Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Going Green

by Shannon Baker

*in anticipation of the March 8th release of the second in the Nora Abbott Mystery Series, Broken Trust, I'm reprising a blog I posted for last year's Tainted Mountain release. (and also because I've been traveling and time slipped away from me and it suddenly dawned on me I'm up on Inkspot today!)

“I’m not an environmentalist.” Eyebrows shot up when I announced that at a staff retreat. A shocked silence followed. But not too long of a pause since I was only an accountant and not very important to their real work of saving the planet.

In fact, I was only included in the retreat as a courtesy, and, I’m sure, in hope that I’d spend most of my time behind the scenes in the kitchen preparing meals and breaks. Not me. I sat in on every session, eager to learn about the Grand Canyon Trust, my new employer.

I’m a bone-deep, Atlas Shrugged, return on investment kind of gal. My father was a retailer and financial statements were his bible. I learned terms like margin, overhead, and breakeven before I started kindergarten.

So what was a profit worshipper, like me, doing at a non-profit environmental trust?

Accounting for their cattle operation. About now you’re scratching your head and wondering why a group of largely vegetarians and/or vegans would be running cattle.

It’s totally logical. There is a cattle ranch on the north rim of the Grand Canyon that controls nearly one million acres of high desert, forest, and the most questionable grazing land this Nebraska native has ever seen. It came up for sale and to keep it out of the hands of evil ranchers destroying the land by running too many cows, the Trust snatched it up. But of those million acres, much of it is public lands and there is a requirement to run a minimum of cattle. Thus, the environmentalists are in the cattle business and they needed someone to do the ranch accounting.

I’d moved to Flagstaff after completing my MBA, just off a run at a medical device start-up that had sold for millions. It never occurred to me I wouldn’t jump right into a job at one of the county’s most prestige medical device companies that just happens to be in Flagstaff. Alas, they didn’t want me. I have various theories about why, most of them centering around the wrinkles on my face. But I’ve been a writer for a while so rejection is nothing new to me.

There I was, unemployed in a wreck of a national economy in a town notorious for low wages and a tight job market. The Trust advertised, I interviewed and badda bing, I’m a de facto environmentalist.
To be honest, I’d been living in Boulder, CO just before moving to Flagstaff, so saying I’m not a tree-hugging, granola-cruncher is relative.

Like any good book, my time at the Trust was full of conflict. I never got used to the ebb and flow of finances at a non-profit. However, the perks of working with inspired, passionate, creative people in those amazing landscapes is an experience I treasure.

At lunchtime, while I reheated my leftover beef stew, and they’d quaff some kind of green, lumpy juice they’d made from CFS shares, I got to share laughs and learn about botany, biology, hydrology and Native American culture. They introduced me to quinoa for which I am forever grateful.

They taught me about composting and cold frame gardening. My world view expanded as they shared their travel experiences and knowledge of strange and beautiful places. One woman spent weekends in the southern Arizona desert assisting illegal immigrants. Another woman took me cycling up Snowbowl Road and through Page Springs outside of Sedona. I reached new heights of happy hour accomplishment with another. The ranch manager took me to places on the North Rim that few people ever get to see. Those field trips live in my heart.

Now I’m back up in Boulder living the capitalist dream with all the angst, challenges, rewards and struggles of another start up. I understand my spreadsheets and financial statements. I embrace the word profit. And yet.

I miss the people I worked with daily at the Trust. They believe in something bigger than themselves and are willing to work every day to make the world a better place. I miss the new perspectives they rained down on me daily, the laughter, the friendships. And not least, I miss their soyrizzo burritos!

They taught me a lot at the Trust. Maybe I’m still not a real environmentalist.

But Nora Abbott is.

(Just an update: the start-up, well, it didn't. So now I'm a stay-at-home writer living in the wildes of Nebraska.)

Monday, January 20, 2014

It Takes a Village--of Writers

There's nothing like the fun of discovering a new book.
Unless it's building a new community of friends.

I’m delighted to end my first book’s blog tour with an unofficial stop at Inkspot.

If you’d asked me two years ago, I’d have told you that writing was by definition a lonely journey.
I was wrong.

If you read the acknowledgements in Murder Strikes a Pose, you know that I didn’t get this work published alone—not by a long shot.  Without my yoga students, husband, agent, editors and early readers, this book would never have come to fruition.

But there are several individuals I haven’t properly thanked—the wonderful authors who helped me on my jolting, often bumbling journey to authorhood.  I can’t possibly prioritize them, so I’ve listed them alphabetically.
To the ladies below, thank you. Your support has meant more to me than you can possibly know. 

To the rest of you reading, if you click each author’s name you will be directed to information about their newest book.  Please check them out, and support me by supporting them.
Laurien Berensen—I’ve read everything Laurien has written, and she is one of my dog mystery writing heroes.  When I asked her to consider writing a blurb for me, I was sure the answer would be no.  But it wasn’t!

Sheila Boneham—Sheila read and blurbed my book and spent considerable time on the phone coaching me when I was looking for a publisher. I appreciated her no-nonsense advice and the follow-up questions she’s been willing to answer for me.

Lucy Burdette (Roberta Isleib)--Lucy (like many of these lovely ladies) agreed to read and blurb my book, even though she only knew me through e-mail. And she pretended not to notice when I acted like a fool introducing myself to her at Malice.
Mary Daheim—I’ve been a fan of Mary’s, well, for so long that I can’t tell you without divulging my age.  I can’t even remember how we connected almost a year ago, but I’m so glad we did.  Mary lives in Seattle, and she and I have shared many drinks, dinners, and laughs. She has also given me lots of advice on surviving the sometimes challenging world of writing. 

Pamela Dennison—I “knew” Pamela years before I ever considered writing. We were both members of a discussion group dedicated to rehabilitating reactive dogs. She read my novel and agreed to sponsor my membership in the Dog Writer’s Association of America. And she’s an amazing dog trainer!
Chrystle Feidler—Chrystle wrote an article for my blog and invited me to join Killer Hobbies.  Because of Chrystle I have a blogging home for my writing pursuits.

Waverly Fitzgerald—Waverly met with me over tea when I was still looking for an agent. She encouraged me and gave me advice about the often frustrating process of finding an agent and selling a book. When I later asked her to read and blurb my book, she did so graciously and quickly.
Hank Phillippi Ryan—Hank gave me an incredibly warm welcome when I first joined Sisters in Crime.  She recommended an agent to pitch, and she read and blurbed my book. When I re-introduced myself at a signing for her newest book, she said. “You act like I don’t know who you are.”  Hank, there’s no reason you should know me, yet you do.  Thank you.

Amy Shojai—Amy was one of the first writers I connected with when I was trying to figure out the business of writing.  She was one of two sponsors than I needed to become a member of the Dog Writer’s Association of America.
MaggieToussaint—Maggie wrote a wonderful article for my blog and a blurb for the book.  Maggie called Murder Strikes a Pose “a yogalicious romp,” which is a term I plan to steal every chance I get.

Penny Warner—Penny has done me many favors, including coaching me on book marketing and blurbing my book. She even made a Murder Strikes a Pose necklace and sent it to me.  I will always cherish it.
To each of you amazing ladies, if I can ever do something for you, I am yours. I promise to pay your graciousness forward to the writers who come behind me.  You are all great role models, and I aspire to he half the writer—half the person—that each of you already is.

To those of you reading this article, please support me by buying and reading their works.


Tracy Weber

And in case you're interested, here's a blurb on Murder Strikes a Pose, which was published January, 2014!
When George and Bella—a homeless alcoholic and his intimidating German shepherd—disturb the peace outside her studio, yoga instructor Kate Davidson’s Zen-like calm is stretched to the breaking point. Kate tries to get rid of them before Bella scares the yoga pants off her students. Instead, the three form an unlikely friendship.

One night Kate finds George’s body behind her studio. The police dismiss his murder as a drug-related street crime, but she knows George wasn’t a dealer. So Kate starts digging into George’s past while also looking for someone to adopt Bella before she’s sent to the big dog park in the sky. With the murderer nipping at her heels, Kate has to work fast or her next Corpse Pose may be for real.
Check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and wherever books are sold!


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Niches Can Be Murder: A Mystery Marketing Mystery

by Steve Hockensmith

Seventy or so years ago, it seems to me, mysteries were pretty generic. Which isn't to say they were bland or boring. But there were really only two kinds.

#1: The ones where a brilliant sleuth uses logic and an eye for detail to crack a seemingly unsolvable puzzle.

#2: The ones where a tough gumshoe uses street smarts and flying fists to pummel his way to justice.

(You could make the case that the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew and the rest of their clean-cut teen crew deserve their own category, but I just see them as a subset of #1 with a lot more "Jeepers!" and "Golly gee!" thrown in. And no bodies.)

Today, on the other hand, there's nothing generic about the mystery genre. In fact, it's become amazingly, almost insanely specific in an OCD, "everything in its own little box" kind of way.

We've got crafting mysteries and baking mysteries and quilting mysteries and gardening mysteries and psychic mysteries and vampire mysteries and home renovation mysteries and on and on and on. I've even contributed to the niche-ification myself, having written Sherlockian/Western mysteries and middle-grade/science mysteries and (coming soon to a bookstore near you!) tarot mysteries

In fact, the new tarot series came about because my friend Lisa Falco had a great idea -- she was going to write a novel about a tarot reader and her clients -- and I said, "You should make that a mystery. It sounds like exactly the kind of thing they're putting out these days." Lisa never got around to taking my sage advice, so eventually I talked her into letting me write the book. 

Alas, I don't have time to take every viable idea for a new mystery sub-sub-subgenre and whip it up into a novel. So I'm offering the following titles to my fellow writers gratis. Just give me a shout-out on the acknowledgments page. And maybe 5% of gross....

A Nice, Hot Cup of Murder: A Tea-Leaf Reading Mystery

Death Ahoy!: A Ship-in-a-Bottle Mystery

Gun Beats Everything: A Rock-Paper-Scissors Mystery

Black Masses Are Murder: A Satanist Mystery

Worst. Murder. Ever.: A Simpsons Fan Mystery

Live Long and Prosper...NOT!!!: A Trekkie Mystery

Murder Is Magic: A Brony Mystery

Can You See the MURDER?: An Eye Exam Mystery

Heartburn Is Murder: A White Castle Mystery

Don't Ask What's in the "Beef": A Taco Bell Mystery

Murder Can Be Murder: A Death Row Mystery

Death Wore Pumps: A Foot Fetishist Mystery

Spelling Is Rmudre: A Dyslexic Mystery

To claim your title, go to and leave me a message.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

My Delighted Greetings

Hi, everyone.  I'm new at Ink Spot.  This is my first post, and I'm delighted to be here!

I'm also new with Midnight Ink, thanks to my new Superstition Mystery Series.  My first Superstition Mystery, LOST UNDER A LADDER, will be a September 2014 release.

I'm not, however, a newbie at writing novels.  In fact, my new Pet Rescue Mystery published this month is my 35th novel.  These days I also write paranormal romance and romantic suspense.

If you're familiar with my work, especially my mysteries, you already know that I'm a dog lover and really enjoy writing about them.  And in case you're wondering, yes, my Superstition Mysteries also involve dogs.  There are a lot of superstitions involving dogs, most of them good.  My protagonist Rory Chasen winds up running a pet boutique in the very special town of Destiny, California, where she has gone to learn about the reality of superstitions.  Of course she's visiting there with her own lucky black and white dog Pluckie.
This is me, with my older Cavalier, Lexie.

And also in case you're wondering, I'm sure it will be good luck to read the Superstition Mysteries!

I look forward to blogging here in the future and would love to receive any comments from you.  Please friend me on Facebook, too, at and my website is:

Monday, January 6, 2014

I've Got an Idea for MAMA

By Deborah Sharp

You want to know the sweetest words to an author's ear? "Your characters seem so real!''

Okay, maybe the very sweetest words are: ''Your royalty check is in the mail, and boy, is it a big one!''

Still, that first sentence sounds pretty delicious, doesn't it? Since 2008, when my first Mace Bauer Mystery came out, I've been lucky enough to hear from readers who see my characters as real people. They identify with the tomboyish Mace. They'd like to date -- or marry -- her hottie love interest, Carlos. Or, they know someone like the wacky Mama character. Furthermore, that person drives them crazy, just like Mama drives Mace and her two sisters crazy.

This is great because it lets me know my fictional characters have real enough traits that they come alive on the page. The downside? Sometimes the readers know the characters better than I do. That leads to statements like these:
''That was so unlike Mace. Normally she'd never do something like that.'' (Usually the reader is right!)
Or, ''Why is Carlos so jealous in this book? He was never that insecure or jealous before.'' (Right again, and a mistake on my part, looking back.)

The best feeling is when the two different perspectives on the characters line up -- what I've tried to accomplish as an author, and what the reader perceives.
''I like how Mace's bossy older sister seems softer in this book,'' one reader told me.
I beamed, thinking of the effort I put into ''growing'' Maddie's character -- giving the older sister her own developmental arc.

I was thrilled to hear by email the other day from one especially enthusiastic reader. Cathy Katrovitz, of Vero Beach, Fla., has followed the series from the start. She had some fun making up a snippet about running into my characters on a shopping trip. It was my very first experience with ''fan fiction.'' No danger that my series will transform into a fan-fiction-generating machine like Stephenie Meyer's Twilight or J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter. Even so, I was flattered by Cathy's effort. Here's an excerpt:

I was in Bernice's Fashion Apparel for Well-Endowed Ladies the other day.  Guess who I saw?  Mace and Mama, would you believe?  Judging from the conversation I overheard, Mama is entering a Senior Pageant, and she needed some new outfits to wear . . . 
Well, Mama had that store turned upside down, what with trying on umpteen outfits, admiring the costume jewelry, and wondering who in the world could wear the shoes that could double as weapons, with their stiletto heels . . . 
Mace looked like she'd had enough of shopping and wanted to get back to her animals.  I hope she didn't take out her frustration later on that hunky guy of hers.  Mama made some reference to him - said he was a "Tony Bandito" look-alike.  Mace corrected her with "That's Antonio Banderas, Mama."  I just smiled and left the store.  I'd forgotten why I went there anyway. 

Cute, right? 

How about you? Do you think of characters in books as real people? Do you wonder how they might behave in a particular situation? 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

INKSPOT NEWS - January 4, 2014

Here are the new releases from Midnight Ink for January, 2014. They're all fantastic reads!

Dying to Know by TJ O'Connor

“O’Connor’s debut . . . provides plenty of suspects and an eclectic mix of motives among the living.” —KIRKUS REVIEWS

January Thaw by Jess Lourey

"Who can resist a mystery that includes a daredevil octogenarian sidekick; a flashy, plant-whispering mayor; some really bad villains; and a little girl ghost?"—BOOKLIST

 Murder Strikes a Pose by Tracy Weber

“Weber’s debut, which launches the Downward Dog series, should appeal to anyone who likes canines, yoga, and a determined sleuth. ... Cozy fans will eagerly await the next installment.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Best Year... EVER!!

By: Maegan Beaumont

So, 2013 rocked. Don't believe me? I'll prove it.

 In 2013, I:

1) Somehow managed to con a real-life publishing house into publishing my book.

2) Then performed some kind of mass hypnosis on reviewers, readers and people in general, convincing them that they actually liked this book (don't ask... I'm still not sure how I managed to do it).
3) Got to go to Colorado and meet some of my fellow MInkers. See, I have proof:
Look at at this talent behind and beside me!

4) Actually finished book #2 in my series and got it to my editor without bloodshed (although it was close...).
5) Nearly had a coronary when Carved in Darkness was named in Suspense Magazine's Best of 2013 issue... Best Debut!
6) Managed to get through the holidays without committing murder (again, it was a squeaker).

But as great as 2013 was, I have a feeling 2014 is going to be even better! I received cover art for Sabrina's next book and I'm beside myself with excitement over how great it turned out... want to see?

Sabrina opened the red envelope and saw one word. Mox. Soon.

After learning the identity of the serial killer behind her 83 horrific days of rape and torture, Sabrina Vaughn has suffered more physical and emotional wounds than she can handle. Despite reeling with pain both old and new, Sabrina is given a second chance as a San Francisco homicide detective. But as reporters dog her every step and hordes of mail pour into her office -- from supporters and nutjobs alike -- Sabrina falls deeper into a pit of humiliation and anxiety. When nine red roses repeatedly show up on her desk, followed by an ominous red envelope addressed to Calliope, Sabrina realizes that a new killer is targeting her. She is his chosen muse, and the Fates require sacrifice.

The official release date is July 8th, 2014... until then, I'll be practicing my mass hypnosis skills.

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 tension and moodiness that permeates this edgy thriller. Beaumont’s ability to keep the twists coming even when the answer seems obvious is quite potent."
--Library Journal