Thursday, April 12, 2018

Seven Sinister Sisters on Genres

Edith Maxwell/Maddie Day here. The Seven Sinister Sisters are on a blog tour and we're giving away books! We are seven authors with new books coming out this winter and spring, and we've been guest blogging all over cyberspace since January. You can see where we've been and where we're still scheduled on our Facebook page.

I asked everyone to answer the following question: If you could write in another genre, what would it be? Here are our answers in no particular order.

Edith Maxwell: I would love to try my hand at science fiction. I used to read a lot of it, especially the fabulous late Ursula LeGuin. But right now I have my hands full writing two cozy mystery series and one historical, so sci fi is going to have to take a back seat.

Sue Star: I already do.  I write science fiction and fantasy as Rebecca S.W. Bates, magical realism as Cameron Kennedy, and horror as Minta Monroe. Growing up, I always dreamed of becoming an astronaut. I chose a different path, learning that it’s more fun to make up adventures. Building other worlds, whether realistic or fantastic ones, appeals to me, as I have faith that justice will be served and humanity will find a way to survive. Although I started my writing career with science fiction, now I spend equal time writing both. 

Becky Clark: Erotica. I hear that's where the money is. But since I'm a puritanical straitlaced prude, I think it might not keep me in the lap of luxury to which I've become accustomed. So I'll change my answer to "middle-grade romps." I may be a prude, but I punch above my weight with playground fart jokes. I'd still write mysteries, though, because I believe every single story is actually a mystery, whether they call it that or not. No matter what, there's always some story question that needs to be resolved.

Our next stop on the tour is April 18 on the Chicks on the Case blog. Here's where you can find each of us in the meantime:

To celebrate our new releases, the Seven Sinister Sisters are having a giveaway!
Seven lucky winners will receive an ebook from one of us.
One GRAND PRIZE winner will receive a signed copy from each of us!
Enter to win by leaving a comment. Our tour runs from January 6th to April 30th and we’re answering a different question at each blog. Leave a comment at each blog for more entries! We’ll draw the winner from all the combined comments at the end of our tour.

Readers: What genres do you like to read? Which won't you go near?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Twice Honored

Edith here, still riding on a joy cloud!

Why am I riding on a joy cloud? I learned last week that Called to Justice, my second Quaker Midwife Mystery, has been nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel! Delivering the Truth was nominated last year, so I've twice been honored in this category.

I am nominated with four other stellar authors:

Rhys Bowen for In Farleigh Field
Jessica Ellicott for Murder in an English Village
Susan Elia MacNeal for The Paris Spy
Renee Patrick for Dangerous to Know

I know all these authors, and they are all gracious, talented, and friendly. I've read Rhys and Jessica's books - and loved both of them.

In Farleigh Field is a standalone mystery and tells the story of an upper-class English woman doing her bit during World War II by working with the top-secret codebreakers. Plus a mystery, of course.

Murder in an English Village, Jessica's debut in a new series, is a delightful 1920s tale of two old friends meeting up again - and then solving a murder in the village. (Jessica Ellicott is a new pen name for my good friend and Wicked Cozy Authors blogmate Jessie Crockett.)

The Paris Spy is a suspense-filled Maggie Hope spy novel, set during World War II. This time she's on a double mission in occupied Paris, and it's very dangerous, indeed.

The only one I haven't yet read is Dangerous to Know. This series is about movie fashion designer Edith Head and amateur sleuth Lillian Frost solving crimes in the late 1930s in Los Angeles. How can't I enjoy a book with a character named Edith?

What isn't dangerous to know is what talented authors I am nominated with. I hope you'll pick up a copy of each of these fabulous historical stories.

The Agathas are awarded by attendees at Malice Domestic, the annual conference for the traditional mystery, held in Bethesda, Maryland every year at the end of April. From the Malice web site: The Agatha Awards honor the “traditional mystery,” books typified by the works of Agatha Christie and others. For our purposes, the genre is loosely defined as mysteries that contain no explicit sex, excessive gore or gratuitous violence, and are not classified as “hard-boiled.”

Of course I hope Called to Justice wins in this category, but if not I can heartily applaud the book that does

Readers: Which of these awesome authors have you read? Will you be at Malice this year?

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Fun of Plotting

by Linda O. Johnston

It's plotting time!

I'm currently finishing the editorial process for the fourth of my Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries for Midnight Ink.  Pick and Chews will be a May release.

I also have a deadline coming up in a few months for number five in the series.  No name yet.  I started plotting it a while ago and had to set it aside because of other writing commitments... but I'm back!

As always, it's fun to reunite with established characters and create new ones that'll be important to this new book.  That includes the dogs, of course. 

How to plot?  Well, I've established a general procedure over many years of writing that I call my plot skeleton.  It's somewhat based on screenplay plotting.  Yes, I'm a plotter, not a pantser.  In other words, I start by creating a plot that I turn into a loose synopsis and work from there.  I don't write by the seat of my pants as pantsers do--at least not much.  Sometimes my characters aren't completely willing to follow my established plot, and I tend to listen to them.

Every writer's procedure is different, of course, even though some might have similarities.  I've been at this for a while and so my subconscious, on whom I rely, tends to follow it even if I don't give it orders to do so.

So, subconscious of mine, plot on!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Tumbles, Broken Bones, and Book Launches

Today's blog article will be short and sweet. I recently took a tumble which resulted in me falling on my shoulder and breaking my collarbone and multiple places. In the long run, I will be just fine. In the short run, typing with one hand is a little problematic. But I wanted to share the great news about the launch of my 5th Downward Dog Mystery, Pre-Meditated Murder. Reviews so far are fabulous, and I hope you give the book a try.
If you happen to live in the Seattle area, I would love it if you came to see me in person. Please join me in celebrating my book's birth at the Edmonds Bookshop on Saturday, February 3, from 1 to 2 p.m. I'll be giving real-life hugs, signing books, and generally having an awesome time.

The rest of the book launch for Pre-Meditated Murder is going on as scheduled, and the reviews from my first blog tour are pretty fabulous. I've copied the below from the tour host’s page at Great Escapes Blog Tours. Check out the page at this link and enter the Rafflecopter drawing for a free copy of the book.
These characters are realistic, fun, smart, determined and very centered most of the time. I love the role Bella plays in each mystery. ~Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book
Starting and ending with romantic surprises, this yoga-centric novel takes the reader to unexplored locations on a roller coaster emotional run. ~Laura’s Interests
PRE-MEDITATED MURDER is a compelling read. Expectations of love are challenged and explored in this multilayered mystery. ~Cozy Up With Kathy
Okay, I just totally fell in love with this book!…  There is quite a bit of drama, a captivating investigation, and a heart-wrenching finale that kept me hooked until I ran out of pages to read. ~Books a Plenty Book Reviews
I love this series. I never expected that Michael had a secret wife. I’m not sure I liked that twist, but I couldn’t stop reading. I just had to find out how it would all end. I was completely engrossed in this one. ~Socrates’ Book Reviews…
I loved Rene, Kate best friend, she is brave, funny and I would love to read more about her! ~Varietats
That's all for now. Much love to all of you, and I hope to see some of you on February 3rd.
PS--Want your very own copy of Pre-Meditated Murder? It's available now  in e-book and paper back copies everywhere!

Check this link for some local ideas.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

How Hard Is It to Turn a Tide?

Edith here, gearing up for the release of Turning the Tide, Quaker Midwife Mystery #3. 

Actually, I don't think it's possible to turn an oceanic tide. It's not a little boat. It's not even a giant ocean liner or tanker. Our earth's ocean tides are mighty gravitation-powered forces. They come around more or less twice a day, with two high tides and two lows. The moon influences them. The weather influences them. We dinky humans have no effect, unless on a grand climate-change scale.

Don't trust me on this, though. I write novels, not science articles. But I'm pretty sure it's true. So why would I name a book if turning a tide isn't even possible?

The story opens at a meeting of the Amesbury Woman Suffrage Association a few days before election day in November 1888. We now know this was more than thirty years before women got the vote by the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US constitution in 1920. But that didn't mean women weren't already protesting and lobbying for the right to express their opinions at the ballot box.

Gradually, inexorably, women were turning the tide of opinion toward allowing half the adult population to vote. In the same way as with the movement to legally enfranchise African-American men, Quakers were in the forefront of the women's rights movement. Midwife Rose Carroll joins forces with other Amesbury suffragists in this book, and her mother - a well-known activist for the cause - comes to town to stand in solidarity across from the polls on election day, as does Elizabeth Cady Stanton herself.

I'm so excited that this book will reach the reading public in three short months! In the meantime, I have five advance reader copies itching to reach the hands of avid fans. I'll give one away to  a commenter here today.

Readers: Do you vote? If not, why not? What do you think of when you exercise your right, not even a century old, to mark that ballot or pull that lever, whether in a local election or to name the next leader of the country?

Agatha- and Macavity-nominated author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, and award-winning short crime fiction. As Maddie Day she writes the popular Country Store Mysteries and the new Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. 

She is president of Sisters in Crime New England and lives north of Boston with her beau, two elderly cats, and an impressive array of garden statuary. She blogs at,, and Read about all her personalities and her work at

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!

by Linda O. Johnston

Yikes!  This post just sneaked up on me.  The first Monday of the month is also the first day of this new year.

This will be short since I'm still celebrating.  Plus, I'm still dealing with deadlines--nothing unusual about that. 

But I'm looking forward to an exciting and fun new year of writing and reading and family time (including my dogs, of course) and more.  I also look forward to more interaction with the Midnight Ink team and other MI writers.  Good bunch of people, and I hope the new year is great for all of them!

Do you have plans for today?  This week?  This month?  This year?  January is a good time to work on all kinds of plans.  I've got lots in mind, and I suspect you do, too. 

So... Happy New Year!  I hope you have a wonderful 2018.  And beyond, of course.  Plan well, accomplish much, read and write a lot, and above all else, have fun.

Linda O. Johnston is currently writing the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries for Midnight Ink.  Her most recent one was Bad to the Bone, and the next in the series, Pick and Chews, will be a May 2018 release.

Monday, December 25, 2017

My Christmas Gift to you: Chapter 1 of Pre-Meditated Murder

Merry Christmas, everyone!  Without further ado, I present to you the first chapter of Pre-Meditated Murder.  It officially releases on January 8, but it is available for pre--order now! Let me know what you think!

I slipped through the restroom door, leaned my back against the counter, and tried—unsuccessfully—to slow the pounding in my chest.

Dad’s voice echoed inside my head. Take it easy now, Kate-Girl. Remember what Rene told you. You have to act like everything’s normal. You don’t want to ruin tonight for Michael.

Almost three years after his death, Dad was still right. Tonight wasn’t about me. At least not just about me. It was Michael’s night, too. Or it would be, provided I didn’t die of heart failure.

Public restroom or not, I could think of worse places to die. The floor’s shiny black marble was spotless. A trio of lavender-scented candles cast dancing light beams across the matching countertop. The purple blooms of a phalaenopsis orchid cascaded from a dark green plant in the corner. The place even sounded inviting, thanks to soothing classical music floating through hidden speakers.

Normally, I would have been enchanted by the room’s painstaking ornamentation. Not today. Today, I was too busy trying not to hyperventilate to revel.

My adrenaline-laced anticipation surprised me, especially since I’d spent almost a year avoiding the very conversation Michael and I were about to have. Then again, maybe I was worked up because I’d been avoiding it for so long. Until recently, I’d had no idea how important our future was to me.

Maybe a relaxing breath practice would help me calm down. I closed my eyes and inhaled, mentally coaching myself as I would one of my yoga students. Inhale and slowly count to four. One, two, three, four. Exhale, one, two …

A few cycles later, my heartbeat slowed. The chattering of my monkey mind subsided. My hands were still trembling too hard to touch up my makeup, so I picked stray dog hairs off the black cocktail dress I’d borrowed for the evening and ran a comb through my shoulder-length hair. I smiled to make sure lipstick hadn’t coated my teeth, pinched my cheeks to give them some color, and headed back to join Michael at our table.

Every part of SkyCity, the Seattle Space Needle’s upscale restaurant, had been designed to seduce multiple senses. The heels of my three-inch stilettos sank into the lobby’s lush oriental carpet. Notes from a baby grand piano caressed my eardrums. Swirls of color burst from a Chihuly painting, exploding the piano’s overture on canvas. A kaleidoscope of scents arranged and rearranged themselves in my nostrils, creating a fluid collage: garlicky pasta Alfredo, musky perfume, the sweet floral bouquet of deep red roses.

For most Seattleites, dinner at SkyCity was reserved for special occasions. For practically broke small business owners like Michael and me, the experience might be once in a lifetime. But man, was it worth it. SkyCity served more than delicious food. It provided unparalleled atmosphere and a rotating, panoramic view of the entire city.

Any other evening, I would have been glued to my seat for every one of the forty-seven minutes it took for the restaurant to complete a full rotation. Any other evening, I would have been transfixed by the view: toy-like rooftops, tiny ferries, the stark lines of the Olympic Mountains. Any other evening, I would have been drunk on the surroundings before I took my first sip of champagne.

This evening, however, I’d barely noticed any of it. I hadn’t even tasted the pasta I’d picked at for dinner. I was too preoccupied. Waiting. Waiting for Michael to stop pretending that we were here to celebrate my thirty-fourth birthday. Waiting for him to pull out the jewelry bag that Rene had spotted him carrying two days ago. Waiting for him to ask me to marry him.

Michael stood and pulled out my chair, grinning. “You were gone for an awfully long time. I was about to send in a search party.”

“Sorry about that.”

I glanced at him over my wine glass as he nodded discreetly to our waiter. On a bad day, Michael was pretty darned handsome, and today was far from a bad day. His sexy, blue-green eyes sparkled. The tailored suit he wore accented his broad shoulders and six-foot-tall frame. Curly brown hair brushed delightfully above his ear lobes, as if daring me to nibble them. Unmentionable body parts tingled. If Michael didn’t hurry up and give me that ring soon, I might consummate our engagement before the proposal.

I grinned. Now wouldn’t that give new meaning to SkyCity’s 360-degree view.

“Care to let me in on the joke?” Michael asked.

“Sorry. Nothing. I was just thinking about how happy I am.”

As if on cue, a line of wait staff approached our table. One carried a huge ice cream concoction enveloped in a thick dry-ice fog. Another brandished a bottle of my favorite bubbly and two crystal champagne flutes. The rest surrounded our table in a black-and-white semicircle. Conversations around us grew muted as people stopped eating to watch the theatrics. I felt my face redden. Leave it to Michael to embarrass me with a grand gesture.

Michael grinned like a madman; a cork popped through the air; the entire restaurant burst into song.
“Happy birthday to you …”


Ten seconds later, I blew out the candle and watched as the wait staff disappeared. The other diners resumed their conversations.

I surreptitiously picked through the ice cream, hoping to find buried treasure. Nothing but frozen dairy products and chunks of rich dark chocolate. No diamond lurked in the bottom of my champagne glass, either. My unmentionables stopped tingling, replaced by an awkward unease. Could Rene have been wrong?

Michael leaned across the table and clinked his glass against mine. “Happy birthday, Kate. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.”

The smile I flashed back felt so stiff, it could have been molded from plastic. “Tonight has been wonderful, Michael, truly. The flowers, the dinner, the champagne …” My voice trembled. “Everything.”

Michael frowned, confused. “What is it? Don’t like the dessert? The reviews said it wasn’t too rich, so I asked for extra dark chocolate.”

“It’s delicious, Michael.” I lifted the spoon to my mouth, but pasta with garlic sauce threatened to leap for my throat. I laid the spoon back on the table.

“It was that damned birthday song, wasn’t it?” Michael grumbled. “I should have known better. I know how you hate it when people make a fuss over you. I just thought … well, I thought it would be fun.”

“It was fun,” I assured him. “And the dessert is awesome. It looks like an erupting volcano.” Tears burned the back of my eyes. If I didn’t get out of this restaurant soon, I might erupt right alongside it. I looked pointedly at my watch and waved to get the waiter’s attention. “It’s almost eight. We should leave soon to pick up Bella.”

“Already?” Michael didn’t hide his disappointment.

“The twins have been fussy lately. I promised Rene we wouldn’t be out late.”

I lied. My German shepherd, Bella, suffered from significant separation anxiety, so I never left her alone for more than an hour or two. Michael already knew that Rene was dog-sitting tonight. What he didn’t know was that Bella’s visit was supposed to be a sleepover. Rene had insisted, claiming that my engagement night would be significantly more romantic without a furry, hundred-pound bed hog.

Make that supposed engagement night.

Michael didn’t look convinced, but he didn’t argue. “Before we go, I have something for you.” He reached into his jacket and pulled out a small, foil-wrapped box stamped Trinity Jewelers.

In that moment, the entire world seemed to freeze. I would have sworn that the Space Needle stopped spinning. I was so excited—so relieved—that I didn’t grasp the significance of the box’s flat, three-inch-square shape.

Michael slid it across the table. “Go on, open it.”

My hands trembled again, but I managed to unwrap the paper, ease the top off the box, and gaze down at—

A necklace?

A simple gold heart suspended on a delicate chain. A locket.

Michael reached across the table and opened it. Two tiny pictures were nestled inside. On the left, a grinning Michael. On the right, Bella. “I know you don’t wear much jewelry,” he said, “but I wanted to give you something special. This way Bella and I will always be close to your heart.”

The necklace was gorgeous. Breathtaking, really. Michael had obviously put a lot of thought into the gift. Normally, I would have been stunned—in a good way.

But tonight wasn’t supposed to be normal.

The tears threatening my eyes spilled down my cheeks. “It’s exquisite.”

Michael dropped the necklace back into the box and took my hand. “Kate, honey, what’s wrong? You’ve been acting weird all night. I’m starting to get worried.”

“Nothing. It’s just that …” I swallowed. “I thought you were giving me a ring.”

At first Michael looked confused. “A ring? In a necklace box?” Then his face turned ashen. “Oh.”

Disappointment flashed to embarrassment, which I covered up by pretending to be angry. “Oh? That’s all you have to say? Oh?

Michael opened his mouth, then closed it again without speaking.

The silence between us echoed like a shot to the gut, but it felt significantly more painful. The waiter eased next to Michael, slid the bill onto the table, and scurried away.

“I’m sorry, Kate,” Michael said. “Really, I am. I didn’t mean to disappoint you. But what made you think I was proposing tonight?”

I stared at the tablecloth, wishing I could disappear underneath it. “Rene went shopping for the twins at Westlake Center on Thursday.”

Michael groaned and rubbed the crease between his eyebrows.

I pointed at the box. “She saw you walk out of Trinity’s carrying this. We both assumed—” My voice cracked.

The restaurant’s energy—or at least my experience of it—shifted. The room grew quiet. Sympathetic eyes burned the back of my neck. The dry-ice fog surrounding my uneaten dessert threatened to suffocate me. I gripped the seat of my chair with both hands, willing myself not to bolt.

“Kate, I will propose to you someday, I promise. But not tonight. I can’t.”


Michael refused to look at me.

Deep inside my gut, I knew that I shouldn’t keep pressing. If I kept pressing, Michael’s explanation might change our relationship forever.

I pressed anyway.

“Michael, what aren’t you telling me?”

His jaw trembled. “You know I love you, right?”

I did.

I loved Michael, too. More than I’d ever loved anyone, except maybe Bella. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to say the words back. “Out with it, already.”

Michael stared at the floor for what felt like an eternity. When he looked up again, his eyes were wet.
“I’m sorry, Kate. I’m already married.”



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

Thursday, December 14, 2017

An Almost Rose Carroll Story

Edith here, feeling just a little stressed about the holidays and various authorly tasks also on my to-do list. So I thought I would de-stress by asking you to celebrate with me. 'Cause who doesn't love a party?

My newest story, "An Ominous Silence," came out last month in Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017 from Level Best Books! Cue the cries of "Bravo!" and pop the champagne. It is my sixteenth published story (see the whole list here on my beautifully rehabbed new web site), and I have one more  story accepted for publication next spring.

So I thought I'd tell you the origin story behind the, well, story. Get comfy, kids, and put up your feet.

Five of my short crime stories feature Quaker midwife Rose Carroll from my Quaker Midwife Mysteries. One was even nominated for an Agatha Award last year. I had written a sixth for this year's Bouchercon anthology, the theme of which was travel, since the big mystery conference was held in Toronto, Canada. In the new story, Rose and her apprentice are on a train to Montreal in a snowy New England 1890s winter when the train is snowed in on a desolate stretch of tracks. A man is murdered, and his wife goes into labor. Rose comes to the rescue on both counts.

I was about to click Send when I checked the guidelines one more time. Ack! Because the committee wanted truly anonymous judging, authors couldn't use characters from any published book or series. That pretty much trashed Rose Carroll as the protagonist. I was cutting the deadline close, but I still had a few days left before they closed submissions.

So what does the creative mind do? Change the names to protect the innocent, of course. Or the series protag, as the case may be. Rose Carroll became midwife Catherine Colby--not a Quaker--and her apprentice Annie morphed into Genevieve Rousseau. I changed the date to a few years after the published Quaker Midwife mysteries take place and fixed the midwife's speech so she doesn't talk like a Quaker. I printed out the story, checked it one more time, and hit Submit.

Did they accept it? Alas, no. I'm a pretty seasoned author by now, however, and the word "No" no
longer devastates. We find a new venue and try again. Lucky for me, I heard about the rejection before the deadline for this year's Level Best anthology. I hit Submit again. And this time got a hit.

I hope you'll check out the anthology, which is full of dozens of amazing authors and delightful stories. And don't forget, Turning the Tide, Quaker Midwife Mystery #3, will be out April 8 and is available for preorder wherever books are sold!

Readers: What kinds of rejection have you bounced back from, and how? Which sow's ear have you  found a silver lining in, or which storm cloud have you turned into silk (to mix a couple of clichéd metaphors just for the heck of it)?