Thursday, January 11, 2018

How Hard Is It to Turn a Tide?

Edith here, gearing up for the release of Turning the Tide, Quaker Midwife Mystery #3. 


Actually, I don't think it's possible to turn an oceanic tide. It's not a little boat. It's not even a giant ocean liner or tanker. Our earth's ocean tides are mighty gravitation-powered forces. They come around more or less twice a day, with two high tides and two lows. The moon influences them. The weather influences them. We dinky humans have no effect, unless on a grand climate-change scale.

Don't trust me on this, though. I write novels, not science articles. But I'm pretty sure it's true. So why would I name a book if turning a tide isn't even possible?

The story opens at a meeting of the Amesbury Woman Suffrage Association a few days before election day in November 1888. We now know this was more than thirty years before women got the vote by the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US constitution in 1920. But that didn't mean women weren't already protesting and lobbying for the right to express their opinions at the ballot box.

Gradually, inexorably, women were turning the tide of opinion toward allowing half the adult population to vote. In the same way as with the movement to legally enfranchise African-American men, Quakers were in the forefront of the women's rights movement. Midwife Rose Carroll joins forces with other Amesbury suffragists in this book, and her mother - a well-known activist for the cause - comes to town to stand in solidarity across from the polls on election day, as does Elizabeth Cady Stanton herself.

I'm so excited that this book will reach the reading public in three short months! In the meantime, I have five advance reader copies itching to reach the hands of avid fans. I'll give one away to  a commenter here today.

Readers: Do you vote? If not, why not? What do you think of when you exercise your right, not even a century old, to mark that ballot or pull that lever, whether in a local election or to name the next leader of the country?


Agatha- and Macavity-nominated author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, and award-winning short crime fiction. As Maddie Day she writes the popular Country Store Mysteries and the new Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. 

She is president of Sisters in Crime New England and lives north of Boston with her beau, two elderly cats, and an impressive array of garden statuary. She blogs at WickedCozyAuthors.com, KillerCharacters.com, and midnightwriters.blogspot.com. Read about all her personalities and her work at edithmaxwell.com

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!


by Linda O. Johnston

Yikes!  This post just sneaked up on me.  The first Monday of the month is also the first day of this new year.

This will be short since I'm still celebrating.  Plus, I'm still dealing with deadlines--nothing unusual about that. 


But I'm looking forward to an exciting and fun new year of writing and reading and family time (including my dogs, of course) and more.  I also look forward to more interaction with the Midnight Ink team and other MI writers.  Good bunch of people, and I hope the new year is great for all of them!


Do you have plans for today?  This week?  This month?  This year?  January is a good time to work on all kinds of plans.  I've got lots in mind, and I suspect you do, too. 


So... Happy New Year!  I hope you have a wonderful 2018.  And beyond, of course.  Plan well, accomplish much, read and write a lot, and above all else, have fun.




Linda O. Johnston is currently writing the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries for Midnight Ink.  Her most recent one was Bad to the Bone, and the next in the series, Pick and Chews, will be a May 2018 release.

Monday, December 25, 2017

My Christmas Gift to you: Chapter 1 of Pre-Meditated Murder

Merry Christmas, everyone!  Without further ado, I present to you the first chapter of Pre-Meditated Murder.  It officially releases on January 8, but it is available for pre--order now! Let me know what you think!


 
CHAPTER 1:
 
I slipped through the restroom door, leaned my back against the counter, and tried—unsuccessfully—to slow the pounding in my chest.

Dad’s voice echoed inside my head. Take it easy now, Kate-Girl. Remember what Rene told you. You have to act like everything’s normal. You don’t want to ruin tonight for Michael.

Almost three years after his death, Dad was still right. Tonight wasn’t about me. At least not just about me. It was Michael’s night, too. Or it would be, provided I didn’t die of heart failure.

Public restroom or not, I could think of worse places to die. The floor’s shiny black marble was spotless. A trio of lavender-scented candles cast dancing light beams across the matching countertop. The purple blooms of a phalaenopsis orchid cascaded from a dark green plant in the corner. The place even sounded inviting, thanks to soothing classical music floating through hidden speakers.

Normally, I would have been enchanted by the room’s painstaking ornamentation. Not today. Today, I was too busy trying not to hyperventilate to revel.

My adrenaline-laced anticipation surprised me, especially since I’d spent almost a year avoiding the very conversation Michael and I were about to have. Then again, maybe I was worked up because I’d been avoiding it for so long. Until recently, I’d had no idea how important our future was to me.

Maybe a relaxing breath practice would help me calm down. I closed my eyes and inhaled, mentally coaching myself as I would one of my yoga students. Inhale and slowly count to four. One, two, three, four. Exhale, one, two …

A few cycles later, my heartbeat slowed. The chattering of my monkey mind subsided. My hands were still trembling too hard to touch up my makeup, so I picked stray dog hairs off the black cocktail dress I’d borrowed for the evening and ran a comb through my shoulder-length hair. I smiled to make sure lipstick hadn’t coated my teeth, pinched my cheeks to give them some color, and headed back to join Michael at our table.

Every part of SkyCity, the Seattle Space Needle’s upscale restaurant, had been designed to seduce multiple senses. The heels of my three-inch stilettos sank into the lobby’s lush oriental carpet. Notes from a baby grand piano caressed my eardrums. Swirls of color burst from a Chihuly painting, exploding the piano’s overture on canvas. A kaleidoscope of scents arranged and rearranged themselves in my nostrils, creating a fluid collage: garlicky pasta Alfredo, musky perfume, the sweet floral bouquet of deep red roses.

For most Seattleites, dinner at SkyCity was reserved for special occasions. For practically broke small business owners like Michael and me, the experience might be once in a lifetime. But man, was it worth it. SkyCity served more than delicious food. It provided unparalleled atmosphere and a rotating, panoramic view of the entire city.

Any other evening, I would have been glued to my seat for every one of the forty-seven minutes it took for the restaurant to complete a full rotation. Any other evening, I would have been transfixed by the view: toy-like rooftops, tiny ferries, the stark lines of the Olympic Mountains. Any other evening, I would have been drunk on the surroundings before I took my first sip of champagne.

This evening, however, I’d barely noticed any of it. I hadn’t even tasted the pasta I’d picked at for dinner. I was too preoccupied. Waiting. Waiting for Michael to stop pretending that we were here to celebrate my thirty-fourth birthday. Waiting for him to pull out the jewelry bag that Rene had spotted him carrying two days ago. Waiting for him to ask me to marry him.

Michael stood and pulled out my chair, grinning. “You were gone for an awfully long time. I was about to send in a search party.”

“Sorry about that.”

I glanced at him over my wine glass as he nodded discreetly to our waiter. On a bad day, Michael was pretty darned handsome, and today was far from a bad day. His sexy, blue-green eyes sparkled. The tailored suit he wore accented his broad shoulders and six-foot-tall frame. Curly brown hair brushed delightfully above his ear lobes, as if daring me to nibble them. Unmentionable body parts tingled. If Michael didn’t hurry up and give me that ring soon, I might consummate our engagement before the proposal.

I grinned. Now wouldn’t that give new meaning to SkyCity’s 360-degree view.

“Care to let me in on the joke?” Michael asked.

“Sorry. Nothing. I was just thinking about how happy I am.”

As if on cue, a line of wait staff approached our table. One carried a huge ice cream concoction enveloped in a thick dry-ice fog. Another brandished a bottle of my favorite bubbly and two crystal champagne flutes. The rest surrounded our table in a black-and-white semicircle. Conversations around us grew muted as people stopped eating to watch the theatrics. I felt my face redden. Leave it to Michael to embarrass me with a grand gesture.

Michael grinned like a madman; a cork popped through the air; the entire restaurant burst into song.
“Happy birthday to you …”

Huh?

Ten seconds later, I blew out the candle and watched as the wait staff disappeared. The other diners resumed their conversations.

I surreptitiously picked through the ice cream, hoping to find buried treasure. Nothing but frozen dairy products and chunks of rich dark chocolate. No diamond lurked in the bottom of my champagne glass, either. My unmentionables stopped tingling, replaced by an awkward unease. Could Rene have been wrong?

Michael leaned across the table and clinked his glass against mine. “Happy birthday, Kate. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.”

The smile I flashed back felt so stiff, it could have been molded from plastic. “Tonight has been wonderful, Michael, truly. The flowers, the dinner, the champagne …” My voice trembled. “Everything.”

Michael frowned, confused. “What is it? Don’t like the dessert? The reviews said it wasn’t too rich, so I asked for extra dark chocolate.”

“It’s delicious, Michael.” I lifted the spoon to my mouth, but pasta with garlic sauce threatened to leap for my throat. I laid the spoon back on the table.

“It was that damned birthday song, wasn’t it?” Michael grumbled. “I should have known better. I know how you hate it when people make a fuss over you. I just thought … well, I thought it would be fun.”

“It was fun,” I assured him. “And the dessert is awesome. It looks like an erupting volcano.” Tears burned the back of my eyes. If I didn’t get out of this restaurant soon, I might erupt right alongside it. I looked pointedly at my watch and waved to get the waiter’s attention. “It’s almost eight. We should leave soon to pick up Bella.”

“Already?” Michael didn’t hide his disappointment.

“The twins have been fussy lately. I promised Rene we wouldn’t be out late.”

I lied. My German shepherd, Bella, suffered from significant separation anxiety, so I never left her alone for more than an hour or two. Michael already knew that Rene was dog-sitting tonight. What he didn’t know was that Bella’s visit was supposed to be a sleepover. Rene had insisted, claiming that my engagement night would be significantly more romantic without a furry, hundred-pound bed hog.

Make that supposed engagement night.

Michael didn’t look convinced, but he didn’t argue. “Before we go, I have something for you.” He reached into his jacket and pulled out a small, foil-wrapped box stamped Trinity Jewelers.

In that moment, the entire world seemed to freeze. I would have sworn that the Space Needle stopped spinning. I was so excited—so relieved—that I didn’t grasp the significance of the box’s flat, three-inch-square shape.

Michael slid it across the table. “Go on, open it.”

My hands trembled again, but I managed to unwrap the paper, ease the top off the box, and gaze down at—

A necklace?

A simple gold heart suspended on a delicate chain. A locket.

Michael reached across the table and opened it. Two tiny pictures were nestled inside. On the left, a grinning Michael. On the right, Bella. “I know you don’t wear much jewelry,” he said, “but I wanted to give you something special. This way Bella and I will always be close to your heart.”

The necklace was gorgeous. Breathtaking, really. Michael had obviously put a lot of thought into the gift. Normally, I would have been stunned—in a good way.

But tonight wasn’t supposed to be normal.

The tears threatening my eyes spilled down my cheeks. “It’s exquisite.”

Michael dropped the necklace back into the box and took my hand. “Kate, honey, what’s wrong? You’ve been acting weird all night. I’m starting to get worried.”

“Nothing. It’s just that …” I swallowed. “I thought you were giving me a ring.”

At first Michael looked confused. “A ring? In a necklace box?” Then his face turned ashen. “Oh.”

Disappointment flashed to embarrassment, which I covered up by pretending to be angry. “Oh? That’s all you have to say? Oh?

Michael opened his mouth, then closed it again without speaking.

The silence between us echoed like a shot to the gut, but it felt significantly more painful. The waiter eased next to Michael, slid the bill onto the table, and scurried away.

“I’m sorry, Kate,” Michael said. “Really, I am. I didn’t mean to disappoint you. But what made you think I was proposing tonight?”

I stared at the tablecloth, wishing I could disappear underneath it. “Rene went shopping for the twins at Westlake Center on Thursday.”

Michael groaned and rubbed the crease between his eyebrows.

I pointed at the box. “She saw you walk out of Trinity’s carrying this. We both assumed—” My voice cracked.

The restaurant’s energy—or at least my experience of it—shifted. The room grew quiet. Sympathetic eyes burned the back of my neck. The dry-ice fog surrounding my uneaten dessert threatened to suffocate me. I gripped the seat of my chair with both hands, willing myself not to bolt.

“Kate, I will propose to you someday, I promise. But not tonight. I can’t.”

“Can’t?”

Michael refused to look at me.

Deep inside my gut, I knew that I shouldn’t keep pressing. If I kept pressing, Michael’s explanation might change our relationship forever.

I pressed anyway.

“Michael, what aren’t you telling me?”

His jaw trembled. “You know I love you, right?”

I did.

I loved Michael, too. More than I’d ever loved anyone, except maybe Bella. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to say the words back. “Out with it, already.”

Michael stared at the floor for what felt like an eternity. When he looked up again, his eyes were wet.
“I’m sorry, Kate. I’m already married.”

Tracy

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

Thursday, December 14, 2017

An Almost Rose Carroll Story

Edith here, feeling just a little stressed about the holidays and various authorly tasks also on my to-do list. So I thought I would de-stress by asking you to celebrate with me. 'Cause who doesn't love a party?

My newest story, "An Ominous Silence," came out last month in Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017 from Level Best Books! Cue the cries of "Bravo!" and pop the champagne. It is my sixteenth published story (see the whole list here on my beautifully rehabbed new web site), and I have one more  story accepted for publication next spring.

So I thought I'd tell you the origin story behind the, well, story. Get comfy, kids, and put up your feet.

Five of my short crime stories feature Quaker midwife Rose Carroll from my Quaker Midwife Mysteries. One was even nominated for an Agatha Award last year. I had written a sixth for this year's Bouchercon anthology, the theme of which was travel, since the big mystery conference was held in Toronto, Canada. In the new story, Rose and her apprentice are on a train to Montreal in a snowy New England 1890s winter when the train is snowed in on a desolate stretch of tracks. A man is murdered, and his wife goes into labor. Rose comes to the rescue on both counts.

I was about to click Send when I checked the guidelines one more time. Ack! Because the committee wanted truly anonymous judging, authors couldn't use characters from any published book or series. That pretty much trashed Rose Carroll as the protagonist. I was cutting the deadline close, but I still had a few days left before they closed submissions.

So what does the creative mind do? Change the names to protect the innocent, of course. Or the series protag, as the case may be. Rose Carroll became midwife Catherine Colby--not a Quaker--and her apprentice Annie morphed into Genevieve Rousseau. I changed the date to a few years after the published Quaker Midwife mysteries take place and fixed the midwife's speech so she doesn't talk like a Quaker. I printed out the story, checked it one more time, and hit Submit.

Did they accept it? Alas, no. I'm a pretty seasoned author by now, however, and the word "No" no
longer devastates. We find a new venue and try again. Lucky for me, I heard about the rejection before the deadline for this year's Level Best anthology. I hit Submit again. And this time got a hit.

I hope you'll check out the anthology, which is full of dozens of amazing authors and delightful stories. And don't forget, Turning the Tide, Quaker Midwife Mystery #3, will be out April 8 and is available for preorder wherever books are sold!

Readers: What kinds of rejection have you bounced back from, and how? Which sow's ear have you  found a silver lining in, or which storm cloud have you turned into silk (to mix a couple of clich├ęd metaphors just for the heck of it)?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Promotion Pluses


by Linda O. Johnston

Holiday time seems to be a good time for book promotional events this year, or at least it is for me.  There are lots of kinds of events, too.  Over time, I have participated in quite a few different kinds and have considered the pros and cons of each of them.


Why get out there and promote?  There are a variety of good reasons. 


For example, it's fun to be on a panel and share information about my stories, how I came up with ideas for them, how I wrote them.  It's also fun to be on my own in front of a group and let 'em know what's on my mind and how I do things.  It's fun, as an author, to get to know readers and other authors.  It's hopefully fun for readers to meet other authors they've read and other readers who enjoy them--and to get an intro to those they haven't read--yet.


Last weekend I was on a panel with other mystery authors and had a good time--as I'd anticipated.  This in fact was my second time sitting on a mystery panel there.  The program was held at a women's club, and a moderator had sent us the questions she would ask so it easy to prepare.  The audience was interested and interesting, and seemed to enjoy the panel as much as I did. 


As I said, I do enjoy panels. I tend to go to several writers conferences each year where I generally participate in programs, again mostly on panels.  That way the audience can choose to hear a group of authors they may have read--or want to learn more about.  And the panelists can get to learn more about each other, too.


Next weekend I'll be at a book event at a local library.  Although there are speakers, this time I won't be among them.  But I'll get to meet potential and actual readers and discuss my books with them.


And over time, I've given talks myself at libraries and bookstores and more.  I've even given a few extension classes at colleges, hoping to help other authors start or polish their work.


Long ago, when I started writing, I assumed writers just wrote and got published and had fun that way.  Sure, that's fun, but I learned from experience that writing isn't just writing.  We need to get out there and make sure prospective readers find us.  And so, though I used to be shy and uncomfortable with public speaking, which isn't surprising for a writer, I've learned through experience to face the world and an audience and talk to the crowd.



It's all part of writing... and it's fun.





Linda O. Johnston is currently writing the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries for Midnight Ink.  Her most recent one was Bad to the Bone, and the next in the series, Pick and Chews, will be a May 2018 release.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Dedications, Gratitude, and Appreciation, Oh My!



The Monday after Thanksgiving seems appropriate to share my intense gratitude for all of the people who have helped me on the path to publication for my newest book, Pre-Meditated Murder.  Even though it's not out until January, the individuals mentioned below helped me over a year ago, meaning that this thanks is well overdue.  To all of the people who help me every day of this life, I probably don't say it enough, but I appreciate you!!

Dedication:

To my precocious German shepherd pup, Ana. Thank you for filling my days with laughter and my nights with warmth.

Acknowledgements:

The longer I write, the more I realize that writing is a team sport.

Thanks, as always, to editor Sandy Sullivan at Midnight Ink and freelance editor Marta Tanrikulu. Your insights and feedback both amaze and humble me. Thanks also to my agent, Margaret Bail, and editor Terri Bischoff at Midnight Ink. I am grateful that you were willing to take a chance on this newbie author five years ago.  Without you, my series would still be gathering dust at the bottom of my closet.

Special thanks to Jane Gorman, Brandy Reinke, and Renee Turner, who helped me understand the complex process of immigration and the particular challenges faced by immigrants coming to the United States from Mexico. Any errors are solely my own.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the town of Cannon Beach, Oregon, which is one of my favorite places in the world. I took some liberties with the Sand Castle Festival, including moving it to autumn instead of early summer, but the loveliness of the town is unchanged. I hope to retire there someday.

My husband, Marc, gets extra kudos for designing and maintaining my author website, as well as for listening to all of my grumbles and supporting me through all of my challenges. Ana Pup, the new canine love of my life, gets my eternal gratitude for keeping life interesting.

Finally, thank you to all of my readers, who keep me glued to the keyboard even when I feel like giving up. I write for you.

Tracy

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

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The New England Crime Bake

Edith here north of Boston, packing and checking items off her To-Bring list.

What am I packing for, you ask? Why, the New England Crime Bake, of course. 





Now in its 15th year, the "Bake" is co-sponsored by Sisters in Crime New England and Mystery Writers of America New England. As I am the current president of the SINC chapter, I am expected to be there. But I wouldn't miss it for anything. I started going in 2006, and have missed only one year since.

Unlike some of the big fan conferences -- think Bouchercon or Malice Domestic -- this one is a writers' conference. It offers master classes on the first day. Agent and editor pitch opportunities. Manuscript critiques. Forensics workshops. The audience is almost exclusively made up of published and aspiring crime fiction writers.

So we all come to learn, to network. But we have lots and lots of fun, too. There's usually a panel where the panelists make up mysteries on the spot. Friday night there's a pizza party. Our SINC chapter presents a game, which this year is Pin the Wound on the Corpse. All attendees get a bingo card at the beginning, and have to go around finding authors fitting the description to sign each square: Writes Three Series might be one. Former SINC National president might be another. MWA member from Vermont another. It's a great ice breaker. 


Sheriff Edith with cowgirls Shari Randall and Kim Gray.
The banquet always has a theme related to the guest of honor and attendees are encourage to dress up in appropriate costumes. When Craig Johnson of Longmire fame was guest of honor, for example, we all turned out in cowboy (or cowgirl) gear. The year Charlaine Harris was our honored guest, Saturday night was the Vampire Ball. You get the idea! This year the guest is Lisa Gardner, and the banquet theme is the Red Carpet, so the dress will be of the more conventional fancy awards-ceremony sort. As with every year, there will be dancing!

And then there's always the bar. For me by now, attending Crime Bake is like going back to summer camp and connecting with people you've missed all year. Next year and the year after I will be co-chair of the conference, sharing the duties with someone from the MWA chapter, so I expect my responsibilities might cut into my fun a bit. But that's okay - it's my turn to give back.

Readers: Are you going to Crime Bake or have you? Which annual conference do you attend where it's like going back to summer camp?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Creating Characters


by Linda O. Johnston

I love creating characters for my novels. 

Or do I create them?  Maybe they create me.

There is, after all, an element of me in all of them, or at least in my protagonists.  For example, Carrie Kennersly, from my Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries, is a veterinary technician who buys a bakery from a friend and turns half into a barkery where she sells healthy dog treats that she created.


There appears to be very little of Carrie in me.  I'm not much of a cook, for one thing.  I've been fortunate enough to get most of the recipes in my books from friends.


But once upon a time I wanted to be a veterinarian, and Carrie as a vet tech has to do a lot of the things that her vet bosses do.  I realized that I wouldn't be able to deal with being around sick animals, even to help them.  And I especially couldn't handle cutting them open, even to save their lives.  So, I became a lawyer--and a writer. But I'm delighted that Carrie can deal with the bad as well as the good to take the best care of ill animals.


And believe it or not, there actually is a lot of Carrie in me--or me in Carrie.  We both love animals, especially dogs.  We both solve murders.  Of course I happen to create those murders in my stories for her to solve, but in a way we join forces to put together a mystery and incorporate it into a book that will hopefully be fun to read.


Plus, Carrie owns a dog, Biscuit.  Biscuit is always in her life.  And I am owned by a couple of dogs, Mystie and Cari.  They probably control my life more than Biscuit controls Carrie's, but that's fine with me.



Yes, there are other characters in the books who are important to the story.  There is possibly a touch of me in all of them--maybe even the murderers.  I'll have to consider that more and possibly write about that here sometime in the future.



www.LindaOJohnston.com