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!