Monday, July 24, 2017

Pre-Meditated Murder: An Excerpt

By Tracy Weber

Hi all!  I'm heads down this month promoting my second audiobook and writing my sixth  mystery, so for this week's blog, I decided to share an excerpt from my upcoming Downward Dog Mystery. Pre-Meditated Murder  releases January 8, 2018. The excerpt has not gone through Midnight Ink's editing process yet, so please forgive any errors. 
 
I put Alice back into the carrier and followed Rene to the sidewalk. I would have kept chiding her all the way to the car, but when we were a few steps away from the street, Bella froze, halting my forward motion and practically dislocating my shoulder. “Bella, knock it—” I stopped mid-sentence.

Something was wrong.
Bella stared straight ahead, teeth exposed, ears pricked forward. The guard hairs along her spine stood on end like the quills of an angry porcupine. Low growls rumbled from deep in her chest.
“What is it, sweetie?” I kneeled next to her and followed her gaze. It was locked on a man who was standing—or rather skulking—in a dark, narrow alley across the street. He wore a camouflage baseball cap.
“It’s him,” I whispered.
Rene glanced left to right. “It’s who?”
The stranger looked up and we made eye contact. For the first time, I got a good look at his face. Dark hair. Tan, weathered skin. Light blue, almost icy, eyes. He turned and bolted down the alley.
As to what happened next, I can only plead temporary insanity.
“Rene, stay here.” I ordered. I thrust Bella’s leash into her hand and broke into a run, determined to catch the suspicious stranger.
“Where are you going?” Rene yelled to my back.
I ignored her and shoved past an elderly woman. “Excuse me.” I dodged to the right and twirled past a young mother pushing a stroller. “Sorry!” I leapt over a low bench and landed—hard—on the edge of my right foot. Pain jolted from my ankle to my knee. I recovered my balance and kept running, but the camo-capped man ran faster. He was getting away!
I didn’t think. More importantly, I didn’t look. I acted on pure instinct. I darted off the curb and into the busy street. The driver of a black pickup truck slammed on his brakes.
The next three seconds passed with petrifying clarity. The horrified expression on the driver’s face; the ear-piercing screech of locked tires against pavement; the chemical smell of burning rubber; the sour taste of adrenaline. I gaped down at my knees, or more accurately at the truck’s bumper, which had stopped an inch from my legs. The driver leaned out his window and yelled, “Jesus, lady! Watch where you’re going!”
“My fault!” I yelled. I started running again.
Across the street, down the alley, and out to the sidewalk on the other side. I skidded to a stop, lungs heaving, and whipped my head back and forth.
The suspicious stranger had vanished.

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





Tracy Weber is a certified yoga teacher and the founder of Whole Life Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio in Seattle, where she current­ly lives with her husband, Marc, and precocious German shepherd puppy, Ana. She loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any form possible. When she’s not writing, she spends her time teaching yoga, trying to corral Ana Tasha, and sip­ping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house. Tracy loves connecting with fans.  Find her on her author web page or on Facebook.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

PATH INTO DARKNESS: Third Book Makes a Series + GIVEAWAY!

By Lisa Alber 

Three is a magic number in the land of novel publication. With three books, a series becomes a full-fledged series, and even if you never write another book in that series, you can call it a "trilogy." My third novel in the County Clare series comes out in less than three weeks (woohoo!). I'm proud of it, to be honest. I took a few risks in the storytelling and pushed my own boundaries with the subject matter and with the topic of mental illness.

To celebrate PATH INTO DARKNESS' launch, there's a Goodreads giveaway going on until July 26th. Please enter for the chance to win a signed advanced readers copy of this novel!



Goodreads Book Giveaway

Path Into Darkness by Lisa Alber

Path Into Darkness

by Lisa Alber

Giveaway ends July 26, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway


Here's more information about the book:

By the author of Whispers in the Mist, heralded by Library Journal as “a first-rate crime novel,” comes this 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 Zoe, the daughter Nathan abandoned years ago.

In this “dark, compelling mystery” (Booklist), one man is propelled toward a tragic downfall while the other struggles to walk the narrow path between life and death.

Praise:
Starred Review "An atmospheric story of Ireland, filled with myth and darkness. . . Fans of Erin Hart's dark Irish crime novels should welcome this series."—Library Journal (starred review)

"A dark, compelling mystery with numerous plot twists and well-drawn characters interwoven with an involving portrait of life in a small insular Irish village."—Booklist
“A haunting tale rife with gruesome murders and secrets, Path into Darkness shines.”
Foreword Reviews 
“Lyrical, tense, and haunting . . . the story propels the reader to a conclusion that is heartbreaking, human, and hopeful.”—Deborah Crombie, New York Times bestselling author of Garden of Lamentations

“Each strand in this terrific novel is absorbing enough to carry books on its own, yet Alber effortlessly weaves them into a breathtaking ensemble.”—Catriona McPherson, Agatha Award–winning author of Quiet Neighbors

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Looking up Words from the Past

Edith here, writing from north of Boston where it's finally really summer!

Last Saturday I finished writing the first draft of my fourth Quaker Midwife Mystery. No title and no cover, either, so far - it will be out in April, 2019. I'm delighted to be done, of course. Revisions and polishing lie ahead, but the basic story is complete. (See here for the first three!)

One thing I do a lot as I'm writing this series, which is set in the late 1880s, is look up words. I might type a word like "employee" and then think, "Wait, that sounds kind of modern. Did people say that then?"

Other than a good dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary, my favorite source is the Online Etymology Dictionary. This invaluable source from Douglas Harper is right there at my fingertips as I'm writing. 

I type the word, click OK, and bingo, get results.



So, for your reading pleasure, I present some of the words I've been checking, and the year of their first occurrence. I categorize them into CAN use and CAN'T use. And yes, I keep a running list of every word I've looked up from book one forward.


CAN use:
  • last straw 1836
  • employee. "person employed," 1850, mainly in U.S.
  • chummy. 1874
  • damnation. As an imprecation (spoken curse) from 1600.
  • grown-up, 1813
  • daddy 1500
  • elastic. Figurative use by 1859. The noun meaning "piece of elastic material," originally a cord or string woven with rubber, is from 1847, American English.
  • cop. "policeman," 1859, abbreviation of earlier copper
  • hot water. 1530s in figurative sense of "trouble.
  • funny bone "elbow end of the humerus" (where the ulnar nerve passes relatively unprotected) is from 1826, so called for the tingling sensation when struck
  • lo and behold, attested by 1779
  • trainee, 1841
  • weekend 1878
  • stall, v. "to become stuck or be set fast," mid-15c
  • ad, abbreviation of advertisement, attested by 1841
  • intuit, v, Meaning "to perceive directly without reasoning, know by immediate perception" is from 1840
  • index finger 1768
  • splendid 1640s
  • vet for veterinarian 1862
  • neighborhood 1620s
  • creepy, in modern sense 1858
  • Thanks, 15 c.
  • Brochure - 1748
  • Pamphlet - late 1500s
CAN’T use:
  • second-guess 1941
  • run-in "quarrel, confrontation," 1905
  • deadline: “time limit," 1920, American English newspaper jargon
  • scan, v. sense of "look over quickly, skim" is first attested 1926
  • undercover.  Sense of "operating secretly" attested from 1920
  • hormone, 1905
  • logo 1937
  • trade-off, 1957
  • fitness, as in physically fit, 1937
  • stylized, 1894
  • spill the beans, 1919
  • pictogram 1910
  • activist "one who advocates a doctrine of direct action," 1915; activism 1920
Readers: which of these surprised you? Got a favorite word whose history you want me to check?


Monday, July 3, 2017

Half A Year Completed

by Linda O. Johnston

No matter what time of any year it is, I think frequently about how fast time is passing.  It definitely is this year.  Half of 2017 is gone already!

Not that I wasted any time, and I suspect that's true of most people reading this, whether you're a reader or writer or both.  One particularly fun thing about being a writer is that we can work on our stories even when we're doing other things.  Our subconscious minds are always plotting, no matter what other things we're up to.

Things like traveling.  I took a particularly fun trip recently--one that allowed me to visit the Midnight Ink offices in Woodbury, Minnesota.  I'd never been to Minnesota before, so that was enjoyable, as was the family party I'd gone there to attend.  But seeing the Llewellyn/Midnight Ink offices was definitely a highlight of the trip.  I got to see my wonderful editor, whom I'd already met at Malice Domestic conferences.  Plus, I met some of the helpful and delightful staff I'd worked with online who edit and promote my stories.  They also held a meet and greet where I was able to speak to others on the staff about what I write and why, and to answer their questions and sign some books.  And I got a tour of the offices, which definitely impressed me.  Would I go back there again?  Definitely, if I had the opportunity!  I know some of my fellow authors for Midnight Ink live closer and most likely visit there more often.

So now it's July.  My most recent MI mystery, BAD TO THE BONE, was a May release, and I've turned in the manuscript for the next one in the Barkery & Biscuits Mystery Series.  I'm writing additional stories containing dogs for another publisher--and I'm helping to train our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy Cari, including encouraging her to play gently with her companion Mystie, our older Cavalier.

I suspect the rest of this year will go similarly, even though I won't get to Minnesota again.  But it has been a good year so far for me--and I also hope your year is going well.


And if you're a writer, too--all the best to your subconscious mind!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Presenting the audiobook version of A KILLER RETREAT!


July marks the official launch of my second audiobook, A Killer Retreat!  Although the official launch is in July, it's available for purchase on Audible now.   Join me at the Facebook launch party on July 13 at this link

If you're interested in receiving a free Audible copy of the work in exchange for an honest review, please e-mail me at Tracy@WholeLifeYoga.com.  In the meantime, Enjoy the excerpt below. In this installment, protagonist and yoga teacher Kate Davidson finds herself on the wrong side of the one-way mirror in the suspect interview room. 

#
 
Sergeant Bill took copious notes, nodding and smiling encouragingly. After fifteen rambling minutes, I completed my spiel.

“Well,” he said, closing his notebook and laying down his pen. “I think we’re about done here.”

“You mean I can go?” It couldn’t possibly be this easy. I never got away with anything.

He shrugged. “I don’t see why not.”

Relief washed over me like water in a warm shower. For once, luck and the universe were on my side. I stood up, eased to the door, and rested my hand on the doorknob. Only two more steps and I’d be free. My mind chattered, nervously narrating each action in a silent monologue.

OK, Kate, you’re almost there. Stay calm and don’t blow it. I took a deep breath. Turn the knob to the right. The latch clicked and released. Open the door. The hinges squeaked open; a cool breeze caressed my cheeks. As I glanced through the doorway, the empty hall beckoned me—coaxed me toward freedom.

Step one foot forward, and—

“You know, there’s only one thing I don’t get about your story.”

The melodic lilt in Sergeant Bill’s voice had completely evaporated.

Tension spread from my toes to my scalp. I tried to suppress—or at least camouflage—a mounting sense of panic. I took a deep breath and turned to face him. Sergeant Bill leaned forward, elbows on the desk, fingers laced together. He didn’t look at all friendly.

I forced my lips into a smile and tried to look innocent.

“What’s that?”

“Why is it that six different witnesses say you threatened to strangle the victim this morning?”

Sergeant Bill wasn’t smiling anymore. Then again, neither was I. We stared at each other in silence.

 “Why don’t you close that door and sit on back down.”
 
#

I hope you give the book (audio or written) a try, and love it!
 
Tracy Weber


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




Tracy Weber is a certified yoga teacher and the founder of Whole Life Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio in Seattle, where she current­ly lives with her husband, Marc, and precocious German shepherd puppy, Ana. She loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any form possible. When she’s not writing, she spends her time teaching yoga, trying to corral Ana Tasha, and sip­ping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house. Tracy loves connecting with fans.  Find her on her author web page or on Facebook.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

5 Ways I Improved PATH INTO DARKNESS at the Last Minute

By Lisa Alber


I just finished the final, FINAL nit-piks for PATH INTO DARKNESS, coming out in August. Talk about under the wire! The book is at the printer as I write this post. Yay! I'm so grateful for the chance to provide a detailed final proofread, and then quickly proofread my proofread for a sanity check on my final changes. (And, yes, I found four more wee, itty, bitty, teeny, tiny typos ... It could never end, seriously.)

It's amazing how you can always improve a story. I didn't change big things, and some would argue that small changes like the ones I performed couldn't matter that much to the overall reader experience ...

That might be true, because the book has been out in the world as an advanced reader copy for awhile now -- advanced readers seem to be enjoying the story. But still. I'm a proponent of subtle changes for overall improvement in my storytelling. No one else may care. But I do. (But then, you gotta stop. JUST. STOP. after awhile. Let the beast go. Be free, fledgling novel!) 

So, yeah, I put on my nit-pik hat, and this is what I came up with besides leftover typos and awkward word choices and grammatical bloopers:

1. Murkiness factor. Mysteries work because they are purposefully murky until the end of the story. I deleted and adjusted dialog that was too spot-on, i.e. dialogue in which one character was talking with too much clarity. I thought, Wow, that's certainly shining too much of a light on such-and-such character or event or bit of information. In my own writer self-talk, I call this toning it the hell down. :-)

2. Subtle consistency errors. The consistency errors I fixed had to do with proper setup for events that come toward the end of the novel. True, most readers probably won't catch these things, but there is an overall effect as one scene builds on another and on another, and you get to know the characters. Readers are left with feelings about the characters without knowing why all the time. The point for me is not to come out of left field all of sudden at the end of the novel.

3. Lingo adjustments. My novels are set in Ireland, so I try to be conscience of using the correct vernacular. I'm sure I don't catch everything, but, for example, in my final proofread, I changed "steal" to "pinch," "rent" to "let," and "mom" to "mum."

4. Improve the last chapter. I have my wonderful editor, Nicole, to thank for this one. She had made some edits to the final chapter with a passing comment that made me realize that I'd floated off course with one of my subplots. Just a little, but it was enough to bug me. The last chapter didn't hang right. This was with Danny, my detective, having a heartfelt moment with his kids. The final moment, the final decision he's making in this story. And it's a big decision. So, yeah, I adjusted that chapter, and went back and employed number two above.

5. Simplified backstory aspects from the previous novels. One of my eternal questions as a writer of a series is how much of the previous novels' backstories to include in the current novel. I want my novels to standalone as much as possible. For me, this means NOT dumping all the details in from previous novels. I don't like info dumps. That's just me. I prefer to simply not mention past events or background character details that aren't germaine to the current story. For example, the fact that Danny has a dead daughter from years back didn't need to be mentioned -- mentioning this daughter added more question marks than it clarified Danny's character.

So now, having gone through this process, I can finally say that I've done all that I can possibly do to create the best book I'm capable of at this moment in time. Whew!

How forgiving of typos are you when you read novels? (Me, I'm very forgiving now; before writing novels I used to be a hard ass.)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Studying 1888 Politics

Edith Maxwell here. Now that Called to Justice is launched to rave reviews ("A grand slam!" "A riveting historical mystery," "A mystery that surprises," and "A real page turner," I'm starting to write the fourth book in the Quaker Midwife Mysteries series. Wait, you say. What about Book Three?

Turning the Tide is already in production, and you can pre-order it (please do!) but the cover isn't up yet.

I loved writing this book. The story takes place during presidential election week of 1888. Here's the cover blurb:

Excitement runs high during Presidential election week in 1888. The Woman Suffrage Association plans a demonstration and movement leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton comes to town to rally the troops. When Quaker midwife Rose Carroll finds the body of the group's local organizer the next morning, she can't help but wonder who could have committed the murder.
Rose quickly discovers several people who have motives. The victim had planned to leave her controlling husband, and a recent promotion had cost a male colleague his job. She had also recently spurned a fellow suffragist's affections. After Rose's own life is threatened, identifying the killer takes on a personal sense of urgency.
What do you think? Sound like a fun read? The research was even more fun. I learned about election cakes. Women used to make these huge fruitcakes and the political party would give out pieces to men entering the polling place in an attempt to woo their vote.
I learned that the parties had different color ballots, and that the party regulars wore different color top hats while campaigning.
 I also studied up on women's suffrage. At the time they wore sunflower yellow sashes to protests and carried placards with slogans like, “Women Bring All Voters Into The World. Let Women Vote,” “Ballots for Both,” “Equal Suffrage,” and “Votes for Women.” Many of the suffrage leaders were Quakers like my midwife, so it wasn't a stretch to make Rose's mother an activist, too. John Greenleaf Whittier goes into vote in the election morning scene, and then comes to stand in solidarity with the women across the street from the polling place.
It was great fun studying Elizabeth Cady Stanton and bringing her  to Amesbury to support the women. She appears in several scenes in the book, even though I don't know if she actually ever visited my town where the series takes place. She was moving on to essays on personal responsibility, and I extracted bits of one for a talk she gave to a women's salon I portray in the book. 
Incumbent Grover Cleveland didn't win the election, as it turns out, even though Rose was on his side. And her investigation of the activist's murder turns dangerous, too. You'll have to read the book to find out if Rose is defeated or not.
What's your favorite election story, or factoid about either elections or women's suffrage in the past? 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Publishing and Promoting

by Linda O. Johnston

            Last month was a busy one for me.  I spent a lot of it doing what novel writers gotta do: write and promote. 

 

            I once thought that writers just wrote, but thanks to the publication of a nice number of books I learned that part of the requirement--and fun--is to promote.

 

            And so, I did a lot last month to let the world know about the launch of my third Barkery & Biscuits Mystery, Bad to the Bone, published by Midnight Ink

 

            I talked about it on my usual blogs, and also went on a Great Escapes blog tour.  I visited libraries.  I visited book stores.  I encouraged reviews.  But none of this sounds new to those of you reading this who also happen to be writers.

 

            I also had a June 1 deadline for turning in the manuscript for Barkery book #4.  Its title isn't established yet, but I did meet the deadline despite some health issues, so I'm glad about that.  And those of you reading this who also happen to be writers also know a lot about deadlines.

 

            One would think that, as with any career, learning what to do to could get stale with time.  But that's one fun thing about being a novelist.  Things may be the same, but they're also different.  We meet lots of people, in person and online.  We're always plotting, so our minds are never inactive. 

 

            And then, when the latest book comes out, we celebrate, in lots of ways--which of course includes those elements of promotion.

 

            So Happy June to all of you.  And may it be productive in your own plotting, promoting, reading, and everything else you do!