Thursday, August 25, 2016

Real or Not Real?

Sorry Peta, I'm not talking about your catch phrase.


Novels, by definition, are fiction. But what about where that fictitious story takes place? Sometimes it can be fun for an author to create an entirely made up town, but other times a place we visit can inspire us to set our characters and scenes in the heart of reality.

In my Nov. 8 release, Deadly Dog Days, my story takes place in Metamora, Indiana. This is a tiny (did I mention TINY) historic canal town in southeast Indiana. In the summer of 2014, I visited Metamora with my mom, my grandma and my great-aunt. We stayed at a bed and breakfast from Thursday to Sunday. The town has shops and restaurants along the canal in old buildings, a grist mill that's still operating, and the only wooden aqueduct still around in the US. Not to mention the canal boat pulled by two giant horses on the banks and the Whitewater River Vally scenic train that pulls in and out of the station taking tourists for rides along the canal. But those are the least of its charm.
Metamora, Indiana, summer 2014

It's the people that make Metamora the interesting and inspiring place to set a novel. For instance, check out this short video of the making of a documentary featuring one of the prominent people in town:

To me, that was the summer I traveled to Cicely, Alaska and walked onto the set of my favorite T.V. show of all time, Northern Exposure. Sure, Metamora isn't in Alaska, but the feel was the same. The eccentric characters and close-knit community was the same. As we walked through the deserted streets on Thursday afternoon--the shops are only open on the weekend, little did we know when we planned our stay--after meeting our outgoing hostess at the B&B with quite the quirky decorating style, my mom looked at me and said, "You have to write about this place."

So, I did.

All of the characters in Deadly Dog Days are fictional. You might find people in Metamora who you think are in the novel, but I assure you, any similarity is from my research online and in the town. All of the names are made up, and I don't personally know any of the shop owners or residents.

I'm excited for you to come to Metamora with me via my cozy mystery and my main character, Cameron Cripps-Hayman, who stumbles onto a body floating in the canal and has many humorous situations while figuring out who done it.

Until next time! ~ Jamie Blair

Deadly Dog Days
Nov. 8, 2016

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mystery Goes to the Dogs

One of the most delightful aspects of being a writer is having the opportunity to go out and make new fans--especially when they're of the four-footed variety!   So imagine how ecstatic I was to be invited with three other dog writing friends to DogFest in downtown Seattle! 

Below is my photo journal of the day!

The event started with some photo opps for fellow writers:
 Kizzie Elizabeth Jones, David R Gross, Waverly Curtis, and yours truly.

Then I spent a few minutes meeting some of my new canine friends.

This little cutie was up for adoption!
My favorite, of course, was this two-year-old German shepherd beauty. 
I did a short reading.

And posed for a photo in the doggie "Kissing Booth"

Before I knew it the event was over, and it was time to say goodbye!

Thanks so much to the Downtown Dog Lounge for hosting me at this fabulous and fun event. It proved to me once again what I've known all along: the best fans have four legs!

Tracy Weber

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


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Celebrating a Book Launch: WHISPERS IN THE MIST Goes Live!

By Lisa Alber

Last week my second novel, Whispers in the Mist, landed in bookstores. It launched! Yay! I love the word "launch" to describe publication day for novels. It's a word that begs for a little fanfare, doesn't it? I always picture a rocket with mega-tons of potential energy stored up inside it, ready to ignite and achieve lift off.

Well, we've got lift off! It's always exciting, if a little hectic. There's a ton to do to help prepare books to meet the world -- social media, book events, giveaways, and launch parties, just to name a few tasks.

What was funny about my launch prep was that I realized I didn't know how to describe WHISPERS in a succinct yet enticing way. Yeeks! Somehow, I'd forgotten to think about that. You'd think it would be easy, but it's not. In part, because my head is inside the next novel I'm writing, and, in part because coming up with succinct yet enticing three-sentence synopses is an art form I haven't mastered yet.

Whisper in the Mist is about the search for a mysterious man that the Garda (Irish police) call "Grey Man," who appears to be connected to a series of deaths, past and present. When a brother and his mute sister arrive in Lisfenora village to hunt down their mother's killer, Detective Sergeant Ahern finds himself helping them with tragic results. The investigation turns personal for him in ways that he could never have imagined, and Grey Man becomes more elusive the closer Danny gets to the truth.

How does that sound? Pretty good?

I always end up mentioning other aspects of the story, like the French Mastiff named Bijou who plays a small but heroic role in the outcome, like the teenage boy who dies in DS Ahern's arms, like the phantom graffiti artist who leaves cryptic messages around the village.

You can read more about Whispers in the Mist on my website.

Here are a few pictures from my launch party last Friday night. As fitting for a novel set in Ireland, I held the party at O'Connor's Pub in Portland, OR.

Monday, August 15, 2016

How to Mine Your Family for Character Traits

I am freshly back from a week in South Lake Tahoe with my family. By family I mean both my sisters, all our kids, my brother-in-law, my boyfriend, my son's girlfriend, my nephew's fiancee, and my brother-in-law's niece from France. It was the first time we've been able to schedule a vacation like this one for for close to 20 years. We've all been together for some events. Weddings. Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. Funerals. But not just fun in the sun vacation time. The photo is of all the kids ready to take a hike to Echo Lake. Aren't they adorable?

It was amazing.

Think big family meals, hiking, swimming, singalongs. Several of us had to do some work while we were there. Even that was fun. A group of us would sit around in our jammies, working at our laptops and drinking coffee in the morning. It was lovely. So what does this have to do with writing? Well, it reminded me of how heavily I've relied on my family when I've created characters. My sisters and I are only barely disguised in Do Me, Do My Roots. My mother pops up in Dancing Naked under the Moon. There's more, but I'll be nice and not mention it for now.

Even if you don't pick a person to wholesale use for a character, there's nothing like being in close quarters with people you view through a lens of fondness to find great ways to reveal character through action. Start with the food. One person won't eat corn. Two are gluten-free. One is a vegetarian. One won't eat dairy. Someone else doesn't like garlic. Each one deals with their food preferences in a different way. One is adamant and will push back from the table in disgust if asked to consume the food they dislike. Others are more subtle and offer to help cook so they can be sure there will be something they can eat. Someone else will gently scrape away offending bits of this or that. It's telling. The work thing, too. My niece is now doing an imitation of me grading papers that even makes me crack up. I apparently act out my reactions as I type them.

I feel like I probably came away with a couple of books' worth of character building from just that one week.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

An All-Community Read

Edith here, with a report on a huge honor Delivering the Truth and I had bestowed on us. 

The book is set in my town of Amesbury in 1888. Imagine my surprise and delight when the John Greenleaf Delivering the TruthCoverWhittier Home Association, which maintains the famous abolitionist poet’s home a few blocks from where I live, asked if “it would be all right” if they featured Delivering the Truth as an All-Community Read this summer. They planned to culminate the summer of reading – about Quaker midwife Rose Carroll solving an arson and two murders – with a staged reading of the four scenes in the book where Rose meets with Whittier.
Um, yeah! It would be SO all right, and I told them so. The Amesbury Public Library signed on to co-sponsor the All-Community Read, and my publisher donated twenty copies of the book to the library to put into circulation.
I kicked off the summer of events with a talk during Amesbury Days at the Art Show about my research for the series. Recently I’m repeated my historical walking tour of town in my Quaker dress (see a video of highlights from the first one here). In July the Whittier Home hosted a book discussion group, and there will be another one at the library next week.
Whittier and Rose rehearse
September 10 will feature the staged reading at the the Amesbury Friends Meetinghouse, with actors portraying Whittier and Rose. I’ll be narrating, tying the scenes together, using a script our local Poet Laureate Lainie Senechal wrote based on the book. The actor playing Whittier is two years younger than Whittier's age in the book, and the actress looks exactly like Rose - tall, slim, dark haired, under thirty.
The whole slate of events makes me SO happy.
John Greenleaf Whittier
I also heard that several Amesbury High School teachers are requiring their students to read the book this summer. The teachers asked if I would be interested in talking to the History Honor Society students and the Early College American Studies classes in the fall.
Um, yeah! Of course I’ll come and talk with  students about history and writing and whatever else they want to talk about. Another teacher recommended the book as a Summer Reading Faculty Favorite.  After I posted a note about these teachers on Facebook, a college teacher in Oklahoma said she’d recommended the book to her Women’s History students.
When I started writing this series, I thought it might appeal to local history buffs and the occasional Quaker, in addition to midwives and fans of historical mysteries. I never dreamed of it going this far, and I’m floating on a cloud.
Readers, have you ever participated in an All-Community Read? Do you know any high school or college teachers who need a fabulous (ahem…) historical mystery set in the nineteenth century for their students?
Note: A version of this post appeared on the Wicked Cozy Authors blog at the end of June.
Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and the Local Foods Mysteries, the Country Store Mysteries (as Maddie Day), and award-winning short crime fiction. Her short story, “A Questionable Death,” was nominated for a 2016 Agatha Award for Best Short Story. 
Maxwell is Vice-President of Sisters in Crime New England and Clerk of Amesbury Friends Meeting. She lives north of Boston with her beau and three cats, and blogs with the other Wicked Cozy Authors. You can find her on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, and at her web site,

Monday, August 8, 2016

BOOK LAUNCH MONDAY: Double the Fun with Shannon Baker and Jess Lourey

Web mistress Lisa here. We have a fun guest post for you today! Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker are touring the blogosphere on their monster Lourey/Baker Double Booked Tour. I'm so glad they joined us here on InkSpot. Check out the bottom of the post for their giveaways. Welcome, Shannon and Jess! ~Lisa

Shannon and Jess Talk Character Arcs

Shannon here. Thanks Inkspot, for giving us a place to stop on our month-long road trip. We concocted the Lourey/Baker Double Booked Tour when we found out both of us (Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker had books releasing on September 6, Jess’s thriller with Midnight Ink, Salem’s Cipher, and my debut in a new series, Stripped Bare.

Today it’s my turn to pick the topic, and I want to chat about character arcs. Specifically, I want to talk about how, over the course of your writing life, your protagonists and antagonists have changed? That’s probably confusing, so I’ll go first.

While I never set out to write autobiographical characters, bits of my attitude or the tone of my life seems to soak into my books. I can almost chart my personal life from my main characters. Annie was the protagonist in my first published book. When I wrote that, I was trying to keep a million balls in the air with kids and jobs and dealing with a cheating husband in a town of 300 people. I got more than a few comments on how cold and bristly Annie was. I thought she was stoic and strong.

Jess: You’re really onto something here, Shannon. When I wrote May Day, the first in my Murder-by-Month mysteries, I was reeling from the unexpected death of my husband. It’s an uneven book, and my protagonist is all about trying to solve the unexpected death of her lover. There’s humor in it, but so much darkness in Mira, the main character, so much holding people at arm’s length for fear of getting hurt. That question, “how much of your main character is you?” is so complex, isn’t it? Shannon, did you find that true in your Nora Abbott books that you published with Midnight Ink?

Shannon: When I started the Nora Abbott books, I’d left my Sandhills home and struck out on my own. I was in a new and wonderful relationship, but was unemployed, in a new town, and full of angst. While, again, I thought Nora was capable and smart, I wanted to show that inside, she maybe wasn’t as put-together as everyone thought. At least one reviewer thought she was whiney. Whiney?  Really?

But over the course of that series, as Nora came into her own, she gathered confidence and fortitude, becoming more of the woman on the inside that she projected on the outside. Coincidentally, my life finally started to settle down and though I’m still a mess of insecurities on the inside (I’m a writer, after all) I wasn’t nearly as rattled about life when I wrote the last in the series, Tattered Legacy, as I was when I wrote the first, Tainted Mountain.

Another thread running through my characters is mother issues and cheating husbands. I can see myself working these things out in my books.

Jess: That is one of the many reasons we get along so well, Shannon. Both of us (through our characters) work out cheating issues, though my characters land firmly in the camp of father rather than mother issues. It’s interesting because I just finished my first nonfiction book, tentatively titled Better than Gin: Rewrite Your Life, and it’s about exactly this process of writers working issues through their characters, and how the process is not only healing but creates great fiction. I also sometimes wonder if we make friends when we write. Specifically, that we create characters that we’re either like to be or to be with. Do you find that?

Shannon: Kate Fox, the star of Stripped Bare, is someone I’d really like to hang out with. While she’s got some problems to deal with, a cheating husband for one (I don’t know where I get my ideas) she’s got a healthy sense of herself. She’s confident, even though she’s not sure about her future, and she’s not afraid to take action. She’s a combination of a team player—she’s in the middle of eight brothers and sisters—but craves her independence. And she’s got a sense of humor, which saves her.

It took me nearly a decade since I left the Nebraska Sandhills to be able to laugh about it all. If I’d written Kate any earlier, she’d be laced with bitterness. I’m not a big country music fan, but I always think about the Rascal Flatts song Bless the Broken Road. I thought it was a love song but now I think it’s a faith song. Anyway, I like the chorus and the idea that our experiences, good and bad, bring us to the people we are now. And when the time is ripe, bring us the characters that tell us their stories.

Jess: Beautifully said, Shannon Baker.

Giveaway: Jess and I are each giving away copies of our new books Salem’s Cipher and Stripped Bare. For a chance to win, leave a comment.

But wait, that's not all!

If you order Salem's Cipher before September 6, 2016, you are invited to forward your receipt to to receive a short story and to be automatically entered in a drawing to win a 50-book gift basket mailed to the winner's home!

If you order Stripped Bare before September 6, 2016, you are invited to forward your receipt to to receive a Kate Fox short story and be entered for a book gift basket mailed to your home.

We’re picking up our bags and traveling on so please join us as the Lourey/Baker Double Booked Tour heads to Hey, There’s a Dead Guy in the Livingroom on Wednesday.

Jessica (Jess) Lourey is best known for her critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month mysteries, which have earned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, the latter calling her writing "a splendid mix of humor and suspense." She is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, a recipient of The Loft's 2014 Excellence in Teaching fellowship, and leads interactive writing workshops all over the world. Salem's Cipher, the first in her thrilling Witch Hunt Series, hits stores September 2016. You can find out more at, or find her on Facebook or Twitter.

Shannon Baker writes the Kate Fox mystery series (September 2016 from Tor/Forge). Stripped Bare, the first in the series, features a sheriff in rural Nebraska and has been called Longmire meets The Good Wife. Baker also writes the Nora Abbott Mystery Series, a fast-paced mix of murder, environmental issues and Hopi Indians published by Midnight Ink. Baker was voted Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2104 Writer of the Year. She writes from the Colorado Rockies to the Nebraska Sandhills, the peaks of Flagstaff and the deserts of Tucson.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Dying for Sanity ...

Oh, Dear God … when will it end? When will my television return to zombies and murder mysteries and documentaries about ancient astronauts and how the Martians built the pyramids? Sure, sure, all those things could still describe politics today—the zombies in Congress, the murder mysteries of the latest political attack ads, and the ancient astronauts who are pulling the strings of our so-called leadership. But I want to get away from all that. Facebook oozes with hate and contempt—all the political posting and bashing and in some cases, threats. Really? You’ll pull off my what with dull tweezers and electricity because I voted for who?

Come on, people, lighten up!

Even television news drives me insane with its macabre “journalists” telling me want to think about this candidate or that issue. The country is in a tailspin of anger and dissent and I want the noise to stop. Please, oh please, give us the silence that is normalcy. And if that’s impossible, hit me with an asteroid!

Now, in full disclosure, I love politics—I used to anyway. But these days, I’m neither Democrat nor Republican. I am in that strange, rare third-party—no, not the Independents—I’m in the Sane Party. I’ll support what is good for the country and what makes sense—no matter which side of the aisle it comes from. For sure, both sides think they have all the answers but instead of telling us those answers—or better yet, showing us—they spend all their time attacking each other. Unfortuntely, this rancor has caught up so many people that it drips from every other post on Facebook and the news.  

God, is there any sanity anywhere?

To answer that question, I went to the media for answers. I know, I know, that’s like asking Rocky if he has any brain damage “I don’t see none.” I did a random search of recent news events to see just how sane our world is today. Here’s what I found:

Story 1: Luke Aikins, an experienced skydiver with more than 18,000 jumps, leapt from an airplane without a parachute at 25,000 feet. It took slightly more than two minutes (I know, I watched this crazy guy) and he successfully landed in a huge net … and walked away! Holy crap on a peanut butter sandwich! First, what an insane thing to do. Second, what a stupid thing to do. And third, oh hell, there is no third.  

Story 2: Pokemon-Go —this knucklehead was chasing Polemon in that goofy cellphone game through the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, the other night. He chased some imaginary cartoon monster right into the side of a Baltimore police cruiser. The stunned cops were standing on the sidewalk watching it go down. Their body cameras picked up the event. Holy stupidity! Will the cellphone craze be renamed Pokemon Go to jail?

Story 3: Police Strippers. In Germany, a loud, raucus 50th birthday party full of ladies got out of hand, the police arrived to quiet things down. The ladies, a bit tipsy, thought the coppers were male strippers and things really got interesting. They begged and pleaded for photos and music for their disrobing… right. Luckily, the cops didn’t bring any of them to jail for the big pole dance finally.

Story 4: There’s no place like home: the 59-year-old lady in Wyoming who robbed a bank so she would get sent back to prison. She had just been released and hated being homeless, so she stuck up a bank, threw the money into the air outside it, and sat down waiting for the cops. No fuss. No muss. She will get her wish.

Story 5: My favorite. Asteroid 101955 Bennu will buzz BETWEEN the earth and moon in 2135. Because of its proximation in the gravity fields, it’s orbit may be altered just enough to have it slam into the earth later in the century. It’s only travelling at 63,000 miles per hour and is about a third of a mile in diameter—so it’s a bullet heading for us. Scientists say if it hits, it will cause “immense suffering and death.” Wow. I wonder if the election that year will be as entertaining as this year’s? What the national debt will be by then? Will Pokemon still have critters roaming the streets of Baltimore?

Guys without parachutes, Pokemon-Go-To Jail, stripper cops, jail-sick cons, and a killer asteroid. Maybe politics isn’t so crazy. Maybe all the ranker and stupidity is the new normal.

Oh, God, say it isn’t so!

We’ll talk again soon … if the asteroid isn’t early and if Pokemon doesn’t send me to jail.

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 on the shelves and internet now. 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 work. 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:

Monday, August 1, 2016

Writing Series

by Linda O. Johnston

    Happy August, everyone.  Yikes, this year is going fast.  This is the first Monday of the month as well as the first day, so here I am.

    The creator of an online newsletter asked me to write an article on writing series, and I'm working on it.  But it also gave me the idea to write about it here, for my InkSpot post.

    I'm a seasoned writer.  My August release, not a Midnight Ink book so I won't go into detail here, is my 43rd published novel.  I started out writing quite a few stand-alone books, but really believe I found my niche when I started writing series.

    Most of my series books are cozy mysteries.  I wrote two series before I started here at Midnight Ink with my Superstition Mysteries and my Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries. 

    So what do I like about writing series?  I enjoy getting to know my characters, figuring out how they'll react in all the situations, good and bad, that I stick them into.  In my Midnight Ink books, since they're all cozy mysteries, my characters have to learn to deal with dead bodies and accusations against them or their friends as being major murder suspects.

    I get to know the story backgrounds, too.  My next mystery, UNLUCKY CHARMS--yes, my book number 44--will be released in October.  It's my third Superstition Mystery, and it has been a whole lot of fun researching superstitions and using them in my stories.  I have to admit that, as much as I also love my Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries, I'm not much of a cook, but I've tried out all the recipes friends provide for my books--sometimes with help--before making them available.  It's fun to include them, even if I don't create them.   TO CATCH A TREAT, the second in that series, was published in May.

    And over the course of time nearly all my stories have come to have one major underlying theme: dogs. 

    I'm including some of those basics in my article on series:  continuing and developing characters, underlying themes... and the murders in mysteries.  There's more, too, including how to figure out what hurdles to place in front of the protagonists that they can leap over, as well as making at least one of the continuing characters a love interest.  And, oh yes, how do I best fit dogs into the stories?

    Fortunately, readers seem to like series, too.  If they read one book in a series and enjoy it, they're likely to read the rest.  Even so, I try to make all of my stories somewhat standalone so readers don't have to start at the beginning to know what's going on.

    I think it's great that Midnight Ink publishes as many series as it does.  And if anyone has additional ideas about series and what you'd like to see in them, be sure to let me know so I can update this post--and include it in my other article.