Monday, May 22, 2017

What’s In a Name?


by Tracy Weber

Like many authors, I sometimes struggle when choosing names for my characters.  Some (usually the recurring cast members) are kind enough to introduce themselves. Kate, Bella, Michael, and Rene are all perfect examples. Others are more elusive, forcing me to resort to a variety of name generators. Dale Evans, the goat lawyer in A Killer Retreat and Karma’s a Killer, was created that way, in spite of his famous namesake.
Names have great power. When I was young, someone told me that Tracy meant “courageous one.”  I’ve drawn strength from that during life’s most difficult challenges.  I recently learned that the actual meaning of Tracy is “fighter” or “more powerful one.”  I can live with that, too. After all, names color who we are and how we relate to our world.  I’m happy to go down as a powerful fighter.
I should have remembered that when I adopted my canine companions.
My first German shepherd, Tasha, was the inspiration for Bella, the German shepherd in my Downward Dog Mystery Series.  Tasha was named after Tasha Yar, the head of security in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  She took her role very seriously. She chased yoga students away from my business, thus ending forever her career as yoga studio greeter dog.  Only the members of her most trusted inner circle were allowed to cross our front doorway, and strangers were viewed through a dark lens of watchdog suspicion. She fully embodied my car’s bumper sticker:  Back Seat Barker.

Tracy and Tasha, the Back Seat Barker

When Tasha passed, I honored her by adopting a new love.  I named my new pup Ana, short for Ananda, which is the Sanskrit term for “unending joy.”
I completely failed to consider what unending joy might look through the eyes of a puppy.
Ana Pup Conquering the World

Ana was a crazy, exuberant, razor-toothed terror.  She was fearless, intelligent, and able to escape all confines to get what she wanted.  By her four-month birthday, I’d vowed to name my next dog Coma.  As she’s entered adolescence, she’s calmed down significantly (barring, of course, an evil squirrel sighting.) She greets every stranger with a full body wiggle, sloppy wet kisses, and an invitation to follow her home.

Tracy and Ana, Calming Down but Still Happy

People often exclaim upon meeting her, “She’s so happy!”
And she is. 
I’m pretty sure if a burglar breaks down our door, Ana will flop on her back and beg for a belly rub.  I can live with that.  I wanted a dog filled with joy, and I got a dog filled with joy.  I adore her.
I won’t, however, be adopting Ana’s bulldog friend any time soon.
Seriously? ChewBarka? What on earth were his owners thinking?

Pet lovers and fellow authors, how do your characters and loved ones live up to their names?  Please leave your stories in the comments below.

Tracy Weber


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





Tracy Weber is a certified yoga teacher and the founder of Whole Life Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio in Seattle, where she current­ly lives with her husband, Marc, and precocious German shepherd puppy, Ana. She loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any form possible. When she’s not writing, she spends her time teaching yoga, trying to corral Ana Tasha, and sip­ping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house. Tracy loves connecting with fans.  Find her on her author web page or on Facebook.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

What's Your Creative Type? (Take the Quiz!)

By Lisa Alber

Last week on the Jungle Red Writers blog, author Meta Wagner introduced her book WHAT'S YOUR CREATIVE TYPE?: Harness the Power of Your Artistic Personality. I'm a sucker for this kind of thing, so I took the online quiz, which you can find here: http://snapp.to/2lHVOEY.

I wasn't surprised to find out that I'm a sensitive soul, which is defined as, "Brimming with emotion, you’ll use your art to explore your personal history and as a catharsis."

 The other possibilities are:
  • Artisan: "You’re here to create, you enjoy the process itself."
  • A-Lister: "You want to have an emotional impact on the audience, you live for the applause." 
  • Activist: "Through art, you want to change the world. Wherever you go, you see wrongs ready to be righted."
The most interesting thing about the Jungle Reds blog post were the comments it inspired. People tended toward being sensitive souls and artisans, which you might expect from a bunch of writers and book lovers and aspiring writers. But then, the topic came up that doing any kind of quiz like this is limiting, because we may feel tied between two options.

OK, then, I and many of the commenters went through the quiz again, choosing our second choices. At this point, many people got "a-lister." I found this intriguing because we so often don't want to admit to wanting fame and glory for our creative endeavors. God forbid! However, it strikes me that writers who are artisans or sensitive souls with a-lister tendencies might be highly motivated to "make it" and do all the work required to "make it."

(The question becomes what is your definition of making it? I'm using the notion that many of us creatives have, which is to earn a nice income, which is closest to "a-lister.")

In any case, it's a sliding scale. None of us are only one thing. That said, I was oddly bummed when I took the quiz a second time and came up with "artisan."

WHERE'S MY A-LISTER!??! I'd love to be a little more a-lister, but apparently, I'm not. I'm all about self-expression and the process, and all that airy-fairy stuff. I even tried to be an a-lister, but my second choices didn't lead to that outcome.

I even did it a third time -- and I still got artisan!

Sigh ... Does this mean I'm never going to "make it"?

Of course not, but it did make me think about this: If I'm not an a-lister type, going for the glory, how do I reconcile that with the external pressure to be more of an a-lister? Do I care if I see my fellows who are a-listers get the glory, while I remain a relatively unknown, midlist author? (Of course, I care; we all like to succeed -- I guess the question becomes how I deal with my feelings around this.)

In any case, I had to laugh that even when I try, I'm not a going-for-the-glory kind of person. So figures. But, on the other hand, I don't think that matters in the long run. The work itself matters. That's all. Whether any of us "make it" or not isn't under our control. And not making it doesn't lessen the creative endeavor or the value of our work.

All creative expression is good -- and **necessary** in this weird world we're living in these days.

P.S. I'm going to buy the book ... Just to see, you know, what the author has to say about all of this. :-)

What's your take on all of this?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Much to Celebrate, More to Learn

Edith here. It's hard to believe Called to Justice launched just a month ago, so much has happened. To celebrate, I'm giving away an ARC of my contemporary mystery, Mulch Ado About Murder, to a commenter here today!


I had a flurry of launch activites, online and in person. My alter ego Maddie Day and I interviewed each other during a fun party at Jabberwocky Books, a fabulous indy bookstore near me, since Maddie's (my) When the Grits Hit the Fan came out ten days before Called to Justice released.

Me with an Indiana Cap for Grits and a Quaker bonnet for Called!
Then Amesbury's Cultural Council sponsored me as one of its Poetry Month events, with the title Poetry and Literature. I talked about Called at the Noshery, and read a couple of poems referenced in the book.


Others read related poems, and Carla Panciera, a local published poet, even read her own original work titled "Midwife in the Barn" that she wrote for me. See a full report of the event.

Alas, Delivering the Truth did not garner the Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery at Malice Domestic, but it was a huge honor to be nominated and to stand with my fellow awesome nominees.

From left panel moderator Harriette Sackler, Nominees Catriona McPherson, Jessica Estevao, me, Meg Mims, Victoria Thompson, and Sharon Pisacreta. Photo by Robin Templeton.
But I have one more new book to celebrate this spring: Mulch Ado About Murder, my fifth Local Foods mystery releases at the end of May and is already getting some pretty nice reviews. "Wonderfully delightful mystery any cozy reader will enjoy." -The Cozy Review. There's a Goodreads giveaway open until midnight tonight to win a ARC of the book, too!


Remember, you can also win an ARC of this book by commenting here today!

Two new short stories featuring my 1888 Quaker midwife Rose Carroll have appeared in print! "The Tragic Death of Miss Edna Fogg" came out in Mystery Most Historical, released at Malice a couple of weeks ago. It's a great collection of historical mysteries from many eras. My story features the unfortunate death of a woman suffrage activist, and Rose's pursuit of the killer.



And my short "Murder in the Summer Kitchen" just released in Murder Among Friends, an anthology of stories all inspired by John Greenleaf Whittier. In my story, a man is shot in Whittier's summer kitchen, an apparent case of mistaken identity. Rose is brave enough to track down the murderer in his second attempt to knock off the famous poet and abolitionist.



To celebrate the release, the editor and some of the authors gathered at the Whittier birthplace in Haverhill, MA.
From left, contributors Susan Olkesiw, me, editor Dave Goudsward (kneeling), Tim Coco, Gregory Norris, and Judi Calhoun.

We read from our stories, met fans, and toured the house. Whittier's boots were on display, as was his quilt and his sister's clothing.





I was entranced by the small scullery, and even got to see the room where Whittier was born in 1807.



Ideas are already percolating on how to incorporate some of these details in Quaker Midwife Mystery #4, soon to be started.

Readers, what fun historical bit have you learned lately? Do you like touring home museums or other places where real times from past times are displayed?

Remember, you can also win an ARC of Mulch Ado About Murder, my fifth Local Foods mystery, by commenting here today!





Thursday, May 4, 2017

New Sins for Old Scores ... Launch!

by Tj O'Connor
May 27, 2017—Launch …. New Sins for Old Scores!

At last, my fourth published novel. This one coming to you from Black Opal Books and my strange, wild imagination. It’s a murder mystery with a paranormal twist! (Go figure, right?) And yes, this is a cheap self-promotion blog.
 
Summary:

Murder, like history, often repeats itself. And when it does, it's the worst kind of murder.
 
Detective Richard Jax was never good at history. After years as a cop, he was about to get the lesson of his life.
 
As Jax lay dying after being gunned down at an old inn while on surveillance, he's saved by Captain Patrick "Trick" McCall—the ghost of a World War II OSS agent—who has been waiting since 1944 for a chance to solve his own murder. Soon, Jax is a suspect in a string of murders—murders linked to smuggling refugees out of the Middle East—a plot similar to the World War II “Operation Paperclip,” an OSS operation that brought scientists out of war-torn Europe. With the aid of a beautiful and intelligent historian, Dr. Alex Vouros, Jax and Trick unravel a seventy year-old plot that began with Trick's murder in 1944. Could the World War II mastermind, code named Harriet, be alive and up to old games? Is history repeating itself?
 
Together, they hunt for the link between their pasts, confronted by some of Washington's elite and one provocative, alluring French Underground agent, Abrielle Chanoux. Somewhere in Trick's memories is a traitor. That traitor killed him. That traitor is killing again.
 
Who framed Jax and who wants Trick's secret to remain secret? The answer may be, who doesn't?
 
End cheap, self-promotion (for now). Look for New Sins for Old Scores!
 
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 May 2017 from Black Opal Books, and Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, and Dying to Tell. He recently finished his new thriller, The Consultant: Double Effect and his amazing agent, Kimberley Cameron is finding it a new home. 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
 
 



 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Happy May!

by Linda O. Johnston

  It's May.  Happy May!  I'm happy it's May--as you probably figured after my blog here last month when I said that May was fast approaching.  And why am I happy?  This is the month that my third Barkery & Biscuits Mystery, Bad to the Bone, is published by Midnight Ink.


  As always, it was fun taking Carrie Kennersly, the protagonist I'd created, and throwing her once more into a difficult situation where again she has to solve a murder.


  Carrie is a veterinary technician who developed some nice, healthy treats for dogs, then bought a bakery and turned half into a barkery where she sells some of those treats.  She'd never thought she would wind up becoming an amateur sleuth, too, and start solving so many murders. 


  Oh, I'm chortling here--her creator who's been able to stick her into all of those difficult situations.  But I know she can handle it.


  And it's what happens in cozy mysteries.  Carrie doesn't know she's in a series of stories.  I place myself in her head as I write about her and figure out what she's thinking.  But she's strong.  She's creative.  She's determined.


  Like me, she's a dog lover.


  Also like me, she solves mysteries.  But for me, those murders are all in my mind.  I make 'em real for my Carrie character.


  And guess what, Carrie.  You're destined for more!


So happy May, everyone--including Carrie.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Judging a Book by Its Cover



It’s time to admit it. I suffer from OCPD—Obsessive Compulsive Planning Disorder. I hadn’t even finished writing my first book, Murder Strikes a Pose when I started preparing to query agents. I took classes, read dozens of blog articles, and attended a host of information sessions. In the end, I left with two key takeaways:

1.      Check your spelling. Agents will toss your manuscript in the garbage if you spell their name wrong.
2.      Your manuscript must have a fabulous first line—a single sentence that will hook the reader in twenty words or less.

Writing my book’s first line became an obsession. I sweated and angsted and wrote and rewrote. I finally created something perfect: a pithy first sentence that would simultaneously hook the reader, draw them into the story, and introduce them to the voice of the novel’s protagonist.

But all of that angst and hard work will be for nothing if readers never crack open the book. That’s where the cover comes in.

The design of my book’s cover started with my author website. My webmaster (aka husband) and I discussed the site’s design for months. I wanted it to illustrate some key elements of my mysteries; he wanted a professional-looking page that wouldn’t take him a hundred years to create. We finally agreed that the site would contain:

·        Bright, happy colors that captured the lighthearted tone of the work
·        An illustration that quickly showed two important components of the series: yoga and dogs
·        Recognizable landmarks of Seattle, the city in which the series takes place
·        A feeling of playful mischief between the two main characters: Kate, a quirky yoga instructor, and Bella, her horse-sized German shepherd.

That decided, my husband hired artist Nicole Alesi who developed this web banner.


I was simply delighted. The web banner contained everything that I wanted and more.

My publisher agreed. When Midnight Ink purchased the first three books in the series, they hired Nicole to design the book covers. The cover art she created for Murder Strikes a Pose is below:


I have to admit, I love it.

So imagine my surprise when I read my first one-star review. The reviewer said that my writing was “lovely; fast paced and vivid,” and that mystery readers would like the book. So why did she give it a single star? In spite of the word “murder” in the title, she thought that the book was a romance, not a mystery. Evidently, she doesn’t like reading about murder.

The second surprise came a few weeks later at my first book signing. Several people paused at my table, glanced at the cartoon cover, shrugged, and walked away saying, “Oh, it’s a kid’s book.”
 
So much for that all-important first line.

I still adore my covers, as do most of my readers. I know many people have started the book specifically because they were drawn in by its bright, happy design. The covers of the rest of my series are substantively similar: Same light, bright cartoon characters; same illustration of the setting in the background; same sense of mischief and play between the two main characters.
 

But now we include crime elements.  In my newest book, A Fatal Twist, it’s the outline of a body.  Hopefully it's large enough for people to notice.

What makes you decide to read a book? Cover? Title? First line? Please share your thoughts below.

Tracy Weber

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




Tracy Weber is a certified yoga teacher and the founder of Whole Life Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio in Seattle, where she current­ly lives with her husband, Marc, and precocious German shepherd puppy, Ana. She loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any form possible. When she’s not writing, she spends her time teaching yoga, trying to corral Ana Tasha, and sip­ping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house. Tracy loves connecting with fans.  Find her on her author web page or on Facebook.

 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

When the Book Reviews Start Coming In ...

By Lisa Alber

There's this pause the occurs--at least for me--after handing off a manuscript to the publisher and before the book reviews start coming in (i.e. the reality of our stories out in the real world) that fills me with a combination of excitement and dread.

By the time I hand off a novel, I don't want to think about it for a long, long time. But this is impossible because I've gotta start thinking about marketing and promotion, and once that enters my head, I inevitably wonder about the novel's reception in the real world.

As I said to a friend last week, "I'm kind of curious about what Path Into Darkness's reception is going to be like."

"Curious?" C said. She's a fellow mystery novelist though on the lighter end of the spectrum.

I knew she was wondering about my word choice. "Curious" is a curious word to use, for sure. It might have been code for "worried" or "scared shitless," but ... hmm ... not entirely. I really was curious. Because I felt--and still feel--that I tend to stretch the boundaries of my chosen fiction genre.

Readers might think they're picking up a traditional mystery, but they're not. Not really. And, of course, this gets me thinking about expectations and disappointment. I've never thought about these two topics as much as I have since getting published.

Some readers' expectations stem from the way a book looks and the way it's marketed. And, see, I have no control over this. This is part of what the pause I mentioned above is all about: the moment I lose control of the story around my story. This is why I get curious. I know what I was about while I writing, but will readers get what I was about while writing? Some will; some won't. Some will like it; some won't. Nothing I can do about any of this.

I've decided that I'm going to create a new genre within the mystery category: psychological whydunits, which could also be called :psychological suspense," I suppose, except that I do use traditional elements. The plain truth is that the whodunit has never interested me as much as the whydunnit, but that may be because I adore psychology, in general.

But, all's well that ends well--for the moment anyhow. I received my first two reviews from reviewing entities. And they were good! Whew!

"A dark, compelling mystery with numerous plot twists and well-drawn characters interwoven with an involving portrait of life in a small, insular Irish village."   --Booklist

"Dark and haunting ... The author's complex and tightly-woven tale filled was filled with colloquial phrases that added an air of authenticity to the story."   --Books and Benches

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. Look for PATH INTO DARKNESS in August 2017. 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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Release Flurry

Edith here, happy to report that Called to Justice is finally out! I'm in the middle of a great flurry of activities supporting and celebrating the release, and am delighted to be here.

I had a double launch party at an independent bookstore in the next town last week. Why double? Because my alter-ego Maddie Day had a book out only two weeks ago, so we interviewed each other. Read all about it on one of my other two group blogs, the Wicked Cozy Authors.

Next week I'll be launching Called in my own town, where the series takes place. We have a full Poetry Month schedule of events, and mine is called Poetry and Literature. We'll read bits from the two John Greenleaf Whittier poems mentioned in the book, a local poet will read a poem on Midwifery she wrote specially for me, and I'll read the book's opening scene. If you're in New England, come on down to The Noshery at two o'clock on April 23.

A few weeks ago I spoke, wearing my Quaker dress, to a historical society. They filmed the whole thing and I just received the link. You can watch it, too!

The Escape with Dollycas blog tour continues for a few more days, and includes chances to win a copy of Called at every stop.

Some awesome reviews are in, with more coming along every day.

  • "... intricate, heartfelt mystery...as good as having a time machine..wonderful characters...a finely wrought mystery." - Cozy up with Kathy
  • "a great murder [mystery] with historical background and a story so well written you will be captivated from the start" - Shelley Reads and Reviews
  • "It is not all babies, courtship, and bicycles ... Double-dealing, shadowy shapes in the night, and gunplay all make their appearance in this story, including a twist in the tale that keeps you guessing as to who is who and what is what right up to the end. Delivering the Truth delivers, right across the board." - Criminal Element
  • "Climax...a real page turner...if you are looking for a trip back in time, there is no better guide than ...strong, resourceful...Rose." - Carstairs Considers
Finally, to give an extra boost to Called to Justicebook one, Delivering the Truth has won the Ippy Silver Medal in the Mystery/Cozy/Noir category! And the book currently on sale in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Now I need a nap. ;^)