Thursday, September 29, 2016

Bouchercon for Dummies (Fourth Bouchercon's the Charm!)

By Lisa Alber

This year, Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention for crime writers of all genres, aspiring writers, readers and fans, and anyone involved with writing, editing, reviewing, and publishing, was held in New Orleans, and thanks to New Orleans, it turned out to be the biggest Bouchercon yet with over 1900 people.

That's a lot of overstimulation right there. And for first timers, I'm sure it was daunting. In fact, it could be daunting for anyone, anytime. You might have read Eileen Rendahl's post last week about being a first timer (so fun to meet her! and she certainly didn't seem like a first timer). I've been to four now, and each time I get better at it and it gets more fun.

Bouchercon 2010, San Francisco: No publishing deal on the horizon. I knew no one and felt hesitant, for the most part, being the huge introvert that I am. Still, I figured out fast that the place to be was the bar (which surprised me, but now it seems natural), but never great at small talk, I'm sure I was a little awkward. I did manage to introduce myself to many women of Sisters in Crime, and to a few others that I "knew" from online. I felt like the classic outsider--and a bit insecure because of it.

And, I attended the panels all day, every day. The conference was fun in a voyeuristic way. And I did make some new friends.

Bouchercon 2013, Albany, NY: OK, I was good. I was rooming with a buddy, and said buddy already knew everyone because she's an extrovert and she participates--you know, the extracurricular type--in Mystery Writers of America and other organizations and events. Plus, by then, I had a book deal! Woohoo! I had a bonafide bookmark and business cards with the cover for KILMOON. I felt more comfortable mixing and mingling because I actually had something to say for myself.

I went to fewer panels because I'd meet up with people and get to chatting (I knew a few more people by then). I also figured out quickly that no one actually talks about their books unless they're specifically asked or participating on a panel/other promotional event.

Bouchercon 2014, Long Beach: My book was out! I was a debut author! And I'd been to a few more conferences, and knew more people. I participated on a panel, the debut author breakfast, and something else I can't remember. I was a nervous wreck most of the time, because I'm not comfortable with public speaking (phobic, just about, up until getting a book published anyhow).

I went to even fewer panels this time because I was "on" and meeting people and getting met and holed up in my room practicing my book blurb like the nervous Nelly I was. I stayed up too late, drank a little too much--probably nerves. But I survived, had fun, and in the end I had to wonder, Could it be that the mystery community was becoming my tribe?

Bouchercon 2016, New Orleans: I don't know if I can call myself an "old-hand" yet, but I was certainly comfortable and knew that every time I walked through the bar/lobby, I'd see someone I knew. The joke was that if you wanted to get anywhere, you had to duck your head to not see and hopefully not be seen.

I think I went to one panel. Most of all, I realized that I knew how to do Bouchercon. Paced myself when it came to staying up late and drinking (difficult in New Orleans!), took time outs to rest in my room or wander the French Quarter on my own, ceased worrying about whether I was missing something. I barely thought about the release of my second novel, WHISPERS IN THE MIST in August, to be honest. In fact, I forgot my bookmarks and business cards at home!

By this year's Bouchercon, I'd figured out that the point was communing and having fun, not stressing about whether my book was selling in the book room. It was like going to world's best reunion. Now I can honestly say: This is my tribe.

New Orleans was on my bucket list--what a great a city! Have you ever been to New Orleans? What did you like about it? What cities are on your bucket list?

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, September 26, 2016

Murder for Fun and Nonprofit

by Tracy Weber

Writers are among the most generous people I know.  Mystery writers, even more so.  Who would have guessed that the world’s nicest people spend their spare time plotting murder?

From graciously offering advice and kudos on the SINC discussion lists, to writing blurbs for their peers, to donating items for auctions and fundraisers, SINC members do it all.  Some, however, go even further.  I recently spent time with chatting with some of our most generous sisters to learn where, why, and how they give via their writing.

Debra H Goldstein was the inspiration for this article.  In addition spending her time on numerous family and professional obligations, Debra has always been an active community volunteer. Her writing could be no exception. Here’s what she told me:

“When my first book, Maze in Blue, a mystery on the University of Michigan's campus, was published, I realized just how lucky I was and decided to give back.  For that book, my royalties from different signings were directed to the American Red Cross for tornado relief efforts, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama, and the YWCA's childcare programs.  My advance and all royalties from pre-orders and both bookstore and e-book sales of Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery through May 30, 2016 were divided between the YWCA of Central Alabama's domestic violence and Collat Jewish Family Services CARES dementia respite programs.  I serve on the boards of both organizations and know the impact they have on the lives of people in Birmingham.  I've been fortunate to have a wonderful happy and healthy family, a successful legal career and the opportunity to fulfill my book writing dreams, so it only seems right to pass it along.”

Janis Patterson:  Janis donates one quarter of the royalties of her new mystery A Killing at El Kab  to the restoration fund of the El Kab dig house/excavation headquarters. Here’s why:

“I am doing this because Egyptology is very important to me - my husband and I met through our mutual love of Egyptology, and he even proposed to me in the gardens of the Mena Hotel, which is across the road from the Pyramids. 

Last year we were fortunate enough to be invited to stay at the dig house - and civilians are NEVER invited to stay at dig houses. Our dear friend the director had to work his way through three levels of Egyptian bureaucracy to get us permission to stay. 

The house was built in 1906 and is in dire need of restoration. I chose this as my 'charity' because the El Kab excavation is an important one, spanning from the Badarian culture to the present, and the dig house is itself an important part of history.”

Kaye George, Kathy Waller, V. P. Chandler, Reavis Z. Wortham, Gale Albright, Laura Oles, Earl Staggs, and Scott Montgomery! Kaye George told me about an anthology put out by her Austin writing group called Murder on Wheels:  Eleven Tales of Crime on the Move. The anthology was published by Wildside Press. 

Kaye says, “Many of us, including me, have been involved with Meals on Wheels and have done volunteer work for them, so we donate over half of our royalties to the Austin Meals on Wheels group. Since the royalties aren't much, we add to that.”

Susan van Kirk: Susan lives in a small Midwestern town that is economically depressed, and she uses her work to support the arts in her local community.

“I taught English in the public school system for thirty-four years, and we all know the arts are the first area to be cut when money problems persist. The Buchanan Center for the Arts is very active in our small town of Monmouth, Illinois. It keeps fine arts programs going for all age groups, but especially for the young people in the area. They had a fundraiser and two of the names of characters in my upcoming book, Marry in Haste, were auctioned off, raising $2800 (when added to a state grant that doubled the bids.) Marry in Haste is my second Endurance mystery, following Three May Keep a Secret.”

Tracy Weber: My writing combines the three things I love best:  yoga, dogs and murder mysteries!  The dog part is my passion and inspiration.  My own lovely German shepherd, Tasha, suffers from the same autoimmune disease as Bella, the German shepherd in my series: Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI).

EPI is a relatively rare disease that primarily impacts German shepherds.  Although the disease can be controlled, it can’t be cured, and approximately twenty percent of animals diagnosed with the disease are euthanized before the owners even try.  Those who do choose to treat their animals often undergo significant financial hardships.  A pit bull with EPI was recently profiled on the TV show, Ellen.  The owners spent over sixteen thousand dollars on veterinary bills before getting a diagnosis!

I donate a portion of sales of my Downward Dog Mysteries, including the most recent, Karma’s a Killer, to EPI dogs in need.  How could I not?  If it weren’t for my own EPI dog, I never would have written a single word, much less four books—and counting—in a mystery series.

How about you?  What causes are important to you?  How can you use your writing to support them? I’d love to hear about it.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Mysterious Lives Of Mystery Writers

Back in February of this year I blogged about the disappearance of Agatha Christie in my post, Wherefore Art Thou Agatha?  But Agatha isn't the only golden age mystery writer cloaked in her own mystery.

Elizabeth MacKintosh, a.k.a. Gordon Daviot, a.k.a. Josephine Tey as she's known in literary circles, led a very private life. Even her close friends didn't know her well. What is known about her life, such as Tey giving up teaching to take care of her father has been a topic of debate since her father was known to be an avid fisherman late in life and not someone who would be thought of as needing cared for.

Vanity Fair ran a fascinating article last September.

Decades After Her Death, Mystery Still Surrounds Crime Novelist Josephine Tey

I don't know about you, but I'm always curious about mysteries surrounding the men and women who write mystery novels! Give it a read and let me know what you think.

Jamie Blair
Deadly Dog Days - Nov. 8, 2016

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bouchercon Virgin No More

This past week, I attended my first Bouchercon conference. I've been hearing about Bouchercon for a long time and have always wanted to go. I finally decided it was time. I registered, bought my tickets, scored an awesome roommate at the conference hotel, and went for it. The week started with a workshop on diversity put on by Sisters in Crime. It led off with a keynote speech by Walter Mosley. I would show you a picture, but I was too busy giving him a standing ovation and wiping the tears off my cheeks. His speech was that good. Next day was my panel about cozy mysteries. Shawn Reilly Simmons, Loretta Ross, Carol Ann Newsome, Debra Goldstein, and I (in my Kristi Abbott persona) talked about our books, our motivations, and our favorite lines from our books. Carolyn Tillery was our fearless moderator.
I think it went well. I only mentioned penises once and I used a euphemism so I'm pretty sure it was classy. Then there was time in the bar with fun people like Midnight Ink editor Terri Bischoff and Midnight Ink authors Catriona McPherson and Lisa Alber.
There were publisher parties, regular parties, and tons of food everywhere, including beignet for breakfast.
There were hot sauce tasting bars:
Heather Graham's band played at House of Blues:
Then I also got to see cousins that I almost never get to see because they live way down here and I live way out west. They took me to eat more amazing food (red beans and rice, am I right?) and to walk along Lake Ponchatrain:
Monday morning, I go on a cemetery tour then get on a plane to go home. It's been an amazing and exhausting week, but I'm so glad I went! UPDATE: Had to add this because I'm not sure I've ever done anything this dangerous. I walked half barefoot through the French Quarter due to a flip flop blow-out in the cemetery.
Anybody have any good conference stories they want to add?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Midnight Ink Books for Your Autumnal Pleasure

Webmistress Lisa here. We don't have a guest author today. Instead, I've rounded up the Midnight Ink new releases for September. As we head into colder weather and the hectic holiday season we need our reading material, do we not? Happy reading! ~Lisa

Salem's Cipher by Jess Lourey

A troubled codebreaker faces an epic plot reaching back through centuries of America’s secret history.

"A fast-paced, sometimes brutal thriller reminiscent of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code."         —Booklist (starred review)

Close Call by Laura DiSilverio

Mistaking a killer’s phone for her own, Sydney Ellison is drawn back to a past she thought she’d left behind.

"DiSilverio's excellent plotting in her stand-alone thriller will keep readers on the edge of their seats . . . A treat for Megan Abbott fans."—Library Journal (starred review)

The Question of the Felonious Friend by E.J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen

When a young man who also has Asperger’s, asks if a store clerk is truly his friend, Samuel Hoenig, for the first time, can’t bear to give an objective answer. It’s a dicey situation that only gets worse when one of the key players ends up dead.

"Samuel Hoenig . . . takes on a real puzzler in Copperman and Cohen's winning third Asperger's mystery."—Publishers Weekly

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Quaker Midwife News

Edith Maxwell here, with several bits of good news!

The large print version of Delivering the Truth came out yesterday. I've only had one other of my books come out in large print and I'm delighted. Isn't that a great cover? I'm happy that vision-impaired readers will be able to read a paper copy of the story.

This Saturday is the big event: the staged reading of scenes in Delivering the Truth between Rose Carroll and John Greenleaf Whittier. If you're in New England, I hope you'll join us at the historic Amesbury Friends Meetinghouse!

Friends Journal is the US national Quaker Magazine. They reviewed the book last week, and it was a glowing review! "...presents Quaker characters and their practices with refreshing authenticity...key themes and challenges highlight timeless elements of the human experience..."

In short fiction news, "Adam and Eva," a new 1888 short story of mine was published in Kings River Life Magazine recently. This one is told from the point of view of my midwife's postmistress friend, Bertie Winslow, as she and Rose work together to find and catch a killer. 

Also, I'm very excited to be one of the Blood on the Bayou contributors, this year's Bouchercon anthology. If you'll be in New Orleans next Saturday afternoon, come get your own copy signed by the authors!

Next, Called to Justice is in production. That's very exciting - it means the book is on its way to being out in the world next April. It's available for preorder, too.

Third, my manuscript of book three is done, polished, and out with an independent editor. It's always a great feeling to finish a book. I like the story, which takes place during election week of 1888 and has a sub theme of women's suffrage. (More on that later...) So far I'm calling it Turning the Tide, but that could change. The book isn't due until January, however I have to write another book in another series before then, thus the head start.

It was a good August for me. I went away on a writers' retreat and got a lot done. At home I'm enjoying all the summer produce and my family is well. Fall is nearly officially here, though. I'll welcome some crisp temperatures, finding my knee-high boots, and sinking my teeth into local apples.

Readers: have you ever read a large print version? Do you enlarge the font on your ereader instead? Anybody with deep knowledge of the women's suffrage movement in the late 1880s?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day

by Linda O. Johnston

            It's the first Monday of the month, and here I am doing my InkSpot post after Tj O'Connor, who posts on the first Thursday.  I'm usually before him, and last month I posted on the first day of the month.

            So... Happy Labor Day, everyone!  I hope everyone who celebrates and gets the day off is having a wonderful time.  I also hope that everyone who doesn't get the day off has a wonderful time... including me!

            Labor Day isn't a holiday for me--not exactly.  In fact, as a writer, I have very few days off.  Generally, I write, and/or edit, seven days a week.  Weekdays?  Sure.  Weekends?  Yep.  Holidays?  Almost always.  Vacations?  Depends on where I'm going, how I'm getting there and all, but again, almost always.  And in any event, even if I'm not in front of a computer or otherwise involved with the writing or editing process, my mind is always working on another plot, either something I'm committed to write or an idea I'm working on in the hopes that it'll turn itself into a new story that'll be published someday.

            This month, I'm looking forward to... next month.  That's when my next book--my next mystery for Midnight Ink--will be published.  It's UNLUCKY CHARMS, my third Superstition Mystery, and my fingers are crossed that everyone has as much fun reading it as I had writing it.

            That also means that, in addition to writing, I'll be involved with promoting my new release. I'll be on a blog tour most of the month, plus on Sunday, October 2--the day before my next InkSpot post--I'll be in Huntington Beach, California, at the Ladies of Intrigue event where I'll be in wonderful company, including Carolyn Hart, Rhys Bowen and Robin Burcell.

            Then again, later this month I'll be on a panel at the Woman's Club of Hollywood, not far from me.  Not sure what we'll be discussing but I know it has something to do with mysteries, since a fellow mystery writer set it up and the other panelists also write mysteries.  So... well, I should add to that paragraph above that I'm nearly always busy letting people know about my stories, and that can again happen on weekdays, weekends, holidays and vacations.

            Not that I'm different from other published authors.  But I was a practicing attorney once upon a time, when I actually did get time off from my job.  And know what I did then?  On top of raising my kids... I wrote!

            So, again, Happy Labor Day everyone--and may you spend it doing something you love.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Dying for the Affair

My hands are shaking. My breath tightens in my chest. My thoughts are swirling with images of the time we spent together. Now she’s gone—out of my reach and nothing but silence remains. The emptiness is back. Yet, deep down, I know it has never left. Not since early July. Not since I did it. Now, I have to live with the consequences of my actions.  Those last words haunt me—a cliché ending to months of love and affection that kept me up late into the night and demanded every ounce of my attention.

And with those words, those damnable words, it was over. Two words that ended my sneaking into the night, hiding from my family, seeking my lover’s embrace. A lover that made me smile and got my heart pounding and my blood sizzling through my veins. Two words and the entire affair was over.

Two words—The End.

I’m talking about writing my latest novel, of course. What the hell did you think I was talking about?

I won’t speak for other authors, but I think many of us suffer from this affliction—the pain and sorrow of ending a novel we’ve loved and toiled over that we gave our soul to for months. The affair starts with an idea. Perhaps our imagination wanders after a beautiful woman smiles or sends a heart-stopping text or funny cartoon. Could it be possible? Could she be the one? Can I kill her in the first chapter and make my readers feel my pain and loss for 400 pages? What if she were not a tantalizing vixen but a spy or master terrorist stalking me before ending the world in a vile, evil plan? Could it be? Do I have another novel here?

Ohhhhhh, I get warm and fuzzy all over just thinking about how these liaisons begin.

And so it begins—the first few flirts and stolen kisses. A page here, a chapter there. And before anyone knows it—not my kids or dogs for sure—it’s a raging torrent of keyboard and screen, characters and plots, guys and dames … all heading toward the inevitable, painful, ending—The End. We start it all so innocently. No expectations. No promises. But before we’ve reached page 50, it’s late nights and cold showers—stolen glances at the screen, whispers in the night and secret liaisons whenever we can steal away and be alone. We crave her attention. We need her connection. It’s all about her—the story—and until we reach the climax at the end, we cannot stop ourselves. It’s a drive. A journey. A destination.

And then, it ends. Nothing left but a good cry and memories. Oh, and edits. Hell yes, edits and edits and edits.

For me, every book has been my passion. Sometimes, I stray during the affair and begin to dabble with another—yes, it’s true. I two-story now and then. It’s an affliction. Yet, when I’m being honest with myself, I know it won’t ever work. I have to finish one before I can even get serious with another. I’m getting old, after all. It’s just how things are.

And therein lies the problem—finishing a book that has been a lover for months, perhaps even years of notes and daydreams and ideas. That makes it all the harder to let go. To end it. To say, “The End.”

This past summer, I ended my latest liaison with Double Effect—my first thriller I’ve finished in nearly six years after writing five mysteries. It was a bittersweet story that touched home in so many ways that I even blogged about it in June at Little did I know then that ending this long-running love would bring on a new emotion—despair.

A warning to all wannabe authors like me—good enough is never good enough. Just when you end it all, kiss her goodbye, and hit “send,” the emptiness and despair can often grab you like a lover clinging to a second chance. It’s terrifying.  

As I discussed in my June blog, Double Effect is the story of Jonathan Hunter, a swashbuckling security consultant summoned home after decades overseas by his estranged brother. On his arrival, he witnesses his brother’s murder. That killing unleashes a series of events from small town prejudice to Hunter’s personal demons haunting him as he chases a killer and finds a terrorist plot to devastate an American city. It combines a murder mystery, a rogue Latino street gang, a Middle Eastern terror cell, and current-event international dangers all coming to roost in small town Winchester, Virginia.

 Unfortunately, Double Effect also consumed me because it was the last work my mentor, Wally F. and I worked on together. It was dear to both of us because it stole pieces of our past lives and allowed us to work together on an adventure that would never have been possible in real life.  Double Effect brought back memories of our own true, old adventures—sure, the story is much more daring and dangerous than my previous life—but we spent hours reminiscing. It also forced me to relive my loss when Wally died last year. Double Effect took me on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and remembrances that cost me more sleep than any book in years.

Emotions and life experiences are powerful tools of a writer.

I’d written draft one of Double Effect several years ago, but, because I received a contract for Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, and Dying to Tell, I had to shelve it until there was time to reacquaint myself with the love of my life. And let me tell you, that rendezvous was everything I’d hoped. But then, as my passion for Double Effect was rekindled, I was befallen by my worst affliction—self-doubt. Was it good enough?

For months, I’d toiled lovingly over new plot twists, subplots, and character changes. Yet each time I finished a draft, my heart ached and my mind wandered for one last tryst—another edit, more changes, new characters. I was obsessed. You see, my problem was not the story. It wasn’t the characters, either. It was me. I was stuck in it-will-never-be-good-enough mode. Each time I thought I was done, I’d read it and say, “Wait, I can make this better. I can do this and that. I can …” Delay. More rewrites.  I lay awake nights replotting and second-guessing myself into oblivion. My demand for “one more change” all but guaranteed I’d never truly finish the book.

But, like ice cream sundaes and passion, it all came to an end in early July. I forced myself to finish one final edit, typed “The End,” and sent Double Effect to my agent—the amazing and lovely Kimberley Cameron.

It was one day before the loss hit me. Before the angst and torment began. She was gone. She’d left me. Double Effect was away and it would be too long before I was able to have her again. Had I been good to her? Had I taken the time and given her my best? Was she satisfied? Should I have spent just a little more time? Was I … Good enough?

Doubt. Second guessing … regret.

Now I wait each night by my computer—alone and hopeful that any day I’ll hear the ding of my email and she would return for more of me. Kimberley’s round of edits and redrafting—her own thoughts and suggestions to make this affair one to remember. And she—Double Effect—would be in my embrace once again. I would go to work caressing her plots and stroking her characters until, when the time was right, we would reach the end together—my novel and me. Just the two of us. Well, at least until I was ready to share her with all of you.

After all, this love of mine—this affair that steals me and controls my every waking hour—is but just another notch on my bookshelf. And sadly it is true, in time, Double Effect will be a past fling—a summer thing—and I’ll move on to yet another.

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: