Saturday, March 31, 2007

InkSpot News - March 31, 2007

CANDY CALVERT's Dressed to Keel receives the 2007 Reader Views Literary Award for Best Mystery. Read the Reader Views interview of Candy or listen to her internet radio author chat.

InkSpot members and authors of The Last Secret JOE MOORE & LYNN SHOLES will appear on the following author discussion panels during Sleuthfest 07 in Miami Beach, April 19-22.  Sleuthfest is sponsored by the Florida Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America.
  • Developing Believable Characters, Friday, April 20 at 10:00 AM

  • Team Writing, Friday, April 20 at 2:15 PM

  • Tech Nation, Using Technology for Craft, Research and Promotion, Saturday, April 21 at 2:15 PM

KEITH RAFFEL, author of DOT.DEAD has two upcoming appearances:
  • Sunday, April 1, 2007 at 2.00 PM
    L.A. Chapter Meeting: Sisters in Crime
    South Pasadena Library Community Room
    1115 El Centro St.
    South Pasadena, CA 91030

  • Saturday, April 7, 2007 at 2.00 PM
    Appearing with Steve Hockensmith, Simon Wood, InkSpot Member TIM MALEENY
    San Francisco Mystery Bookstore
    4175 24th Street
    San Francisco, CA 94123

April 1 marks the official release of Lost Dog by BILL CAMERON.

Check back each Saturday for more news about the members of InkSpot.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Turn the Page by Jess Lourey (with some help from Bob Seeger)

On a long and lonely highway east of Omaha
You can listen to the engine, moanin' out as one long song…

That’s a Bob Seeger song, and an excellent title for a mystery writer’s book tour, which I am in the midst of. Sure, I’m more northeast of Omaha (Minnesota and Wisconsin), but I’ve spent a lot of lonely time in my car promoting June Bug, the second in the Murder-by-Month Mysteries, and a lot of lonelier time at an author table at Barnes & Noble trying to catch people’s eye as they beeline for their audio copy of The Secret (and please allow me to save you $20 by spilling the secret--"think positive.")

This book marketing is serious work, I tell ya’. I’d like to say I’m not asking you to feel sorry for me, but that would be a lie. Who knew that promoting a book would be as hard (though a different kind of hard) as writing the book? In an effort to make life easier on all the other new authors out there with limited time and money, I'm going to share what I've learned. Here it is:

  • Don’t send goodies (post cards, pens, bookmarks) to conferences to be set on a table. They get lost in the shuffle.
  • Do send postcards to every library in the United States. You can buy mailing labels at several different online clearinghouses. The postcards should have your book cover on front and a brief synopsis and a couple good blurbs on back. I have a limited, Minnesota-focused list that I'd be happy to send to you if you email me.
  • Do send postcards to every independent bookstore you can find, particularly those within your region. With all postcards you send, take a moment to write a quick note, like “good reading!” or “funny stuff!” or “regional author!”, or highlight a good quote. If there is something personalized on the postcard, it is more likely to be read.
  • Sign stock at the chains. Any Barnes & Nobles and Borders within driving distance is fair game. Call ahead, make sure they have your books in stock, and then sign that stock. I hit 18 bookstores last Saturday, and three of them only had two copies of June Bug, but now they all have autographed copies of June Bug. Many of the stores even offered to put June Bug out on the new arrival table or face out and to order copies of May Day.
  • Set up signings at independents and libraries. They do great word-of-mouth advertising, and usually, are fantastic places to get to know booksellers and buyers. And for every signing you set up, call the local newspaper and radio and offer an angle on your signing. I have so far gotten seven newspaper interviews and three radio interviews by playing up the small-town murder angle of my series.
  • When you go to the chains to sign stock or the independents and libraries to have signings, hand out your promo stuff to the people who work there. (I do this at the chains, too, btw, and have met some wonderful people this way.) My promo item for June Bug is a flashlight/lockpicking kit with my website, the book’s ISBN, and a cute saying (Mira James is back….and she’s up to her Nut Goodies in trouble again) on it.
  • Apply to your local county arts board for promotional money. With May Day, I received a $1200 grant for promotion. To find your arts board, google “[your state here] arts council.”
  • Google all the magazine/journals which might represent your niche. Contact them, and ask them if you could please send a review copy of your book to them. I focus on Midwest, resort, and gardening journals.
  • Incorporate cute pictures of animals into your writing. People love it and are 66.67% more like to read to the end of your document. ;)
  • And finally, name your book something vague, like, I don't know, The Answer, The Life Map, or How to Get Rich, Laid, and Skinny Without Every Leaving Your Couch, and get yourself on Oprah. Works every time.

That might be all I know today. Happy promoting!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Lunch With Agatha

Hi Y'all! I'm J.B. Stanley and I write the supper club mystery series. I am very proud to be listed among the wonderful writers on this blog. I live in Richmond, VA and have just finished lunch, so here's an appropriate lunch posting:

Book Ends, my literary agency, has a wonderful blog that I read regularly. To check it out, visit . Anyway, one of the agents will occasionally interview an author client on their blog and one of the questions that has appeared goes something like Which four authors (dead or alive) would you most like to have lunch with? Well, I thought that would be a great blog topic as I’d love to see whom you all would like to break bread with. Here are my choices:

  1. Agatha Christie. This choice probably comes as no surprise. The woman is the Queen of the Mystery. I have read and loved every Hercule Poirot book and at least read most of the Miss Marple books. I’d love to talk to Agatha about how clever her mysteries are. Unlike many modern mysteries, I can rarely guess who the killer is. All of Agatha’s characters are always complex and difficult to read. I usually make an incorrect judgment about one of them and then, Dame Christie draws back a literary curtain and reveals how her subtle clues led Poirot or Marple to the true villain.
  1. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Honestly, I’ve had a crush on this man since I was in high school. It all started when I choose to do a book report on The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald’s photo was on the inside cover of the paperback I owned and I thought there was something so intriguing about the handsome, young man. When I started researching his bio and discovered that he and his famous flapper wife, Zelda, led a tumultuous and tragic life, I was even more fascinated. I guess I’d like to see Fitzgerald as he was before he surrendered to alcoholism – back when he was courting his wife and writing such beautiful novels.
  1. Michael Crichton. Writer of the TV series ER, novels like Jurassic Par, Timeline, Andromeda Strain. He’s just so brilliant, so multi-talented. I’d love to listen to him talk about how he conducts his research. This man jumps from replicating dinosaur DNA to time travel to biological warfare and everything he writes seems scarily believable. I read all of his books and am always impressed with his depth of research. I know I could really learn something from him.
  1. 2 Outta 3 Bronte Sisters – I know this entry counts as two people, but I couldn’t chose between Charlotte or Emily. I wouldn’t even need them to talk about their works – what woman hasn’t read them with rapture? No. I’d just love to listen to them gossip about their friends, sisters, and the available young men in their circle. I think it would be just like reading one of their novels. I bet they’d even flirt with our waiters and especially with F. Scott!

If I had a bigger table, I wouldn’t mind a chat with Mary Shelley, James Michener, Ellery Queen, Christian Jacq (he writes the historical fiction novels on Ramses the Great), and my all-time favorite writer (whose books are mostly out of print) Mika Waltari (his books are translated from Finnish).

What about you? What authors would you like a lunch date with?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Procrastinator

by G.M. Malliet

I happened to catch Laura Lippman on the CBS Early Show on March 15, talking with Harry Smith about the writing life. She mentioned that she writes almost every morning in a coffee shop near where she lives. She doesn't do this for the ambience, nor even for the coffee. She does this to get away from her laundry.

"The thing about being a stay-at-home writer is that laundry becomes immensely attractive and seductive," she said.

I knew exactly what she meant. I think every writer in the world, famous or no, fiction or non, gets this.

I once heard a writer say her house was never so clean as when she had a looming deadline.

Faced with a blank page that you're supposed to be filling with type, almost any other activity starts to look really good. Closet cleaning, bathroom-tile scrubbing, venetian-blind dusting, even bill paying. Of particular fascination to me--rising to nearly the same level as the siren call of the laundry--is the dusty picture frame. You may have noticed that picture frames tend to collect dust along the top, a fact that--until I hit a rough patch in, say, Chapter 13--triggered no particular alarms. But suddenly, nothing would do but that I find a dust rag and furniture polish and get to work on every frame in the room. Chapter 13 be damned, and it probably will be.

There has, simultaneously (while the dusty frame emergency was growing to crisis proportions), been a dead moth "living" in my overhead light globe ( if there is a better expression for "light globe"I would be grateful to the person who supplies it) for at least a month, probably more. Probably years.

In my moments of communion with the Muse, as I cast my eyes heavenward, I notice the corpse of him/her. This poor moth. I am never, interestingly enough, as a crime writer, moved to do anything about this. Investigate it, or something. I just sit there staring blankly upwards. To do something about it would require getting out a ladder and stuff and I really don't have time: I'm busy staring into space.

I don't know what this says about me as a writer or as a person, for that matter. I should bury the poor moth, who, after all, has harmed no one, but somehow I never get around to it.

I guess it says that I don't procrastinate just any old way. I am highly selective about my choice of procrastination activities. Unlike Joe Moore, who is clearly a highly disorganized procrastination dilettante.

Blogging might turn out to be another, powerful form of procrastination for me, but I can tell already it's going to be wa-a-a-y more fun than dusting.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Murderous Thoughts on Chains by Deb Baker

Last August, Murder Passes the Buck was on the shelf in three Milwaukee Barnes and Nobles. Two copies in one store! Then two copies in the other stores. When I went back, my baby wasn’t on their shelves anymore. Just to make sure my Yooper mystery had been purchased rather than returned, I approached the customer service desk and introduced myself as the author.

“We’re sold out,” the friendly helper said.

YES!!! An internal high-five. Way to go, Baker! You rule the universe!

“When are you getting more in?” I wanted to know, big stupid grin on my face.

“Would you like me to order one for you?”

“No. No. I just want to know when you’ll have more on the shelf.”

(So I can come back and turn them out.)

Pause while the computer is searched for clues.

“We won’t be getting anymore of that particular title.”


“Your book isn’t on automatic reorder. Would you like me to order one for the store?”

Duh, yah, of course.

Since that eye-opening day, I’ve been on a campaign to restock MURDER PASSES THE BUCK in the chain stores. I’m finding the same story at every B&N I stop at. Had two. Sold out. No plans to carry more.

If a book sells out in the first week or two, doesn’t it stand to reason that a bookstore would order more??? Doesn’t this make perfect financial sense? Apparently not to B&N.

Some computer software program determines what books are reordered. But the local managers do have ordering authority. If you check the shelf and don’t find your book, ask the store manager to order a few. It’s worked for me every time.

Should I do a Joe Konrath? Instead of visiting over 600 various bookstores like he did, I could do drop-ins at the 800 Barnes and Nobles across the country. I’m doing the math in my head. Even if half of the B&Ns order two more and sell them, that’s still not enough to get placed on auto-order.

Somehow, between last August when the book came out and now, I forgot who counts the most. It took writing this post to get it back.

Who cares about writers? Say the magic words.

The Indies!

Every independent bookseller has greeted me with enthusiasm, especially my local store, Books and Company in Oconomowoc, and those in the Michigan Upper Peninsula where my story is set. The one in my home town of Escanaba is ‘shooting’ for a sales total of 100. Iron Mountain still has Murder Passes the Buck on a special display right next to the counter. My local indie can’t wait for the launch of Murder Grins and Bears It on May 17th. Last year I supplied the wine (you’d be surprised how many friends and acquaintances show up when you mention alcohol), this year they offered to pop for the refreshments.

The independent bookstores can’t afford to ignore sales numbers. If my book sells well, they are absolutely, positively going to order more. They love it when authors pop in. So get out there and meet them! Give them plugs. Buy books from them.
They are your best friends.

Visit me at

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow…

by Chuck Zito

The list of tasks I've taken up 'instead of writing' includes alphabetizing every CD in the apartment; planting an herb garden in my kitchen, and a five hour quest for the perfect bath mat. Now however, I'm involved in the most detailed procrastination of all.

To understand the depth of this diversion, you have to know that I have loved only one other pursuit in life as much as mysteries: the theater.

As with any habit that reels you in when you’re innocent and unaware, one little production at age fifteen led to another led to a degree led to a job and soon I was a full blown theater junkie. As an adult, I've occasionally reconsider this love affair. I’ve tried to get out. Each time, like a disgraced 12-stepper, I’ve crawled back into rehearsal to spend sunny afternoons in dimly lit rooms while directors and designers argue over look and movement, and actors ask, “why aren’t I the lead?” Then, it came to me: if I wrote mysteries set in theaters, maybe I wouldn’t have to do theater. (Ok, so I'm slow at the figuring out thing.)

Enter Nicky D’Amico. For a few years it actually worked. I stopped doing theater the year before the publication of the first book. Then I kept busy writing the second. The Nicky D'Amico mysteries are the prefect theater substitute. In each book Nicky works on a new production. In A Habit For Death it's the failed musical comedy Convent of Fear. Ice In Veins (which comes out June 1) centers on a very problematic all-male production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Of course, Nicky, as the stage manager, is always at the center of the action. It was the perfect setup for me. Which is just another way of saying there was no way this was going to last.

Two weeks ago I was once again killing time instead of writing Nicky #3. (Are you seeing a pattern here?) I started cruising Craig’s List, looking for funny ads. There, snuggled alongside such gems as “Will Sell My Boyfriend” and multiple rants against airlines, was a single word: “Macbeth.” Without even realizing what I was doing, I’d opened the link and – boom – I am now just a few weeks from the start of rehearsal for a one act I haven’t even finished writing.

The project is The Kings and Their Dead for the Are The Fish Happy? Theater. It's a three-act evening of Shakespearean kings and their victims. I'm doing the Macbeth/Banquo segment. I get to riff for 20 minutes using Shakespeare's dialogue and characters. Now I'm not complaining about the task itself. This play is part of a greater project called Peace on War of which I am very proud to be a part.

But here's the thing. In my effort to put off writing, I've taken on a one-act. What if my procrastination is progressive? Where is this going to end? What do other people do 'instead of?'

Saturday, March 24, 2007

InkSpot News - March 24, 2007

The Last Secret, a suspense thriller by Midnight Ink authors LYNN SHOLES & JOE MOORE, has been named a finalist in the ForeWord Magazine Book Of The Year Awards. Winners will be announced on June 1 at BookExpo America in New York City.

JESS LOUREY's June Bug launch party will be at the St. Cloud, Minnesota, Barnes and Noble on Sunday, March 25th from 1-3. Free food and drink will be served, and everyone who buys a copy of June Bug at the B & N gets a Battle Lake detective kit while supplies last.

Other upcoming JESS LOUREY appearances include:

Friday, March 23, 2007

Mojitos, Sting Rays & Glass Eyeballs

by Candy Calvert

Research is a cool perk for mystery writers, granting us license for all sorts of activities that might otherwise be viewed as “wasting time”--or, perhaps simply bizarre. And, because I’m the author of the funny & romantic Darcy Cavanaugh Cruise Mystery Series, my particular research requires me to dress in sequins, sip Mojitos and Chicken Dance in shipboard discos across the globe--very grueling, but I am dedicated. And I’ve learned some things:

1) Even if a Newfoundland Country Band begs you to join them onstage (and the cafe crowd waves lobster carcasses in encouragement), no one is ever drunk enough not to notice that you can’t sing. There’s a Simon Cowell everywhere.

3) Dancing the limbo atop a jet-powered catamaran requires balance. And rum.

4) Though mussels, three varieties of caviar, and raw salmon sashimi sounds like a “book-worthy,” appetizer combo, writing time is severely curtailed when you spend most of the next afternoon in a Bridgetown, Barbados lavatory.

And perhaps my most boggling discovery is that truth IS stranger than fiction.

For my upcoming release, MAI TAI to MURDER, I traveled to the Caribbean and participated in a “Sting Ray Adventure” on Grand Cayman Island. The following scene excerpt was part of my draft submitted to Midnight Ink--approximately one week prior to the tragedy involving Steve Irwin:

I treaded water and peered through the face-mask once again at the creature below me: slate gray, flat as a pancake, big raised eyes, pearly white underside . . . tail like a possum on steroids. But, the good part of this dubious adventure was that Marie was as wild with enthusiasm as that weirdo Crocodile Hunter guy. And had completely forgotten that she was pissed at me for involving her in the so-called investigation.

“Ooh, crikey,” she said, eyes bugging through her face mask as she lifted her head, “look at that big boy down there, Darc’. Bet he’s three feet across.”

While that bit of dialogue is gone, I still have goose bumps when I remember it--and count my lucky stars that my particular stingrays were having a good day.

Next research? Taxidermy maybe. For an idea I have about an Alaskan Inside Passage mystery. Hey, how much trouble can I get into juggling Glass Eyeballs? And how about you--where does your research take you?

Welcome to InkSpot and please c’mon back--we’re going to have fun here!


Thursday, March 22, 2007

In The Mood

by Bill Cameron

On my iPod I have a playlist called "Mood Music." When I go out to write -- and, alas, I can't seem to write at home -- I listen to a few songs on my way down to the Starbucks where I do my writing. At that point, I just listen to whatever comes up at random. I'm just looking to get into the mood.

Some days it's easy. Some days I leap out of the blocks in the mood, so my iPod with its magic playlist serves as a talisman rather than a tool. I've got it if I need it, and more often than not that's enough. When I write, I tune out what's going on around me anyway. The background noise of the coffee shop is just texture, and whatever's playing through the store sound system (i.e., whatever CD Starbucks is currently pushing) adds to the texture. I like sound, I like motion. They contribute to getting me in the mood.

And some days, that's not enough. Some days I have to put the talisman to work. I put on the headphones and click the play button. Listen to what comes up. Because I selected the songs pretty carefully, almost always whatever the random number generator inside the iPod settles on is the song I need to hear. And if not that one, the one after, or the one after that.

"Mood Music" is only 120 songs long. They cover a wide variety of styles, though in theme they are more narrow. Rock and roll, alternative, folk, classical, oldies, newbies -- name your style and it will probably be there. I admit that a few genres are poorly represented. I like the idea of jazz better than the sound of it, and with only a few exceptions I can't abide country. Still, I got Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck in there, and a Faith Hill. There's pop music and and its philosophical opposite (Philip Glass), hits and B-sides. The famous and the obscure. Paul Simon, Outkast, Unicorn, or The Rolling Stones. Whatever gets me in the mood.

One of the things that grew out of "Mood Music" was the soundtrack for Lost Dog. These are songs that I think capture some of the mood of the novel. Not all of it, and what gets me in the mood might be a turn-off to others. But at various times these were songs I listened to get myself in the mood, among many others.

"Pressure's On" James
"Hairshirt" R.E.M.
"Straight to Video" Mindless Self Indulgence
"The Crystal Lake" Grandaddy
"My Weakness" Moby
"Unchained Melody" Righteous Brothers
"The Kiss" The Cure
"Sweetness Follows" R.E.M.
"Out To Get You" James
"Everloving" Moby
"Say Say Something" James
"My Sundown" Jimmy Eat World

So tell me. When you feel yourself start to dry up, what do you listen to to refresh yourself? What do you read, or watch, or do? What gets you in the mood?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Red Wine Bad.....

Okay, this might get me permanently banned from posting on the blog, but I'm in need of some help my fellow Midnight Writers...a little couch time if you will.

I ain't sleeping so good lately. A lot of it has to do with the novel I'm working on I think. It's a lot darker than the stuff I usually write (and the stuff I write isn't all bunnies and butterflies) and I'm having these funky dreams about people that aren't really people. They are both animal and human. And it's only gotten worse after I've adopted my home remedy of a glass of red wine before bed. Red wine bad....

Anyway, any suggestions? How do you all "turn it off" before going to bed? I tend to write late into the night and then have to somehow shut it off and go to bed. Whatever I'm doing, ain't working. Maybe I need to kick it up a notch and move to Scotch.....

Mark (the other Mark)

Driving with Whiskey (not as dangerous as it sounds)

by Nina Wright

Don't worry; I'm not drinking and driving! But I am driving a very long way. Or so it seems. I'm on the road from the Land of the Great Lakes, where my fictional protagonist Whiskey Mattimoe lives and I've been visiting, to south Florida, where this writer will put the finishing touches on the fourth book in the series, Whiskey and Water. In a highly un-Whiskey-like move, I've lined up a two-week house- and dog-sitting gig on the beach. Okay, so the beach part is like Whiskey Mattimoe, but dog-sitting? Never on purpose...though often by accident. And that's usually where Whiskey's troubles start.

I'm heading for Naples on the southwest coast of the Sunshine state, traveling by way of St. Augustine, up in the northeast. The detour is not for sightseeing purposes only. And it's not Whiskey-related (although I may have a cocktail while I'm there). My stop in the Nation's Oldest City is connected to other books I write for Llewellyn, the parent publisher of Midnight Ink. You can find out more about those here.

But back to Whiskey: Each book in the series takes us through an adventure during the next tourist season on the calendar. In the fourth mystery Whiskey and Abra, her felonious Afghan hound, are up to their proverbial necks in Lake Michigan during water sports season. And the cast of canine characters is larger and more diverse than ever--including Norman the Golden (retriever) and a shitzapoo with the ominous name of Velcro.

I'm thrilled to report that the third Whiskey Mattimoe mystery, Whiskey and Tonic, will be in stores soon. It's about a jinxed property and a mysterious century-old curse that may have the power to ruin Mattimoe Realty. More about all that in another post....

In the meantime, stop by my website and Whiskey Mattimoe blog. Happy reading--and happy travels--to you. Welcome to Inkspot!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Writers Hanging Out

March 20, 2007
Welcome to Inkspot! I'm not even sure who came up with this idea. I know somebody suggested that a bunch of authors who have the same publisher, Midnight Ink, a subsidiary/imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide, should start a listserv so we could communicate with each other, primarily with the notion of helping each other to promote our work.

Then someone suggested we set up a blog and presto, here we are. At the moment we're going to talk primarily about writing and publishing, although if my experience with blogs, my own and others, is any indication, it will evolve. I'm sure some people will drop out, either due to lack of interest, time, or because they move to other publishers or stop publishing; new people will come on, topics will range and evolve.

That's a good thing, I think.

I have not read all of the authors who blog here, but I've read some and it's a talented bunch. We range from taut international thrillers and biotech apocalyptic thrillers to humorous cozies and seemingly everything in between. Hopefully you'll find plenty of unique voices to fill every taste, both here on the blog and in the novels.

And me? My name is Mark Terry. I'm a fulltime freelance writer, editor and novelist. That means I spend most of my work life alone staring at a computer screen, sometimes in the company of imaginary people. It ain't glamorous, but I love it. I'm the author of the Derek Stillwater thriller series. Derek is a troubleshooter for the Department of Homeland Security, ex-Army Special Forces and an expert on biological and chemical terrorism and warfare. The first of those books, THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK, came out October 2006. The second, THE SERPENT'S KISS, will be out July 1, 2007. I've also published two other books. The first was CATFISH GURU, a collection of mystery novellas featuring forensic toxicologist Dr. Theo MacGreggor, and DIRTY DEEDS, featuring freelance computer troubleshooter Meg Malloy. If you want to know more, please visit my website at or visit my own blog at

And above all, drop us a line, ask us questions, tell us what you think. One of the joys of blogging is the conversations, the feedback and the community. We're inviting you to come and hang out with a bunch of writers. What could be cooler than that?

Mark Terry

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

InkSpot launches March 21

Please join us for the launch of the InkSpot Blog on Wednesday, March 21. Share your thoughts and comments with our Midnight Ink authors, and make InkSpot a regular stop on your blogging journey.

The Midnight Writers