Monday, October 26, 2015

Every Day’s a Gift

I’ve thought about writing this blog post for years. I finally did it the other day while I was sitting at the vet with Tasha (the inspiration for my mystery series) and waiting for her to go in for an MRI.  The lesson was powerful for me, and I hope it someday helps you, too. Then again, perhaps you’re smarter than I am and don’t need it.  ;-)
Tasha-dog recovering from her MRI with best buddy Teddy
Love comes to us in packages we don’t expect—some we may think we don’t even want.
Mine, as most of you know, lives in the form of a 100-pound German shepherd named Tasha. An animal who has changed my life in so many ways. An animal who is the inspiration for my mystery series. An animal who has connected me with some of the best people in my life. An animal without whom, I wouldn’t be writing to you today.
But our life together has been far from easy.
When she was four months old, Tasha started exhibiting significant health and behavior problems. In spite of the best veterinary care, four trainers and three animal behaviorists, by the time she was two, the problems had gotten worse. Euthanasia was mentioned more than once as a reasonable option.
I never considered it.
Then she hit age three, and we had a particularly bad day. I remember thinking that night—perhaps even muttering it out loud—that my life would be easier if Tasha died.
Tasha and the universe discussed it for two weeks, then decided to grant my wish.
The only noticeable symptom on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving eight years ago was that Tasha didn’t want to go on her afternoon walk. By six that evening, I cradled her head in my hands and told her I wasn’t mad at her anymore. At eight, I told my husband, “I have a bad feeling about this.” He thought she was fine, but didn’t argue. We took my lethargic-but-otherwise-healthy-looking dog to an emergency vet.
At nine, the emergency vet told me that Tasha’s spleen had twisted. If there was no cancer—a big if—Tasha had a fifty percent shot of surviving the surgery to remove it, and then a fifty percent shot of surviving the forty-eight hours after surgery.
Then she handed me a hospitalization and surgical estimate for an amount most people would pay for a used car and gave us a choice: pay and take our chances, or euthanize. Tasha wouldn’t live the night otherwise.
Euthanasia was not an option.
I collapsed sobbing outside the clinic, convinced that I had made this happen. That my stupid, not-even-true wish was going to take my dog’s life. My husband, being smarter than I, said something like, “Well, if you wished this, take it back!”
I never prayed so hard in my life.
By midnight, Tasha had obtained two blood transfusions so she’d be stable enough for surgery. At three a.m., I received a call saying that she had survived surgery. Forty-eight hours later, the vets let her come home and agreed that she would live provided there was no cancer. The cancer-free biopsy came back a few days later.
I could finally breathe again.
Why do I write about this? I will never forget that night or the gift of getting my girl back. She mellowed as she got older and the behavior issues lessoned significantly, but no matter how bad the day—and there have been a few bad ones since then—I have cherished my girl.
Every night I say a prayer thanking God, the universe, and whoever else is listening for giving her back to me. I know that every day I’ve had with her since then has been a gift. Each prayer ends with the mantra, “May Tasha have a long and happy life.”
We all have days that seem unbearably tough. Times our loved ones disappoint us. Times we disappoint ourselves. My challenge to each of you is to find gratitude—and express it—even on those days.
Every one of them is a gift.

Tracy Weber

Karmas a Killer (4)Preorder my newest mystery, KARMA'S A KILLER, now at Amazon Barnes and Noble.

Yee haw, yippee, and yahooey!

Check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT and MURDER STRIKES A POSE are available at book sellers everywhere

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

5 Reasons I Love the Cover for WHISPERS IN THE MIST

By Lisa Alber

Woohoo! I almost feel like not writing a post and letting the cover stand on its own. On the other hand, I'm so proud of my book baby in its finery that I can't help but gush.

In July I wrote my first Inkspot blog post as a Midnight Ink author. I didn't get into many details about my novel (coming out August 2016) because everything was new and in process. And now here I am loving the new title (my working title was Grey Man) and the cover. Let me tell you all the reasons why:

1. The title works on so many levels, and I love it when titles reflect the layers within a story. The word "whispers" implies hidden or secretive things, right? There's the past whispering at one of the characters, tormenting her. There's guilt and regret and betrayal, all which can whisper at you, eating away at your well being. There are literal whispers--manipulations and threats spoken aloud. There's the atmospheric shush, like a whisper, within literal mists.

2. And speaking of "mist" in the title. The novel is set in Ireland, where atmospherics abound. In the novel, mist has descended on my fictional village, further obscuring already murky goings on. I mean, it's moody, right? I like a moody mystery myself, which is probably why I write them that way.

3. I adore the way the path and figure draw you into the cover and thus the story. It's the pictorial version of drawing in readers with a verbal, Once upon a time ...

4. There's my name. My name! Aspiring novelists dream of having their names on the covers of their books. I'm heartily grateful to see mine on Whispers in the Mist. Thank you, Midnight Ink!

5. Last but not least, I love the color teal. The Midnight Ink art department didn't know this, of course, but I feel like they chose that color just. for. me. :-)

A short and sweet post for me this month, because in the case of my cover, a picture really is worth a thousand words.

If you're curious about who the figure could be (and who I think it is) and want to read some short excerpts from Whispers in the Mist, please check out my Facebook author page. It's open to the public, and you don't have to be signed up for Facebook to view it (I don't think). Just scroll down a little to view the posts with the word GIVEAWAY in them.

Let me know what you think!

Question for you, dear readers: What do you look for in a cover? Do you pick up books based on their covers?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Back in 1888

I'm now putting the final polish on my second historical mystery. Quaker midwife Rose Carroll is once again trying to track down a murderer in an 1888 Massachusetts mill town. This time the subplots have to do with continuing prejudice against former slaves, a baby's eyes becoming infected from his mother's gonorrhea, and the conflict that arises between sweethearts of two different faiths and social classes.

The research continues. The former slave in the story, Akwasi, who has become a Quaker and has a successful furniture-making business, is brought in for questioning for the murder, and so I had to understand police procedure from the time. I checked around, and, voila! I found a book from 1890 called The Massachusetts Peace Officer: a Manual for Sheriffs, Constables, Police, and Other Civil Officers. And it's perfect. It states the laws, illustrates with various cases, and more. An invaluable resource.

Gonorrhea was next. I looked up symptoms in men and women, and I knew there wasn't a real cure until antibiotics came along a few decades later. But was there any treatment? Why, yes. I found a long paper describing using balsam (basically sap) of the Copaiba tree from South America, right down to the dosage. The extract didn't always succeed in reducing the inflammation, but occasionally did. Also sometimes effective were Cubebs, a kind of pepper from Indonesia.

And then there's language. Yes, gonorrhea was called "the clap" as of the 1580s. "Maitre d'" isn't attested until 1890, however, so my character can't use that. "Blowhard" was attested as of the 1850s, as was, "Don't cross the bridge 'till you come to it" - the latter from the poet Longfellow. "Paycheck" wasn't used until 1894, but "great minds think alike" was written in the early part of the nineteenth century.

You never know where research will take you!

Readers, anybody have an interesting tidbit from the Victorian days? Writers, what has your research uncovered?

Oh, and check out this fabulous review of Delivering the Truth from historian and award-winning short story author, KB Inglee!

"As a midwife, Rose Carroll gets to go into houses all over town. Not just the houses but the bedrooms, and the private lives. It’s a perfect set up for a detective. As a Quaker she has a strong sense of justice.
I love books in which real historical people appear as secondary characters. John Greenleaf Whittier is the kindly mentor and the voice of conscience.
I love books with a strong sense of place. Edith has done her research on the town renowned for the manufacture of fine carriages.
I love strong women protagonists who still seem a part of the time in which the author has set them. Rose is one of my favorites."

Monday, October 5, 2015

Knock on Wood

--by Linda O. Johnston

This is one of THOSE months.

Which months?

Months in which I have a new release from Midnight Ink!

This time, it's KNOCK ON WOOD, my second Superstition Mystery.  The series features Rory Chasen, a superstition agnostic who's come to Destiny, California, which is all about superstitions, to learn their reality after her fiancĂ© walked under a ladder and was killed.  Her arrival, and the first murder she has to solve, was described in the first Superstition Mystery LOST UNDER A LADDER.  In that book, she's also asked to manage the Lucky Dog Boutique by its owner, whose life Rory's lucky black and white dog Pluckie saves.

In KNOCK ON WOOD, Rory's best friend Gemma arrives for a visit, stays to manage the nearby Broken Mirror Bookstore, and winds up being a murder suspect.  Guess who has to help clear her.

I love writing cozy mysteries!  I like putting myself in the figurative shoes of my protagonists.  Not that I'd ever want to stumble over a dead body or have to save my friends or myself from arrest by figuring out whodunit, but it's a wonderful outlet for my active imagination. 

Plus, all my mysteries star dogs--and I'm a real dog lover.  In fact, as I've been sitting here writing this post and some other material I've had to leave my computer for a few minutes now and then when instructed by one of my dogs to take them outside or open the front door so they can see the world and seek treats that neighbors bring!

And with the Superstition Mysteries, I get the added benefit of researching and including all kinds of superstitions.  Yes, the most common ones like--of course--knocking on wood and crossing fingers are there a lot, and there's at least one black cat in Destiny, but I also use many less known superstitions.

Which ones?  Well, you could always pick up a copy of LOST UNDER A LADDER and, in a couple of days, KNOCK ON WOOD and find out!