me, do you like to read a teaser snippet from a book before you decide to buy it? Do gorgeous covers convince you? Do tell!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

It's Time for My New Sins ...

by Tj O'Connor

Temporary Cover Art
My sins are surfacing. They’re on the horizon, inching ever closer, and it’s time I dealt with them head-on. Like many a wild and crazy-guy, my sins come with scores to settle, too. There’s nothing better than a good battle of new sins and old scores. Nothing.

For the past two years or so, I’ve blogged about my characters, plots, and process surrounding my previous series, The Gumshore Ghost (a dreaded series name). Oliver Tucker and his pals hunted murderers, thieves, and gangsters. Tuck was a dead detective helping solve first his own, and then other murders along the way. Each of those stories had a historical subplot and a paranormal twist. And so does New Sins for Old Scores.

The difference in the story lines are unique—Tuck was written in the first person, and New Sins in the third. Tuck’s stories were very light-hearted mysteries whereas New Sins takes a little more serious storyline, still with good humor, but it’s closer to a traditional mystery. Lastly, and perhaps more noteable at least to me, it takes on a serious subplot—human trafficking—and overlays a historical real-life event to connect the past with the present. I truly believe history repeats itself. I also believe we are slow to learn its lessons.

New Sins for Old Scores makes us wonder if we’ve learned life’s most important lessons about the past, trust, and honor.

 In February 2016,  I had a brief discussion about my new novel. I’ll try not to rehash it here. It suffices to say that these new stories will also have murder with a paranormal twist, but in this case, the paranormal side will be the secondary character—Trick McCall, the spirit of a long dead, disgraced WWII Office of Strategic Services (OSS) operative. Trick is the sidekick in these stories, not the primary hero as in Oliver Tucker’s Ghost Gumshoe series. And this series is a little more traditional—albeit with the paranormal twist—and not quite as light-hearted as Tuck’s stories, either—though Trick does tend to have a little fun at the expense of the bad guys.

 The novel is based on some real events—or more accurately, real historical events—which I took license with and molded into a modern murder mystery. The story follows a disgraced detective, Richard Jax, who must prove his own innocence in a multiple homicide and stop an international plot of human traffickers and murders.

The story begins …

Murder, like history, often repeats itself.

When it does, that kind of murder isn’t the byproduct of some psychotic break or an unintended emotional frenzy. That kind of murder is conscious and considered. It is deliberate.

History is full of that kind of murder.

Richard Jax was never a good student of history—but he knew murder well. He was more pragmatic than philosophical, and except for watching the History Channel and old movies, the past occupied little of his time. His time was reserved for murder and violence. Yet, history taught him a very important lesson—an axiom of parents with teenagers—that nothing good ever happens after midnight.

Jax wasn’t married and had no children. But it was after midnight and he was alone.

Later on, Richard Jax is ambushed while on a stakeout and lay bleeding out, alone and without backup. As his assailant approaches him for the final kill shot, he meets Trick McCall …

A voice exploded in his head. “Get up. Fight back. It’s not over. It can’t be—fight.”

Jax looked across the driveway. Someone lay on the gravel a dozen feet away. The figure stared wide-eyed back at him. Then, in strange, freeze-frame movements, the man stood. He looked around and brushed himself off. He gave Jax a nod and then picked something up off the ground and placed it on his head.

“Come on, Mac, fight. Don’t quit. You can’t.”

Jax tried to focus but knew he was already done.

“Come on, Ricky. You have to do this yourself. Until you do, I can’t help.”

Jax watched the man across the parking lot as the warmth pooled beneath his cheek. His vision blurred and he wasn’t sure what he saw was right—a cone of light engulfed the man—just him. Everything around the light was black and murky. The man was tall and lanky. He wore a hat—a fedora—and a dark, double-breasted suit. Behind him was a 1940s Plymouth with wide, squared fenders, and a dark green, four-door body.

Was he dead and heaven playing a film noir festival for his arrival?

“Shoot ‘em, Ricky. Shoot or he’ll kill you.”

Jax looked up at the silhouette standing over him. The warmth that flowed from him minutes ago now left him cold and spent.

The silhouette raised his gun for the final shot.

“No,” Jax grunted. “No…”

A deafening crack and a flash of light.

Silence.

“Miles Archer, Ricky,” the fedora-man said leaning over him. “Bogart’s partner was Miles Archer, ya know, in The Maltese Falcon. I saw it open at the Capitol Theatre in D.C. in ’42. You did good, Ricky—real good.”

Darkness.

Jax and Trick McCall have two things in common. They are both disgraced—Trick believed to be a murderous traitor who killed his own men for profit, and Jax a crooked cop who killed his partner and fiancĂ© from jealousy. Together they have to set the records straight —even if those records began in 1942.

As with my previous novels, I intertwine history and the present, proving the opening line, Murder, like history, often repeats itself.  The paranormal twist allows me to move between past and present and explore the events that led to Trick’s death and his disgrace. It also allows me to link events from the ‘40s with modern day skullduggery. The outcome brings out all the character’s New Sins and helps them settle Old Scores.

I’m anxious to get on the road to talk about this story. It was fun writing and I think it’ll be fun talking about the plot and characters to fans. But mostly, I love just talking books with readers. This one opens up a new chapter in my own writing, another potential series that mixes my favorite topics—murder and history. In these stories, I get to play with my own sins and conjure up some old scores to settle, too.

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 March 2017 from Black Opal Books, and Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, and Dying to Tell. He recently finished his new thriller and is beginning three sequels to previous works. 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, January 2, 2017

New Years Resolutions

by Linda O. Johnston

Happy New Year everyone!  It's the second day of 2017 already, the year's first Monday, and I get to post here at InkSpot.


What am I thinking about this early in the new year?  Well, writing, for one thing, as I always do.  And my New Years' Resolutions?  Not much different from other years:  Write lots, write well, enjoy it all and have fun letting people know about the published stuff.


I'm also considering what my protagonists' resolutions would be.  First, Rory Chasen, of my Superstition Mysteries, would undoubtedly resolve to do the best she can to continue to learn the reality of superstitions.  She might also resolve to stop figuring out who the murderers are when someone is killed in her adopted town of Destiny, California.  She did so most recently in her third story UNLUCKY CHARMS, published in October 2016, where she was the unlucky one suspected of murder.  Of course she would also resolve to continue to do a great job of running the Lucky Dog Boutique and taking good care of her beloved lucky black and white dog Pluckie.  And what about her relationship with Chief Justin Halbertson of the Destiny Police Department?  I'm sure she'd resolve to continue it and see where it leads in the future.


Then there's Carrie Kennersly of my Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries.  She started as a veterinary technician and of course each year she undoubtedly resolves to do the best job possible in helping the veterinarians at the Knobcone Heights Veterinary Hospital, especially Dr. Reed Storme, with whom she has been forming a romantic relationship.  First and foremost is helping to save all the animals she can. 


Plus, Carrie's newest and most beloved venture is owning and running the two bakeries in town, Icing on the Cake, where human treats are baked and sold, and Barkery and Biscuits, where the healthful canine treats Carrie developed as a vet tech are baked and sold.  Her resolutions regarding the shops would involve making sure only the best and tastiest treats are created and made available to people or pets, as appropriate.  No need to do a resolution about taking great care of her adored dog Biscuit since she does that anyway.  But there's also that little thing about solving murders, since she does it, too.  I believe she's aware that her third adventure of that type, BAD TO THE BONE, will be published in May 2017.  Will she want to continue figuring out those answers?  Well, I suspect she'll need to resolve to continue to help any friends or relatives accused of murder in the future.  Like it or not, she's gotten quite skilled at it.  But she is a busy lady with the jobs she has chosen, and solving murders keeps her even busier.



Anyway, I wish the best for you in 2017.  And make sure your New Year's resolutions including having a wonderful year!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Inspirations in Fiction

By Tracy Weber

I tend not to write about my real-life friends in my Downward Dog Mystery Series. It just seems mean somehow. Most of the characters I portray are either murder victims or suspects. Where’s the fun in that?

There are two notable exceptions though, and both are key characters in the entire series, including my newest mystery, A Fatal Twist. Both were important influences on my life, and I loved them more than anything. As the universe would have it, I lost both of them last July, and on the same day. July 22, 2016 to be exact.
Most of my friends know that Bella, the German shepherd in my series, was modeled after my own German shepherd, Tasha. Tasha and I spent twelve years together. She was simultaneously one of the biggest challenges of my life and my greatest teacher. Like Bella, she lived with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) an autoimmune disease that left her unable to digest food unless prescription enzymes were added to every meal. Also like Bella, she was reactive, meaning that she barked, lunged, and made herself scary-looking to strangers, other dogs, and every feline that crossed her path. As a German shepherd, she was pretty good at it.
 
Tasha loved me to a fault, and she protected me fiercely. She was intelligent, loyal, gorgeous, and empathetic. She changed my life, in every way for the better.
My best teenage friend, Michelle, was the model for Rene in my series. We met at age fifteen and quickly became inseparable. Michelle was smart as a whip, funny, gorgeous, and had some magical hold over every man who ever laid eyes on her. She worked as a fashion model for a number of years. As teenagers, we wore matching t-shirts with our school mascot (the Billings West High Golden Bears) on them and the word “Huggable” written below. We spent so much time together that many people didn’t know which one of us was which, so they simply called us “The Huggables.”
Rene is Kate’s touchstone, like Michelle was for me. She knows all of Kate’s inner bullshit and loves her anyway. We all need a friend like that. I had Michelle, and I miss her dearly.
I’m still not sure why my two best friends passed on the same day, but I like to think that it’s because they needed each other. I like to think that they are keeping each other company in the afterlife, having a great time until I can join them. In the meantime, I’m honored to keep them alive in my mysteries.
May I do their memories justice.

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

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Happy Flaky Holiday Season

By Lisa Alber

Happy holidays! I hope you're having a wonderful season. I'm not paying much attention to the holidays this year. I probably should care, but I find that I don't, and that's a huge relief. The holiday season sometimes brings out the perfectionist in me: gotta buy all the right gifts, gotta send cards with personalized notes to everyone, gotta deck the halls with every Christmas decoration I own (which is a lot).

This year, I'm rebelling. I'm enjoying a flaky holiday season, and it's fantastic! It helped that from Wednesday to Monday this past week I was holed up on extended snow days. My car had broken down anyhow, as luck would have it, so I really couldn't drive anywhere even if I'd wanted to risk the icy, snowy streets in my hilly neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. (Portland isn't equipped for snow--the city basically stops for anything over an inch.)

I baked banana muffins, slow-cooked black beans, and wallowed in holiday flakiness. No shopping, no errand-running, no nothing except working from my cozy writing spot at the dining room table with my little dog Fawn keeping me company.

And I think this is okay. I've been under a lot of stress for various reasons and not sleeping well. Sometimes flakiness is just the antidote, don't you think?

Now, my car is fixed (split radiator), and I'm back in the world ... BUT, maintaining my flaky attitude toward the holiday season. Last year, as I recall, I barely got any fiction accomplished in December because of my Christmas perfectionism. And this year? Lots. PATH IN DARKNESS, coming out August 2017, is coming along nicely. I'm at the fine-tuning editorial stage.

Wishing you the best for the rest of 2016 and Happy New Year. See you in 2017!

Cheers, Lisa



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 came out in August 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. Facebook | Twitter

Monday, December 19, 2016

And a Very Happy Holiday to You!

Almost anyone who knows me knows that this is not my favorite time of the year. I find the holidays stressful. They're expensive. They take time. They take thought. Yet, I still have to do everything else I usually do and pay for all the things I usually pay for and think about all the things I usually think about.

This year seems to be different. Maybe it's because my kids are older and don't expect the holidays to be magical. Maybe it's because I don't have quite as many events that I have to attend out of a sense of duty rather than pleasure. Maybe it's because this buttercup has just decided to suck it up.

Last night, however, was a holiday event that I always enjoy: my friend Carol's annual Hanukkah party or, as it has been dubbed, Latkepalooza.

Carol and I have been getting our families together to celebrate Hanukkah for around fourteen years now. What started as a little event with her family and mine centered around the kids has turned into a rip-roaring party where a lot of wine gets consumed along with pounds of brisket and latkes. We have one friend who insists on bring Hamantaschen every year despite the fact that we keep politely explaining that it's like bringing Easter eggs to a Christmas party. They're still tasty so, you know, whatever.

Then, at some point in the evening, I pull out my autoharp and perform (with audience participation please!) the Adam Sandler Hanukkah Song (photo of this year's performance above). I won't lie. I like how everyone gathers around.I like getting the big laughs at the OJ Simpson line. I like the applause at the end.

All this is to say, I hope you enjoy whatever holiday traditions you have in health and prosperity this year.

Hugs,
Eileen