Friday, September 30, 2011


Author Lois Winston and a mop doll
Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend my first Bouchercon convention. If you love mysteries, whether you’re a reader or a writer, Bouchercon is the place to be. 

My trip began way before the crack of dawn on Friday, September 16th in order to arrive at Newark Liberty Airport in time for a 7am flight. Everything was on schedule until about 45 minutes after take-off when the pilot informed us we’d be returning to the airport due to a “minor” mechanical problem. I told myself not to worry. If the problem was serious, we would have landed at the nearest airport, not returned to Newark.
Midnight Ink publicity manager Steven Pomiji and author Jessie Chandler
Back in Newark we were put on another plane that was scheduled to take off at 9:15am. We all boarded. And waited. And waited. And waited. What were we waiting for? The catering truck to deliver the food no one wanted in the first place! Finally at 10am we left Newark for the second time that morning.

I arrived in St. Louis just in time to toss my first gutter ball at the charity bowling tournament to raise money for the St. Louis Public Libraries. Yes, I sucked. Big time. The only bowling I’ve done since being on a league in high school (way back in prehistoric times if you listen to my kids) is Wii bowling. I did, however, improve my score with each consecutive gave, and I didn’t bring home the trophy for worst bowler. So I guess I didn’t totally suck. More importantly, the event raised $500 for the libraries.
Midnight Ink authors Darrell James, publicity manager Steven Pomiji, author Jessie Chandler, me, and author Alan Orloff

On Saturday I signed advance reading copies of DEATH BY KILLER MOP DOLL. For those of you curious as to what a mop doll is, check out the photos. That’s a mop doll standing amongst the books at the Midnight Ink booth.

I also had the pleasure of spending time with and getting to know some of my fellow Midnight Inkers better, as well as two of Midnight Ink’s staff, acquisitions editor Terri Bischoff and publicity manager Steven Pomije.
authors Lois Winston and Laura DiSilverio

On Saturday afternoon I took part in the Time to Murder and Create panel with authors Laura DiSilverio, Laura Bradford, Jane Cleland, and Cindy Sample. I’m not sure what I said to garner the reaction above from Laura DiSilverio, but I think people in the audience were laughing at the time. Since I write humor, I’m hoping that was a good thing.

My flight home was blessedly uneventful except for the guy with the disgusting habit sitting next to me. I won’t go into gory detail, but I’m convinced he’s responsible for the laryngitis and cold I woke up with the next morning.

Are you old enough to remember when flying used to be enjoyable? I am, and I miss those days.

Anyway, I left St. Louis with the several remaining ARCs of DEATH BY KILLER MOP DOLL, and I’m giving two of them away. To enter the drawing, all you have to do is sign up for my author newsletter by sending an email to or by adding yourself as a follower at Anastasia’s Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog. Then email me at to let me know which you’ve signed up for.

Lois Winston
Follow Anastasia on Twitter @anasleuth

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Ate the Last Mango in Paris

By Deborah Sharp

Apologies to Jimmy Buffet for stealing his song title for my blog post. I've been humming that tune, though, since I powered through a marathon mango-massacre this afternoon. The kitchen counter looked like a tropical fruit crime scene, oozing with orangey golden juice and chunks of severed flesh.

Sorry, y'all. Nobody thought this was going to be a post about how to make a yummy mango smoothie, did they?

Anyhoo, we're at the very end of the mango growing season in south Florida. Past the end, in fact. These last half-dozen mangoes were over-ripe to the point of squishy; bruised and soft in places where they should be firm and blemish-free. Kind of like my 50-something-year-old thighs, but that's a topic for another day.

So, mangoes. As I stood there, up to my wrists in gunky mango goo, cutting, pulling at the fruit, trying to excavate the still-good morsels from the parts that were plainly bad, I realized the mangoes were a metaphor. Stay with me here, folks. I'm a writer. I do this stuff for a living.

A metaphor for what, you might ask? You might, if you've gotten this far anyway.

Those mangoes were like a manuscript. Okay, I know that's actually a simile, but metaphor sounds better with mango. If I'd been slicing up some sapodilla, I would have gone with simile. As I excised the spoiled fruit and collected a savory bowl of the good, I thought about how similar the process is to writing. You toss out lots of mushy, nasty goop to find the sweet parts, glistening like golden nuggets.

May your writing today be filled with nuggets as sweet as perfectly ripe -- but not too ripe -- mangoes. Even if it's soft and squishy, though, you can always put it in a blender and whip it into something delicious. The manuscript or the mango, either one.

How about you? Any scrumptious nuggets of writing you're savoring today? Your own or someone else's? I liked this line from Louis Lowy's debut, ''Die Laughing,'' describing a comedian who uses humor to deflect emotion: ''He settled for a brick barricade mortared with one-liners.''


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Soundtrack to Your Life (or at least my book)

I don’t do silence. I can’t. I grew up surrounded by chaos instrumented by three demons by the names of Ryan, Liam, and Trevor, my three younger brothers. These were not, and still aren’t, studious, well behaved darlings who liked nothing better than to sit down with a good book or play with her dolls like their angel big sister. No, these boys had enough energy and testosterone to supply an entire Starbucks and bodybuilding gym with some still left over to attempt to “kill” or “wrestle” their sister and each other. Screams, whining, and loud bangs on the television were staples of my youth. So when I moved out on my own, I soon discovered I needed the noise. There is always a television or radio on, even as I fall asleep. This is true when I’m writing as well. I can write pretty much anywhere (if you have a strong desire to stalk me, see the acknowledgments page of my book Mind Over Monsters to see where I write), but the one thing that helps get my creative juices flowing the most is music. The right song can make or break my scene, even inspiring me on some occasions.

As I was writing Monsters, I found that certain songs really helped pump up the visuals and mood. They helped me get to a place where I needed to get inside my head to convey what was going on in my imagination and translate that to the page. Music just adds so much more to the experience. So I started compiling playlists for the books. Like the book, the soundtrack has a narrative flow in line with the book. You don’t have to like all the songs, I have eclectic taste, but at the very least if you sample them, you’ll get a feel for the book. So here it is:


1. Magic to Do- Ben Vereen from the musical Pippin

2. Edge of the Ocean- Ivy

3. Cold- Annie Lennox

4. If It Wasn’t For Bad-Elton John & Leon Russell

5. Shadows of the Night-Pat Benatar

6. Four Minutes – Madonna fet. Justin Timberlake

7. Tainted Love – Soft Cell

8. Say It Right – Nelly Furtado

9. Fields of Gold – Sting

10. Ordinary World – Duran Duran

11. Savin’ Me – Nickelback

12. Precious – Depeche Mode

13. Home – Depeche Mode

Please download legally. All songs are available on iTunes.

And since this is the post before my book officially comes out I have to do some shameless self promotion. Through the wonderful company Bewitching Book Tours I have a blog tour. For a complete list of stops, blog radio interview times, and possibly even a TV appearance please visit The Harlow Gazette at my website Also I got some great reviews from Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly, and The Library Journal. It's nice to know someone besides my Mom thinks I'm cool. 'Til next time!

Jennifer Harlow

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Death Match: Discipline vs. Distraction

100_2496I used to be a disciplined writer. Now, too often, I’m a distracted one.

When I first started writing fiction, I sat down at my computer and banged the keys for a few hours every day. It was all about the words and the story and reaching my daily quota.

There was no Facebook.

There was no Twitter.

There was no blogging.

I didn’t belong to any listservs. Or Yahoo groups. Or on-line forums.

There was no Google+. Or Tumblr. Or Foursquare. Or a bunch of other things I don’t know anything about, but fear I’m getting left behind on.

There was email, but I wasn’t getting a whole lot of it (a benefit of not having many friends).

Now, it’s a wonder I can concentrate on one thing long enough to finish a…hey, look, Ashton Kutcher just Tweeted something clever! LOL!

Of course, there’s a lot more on plate today. I’m writing one project, while promoting another, while assisting with production on a third. Before I had a book published, I wasn’t worried about designing my website or producing bookmarks or developing stand-up routines. I didn’t have to “book” appearances or proof galleys or write pithy bios that make me sound a lot more accomplished than I am.

If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m really not. I know I’m very fortunate to be where I am. I’m just a bit peeved with myself for letting my priorities get skewed at times (yes, it’s my own gosh durned fault). While I realize that promoting and all the other ancillary book production activities are vital, it sucks time away from the good part.

The writing.



Monday, September 26, 2011

It's Harder to Edit Real Life

By the time I turn in a manuscript for publication, I’ve done at least ten drafts. A few of them have been read by siblings, close friends, and my agent. I just polish and polish until I can’t take it anymore. My goal – to make the book as good as I can.

Last Sunday I appeared on Press:Here, a Silicon Valley Meet-the-Press that runs on the NBC affiliate here in the Bay Area and on cable in a bunch of other markets. Scott McGrew, the quick-witted and business-savvy host, reminded me just before the cameras started rolling that the show is taped in one run-through. And of course that was the problem. I couldn’t rephrase my answers or sit up straighter on the second take. Watching the video, I’m struck by a sense of esprit d’escalier – a French phrase for coming up with inspiration when it's too late to use it. The interview was real life where’s there’s no editing – where you’re stuck with what you’ve said, what you’ve done, and what you look like. Yuck. Not like writing fiction at all. When novel-writing I have control. Everything works just like I want it to. Not necessarily smoothly – where would the conflict be if it did? – but after ten drafts, the action, what the characters say, even the weather are all just what I want.

Anyway, here’s the eight minutes on Press:Here I spent talking about the ebook revolution, my novel Drop By Drop, and my checkered past – unedited.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Discovering a Master

I've just whipped through two amazing books by Georges Simenon, the incredibly prolific Belgian writer who created the iconic Inspector Maigret mystery series. Simenon published nearly 200 novels and numerous short works, often staying in one room for two weeks while a book poured out of him in a sort of trance.

I read The Widow and The Strangers in the House, stand alone novels and they were simply masterful. Simenon, using straightforward prose, pulls you into a world that is permeated with quiet menace. This is superb writing.

In 1966, Simenon won the Grand Master Award from the MWA -- and he was under serious consideration for the Nobel Prize for Literature!

If you're in the mood for menace, and want to be transported to a vividly wrought, atmospheric world that seems somehow apart from our own, I can't recommend him too highly. I can't wait to get started on Maigret!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Humming Along Through the Dead of Winter

Darby will snowshoe.
The realization hit me like a well-thrown punch as I scanned my real estate website, long overdue for an update. There was the photo of fleece-clad Becky and Cindy, my active winter buddies, trudging through four-foot high snow, with my (somewhat) humorous caption: You can always snowshoe to a property!
Yes, I thought, Darby will be on snowshoes, struggling through the darkening Maine woods, pursued by a murderer she cannot hope to outlast. My heart beat faster, a sure sign that my imagination has cooked up something I find truly scary. I snowshoe -- alot -- and it's hard to go fast. Especially when someone evil is chasing you...
Thump, thump. That's my daughter and I in the photo above, on top of Camden's Ragged Mountain with Penobscot Bay in the background. She "shoes" up and snowboards down, but yours truly gave up snowboarding when she decided she didn't have a spare wrist to break.
It proved to be a wise decision. Armed with my good wrists, I'm hard at work on the fourth in the Darby Farr series, and I have to say it is humming right along. Not to jinx myself, but the pages are piling up, and I couldn't be more pleased. I'm fitting in some good, solid writing time, in between selling houses (yes, some people really are buying homes again!) hiking the Camden Hills, cheering for my daughter's Varsity Soccer team (GO WINDJAMMERS!) and volunteering for my favorite cause, Habitat for Humanity. That's my mom, daughter and me at a build in the spring. That house now has sheathing on the roof and is ready for framing. My various balls in the air are a juggle, but one I really love. Needless to say, I fall asleep in about two minutes every single night.
Back to the fourth book, tentatively called Contract for Murder. It takes place once more on the rocky island of Hurricane Harbor, as did the first in the series, A House to Die For. Unlike that book, this is set in what we Mainers like to call the "dead" of winter. Don't worry -- any details that I can't recall from previous blizzards, ice storms, and the like will come back to me when I start revisions in January. In the meantime, I'm having a ball picturing all that white stuff and the havoc it can cause.
People ask me again and again how I find the time to write. I used to say that no one finds the time -- one makes the time. Kind of a pompous answer, don't ya think? Now I reply with a simple truth: it's fun. Especially when those pages are piling up.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Splashing Into Some Deadly Research

I've pre-scheduled my post for today, but I won't be able to respond to comments until tonight or tomorrow. Why's that, you might ask? I'll be getting my ass (and every other part of my body, most likely) soaking wet on a multi-day whitewater rafting trip down Cataract Canyon in Utah. Sure, I love whitewater rafting, which is why I chose to base one of my mystery series, the RM Outdoor Adventure mystery series, on the sport. But this trip isn't just for fun, though I'm sure I'll have a blast! It's to conduct research for book three in the series, that will be titled Cataract Canyon.

The book concept is that my part-time whitewater river ranger, Mandy Tanner, and her lover, Rob Juarez, who own an adventure outfitting company together, will take a dozen clients down the end-to-end Meander (flatwater) and Cataract (whitewater) canyons of the Colorado River for a five-day trip. Also coming with them will be two of their river guides, Gonzo and Kendra, and a new character, a rock climbing guide. They'll be taking the trip in October, a time of year when very few people are on the river.

These canyons are some of the most remote in in the United States, with minimal cell phone access (or none, I hope!). And, there are only three little-used hiking trails in and out of the canyons between the put-in at the Potash boat ramp and the take out at the Hite Marina on Lake Powell about a hundred miles later. Those trails, after hours of hiking, lead only to off-road 4x4 dirt roads that are also little used, especially in the off-season.

Starting to get the picture? This is going to be a locked-room mystery, where the "room" is a remote canyon.

I plan to start off the action with the murderer killing one of the clients and sabotaging Mandy and Rob's satellite phone so they can't call out for help. Their only logical course of action will be to continue downstream while keeping an eye peeled for hikers or other boats (which won't appear) while they try to figure out who among their group is the killer--and whether s/he will strike again. Eek!

My husband and I are taking this trip in late September, as the rafting and hiking season is winding down, and very few outfitters are still running trips this late. We're going with Tag-a-Long Expeditions, who have been wonderful and very helpful so far. We won't be as cut-off from civilization as I intend to make Mandy and Rob's group. Since our group will be so small, however, I'll be able to pick the rafting guide's brain all I want and request him or her to stop at beaches, campsites and trail heads that I want to take photos of and notes about. I plan to finish the trip with all of the raw material I need to make Mandy Tanner's third adventure not only a murderous one, but realistic, too. Wish me luck!

If you're a writer, what is an interesting/dangerous research experience you've gone through to make your fiction realistic? If you're a reader, how much realism do you expect in a fictional mystery, and do you enjoy mysteries that take place in risky outdoor settings or activities?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Writer for Life?

I’ve been pondering this question for a while: Once you publish a book, are you “the writer” for life?

The question came to mind earlier this summer when the painter arrived at our house. He came last year, too, at which time he learned from my husband that I wrote mystery novels. This fact paid off last year, when the paint job cost more than estimated and a signed book was requested in lieu of additional payment. Gotta love that. So this year when the painter arrived, he said, “You’re the writer, right?”

I nodded. Yep, that’s me. Never mind that I am not currently working on a manuscript. Never mind that my last three manuscripts didn’t find publishers. Never mind that I’ve recently channeled my writing skills towards obtaining a steady weekly paycheck to help fund my children’s college tuition and my own retirement needs.

So tell me, is writing like parenting—a lifetime commitment of varying magnitude? Even if you haven’t “birthed” anything lately and all your “offspring” are out of the nest, is it still appropriate to identify yourself as a writer? Once you publish a book, are you “the writer” for life?

[This is my last post on InkSpot. It’s been fun, but now I’m done:)]

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Darrell James

The Labor Day holiday was behind us. The brutal heat of summer had finally broken. Everyone seemed poised for new beginnings. On September 8th the debut novel, Nazareth Child, officially received its launch into the world.

It began with a cocktail reception and launch party on Friday evening at the Brookside Country Club (at the Rose Bowl) in Pasadena, CA. The longtime, respected Pasadena bookstore, Vroman’s, was there to sell books. Close to one hundred Southern California writers, readers, reviewers and friends showed up to send the book (and me) off into the literary world.

I was honored to see so many of my friends there to offer their support. Particularly, since a number of them have new releases this same month. They were generous with their time and with their praise. And Vroman’s saw their inventory of Nazareth Child disappearing from the book table. It was a night I will never forget; the faces of those who attended will forever be close to mind.

The book launch continued this past week in St. Louis where mystery writers and fans of the mystery genre gathered for the 2011 Bouchercon Mystery Writers Conference. Friday morning I shared the Fresh Blood author panel with debut authors David Bell, Coco Ihle, Johnny Shaw and Fred Venturini. The panel was moderated by noted author Sandra Parshall.

Later that afternoon, I participated in the Charity Bowling Tournament. Publishing staff and authors from Midnight Ink squared off against other publishing houses and authors and rolled for all the charity marbles. There was beer and pizza aplenty. A strike earned you a shot of tequila. The competition was brutal, though friendly. And, while it was obvious we were all much better writers and book publishers than bowlers, the chance to interact with compatriots from the business was priceless.

(Authors: Jessie Chandler, Darrell James, Kathleen Ernst, Jess Lourey, Lois Winston (not pictured), Midnight Aquisitions Editor Terri Bischoff, Marketing Director Steven Pomije.)

Saturday was back to work with a Meet The Author session in my publisher’s booth. Saturday evening saw us networking with peers at the Kensington Publishing cocktail reception. (If you haven’t noticed the common thread here, I’ll point out that every event seems to involve copious amounts of alcoholic beverages of some kind.)

I’m heading back west today for the Sonoma Book Festival on Saturday, September 24th. A number of events in Arizona will follow. Then I’ll do a turn-around to the midwest the first week of October, where I’ll crisscross Ohio and Kentucky to meet with book clubs, speak in libraries, sign in bookstores, and gather for a Midwest party with high school friends and family. November will find me back in Southern California for another round of events, culminating with the fabulous Men of Mystery event in Irvine on November 19th.

It should be worth pointing out that Book Two is in the hands of the publisher and will kick-off another round of madness at some point. And, of course, Book Three has a deadline for delivery of May 1st.

Over drinks in the bar last Wednesday night, Best Selling author William Kent Kruger said, “You only have one first novel, enjoy it.”

I am enjoying it! Immensely! It’s like no other thrill I’ve known!

Kent’s remarks do make me ponder, however: Will it all one day grow old? Will the publicity and the praise and recognition and the camaraderie of friends and fans become “old hat”?

I truly hope not.

And judging from the faces of the Anthony winners at the Sunday morning awards brunch, I have a feeling the thrill is here to stay for a long, long time.

Thanks to the Midnight Ink staff for making it possible. And to all my friends for “being there”. Let’s do it all over again next year.

Nazareth Child is available at online retailers and from bookstores in trade paperback and in all popular electronic reader formats.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Inkspot News - September 17, 2011

Keith here

While much of the crime fiction world is still cavorting at the Bouchercon World Mystery Conference in St. Louis, I will be opining on the ebook revolution in a TV interview. On Sunday morning September 18 at 9AM, you can watch me doing my best to answer questions on the Press:Here broadcast on KNTV Channel 3 (or 703 in HD) in the San Francisco Bay Area. (The program is also carried on Comcast's California NonStop channel in LA and San Diego.) A little after halfway into the show, I am cross-examined by Scott McGrew of NBC, Jon Swartz of USA Today, and Mike Krey of Investor's Business Daily.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Documenting the Crimes

“Chloe found the first body right there,” I said, pointing.

My husband Scott said, “Perhaps you should keep your voice down.” Then he balanced precariously on the shifting beach cobbles and started shooting. Digital images, not bullets.

Rock Island lighthouse beach

I’ve mentioned before that Book 3 in the Chloe Ellefson series will take place on Rock Island, WI, in Lake Michigan. It’s a state park. Much of the action will take place at Pottawatomie Lighthouse; I’ve had the good fortune to serve as a live-in docent there several times, and know it well.

lighthouse NW view

But other scenes take place at other locations on the island, such as the magnificent boathouse.

Rock Island boathouse

Since my mysteries are rooted in long-ago events, I do a lot of historical research. And since I write about real and public places, I need to be careful about getting not just the historical details but the geography right.

Rock Island south point

Book 3 (tentatively titled Beyond Death’s Door) takes place the first week in September, and Scott and I spent last week visiting the story’s locales. I wanted to make notes about what flowers were blooming, what birds were migrating through, etc. at the exact time of Chloe’s visit.

Rock Island berries

We also photographed and videotaped each location. The videotape will help me remember perspective when I’m actually writing or revising the pertinent scenes.

Rock Island cave

As a benefit for spending time back at the scene of the crime, as it were, we stopped in the independent bookstore on neighboring Washington Island. Preliminary plans for a book launch in 2012 are now underway. I also pinned down a few last details at the local archives, and questioned the local ranger about a logistical issue I’d been confused about. And we visited—just for research purposes—a local tavern/restaurant, which is famous for never closing during Prohibition (the proprietor got a pharmacist’s license and dispensed Bitters.)

Washington Island Nelsens sign

All of this took place the week Book 2, The Heirloom Murders, was officially released. I’m juggling launch events for that with finishing the manuscript for Beyond Death’s Door. It’s a wee bit overwhelming (especially since I’m working on a children’s book project as well), but it’s also great fun! I got to wander around two gorgeous islands, and write off travel costs as a business expense. How cool is that?

Washington Island moon Jacksons Hrb

Heirloom_1 cover

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Festering Over Festoon

by Robin Allen

As a person who makes her living with words, you'd think I would love every single one of them, but for no rational reason, I loathe the word festoon. It's a self-consciously jaunty word that shares its first syllable with fester, which is what I do every time I see it in print. (And that's the only time I'm aware of the word because no one actually uses the word in conversation. It's too stoopid. Say it out loud now: festoon. See? Stoopid. Festoopid.)

Two of my favorite writers, however, have used it in their essays. One is forgiven, the other is not.

"It's a[n]…Everest of shellfish, an intimidating, multilevel tower of crushed ice and seaweed, piled, heaped—festooned with oysters from nearby Belon, and slightly farther away Cancale." –Anthony Bourdain, "Lust," Medium Raw

Bourdain could have left out "festooned" altogether or substituted "shored up" or "scaffolded" or "strewn." I forgive Tony because later in the essay he writes about local red wines "whose rough charms have lately got a serious hold on you....The Baron Rothschild could back his car up to the door, trunk full of monster vintages, he's drunk and offering them for free—and you would decline."

Peter Mayle is not forgiven.

"Men were scarce. They would be picked up later, festooned with shopping bags, and led away to whatever joys awaited them that evening." –Peter Mayle, "Undressing for Lunch," French Lessons

Pete is trying make a weak sentence interesting. He could have used a less pretentious word, such as "ladened" or "garnished." This is, after all, an essay—an entire book—about food.

I dislike other words, of course, but writing festoon so many times at a single sitting has done me in.

What about you? Is there a word or phrase that makes you cringe or chaps your hide when you see it in print?

Robin Allen
Author of the Poppy Markham: Culinary Cop Mystery Series
If You Can't Stand the Heat
Now available on Kindle, Nook, and eBook
See my poem "A Friday Afternoon" in the 2012 Texas Poetry Calendar

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Road Trip!

So I was invited to Wausau, WI to attend the Barnes & Noble Mystery Book Group's discussion of my book, Bingo Barge Murder. Thank you Jessie 1! I was a little bit leery of the 400 mile round trip drive, but in the end I was more than thrilled, and ready to come back again.

Tim, the assistant manager, organized a signing prior to the book group's discussion and Q&A. session. Business was slow, and I hung out and chatted with their ereader specialist until it was time to join the group. There were about 12 members in attendance, and all but one had read the book. There were lots of good questions and it was fun being able to tell the behind the story story of characters, places, and events. It's a shift from doing a reading where most people haven't yet read your book and you're trying to hook them into at least picking your book up and taking a look.

So have any of you attended a book group when the group has done your book? Did you have a good experience? How do you compare readings to strictly signings with no reading to a book group discussion? Do you like one better than the other? Why or why not?

Monday, September 12, 2011


I’m going to kill me some insurance agents, and maybe a whole mess of state insurance regulators if what I’m being told is true. I’m going to make their deaths as slow and painful as possible. And I’ll get away with it. That’s the great thing about being a writer. You can get even without worrying about getting caught because you can have one of the characters in your books do your dirty work for you.

So, you might ask what has caused me to go all lethal on the good hands men. Several weeks ago we lost power for 7 hrs. overnight. When we went to bed, there was plenty of room in the sump well. When we woke up the next morning, our finished basement had flooded. In the 13 years we’ve lived in this house, we’ve never had a problem, even the time the power was out for 3 days after Hurricane Floyd back in ‘99.

After arranging with a clean-up service to dry out and clean everything, we filed a claim with our insurance company. They opened a claim, gave us a claim number, and sent out an adjuster. You’d think that if an insurance company goes to all that trouble, that you’re covered, right? Guess again. The adjuster spent nearly an hour taking pictures and documenting the damage. Then he went back to his car and brought up our insurance policy on his computer. He came back into the house with the sobering news that our policy doesn’t cover us for damage that occurs due to sump pump failure.

I argued with him that the sump pump didn’t fail. It’s working perfectly. The problem was caused by a power failure. He said it didn’t matter; we had to have specific sump pump coverage.

Only as it turns out, you can’t buy this sort of coverage, not in New Jersey. About a year ago my husband met with our insurance agent to make sure we were covered for EVERY possible contingency that could strike our home. The agent never once mentioned that we needed specific sump pump coverage. So my husband called the agent to complain and learned that in New Jersey no insurance company can offer such coverage to homeowners.

Except that Hurricane Irene hit the following weekend, and I’m hearing endless commercials on the radio from insurance companies, telling people to file their claims as soon as possible. What’s the point if none of us is covered? Are those commercials only directed to residents of New York and Connecticut? Did New Jersey’s legislators and its insurance commission give their residents the shaft, or was our insurance agent handing us a crock of caca to cover his derrière? I still haven’t uncovered the truth.

Meanwhile, we have a $3,000 clean-up bill. I think that’s grounds for justifiable homicide. My only problem is that I’ve already turned in Book 3 of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series. I’m halfway through my next book and don’t see a way to kill any insurance agents or state regulators in that one. So killing them is going to have to wait awhile. But that gives me lots of time to plan appropriate deaths for all of them. Drowning in a sump hole is high on the list at the moment.

And meanwhile, my tale should go a long way in explaining why insurance premiums are so high. Why on earth would the insurance company expend the resources to open a claim and send out an adjuster if our policy didn’t cover the damage? How much did all of that cost those good hands guys?

In Henry VI, Part 2 Henry said, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Shakespeare obviously never came out on the losing end of a fight with his insurance company. 

Lois Winston is off to Bouchercon at the end of the week. If you’re going to be there, stop by the Midnight Ink booth from 11am - noon on Saturday for a signed ARC of DEATH BY KILLER MOP DOLL, the second book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series. Lois will also be on a panel at 4pm with fellow Midnight Ink author Sebastian Stuart, with an autographing of ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN to follow. On Sunday, she’ll be back at the Midnight Ink booth at 10am for a Meet the Author session. And if you can’t make it to Bouchercon, visit Lois at her website and Anastasia at her blog.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Inkspot News - September 10, 2011

For those of you attending Bouchercon next week, Lois Winston will be taking part in four events. On Friday, Sept. 16th from 12:30 - 3:30pm join in the fun at Flamingo Bowl as The Midnight Inkers (authors Lois Winston, Darrell James and Jessie Chandler; editor Terri Bischoff; and publicity director Steven Pomije take on other teams in the Bouchercon Charity Bowl.

On Saturday, Sept. 17th from 11:00am - noon, stop by the Midnight Ink booth for an autographed ARC of DEATH BY KILLER MOP DOLL, the second book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series.

From 4:00pm - 5:00pm, also on Saturday, Lois will be taking part in the TIME TO MURDER AND CREATE panel in Landmark 4, followed by an autographing session for ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN in the Book Room.

Finally, on Sunday, Sept. 18th, Lois will be back in the Midnight Ink booth for a Meet the Author session.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bling My Boa

By Deborah Sharp

How can you tell if you're a serious author? The kind of author book critics wax about rapturously, and creative writing professors speak of in hushed tones of awe?

I have absolutely no idea. I can tell you how you know you're not a serious author. If the week before your new book comes out you find yourself shopping for a feather boa and rhinestone bling so you can dress up like your fictional character at a fake red carpet soiree . . . odds are you're the other kind of author. You know, the opposite of serious. You're a goofy author.

Guilty as charged.

That doesn't mean I don't work hard, or I don't take pride in what I do. It just means I keep things in perspective. I write a funny, light-hearted mystery series that's been described as Agatha Christie meets My Name is Earl. It's almost impossible to take your stuff too seriously when one reviewer calls your character ''a redneck Stephanie Plum,'' and another says your book is ''a humorous bit of fluff, perfect for the beach.''

Hey, nothing wrong with fluff!

Which brings me to Mama's Red Carpet Soiree. My fourth book, the movie-themed MAMA SEES STARS, officially came out this week. Instead of getting all literary and Capital ''A'' authorly on the folks who turn out for my booksignings, I'll be dressing up like the Mama character, who has never spotted an over-the-top outfit she didn't covet. Guests are also encouraged to come sporting their movie diva -- or divo -- duds. We'll all dodge fake paparazzi and walk a rented red carpet. There will be alcohol, which explains a lot.

It's all in good fun, because, let's face it: I'm not curing terminal diseases or negotiating world peace here. Some authors act as if they are. Once, I was on a panel at a mystery convention with one such Serious Author. What programming genius put me -- the writer of easy-reading, comic romps set in a Southern-fried slice of Florida -- together with an Author whose dark, tortured characters struggle with Important Themes?

Anyhoo, my panel mate was expounding on how important it is for him to write, how he simply must get down on paper these important things that must be said.

''Writing is more important to me than anything in life,'' he said, importantly.

I waited a beat and then leaned into the microphone. ''Anything?''

"Yes,'' he said.

"More important than breathing?'' I asked.


"Than sex?''


"More important than ice cream?''

The Serious Author cracked a smile. "Yes,'' he said.

It was good to know how his priorities ranked. Although for me, ice cream might have scored relatively higher in that equation.

The point is, what's the benefit of having a cool job like writer if you can't have a little fun? For my last book, which was set around Mama's fifth try at tying the sacred knot of matrimony, the signings played off the wedding theme. I had a tacky, towering bridal veil, similar to what Mama wore for her Wedding of the Century in little Himmarshee, Fla. This time around, I'm forgoing the elaborate headwear I donned for MAMA GETS HITCHED in favor of a movie star boa and a little bit of bling. Comparatively understated, actually.

Omigod ... do you suppose that means I'm becoming more SERIOUS? That I'll start acting like a Capital A Author? Nah, I also have sunglasses with pink leopard-spotted frames and a pomegranate-hued bath mat I plan to unfurl and stand on as my traveling red carpet.

Goofy. Guilty as charged.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Last Sunday I sent my steampunk book "Verity Hart Vs. The Vampyres" to my agent. I wrote and edited this one in five months, a new record. And during that time I was also working on lining up publicity for "Mind Over Monsters," entertaining family members, doing NASCAR research, and trying to have a life (epic fail on that last one). So for five months I've been working six days a week, usually for ten hours a day. I'm not complaining, I love what I do, but tend to get lost in the work.

Hello, my name is Jennifer Harlow and I am a workaholic.

When I was a teenager I had this evil teacher who loaded us down with homework. The only time my parents worried about me as a teenager was that year because I locked myself in my room doing homework all the time because I COULD NOT LET THAT BASTARD WIN! (Sorry. PTSD flashback. Continuing.) I had to get an "A" come hell or high water. (I so did.) The same thing happens when I'm working on a book. Other people have to force me to stop working. So since I am a starving artist and went like seven places last year even Canada, I took a much needed few days off at home. All two of them for what will soon be obvious reasons.

My schedule was as follows:

8:30-Wake up, check e-mails
9:00-Tabatha's Take-Over Salon
10:00-drive to gym, find is closed for a week (Yipee!)
10:30-go home, change, check e-mails again
10:45-none. Now what? YouTube of course
12:00-okay, watched way too many cute cat videos. Never again.
12:15-check fridge, no food has materialized
12:30-flip through 600+ channels, nothing on
12:45-check online again, nothing new, realize I am very unpopular, reflect on that, realize don't care
1:00-more You Tube cats
1:15-no food materialized again, fall on couch and stare at ceiling. Lots of spiderwebs, realize don't care.
1:30-Netflix streaming, start and stop five movies because all boring
2:30-No new e-mails, hit head against wall for something to do
4:30-wake up from concussion, realize haven't eaten anything, go to McDonald's
5:30-Stuffing face while watching "The Town" for millionth time, OD on eye candy
7:15-climb into bed as so tired from long day
7:30-start and stop three books that all "suck"
8:00-Law & Order, seen them all but nothing else on
10:00-Oh, thank God I can go to sleep without feeling like I'm
11:00-can't sleep, too bored
12:00-can't sleep, too bored. I hate vacation.
2:00-fall asleep

Repeat next day.

I am not meant to be idle.

Luckily in exactly a month from today my book, MIND OVER MONSTERS will be out(!!!!!) and I will be crazy busy with guest blog posts, radio interviews, and signings among other things. Still putting the schedule together so keep checking for updates. Also, the soundtrack to the book will soon be up.

What about y'all? Did you have a better vacation than me?

Jennifer Harlow

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

King and I

full darkWhen I’m asked which writers have influenced me the most, I always tick off names from a very exclusive list: Robert B. Parker, Dean Koontz, Stephen King. And of those three, I think I’ve spent the most time reading Stephen King. As a teenager, I devoured his stuff, eagerly looking forward to his next book even as I turned the pages of his current one. Whenever I began one of his stories, I knew I’d be taking a suspenseful—and extended—journey (he wrote some very long books!).

A short, fictional, homage:

They say you can’t go home again, but I thought I’d try. Although those were misery-filled days—plagued by insomnia—I did my best to keep the desperation at bay and my rage in check. Thankfully, those were different seasons back then. Would I feel the same way now that I’d returned to the town where I’d been raised?

Just after sunset, I decided on a stroll to see how things had changed. Main Street seemed like it always had: the shining glazed doughnuts under the dome in the coffee shop window, the dead zone where my cell never worked.

I continued the long walk toward the quarry—the green mile, as it were—past the skeleton crew night shift assigned to the roadwork, past the shack where Dolores Claiborne’s two daughters, Christine and Carrie still lived, to a spot across the street where the black house used to loom, with its dark tower and secret windows overlooking the stand of gnarled cypress trees. Of course, that was before the storm of the century blew through here turning the old house into a bag of bones and giving the regulators something to argue about when old Rose Madder applied for a rebuilding permit.

I sat at the edge of the quarry and stared into space, thinking about the time gone by. I must have dozed off, because later, at four past midnight, I gazed into the night sky again, and the black void was absolute: full dark, no stars. Only nightmares and dreamscapes to keep me company.

(For extra credit: How many Stephen King titles can you pick out in the above story?)

So why blog about Stephen King now? Well, I’m excited to say he’s coming to town (at least my town) to speak at the Fall for the Book festival. This terrific week-long book event is held in Fairfax, VA, every fall, and it draws a ton of great writers and fans. This year, Stephen King is one of the headliners (he’s being presented with the Mason Award), and I’ve got tickets to hear him speak on Friday, September 23 at 7:30.

But that’s only half of why I’m excited.

Here’s the other half: I get to be on a panel “opening” for Stephen King!

The Stephen King event is co-sponsored by MWA (he is a Grand Master, after all), and they’ve arranged to have a mystery writers panel (with Donna Andrews, our very own G.M. Malliet, Marcia Talley, and me) that will precede his speech, in an adjacent auditorium (our panel begins at 5:30). No tickets are required for our event, so if you’re in the area, come on by! (If you don’t have tickets for the King speech, there will be a drawing for ten tickets during our panel. So if you feel lucky…)

Did I mention I was excited?The Taste_cover for website

And there’s one other Stephen King “connection” I’d like to note. Until now, my books have fallen into the mystery/suspense genre. I’m happy to announce that I’ve epubbed a horror/thriller in the Stephen King/Dean Koontz vein. Called THE TASTE, it’s available for Kindle and Nook. If horror/thrillers are your cup of tea, check it out!


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

3 Books, 3 Formats, 6 Covers

Keith here.

The reading world is in the midst of a war over formats. We've all been following the back-and-forth between Kindle/Nook partisans and those who defiantly hold on to their paper-and-ink books. Here's which side I come down on: both.

Don't you think we authors should strive to ensure our novels can be read however our readers want to read them -- whether as words on a paper page or on an LCD screen? And what about those who might want to use their ears rather than their eyes to "read" a book? Fine with me. Let's add one more option to the mix then -- audio books.

My first two books have just hit the format trifecta. Dot Dead and Smasher are now available as audio downloads for iPods, MP3 players, and such on both and (You can listen to samples here and here.) Both are still available as ebooks and trade paperbacks. (Readers, pick your poison.) My third novel, Drop By Drop, is currently available only as an ebook, but if it continues to sell well (fingers crossed), I'm hoping it will be offered in print and as an audio book as well.

One side benefit to all these different formats is a flowering of covers. Dot Dead has one cover doing double duty for the ebook and trade paper and another for the audio version. Smasher -- lucky fellow -- has a different cover for all three formats. Drop By Drop is available in just the one format and hence has only one cover at present. If my arithmetic is correct, that makes a total of six covers. I'm pretty fond of all of them, but I do wonder which ones you prefer. Please let me know in your comments!