Thursday, June 15, 2017

5 Ways I Improved PATH INTO DARKNESS at the Last Minute

By Lisa Alber

I just finished the final, FINAL nit-piks for PATH INTO DARKNESS, coming out in August. Talk about under the wire! The book is at the printer as I write this post. Yay! I'm so grateful for the chance to provide a detailed final proofread, and then quickly proofread my proofread for a sanity check on my final changes. (And, yes, I found four more wee, itty, bitty, teeny, tiny typos ... It could never end, seriously.)

It's amazing how you can always improve a story. I didn't change big things, and some would argue that small changes like the ones I performed couldn't matter that much to the overall reader experience ...

That might be true, because the book has been out in the world as an advanced reader copy for awhile now -- advanced readers seem to be enjoying the story. But still. I'm a proponent of subtle changes for overall improvement in my storytelling. No one else may care. But I do. (But then, you gotta stop. JUST. STOP. after awhile. Let the beast go. Be free, fledgling novel!) 

So, yeah, I put on my nit-pik hat, and this is what I came up with besides leftover typos and awkward word choices and grammatical bloopers:

1. Murkiness factor. Mysteries work because they are purposefully murky until the end of the story. I deleted and adjusted dialog that was too spot-on, i.e. dialogue in which one character was talking with too much clarity. I thought, Wow, that's certainly shining too much of a light on such-and-such character or event or bit of information. In my own writer self-talk, I call this toning it the hell down. :-)

2. Subtle consistency errors. The consistency errors I fixed had to do with proper setup for events that come toward the end of the novel. True, most readers probably won't catch these things, but there is an overall effect as one scene builds on another and on another, and you get to know the characters. Readers are left with feelings about the characters without knowing why all the time. The point for me is not to come out of left field all of sudden at the end of the novel.

3. Lingo adjustments. My novels are set in Ireland, so I try to be conscience of using the correct vernacular. I'm sure I don't catch everything, but, for example, in my final proofread, I changed "steal" to "pinch," "rent" to "let," and "mom" to "mum."

4. Improve the last chapter. I have my wonderful editor, Nicole, to thank for this one. She had made some edits to the final chapter with a passing comment that made me realize that I'd floated off course with one of my subplots. Just a little, but it was enough to bug me. The last chapter didn't hang right. This was with Danny, my detective, having a heartfelt moment with his kids. The final moment, the final decision he's making in this story. And it's a big decision. So, yeah, I adjusted that chapter, and went back and employed number two above.

5. Simplified backstory aspects from the previous novels. One of my eternal questions as a writer of a series is how much of the previous novels' backstories to include in the current novel. I want my novels to standalone as much as possible. For me, this means NOT dumping all the details in from previous novels. I don't like info dumps. That's just me. I prefer to simply not mention past events or background character details that aren't germaine to the current story. For example, the fact that Danny has a dead daughter from years back didn't need to be mentioned -- mentioning this daughter added more question marks than it clarified Danny's character.

So now, having gone through this process, I can finally say that I've done all that I can possibly do to create the best book I'm capable of at this moment in time. Whew!

How forgiving of typos are you when you read novels? (Me, I'm very forgiving now; before writing novels I used to be a hard ass.)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Studying 1888 Politics

Edith Maxwell here. Now that Called to Justice is launched to rave reviews ("A grand slam!" "A riveting historical mystery," "A mystery that surprises," and "A real page turner," I'm starting to write the fourth book in the Quaker Midwife Mysteries series. Wait, you say. What about Book Three?

Turning the Tide is already in production, and you can pre-order it (please do!) but the cover isn't up yet.

I loved writing this book. The story takes place during presidential election week of 1888. Here's the cover blurb:

Excitement runs high during Presidential election week in 1888. The Woman Suffrage Association plans a demonstration and movement leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton comes to town to rally the troops. When Quaker midwife Rose Carroll finds the body of the group's local organizer the next morning, she can't help but wonder who could have committed the murder.
Rose quickly discovers several people who have motives. The victim had planned to leave her controlling husband, and a recent promotion had cost a male colleague his job. She had also recently spurned a fellow suffragist's affections. After Rose's own life is threatened, identifying the killer takes on a personal sense of urgency.
What do you think? Sound like a fun read? The research was even more fun. I learned about election cakes. Women used to make these huge fruitcakes and the political party would give out pieces to men entering the polling place in an attempt to woo their vote.
I learned that the parties had different color ballots, and that the party regulars wore different color top hats while campaigning.
 I also studied up on women's suffrage. At the time they wore sunflower yellow sashes to protests and carried placards with slogans like, “Women Bring All Voters Into The World. Let Women Vote,” “Ballots for Both,” “Equal Suffrage,” and “Votes for Women.” Many of the suffrage leaders were Quakers like my midwife, so it wasn't a stretch to make Rose's mother an activist, too. John Greenleaf Whittier goes into vote in the election morning scene, and then comes to stand in solidarity with the women across the street from the polling place.
It was great fun studying Elizabeth Cady Stanton and bringing her  to Amesbury to support the women. She appears in several scenes in the book, even though I don't know if she actually ever visited my town where the series takes place. She was moving on to essays on personal responsibility, and I extracted bits of one for a talk she gave to a women's salon I portray in the book. 
Incumbent Grover Cleveland didn't win the election, as it turns out, even though Rose was on his side. And her investigation of the activist's murder turns dangerous, too. You'll have to read the book to find out if Rose is defeated or not.
What's your favorite election story, or factoid about either elections or women's suffrage in the past? 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Publishing and Promoting

by Linda O. Johnston

            Last month was a busy one for me.  I spent a lot of it doing what novel writers gotta do: write and promote. 


            I once thought that writers just wrote, but thanks to the publication of a nice number of books I learned that part of the requirement--and fun--is to promote.


            And so, I did a lot last month to let the world know about the launch of my third Barkery & Biscuits Mystery, Bad to the Bone, published by Midnight Ink


            I talked about it on my usual blogs, and also went on a Great Escapes blog tour.  I visited libraries.  I visited book stores.  I encouraged reviews.  But none of this sounds new to those of you reading this who also happen to be writers.


            I also had a June 1 deadline for turning in the manuscript for Barkery book #4.  Its title isn't established yet, but I did meet the deadline despite some health issues, so I'm glad about that.  And those of you reading this who also happen to be writers also know a lot about deadlines.


            One would think that, as with any career, learning what to do to could get stale with time.  But that's one fun thing about being a novelist.  Things may be the same, but they're also different.  We meet lots of people, in person and online.  We're always plotting, so our minds are never inactive. 


            And then, when the latest book comes out, we celebrate, in lots of ways--which of course includes those elements of promotion.


            So Happy June to all of you.  And may it be productive in your own plotting, promoting, reading, and everything else you do!

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:

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.

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.
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:


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 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. ;^)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

New Sins and Late Nights

by Tj O'Connor

Nighttime belongs to mystery and intrigue—evil, too. I could say it belongs to love, but I write mysteries and thrillers, not romance novels. For me, I do my best thinking around midnight. I also do my best panicking and second-guessing. Don't we all? It’s not unusual for me to be lying there (or sitting at my computer writing), plotting out a scene or another book and wham—God, in the 7th Grade, I insulted that sweet redhead, Becky. What was I thinking! Then back to my murder plot and … crap! I’ll never retire, I’ll have to work until I die and … now, where did I leave that last body in Chapter 12... dammit, why isn't Pluto a real planet anymore? As the hours tick by, so does my split personality between story plots and lifelong regrets.

Raise your hand if you are with me on this–and don’t lie.

But something else happens after midnight, too—creativity. An unknown author once said, “3 AM is the hour of writers, painters, poets, musicians, silence seekers, overthinkers, and creative people…” I am clearly in the writers and overthinker columns. Of course, perhaps the best quote to describe me was by the hiphop group, the Initials, who wrote, “The Night Belongs to The Poet and The Madman.” Hmmmm, I’m no poet so … yup, madman. Nailed it.

Most of my novels were all given birth after midnight. New Sins for Old Scores was no exception.

I was lying awake one night a few years ago when I began writing New Sins for Old Scores, my latest paranormal mystery coming out in a couple months from Black Opal Books. A line came to me that sort of sums up the opening of the story and my permanent state of insomnia and creativity—of the lead character, Richard Jax, I wrote, “… 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.” Then, bam! A body—his body—blood, bullets, and bang-bang. The story unfolds.

The story follows the traditional mystery path to “the End” with a murder, finger-pointing, a few more bodies, deep dark secrets, twists and turns, the spirit of a long-dead OSS operative, and the capture of the bad guys. Well, perhaps the spirit of a long-dead OSS operative isn’t the traditional mystery path, but it can be  with me. At least for this book it was. Most of this story was written between the hours of 9 pm and 4 am. In fact, most of my nine novels were written during those hours.

And yes, alas, most of my life-long regrets and mistakes haunt me then, too.

A lot of good can happen after midnight for me. I’ve learned a ton about writing over the past five years or so—patience, the ability to take a gut-punch (think critics, publishers, and barroom friendships), and perseverance. Mostly, though, I’ve learned a lot about myself and many of those lessons came in the late hours when I can forget about my real life and focus on my imaginary one—killing people and stopping international crisis. Okay, okay, so over the years my real life and imaginary life gets a little blurry, but you get what I mean. Late at night I love to take in the night air and let my brain go crazy. It’s a battle to ignore the forgotten appointments, lists of to-do things, and life’s worries (although I still accumulate a Picasso of yellow sticky notes by 5 am each morning). Still, I’ve learned that my inner demons thrive after lights-out, so I always have my cellphone handy and my note-application ready for an endless list of characters, plot twists, and action sequences I want to write. The dread of it all is that I must—like most of you—work for a living. Alas, I have to wait until the next night before I can put fingers to keyboard and craft those ideas into my stories. It’s painful sometimes, but like a vampire, daylight isn't fun—work, bills, cooking, chasing the dogs, responsibilities …

Somehow, before the sun comes up each day, I catch 3-4 hours of sleep. That’s when I dream about my stories. Do you think I’m obsessed?  

The moral to all this is know thy self—learn about your strengths and weaknesses and what works best for you. Don’t read blogs and go to seminars and panels and try to mimic what other authors do and say. There is no secret code to success (lord don't I know)! Don’t fall into the trap of trying to fit yourself into a mold. Trust me, you’ll get stuck and have to fight your way out—or worse, you’ll be captive to seeking that infamous secret formula. No. I believe in using your love of the pen to learn about yourself—learn when the demons come out and when the voices in your head begin to make sense. Even if that’s after midnight.

Oh, and forget the tossing and turning about those bills and long lost friends and what-ifs. Those voices are just your ex-spouse or the IRS trying to make you crazy! Listen for the little whisper that starts after the lights go out and tells your characters what to do and say and where the story is going. And for God’s sake, pay attention!

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 Spring 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 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:


Monday, April 3, 2017

Preparation for Publication

by Linda O. Johnston

   It's April already.  That means May is fast approaching.  And May is when my third Barkery & Biscuits Mystery, Bad to the Bone, will be published by Midnight Ink.

   So right now I am in preparation mode.  It doesn't hurt that my mind is Barkery-centered anyway since I am currently writing book number four in the series.  But how does an author prepare these days for publication of a new book?

   Well, for one thing, here I am, blogging about it.  This isn't the only place I'll blog about it either.  I'll be participating in a Great Escapes blog tour.  That includes bloggers' reviews of the new book, plus I'll be providing interview responses and related blog posts to be included in other blogs.

   And of course I'll mention it on my regular blogs: Killer Hobbies, Killer Characters and Slice of Orange, as well as here at InkSpot--as I've just done!

   I'll also be doing personal appearances of various sorts.  For one thing, as usual, I will be attending Malice Domestic, a very fun conference as many other Midnight Ink authors know.  I'll be on a panel featuring authors who write about pets in their stories--The "Paws" That Detect--and that's me!

   I will attend the grand reopening celebration of the Glendale, California, Central Library with other authors.

   I'll also celebrate the launch of my book at the Mysterious Galaxy's birthday bash.

   I'll be chatting and blogging at Writerspace, which provides various communities for readers and writers.  It's a fun group and I participate there a lot.  I'll also be participating in their author newsletter and doing a book giveaway. 

   I'll attend the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, where I'll sign books that have already been published at three different mystery booths--and will also volunteer at the booth for the Los Angeles Romance Authors chapter of the Romance Writers of America.

   I'll be speaking at a couple of events for the Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club.

   I'll be on a panel at the California Crime Writers Conference in a couple of months.

   And if anything else comes up, I'll certainly consider doing that, too.

   Think I'm doing enough?  Heck, it's never enough, but I enjoy it all. 

   And maybe all of this will remind existing readers of me, introduce me to new readers, and help me sell a few books!

   I'm sure the writers reading this are nodding, or shaking their heads and laughing, or recognizing themselves in some or all of these ideas, plus more.  If any of  you have additional suggestions, please let me know!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Creating an Audiobook: The Easy, the Challenging, and the Unknown

By Tracy Weber

I’ve been clamoring for an audiobook version of my Downward Dog Mystery Series since before the first book came out.  Unfortunately, my agent was unable to find a buyer for the audio rights to the series, so I recently self-published the audio version of my first book, Murder Strikes a Pose using ACX, an audiobook self-publishing platform.
The process was simultaneously easier and more challenging than I could have imagined. For those considering the same path, here are some of my learnings.
Let’s start with the easy:
·        The ACX process.  ACX breaks the process of creating an audiobook into a few easy steps:

1.      Set up an account.
2.      Make sure you have rights to the title.  (If you’re traditionally published like I am, check your contract.)
3.      Create an audition script. (That’s a blog article all by itself.)
4.      Post the title and script on the ACX site for audition. Interested narrators (producers) submit audition recordings based on your script. You can either offer producers a set dollar amount per finished hour or a royalty split.
5.      Make an offer to your favorite producer.  This includes both agreeing to a schedule and contract terms. The contract template is provided by ACX, which I found super helpful.
6.      Start production. ACX recommends approval after the first fifteen minutes have been recorded and then again after the entire work is complete.  I chose a different process.  (See below.)
7.      Upload a cover
8.      Finish production and submit to ACX for quality review.
9.      Start selling.

Kind of reminds me of a Staples button.  Wow, that was easy!
Well, not exactly …

Now for the Challenging:
·        Hiring the right producer.  If you’re a fan of audiobooks, you know that the narrator makes or breaks the listening experience, perhaps even more than the writing. Some authors choose to read their own books, but I wanted to use a professional. I assumed hiring a producer wouldn’t be that big of a deal.
I was wrong.
Recording an audiobook is a ton of work; doing it on a royalty split, a huge gamble. I didn’t get a single audition for the first two weeks. Week three, auditions started trickling in.  Most potential narrators used soothing, yoga voices. My protagonist, Kate, may teach yoga, but she’s spunky!  Yoga voice would never do. 
One narrator was quite talented, but she could only speak with a British accent. Kate is a Pacific Northwest girl through and through.  I was about to give up when I received an audition from Anne James.  I knew she was right for Kate the minute I heard her.  I made an offer, she accepted, and off we went!
·        Creating the cover. I thought creating the cover would be a no-brainer, and it sure started out that way. My publisher kindly granted me cover rights, as long as I got permission from the artist.  She agreed, but for a fee that was, to be honest, way too expensive for an unproven audiobook. 
Still, covers are important and I love my cover art, so I paid it. The dimensions needed to be changed, so my husband spent a few hours massaging the original artwork until we created the cover below.  It’s pretty cool, don’t you think? 
·        Finding the time. My narrator was wonderful to work with.  Simply wonderful. She recorded a chapter at a time, then sent it to me for review. I listened to it once or twice, wrote up feedback, and sent it back to her for revision.
Ana pup waiting for me to stop working and play with her.
Sometimes a chapter was perfect on the first take. Most times, however, we had to do two or three versions.  The finished product is a little over eight hours, but I spent approximately twenty hours listening to the recordings. Add the time spent thinking and typing up feedback, and pretty soon I’d used up a pretty big chunk of my puppy’s playtime.
And the unknown.
Hello, is anybody out there?
·        Where are the listeners? I’ve spent a lot of time building the audience for my series, and I’m learning more about book promotion every day. An audiobook is proving to be a whole different animal, however. I joined groups, arranged blog tours, held launch parties, and offered giveaways.
I’ve definitely sold copies, and I hope to sell more.  As I write this, the audiobook has 49 reviews which are generally quite positive. But audiobook promotion has its own unique challenges, and frankly I’ve stumbled up against most of them.  Still, I’m learning as I go and am optimistic about the future.
Finally, the question my fellow authors might be asking:

·        Would I do it again?  The answer is a definite yes.  Anne and I are currently working on Book 2 of the series, A Killer Retreat.  We don’t have a launch date yet, but hopefully we will soon. Stay tuned!
To enter to win a copy of your choice of my Downward Dog Mysteries, please comment with the answer to one or more of these questions:
1.      Do you listen to audiobooks?  If so, why?  If not, why not?
2.      How do you learn about the audiobooks you purchase?
3.      If you’ve produced an audiobook, what advice would you give to me and my readers? 
Comment with one or more answers by midnight on Sunday, April 2 to be entered in the drawing.  Be sure to include your e-mail address (i.e. Tracy(at)WholeLifeYoga(dot)com) so I can contact you if you win.  Good luck!

Tracy Weber

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