Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Teaching an Old Dog

by Shannon Baker

I've got a new toy. I've been playing around with it quite a bit and haven’t decided if it’s going to make my life easier or complicate it. For now, it’s kind of fun.

I downloaded a 30-day free trial of Scrivener. It’s software specifically designed for writers. I am starting a new series set in a small town and the cast of characters has the potential to become huge and confusing. Hopefully not for the reader, since characters will be emphasized in certain books and fade back in others. But for me, the writer, I’ll need to remember if the youngest sibling hates red beets in book one so I don’t have her scarfing them down in book five. (Please, Universe, I’d like there to be a book five.)

I have various methods of chaos for plotting books and a spotty system for research and character biblification. (I made that word up as a derivation of character bible, which, embarrassingly, I’ve never created.) It usually involves note cards and/or stickies, a cork board, an Excel spreadsheet with multiple worksheets attached, notebooks full of obscure scribbles.

Scrivener offers me the chance, at the outset of the process, to organize everything into one complete online file. I can paste links to research articles, I can cut and paste information and even pictures into the research file. It has this really cool cork board feature that lets me put bits of information on note cards and file them away. I can write all manner of notes and expand and contract as necessary.

I can write chapter synopsis on cards, with more detail hidden, color code the cards, and move them around the cork board to manage the plot. For instance, I can code orange for plot points and see if they’re distributed correctly. Or I can code pink and blue for point of view chapters and make sure everyone has their say.

Every character has a card and I can keep track of all the important information. Since the protagonist has nine brothers and sisters and some of them have progeny, this will be very helpful as I progress from book to book.

I’m having some bumps dealing with the mechanics. For instance, I can’t seem to import and export with ease. I’d really like to be able to email the files directly from Scrivener but I think I have to compile and save in a word document and send them out that way. These are small issues.

I’m not sure Scrivener offers me anything I’m incapable of accomplishing with my MS Office programs, but it’s new and fun and seems to be jolting my brain a bit, which is usually a good thing. One would hate to get complacent and keep relying on old methods.

So, off I go to create new cards to post on my virtual cork board. Have any of you used Scrivener or any other writer-specific software? What do you think? If you have a tried and true old-school method, tell us about that.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Danger in a Remote River Canyon

by Beth Groundwater

In Fatal Descent, the third mystery in my RM Outdoor Adventures series, I transport my protagonist Mandy Tanner out of her home state of Colorado and off her home river, the Arkansas, to the state of Utah and its Colorado River. Mandy also ditches her river ranger uniform to perform her other job of whitewater rafting guide. She and her now-fiancé Rob Juarez, co-owners of the RM Outdoor Adventures outfitting company, lead a group of tourists on a rock climbing and whitewater rafting trip through Cataract Canyon in the harsh Canyonlands of Utah.

The trip takes place off-season in the fall, so when a murderer strikes and disables the group's radio to boot, Mandy, Rob and their clients are locked alone in a remote canyon with an unknown killer among them. They have no way to call for help or get out except to paddle forward into roaring whitewater rapids where even more danger lurks.

And, of course, to tell the story realistically, I had to try this trip out for myself! 

In the fall of 2011, my husband and I took the 100-mile voyage from Moab, Utah to Lake Powell through Cataract Canyon that Mandy takes in Fatal Descent. We contracted with local outfitter Tag-A-Long Expeditions. Along with taking hundreds of photos and pages of notes, I peppered boatman Dave Pitzer and river guide Justin King with questions.

Though I didn't tackle any rope climbing myself (I do have a healthy fear of heights), I made the hikes that are in the book to the canyon rim at The Loop, where the river folds back on itself, and to the Doll House formation above Spanish Bottom (first photo below), just after the confluence with the Green River and before the danger sign alerting boaters to the rapids below (second photo below).

Cataract Canyon's rapids are as powerful and difficult as those in the Grand Canyon and can be truly awe-inspiring and life-threatening in spring during high water. I chose the fall, when water levels are lower and the rapids are still thrilling, but manageable, for two reasons. First, I wasn't going to take my life in my hands, and second, I needed Mandy's group to be alone, with no help available from other rafting groups, which can only happen off-season.

My group had plenty of chances to get wet (see below) during the runs through standing waves and holes, but unlike Mandy, I never had to swim the rapids. I followed Dave Pitzer's number one rule, "Stay in the raft," and held on tight!

Being an experienced "river rat", it wasn't the rapids that I dreaded before the trip began, it was trying to sleep in a tent on the hard ground! The last time I'd done that was when I was a leader for my daughter's Girl Scout troop. After a weekend with NO sleep and lots of back pain, I swore off tent camping. But, for the sake of research for Fatal Descent, I suffered. I got very little sleep the first night, but due to exhaustion, I did get some the second night. And the stars were fantastic!

While immersed in Fatal Descent, I hope readers can enjoy the natural beauty of the Colorado River and Utah's Canyonlands from the ease and comfort of their easy chairs while trying to solve the puzzle of whodunnit.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Anastasia in Barcelona

by Lois Winston

Back in May my husband and I took a Mediterranean cruise, traveling to Toulon and Villefranche, France and La Spezia, Civitavecchia, and Naples, Italy. The cruise left out of Barcelona, Spain. Since neither of us had ever been to Spain, we flew in a day early and hopped aboard one of those double-decker sightseeing buses for a whirlwind tour of the city.

I’ve seen those buses just about all my life in New York. I’m constantly accosted by tour guides whenever I walk around Times Square (something I try to avoid!) So I had a very negative opinion of them. I changed my mind in Barcelona. We were able to plug into an audio system that gave us lots of information about the city as we drove around and were able to get on and off the buses at our leisure throughout the day as we explored various sights. The bus stops are clearly marked, and I don’t think we ever had to wait more than five minutes for one to pull up to take us to our next destination.

Parc Güell
Barcelona is a city of amazing architecture, everything from Gothic churches to Antoni Gaudi's Modernista masterpieces  to modern skyscrapers. However, it was Gaudi’s work, especially his mosaic covered Parc Güell, that made me fall in love with the city.

Parc Güell staircase leading up to terrace and marketplace
Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, to send Anastasia on an adventure in Barcelona? And that’s just what I did in Mosaic Mayhem, the second Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mystery which is now available.

ceiling of Parc Güell's Sala Hipostila marketplace
Anastasia is thrilled at the prospect of three days in Barcelona. She thinks all she has to worry about are making sure her passport is still valid and finding someone to care for her semi-invalid mother-in-law while she’s gone. However, within hours of arriving, she’s staring down the barrel of a gun and trying to convince a Spanish crime syndicate they’ve kidnapped the wrong woman. So much for a romantic getaway...

mosaics decorating terrace of Parc Güell
Mosaic Mayhem is available as an ebook from the following vendors:


Award-winning author Lois Winston writes the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series featuring magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Kirkus Reviews dubbed it, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” Other books in the series includes Death By Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse and the ebook only mini-mysteries Crewel Intentions and Mosaic Mayhem. Lois is also published in women’s fiction, romance, romantic suspense, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Visit Lois at, visit Emma at, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, Follow everyone on Twitter @anasleuth.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Music to Soothe the Savage Vampire

by Jennifer Harlow

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 books 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'm writing, I find that certain songs really helped pump up the visuals and mood. They help 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 story. 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, the soundtrack for the F.R.E.A.K.S.  latest adventure, Death Takes A Holiday:


U Want Me 2-Sarah McLachlan

Make Me Lose Control-Eric Carmen

Smalltown Boy-Bronski Beat

Somewhere That's Green-Ellen Greene from "Little Shop of Horrors"

Trouble is A Friend-Lenka

The Passenger-Siouxsie and The Banshees

No One is To Blame-Howard Jones

Emotion in Motion-Ric Ocasek

One Step Up-Bruce Springsteen

Wonderful Life-Black

Somewhere With You-Kenny Chesney

I Stand Alone-Theophilius London

Love Will Turn You Around-Kenny Rogers

Please download legally. All songs are available on iTunes. And if you want to see the other soundtracks to my other books, visit

Monday, August 12, 2013

Don't Trash Research

Why, oh why, didn't I set my mystery series in California's wine region, or in Provence? Can you imagine the research I'd get to do then? 
Nope, I had to write about a rural, rodeo-and-ranches slice of Florida. As country as a turnip green, as the song lyrics say. 
The fictional town of Himmarshee, Fla., determines a lot about how the characters in  my Mace Bauer Mysteries behave, about who they are. In my upcoming Book 5, some of them are behaving badly. As usual. MAMA GETS TRASHED, after all, starts when the title character has a few too many sips of sweet pink wine. Tipsy, Mama calls it. Trashed, her daughter Mace would say.

Whatever, it leads to Mama unintentionally tossing her wedding ring from Husband No. 5 out with the garbage. Hence, the opening search scene in the city dump. 
Believe me, it ain't no lavender field in France. 
I know, because I actually hung around a dump --- and a maintenance lot filled with garbage trucks --- to give my story some verisimilitude. As a former newspaper reporter, I long ago had the importance of on-site research drilled into my head.
That’s not to say I've never questioned my commitment. Take the winter of 2007, for example. I was writing my second book, set on a cross-state horseback trek known as the Florida Cracker Trail Ride. On an afternoon many years earlier, I’d visited the ride to write a quick-hit newspaper feature story.
As with so many events I'd covered, that short article became the spark for a fictional tale. Even then, I was inspired. A ghostly mist hung over the pasture, shrouding cattle. Live oaks lifted gnarled limbs, dripping with Spanish moss. A stellar setting for a mystery.
The ride commemorates the cattle drives that once took place across vast Florida grasslands. It draws more than a hundred participants a year. In 2007, I saddled up to become one of them. I wanted to experience the ride the way my characters in MAMA RIDES SHOTGUN would experience it. As research.

  Of course, fictional characters don’t experience real-life aching muscles, or the humiliation of squatting outside to answer nature’s call and peeing all over their riding boots. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I rode when I was growing up, galloping through orange groves on what’s now asphalt west of my hometown of Fort Lauderdale. At age fifty-something, I had no doubt the saddle would feel a lot harder than it did when I was fifteen. Even so, I expected camping out would be my real challenge. Ronald Reagan was president the last time I’d slept on the ground.
The first night on the trail, the temperature plummeted. A howling wind collapsed my tent. It rained sideways, soaking me from winter cap to wool socks. The thermometer hit 28 degrees – a rarity in Florida. It took some time the next morning for me to identify the slushee-looking stuff on my damp toothbrush. The Northerners call it “ice.’’  
With the freeze going into a second night, someone offered me shelter in a horse trailer. I was grateful for that stinky, hay-strewn stall, even if I did spend the rest of the ride picking straw stalks from my private parts.
It was worth it for the rich detail I gained from being there. Think what you will about mega-selling author Dan Brown. He’s right when he says “Google is not a synonym for research.’’
On the trail ride, I used free time between Ben Gay applications to interview riders. How do you get a skittish horse into a trailer? What if a murderer wants to poison the chuck-wagon chili? (That kind of question, by the way, raised eyebrows … until I revealed I’m a mystery writer.)
My research was a bit different for Book 3, MAMA GETS HITCHED. I didn’t go to the extreme of divorcing my husband of 25 years just so I could plan a whole new wedding. But I did contribute countless brain cells to watching reality TV episodes of Bridezillas
Kind of makes the dump seem not so bad.
How about you? Onsite or online research? Do you think you can tell the difference in the finished book? 

Saturday, August 10, 2013


We Midnight Ink authors are extremely happy to share the news with readers that our backlist ebook titles have been quietly discounted!

Midnight Ink is bringing our ebook prices in line with an evolving industry standard for prices of traditionally published ebooks. As a quote in digitalbookworld says: "Ebook pricing seems to have settled somewhat in the past few weeks between $7.00 and $8.00. This week, the average price of a best-selling ebook is $7.59, up from $7.31 a week ago but down from $7.82 the week before that."

On Amazon, you'll find backlist Kindle ebook titles from Midnight Ink priced between $7.69 and $8.69. For a list of all the Midnight Ink titles available on Amazon, go HERE. The list is sorted by publication date, starting with books not yet released, but as you page down, you'll soon see the bargain-priced Kindle ebooks. New Amazon ebook releases are still priced around $9.99, but those prices should drop after the title has been out awhile.

The prices for Midnight Ink backlist ebooks on the Barnes and Noble website seem to be a bit more, from $8.99 to $10.49. Unfortunately, there's no way to search by publisher on the Barnes and Noble website, but for those of you who read NOOK books, you can find the titles you want in the Amazon list above, then search for the titles in the NOOK Book Store.

We hope Midnight Ink readers are as excited about these discounted prices as we are!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The First Rule of Book Club...

by: Maegan Beaumont

Is you don't talk about Book Club.

Come on, you didn't really think I'd talk about my first Book Club experience without referencing what is arguably the best Brad Pitt movie of all time (12 Monkeys is a very close second...)


I'll be the first to admit that CARVED IN DARKNESS isn't exactly what I'd deems as "book club" material. I never imagined a group of readers gathering in someone's home or in a restaurant to talk about my book.
I just never thought of CARVED as that kind of book.
Apparently, I was wrong (it does happen from time to time...).

A few weeks ago, I met with a group of women who not only chose CARVED as their book club monthly read but were thrilled at the opportunity to discuss it with me. I can tell you, they weren't half as thrilled as I was! What an honor to be able to sit and talk about my writing with such a wonderful bunch who listened with genuine interest and asked some very thought-provoking questions. One woman in particular had some pretty hard-hitting questions that I'd like to share as I imagine she isn't the only one who's read CARVED that has wondered the same thing...

How do you reconcile the role of mother to young children with the graphic violence you write about? How are you able to transitions between such extreme roles so easily?

Much like my protagonist, Sabrina Vaughn, I'm able to compartmentalize quite well. It's probably a skill I acquired during my days working in mental health. No matter what is going on around you or inside you, there is a job to do in front of you and you do it. And while you're doing it, everything else gets put in the box. In action, this looks like me spending hours dreaming up gruesomely horrible murder scenes and then when the bell rings (I have to set an alarm or I'll forget to pick up my kids from school... don't judge me.) I close down my computer and become a mom again. That doesn't mean the other stuff isn't there... it just means I've put it away for later.

How do you feel about your contribution to the culture of violence against women in society?

I can honestly say that while CARVED is violent and yes, that violence is centered around women, I never thought that I was contributing to a "culture of violence against women".
And I still don't.
What I did was give this world something it can never have too much of--a strong female protagonist who not only survives what what done to her, she perseveres. She fights and she wins.

Of all the questions though, this was by far my favorite...

I've read other books  featuring what was billed as strong, female protagonists but it seems like every other page someone is calling  her "baby" or "sweetie"--and she lets them without even batting an eye.  I read CARVED very carefully and didn't find one such instance. Did you find yourself ferreting those exchanges out in the editing process to make Sabrina more equal to her male counterparts?

No. No, I never went through the book to weed out what I thought were instances that would make Sabrina appear less than equal to her male counterparts. I never did that because I never wrote them. It honestly never even occurred to me to write them because Sabrina is equal and all the men in her life know it. They also know that if they ever called her "baby" or "sweetie" she'd go ten kinds of Tyler Durden all over them.

Maegan Beaumont is the author of CARVED IN DARKNESS, the first book in the Sabrina Vaughn thriller series (Available through Midnight Ink, spring 2013). A native Phoenician, Maegan’s stories are meant to make you wonder what the guy standing in front of you in the Starbucks line has locked in his basement, and feel a strong desire to sleep with the light on. When she isn’t busy fulfilling her duties as Domestic Goddess for her high school sweetheart turned husband, Joe, and their four children, she is locked in her office with her computer, her coffee pot and her Rhodesian Ridgeback, and one true love, Jade.

  "Prepare to be overwhelmed by the the tension and moodiness that permeates this edgy thriller. Beaumont's ability to keep the twists coming, even when the answers seem obvious is quite potent." 
- Library Journal (starred review, Debut of the Month)

Monday, August 5, 2013

What My Dogs Have Taught Me About Writing

by Sheila Webster Boneham

For the past couple of decades, I've spent a lot of time, energy, sweat, tears, and love on my writing and on my dogs. In that time, I've written twenty plus books, had articles and short stories published in national magazines, anthologies, and journals, and in itty bitty newsletters.

In that time I've also not only lived with and loved a lot of dogs (and cats, but they'll have their day later), but also competed with my dogs in several sports, founded two rescue programs, fostered and rehomed many Labrador Retrievers, Australian Shepherds, and other dogs, volunteered as a trainer and evaluator for three shelters, volunteered with my registered therapy dogs, and bred highly competitive Australian Shepherds. 

Sunny (left) and Lily, aka
UCDX Diamonds Perennial Waterlily
Right now, my husband and I share our home with Lily, a 7-year-old Lab, and Sunny, a Golden Retriever we adopted last November when she was 11.5.  

As you might imagine, my Animals in Focus mysteries have paw prints all over them. Dogs, cats, and other animals are realistic, vital characters and are essential to the plots of the books. What most people don't imagine is how many of the lessons my dogs have taught me over the years apply to writing as well. So I thought I would share a few of them.

Sage, aka Perennial Meadowsage,
retrieving at 7 weeks old. 
Work is play, play is work. The expression "work like a dog," means to labor without joy, but the truth is that dogs who have fun work harder and better. Even when there's heavy lifting involved. 

Jay (UCD Perennial See You At
the Top, AKC CD, RN, CGC,
ASCA CD, Delta) & Lily
You don't always have to do what you're told, but....

Summer (Master Agility Champion
Perennial Hot Sultry Summer)

...sometimes you have to jump through hoops to get the reward.

Kitty Boneham, dog expert.

Ideas can come from unexpected sources, so don't discount anyone. 

Me and Katy during a canine safety
session at an elementary school.

It's important to make time for your friends. Writing is a solitary pursuit, but without love, friendship, and social interaction, we have nothing to write about. 

And now, according to my technical advisors, it's time for a game of tennis ball!

Sheila Webster Boneham is the author of 17 nonfiction books about dogs and cats as well as the Animals in Focus mystery series. Drop Dead on Recall came out in 2012, and The Money Bird will be out next month. Autographed copies of Sheila's books are available on her website at

Saturday, August 3, 2013

INKSPOT NEWS - August 3, 2013

Here are the new releases from Midnight Ink for August, 2013. They're all terrific reads!

 Death Takes a Holiday by Jennifer Harlow

“Wildly fun and funny, Harlow offers treats for every paranormal lover to relish, with plenty of action, thrills, and laughter.”—Leanna Renee Hieber, author of the Strangely Beautiful series

Purgatory Key by Darrell James

“The fast-flowing story will engage readers. It’s nice to see a woman in control in the leading role.”—Kirkus Reviews

Poisoned Politics by Maggie Sefton

“Sefton has a sharp ear for dialog and knack for writing strong female characters.”—Library Journal