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    The monthly show that offers advice and tips that writers can use to build their brand, sell more and take their careers to the next level.

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Your First Month on Google+

Being on Google+ has many advantages. The social media site is after-all part of Google. Getting started on Google+ can seem a bit daunting though. It's different from Facebook, Twitter, and other mainstream social media sites and offers a wide variety of features. This infographic (found at http://www.infographicscreator.com/2014/07/20/infographic-your-first-month-on-google/) gives a nice over view of how to get started.

Here's a few takeaways:

1) Set up your profile with a clear, professional avatar and profile header banner.

2) Link your website to your Google+ profile.

3) Use hashtags to find people in your niche.

4) Add whole circles.

5) +1, comment, and share other people's content.

6) Join communities.

7) Make new connections via events and hangouts.

8) Be social and have fun.


Are you using Google+? Any tips for newbie users? Leave a comment below with your 2 cents.

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Interview with Christopher Meeks

What genre do you write and why?
This question is dependent on each book. I haven’t stuck to one genre, but a literary sense connects them all. My new book, A Death in Vegas, is a mystery, and I’m a fan of mysteries—yet there are so few great ones. Raymond Chandler’s mysteries are often given as example of great ones, and those are what drew me into the genre.

My previous novel, Blood Drama, is closer to a thriller, although it’s also a crime book. The one before that, Love at Absolute Zero, can be viewed either as a comic novel or a romantic comedy with quantum physics. It’s about a physicist trying to land a wife in three days using the Scientific Method—far-fetched unless you’ve hung around scientists as I have at Caltech, where my wife once worked. My two collections of short fiction as well as my first novel, The Brightest Moon of the Century, can be called literary, but they also all have humor. I see the absurdity in life, and I can’t help but layer that in.

I write what interests me, so I’ve never stuck to just one genre. There’s a certain logic to my path, however.  My first two books were collections of short stories. My agent, though, kept pushing me to write a novel. That seemed such a huge challenge until a friend said I should write a series of connected stories using the same protagonist—a novel in stories. That was The Brightest Moon of the Century, which was connected to my own life growing up in Minnesota, going to college in Denver, and moving to Los Angeles.

Love at Absolute Zero was loosely based on a year I lived in Denmark after I fell in love with a young Danish woman. While it became the lowest period in my life, in retrospect, it was very funny.
After that, I’d run out of major things that had happened to me. Thus, I wrote my first crime novel, Blood Drama, because if I was going to make up someone’s life, then I was going to put him through hell. That led to another crime book, A Death in Vegas.

My novel-in-progress is a war novel set in Iraq, based on the life on one of my students. We’re collaborating on it.

Tell us about your latest book, A Death in Vegas.
My stories tend to be about average people in extraordinary circumstances. In this case, a man who began his career as a scientist creating pesticides for agricultural took a 180-degree turn. He started a business selling beneficial bugs to organic gardeners. Lady bugs, for instance, eat aphids. The story starts in his booth with his employees at a huge convention: the Lawn and Garden Pavilion at the annual National Hardware Show in Las Vegas. He’s hired a model to be a sexy lady bug. The next day, he discovers her dead in his hotel room, and he had nothing to do with it. The FBI then raids his booth over an investigation into money laundering, which also he knows nothing about. He senses he’s been set up, so he escapes arrest to find out by whom? After all, the police and FBI think he’s guilty, so it’s up to him to solve this thing.

If that weren’t enough, his wife, whom he loves, has doubts about their marriage because why was a model in his hotel room? He not only has to regain her trust, but also she has to help him at one point because there are so many forces against him.

Why do you think readers are going to enjoy your book?
Because it’s a compelling story. I think about my readers when I write. I might get to a part with a fabulous turn, and I’m laughing to myself, thinking, “Wait until they see this.” I like the idea that a story can be a page-turner. I’m not the usual mystery writer, not hard-boiled. Rather, my characters can be quirky, but they will stay with you.

Roald Dahl once said, “I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book.” I’m slightly different. I want you to like the story, but I don’t care if along the way some of my characters infuriate you. There are people like them.

Who designed the cover?
Deborah Daly is the designer, and she’s worked on several books at White Whisker Books. She used to be the art director at St. Martin’s Press, and she’s one of those passionate people I was telling you about. She loves a great cover and obsesses over them. Add that to my own obsessions, and we keep on going until she hits something I love. I love all her covers.

Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected?
Every book I learn something. Kurt Vonnegut said, “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.” He went on to explain that each new book makes him feel like a beginner. While I don’t feel that way, each new book has so many challenges, I can’t say I ever feel like an expert. I’m wrestling an alligator. I hope to come out of it without teeth marks.

With A Death in Vegas, I learned how far I can make my character stray. That is, I wanted the reader to like the protagonist, Patton, and his wife. One of the truths they reflect is that marriage is not always easy, but I never want you hating either of them or hoping they don’t stay married.

What advice do you have for other writers?
I’ll try to be objective and offer what I’ve noticed in my students. It all begins with passion—passion for writing and/or passion for storytelling. My fiction writing class at Santa Monica College, for example, is an elective. Students take it because they already have a passion for writing, and I make them read and write a lot. With passion, a writer is more prone to try new things. In the middle of the semester, for three weeks we put fiction off to the side, and I had them write poetry and a song. That brought many of them into uncharted territory—and they loved it. One piece of advice: push yourself. Try new things. My goal was to get them to feel and understand lyricism in writing, which they could use later in their short fiction.

How does one keep passion going? When it comes to big projects, write things that interest you. Don’t worry about the marketplace.

Of course with writing, you need to be a reader. From my students, I’ve seen plenty who don’t call themselves readers until we hit on a great short story or book that changes the way they think about reading. They simply hadn’t read something that had grabbed them so much. With over a million book titles out each year, there are books for every person. The trick is finding them, but sites like this one help.

The reason to read is to get inspired. When you see a writer doing something that you didn’t think could be done, it gives you permission to try new things for yourself.

What's your favourite quote about writing/for writers?
One of my mentors, the late playwright Robert E. Lee (Inherit the Wind), gave me the best approach to telling stories. He said, “Plot is what interesting people do.” He noted if you get two interesting characters together, they will move your story. Imagine Hitler and Albert Einstein in the waiting room of a dentist’s office, and they both reach for the same old magazine. You can bet they’ll get to disagreeing. Of course, tension and conflict is the motor of all stories, but if you have two characters who are interesting with different needs, you’ll soon have a story speeding along.

Who inspires you?
I’m blessed with constant inspiration. My son, daughter, and wife inspire me in terms of staying in the moment. My students do as I feel them nipping at my heels. Great books do as I’m inspired by what they do and get away with. Tim O’Brien, Kevin Powers, and Ernest Hemingway’s war stories have inspired me to start a war novel. While I didn’t experience Iraq directly, my former student did, and he’s an amazing resource. Kurt Vonnegut, Joan Didion, Lorrie Moore, Margaret Atwood, Joyce Maynard, and Raymond Carver are some of the authors who have stimulated me.

Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
Originally I wanted to be a filmmaker. When I moved to Los Angeles and started shooting a film, and I lost my life savings because I didn’t have a permit, I decided to become a writer. I don’t need no stinking permit for that. I get to make the movies in my head on paper—and now on eBook pages, too.

What are you currently reading?
Joyce Maynard’s At Home in the World. It’s a memoir of her ten months of living with J.D. Salinger when she was just eighteen. While I’ve admired and adored Salinger’s Nine Stories—he’s a major influence on my writing short fiction—I wondered what made him a recluse. I discovered he became a misanthrope. If you don’t like people, how will you write great stories? I’m not holding my breath that his posthumous books will be great. Still, he’s touched me. Maynard is a compelling writer, too. Perhaps they were destined to meet, ying and yang. 

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Excerpt: That Life by Theresa DeFeyter



Title: That Life

Author: Theresa DeFeyter

Genre: Paranormal MC Romance

Purchasing link:



Book description:

Post civil war America is a dangerous place to live, especially if you are a woman. Motorcycle clubs and gangs make the rules where women have no say, even over their own lives and only the strongest get to survive. Sophie, the sole survivor of Rebel Riders MC is left to build a life in a world she has no control over. Ethan, the Lycan shifter VP of the Wolf Pack MC takes her as his own.

Author bio:

I currently live in Northern Michigan with my husband and youngest son.  I also have 4, soon to be 5 grandchildren.  I enjoy working with teens and substitute teach at surrounding middle/high schools. Other than my family my passions are my HD Sportster, Sadie my pitbull and reading/writing. My husband and I use to live in Wyoming and attended Sturgis each year.  I was born and raised in Southeast Missouri, but spent a lot of time in Northern Michigan growing up. 

Book Excerpt:

That afternoon the whole crew rode out.  I kissed Danny good bye and told him to be careful.  I really wasn’t worried.  I trusted Danny; he was the world to me. He would never put us in harms way.  He had always been my rock and I had learned long ago that I could leave the heavy lifting to him.

After the guys left, Me, Gina and Bonnie, the other two wives, decided to make a big dinner for the guys and have it ready when they got home.  Kind of a celebration thing, we all felt pretty good about our guys joining the Pack.  After several hours the other wives decided to walk to the end of the road and wait for the guys. I stayed at the cabins and put the food on.  Gina said she would call when they seen the guys to give me an idea about when they would be here.  The call never came. 

From what I understand the Devils spotted the women waiting for the guys. They easily overtook them and deduced they were waiting for someone.  They didn’t know it was the whole club, but our guys were not expecting to be ambushed.  They really let their guard down when they saw two of their women waiting. Danny kept riding, probably because he knew I was at home waiting.  But it didn’t save him. Danny managed to get away, but not without being severely wounded. He circled around and made it to the clubhouse.

I heard the bike, and hurried outside to greet Danny. When I step outside I knew something was really wrong.  Danny just dropped his bike.  I ran to him and that when I seen the blood. It was everywhere and Danny was hurt, he was having trouble remaining upright or even walking. “Hurry Sophie get to the tree in case they followed me.”He barked.
He was leaning on me heavily; I was struggling under his weight and began pulling him towards the tunnel entrance hidden inside the barn.  Danny was not a little man, and he was never sick or weak.  I was trying so hard to hold it together, keep the pure fear from consuming me. Tears ran down my face. I could tell he was having trouble breathing, there was so much blood.  His face had taken on a grey tinge and he stumbled frequently.  My husband was the strongest man I had ever known.  He was kind and trustworthy; in all our married life I had never doubted him.  I feared for him now.  I begged him to let me take him to find a doctor.  He insisted we get in the tree.  I prayed that he knew it wasn’t bad enough for a doctor. 

I was barely able to get him up the tree; he stumbled over to the bed and managed to land on his back.  I started peeling clothes off of him. I wanted to scream his chest was a mess, several small caliber bullet wounds were puckered and angry looking as blood pouring out of each of them.  I grabbed towels and tried to stop the bleeding.  But they were soaking up so fast.
I knew very little about how to handle this.  When the kids were little Danny always handled the big ones.  I was not fond of blood.  That’s when I knew he would never make it to a doctor, and I had no idea where even to find one. 
“Danny this is bad, please baby we need help.” I wailed.

Danny grabbed my arm “Listen to me baby; get me some paper and a pen”.
I hurried to do as he asked.  He struggled to write the letter than he gave it to me,
“Put this in an envelope go to The Wolf Pack MC, tell them what happened”, his voice wasn’t more than a whisper.  I knew I was losing him.

“Give them this and ask them to protect you.  Don’t stay by yourself, don’t go to town alone.”

 I argued with him, “No baby don’t you leave me!” in a tear soaked voice.

“Remember I love you....I’ll be waiting”.....His eyes closed and I heard what I assume was his last breath before he went completely still.  It got so quiet......not even the birds made a sound. I pulled his body to my chest and I held him there....rocking him as tears poured down my face.  I didn’t notice it getting dark or the change in tempature. I just kept rocking him, smoothing his hair and talking to him.  Eventually I fell asleep holding his body close. 

When I woke the next afternoon I realized something was wrong right away, Danny was always hot to the touch.  But now he was so cold.  Then the memory of the day before set in and I screamed like a wounded animal......I just kept screaming, tears rolled down my face but I kept screaming until my throat was too sore.  I cleaned Danny’s body and I left to find the rest of my club.

When I got to the ambush site the bodies of my club members were haphazardly lying across the ground.  The Devils hadn’t moved the bodies or their bikes.  All fourteen were there and all were dead.  Gina and Bonnie were gone.  I went down the road and found a large farm truck and a wheel barrow and went back to the site.  I loaded all the bodies and took them back to the club and then went back for the bikes.  I didn’t want there to be any evidence of the massacre. 

I hid the bikes in the barn and got the backhoe that we used to build the basement.  I dug a trench, wrapped each body in a sheet and placed it in the trench.  Then I fangled a way to get Danny out of the tree house and placed him in the trench along side his club.  Then I covered them all up.   I placed rocks with who was were on each site and then dropped where I stood.  I was so tired and so broken. 

I managed to get into the tree house and stayed there for several days.  I just didn’t have the energy to get out of bed.  I didn’t want to wake up.  I wanted Danny.  For weeks Danny is all I thought about.  Survivor guilt is the worst thing.  I thought of ways I could have saved them.  If I had told the girls not to go.  If I had gone with them, I always carried my little S&W 9.  Danny had it modified for me by lighting/shortening the trigger pull.  I was really good with it.  Danny made me practice at least once a week.  We knew he would always protect me, but he never wanted anything to happen to me.  He said he didn’t want to be without me.  He always said he was going first, because I was not leaving him here alone!

I slept all the time, so I could dream and change the outcome of what happened that day.  I barely ate and then only when I had to.  I didn’t want to be here without Danny.  Sometimes I lay on his grave and cried or talked to him.  Sometimes I wailed at him and God for leaving me here alone.  I was truly broken. 

Michigan summers are short and winter set in.  I wasn’t prepared.  I pulled myself up and scrounged together all the supplies I could find, storing what little there was.  I retreated to the tree house and spent the long seven months of winter, only leaving my little nest, to hunt fresh meat or shower and cook in the club house.

 I didn’t keep track of the days.  I didn’t know when it was Thanksgiving, I had nothing to be thankful for and I was still severely pissed at God.  I didn’t notice Christmas or my birthday...As spring rains set in I had to busy myself with fixing leaks in the roof.  They weren’t too bad the guys had built it pretty sound. I began to wonder about the girls, Gina and Bonnie.  I wonder what happen to them.  I hadn’t been near town so I hadn’t heard anything. 

I slipped into town dressed like a boy, it was still cold enough that I could wear my ski mask and no one cared.  I kept to myself and listened.  I came across a couple of teens and traded them some old cigarettes for information.  They thought I was another teenage boy so it didn’t get me caught.  They told me that the Devils had taken over a town south of us and killed anyone who opposed them.  You were either one of them or you were dead. 

They had several women, most were what they called spoils of war.  They killed the men and took their women.  I figured that was where Gina and Bonnie were.  I was also told that a guy called the Butcher claimed responsibility for destroying many of the locals....including the Riders. 

The boys told me where the Devils were held up on the skirts of a little town that use to be called Boyne River.  I drove the back roads, hiked thru the woods and climbed a large tree where I could see the Devil’s club house.  I came prepared to stay for awhile I had no where else to be and all the time in the world to get there.  I watched until I was sure that the girls were there.

After two weeks living in the woods, I had a pretty good idea of how things worked.  I headed back to the club and waited another week.  Then I went back.  Once again dressed like a boy I slipped through the fence out in the back after dark.  I knew where I had seen a woman who resembled Gina.  I slipped up to the back of the building and hid in a dumpster.  It smelled horrible.  It had been emptied the day before and wouldn’t be emptied again for a week.  But it was everything I could do to stay in the damn thing.

When Gina came out to smoke a cigarette I lifted the lid slightly to make sure no one was around and then I climbed out of the dumpster and called Gina’s name.  She was facing away from me, her only response was her back straighten, before she whirled around to face me.  I gripped my gun, thinking she was going to turn on me. 

Tears started rolling down her cheeks, she looked around to make sure no one seen me and then ran to the dumpster she grabbed my hand and squeezed.  Looking up into my face she tried to speak but just kept crying.   We huddled together sharing our grief. Once we both got our composure she began telling me about that day.

*************************

I asked about Bonnie.  They had told them that they didn’t know where I was, they said I had left with the guys to do some shopping in town and must have stayed with the Pack, if I wasn’t with the guys. So when the bodies disappeared the Devils thought the Pack collected them.  So they quickly moved on, not wanting to start a war with a club that could hurt them.

The Devil’s gave all new women to the highest rank first.  Once they got done with them they passed them on or they became club whores, anyone could use them. I felt bad for not trying to get them out, but Gina assured me that it wouldn’t have been possible.

Eventually both women had made it down thru the ranks until they were claimed by men they could live with, neither wanted to try to take care of themselves on the run.  They figured they wouldn’t be able to get away or they would hunt them down and it would cost them the little bit of security they had. 

I didn’t mention to Jackson and Ethan that I asked about the Butcher and Gina confirmed that he was responsible for the club attack or any of the details she gave me that I needed to get rid of him.  She said he was called the Butcher for a reason he was a real cruel man. 

They wouldn’t let him touch their women because he was just pure evil.  He had maimed one girl.  She also said that he harassed her regularly, he had been angry that Vader wouldn’t let him have her.  So she had to be careful and not get out where he could get at her.

The fact that the Butcher just up and disappeared one night and was never heard from again was our secret. Only Gina and I knew what happened and only I knew where the body was buried.

The two guys exchanged looks.  


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How Authors Can Use Groups to Raise Awareness for Our Books

Are you tapped into the small groups at your church? When I wrote my first children’s activity book, Trees of the Book, I intended to market it to teachers and home educators. I positioned it as a supplement to the Life Sciences curriculum and targeted those groups with my promotions.

But I was pleasantly surprised when the Children’s Ministry Leader at my church purchased copies of my book to use in Sunday School over the summer break. She explained that attendance was sporadic with families taking holidays and traveling, and new families visiting from other churches. She felt that my book could be used by those who attended every week, but also those who showed up only a few Sundays. It was a win-win. She kept the books at the church so those who attended weekly could use the same book, and those who only dropped in had a copy dedicated to them as well. At the end of the summer, regular attendees were allowed to take their books home.

This summer, the Children’s Ministry Leader purchased copies of my newest activity book, Adam’s Animals. She shared her delight that my book on animals fit well with her choice of Vacation Bible School (VBS) material from Group – Weird Animals: Where Jesus Love is One-of-a-Kind. Those children who attended day camp had a consistent curriculum with Sunday School. And those who’d never attended Sunday School were encouraged to attend because of the theme.

Do you have a book that could piggyback an existing church program? Maybe it could be used in an adult Bible study? Or as a giveaway for a Youth Group? Maybe it could be included in a gift basket for new mothers? Or as a retirement gift?

Consider the small groups that are running at your own church and think about where your book may fit.

Kimberley Payne is an award-winning author who combines her teaching experience and love of writing to create educational materials for children about family, fitness, science and faith. You can visit her website at www.kimberleypayne.com



Links

Group VBS

View sample pages from Adam’s Animals

Adam’s Animals available on Amazon

Trees of the Book available on Amazon

Interview with Tracy Weber

Who are your favourite authors?
I adore light-hearted, dog-related mysteries. Susan Conant, Laurien Berenson, Sheila Boneham, and Waverly Curtis are probably my top four.

Purchase Links:   
Tell us about your latest book.
Murder Strikes a Pose is a happily-ever-after, murder mystery, human-animal love story! At least that’s how I think of it. ;-)

The main story is about Kate Davidson, a yoga teacher with chunky thighs, tight hamstrings, and a fiery temper who befriends a homeless man named George and his horse-sized German shepherd, Bella. When George is killed in the parking lot of Kate’s yoga studio, Kate struggles to come to terms with (and solve) his murder while trying to find a permanent home for Bella.

Ultimately, though, it’s the story of how Kate learns to love—and make sacrifices for—a creature that is far from perfect, even though not doing so would make her life significantly easier. Throw in a new boyfriend, a trouble-causing, matchmaking best friend, and lots of yoga, and it’s a story that I hope will entice you, make you laugh, and stay with you long after you finish.

What marketing methods are you using to promote your book? 
I’m trying pretty much everything! No one will become a fan of my work if they don’t know it exists.  Beyond that, I realize that effective marketing needs to be done consistently, over a long period of time. You almost never see results right away.

I’m trying to focus my marketing efforts on things that I enjoy, because that’s what I’m most likely to maintain over the long haul. I enjoy writing posts for blogs like Writers and Authors. I love Facebook, and I’m intrigued by Goodreads. Will the time I spend in these venues lead to a slot on the New York Times bestsellers list? It’s way too soon to tell. I also love talking at book clubs (in person and via Skype) and attending mystery fan conventions like Malice Domestic and Left Coast Crime.

The one social networking tool that I really don’t understand is Twitter. People tell me that I need to be on Twitter and I believe them. I’ve set up an account; I’ve even sent out a couple of hundred Tweets. But I haven’t got a clue what all the fuss is about. Hopefully I’ll figure it out sometime soon.

What advice do you have for other writers?
Don’t give up! Writing is a TOUGH business. No one gets published without facing rejection. When I was trying to land an agent, I allowed myself twenty-four hours to feel bad about every rejection. Then I forced myself to do something proactive. Send out another letter, connect with another author, write another page.

You can’t please everyone, and yet when you write, you so desperately want to. (At least I do.) Just keep writing what you love and know that your work isn’t defined by what any one person thinks of it.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
Check out my website http://tracyweberauthor.com/ and sign up to be on my mailing list at http://tracyweberauthor.com/newsletter.html. I’m not super active on my Facebook author page, but I’m totally open on my personal page.  Friend me at https://www.facebook.com/tracywe.  On my personal page, you’ll find book updates, Tasha-dog stories, animal cartoons, and information on my yoga classes, as well as a smoothie recipe now and then. I love to connect with readers!

Who is you favorite character in your book and why?
Bella, the German shepherd, of course!  Bella is based on my own ten-year-old German shepherd, Tasha.  Tasha is the love of my life and the source of my inspiration.  Likewise, Bella is Kate’s—my yoga-teacher-sleuth protagonist—savior.  Readers agree with me.  My biggest fans love Bella more than anything else in the series.

Who designed the cover?
Isn’t the cover wonderful? Nicole Alesi (http://www.nicolealesi.com/) is the artist who designed the cover. My husband originally hired Nicole to design the banner for my website, and my publisher liked the banner so much they hired her to design my book covers.  I couldn’t be more pleased with the results!

Where can a reader purchase your book?                                       
Murder Strikes a Pose is available wherever books are sold.  Specifically, it can be found at all major brick-and-mortar booksellers as well as online. Two sources are Amazon.com, (http://www.amazon.com/Murder-Strikes-Pose-Downward-Mystery/dp/0738739685/) and BN.com (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/murder-strikes-a-pose-tracy-weber/1116503716). You can also purchase a personalized, autographed copy on my author website (http://tracyweberauthor.com/buy.html).

Tracy Weber
What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
In my second book, A Killer Retreat, Kate, Bella, and friends are vacationing at an upscale vegan retreat center on Orcas Island, Washington. Kate can’t seem to go anywhere without stumbling over a dead body, and this trip will be no exception. Bella, Kate’s faithful canine sidekick, will be with her, dragging her—literally—into trouble!

Does your family support you in your writing career? How?
Oh my gosh, yes. I have to stop my mom from buying out every copy of my book that lands in the Billings Barnes & Noble. She’s so proud.

My yoga students have been particularly supportive. I suffer from periods of self-doubt, and if it weren’t for their constant encouragement, I don’t think I could have ever finished my first book. They believed in me long before I believed in myself. I will always be grateful for that.

My poor husband has been cursed with marrying a woman who is both a small business owner and a writer. Can you imagine a worse lot in life? And yet, even though I seem to add nothing but chaos and to-do items to our lives, he supports me in every endeavor. I’m extremely lucky.

Like Kate, my protagonist, I picked the perfect life partner.  I only hope that I offer him half of the joy he gives me in life!

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Excerpt: Murder Strikes a Pose by Tracy Weber


Title: Murder Strikes a Pose

Author: Tracy Weber

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Purchase Links:

Book description:

When George and Bella—a homeless alcoholic and his intimidating German shepherd—disturb the peace outside her studio, yoga instructor Kate Davidson’s Zen-like calm is stretched to the breaking point. Kate tries to get rid of them before Bella scares the yoga pants off her students. Instead, the three form an unlikely friendship.
One night Kate finds George’s body behind her studio. The police dismiss his murder as a drug-related street crime, but she knows George wasn’t a dealer. So Kate starts digging into George’s past while also looking for someone to adopt Bella before she’s sent to the big dog park in the sky. With the murderer nipping at her heels, Kate has to work fast or her next Corpse Pose may be for real.

Book  excerpt:

I laid my body on the cool wood floor, covered up with a blanket, and prepared to die.
Metaphorically, that is.
Corpse Pose’s ten-minute rest always soothed my stressed-out nerves, and for once I didn’t feel guilty about the indulgence. My to-do list was blank, Serenity Yoga’s phone was silent, and I had a whole blissful hour between clients to do my favorite activity: practice yoga.
Even my eclectic Greenwood neighborhood seemed uncharacteristically quiet, lulled by Seattle’s rare afternoon sun. The residents of the apartments above the yoga studio were off at their day jobs; the alcohol-addicted patrons of the block’s two dive bars slept off their Jim Beam breakfasts; the soccer moms shopping at next door’s upscale PhinneyWood Market purchased the day’s supplies in unusual silence.
I wiggled my toes under a Mexican blanket, covered my eyes with a blue satin eye pillow, and inhaled deeply. The ooey-gooey smell of Mocha Mia’s chocolate caramel cake wafted from across the street and filled my nostrils with sweet toffee-scented bliss—my all-time favorite aromatherapy.
Paradise. Simply paradise.
I released my weight into the earth and silently coached myself, exactly as I would one of my students. OK, Kate. Feel your body relax. Notice the random fluctuations of your mind and—
A vicious snarl ripped through the silence, startling me out of my catnap. I sat straight up, eye pillow falling to the floor with an undignified thump.
What the heck?
When had a dog fighting ring moved into the neighborhood?
A dog fight was the only plausible explanation for the commotion outside. Bursts of deep, frantic barking were followed by high-pitched yelping, all punctuated by the peace-shattering sounds of angry yelling. The phrases I could make out confirmed my suspicions. This had to be a dog fight, albeit one-sided.
“Control your dog!”
“Get that vicious beast out of here!”
And even a simple, “What the hell?”
I closed the door between the yoga room and the studio’s lobby, hoping to block out the intrusive sounds. Snarls, shouts, and an occasional ear-piercing shriek continued to reverberate right through the wall.
Undaunted, I imagined that the sounds were merely clouds floating across my mental horizon. Most of those clouds were dark and ominous, like the deep thunderclouds preceding a hailstorm. But every so often I heard a soft voice, more like the fluffy clouds of childhood summers. I couldn’t quite make out his words, but I could tell that the speaker was a man. From his tone, I assumed he was trying to calm beasts both human and animal.
It wasn’t working.
Neither, for that matter, was my attempted meditation.
I’d obviously have to shift tactics.
I tried drowning out the clamor with low, soft chanting. Then I increased the volume. But even as I belted out Om Santi, my favorite mantra for peace, I felt my jaw start to tighten. My fingernails bit deeply into my palms. My shoulders crept up to my ears.
An entirely different mantra began pounding through my head: Don’t get me angry; you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
A series of yelps and the words “I’m calling the cops!” zapped me like a cattle prod. I leapt from my mat and stormed across the floor, determined to put a stop to that infernal racket. I hurled open the door and came face-to-face, or rather face-to-snout, with the source of the commotion. Not more than five feet away from the studio’s entrance stood a paunchy, dark-haired man and the biggest, skinniest, meanest-looking German shepherd I had ever seen. Don’t get me wrong. I like dogs. I love them, in fact. It’s their human counterparts I could sometimes do without. But this frothing breast was no Rin Tin Tin. A long line of drool oozed from its mouth. Its sharp white teeth glinted in the sunlight, and its black wiry topcoat still stood on end from the prior scuffle. The dog was obviously rabid. I didn’t recognize the man standing next to the frightening creature, but I did recognize his activity. He worked as a vendor for Dollars for Change, a well-regarded local newspaper that published articles about homelessness and poverty while employing those same homeless individuals as salespeople. Ordinarily I would have welcomed one of their vendors outside my business. If nothing else, supporting the paper demonstrated yoga’s principles of kindness and compassion. But this was not an ordinary circumstance. I absolutely could not allow that disgusting dog to raise a ruckus outside my studio. The prenatal class would have a fit. Suffice it to say that pregnancy hormones didn’t always leave expecting moms in the best of moods. My moms-to-be liked their yoga practice. They needed their yoga practice. And they needed to be serene while doing it. If a noisy dog fight disturbed their peaceful experience, I’d be the one getting barked at.
Thinking less than yogic thoughts, I marched up to the pair, determined to put a stop to the chaos.
“What in the world’s going on out here?”
The human half of the dastardly duo held a leash in one hand, newspapers in the other. He smiled at me and said, “Sorry about all the noise. I’m George, and this here’s Bella. What’s your name?”
“Kate Davidson, but—”
“Well, nice to meet you, Kate. I’d shake your hand, but mine are full, so Bella will have to do it instead.”
The vicious beast walked up and calmly sniffed my hand. I prayed she wasn’t about to ingest my fingers.
“Bella, say hello!”
Upon hearing her owner’s command, the giant hairy monster-dog immediately went into a perfect sit and sweetly offered me her paw. Maybe she wasn’t rabid after all. Just huge and ill-mannered.
“Don’t mind Bella,” he continued. “She’s very friendly to people. She just doesn’t like other dogs much. She’d be fine if people kept their unruly mutts to themselves, but they think if their rude dog wants to play, Bella has to as well.” He shook his head in disgust. “I don’t understand some people!”
I tried to interrupt, to tell him that his dog was the problem, but he didn’t give me the chance.
“Bella and I are new to this neighborhood, and we’re supposed to sell papers near the market. I tried setting up by the north entrance, but there’s a pet store at that end. Pete’s Pets, I think it’s called? The owner was a nice enough guy and all, but selling there was a disaster with all those dogs going in and out. Bella wasn’t happy at all.” He shrugged. “So I guess we’re going to have to hang out here instead.”
I bit the inside of my lip and considered my options. Up close, George wasn’t exactly the paragon of health I wanted standing outside my business. His friendly smile exposed yellowed teeth in need of significant dental care, and if the sharp, ammonia-like smell was any indication, neither he nor Bella had taken a bath in quite some time. At three-thirty in the afternoon, I could smell whiskey on his breath, and I suspected this most recent drink hadn’t been his first of the day. It would also likely be far from his last. I only knew one thing for certain: if George didn’t frighten my students away, his loud, intimidating, fur-covered companion would.
I needed them to leave, but honestly, I didn’t want to say it out loud. After all, I taught yoga for a living. People expected me to be calm and collected at all times. I wasn’t allowed to be mean, or even irritated, for that matter. I hesitated as I tried to come up with the perfect words to make him want to move, if not out of the neighborhood, then at least across the street.
Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), one of my favorite students picked that very moment to walk up with her five-month-old Lab pup, Coalie. “Hey, Kate!” she said. “I hoped I’d run into you! Do you still have space in your Core Strength class tonight?” Coalie was as rude and friendly as Labs everywhere. She couldn’t stop herself if she tried. She ran up to Bella, wiggling her entire body with glee, and covered Bella’s muzzle in sloppy wet puppy kisses.
Bella wasted no time. Faster than a 747 and stronger than a freight train, Bella pinned Coalie to the ground between her front legs, snarling and air-snapping on either side of Coalie’s neck. I heard the sound of canine teeth chomping together and imagined soft puppy bones shattering between them. My student screamed. Coalie yelped. George grabbed Bella’s collar while I reached in between razor-sharp teeth to pull Coalie from the jaws of death. The three of us wrestled the two dogs apart, but not before my student almost died of heart failure.
“What’s wrong with you?” she yelled. “Keep that vicious monster away from my baby!”
George quickly apologized, but said, “No damage done. Bella was just teaching that pup some manners.” He pointed at Coalie. “See, it’s all good!”
Coalie, oblivious with joy, seemed unscathed and ready to dive in again. Tail wagging and butt wiggling, she pulled with all her might, trying desperately to get back to Bella.
Bella had other plans. She sat next to George, glaring directly at that pup with a patented Clint Eastwood stare. Go ahead, she seemed to say. Make my day. My soon-to-be-former student ran off as quickly as her legs would move, dragging the still-happy puppy behind her.
“See you in class tonight!” I yelled to her rapidly retreating back. I doubted I’d be seeing her any time soon.
Yoga reputation be damned. I had to get rid of this guy.
I put my hands on my hips and stood nice and tall, taking full advantage of my five-foot-three-inch frame. “Look. I can’t let you stay here with the dog. She’s obviously frightening people. You have to leave.” I paused a moment for emphasis, then added, “Now.”
George stood a little taller, too. “Look yourself, lady. The last time I checked, I’m standing on city property. I have every right to be here. You don’t own this sidewalk, and you can’t stop me from making a living on it.” He glared at me, sharp eyes unblinking. “We Dollars for Change vendors are licensed, and no matter how much you don’t like us, the city says we can be here.”
“There’s no ‘us’ I don’t like,” I replied, frustrated. “It’s your dog. And you may have every right to be here, but the dog is another story. What do you think Animal Control will do if I report a vicious dog attacking people outside my store?”
George stepped back, pulling Bella closer. Seattle had the toughest dangerous dog laws in the nation. We both knew what would happen if I made that call. “You wouldn’t do that!” he said. “Bella’s never hurt anyone.”
I planted my feet stubbornly. “Try me.”
George gave me a wounded look and gathered his papers, shoulders slumped in depressed resignation. “OK, we’ll go. But I thought you yoga people were supposed to be kind.” He shuffled away, shaking his head and mumbling under his breath. Bella followed close by his side.
“Crap,” I muttered, watching their slow departure. “Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap.” He was right. Like all good yoga teachers, I had extensively studied yoga philosophy and tried to live by it. The teachings were clear: A yogi should respond to suffering with active compassion. And George was clearly suffering, whether he realized that fact or not.
Threatening to call the cops on George’s dog may have been active, but it wasn’t all that compassionate, to him or to Bella. I felt like a cad. My solution probably wasn’t what the teachings had in mind, but it was the best I could come up with on short notice. “Hang on there a minute!” I yelled as I ran to catch up with him. Out of breath, I said, “You’re right. I overreacted, and I’m sorry. How many papers do you have left to sell today?”
George stopped walking. When he turned to look back at me, his eyes sparkled with an unexpected hint of wry humor. “About thirty.”
The calculations weren’t difficult. I wasn’t completely broke—yet—but thirty dollars wasn’t a drop in the bucket. On the other hand, my Monday evening classes were popular, and I had to get this guy away from the front door. Mentally crossing my fingers that the toilet wouldn’t break again, I said, “Wait here. I’ll be right back.” I hurried back to the studio and grabbed thirty dollars from the cash box.
“If I buy all of your papers, will you be done for the day?”
“Yes ma’am, and that would be very kind of you.” He gave me a broad, yellow-toothed smile. “Bella and I appreciate it very much.” He took the money, left the papers, and wandered off, whistling. Bella happily trotted behind him.
“Well, that wasn’t so difficult,” I said, patting myself on the back. “I should follow the teachings more often!” I went back inside and finished my considerably shortened practice. I chose to ignore the quiet voice in my head telling me I’d just made a huge mistake.

Author Bio:


My writing is an expression of the things I love best: yoga, dogs, and murder mysteries.


I'm a certified yoga teacher and the founder of Whole Life Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio in Seattle, WA. I enjoy sharing my passion for yoga and animals in any form possible.

My husband and I live with our challenging yet amazing German shepherd Tasha and our bonito flake-loving cat Maggie. When I'm not writing, I spend my time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at my favorite local ale house.

I am a member of Sisters in Crime, The Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and the Dog Writers Association of America.

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