Saturday, February 28, 2009

Inkspot News - February 28, 2009

G.M. Malliet's second book in the DCI St. Just mystery series, Death and the Lit Chick, received a starred review this week in Publishers Weekly: "Malliet's satirical take on the mystery scene is spot-on." The book is available for pre-order now. The third book in this series is scheduled for release in 2010.

Joanna Campbell Slan's article "Travels with Joe: Power Promotion in One Day" appeared in the March issue of RWR (Romance Writers Report), the publication for members of Romance Writers of America. Joanna will be teaching a class called "The Practical Guide to Publication" at Chesterfield Arts today, and her new Writers Digest Writers Online Workshops class "Getting Started Quickly in Scrapbook Journaling" will begin on March 18. To register go to

Reminder: One week from today is Left Coast Crime, where three Midnight Ink alumni are award nominees: Sue Ann Jaffarian, Tim Maleeny, and G.M. Malliet.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Duffy Dombroski's Fight Club

From Tom Schreck, Author of the Duffy Dombrowski Mysteries

Over at Facebook we've formed a new group to knock around things like fight scenes in mysteries, martial arts in fiction, boxing and all other things related to both fictional and nonfictional ass kicking. I had no idea how popular the discussions were going to be so I decided to post the first discussion question here as well.

Here it is:

Duffy's Dombrowski's Fight Club Question of the Day 7:22am
You may have noticed quite a few Fight Club members are women.

In fiction women are always kicking ass. Sometimes it's Steph Plum doing whatever it takes, sometimes its Jack Daniels practicing her Tae Kwon Do and, of course, there's many many others.

I've judged plenty of pro women's boxing and some karate and kick boxing.

The question I have for the fight club is how realistic do you find it when a small woman uses her skills to beat up on the fictional bad guys?

Can even the most skilled boxers or martial artists overcome the size and strength deficits their opposition challenges them with?

Come out swinging at the bell.

And if you think you're tough enough to join the fight club click here:

And why not look like a badass too? Go to to get yourself some kick ass Duffy Dombrowski Fight Club gear!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The “Potboiler” List

Lately I've seen a rash of book lists cropping up, apparently inspired by the BBC Big Read list of 100 best-loved books. Here are the top ten from that list:

  1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
  4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
  5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  7. Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne
  8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
  9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
  10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë

The Sun-Sentinel's Off the Page blogger weighed in recently with her 50 favorites to counter those of the Miami Herald's book blogger.

I have to confess I am nowhere near close to having read most of these books from any of these lists. My excuse that’s no excuse: I'm a very s-l-o-w reader.

I may as well face it--there are books I should read that I will just never get around to.

This got me to thinking, though, about the books I did mange to speed my way through, day into night, sometimes skipping meals because the story was more engrossing than food. The literal page-turners. The books (and this is the real test) that made me want to call in sick, because I was either exhausted from lack of sleep (a form of illness, it could be argued), or still reading and unable to tear myself away.

Some of these books might be considered "potboilers" - books of low quality. I would disagree. Any book that makes us forget ourselves and our troubles for a bit is a good thing, as Keith blogged about yesterday. Here are some of the page-turning, make-me-late-for-work books I remember, then, in no particular order:

Salem's Lot – Stephen King

The Stand – Stephen King

The Exorcist – William Blatty

And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie

Bridget Jones' Diary – Helen Fielding

Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

Double Indemnity - James M. Cain

Mildred Pierce – James M. Cain

The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
– Mark Twain

Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell

Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin

The Stepford Wives – Ira Levin

On the Road – Jack Kerouac

I'm forgetting some good ones, I know. What would you add?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Crime Fiction: Cure for (a) Depression?

One friend who lost her job told me she couldn’t really face the world just now. She wanted to hide from decisions on what to do next or where the money needed to support her family would come from. So what did she do? Take to her bed with a stack of crime fiction.

Perfect. In an age when malefactors abscond with millions stolen from charity while hard-working souls get laid off, why not escape into the world of crime fiction? In that world criminals get their comeuppance and the innocent triumph. As we turn the pages, we move from balance to disequilibrium and back to balance. Ah, if 2009 America (and Canada and the U.K.) were only that simple.

Not only can a piece of good crime fiction provide the escape we need, it can do so for almost nothing. I sold books at the LA Book Festival alongside my friend Cara Black, who writes the bestselling (and terrific) Aimée Leduc series. She’d say to passersby, “Do you want to go to Paris for $13?” What a pitch in these near-depression times!

So bookstores must be chock-full of eager readers, right? Judging from a few recent conversations with bookstore proprietors here in the Bay Area, I don’t think so. They're complaining about the business lassitude like the rest of us. Here’s my real question then: Why aren’t crime fiction sales picking up during this Great Depression II?


P.S. Hats off to fellow Inkspotters G.M. Malliet and Joanna Campbell Slan. Gin’s Death of a Cozy Writer and Joanna’s Paper, Scissors, Death were nominated for the Agatha Award for best first novel. CONGRATS!

P.P.S. Normally, Agathas are determined by voters at the Malice Domestic Conference May 1-3. Gin is threatening to settle this one via an arm wrestling contest. I just hope it’s webcast live.

Monday, February 23, 2009

What are You Doing? Being a Twit!

by Felicia Donovan


I'm savvy, you know, about all these social networks. If you looked around, you'd find me on MySpace, Facebook, Technorati, Gather, CrimeSpace and so on. Heck, if it's social and it's networked, I'm there. Really. But what I don't get is this new and incessant, "What are you doing" phenomenon born out of sites like Twitter. Even FaceBook has joined the leagues of micro blogging.

Does anyone really care that much about what I'm doing? Does anyone really need to know that I'm checking my e-mail, drinking my tenth cup of tea or working on my next book project? Maybe once in a while, but all day long? I think not. Oh, and by the way, I'm on cup eleven now, but that's besides the point. image

Do I really care about what others are doing every minute of the day? Trust me, there's stuff people do that I don't want to know about. I'm all for hearing about the highlights at the end of the day, but to me, this is almost like some creepy form of textual voyeurism.

I don't text much and I don't Twit well. If you want to know what I'm doing, just ask. Maybe I'll tell you, maybe I won't, but in the spirit of things, I'll ask it anyway:

"What are you doing right now?"

Extreme Characters

By Cricket McRae

One of my writing teachers spent an entire lecture extolling the virtues of extreme characters. According to her, readers respond to and indeed expect protagonists to be extraordinary in at least one major way. Readers want their fictional heroes (and heroines, of course) bigger and better than they are.They want to aspire to be them.

Is this actually true?

Well, my favorite Star Trek series (with a tip of my hat to the original since, in addition to being a geek, I'm a nostalgic sort) is Deep Space Nine because everyone is a freakin' super hero: the Prophet, who's a god to an entire culture; a trill who's practically immortal as it moves from host to host, retaining all their memories; a shape changer; and a doctor genetically enhanced to be intellectually and physically superior (not to mention he's painfully cute). That series even had Nurse Ratched playing an evil priestess.

Speaking of Nurse Ratched, if you have an extreme protagonist, like, say, R. P. McMurphy, you'd better have an antagonist who's up to snuff. Loiuse Fletcher certainly gave Jack Nicholson a run for his money in Cuckoo's Nest.

Which, because One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest won five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Actor, brings us around to the subject of Oscars. See how I did that?

I actually watched them last night, and I fall into that category of folks who have fallen off in their appreciation of the Oscar ceremonies. It was gratifying to see people who had worked very hard awarded notice by their peers. And I'm glad good movies are still being made, and that people are going to see them.

But back to extreme characters: mine aren't.

I was just playing around with the idea of Sophie Mae Reynolds, small town soap maker and amateur sleuth, when I was taking that writing class. My instructor was very frustrated by how very ordinary I was willing to make my main character.

"You're planning a series with her in it? It'll never work."

"Um, have you ever read a cozy?"

"I don't know."

"Agatha Christie? Dorothy Sayers?"

"Huh uh."

"The characters in those books are strong, but not extraordinary in the ways you're talking about. They're ordinary people with personality and curiosity thrown into extraordinary circumstances."

"I see. Well, couldn't you give her a prosthetic leg or something?"

Anyway. Contemporary cozies may mention sex, allow a little swearing, and admit there are such things as extramarital affairs, suicide, depression and a level of stupidity in the world that is sometimes, if you cock your head just right, amusing. But overall, they are rather gentle reads.

Often times readers love a character because she (or he) is very much like them, foibles and all. We don't necessarily aspire to be the characters, we just want to have them over for dinner.

Which is a remarkably sloppy segue into my news that the third Home Crafting Mystery, Spin a Wicked Web, is supposed to be released in March, but I was in Barnes & Noble yesterday and saw a nice pile of them already displayed. Also, I've learned Sophie Mae will be able to continue her antics in a fourth book, currently scheduled for release about this time next year. It's tentatively titled Something Borrowed, Something Bleu, and features artisan cheese making.

Are your characters extreme? Or just the circumstances in which they find themselves? Oh, and any comments about the Oscars?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Inkspot News - February 21, 2009

Two weeks away from Left Coast Crime! The nominees for awards to be presented at this conference include various Midnight Ink alumni:


Tasha Alexander: A Fatal Waltz (HarperCollins)
Rhys Bowen: A Royal Pain (Berkley Prime Crime)
Rhys Bowen: Tell Me Pretty Maiden (St. Martin's)
Laurie R. King: Touchstone (Bantam)
Kelli Stanley: Nox Dormienda, A Long Night For Sleeping (Five Star)


Baron Birtcher: Angels Fall (Iota)
Kate Flora: The Angel of Knowlton Park (Five Star)
Asa Larsson: The Black Path (Delta)
G.M. Malliet: Death of a Cozy Writer (Midnight Ink)
Neil S. Plakcy: Mahu Fire (Alyson Books)
Karin Slaughter: Fractured (Delacorte)


Donna Andrews: Six Geese a-Slaying (St. Martin's)
Jeffrey Cohen: It Happened One Knife (Berkley Prime Crime)
Sue Ann Jaffarian: Thugs and Kisses (Midnight Ink)
N.M. Kelby: Murder at the Bad Girl's Bar and Grill (Shaye Areheart Books/Random House Group)
Rita Lakin: Getting Old is To Die For (Dell/Bantam)
Tim Maleeny: Greasing the Pinata (Poisoned Pen Press)

In addition, the Dilys Award will be presented by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association at the Left Coast Crime awards ceremony.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tim, We Feel Your Pain

Tim Maleeny was supposed to blog today at Inkspot. No, he didn't fall asleep at the wheel. Not our Tim. Turns out, he got his lap top stolen out of his car. Tim will return to post in March. Fortunately, Tim had all his books and stories properly backed-up. (Note to self - back-up!)

In the meantime, Tim, we all feel your pain. May the thief be forced to stand naked while 500 writers pelt him with CDs.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Man Plans; God Laughs

By Deborah Sharp

Whenever I start feeling a little too full of myself, the universe has a way of yanking me back to earth. Oh, I don't know, say you've sold a few books, gotten a couple of nice reviews, managed to snag an interview on the TODAY show (!) You'd be puffing up just a tiny bit with pride, no?

Well, yes. At least until reality wallops you in the face. Case in point: I was thrilled last month to be invited to BookMania in Stuart, Fla. Pretty prestigious event, lots of New York Times bestselling authors, famous memoirists, kick-ass suspense novelists. And me, the newbie.

My sister Charlene convinced me to climb out of my usual grays and browns and blacks and khakis, and really dress for the occasion. ''You're an author now! People expect you to have a little flair.''

So she loaned me a fancy red shawl and shiny red earrings. She added some oomph to my makeup. I have to say, I was looking pretty fine. There I was at the authors' cocktail reception, sipping my soda water. She coerced me into heels, too, which definitely don't mix with alcohol. I was certain I was exuding an authorly air, when this older man comes up to me.

"I loved your book,'' he says, big smile on his face.

Ah, this is what it's all about. This is how an author feels, I thought. I smiled warmly, ready to dazzle him with my literary bon mots. (Yes, I know I've written a redneck romp set in middle Florida, but I can fake it, oui?)

And then he takes both of my hands, clasps them, and stares deep into my eyes: "Hallie Ephron, I have waited so long to meet you!''


"Uhmmm,'' I say as nicely as I can, "I'm not Hallie Ephron. She's standing over there with that crowd of people around her. She's the other woman in a shawl.''

He hesitates a moment, looks from me to her and back again. "Oh,'' he finally says, not at all embarrassed. "Then do you think you could introduce me?''


So, the picture above is my sister and me at BookMania. Hallie Ephron, of the famous literary family, is not the woman on the left.

How about you? Who's the most famous person you've been mistaken for?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Devil in a Blue Dress, by Jess Lourey

Have you ever read Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley? It was Mosley's debut novel and received rave reviews when it came out in 1990. Mosley was hailed as the next Raymond Chandler, probably for his "gritty realism" (read: tough men, much violence, meddlesome yet sexy women who need to be straightened out by the protagonist whom they are reluctantly yet passionately attracted to--the typical male romance novel).

I began the book with as much trepidation as I watched Capote--I was doing it because it was supposed to be good for me, not because I was going to like it. Turns out I liked it AND it was really really good. You know how when you're at a movie that is so good that you forget you're in a theater? Devil in a Blue Dress made me forget I was reading a book.

Here are my two favorite sections, both of which give you a feel for the sense of place and voice throughout the novel:

"When I opened the door I was slapped in the face by the force of Lips' alto horn. I had been hearing Lips and Wilie and Flattop since I was a boy in Houston. All of them and John and half the people in that crowded room had migrated from Houston after the war, and some before that. California was like heaven for the southern Negro. People told stories of how you could eat fruit right off the trees and get enough work to retire one day. The stories were true for the most part but the truth wasn't like the dream. Life was still hard in L.A. and if you worked every day you still found yourself at the bottom.

But being on the bottom didn't feel so bad if you could come to John's now and then and remember how it felt back home in Texas, dreaming about California. Sitting there and drinking John's scotch you could remember the dreams you once had and, for a while, it felt like you had them for real."

That's good writing. Here's some more:

"I was sitting there, naked on the toilet seat, and watching her go through the mirror-doored medicine cabinet. I felt something deep down in me, something dark like jazz when it reminds you death is waiting."

Check out that language so tight it cries. And I enjoy mysteries with strong character development, ones that go below the surface and examine the human condition, and Devil in a Blue Dress does that. Lots. Oh, and it's a movie! You know it must be good then.

Today's blog freebies: Stuff on My Cat and Llewellyn's Free Tarot Readings. It looks like love is in my cards, and all I can say is that it's about freaking time. What's in your future? Or on your cat? And whaddya know about Mosley?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Don't Give Up the Day Job

By Sue Ann Jaffarian

In the past two weeks I’ve been asked by four separate people when I’m going to give up my day job as a paralegal and write full-time. Yes, it’s true, I have 4 books out, 2 others written and delivered to my publisher, and contracts for 9 others. To people not involved with publishing, it looks like I’ve “made it” and should be quitting my job as a paralegal any day now.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

I have come to the conclusion that people who are able to write novels full-time have: 1) a publisher giving them HUGE advances, 2) a significant other with a very well-paid job and understanding heart, 3) a trust fund, 4) sold a business or stock when the economy was booming, 5) an illegal and lucrative side business, 6) a sugar daddy or sugar momma paying their bills, or 7) won the lotto and not telling anyone.

Trust me when I say this, Sue Ann Jaffarian falls into none of the above categories.

But am I bitter? No, truthfully, I’m not. A bit envious, maybe. I’d love to be able to write full-time. Oh, but wait! I sort of write full-time now, don’t I? I mean, I am involved in writing and writing-related work at least 30 hours each week. In some places, 30 hours is considered full-time work. I just do it while juggling a full-time non-writing career.

But this blog isn’t about crying into my work-place coffee. It’s about singing the praises of the day job. So here it is, all the things my career as a paralegal brings to my other career – my career as an author:

Because of my day job,

I’m much more disciplined in how I spend my writing time;
I have health, life, and dental insurance;
I have a retirement plan with matching contributions;
I meet and interact with lovely people who have become like family;
I can expand my reader base;
I have easier access to legal, law enforcement, and other research materials;
I get up, shower, and get dressed in decent clothes five days out of seven;
I continue to learn new things;
I’m not an odd, strange, hermit of a woman who can’t remember what day, month, or year it is.

Well, okay, maybe that last item is fudging a bit.

And, like Odelia Grey, the character I've created, I really enjoy being a paralegal in a law firm. Really, I do.

(Note to InkSpot readers: After a short hiatus, I am back at Inkspot blogging on an irregular basis. You can catch me several times a week blogging at my personal blog at

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Inkspot News - February 14, 2009 (Happy Valentine's Day)

G.M. Malliet made the headline of the Murder Circle!

Keith Raffel has this week's entry over at the Rap Sheet in their series of great but forgotten books. Check it out.

Joanna Slan was a guest last night at http://www.blogtalk Seven She also did a scrapbook crop at For Keeps Sake, 4530 Lemay Ferry Road, in St. Louis.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I'm a Mystery "Writer," by Jess Lourey

Like most writers, I heart punctuation. Well, at least if it's used correctly. Misused punctuation hurts. The worst? When people put two spaces after a period, which is technically a formatting rather than punctuation error (you know who you are; you learned how to type on a typewriter instead of a computer). The best? When a guy uses a semicolon correctly in a love letter. Hot, hot, hot. Well, punctuation geeks, we are not alone. Check out my new favorite "blog": The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks.

This is a potpourri blog post by the way, a threefer, and number two (intentional) is this: my good friend Michelle just shared with me a word she invented after a particularly intense rest stop experience. The word is prestenchination, loosely based on the Christian concept of predestination, and it refers to the fact that if you are in a public bathroom and have eight empty stalls to choose from, you will inevitably enter the stinkiest one.

And finally, number three is this video, which briefly presents the real story of how a spark becomes a novel:

See how much I do for you? It's because I'm a natural educator. Feel free to enter the conversation at any of the levels I've provided: 1) your favorite punctuation, 2) poop, or 3) is this similar to your book publishing experience? I know it mirrors mine.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Valentine's Public Service Announcement

Many years ago, my husband David was visiting his friend Fred Bramante up in New Hampshire when the subject of D-I-V-O-R-C-E was broached. I don’t know HOW the conversation came up, and I don’t want to know WHY the topic surfaced, but I suspect the boys were feeling pretty frisky as they buzzed around in Fred’s sleek black BMW. Both men are music merchants, with David owning “Steinway Piano Gallery of St. Louis” and Fred owning (are you ready for this?) “Daddy’s Junky Music Store,” a chain of 20 guitar shops. It might seem like the guys are worlds apart, but they have a shared history as entrepreneurs in a tough business. And at the time, both were fathers to demanding toddlers and husbands to tired wives.

“Ever think about divorcing your wife?” asked David.

“Sure,” said Fred. “The thought crosses my mind. But whenever it does, I get this vision. I see the sign over my flagship store.”
“The sign?” said David.
“Yeah, the sign.” Fred sighed. “Mommy’s Junky Music Store.”
So with Valentine’s Day approaching, I’m delivering this Public Service Announcement to all you husbands out there: “Don’t blow this holiday. Take a tip from Fred. The stakes are too high. You do not want to get divorced.”
Especially in this economy.
You can talk about your stock portfolio taking a dive, you can curse the name Bernie
Madoff, you can worry about the solvency of your bank, but if you want to stay financially sound, you do NOT want to make a trip to divorce court. According to research scientist Jay Zagorsky of Ohio State University, divorce reduces a person’s wealth by 77% compared to that of a single
Furthermore, according to Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher in their book The Case for Marriage, staying hitched is good for your career, with married men getting more promotions and receiving higher performance ratings.
So if you haven’t done your Valentine’s Day shopping, you need to get busy--FAST. Allow me to assist with some simple rules for pleasing that special woman in your life:

1. Buy her a dozen red roses—hang the cost. And count them before you hand the suckers over. I once received eleven and set up such a howl the neighbors called the cops. “You only love me ELEVEN roses worth?” I moaned.

2. Buy her chocolate. A few pieces of the best you can afford. It’s the luxury that counts, not the calories.

3. Stay away from Victoria’s Secret. Oh, I know what you think—“I’ll get her something sexy.” That’s for YOU, pal, not for her. Besides, you’ll probably buy the wrong size. Their clothes only fit anorexic pre-teens with implants. (If you married an anorexic pre-teen with implants, all I have to say is, "Oooo. Yuck. You are a sick puppy.")

4. Buy her a beautiful card with lovely, romantic sentiments. (Hint: If there’s a dog or a golfer on the front, it’s not going to make her happy. Trust me on this.)

5. Make reservations at a special restaurant. A quick swing through Mickey D’s will not cut the mustard. Let her know in ADVANCE that you’re going out to eat. See, part of the joy is anticipation. (Review the song by Carole King a couple hundred times for help with this concept.)
6. Resist, resist, resist, resist the urge to buy any of the following: lawnmowers, garbage disposals, snowblowers, weed-whackers, drills, sanders, car parts, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, clothes dryers, clothes washers, tools (even pink ones), and especially big screen TVs.

7. Buy her a copy of Paper, Scissors, Death and pre-order Cut, Crop & Die, the second book in the series, from Amazon or your local independent bookseller. That way she'll have a gift for now (plus a code for 50 free digital prints) and a surprise from you later. (And when the book arrives in June, you can smile and say, "See? I love you twelve months a year, darling. I don't need Valentine's Day to show you how much I care.")

And it goes without saying, you should tell her you love being married to her. Repeat after me, "Honey, I love you. I adore you. And I wouldn't want to be married to anybody but you." (Practice looking at her soulfully as you say this. It won't work if you are in the midst of changing channels on your big screen TV.)

Because you do love being married to her, you really do, especially given the state of the economy.

Love is Murder - Photos Up!

by G.M. Malliet

I love going to conferences, but I have to say the aftermath can be overwhelming: bits of paper/receipts to sort out, people I promised to email for some reason.

I'm taking the easy way out today by sharing my LIM photos with you on Facebook. This is a public link to the photos; even if you are not a member, you should not be asked to register or anything to see them.

If you are a Facebook member, you can help me tag the people, please! The reenactors--I wish I'd asked their names. The costumes looked unbelievably authentic. You had to blink to make sure you weren't seeing things.

Photo here is of Deb Baker, Joanna Campbell Slan, and me. I don't remember who took this shot but isn't it great?

p.s. Can anyone provide a link to the 2009 Lovey Award nominees and winners?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Cupid and The Lazy Lover

by Julia Buckley

Valentine's Day is almost upon us. It will be something like my 22nd Valentine's Day with my husband, if you count the time we dated. Look at us there, in our twenties, getting all flirtatious with our eyes. Things have a way of changing over the years, don't they? First of all, that was back when I used to actually blow dry and curl my hair, and spend all sorts of time fawning in front of the mirror, hoping to achieve perfection. Now, after getting my kids ready for school, I'm just proud if I remember to put my pants on. Does anyone else experience that phenomenon?

My husband used to write me love poetry; I kid you not. He once wrote a song that was a tribute to my brown eyes. Now his e-mail responses tend to consist of "sounds good" and the occasional happy emoticon (when time permits).

I'm not suggesting that my husband no longer loves me. He does, in a lazy and comfortable way. But men, take warning: Valentine's Day is the one day of the year when your wife does not want you to be lazy.

Even in our early marriage my husband (we'll call him Jeff, because that's his name) was rather, say, casual about romantic gifts. I had once made the mistake, while we were in our salad days, of telling him not to send flowers because they were so expensive. So in 22 years he's sent me flowers about three times, and one of those was because I cried. On some romantic holidays we just agreed not to exchange gifts, because we were broke. But this, alas, can become the rule rather than the exception.

In order to get Jeff back in the swing of things, I have even been known to leave explicit notes in order to prevent my own disappointment. "This is the candy I want. You can get it at Fannie May. Remember to ask for VANILLA buttercreams instead of chocolate." Why so specific, you may ask? Because all women can explain the crushing defeat in the flavor of drugstore candy--its very staleness cries "I don't love you anymore."

Now my husband knows that I cling to all the trappings of romantic life, so he makes more of an effort, but he'd still prefer to stick to his remote control and a comfy couch. To him, it's romantic enough if I join him there. To me, a little sparkle wouldn't hurt.

But I'll tell you this: in 22 years, despite the fact that my dress size has sometimes increased as rapidly as the national debt, my husband has never, ever hinted that I was fat--in fact, he's never seemed to notice the changing proportions of my body. That is love, and I know it.

But I still want candy or flowers. Call me selfish if you will, but let my story be a parable to all of you husbands and lovers. You love her and she knows you do: but get her gifts anyway, or you might be sleeping on the couch.

Love Is Murder Random Notes from Tom Schreck

Tom Schreck writes the Duffy Dombrowski Mysteries. TKO is his latest

I’m just back from Love Is Murder, my favorite convention.

Here’s some musings:

Jamie Freveletti can kick your ass. Her debut Running with the Devil comes out soon. In real life she’s a very attractive woman who happens to be an Akido expert. She also amuses herself with a knife-throwing hobby. Think those things through before you hit on her.

Ann Voss Peterson’s leopard print spiked pumps are wonderful. She has a funny way of showcasing them.

We shared the hotel with a reenacters convention. I am amazed that people dressed as Roman soldiers, Druids, British flying aces and hand maidens get pissed off when you stare.

Henry Perez, whose debut Killing Red comes out in June, looks every bit as dashing in real life as he does looking over that bridge on his website.

Barb and George Annino are really fun to hang out with. If publishers have any sense she’ll be a big name soon.

Valaney Liontonia and her husband (Joe?) are very cool. I couldn’t believe it when she asked me to demonstrate Duffy’s right hook.

I’m bummed that Ben LeRoy and I never got our Kaiser helmets.

Drinking at a hotel bar next to an overweight general from the War of 1812 gives you pause.

Shane Gericke is a cool guy to talk to.

I found out Bryan Gruley and I are Domers. Add Tasha Aleander in and that makes three of us at one convention. Go Irish! (geez…that feels lame.)

JD “Dusty” Rhoades is a good guy to be on a panel with even if he’s misplaced.

Sharon Doering has a manuscript involving a Bio-Tech garage plot. I have no doubt it will be on shelves all over the country.

Ruth and Jon Jordan, Penny and Dennis Halle, Timm , Christy and Jax are the coolest people I know. I don’t know how I got to be such close friends with them but I am incredibly grateful.

Alison Jannsen’s roller uniform is killer.

Joe Konrath is consistently two things; nuts and incredibly generous.

I am very proud to be in the anthology Missing.

Karen Syed is absolutely wonderful. She gave a very sweet speech and I can’t imagine feeling more welcomed, supported and energized.

Hanley Kanar, Ophelia Julien, Mary Welk, Terri Stone, Susan Gibberman, Marlene Leonardi, Silvia Foti, Luisa Buehler and every one else involved should be very proud…and exhausted.

Friday, February 6, 2009

You Are Getting VERRRRY Sleepy...

And now, I will describe for you my experience with hypnotherapy. I embarked on this journey partially for research (what I do for my characters) but I had hopes for improving myself as well. Here's what went down:

First of all, I went in more nervous than I’d expected. Suddenly, the idea of surrendering my will to a stranger seemed a little scary, but my therapist was so kind and gentle that I became comfortable very quickly.

We started off by talking about why I was there.

“I want to stop this addiction to sugar,” I told her and then explained that I’d always been seduced by cakes, cookies, and ice cream. All the calories I’d burned at the gym were usually right back in my body by nine o’clock that same night.

“We’ll tell your long-term memory that you don’t like synthetic sugar any more,” the therapist assured me. “That way, your short-term memory will stop taking over when you’re faced with a cupcake or a bag of M&Ms.”

Hopeful, I was led through a relaxation process until my body fell asleep while my mind stayed sharp. It was a very strange sensation.

My therapist, whose voice was as warm and soft and comfortable as a bubble bath, told me over and over that I no longer wanted sugary foods. When she told me to open my eyes, I thought the whole session had taken about 20 minutes. It’d been in that state for an hour!

That afternoon, I made a birthday cake for my father-in-law. I didn’t eat lick the beaters!

Am I cured? Not yet. It’ll take 4-6 weeks of listening to CDs every night and two more appointments to change a life-long food addiction, and I can feel my mind at war when I see some of my favorite temptations, but I’m going to do my part to take this therapy seriously.

Feel free to ask me any questions! I know lots of you were curious about hypnosis!


Inkspot News - February 6, 2009

Join several Midnight Ink authors at the 11th Annual Love is Murder Conference, this weekend in Chicago. Click here for the full list of attendees.

BTW, our own Jess Lourey is featured in an article in the Jan/Feb Crimespree Magazine. Among other topics, it discloses Jess's personal hygiene habits. The same issue also says of Tim Maleeny's Greasing the Pinata, "This is the kind of book that makes the year wait for the next one sheer hell."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Which Camera Do I Look Into?

by Felicia Donovanimage

I'm hoping my fellow Midnight Ink authors can give me some advice as I embark on my first television interview.

I figured I would just show up and answer a few questions about THE BLACK WIDOW AGENCY series just like the many readings I've done over the years. Cool, confident...piece of cake.

Then I got "the list."

  • Studio lights are very bright so wear extra makeup.
  • The lights are also extremely warm so use extra powder to avoid "shine."
  • Avoid wearing red.
  • Warm colors work better.
  • No stripes or "busy" prints or they will strobe.

Okay, you veterans in TV Land, spill! What other advice can you give me to prepare for my big TV debut? I'm starting small, but I want to be good and ready when I get the big call from Oprah!

(Fortunately, my next interview is radio so I don't have to worry about strobing or shining.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Samsara and Rewriting

Terri brought up rewriting in her post on Monday which was February 2nd – Groundhog Day. I don’t know if Punxsutawney Pete saw his shadow or not. What I do know is that February 2nd cannot pass without my mind turning to the truly great movie named after the holiday.

Here’s the gist of it. Bill Murray plays an asshole newscaster called to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover Pete’s emergence from his winter lodging. His producer is the delectable Andie MacDowell. He leers and lusts after her, but gets nowhere. All he wants to do is get out of the hick town, but he and the crew are snowed in. When the alarm wakes him up in his hotel bed the (next?) morning, it’s not February 3 as one would expect, it’s Groundhog Day again. Same thing the next day. And the next. Eventually, he tries living each day a little better. He catches a boy falling from a tree. He saves a man from choking and feeds a homeless man. He learns to play the piano. He’s nicer all around. Finally, when he’s reached his potential, when he’s as good as he can be, the next day finally arrives.

I was discussing all this with my 19-year old, #1. She pointed out it’s just like writing a book. You start with a piece of dreck as bad as Murray’s life. Then you get to the end and have to relive it all again as you write the next draft. And the next. You only get to stop when you have made your manuscript as good as you can make it. Then like the Bill Murray character, you get to move on. (Not to the next day but to your next manuscript.)

Angela Zito, a co-director of the Center for Religion and Media at New York University, said that “Groundhog Day perfectly illustrates the Buddhist notion of samsara, the continuing cycle of rebirth that Buddhists regard as suffering that humans must try to escape.” Isn’t that what we authors are trying to do with a seemingly endless cycle of rewrites?

Monday, February 2, 2009


Writing is rewriting. We've heard before. We'll hear it again. But we can't hear it enough.

I've been handed the tangible proof of that.

I had started work on my sixth mystery. The early, easy, fun stuff. Brainstorming, letting the ideas flow. No editing in sight. The inner critic is fed, burped, diapered and put down for a long nap. And then...

Final edits for OCEAN WAVES, my fourth book (third in the quilting mystery series) arrive on my desk. The book needs one more pass to ensure that the other edits were included as I'd wanted. I start reading and am amazed. It's a book. The scenes hold together, the character arcs are there, clues and red herrings in place.

How did that happen? I remember when this book was nothing but a series of notes. An anecdote. A lovely setting. I remember vividly when it was a jumble of scenes and disconnected characters. I remember when it was unreadable. And yet here it is.

How did it get there? I swear, I don't know. I know only this. That if I start with an idea, a truth, a principle and I write and rewrite, and write some more, it happens.

The words become scenes. The scenes become chapters. The chapters become a novel.

Its alchemy.