A Toe in the Surf: Introducing Emily Montgomery

I met Emily initially online during one of the National Novel Writing Months we both did. Can’t remember which one. But she stepped into the breech today, so to speak, stepped up to the plate, and all those clichés, so may I introduce someone I think is a terrific writer: Emily Montgomery.

Hello. My name is Emily Montgomery and I’m an introvert.

Not unusual for a writer, is it?

I love books and writing. I decided I wanted to write my own, because there were characters who kept telling me their stories and wouldn’t quiet down until I put them on paper. I don’t even have a website yet. I don’t blog (this is my first blog post ever); I hate Facebook, and Twitter overwhelms me. I do have an editor interested in my unfinished manuscript, which means now I have to finish it.

I was named after Emily Brontë, only I decided I wasn’t going to die young of consumption. It was a romantic idea when I was about thirteen, but life is much too interesting to leave it until I’m old and ready. I used to fantasize I was Emily of the New Moon series written by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

I’m an unpublished writer without a website or a contract, so what am I doing on A Biblio Paradise?

Funny story, that.

I’m visiting Devon Ellington, who runs this blog. The person who was scheduled to post today backed out yesterday. I was here on the Cape visiting Devon, on an impulse.

I never do anything on impulse.

Devon and I met during National Novel Writing Month. A friend of mine got tired of listening to me say I wanted to write a book “someday” and signed me up. I saw, on one of the forums, that Devon had something called “30 Tips for 30 Days” where she emailed a tip every day during Nano. I asked to be on the list. It gave me motivation, especially on days when I thought I couldn’t face a blank page.

National Novel Writing Month demands that a writer create 50,000 words over 30 days, in November. I figured that would force me to write every day.

I wrote every day.

The problem is, I am a slow writer. I learned the most I can write is 500 words on any given day. It doesn’t matter if I write for one hour or eight hours. 500 words is it for me. I have a confession: there was one day where I wrote 497 words, and I added three adverbs to make 500.

I’ve cut them since, I promise.

But 500 words a day times 30 days equals 15,000 words. That’s 35,000 words short of the goal.

I figured Devon would never speak to me again, because, on a good day, it seems like she writes a bazillion words. I know her minimum is 1000 words. From there, it’s until she falls over from exhaustion. During Nano, it’s usually around 2500, because she likes to be done by Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, I struggled to hit 500 words for the day while stirring gravy.

But she did speak to me again. In fact, at a post-Nano event at a bar, when I was standing in the doorway wondering why I was there, someone smiled at me across the room, waved, and said, “Pull up a chair and join us.”

It was Devon.

I hardly spoke all night, but I listened a lot. We were an ever-growing table of writers, who wrote in different genres, read a lot, and had opinions. So many opinions! I felt I’d found home, even if I didn’t have a lot to contribute.

I love words. I love characters. I almost wrote that I love “people,” but that’s only true if I don’t have to deal with too many of them all at once. But words have power. I don’t believe “sticks and stone may hurt my bones, but words can never harm me.” I believe that words are more powerful than sticks and stones. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can tear my soul.

Nano taught me that I also love the writing. I don’t care about “having written” as much as I love to sit down, every day, and write out the stories that play in my head. I love the words themselves; I also love what’s between them, under them, around them. I love the writing.

Words can also help me create the world as I wish it would be. The better world I believe we are capable of creating, if we stop making the easiest choices and letting other people make decisions for us. We need to be engaged every minute of every day, even when it scares us. Especially when it scares us. We must both bear witness and become architects of a better history, not a repeated history.

Devon and I kept in touch. A few months ago, I asked if she would give me an opinion on a handful of chapters I’ve worked and reworked. She said yes. I spent the time from sending them to hearing from her in a state of constant nausea.

Her response was, “I don’t know what the hell this is, but I really like it. Call it literary fiction and you’ll cover the bases.” Considering she didn’t like what I’d worked on that first Nano, I figured she meant it. With her encouragement, I submitted to a couple of editors who were willing to look at partials. Most said no, but one editor said she liked it, and now I have to finish it, within a reasonable time frame. If it goes under contract (there or elsewhere), I will have to write another book. Even at 15,000 words a month, I can write a book in a year, if I show up every day and write. Eventually, I’ll have to have things like a website and maybe even social media accounts.

Why put myself through it? Because I love my characters and my story. I love the “what if?” and then “if then.” I love the process of discovery. People are interesting. The world is interesting, even when it breaks your heart.

Virginia Woolf stated she understood the world by writing about it (I’m paraphrasing). That’s how I feel.

I’m spending a few days in Boston. I took the bus down to Cape Cod to visit Devon. We were sitting on the deck, enjoying a glass of wine and some snacks, talking about books, when an email came through; there was a problem with the post that was supposed to go up on this site today.

Devon said I should write it (once she finished swearing). So here I am.

Maybe there’s hope for me yet. This post is over a 1000 words, and it only took me a couple of hours. But, no matter what, I will show up at the page and do the best I can. Every day.

Emily Montgomery is a writer. In the foreseeable future, she will have a website, and, with craft, persistence,and luck, a published novel.


Tues. May 8, 2018: THE SPIRIT REPOSITORY, The Second Coventina Circle Novel!

The Spirit Repository.6

Some shameless self-promotion here! The Spirit Repository releases today. Here’s a little background, and thanks to Mary Tratt for the interview questions.

Question: Following the evolution of this book through your blog, Ink in My Coffee, and on social media, it seems this was more of a struggle than Playing the Angles.

Devon Ellington: The books offered different challenges. When I originally wrote Playing the Angles, it was going to be a stand-alone. I had no intention of creating a series. Bonnie wandered in to sublet from Morag near the end of PTA, and started telling me her story. Around the same time, I was reading Washington Irving’s diaries and books about the history of New York when it was New Amsterdam. That all came together for The Spirit Repository – the idea that Rufus was comfortable living with the ghosts of his ancestors, but that someone was trying to destroy those ghosts.

The original publisher of Playing the Angles, back when it had another title, had first-look on my next book in that world; while that book was in production, I went under contract for a different series with a different publisher. Repository kept going on the back burner while I fulfilled signed contracts. When the publisher of PTA and I parted ways, I put the book aside.

When I sat down with my advisors and we did the career re-evaluation in 2017 and discussed new directions, I re-read PTA and really liked it; and I had more ideas for Repository. I’d written about a third of the manuscript before putting it aside. I started thinking about the stories of the other members of Coventina Circle, and came up with a series proposal. When Bluestockings and Gentlemen Press were interested in the series and willing to commit to the series, not just a book once it was finished, I went back to Repository. I had to get back into Bonnie and Rufus’s rhythms. Rufus, in particular, has a particular formal cadence, while Bonnie is more effervescent. Very different than the dynamic between Morag and Simon.

I hadn’t outlined the book, so it was harder to get back into it, find its rhythm, keep writing, and then figure out where I wanted it to go. At the same time, I was juggling the release of Savasana at Sea and the re-release of Tracking Medusa. So it was a lot.

Q: You have some interesting side stories in the book: New York’s history as New Amsterdam, the Battle of Fort Washington in the American Revolution, the popularity of spiritualism and mediumship in Victorian New York.

DE: Because Rufus lives with so many decades of ghosts, there are different time periods that wound into the story. New York still had plenty of Dutch influences; if you look around the city, they are still strong. I didn’t know much about the Battle of Fort Washington before it came up. Once I started reading about the way the American prisoners were stashed on ships in Brooklyn, starved, and the dead bodies thrown over the side, well, it was awful. I knew I had to put it in. The tie-in to the Percy family of Northumberland – had to go in. Anyone who knows me knows how obsessed I’ve been with Shakespeare’s Hotspur and his real-life descendants. I’ve always been interested in how mediums and spiritualism became popular, especially in New York. It gained momentum after the Civil War, when people were so desperate to connect with their lost loved ones and grew from there. Other Powers by Barbara Goldsmith has inspired several of my characters.

Q: I felt like I could read an entire book about any of those side stories.

DE: It was difficult to keep them as anecdotes and discoveries, and not go too deeply into any of the tangents.

Q: Will we see more?

DE: Once the main thread of the Coventina Circle series is complete, I might go back and write some of these stories as straight-up historical fiction rather than paranormal romantic suspense. I still want to do that with some of the backstage stories in PTA, the stories behind the ghosts. Time and interest is going to dictate part of that. When I can schedule the writing, and if people want the stories.

Q: Stylistically, this book is different than much of the rest of your work.

DE: Yes, and that’s always scary, isn’t it? There’s more narrative than I usually use. I dramatized some of the narrative, and it created too much of a tangent so it had to be cut; I needed the information (although I cut it way back), so it made the most sense to have Bonnie and Rufus make the discoveries and then share them. Both of them are introverts. There’s more self-reflection and internal monologue here than in most of my other work. I had to be true to their characters, not worry about my ego and holding on to “the way I usually do things.” That way lies madness and bad writing.

Rufus and Bonnie question themselves, they have trouble trusting their hearts. I also use exclamation points more often. Because they don’t trust their instincts during the course of the books, they also tended to ask questions instead of make statements. My editor and I had to change some of that because of what happens in the third book, Relics and Requiem. One of the characters in that is Australian, with the upward inflections at the end of many of his sentences. It’s a different rhythm than the self-doubt in this book, but we had to look at the use punctuation to communicate the cadences properly, and how the cadences would play against each other, book-to-book. So we changed some of the questions in this book to declaratives. We had more discussions about comma placement and how to set interior quotes in spoken dialogue than usual, because we had to make it read clearly. Digitally, some of the correct copy editing style didn’t work, so we had to amend it and work with the publisher to make sure it was okay. It was difficult to let go of some of the style guide protocols that are second nature. Grow and evolve, right? I am so grateful to both my editor and my copy editor for their willingness to hash out punctuation beat-to-beat when necessary.

Q: Jake is a very strong character. How did he come about?

DE: He walked into the book and made himself at home! I cut him out of a few drafts, and he kept coming back. So I let him do his thing. One of the themes in this book, which I will build on in future books, is how interconnected this particular community is. Even if they don’t always get along, they’ll help each other. Bonnie and Jake have a strong connection that makes Rufus uncomfortable. Going further than that gives too much away too soon!

Q: There’s a lot of Celtic/Irish connection in this book, too.

DE: Yes. New York has pockets of different communities. They mesh, but they also keep a strong sense of identity. It’s one of the great things about living in New York, and one of the things I miss about it. There’s still a very strong Irish community. Lots of students, lots of young men and women who come over and work for a few months for their gap year and whatever. When I lived in Hell’s Kitchen, the community was changing. But it was still very strong down in the Village.

Q. Are there really hidden gardens in New York?

DE: Oh, yeah. Plenty of friends and colleagues created sanctuaries, sometimes just putting a blanket or table and chairs on the asphalt roof, or “Tar Beach” as we used to call it. More people than you’d think create rooftop gardens, and rooftop farming is getting more popular. Also, many of the buildings have tiny, narrow enclosures, back to back, bricked-in or fenced in, where they can have a bit of outdoor space. There aren’t a lot of alleys in New York – the gardens tend to back up against each other. But those delightful sanctuaries exist. It’s amazing what people can do with the space.

Q: I have to ask about The Dragon’s Lair.

DE: That is my fantasy of a perfect pagan club in NYC. As far as I know, it doesn’t exist. It would make sense to put it on the Bowery, as it re-gentrifies, although I’ve jiggled the geography a bit to make it fit.

Q: Will we have stories set there?

DE: It features in Relics and Requiem at the very least. I’m pretty sure I will set some short pieces in and around the club. Kayla and Lerrien are pretty interesting, and having that setting allows for all kinds of stories to flow through.

Q: What about the esoteric library on Orchard Street?

DE: Again, fictional. I love the NY Tenement Museum, and I could imagine the library being a couple of buildings down from it. There are a few private libraries. The New York Theosophical Society is on E. 53rd St. I thought I remembered it being down by Grammercy Park, but maybe I mis-remembered or maybe it moved. Their library is open to the public. There’s also the New York Society Library on E. 79th St. and the General Society’s Library on W. 44th St. I was a member of the latter for several years, before I moved away. I loved working in there. I thought it would be fun to have an esoteric library where Bonnie and Rufus could make discoveries, and it took on its own life.

Q. I’d like to see stories set there, too.

DE: When I can carve out the time, and if the stories pull enough, it’ll happen.

Q: You also have two in-jokes. One referencing a character from another series; one a nod to the next book in this series.

DE: You can blame Jenn McKinlay for those! She has similar cross references in her series. But it makes sense – two of my series are in contemporary Manhattan. Although the characters inhabit different circles (no pun intended), it makes sense that they would both use the Sociἐtἐ Sortileger. And the other reference came about by accident, and we decided to leave it in.

Q: What can you tell us about the next Coventina Circle novel?

DE: Relics and Requiem is scheduled to release in October. That’s Amanda’s story, and her complicated life gets even more so when she helps out an acquaintance at a small museum and winds up involved in a murder. The detective who catches the case is Phineas Regan, who we met in Playing the Angles. They are the primary protagonists. Amanda’s got a lot of sharp edges. She’s very forceful and dynamic, very different from Bonnie. I’m having a lot of fun with Amanda and Phineas.

Bonnie Chencko knows books change lives. But she never expected her life to change because she happened to duck into a small bookshop in Greenwich Village on a rainy late November night. She’s attracted to Rufus Van Dijk, the mysterious man who owns the bookshop in his ancestors’ building. A building filled with family ghosts, who are mysteriously disappearing. It’s up to Bonnie and her burgeoning Craft powers to rescue the spirits before their souls are lost forever.

Before Rufus could question or she could elaborate, the front door opened and banged shut. A gangly young man with short-cropped black hair entered, carrying a large take-out bag. Delicious smells of meat, chicken, onion, melted cheese, and peppers wafted from it. Minerva growled, and the other two cats glared at him. “Hey, the line at the taco place took for damn ever, but at least I got some beers to go along with the food,” he said. He noticed Bonnie. “Oh, hello. I’m sorry, I didn’t know we had company. I’m sure we can make the food stretch.”
“Because you probably don’t need to eat six tacos,” Rufus smiled and shook his head. “Bonnie Chencko, this is Adam Grenowski. Adam, this is Bonnie. She ducked in here to get out of the rain. Adam works with me.”
“Hidden away from the real world and daylight like a vampire,” he agreed cheerfully. “Good thing I’m nocturnal.” He sneezed. “Damn, guess the allergy drugs wore off. Gotta take some more.” He placed the greasy bag on the table and took off his outerwear.
“Adam’s allergic to cats.”
“And dogs and ferrets and all the rest of the critters New Yorkers tend to hoard to keep loneliness at bay,” Adam retorted. “Give me a nice goldfish any day.” He opened a drawer behind the counter, pulled out a packet of pills, and swallowed two without water.
“You work here anyway?” Bonnie asked.
“Hey, a little sneezing never killed anyone.”
“Now, that’s not entirely true,” said Rufus. “Back in –”
“I don’t wanna know, Mr. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Encyclopedia.”
“I better go.” Bonnie placed her cup and saucer on the table.
“You’re welcome to stay,” said Rufus.
“Yeah, sure,” said Adam. “Rufus is right. I really don’t need to eat six tacos. That’s why I ordered two extra enchiladas.”
“No, I need to get home to my dogs,” said Bonnie. She looked at Adam sideways through her lashes. “Hoarded to ward off loneliness.”
“Hey, if there’s a way I can put my foot in my mouth, I will,” said Adam. “Part of my charm.”
Rufus snorted and nearly choked. Adam whacked him between the shoulder blades.
“It was nice to meet both of you, and thank you, Rufus, for the tea.” Bonnie stood up and put on her coat, hat, and gloves.
“You’ll come back, won’t you?” Rufus asked.
Bonnie picked up her messenger bag and her purse. Was she imagining it, or did she detect a note of worry in Rufus’s tone? “I’d love to come back. I want to browse through the books, and I’m sure it’ll take more than one trip.”
“Soon, I hope.” Rufus smiled at her, a hint of a flush creeping into his cheeks.
“Soon,” Bonnie promised. She walked to the door and tried to open it, but it wouldn’t give way.
“Oh, hey, hang on a sec, I’ll be right there,” said Adam. “Sometimes the door sticks.”
“Yeah, when you slam it shut like that,” Rufus countered.
Bonnie gave it another good jiggle, hearing Adam’s footsteps behind her. A moment later, she screamed as a knife sailed through the air and pinned part of her sleeve to the door.


Published by Bluestockings and Gentlemen Press. Available on multiple digital channels for $3.99 here.

Author PJ Friel and A TOUCH OF WYRD


I’ve known PJ for a few years now, both as an author and a cover designer (she designs the covers for the Jain Lazarus Adventures). I’m thrilled to host her ahead her debut novel’s release on March 23. PJ talks about her process, in her own words:

 A Twisted Process

According to Merriam-Webster, process is “a series of actions or operations conducing to an end”. When applied to writing a book, those actions would be: pre-writing, writing, revision, editing, and then publishing. That sounds, as my mother always said, easy-peasy.

(insert slightly hysterical laughter here)

Merriam-Webster obviously hasn’t met me.

According to my friend Justene, this is what my writing process looks like:

“Create characters, create a world. Toss them into a plot. Write forever. Rewrite. Rewrite again. Rewrite a few dozen more times. Send it out to beta readers. Look at the feedback. Freak out for a while. Make a cover. Think about throwing in the towel. Beat yourself up. Rewrite a couple more times. Decide another rewrite will make it different but probably won’t make it better. Send it out for publication.”

I cracked up reading her description but guess what. It’s funny because it’s true. The “process” I followed to write my first book, A Twist of Wyrd, was a study in frustrated perfectionism. But it wasn’t necessarily my process that was the problem.

Every writer follows a different path to their final destination: the Hero’s Journey, beat sheets, various systems created by other authors, or pieces of all these things sewed together into a Franken-process. Where I went wrong was the mistaken belief that I just hadn’t found my OTP (one true process). I thought there had to be some magical system out there that would take me from dim bulb to illuminated writer.

That may sound a little weird, but in order to understand why I was so dead set in my OTP belief, you need to know a little more about me. When I’m not writing stories about valkyries and berserkers, I’m a spreadsheet slinging, database pinging Business Analyst. My day job is all SQL code and Excel formulas, and if you’ve never worked with either, let me just say that a single misplaced comma can ruin your day. So, making the switch from by-the-book Vlookups and Select statements to a “learn the rules so you can break them” philosophy was a little panic inducing.

I could never decide which rules it was okay to break and I could never make my manuscript equal four, no matter how many times I added two and two. So, I got trapped in a rewrite loop. For years. Until one day, tearful misery, I called my sister and she gave me some advice that finally broke through logic wall. She said, “Stop writing the book and just tell the story.”

After trying everything else, I decided I had nothing to lose, so I did it. I stopped worrying about the rules and the beats and the acts and I focused on telling the story of a man and woman battling enemy factions and their own fears on the path to real love.

The by-product of my newfound “just tell the story” attitude was that I started to trust myself and my writing. I finished my novel and worked up the bravery to share it with beta readers, warts and all. Knowing that I was sending out an imperfect story to others was terrifying. What if they hated it? What if they found gaping plot holes? What if they couldn’t connect to my characters? What if? What if? What if? This is the part of the process where I created about thirty different versions of my book cover and thought about throwing in the towel.

Then an author friend of mine stepped in and saved my sanity, and with it, my book. How? By freaking out while writing his own novel. This successful man, who I deeply admire, was experiencing some of the same fears I was. What if readers hate my story? What if I’m not giving them what they expect? What if they just don’t get it? Suddenly, I was the one offering comfort and advice, and in doing so, I realized that there was nothing wrong with my process or my writing or with me. The only problem I had was one that we all have from time to time…letting fear hold me back.

So, that’s how I reached the publishing phase of process, with a whole lot of help from my wonderful beta readers and my brilliant editor. Just to be clear, this doesn’t mean that I’ve gotten over the freaking out. I’ve just made the decision not to let it stop me anymore. My plan for book two in the Ways of Wyrd series is to surrender to my lack of process, step into my character’s shoes, and leave the footprints of her life on the page. I’m kinda scared, but I’m also looking forward to the journey, no matter how twisted the path may be.


They say a person’s wyrd – their destiny – is carved into the branches of Yggdrasil long before they are born.

Three hundred years after Odin’s gates to Earth malfunctioned, Outlanders left behind have integrated into society so thoroughly that few humans are even aware of their existence.

Straddling the divide is Bryn Ullman, a PI with a unique skill that’s in demand by Akron PD and a phobia that even her martial arts training can’t defeat. Her shadowy heritage means that she is always looking over her shoulder, and has no patience, and no place in her life, for Trygg Mackenzie and the confusing things he makes her feel…and want.

Trygg, head of security for the Devourer mob, is a berserker in hiding. If the Allfather finds him, eternal servitude will be the least of his worries. But for Bryn, he’s willing to take the risk if it keeps her safe and gains him redemption for his past.

A murder investigation throws them together, but with mob secrets and unknown factions at work, will giving in to their passion be their undoing or their salvation?

On the path of fate and destiny, it’ll take A Twist of Wyrd to save them both.

Amazon Author page

ALL THE DEADLY LIES by Marian Lanouette

Lanouette.All The Deadly Lies

I am completely thrilled to have Marian Lanouette as my guest on a Biblio Paradise today! We know each other via Sisters in Crime and social media, and I’m a big fan of hers, both personally and professionally. I’m delighted that she made time to stop by for her newest release!

Good morning Devon,
And thank you for hosting Jake and I today. Devon, you asked how the Jake Carrington thriller series developed and how he and his team had grown over the series. Jake’s a recently promoted lieutenant for the Wilkesbury Police Department (WPD) and his ups and downs pull from deep within him.

I was working on my first book (which is still in the first draft stage) when Jake popped into my head, forcing me to put aside The Loss of Power. After a week I gave in and started recording his characters and team, and the scenes that floated through my head as if the story was a movie.

The more I wrote the more excited I got. Halfway through this outline I realized Jake’s story was not a single book but an entire series. What he showed me wasn’t only his professional side, but he gave me a glimpse into his personal life. I discovered I had to explore both side of him to do him justice. And then his sidekick, Louie Romanelli, snuck up on me and stole my heart. He and Jake have more than a professional relationship.

Jake, a single guy, is complemented by Louie, the married one. Louie has been Jake’s best friend since grade school, and he and his wife Sophia were there for Jake when his sister Eva was murdered in their teens. It’s this bond they carried throughout their professional and personal lives that helps each one to cope with the atrocities they deal with each day.

In All the Deadly Lies, book one of the series, Jake the player is stalked by a former girlfriend, as he finds true love for the first time. One of the cases he’s working is so similar to his sister Eva’s murder, it throws Jake into a tailspin. An innocent victim, as so many are, haunts Jake as her killer left no clues.

On the personal side, he has to learn to compromise to make the relationship work, while he investigates two high profile cases. It’s interesting to watch him metamorphosis from ‘a me kind of person’ to one who puts another person’s needs before his own.

Though each killer when caught can justify their reason for murder, to Jake, no reason is ever valid.

In book two, All the Hidden Sins, Jake deals with personal loss, as well as the possibility his sister’s killer might go free. He gets involved with a woman who has lost everything (son, husband, savings and self-esteem) due to her gambling problem. Helpless, Kyra Russell accepts a deal with the devil, in the form of mob boss, Phil Lucci, who’s hands reached deep into the WPD. Lucci offers Kyra enough money to pay off her debt and start anew with one condition. She burns bodies for him. He wants her to mingle his corpses with the legal ones she processes at her job at the crematory. Phil uses Kyra’s relationship with Jake to discredit him when he finds he can’t buy him.

Jake believes he understands human nature, and people and their actions. He’s floored when he realizes he’s been played by Kyra. It comes at a large cost—possibly his career. In the end there one person again who stands by him, and helps to pick him back up.

I don’t want to give too much away here. I love the whole series, but this story is my favorite. It’s drawn from one of my careers, and before you ask, the circumstances are pure fiction.

In book three, All the Pretty Brides, Jake is back on track both with the job and Mia as he deals with a serial killer. Each year for the past five years the killer takes a woman about to get married. One that resembles the woman who jilted him at the alter six years ago. Twists and turns at each corner, leave Jake and his team frustrated. The killer gives him two weeks to find him before he kills again. Louie is hardly any help as he deals with his wife’s first job out of the house in seventeen years. The problem, she’s picked a predator to work for. One Louie and Jake had arrested the previous year for sexual deviant behavior, though the charges were dropped when his accusers settled out of court for an undisclosed sum of money. Attorney Malone taunts Louie at every chance he gets as he puts the moves on Sophia. No one can talk any sense into her. She believes Louie’s reason for harping is his desire to stop her from working. That is until…
Jake corners the serial and all does not end well…
Sorry, again I don’t want to give spoilers to either story thread.

I’m working on book four, All the Dirty Secrets now, which is due to the publisher in May. Jake and Louie must deal with the commissioner, Todd Blake whose wife Callie is murder. She’s found in a seedy motel with pictures of her posing with another man in a scanty outfit.

As they investigate the crime it leads back to photographer Melinda Mastrianni and her boyfriend. The past comes back at him again in this small city of one hundred thousand residents. Melinda is Jake’s high school sweetheart. One he dumped after Eva’s murder.

When he examines her files he learns she’s photographed many prominent women, and fears there’ll be more deaths. Melinda denies her involvement. She’s upset and suggests someone had to have hacked in her files to get the pictures. Whoever killed Callie had used the boudoir pictures to not only blackmail the Blakes but to humiliate them. It bothers Jake that Callie went alone to the motel to deal with the blackmailer. A mistake that got her killed.

Then another woman who had posed for Melinda is murdered, but to Jake’s trained eye, it looks like a copycat killing.

In his personal life Mia throws a wrench into it when she suggests they move in together. Blindsided, Jake stumbles in his response and uses the case to put her off. The stomach wound he received in the last book has him popping pain pills to function. He wasn’t cleared to return to work yet, but the commissioner had requested he and Louie work the file and no one else.

The deeper he investigates the case, the stranger it gets. His captain, Shamus McGuire’s high powered CEO wife, Darcy, has received a blackmail letter. She too posed for Mastrianni. The link, the photos and Callie Blake was her best friend. It’s humiliating for him, his captain and his wife when Jake must question them and view all the pictures. In the midst of it all…someone released Darcy McGuire’s boudoir pictures to the press with Jake photoshopped into them by her side.

Not only is Mia upset with the pictures and their meaning, Captain Shamus McGuire is furious with Jake and his wife, as the jokes fly around the station. In Jake’s opinion, whoever sent those pictures to the press were out to destroy either Darcy or him, or both of them.

I hope you enjoy Jake and his crew. He had faults as we all do, but he learns from them as he deals with new challenges thrown at him in every story.

To catch up with what’s new with Marian here are her links:
Author’s Website
Pinterest 2
Amazon Author Page

Buy links

Jake Carrington Release schedule:
All the Deadly Lies—February 27, 2018
All the Hidden Sins—July 31, 2018
All the Pretty Brides—December 18, 2018
All the Dirty Secrets—May 1, 2018

full head and shoulders shot apielig pictures

Epsitolary Joys

One of my favorite types of books to read (or write) is the epistolary novel. That’s a novel written as letters, in case you were wondering. It’s one of the few times present tense and/or changing tense doesn’t bother me when I read a novel-length piece of work.

As a writer, historical letters are a wonderful way for me to understand a period of time when I want to set something in another era. Reading collections of letters set in that time, by a wide array of individuals across professions and economic ranges gives me more of a picture of concerns, interests, and desires than a history book, or even a newspaper article. Because letters are about personal response to an issue or an event.

Diaries are another primary source I love to read when I’m researching an era. Of course, both diaries and letters are subjective, rather than objective. They were written from an individual’s point of view. But that’s what makes them so interesting. They’re not objective. You can see into the heart of the writer — even when the writer tries to obscure that heart, or put on a mask for others.

When I get stuck while writing a novel, I’ll often write a few letters between the characters, from different points of view. Those aren’t used in the novels themselves, for the most part, but they get me past the stuck parts, because I get to the heart of what’s bothering the characters. Then I can figure out what they’re trying to hide and why. I can build and move forward from there.

I had pen pals all over the world for many years. I loved it. In the third grade, our class in Rye, New York, wrote to a class in Rye, England. For years, I stayed in touch with my pen pal, and even got to visit her more than once when I was in England.

I admit, I don’t write enough letters now, although I’m trying to get back into it. I do write Christmas/Holiday cards. It’s one of my great joys of the season. Writing a personal note in the card makes me feel connected. It makes me feel I let each person know that they matter enough to take the time to find the card, to write the card, to mail the card.

Letters are about connection, which is why I like them so much in both fiction and non-fiction.

Some of my favorite collections that rely on letter writing and/or diaries:

84 CHARING CROSS ROAD by Helene Hanff (non-fiction)
THE PULL OF THE MOON by Elizabeth Berg
THE HISTORIAN by Elizabeth Kostova
LETTERS OF VIRGINIA WOOLF (multiple volumes, non-fiction)
WORDS IN AIR (correspondence of Elizabeth Bishop & Robert Lowell, non-fiction)
JANE AUSTEN: LETTERS (non-fiction)

By far, the best book on diaries and their writers is A BOOK OF ONE’S OWN by Thomas Mallon.


Tracking Medusa Cover 1


The first Gwen Finnegan mystery, TRACKING MEDUSA, re-released digitally on January 12, 2018. It’s got a universal buy link here (and should be back up on Amazon by the time this post goes live, included in the universal buy links, although I’ll have lost all its reviews).


Archaeologist Dr. Gwen Finnegan is on the hunt for her lover’s killer. Historical researcher Justin Yates bumps into her, on the steps of the New York Public Library, and comes to her aid when she’s attacked, sparking an attraction between them in spite of their age difference. After avoiding a cadre of pursuers at the Met Museum, Gwen impulsively invites Justin to hop a plane with her to the UK. The shy historian, frustrated with his failing relationship, jumps at the chance to join her on a real adventure. That adventure takes them through Europe, pursued by factions including Gwen’s ex-lover and nemesis, Karl, as they try to unspool fact from fiction in a multi-generational obsession with a statue of the goddess Medusa.

The Mechanics of the Re-Release:
The print version (a print run, not a POD), should come out either late this year, or at the beginning of next year, when the second Gwen Finnegan mystery, THE BALTHAZAAR TREASURE, releases.

Sadly, due to issues with my webhost, 1and1.com, they will not allow me to post the cover of the book or a downloadable media kit, unless I pay them an additional monthly fee on top of the hosting fee I already pay. Have you ever heard of a host who claims simple JPGs are “double escape security issues” and demands extra payment? Websites need images. The Gwen Finnegan Mysteries website will move hosts shortly and be rebuilt — it will include the photos I took as I researched the various locales for the book and choreographed the chase scene inside NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and more.

Why the need for a re-release?

Unfortunately, Amber Quill Press, who was Gwen’s champion and great to work with, shut its doors nearly two years ago. Originally, I planned to go with the same digital publisher/distributor that released PLAYING THE ANGLES and SAVASANA AT SEA (as Ava Dunne) late last year — but then they closed their doors, too.

So TRACKING MEDUSA went directly to the new digital publisher/distributor, and I’ve moved both PLAYING THE ANGLES and SAVASANA AT SEA to this new digital home. Future digital releases in all three series will go through this distributor (unless they go under, too). New websites are being built for the series (and for everything else I do) and go live on a new webhost in the next few weeks. Stay tuned both here and on Ink in My Coffee for the details.

If you own an Amber Quill version, be it digital or print — the text is the same (my editor, copy editor, and I fixed some stylistic things to fit with both the digital and the print publishers’ house styles). It also has teasers for MYTH AND INTERPRETATION, a between-the-books novella that releases this summer, and the opening of THE BALTHAZAAR TREASURE, the second mystery, which releases in January 2019. But the book is still the book, and you don’t have to feel like you’re missing anything.

Tracking Medusa — Q & A About the Book and its Process:

Question: How did you come up with TRACKING MEDUSA?

Devon Ellington: The Medusa myth always fascinated me. I got mad in CLASH OF THE TITANS when she was killed. I felt she was marginalized and destroyed because she was powerful. I’ve always loved archaeology — when I was little, even though I always knew I’d be a writer, but before I made the commitment to theatre, I wanted to be an archaeologist. My life took a different path, but it always interested me. I also don’t think science and spirituality need to negate each other. I wanted to work with a character who was smart and based a lot in science and evidence, but was a practicing witch and able to use all those facets towards her goals. The opening scene, in the club at Gramercy Park, came early on.

When I lived in New York, I spent a lot of time wandering around the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Public Library. The Justin character evolved out of that, especially when a group of us who were affiliated with PEN got a behind-the-scenes tour at the Library.

Justin was inspired by the same real individual who inspired Billy Root in my urban fantasy series The Jain Lazarus Adventures, but the two characters evolved very differently, and have grown into very much their own men. Justin’s journey through this series gets quite dark at times. Billy takes a very different route in finding his true purpose.

I also wanted to play with the age difference between Gwen and Justin. Gwen is a dozen years older than Justin — how does that affect their relationship? Especially since Justin’s emotional age is much younger than his chronological age.

It all started to come together one day when I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, wandering around the Greek and Roman galleries, which had just reopened, and the Egyptian gallery.

Q: Tell us about the background of the chase scene at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

DE: That was a lot of fun. I’d written my way a few chapters into the book, and I wanted to get it right. I took a day and went back to the Met, with my camera and my notebook, to choreograph the scenes. A couple of security guards asked me what I was doing, and I told them I was choreographing a chase scene through the Met for a book. They were enthusiastic, and offered ideas and feedback (while still keeping an eye on things– no one neglected their jobs)! They asked not to be specifically named in the acknowledgements, in case Management was unhappy about it, but at this point, I’m sure most of them have moved on to other jobs.

Also, at that time, Hatshepsut had her own room. It’s been dismantled now, much to my disgust, and the Hatshepsut sphinx was in the same room as the Temple of Dendur, last time I visited New York. She’s not too happy about it.

I find it insulting that she no longer has her own room — it was an important exhibit focused just on her and her achievements.

I’m putting photos from the Met and the Library and some of the places in Edinburgh and Ayrshire up on the website: http://gwenfinneganmysteries.devonellingtonwork.com. Once the webhost move is complete and the site is rebuilt.

Q: Did you ever get to study archaeology?

DE: Not traditionally. In 2013, I was able to take, through Coursera, an online class with Sue Alcock of Brown University called “Archaeology’s Dirty Little Secrets”, about some of the basics. I loved it, and I was lucky enough to head from the Cape to Brown to meet her. In fact, she got me back in touch with one of my favorite playwrights from my early days in New York theatre, who was teaching at Brown. In the edits, I fixed a few glaring errors in the manuscript, but I still have made, shall we say, “adjustments” in proper process to serve the needs of the story. I hope Sue will forgive me — and I plan to study more with her if the opportunity arises.

Q: The relationship seems more of a triangle that a couple, thanks to Karl. Can you talk about that a bit?

DE: Karl was originally going to be the primary antagonist — former lover gone bad. However, Karl had other ideas. The relationship between Gwen and Karl has gone through various permutations for over twenty years. Their bond is so strong that even the genuine love between Gwen and Justin can’t break it. Nor should it. This idea that fictional characters can only have a single relationship and everything else must come second is something I believe is harmful to teach readers to look for as human beings. We are capable of having more than one relationship without those relationships being a threat to each other, and I wanted to explore that.

Q: Then, of course, there’s Edward.

DE: Yes, there is. Again, Edward was supposed to be a very small supporting character whose purpose was to provide information and the next lead for Gwen and Justin to follow. But Edward had other ideas. I believe in following my instincts when characters want to take a different direction than the original plan. It’s the subconscious mind at work, which always knows more than the conscious mind. The subconscious embodies itself in the characters, so when you let that go, at least in early drafts, you can get to a better place than you would otherwise. When you write something that needs a structure, such as a mystery, then you take it and adjust the piece to the structure. Fortunately, the genre lines are blurring somewhat, and I take full advantage of that!

Q: Did you get any push-back because your vampire is named Edward?

DE: Because of Twilight? More power to Stephanie Meyer for creating a trilogy that connected to so many people. But I hadn’t read her books when I wrote this, and the only thing Edward Ramsey has in common with the other Edward is the fact they’re both vampires. One trusted reader who’s a big Twilight fan suggested I change his name, but Edward’s Edward, and there’s more than one Edward on the planet. My editor and publisher had no problem with it. I also wanted the vampire aspect to be peripheral to this novel. It comes more to the center in the third book, especially where Justin is concerned.

Q: So where do your characters go from here?

DE: You’ll have to read the books to find out! How’s that for avoidance AND self-promotion! 😉 Seriously, the second book, THE BALTHAZAAR TREASURE, is about salvaging a pirate ship, and there’s a murder, AND Gwen and Justin face new obstacles in their relationship. There are definitely some surprises in that one, for readers who think they have a handle on Gwen and Justin. MYTH AND INTERPRETATION, a between-the-books novella deals with what Gwen and Justin deal with in New York, trying to build a stable, adult partnership and some of the obstacles they face in the life/work balance. It’s vital information needed to go into what happens in BALTHAZAAR, but it ruined the pace and plot of BALTHAZAAR, so we yanked it out and developed it into its own novella.

Excerpt ( takes place on Lindsfarne, at the old kilns):

A clap of thunder followed almost immediately by a flash of lightning startled them. The lightning snaked out of the sky and struck the rocky beach close enough to them the hairs on their arms tingled.
“Whoa!” Justin yelled.
“The kilns!” Gwen said. “It’s too far to make it back to town.”
They grabbed their belongings and ran into the nearest small, arched doorway cut in the rock as the rain poured down. Once inside, they stepped back. The kilns were empty stone spaces now, with two small arched openings out to the rocky ground, another larger one, and a fourth smaller one. They leaned against the side wall near the back to avoid the rain whipped in by the wind. Gwen tried to shove the wet hair out of her face.
“That came in fast,” said Justin. They watched the storm race across the rocks, lightning reaching out like electrical, skeletal fingers.
“Storms do here.” She shivered. “The storms usually leave almost as quickly as they come in. I should’ve paid attention. And I should have found us a secure indoor place to work, like the Crown and Anchor.”
“We’d have been noticed in a pub.”
“At least we wouldn’t be soaked to the skin. Sorry.”
“I’ll dry off,” said Justin. “I’m kind of glad to be in this big coat, even if it makes me look stupid.”
“You don’t look stupid. You—”
“Bloody hell! We’re not being paid enough for this bollocks!” A voice floated to them from right outside the kiln.
Gwen and Justin exchanged looks. Gwen pulled Justin farther back into the kilns. They were in the backmost corner, hidden by shadows thrown from the other archways, but not much else.
Two men, bundled in heavy coats, ducked just inside the protected arch. They stared out at the driving rain. They were almost within arm’s reach of Gwen and Justin, who barely dared to breathe.
“Ye can’t blame ’im for the weather now,” said one of the men, slightly shorter than the other.
“I can blame him for bloody hell anything I want,” said the man who spoke first. “We don’t even know who they are. Just a man and a woman. She’s got red hair; he don’t.”
Gwen and Justin stared at each other. Justin pulled off his hat and handed it to Gwen. She yanked it down and tucked her red hair under it.
The shorter man chuckled. “He’s just a jealous bloke. Wants to know what the missus is doing when he’s not there.”
“I wouldn’t have agreed if I hadn’t had too many pints,” the man said. “I don’t like to put my fists to a man unless I have a personal argument with him. Besides, I hate this island. Haunted it is.”
“We just wait out the storm, then walk around a bit. There’s a pub or two. We can ask around. Someone will have seen ’em. Don’t get too many strangers ’round here. They’ll be remembered.”
Justin leaned close to Gwen’s ear. “Is there another way out?” She pointed deeper into the kilns. They’d have to cross behind the men, hoping they didn’t dislodge any stones.
“I’m not staying here. Bloody tide’ll come in and fill this place right up.” The taller man shifted in his coat.
“No, it won’t. These kilns have been there for o’er two hunnard year. They wouldn’t have built ’em if they couldn’t use ’em in bad weather. Seein’s as that’s all you get here.”
“’Twill now. With all that global warming bollocks.”
“Ye’re not going all environmental on me, are ye? Next step, you’ll be vegetarian. That’ll ruin a good night out.”
“Nah. I still like me pint and me steak. But I’m regrettin’ agreein’ to this.”
“We took the man’s money. We’re not killin’ them or nothin’. Just givin’ them a what-for so they stop sneakin’ around together.”
Justin and Gwen looked at each other again.
Suddenly, a long, low howl filled the air. Justin and Gwen jumped because it sounded as though it was right beside them.
“What in the bloody hell?” the taller man asked.
The sound of footsteps padding toward them grew louder, along with a familiar sound of ragged breath. Another howl rent the air. A large dark head poked around the side of the archway. The two men screamed and nearly climbed over each other as they scrambled out and ran through the central arch into the storm. The large black dog turned to look at Gwen and Justin, then turned away and padded off.
“Am I completely hallucinating,” asked Justin, “or did that ghost dog from hell just wink at us?”


TRACKING MEDUSA, the first Gwen Finnegan Mystery, $3.99 digitally here.

Lists, Logs, and First Books of the Year

Lists and Logs:
I decided to keep a reading notebook for 2018. Handwritten, of course, and then share bits and pieces here and on Ink in My Coffee.

Not because I want to boast. But I want to see what I choose to read, whether for pleasure or because I’m paid to read it, or for research for a project. I also want to see how certain books lead to other books.

Some of these books will lead to a new, upcoming feature called “Conversations with a Book.” Sometimes, when I read a book, I feel as though I’m having a conversation with the book or its author. I plan to share some of these with you this year.

I couldn’t wait to start the book journal until January 1.

From December 22 to 31, I read 26 books. Doesn’t sound possible, does it, and I’m not boasting. I read a lot. I was hungry for words. I felt creatively tired, and knew that I’m on a brutal deadline schedule this year. I wanted to use other people’s words as fuel.

Three of them I am still reading — not yet finished. So I guess the actual total of completed reads is 23, not 26.

16 were non-fiction. That included two cookbooks (yes, I read cookbooks like most people read novels) and one biography that’s background for one of my novels.

One of the non-fiction books will result in a “Conversation with a Book” piece. I took extensive notes as I read.

8 were fiction. Of the fiction, 7 of the 8 were mysteries (the only non-mystery I read was re-reading A CHRISTMAS CAROL, which I do every Christmas Eve).

1 was digital, fiction, recommended by a friend. The rest were print books.

Four of the mysteries were a huge disappointment. In fact, one enraged me so much I don’t want to read anything else by that author, and I certainly won’t buy it. One of the others I liked a lot, one I thought was a lot of fun, and two I liked and respected, although I found them very sad.

11 were books I own; 5 of which were re-reads, 2 of which I bought because I wanted to, and 4 which were holiday gifts.

15 were library books.

What does that all mean?

I have absolutely no idea.

But several books led me to order other books, and we’ll see where that winds up.

First Book of the Year
For some reason, the first book of the year is important to me. I’m not sure when that started or why.

We usually give and receive books for Christmas and start reading them on Christmas Eve (we’re Icelandic that way). But the first book choice of the new year started mattering to me.

I remember living in Seattle in the mid-1980s and making a big deal of the choice. My first purchase and read that year was Gail Fairfield’s CHOICE CENTERED TAROT, which is still a favorite.

This year, in keeping with my resolution to read more poetry, my first read, shortly after midnight was LOCKSLEY HALL AND OTHER POEMS by Alfred Lord Tennyson. It’s a small, old volume that was a gift from a friend earlier this year.

I’d read Tennyson before, but this time the rose-colored glasses were off. I was surprised by my negative reaction. He’s supposed to be romantic, isn’t he? To me, the poems felt like the male narrator blamed the women in the poems for the narrator’s own weaknesses, while pretending to wrap it up in adoration for her. I want to do some more research — I think I may have another “Conversation with A Book” piece come out of it.

The book includes:
Locksley Hall
The May Queen
The Lady of Shalott (which, interestingly enough, was referenced in one of the mystery novels I read in the past few days)
The Lord of Burleigh
Lady Clara Vere de Vere

I plan to re-read them, several times, slowly, in the coming weeks, and research the questions that I came up with in response to the reading. I’ll let you know if I find any answers!

My first choice of novel was something that was given to me over a year ago, and I hadn’t had the chance to read it. I liked the title, and I was looking forward to it. Sadly, when I picked it up, I discovered it was written in the present tense. I loathe novels written in the present tense. To me, it’s the author standing there, screaming in my face, “Look at ME! I’m a such a great stylist!” instead of getting out of the way and letting me experience the book.

So I put the book down. I will give it to someone who can enjoy it. No, I’m not posting the title and author — I don’t believe in author bashing.

I picked up another novel I’d been given several years ago and not had the chance to read, LUNCH WITH ELIZABETH DAVID by Roger Williams, and I’m enjoying it.

Is your choice of first book of the year important to you? Why or why not? Have you read Tennyson? What are your impressions?

Do you keep track of what you read? What tools do you use? How do you find it helpful?

I’m asking because I’m genuinely curious!