Thursday, June 23, 2016

Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil

Lifelike characters. Every author strives to write them, and every reader longs to read them. So we give them flaws. Maybe their ego is so big, they trip over it. Maybe their low self-esteem keeps them from believing they can be the one to solve the murder. But what happens when your detective or amateur sleuth is blind? Or deaf? Or both? 

I'm currently in the process of reading the five books in Ellery Adam's Hope Street Church cozy mystery series. (Exciting announcement about this coming soon!) In the Hope Street books, the main character, Cooper, and her friends from her bible study group band together to solve murders. The leader of the bible study group is blind. 

While this blind character isn't the main character, she shows up on a lot of pages. So how does an author write a character who is blind? How does she help solve cases if she can't see evidence? 

The answer is to make her just like any other character. She has strengths, like her compassion and understanding nature, her intuition, her ability to see the truth behind words and motivations. She keeps her friends on track and grounded. She's an integral part of the team in her own way, just like all the others. She's also a great artist! 

And that's the key to writing a solid, diverse, realistic character. It's not about her blindness, it's about her as a person. She overcomes obstacles, just like everyone else, and pitches in to save the day. 

Do you know of any great mysteries with blind or deaf characters? Leave us a recommendation in the comments!

Until next time....

Thursday, June 16, 2016

10 Signs That Writing Stress Is Getting to Me

By Lisa Alber

Writing novels is a job like any other. There are deadlines, and to make those deadlines we often have to work when we're feeling cruddy or low or uninspired or crabby. And in the midst of hustling to make a major deadline called Hand Off Manuscript to Editor (and pray she likes it!), there are all kinds of other writerly tasks that come into play.

I'm on a yearly deadline. This means that while I'm writing the novel for next year (2017), I'm also gearing up for the release of this year's novel, Whispers in the Mist.

August is my month. Whispers arrives at bookstores near you AND I hand off the next book to my editor. Whew! That's a lot. I have a huge list of things to do in the next few months. In other words, just like with any other job, we may get totally stressed out and overwhelmed. I can tell I've reached that point because:

1. The only thing that sounds good for dinner is pasta.

2. I go outside for some fresh air, and suddenly it's an hour later and I've dug up three bushes.

3. I don't see the pet hair on the rug, or the dust on the nightstands, or the spiders taking up residence in random places. House cleaning--what's that?

4. I forget appointments, like the crown-placement dentist appointment I almost missed this morning. In fact, I've forgotten so many dentist appointments that last year she instituted a missed appointment penalty fee. Yes, I can take credit for that.

5. My social life goes down the tubes--and I already have a, shall we say, "curtailed" social life as it is. I'm more likely to be watching a movie on Friday night with the dog and the cat snoozing nearby than socializing.

6. My idea of a good time is going to bed early.

7. I don't care about ice cream -- I mean, it's okay, whatever -- but I find myself buying a pint of the local Alpenrose brand strawberry cheesecake ice cream that I promise myself I won't eat all at once because that would be gross.

8. The nice folks at my local bistro know me by name because I come in so often to drink red wine write. Budget, be damned.

9. I get up in the morning already yearning for an afternoon nap.

10. Last but not least, the novel I'm writing? Yeah, it's the worst dreck in the world, everyone will hate it, and why am I doing this to myself?

Stress is like anything else--it comes, it goes, and then when it goes we forget about it like it never happened. Or, we look back on it and think, Wow, I was totally nuts; so glad to be back to normal now.

The habit that works in a pinch to ease stress? Breathing. Really. Unclenching your core and feeling your lungs move in and out as you breath.

How does stress and busy-ness and feeling overwhelmed affect you? Do you have a go-to food or habit?

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. Facebook | Twitter

Monday, June 13, 2016

BOOK LAUNCH MONDAY | Summer Reading from Midnight Ink Books

Web mistress Lisa here. For this month's Book Launch Monday I thought I'd give you the latest scoop about summer titles coming out from Midnight Ink. Summer's a great time for reading, don't you think? Sit outside with your beverage of choice--I imagine a cool, crisp gin and tonic. Maybe you've got an Adirondack chair under a shady willow or a pool-side lounge chair or a patio draped in wisteria. Happy summer reading! ~Lisa


The Madness of Mercury by Connie di Marco

Mercury retrograde wreaks havoc on astrologer Julia Bonatti retrograde wreaks havoc on astrologer Julia Bonatti.

"This smartly written debut from di Marco sets the stage for a promising series."—Kirkus Reviews

Destiny's Pawn by D.A. Keeley

Peyton’s fate depends on an unlikely pawn in a quarter-century-old crime.

"[A] solid third Peyton Cote novel."—Publishers Weekly

Child Not Found by Ray Daniel

Aloysius Tucker persists in looking for his missing nine-year-old cousin even as his relentless efforts draw him into a deadly crossfire between every power-hungry crook in Boston.

"Daniel is more than generous with the violence, guilt, tweets, craft brews, and compassion."—Kirkus Reviews


The English Boys by Julia Thomas

Dark and twisted secrets emerge in the wake of a deadly wedding.

"[An] eminently readable debut."—Kirkus Reviews

Roots of Murder by R. Jean Reid

Small-town secrets refuse to stay buried.

"Reid's exciting debut, filled with action and philosophical musings about the enduring weight of the past, will make you both sad and mad."—Kirkus Reviews

Murder Under the Covered Bridge by Elizabeth Perona

The skinny-dipping grandmas bare all when their pinup calendar shoot goes terribly wrong.

"Cozy fans will enjoy spending time with Francine and friends."—Publishers Weekly


Blood of Saints by Maegan Beaumont

When twenty-year-old forensic evidence connects Sabrina Vaughn to a string of recent murders, she must leave her new life behind and return to the place she was brutally raped and tortured in order to search for a killer who is as cunning as any she has ever encountered.

"Beaumont's ability to keep the twists coming, even when the answers seem obvious is quite potent." —Library Journal

Whispers in the Mist by Lisa Alber

When a teenage boy dies in Detective Sergeant Danny Ahern's arms, Danny finds himself pursuing a killer who becomes more elusive the closer Danny gets to the truth.

"A worthy successor to Kilmoon in tone, mood, complexity, and keen insight into human failures and triumphs."—Kirkus Reviews

What are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Cover Reveal!

Now that Delivering the Truth is launched and happily in the hands of readers (who report being very happy with the story, too - see lots of glowing reviews here), I'm looking ahead to books two and three.

Called to Justice is finished and in production. It's even up for preorder on Amazon! And isn't this a gorgeous cover?

Here's the blurb: Quaker midwife Rose Carroll is enjoying the 1888 Independence Day evening fireworks with her beau when a teenaged Quaker mill girl is found shot dead. After a former slave and fellow Quaker is accused of the murder, Rose delves into the crime, convinced of the man’s innocence. An ill-mannered mill manager, an Irish immigrant, and the victim’s young boyfriend come under suspicion even as Rose’s future with her handsome doctor suitor becomes unsure. Rose continues to deliver babies and listen to secrets, finally figuring out one criminal – only to be threatened by the murderer, with three lives at stake. Can she rescue herself, a baby, and her elderly midwifery teacher in time?

I'm so excited about this book! It'll be out in April, 2017. And this week I've started writing book three. It doesn't have a title or much of a plot yet, but it will by the end of summer. Stay tuned. 

Readers, what do you think of the cover? Does a cover catch your eye in a bookstore or online, or do you go more for what the blurb says? What leads you to buy a book?

Monday, June 6, 2016

My Latest Release

by Linda O. Johnston

Since my last post here on InkSpot, which occurs on the first Monday of each month, I've had another mystery released by Midnight Ink: TO CATCH A TREAT, the second of my Barkery & Biscuits Mystery.

As always, it's been fun.  I seem to learn more with each release about how to let people know about them in as many ways as possible.  Some ways are done by Midnight Ink and my wonderful publicist there.  Some I do myself, or with the help of friends.  And I'm always looking for more.  Sort of.

I'm not very techy, so my social media efforts are somewhat limited.  I admire those authors who do it all, and some of them write for Midnight Ink.  But although I have Twitter and Goodreads accounts, I know I don't use them as much as I should.

I do a lot of blogging, though.  I did a Great Escapes Blog Tour, which is always enjoyable.  I provided some blog posts and interview responses and watched with great excitement when reviews were posted by the blog hosts as well as those that featured me for the day.  I've also done other blogs, including those I write for on a regular basis, and others hosted by friends who invite me to write posts.

I did personal appearances, too.  One I considered the launch of TO CATCH A TREAT, at the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego, California.  Its Birthday Bash coincided with the release of my book, and they scheduled a bunch of different authors to speak on panels that day, including me.  Unfortunately, despite my leaving home in Los Angeles very early in the morning, there was an accident on a freeway in front of me so I was a little late, but I think it still went well.

Then there was another bookstore visit, to Book Carnival in Orange, California, about forty miles from my home.  The store has been there for a long time, and I've been publishing for a long time, but although I'd heard of it I didn't realize it was all about mysteries and romantic suspense.  Fortunately, a friend who's also a publicist arranged for my appearance there along with another author--and it was great!  Plus, the owner is interested in having me come back in October for her Halloween event, which is also the release time for my third Superstition Mystery--a good fit for Halloween, don't you think?  I do!

And I always visit other bookstores such as Barnes & Nobles in my area, where I can sign copies of my books in stock there.

But now, after nearly a month, my promotion events have slowed a bit.  Even so, I'm always watching for more.  Being online certainly helps, and so does going to conferences.

And here, when I started out, I thought writers just wrote.  Hah!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Dying for theThrills

Voilá. Poof. Presto Chango … I’m not a mystery writer—I’m a thriller writer. Well, I’m both really. The difference is a combination of nuance and delivery—at least to me it is—and after three edits and rewrites, I hope I delivered the right set of genre pieces-parts—now, if only my beta-readers agree my thriller is truly a thriller and not a twisted mystery, I’m half-way there. The second half will be my agent. And let me tell you, she’s the real judge … jury and executioner, too.

When I typed “The End” on my new novel, it was the nineth time. Of my nine novels, only four of them have been thrillers—and none of these have been published yet. Of the remaining five, all are mysteries and four are published (the fifth, New Sins for Old Scores, will be out in early 2017 from Black Opal Books). So, the last time I wrote a thriller was nearly seven years ago and the thought of rekindling this genre under my fingers was intimidating.

My decision to write this thriller after publishing four mysteries was not simple. Four years ago, when Dying to Know was first contracted with Midnight Ink for a series, I had penned two other novels I loved. One was a tradional, hardboiled mystery and the other a thriller. After completing three more mysteries after Dying to Know, I decided it was time for a change. About eighteen months ago, I sat at my favorite Greek taverna in McLean, Virginia—oddly enough called, The Greek Taverna, with my mentor, Wally F., and debated the path forward—the hardboiled mystery or my thriller. Both would require wholesale rewrites and essentially new plotlines because they were rooted in current events at that time. The battle raged between Wally and me for three weeks. That’s six lunches, three dinners, and countless telephone skirmishes. In that time, we’d agreed on a course, changed tact, argued, and re-agreed on which novel to write. Actually, we did that two or three times. His favorite was the thriller. Mine was the mystery—afterall, I’d just written four in a row and felt more comfortable with the genre. To write the thriller would require adjusting my mindset and recalibrating my brain. If I could. Yikes.

The stalemate continued. During the next six months, I worked on both at the same time. One week was the thriller, the next was the mystery. I felt bipolar and dyslexic all at the same time. Enough. It was time for a command decision. I would write what I wanted! There … take that …

And then the unthinkable. I lost Wally to age and a bad heart at 92. During an all-nighter in the hospital—he knew he wouldn’t last another day—and with high spirits, he confided many things in me. Most of which will never be repeated. He also left me with a last request—write the damn thriller!

Yes, sir. Just what I was thinking…

And so it began. The hardest part of writing this novel was un-writing the original draft. I loved the storyline and characters. But it was outdated and I’d learned so much about writing in the several years since I’d finished draft one. So I sat down and in about four months had totally rewritten the book. Then I read it. A very large problem jumped out at me. I had taken a pretty good thriller and turned it into a mediocre murder mystery.


Seems that after writing four mysteries, my thought process and plot development cells were focused on just that—crafting another whodunit. Except I needed a whatsabouttohappen.

Right about now, you’re probably saying, “Huh?” Just like I did when I reached the ending—unless you’re a writer yourself. The difference between a thriller and a mystery is often a moving target, a shimmering line between genres that you cross carefully and leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find your way home.

You see, in essence, a mystery is cerebral … it’s an event—a murder in my case—in the beginning and a mind game of events on the reader’s chase to the suspect. You must use wit and reason to solve the crime. You already know the “what happened.” The story plays out for the reader to find out who and why, and bag the killer. It’s clues and characters and subliminal hits and red herrings. In the end, it’s “Gotcha.” A thriller is more suspense, action, and outcome. The reader often knows what the big-bang is at the end—or the possibilities of the big event—and often knows the good guys and the bad guys, too. Or most of them. In a thriller, it’s about the journey to that event—ups, downs, twists, turns, thrills, and spills until WHAM! The big finale … Oh sure, many thrillers are about murders or at least have murders involved. But its not in the whodunit, but more in the whydunit and whatsabouttohappen or not happen. (Can I copywrite those phrases?)

So in draft one of my “thriller,” I clearly abandoned my original plot and returned to whodunit. It was slow and methodical. There were clues and evidence and crime scenes and all manner of facts to fluster the reader. But there was no thriller. No suspense. Oh, a few shoot-em-ups and spills, but it lacked the thrust of the genre—whatsabouttohappen.

Hence, draft two and then three. Finally… more pizazz, less whodunits, and more whatsabouttohappen. The outcome—the pass/fail—will be decided this coming Sunday when my beta-reader group comes together over a fancy meal and lots of wine. They’ve all read my mysteries. Now—gulp—I’m waiting on their score. It’ll be a no-holds-barred critique of my novel where the only thing I’m guaranteed is the dinner tab.

So far, I’ve received a couple snippets from two of my betas. One said, “Do you know you write like Dashiell Hammett? And another said, “This is your best mystery …er… novel. I love who did it!” Based on these preambles, I may be doing draft four this summer.

So charge. Onto the rewrites. Bring on the critique. Let the dissection begin.

And yes, Wally F. I wrote the damn thriller. I promised … and yes, you’re in it—again.

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:

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  Thanks for reading!