Monday, December 26, 2016

Inspirations in Fiction

By Tracy Weber

I tend not to write about my real-life friends in my Downward Dog Mystery Series. It just seems mean somehow. Most of the characters I portray are either murder victims or suspects. Where’s the fun in that?

There are two notable exceptions though, and both are key characters in the entire series, including my newest mystery, A Fatal Twist. Both were important influences on my life, and I loved them more than anything. As the universe would have it, I lost both of them last July, and on the same day. July 22, 2016 to be exact.
Most of my friends know that Bella, the German shepherd in my series, was modeled after my own German shepherd, Tasha. Tasha and I spent twelve years together. She was simultaneously one of the biggest challenges of my life and my greatest teacher. Like Bella, she lived with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) an autoimmune disease that left her unable to digest food unless prescription enzymes were added to every meal. Also like Bella, she was reactive, meaning that she barked, lunged, and made herself scary-looking to strangers, other dogs, and every feline that crossed her path. As a German shepherd, she was pretty good at it.
Tasha loved me to a fault, and she protected me fiercely. She was intelligent, loyal, gorgeous, and empathetic. She changed my life, in every way for the better.
My best teenage friend, Michelle, was the model for Rene in my series. We met at age fifteen and quickly became inseparable. Michelle was smart as a whip, funny, gorgeous, and had some magical hold over every man who ever laid eyes on her. She worked as a fashion model for a number of years. As teenagers, we wore matching t-shirts with our school mascot (the Billings West High Golden Bears) on them and the word “Huggable” written below. We spent so much time together that many people didn’t know which one of us was which, so they simply called us “The Huggables.”
Rene is Kate’s touchstone, like Michelle was for me. She knows all of Kate’s inner bullshit and loves her anyway. We all need a friend like that. I had Michelle, and I miss her dearly.
I’m still not sure why my two best friends passed on the same day, but I like to think that it’s because they needed each other. I like to think that they are keeping each other company in the afterlife, having a great time until I can join them. In the meantime, I’m honored to keep them alive in my mysteries.
May I do their memories justice.

Tracy Weber
All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Happy Flaky Holiday Season

By Lisa Alber

Happy holidays! I hope you're having a wonderful season. I'm not paying much attention to the holidays this year. I probably should care, but I find that I don't, and that's a huge relief. The holiday season sometimes brings out the perfectionist in me: gotta buy all the right gifts, gotta send cards with personalized notes to everyone, gotta deck the halls with every Christmas decoration I own (which is a lot).

This year, I'm rebelling. I'm enjoying a flaky holiday season, and it's fantastic! It helped that from Wednesday to Monday this past week I was holed up on extended snow days. My car had broken down anyhow, as luck would have it, so I really couldn't drive anywhere even if I'd wanted to risk the icy, snowy streets in my hilly neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. (Portland isn't equipped for snow--the city basically stops for anything over an inch.)

I baked banana muffins, slow-cooked black beans, and wallowed in holiday flakiness. No shopping, no errand-running, no nothing except working from my cozy writing spot at the dining room table with my little dog Fawn keeping me company.

And I think this is okay. I've been under a lot of stress for various reasons and not sleeping well. Sometimes flakiness is just the antidote, don't you think?

Now, my car is fixed (split radiator), and I'm back in the world ... BUT, maintaining my flaky attitude toward the holiday season. Last year, as I recall, I barely got any fiction accomplished in December because of my Christmas perfectionism. And this year? Lots. PATH IN DARKNESS, coming out August 2017, is coming along nicely. I'm at the fine-tuning editorial stage.

Wishing you the best for the rest of 2016 and Happy New Year. See you in 2017!

Cheers, Lisa

Lisa Alber is the author of the County Clare mysteries. Her debut novel, Kilmoon, has been called "utterly poetic" and "a stirring debut." Her second in the County Clare mysteries, WHISPERS IN THE MIST came out in August from Midnight Ink Books. Ever distractible, you may find her staring out windows, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging round out her distractions. Facebook | Twitter

Monday, December 19, 2016

And a Very Happy Holiday to You!

Almost anyone who knows me knows that this is not my favorite time of the year. I find the holidays stressful. They're expensive. They take time. They take thought. Yet, I still have to do everything else I usually do and pay for all the things I usually pay for and think about all the things I usually think about.

This year seems to be different. Maybe it's because my kids are older and don't expect the holidays to be magical. Maybe it's because I don't have quite as many events that I have to attend out of a sense of duty rather than pleasure. Maybe it's because this buttercup has just decided to suck it up.

Last night, however, was a holiday event that I always enjoy: my friend Carol's annual Hanukkah party or, as it has been dubbed, Latkepalooza.

Carol and I have been getting our families together to celebrate Hanukkah for around fourteen years now. What started as a little event with her family and mine centered around the kids has turned into a rip-roaring party where a lot of wine gets consumed along with pounds of brisket and latkes. We have one friend who insists on bring Hamantaschen every year despite the fact that we keep politely explaining that it's like bringing Easter eggs to a Christmas party. They're still tasty so, you know, whatever.

Then, at some point in the evening, I pull out my autoharp and perform (with audience participation please!) the Adam Sandler Hanukkah Song (photo of this year's performance above). I won't lie. I like how everyone gathers around.I like getting the big laughs at the OJ Simpson line. I like the applause at the end.

All this is to say, I hope you enjoy whatever holiday traditions you have in health and prosperity this year.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Christmas Surprise

Edith here, feeling the holiday spirit now we have snow on the ground! This post, a short tale told by midwife Rose Carroll's niece, Faith Bailey, first appeared on the Killer Characters blog. Take it away, Faith.

I confess to feeling a bit melancholy of late. 'Tis the Yule season, after all. Everywhere I walk in our bustling mill and factory town of Amesbury people are getting ready to celebrate the Christ's birthday. Surely no town in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts decorates in a more festive style than do we.

Green garlands loop over windows. Red balls and bows adorn even the carriage traces. Ladies and girls sport green and red garments, with beribboned holiday hats and fancy dress slippers. White candles in windows light up the dark nights.

So why do I profess unhappy sentiments? I am a teenaged Quaker mill girl with a secret longing for just a touch of frippery. How I would love to wear a lacy cuff on a stylish frock and a colored feather in a smartly trimmed hat. 

Photo by Edward Gerrish Mair
Even on normal days we dress plainly and soberly, and I am not allowed to play a part in the gaiety of the season. Our faith does not believe in celebrating Christmas as more special than any other day. Our plainly dressed Meetinghouse is lovely in the snow, it is true. But it does not hold an evergreen tree festooned with cranberries and gifts within.

And so imagine my surprise when I awoke on the twenty-fifth of Twelfth Month, 1888, to find five packages wrapped in red paper and tied with curly green ribbon on our kitchen table. They were labeled with my sister's and my names and those of my three brothers. 

My aunt Rose, the midwife, who lives with us since my mother's death a year ago, stood at the stove stirring the cornmeal porridge with a tiny smile playing about her lips. 

"Rose, did thee..." I began to ask after I recovered from my surprise.

Now beaming, she held up her hand. "I believe a man in red stopped by late last night." 

My mouth dropped open. "Santa Claus? But--"

She beckoned me closer. "Don't tell the younger ones," she whispered, but his middle name was David."

I covered my mouth and giggled. Her handsome beau - not a Friend - was David Dodge of Newburyport. 

The twins, little Betsy, even eleven-year old Luke, all were charmed by their candy and  gift, as was I. And we had a bit more holiday cheer, as it turned out, when David came in the large Dodge carriage that afternoon to fetch the entire family away for Christmas dinner. 

Readers: what was your biggest Christmas surprise?

Monday, December 5, 2016

My Last Post of the Year

by Linda O. Johnston

   The first Monday of the month crept up on me.  I realized yesterday that it was almost time for me to post on InkSpot again while I was waiting for my turn to join the Winter Online Book Party hosted by blogger and Internet presence Kathleen Kaminski.  Fun event!  I offered a prize consisting of a copy of my third Superstition Mystery, UNLUCKY CHARMS, plus some superstition swag, and had lots of people liking and commenting on my posts.  Online parties can be hectic with all those posts and comments but they're definitely something I enjoy.

   And not only is this the first Monday of the month.  It's the first Monday of December--the last month of the year.  Where did the time go?  Well, I did spend a lot of it with my nose nearly against the computer screen as I wrote and edited books.  That certainly helps to make the time go fast. 

   I'm anticipating another busy year in 2017.  I've registered for several conferences already, including Malice Domestic and the California Crime Writers Conference.  I've got deadlines and new books to look forward to as well.

   Enjoy your last month of the year.  Next time I post here it'll be the new year!

Monday, November 28, 2016

I present to you: Chapter 1 of A FATAL TWIST!

By Tracy Weber

Book 4 in my Downward Dog Mystery series, A Fatal Twist, officially launches on January 8, but now's the perfect time to put it on your Christmas list for some Santa preorder love! For a partial list of sellers, please see my author website:  

In case you're wondering what the book's all about, I present to you Chapter 1.  Enjoy, and please let me know what you think in the comments!

When I entered the cold, darkened room a lifetime ago, I thought I was ready. I’d trained for this day. Looked forward to it, even. I’d prepared for the hunger, the exhaustion. Steeled myself for the blood. But I’d never anticipated the sounds. The low, tortured moans of the young blonde woman crouched before me. I tentatively reached out my hand, hoping to provide her some minimal form of comfort. She growled at me through bared teeth. A feral dog ready to snap.

“Touch me again and I’ll slice off your fingers.”

I could only hope that my live-in boyfriend, Michael, wouldn’t want to get frisky anytime soon. Witnessing six hours—and counting—of Rhonda’s unmedicated labor might put me off sex forever.

The stream of invectives she spewed next would have offended a drunken sailor, which was particularly impressive considering they came from the mouth of a twenty-four-year-old grade school teacher wearing teddy bear slipper-socks and a fuzzy pink bathrobe. I inhaled a deep breath of lavender-scented air, gave her my most serene yoga teacher smile, and backed away. Summer, my doula trainer, motioned me to the side with her eyes.

In spite of my obvious fumbling, Summer seemed unphased, which she probably was. She’d already assisted in over two hundred births. This was my first.

Like a submissive wolf pacifying her alpha, I avoided direct eye contact. I glanced around the room, pretending to take in my surroundings. The upscale birthing suite was different from any hospital room I’d been in before, which wasn’t surprising. A Better Birth Association (ABBA—not to be confused with the band of the same name) was a one-of-its-kind birthing center that blended Western medical approaches with a home-birthing-like atmosphere, all housed in a converted 1920s apartment building in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood.

ABBA’s birth center had been specifically designed to meet the need of an emerging market in Seattle’s childbirth industry: parents of means who wanted low intervention, home-like births while remaining only seconds away from the latest cutting-edge equipment and liberal pain medication, should they change their minds. ABBA’s tagline read, The Comforts of Home, the Benefits of Modern Medicine.

If these were the comforts of home, my house needed an upgrade. The interior of the birthing suite had been restored with period-appropriate touches: double-hung windows, detailed millwork, freshly painted wainscoting. Live ferns and ficus trees flourished near the windows. The soft, soothing tones of Bach’s Canon No. 1 filtered through the air. A pull-out couch, a rocking chair, and an end table with a granite fountain sat across the room. The only nods to the medical nature of the facility were the hospital bed, which was covered in a purple-blue quilt, and several pieces of high-tech medical equipment that were shielded from view by bamboo shoji screens. The room was elegant enough that if giving birth weren’t a requirement, I would have asked to vacation there.

Summer squatted on the ground, leaned forward, and took Rhonda’s hands. Her soft, voluptuous curves and gray-streaked dark hair seemed maternal, comforting somehow. As if they were medals of honor—proof that she’d survived the birth process countless times before. The tired-looking circles under her eyes didn’t detract from the power of her voice.

“It’s okay, Rhonda. Look at me. Focus. Breathe. Just like we practiced. This contraction’s almost over. All you need to do is hang on for a few more seconds.”

Tears pooled behind Rhonda’s lashes. “I can’t.”

“Yes, you can. We’ll do it together.”

For the next twenty seconds, the room was filled with deep breaths, low moans, and Summer’s whispered assurances. I stood helplessly next to Rhonda’s husband, who looked more distraught than I felt.

At the end of the contraction, Rhonda’s eyes glazed over. She slumped against the wall.

“I think I should go back to the bed now.”

I grabbed one arm; Summer, the other. I smiled at Rhonda as we guided her to the partially raised hospital bed. “Whew. That was a tough one.”

Rhonda gave me a wan smile. “I’m so sorry, Kate. I never swear. It’s like I’ve developed some sort of pain-induced Tourette’s. I can’t stop myself.”

Her husband grinned. “I can’t even say the word ‘damn’ in our house without putting a dollar in the cookie jar.” He slid a pillow behind Rhonda’s back and offered her a paper cup filled with ice chips. “Believe me, babe, I’m keeping track. At the rate you’re going, we’ll have enough in there for Baby Jane’s college tuition.” He pretended to duck, as if expecting Rhonda to slug him.

“Stop calling her that.” Rhonda wrinkled her lips, but her eyes showed no irritation. “I haven’t picked out a name yet, but she’s not going to be a Jane Doe. She’ll tell me her name when I see her.”

I had to give the man extra-credit karma points for courage. Michael would never crack a joke while I was preparing to push a living seven-pound bowling ball out of my lady parts. I’d worked hard over the past nine months to cool down my Hulk-like temper, but all bets would be off in the middle of a contraction. One bad joke, and I’d probably smack him over the head with a bedpan.

If he was lucky.

“Don’t worry, Rhonda,” Summer replied. “Women say all kinds of things in the middle of a contraction. What happens in the delivery room stays in the delivery room.” She leveled a stern look at the father. “And there will be no keeping track of swearing—or anything else—Dad.”

The labor nurse, whose name tag read Tamara Phillips, turned to Rhonda. Her strawberry-blonde hair was tied back in a severe-looking bun, but her blue-green eyes radiated compassionate concern. “You’ve been stuck at four centimeters for a while now. Are you sure you don’t want an epidural? We’re going to be at this for a long time. Possibly all night and well into tomorrow.”

I glanced at the room’s Buddha-shaped wall clock. Three minutes after midnight. Ugh.

Nurse Tamara continued. “I know you don’t want Pitocin, but I wish you’d reconsider an epidural. Sometimes getting rid of the pain helps labor progress.”

Rhonda’s expression grew worried. “Is the baby all right?”

The nurse glanced behind the shoji screen at the monitor. “The heartbeat looks great. Steady as a drum.” She furrowed her brow. “You, on the other hand, are suffering. You can give birth without benefit of pain medication, but you don’t have to. We live in the twenty-first century. There’s no reason for childbirth to be torture.” She pointed to a black phone on the wall. “I can have our nurse anesthetist here with a single phone call.”

Summer gave Nurse Tamara a look. The kind Dad used to give right before he dragged me out of the room for a good scolding. She spoke through clenched teeth. “Can I talk to you for a second?”

Forced smile notwithstanding, Summer’s question wasn’t really a request. She nodded toward the baby’s father. “Dad, you stay here with Rhonda. We’ll be back in a minute.” She motioned for the nurse and me to follow her into the hall.

Summer spoke as soon as the door closed behind us. “I know you mean well,” she began, sounding like she knew nothing of the sort, “but as I pointed out to you an hour ago, Rhonda specifically asked in her birth plan not to be offered pain medication. Giving birth naturally is important to her. If she changes her mind, she’ll tell me.”

Nurse Tamara’s lips tightened. “There’s simply no reason for her to suffer. It could be twelve hours before that baby comes.”

Summer crossed her arms and stepped her feet wide. “Her birth, her choice.”

The nurse’s frown lines deepened.

The two women glared at each other in silence, each waiting for the other to give ground. I wondered—not for the first time today— if their conflict had anything to do with Rhonda or her supposed birth plan. From the moment I’d entered the birthing suite, I’d felt a palpable, tense energy between the two women. As if every interaction was the next move in a covert battle for dominance.

After several long moments, Nurse Tamara caved.“Fine, for now. But you’re not helping her.” She spun on her heel and marched back through the door.

I sagged against the wall, grateful for once that I wasn’t the source of the tumult. When I’d volunteered to be the doula at my best friend Rene’s upcoming birth, I’d thought a doula was a labor coach with a fancy title. Since then, I’d learned that the job included so much more: helping the couple determine a birth plan, advocating for the needs of the entire family—dad included—and occasionally running interference with the mom-to-be’s healthcare professionals.

I hadn’t expected the last part to be quite so heated.

“Is it always this intense?” I asked Summer.

“Work as a doula can be challenging,” she replied. “But honestly, we’ve barely been at this six hours. If I were you, I’d prepare to settle in. First babies can take a long time.”

“No worries there. I’m here for the duration.” I gestured to the door. “I meant with the nurse. Is a doula’s relationship with the medical team supposed to be that confrontational?”

Summer’s eyebrows lifted. “Oh, you mean my spat with Nurse Doom and Gloom.” She frowned at the closed door, as if replaying the scene on its smooth oak surface. When she turned back toward me, her face wore a resigned expression.

“Tamara and I have a history, but you’re right. I should back off. I’m being a terrible example for you. A doula’s job is to facilitate, not berate.” She sighed. “Take a lesson from that, Kate, especially since your friend plans to give birth in a hospital. If you want to support hospital births, you’ll have to learn how to partner with Western healthcare providers.”

“Is a hospital birth that much different than one here at ABBA?”

She shrugged. “Depends on the hospital. Frankly, depends on the labor and delivery nurse, too. Personally, I prefer home births. But as far as medical facilities go, ABBA is one of the best. It only grants privileges to highly regarded private practice OB/GYNs who support natural childbirth. Most hospitals advocate interventions, like that epidural Nurse Tamara keeps pushing. Drives me batty. Epidurals, Pitocin, C-sections … they simply aren’t needed most of the time. Natural childbirth is far healthier for both mom and her baby.”

I wasn’t sure I agreed with Summer’s steadfast devotion to “natural” childbirth. (Was there any other kind?) But she was right about ABBA, which was one of the most prestigious birthing centers in the Pacific Northwest. There was no better place in Seattle to have a baby. If you could afford it.

A low groan came from Rhonda’s suite. “We’d better go back in,” Summer said. “Tamara’s right. We could be here awhile.”

Summer coached Rhonda through the next set of contractions, skillfully holding her attention while the nurse did something I didn’t care to think about underneath the sheets. When the contraction ended, Nurse Tamara sat back and frowned.

“Still four centimeters.”

Rhonda moaned. “Seriously? Maybe I should get an epidural after all.” Her eyes begged Summer for permission. “What do you think?”

Summer’s face remained blank. “It doesn’t matter what I think. It’s your choice.”

The nurse reached for the phone, preparing to dial her magic number.

The thought of watching someone insert a three-and-a-half inch needle into Rhonda’s spine made my stomach feel woozy. From the expression on her husband’s face, he felt downright ill.

Rhonda seemed conflicted. “If I get an epidural, I’ll be confined to the bed, right?”

Summer nodded. “Yes, for the rest of the labor. Do you want to stick with less invasive options for now?”

Rhonda didn’t reply.

Summer took that to mean yes. “Good choice.” She gestured toward the husband. “You look like you could use some fresh air. Why don’t you take a break while I get Rhonda into the jetted tub?”

He took a step toward the door, then turned back to his wife. “You okay with this, hon?”

Rhonda nodded.

Summer patted him on the back. “Go on now. We’ll call your cell if we need anything.” As the door closed behind him, she pulled me aside and whispered, “You look like you’re about to faint. Did you eat dinner before you left home?”

I shook my head no.

“Didn’t you listen in training? Rule number one of being a doula: eat before you leave for the birth. Things can get crazy, quick.” She frowned. “The last thing I need is for you to pass out on me. Go to the family room and have a snack, but don’t be gone long. Bring me back a bottle of water.”

The family room was another of ABBA’s many perks: a lounge in which families and support staff could get sustenance without leaving the facility. I wasn’t sure doulas-in-training were the intended customers, but who was I to quibble?

I stopped in the restroom for a quick bio break, then headed down the facility’s light pink hallway. The spicy scent of Kung Pao Tofu taunted my stomach, courtesy of an open window and the twenty-four-hour Chinese restaurant next door.

A quick left turn later, I was foraging through the empty family room, which was furnished with overstuffed chairs, ornately detailed wooden end tables, and a large selection of puzzles, games, and current magazines. A cabinet topped with a sign labeled Snacks was stocked with protein bars, crackers, and single-serve packages of peanut butter. A refrigerator in the corner held sodas and bottled water. I smothered an individually wrapped graham cracker with a thick coating of peanut butter, added some honey, and placed another cracker on top—my version of a home-cooked meal. I popped the concoction into my mouth, wiped the stray honey from my lips, and groaned. Stale crackers and sweetening-laced peanuts never tasted so good. I slammed down three more, coated with an extra layer of honey for good measure.

Low blood sugar catastrophe averted, I pulled out my cell phone to call Michael.

He answered on the second ring. “Hey, babe. Are you on your way home?”

“Not even close. At the rate things are going, I might still be here next week. Sorry to call so late, but I wanted to let you know not to expect me tonight.”

A cupboard door closed on the other end of the line.

“Aren’t you in bed yet?” I asked.

“Nope. I can’t sleep without you here, so I’m making a sandwich. If you’re nice to me, I’ll make a batch of those vegan brownies you love so much.”

I grinned. Michael was learning. I wouldn’t complain about coming home to a messy kitchen if he’d baked something worth cleaning it for.

A metallic rendition of Brahms’ Lullaby floated through the birth center’s sound system, signaling that a new baby had been delivered. Hopefully Rhonda’s wouldn’t be far behind.

“I need to get back, Michael, but I’ll call again in the morning. Give Bella a kiss for me.” Bella’s distinctive sharp bark sounded in the background.

“Bella says she misses you.”

Michael’s intention was sweet, but we both knew what my hundred-pound German shepherd was actually saying: Give me a bite of that sandwich. Now.

I smiled. “Tell her I miss her, too. I miss both of you. Don’t feed her too many treats, and try not to make a mess.”

“Me? When have I ever made a mess?”

I ignored his obvious sarcasm, told him I loved him, and clicked off the phone.


A vegan protein bar and another peanut-butter-coated cracker later, I grabbed two bottles of water from the fridge and started to head back.

Whispered voices stopped me at the family room door.

“I told you, we can’t do this here.”

I peeked into the hall, toward the sound. Four doors down, a fiftyish man in a white doctor’s coat leaned over a woman wearing a black cocktail dress and red stilettos. The female, a mid-thirties Hispanic woman with heavily lined, deep cocoa eyes, gave him a sultry pout.

“If not here, where? I’ve been waiting in that hotel room for hours.” She nuzzled his neck. Her right hand lay flat against his chest. Her left explored significantly further south.

The man’s voice turned low and throaty. “You’re killing me.” He reluctantly pushed her away, exposing his handsome face, designer glasses, and perfectly tousled George Clooney–like hair. “I told you I’d call as soon as I could leave, and I will. But we can’t be seen like this. Not here. Especially not now.”

She ran a burgundy fingernail down the center of his sternum. “So what if someone sees us? I’m tired of sneaking around. It’s time for you to get a divorce. Past time.”

The man flashed a conciliatory smile. “Patience, Mariella. Patience. I told you. As soon as the lawsuit is settled, I’ll leave her.”

She grabbed his lapels and pulled him closer. “In case you haven’t noticed, patience isn’t my strong suit.”

This time, he didn’t resist her. Their show zoomed right past PG on the fast track to R.

And they were blocking my way back to Rhonda’s birthing suite.


What was I supposed to do now? I considered tiptoeing past the two lovers, hoping they wouldn’t notice me. I considered announcing myself loudly, in hopes that they’d scurry away. I even considered spraying them both with the nearest fire extinguisher in an attempt to cool them down before the building ignited.

Their show was that hot.

In the end, I didn’t have to do anything.

Nurse Tamara appeared behind them and froze. At first she seemed angry, but then the right corner of her mouth slowly lifted, forming a grin that seemed more contemptuous than friendly. She tapped the man on the shoulder, surprising him.

“You certainly live up to your nickname, don’t you, Dr. Dick? Can’t even keep it in your pants for a few hours at work? My lawyer’s going to love this.”

The man’s mouth dropped open, but he remained silent.

Mariella grabbed Nurse Tamara’s arm. “Back off, Tamara.”

Nurse Tamara shoved her away. “You back off, you little gold digger. If you think you two are going to live happily ever after, you’re a fool.” She gave Dr. Dick a scathing look. “That scumbag won’t leave his wife until the day he dies.”

She pushed past the shocked-looking couple and marched up to me. “Summer wants you to go back and meet the new nurse. My shift’s over.” She continued to the end of the hallway, then stopped at the exit and growled over her shoulder. “I’m out of here. I’ve had enough of this circus for one day.”

“Tamara, wait!” Dr. Dick ran after her. The heavy metal door slammed behind them.

Mariella stared at the glowing green-and-white exit sign, face locked in an expression of surprised frustration. After several long, uncomfortable seconds, she frowned at me. “What’re you staring at?”

“Nothing. Sorry.”

I scooted past her and jogged back to the birthing suite. When I opened the door, Summer and a new nurse were whispering in the corner. Rhonda squatted on a dark green birthing ball, holding her belly and rocking back and forth.

Still at four centimeters.

Pre-order your copy of A Fatal Twist now at these online booksellers!

About A Fatal Twist: Yoga instructor Kate Davidson’s life takes a chaotic turn once she agrees to not only be the doula for her pregnant best friend, but also play foster mother to two puppies. The chaos only gets worse when Kate finds the dead body of a philandering fertility doctor and Rachel, one of her yoga students, fleeing the scene. 

Kate is convinced her student is innocent, and she sets out to find the real killer before her testimony condemns Rachel to a life behind bars. But her hands are full with caring for three dogs, teaching yoga classes, and gaining an unexpected crime-solving partner. If she’s not careful, Kate’s next yoga pose may be a fatal one.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Mysteries of Thanksgiving


A quick search of Thanksgiving mysteries will give you oodles of reading options for a themed holiday weekend, but if you google mysterious things about Thanksgiving, you get quite diverse list. Here are a few.

First, from National Geographic news: Does Turkey Make You Sleepy? Hmmm... this one might surprise you!

Second, from the Daily Mail: Who's that mystery man in the Kardashian's Thanksgiving photo? I know you won't be able to sleep off all that turkey without finding out.

And finally, from NY Daily News: 6 Thanksgiving mysteries solved. You're welcome.

This Thanksgiving in addition to being thankful for my family, friends, health, and home, I'm thankful for finding a fun new genre to write--cozies! It's a blast and I look forward to writing the next book in my Dog Days series. The characters have become old friends I look forward to sitting down and visiting and getting into trouble with.

I wish you all a day filled with food, family, friends, love, and laughter.

All My Best,

Jamie Blair

Deadly Dog Days

Monday, November 21, 2016

Cover Me in Darkness ready to launch

In about two and a half weeks, my first book with Midnight Ink is going to launch. Cover Me in Darkness is scheduled to hit stores December 8. Friends who pre-ordered are telling me that Amazon is already shipping.

This is always an odd time for me as it is for a lot of authors. I'm filled with excitement, dread, wild hope, despair. Will the public love it? Hate it? Not care about it at all? All of that is possible. Right now, I'm mainly hopeful because of the reviews. Here's a smattering:

Library Journal (starred review):
Better known for her lighthearted chick lit and paranormal series, Rendahl, who also writes romantic suspense under the Eileen Carr pseudonym and cozies as Kristi Abbott, has penned a hard-to-put-down psychological thriller that also offers a nuanced look at a damaged woman.

Publisher's Weekly:

Pressure at work and home unexpectedly conjoin, driving emotionally fragile Amanda to the brink as the book builds to its melodramatic finish.

Bonus: They called it "disturbing."

Kirkus Reviews:

Unlikely allies drive a story in which Rendahl (Dead Letter Day, 2013, etc.) never lets her heroine escape her past.

Romantic Times:

Cover Me in Darkness appeals to mystery lovers with by starting off with a puzzling suicide to keep readers rapt.

ForeWord Reviews:

Cover Me in Darkness is about family, loyalty, and trust. Rendahl’s writing is light and sharp, perfect for a story that moves quickly—from initial crime to deep investigation—while handling intense subject material.

So, yeah, hopeful, but still nervous.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


By Lisa Alber

Whew! OK, are we back to regularly scheduled programming yet? I, like so many of us, have been obsessed with politics for the past few months. But now, it's time to return to my writing, get back into routines, and keep abreast of the news without letting emotions run away from me.

That said, look what I have--a cover! PATH INTO DARKNESS comes out in August 2017, and it's available for preorder right here.

I love those brooding clouds on the horizon and the fact that the terrain reminds me of County Clare, where the story takes place. I have many similar photos of rural lanes, rock walls, and limestone hills.

A haunting tale of family secrets, madness, and healing in small-town Ireland

Lisfenora is known across the British Isles for its yearly matchmaking festival. But a local man’s murder and the grim discovery in his home have cast a somber mood over the town. Detective Sergeant Danny Ahern tries to make sense of the chaotic scene while struggling to set aside moral conflicts and grief for his comatose wife. Within days, he’s plunged into even darker terrain when the investigation leads him on a collision course with the Tate family: troubled Nathan, who conceals secrets within ghastly secrets, and beautiful Mari, the daughter he abandoned years ago.

As darkness asserts its grip on Nathan, propelling him toward a tragic downfall, Danny finds himself traveling down his own dark path between life and death.

Lisa Alber is the author of the County Clare mysteries. Her debut novel, Kilmoon, has been called "utterly poetic" and "a stirring debut." Her second in the County Clare mysteries, WHISPERS IN THE MIST came out in August from Midnight Ink Books. Ever distractible, you may find her staring out windows, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging round out her distractions. Facebook | Twitter

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Election Week, 1888

Edith here.

I'm writing this the day before the 2016 election, but it's going to appear two days after. Since this is not a political blog, what I write doesn't have to relate to the results of the nation's vote. So I thought I'd give you a quick taste of my fictional Election Day from 1888, which will appear in Turning the Tide, book three in this series, releasing in April, 2018.

Midwife Rose Carroll's mother, a suffrage activist, has come to visit, and the Amesbury Woman Suffrage Association turns out in force across from the poll on Election day. Elizabeth Cady Stanton has also come to town to support the women. 

Here's part of the scene:

The Amesbury Armory, now Town Hall
Voting was taking place at the Armory, a recently completed town building, and the polls had already been open for an hour. I wore my bright yellow sash slung diagonally across my torso, and Mother wore one from a previous event, since the color was a symbol of the movement. She’d told me using the color of sunflowers was chosen because the flower always turns its face to the light and follows the course of the sun, as if worshiping the archetype of righteousness. She’d brought a sash for Faith, too. We received a couple of rude comments from men we passed on our way here, one glare from an older matron, and several admiring glances from women in shops we walked by.

Now I gasped. In front of a three-story brick home on the other side of the street from the Armory a hundred women in matching yellow sashes lined the sidewalk. The women stood mostly in silence, watching men file in and out of the polling place. One demonstrator held a placard reading, “Women Bring All Voters Into The World. Let Women Vote,” and it showed a drawing of a mother cradling a baby. I wished I’d thought to create a poster like hers. Other signs read, “Ballots for Both” or “Equal Suffrage,” and number of others simply had, “Votes for Women” printed in large block letters. Many were decorated with a yellow matching our sashes.

Elizabeth Stanton stood in the middle of the line next to a woman holding an American flag on a pole and I spotted Zula at the far end handing out sashes to newcomers who needed them.

Faith’s eyes went big. “Granny Dot, this is stunning. Has thee ever seen a demonstration so big?”

I have, but today’s numbers are quite impressive for a town this size.” 

Two tall and wide arched windows flanked the arched door in the middle of the red brick building opposite, which was draped with red-white-and-blue bunting. Representatives from both the Democratic and Republican parties handed colored ballots to the men entering, the Republicans wearing tall white hats with black bands, the Democrats the same hat but with a pearl-colored band. A half dozen men held posters mounted on sticks. Several featured the President’s and A.G. Thurman’s images, and others had the faces of Benjamin Harrison and his running mate, Levi Morton. An older police officer stood with his hands behind his back, his eyes roaming constantly.

A thickset man in a bowler and overcoat approached the polls. When he saw us, he lifted his fist and shook it, an angry look on his face. The flag holder raised her standard, smiled, and waved it at him in return. It was our flag, too, after all. He turned and stomped up the steps into the building.

Edith back in 2016: Readers, what do you think? Did you know who ran that year? How about who won? What's your favorite presidential election year?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Unlucky Charms' First Month

by Linda O. Johnston

Once again the first Monday of the month turns out to occur during the second week.  Happy November, everyone!  Hope you're all ready for the year to end soon.  It's certainly going fast.

As I said last month, my third Superstition Mystery, UNLUCKY CHARMS, was released on October 8.  Fun!   

To help introduce it, I did my standard and enjoyable blog tour and also guest blogged where invited.  I attended in-person events and visited bookstores to sign copies and leave bookmarks.  If there weren't any copies, I requested that they order them, and most managers were highly accommodating, at least in my local area.

I introduced it on Facebook, my standard social media resource.  I know a lot of you reading this use other social media as well but when I've tried others I wind up going back to focus on FB.  My quirk, perhaps, but I think it works well for me.

Since the release, I also took a family trip to Indiana and New York City.  When I could, I also popped into bookstores there and at least left bookmarks.  It was fun to see UNLUCKY CHARMS in bookstores both in Indiana and NYC.

So... UNLUCKY CHARMS is being lucky for me.  My fingers are crossed that all of you have a great November, too.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Dying to Kill My Darlings

Kill ’em! Kill ’em all! Die my darlings, die!

Phew, now that I got that out. Let me explain.

William Faulkner—you know, that slouch author—is famed for many things like his 1949 Nobel for Literature and The Sound and the Fury not least among them. He is also noted for giving perhaps the most sage advice authors can get—“In writing, you must all kill your darlings.” A truer statement has never been made. Oh, Bill, what a guy ... if only I'd listened to you sooner.
Lesson for new authors and writers—be careful loving your own characters and story too much. When you do, three things happen: first, you can’t see your own story flaws; second, your agent and editor will see them and it hurts to hear; and third—the most painful one—you must kill them. Kill the characters you don’t need. Kill the subplot that gets in the way. Kill the clever chapters and cool action scenes that were dynamite to write and fun to read but truly don’t matter to the story.

Yes. You must kill. Coldly, with extreme prejudice.

Can you tell I’m a mystery and thriller writer? Just talking about killing my characters and subplots makes me tingle all over. (Not really, but it’s fun to say.)

This past summer, I failed to take my own advice. Yes siree, I totally let my own perceptions and love of the characters get in the way of a better story—almost. If not for my agent, the lovely and magnanimous Kimberley Cameron, I would have blown it. She saw my flaws for what they were—and the knives came out!

Let me explain.

I recently completed my new thriller, Double Effect. I’d written the original version a couple years ago with my mentor, Wally. It was written as a murder mystery with a terrorism subplot. I loved the original story and so did Wally. Unfortunately, sitting for a couple years while writing my mystery series, the Gumshoe Ghost, ended up dating the story too far back and I had to rewrite it. As I did, my mentor suddenly passed away. It was crushing to me and literally on his deathbed, he gave his last counsel on my writing—finish Double Effect as a thriller and get the damn thing done!

Off I went and there was where the trouble began. Double Effect was originally the story of a Latino street gang caught up with a cell of terrorists plotting to attack the US. The gang and the cell were at cross purposes and it caused hell to pay. Oh, there were other facets—a vixen FBI agent stumbling around, a corrupt cop, a wayward gang leader with a blood lust, and even a cell of foreign government operatives with their own agenda. All of them were in conflict with the hero, a long forgotten government operative who returned home to witness his brother’s murder. Confused yet? You should be. My agent was. My editor was. Regrettably, and the reason for this blog … I wasn’t.

I think authors suffer from the same illness sometimes. We know our stories too well and even after edits on edits, we have the story so fixed in our heads that we forget the edits changed things. So, after two full edits and rewrites of my story, all the subplots were twisted together and I totally failed to see it. I knew the underlying story and it was clear to me. I knew the characters and how they thought and moved through the story. I got it. It was great!

Ah, no. It wasn’t. It had potential, but only after a good bloodletting.

When my agent told me that she liked the underlying story but couldn’t get connected to the subplots, I was taken aback—aghast! What? Kill my characters? Lessen the subplots? How could you even think such a thing? I tried to explain… and I found myself tied in knots. Gulp. I’d created Frankenstein the subplot! So many moving pieces and part mystery, part thriller, and 100 proof too dense. It was two novels, not one. I just hadn’t seen it. My brain knew the story and the characters too well. I was hostage to my own novel. Those characters held me. Controlled me. Refused to allow me to let them go.

Alas, there was only one thing to do. I found a new story-line editor—enter the amazing and gifted Terri—and within a couple weeks, she untangled my story and gave me my marching orders. Cut. Kill. Rewrite. Focus …

It was painful reading her ideas and changes. There would be blood. Lots of blood. An entire subplot would require surgical extraction—a beheading of grammatical proportions! It was going to be a long few weeks and sleepless nights. Crying and teeth gnashing. Oh the horrors! Of all the humanities!

Then, one night about three a.m. (I sleep very little when I’m working on a book), it struck me like a bullet … they were right. It was time to kill them … kill them all. Those little darlings of mine who had corrupted me and forced me to protect them.  By six that morning, I’d gone through my outline and hacked away at what I needed to do. I compared my slaughter to what my new editor wanted and it was damn close. Then, through the tears and whimperings of those characters I’d given life to, it began.

Now, for the past two weeks—weekends and late night hours until I am ready to drop—I’ve cut and slashed and killed off a chunk of Double Effect. As I continued, an amazing thing began to take place—clarity. I no longer had to justify this character or that one. I didn’t have to find a way to connect one subplot into the ending. It was painful. Bloody painful. It felt like I’d killed my best friends and had to disavow parts of my own life. But as the rewrite continues, I’m having fun with it … challenging myself at every chapter to see if something should go. I fear what I’ve become … a serial killer?

So, here’s the moral to the story for anyone who listens. Kill ’em. Kill ’em all. Step back from your own work for a few weeks before you read it again. Ask three questions for each character: does it matter if they aren’t there? What do they contribute to the ending and plot? What if I just got rid of them, what would happen? If you find yourself searching for the answers, kill ’em. And for those subplots you love so much, three more questions: How does this strengthen the ending? Does it move the story faster or slower? And of course, what if I just pulled it out—would the story notice? Again, if your heart isn’t palpitating on the answers … kill ’em.

So, for you finishing your book, sit the story down for a while. Come back in a few weeks and bring your courage. Kill ’em … kill ’em cold and fast. Kill those little darlings before they kill you.

We’ll talk again next month.

Tj O’CONNOR IS THE GOLD MEDAL WINNER OF THE 2015 INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS BOOK AWARDS (IPPY) FOR MYSTERIES. He is the author of Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, and Dying to Tell—and New Sins for Old Scores, a new paranormal mystery coming in 2017! He recently finished his new thriller and is beginning three sequels to previous series. Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism, investigations, and threat analysis—life experiences that drive his novels. With his former life as a government agent and years as a consultant, he has lived and worked around the world in places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and throughout the Americas—among others. He was raised in New York's Hudson Valley and lives with his wife and Lab companions in Virginia where they raised five children. Dying to Know is also the 2015 Bronze Medal winner of the Reader’s Favorite Book Review Awards, a finalist for the Silver Falchion Best Books of 2014, and a finalist for the Foreword Review’s 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award.

Learn about Tj’s world at:
Web Site:


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Black Cat and Dog Days

In the spirit of Halloween, let me introduce you to one of the more sly characters in my soon-to-be-released cozy, Deadly Dog Days. One who shows up where you'd least expect him at the most unexpected times.

Spook is his own man. Owned by no one and free to roam, he sneaks inside our heroine, Cameron's house whenever the desire strikes. Cam isn't sure how Spook gets in, but she has a hunch it's through the attic. 

Aloof and light-footed, he likes to pad across the top of the refrigerator and slink through the books and knickknacks on the bookshelf. 

Spook even has a knack for showing up at the scene of the crime!

My cat, Cupcake (named by her first owner, my niece) was the influence for Spook. While Cupcake isn't necessarily sneaky, she is a little devil. Devil's food cupcake is what I like to call her. 

This is Cupcake. She's a wild woman. She and Spook would be best friends! 

Wishing you a safe and happy Halloween with lots of treats and no tricks!


Jamie Blair
My debut cozy mystery, DEADLY DOG DAYS, comes out November 8th! So go vote and then stop by the bookstore and grab a copy! 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Writing and Research and Travel. Oh My!

By Tracy Weber

Most of my Downward Dog Mystery series is set in the Seattle area, but in my fifth book (tentatively titled PreMeditated Murder) Kate and crew  go on a road trip to Cannon Beach, Oregon, to solve...

Well, that's part of the mystery! 

My love for Cannon Beach, however, is no secret. So I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit this past weekend and refamiliarize myself with the settings of  the pivotal scenes in the novel. Please join me and my three-and-a-half-month-old German shepherd pup, Ana, on a virtual tour--complete with some teasers!

We stayed at the Hallmark resort (the building in the photo below).  Our room had a cozy fireplace and overlooked Haystack Rock.

This was the view from our room: the gorgeous Haystack Rock.  We didn't spend much time in the hotel, but when we did, Ana hung out on the deck, begging to go back outside.
Of course, we timed our activities so we could visit Haystack Rock at low tide and explore its famous marine gardens up close.
The city of Cannon Beach is colorful, quaint, and covered in flowers, even in late October.

Ana checked out the local dog stores, dreaming dreamy dreams of all of those treats.  Of course, a dog supply store will be in the novel.

But to be honest, she really wanted to visit the local salt water taffy store.   Can you blame her?

Eventually, we abandoned our touring to visit potential locations for a murder.  This one looked promising.

Then again, wouldn't this be a great place to hide a body?

Perhaps Bella could lead Kate to the body by finding the deceased person's shoe.

Of course, not everything in the book will be about finding dead bodies. This courtyard, which will be reimagined, will be a key location in the mystery.

As will Whale Park.

Of course, no trip to Cannon Beach would be complete without a photo op in front of my favorite sailor.  He may or may not make it into this book, but he was part of Murder Strikes a Pose.  Anyone remember how?

The trip was way too busy, and it happened to be on the rainiest Cannon Beach weekend in the past two years. Now hubby and I have the perfect excuse to go back this summer.  If you ever travel to the Pacific Northwest, I highly recommend a trip to this gem of a city.  If not, well, you can visit it in my next book!

Tracy Weber

books available
PS--all three books in my Downward Dog mystery series are now available!  Learn more at my author page.  Thanks for reading!