Life As a Shadow Spinner

Click cover to see the Amazon page.

Click cover to see the Amazon page.

I’ve always been a bit on the fringe in my thinking. My whole life, I’ve ignored rosy-tinted glasses in favor of wide-eyed realism, which, let’s face it, often seems dark to those who live in their rosy-tinted glasses. I’m sure this is part of the reason I write mysteries rather than, say, romances.

So many years ago, when I struggled with my sense of what it meant to be “normal” and assumed that normality was optimism, I tried to change myself. I spent years trying to force my brain into positive thinking. I was hell on myself, truly. I still am, but I’m learning, and I now realize that a world filled with optimists wouldn’t function very well. We need the pragmatists and realists (or, pessimists, as we’re often known). We need the folks who don’t avert their gazes from the tough stuff.

Back then, I never would have predicted that I’d go to a writers conference called the Maui Writers Conference as a fledgling novelist and that because of that one fateful decision, I’d find myself a member of a writer family of like-minded souls. We are all shadow spinners, and we love each other.

In fact, we blog together on the ShadowSpinners blog, taglined “when nice people write bad things.” These writers are my peeps, my tribe, my “normality.” (I know, there’s no such thing, but you know what I mean.)

Standing room only!

Standing room only!

And now we’re all in an anthology together! Aptly enough, the collection is called, ShadowSpinners, A Collection of Dark Tales. Last weekend I traveled from Portland, OR, to Eugene for the launch party. For a bunch of writers who flirt with the dark side, we sure are affectionate, huggy people! I’m honored to be a contributor in this collection. I sure hope you’ll check it out.

Are you a shadow spinner in life? There’s nothing wrong with this — embrace it!

And Here’s the Cover for WHISPERS IN THE MIST!

Whispers_CoverLast week I hosted a cover reveal giveaway extravaganza for my second County Clare mystery, WHISPERS IN THE MIST. It was a great success, and I had so much fun interacting with old and new friends.

I’d like to congratulation Karen for winning the grand prize: a $50 Amazon gift certificate. Yay!

There’s another giveaway going on right now on Goodreads. If you want to enter to win a signed copy of KILMOON, County Clare Mystery #1, simply to go this page. From now until October 10th, I’ll be entering everyone who marks WHISPERS IN THE MIST as “Want to Read” into a secondary giveaway: an Irish wall plaque.

Thank you so much. Back to regularly scheduled programming next week!

Cheers, Lisa

It’s a Cover Reveal Giveaway! (With an Awesome Grand Prize)


I love the cover of the second novel in my county clare mystery series. So, I’ve decided to host a cover reveal giveaway this week. Yay!

Cut to the Chase, What IS the Awesome Grand Prize?

A $50 Amazon gift certificate!

How Does the Giveaway Work?

Starting today, Monday, I’ll be giving away a prize each day for people who enter in various ways. On Friday I’ll reveal the cover for my second County Clare mystery, WHISPERS IN THE MIST.

The Game: Who Is the Grey Man?

Here’s a snippet from the cover. See this figure? Who is it? There are many possibilities, including female (even though I’m calling it “Grey Man”). Monday through Thursday, I’ll provide excerpts from WHISPERS IN THE MIST spotlighting a character from the novel who could be the figure.


How to Enter — The Daily Prizes (Monday through Friday)

1. Easy! Show up on my Facebook author page and say “hi” to me in the comments of that day’s post (visible by noon, EST). You don’t have to “Like” my author page, but it would be mighty fun if you did. An extra point if you share!

— and, for an extra entry opportunity:

2. Go to the WHISPERS IN THE MIST Goodreads page and click “Want to Read.” This also automatically enters you in the grand prize giveaway — a two-fer!

The daily prizes are:

  • Monday: An autographed copy of KILMOON, the Rosebud-Award-nominated series debut, and a Celtic-inspired bookmark. If you’ve already read the book, remember: books make great gifts!
  • Tuesday: Adorable shamrock socks and portable purse hanger
  • Wednesday: Shamrock business card holder and Connemara marble worry stone
  • Thursday: A Celtic knot coffee mug filled with autumnal sweet treats.
  • Friday: An Irish luck penny and cute little shamrock flask on a chain.

How to Enter — The Grand Prize! (To be drawn on Sunday, October 4th)

  1. You are already automatically entered if you previously clicked “Want to Read” on the Goodreads page for WHISPERS IN THE MIST.
  2. You are also already automatically entered if you have left comments on any of the Facebook author page posts throughout the week.

NOTE: By entering, you acknowledge that Facebook is not liable for any part of the contest. The contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. ;-)

The Goats of Lahinch: A Lesson in Novel Research

GoatsLahinch1(Before I forget: Next week I’m going to have a cover reveal giveaway contest! With prizes. Look for the contest details on Monday, a week from today!)

I love writing crime fiction, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes I falter before writing police procedural scenes. Part of the fun of reading mysteries, of course, is to delve into the “whodunnit” aspect of the story. Interestingly, in reading and in writing, I’ve found that I don’t care about the who as much as I care about the “whydunnit” (and maybe the “howdunnit”), which is more about the psychological underpinnings of the crime.

I adore psychology. Just sayin’. So I tend toward, perhaps — someone else would have to tell me for sure — psychological suspense. I think. I just call it “mystery.”

Anyhow, so yeah, last week I found myself in the pause between scenes in my first draft. My detective needed to talk to Character X, who apparently had a beef with the murder victim. OK. Simple enough.

<yawn> Anoooother scene in which Danny must talk to a witness or a suspect or a “person of interest.”

Sometimes the secret to writing these types of plot-oriented scenes is to make them more interesting for me to write. Often this means dreaming up a new-to-me setting, a place I wouldn’t normally think of, a place where the characters can interact in a new way and perhaps be physically active.

So I asked myself: What interesting job could Character X have? I Googled job openings in County Clare, the location of my story:


Lots of food industry and hotel industry jobs. But, meh. I wasn’t grabbed. But what about a golf club? I know zippo about golf, so that could make it interesting. And an outdoor space is always good for a change of pace. So I Googled “jobs at golf clubs.” I was thinking about groundskeepers, but I landed on “golf course superintendant,” which is an uber-important job and way more cool.

So then I had to look up golf course maintenance. How do you maintain a golf course? I had no clue what was involved, and what I discovered amazed me. There’s a science to it all. I was trying to picture what task Character X could be engaged in when Danny appears. I settled on fixing an erosion problem in a sand pit.

OK, great. Then I Googled golf courses in County Clare. Lo and behold, there’s a world-class, exclusive course in Lahinch. I was starting to get excited about writing the scene now. See how that works? From <yawn, another detective-asks-questions procedural scene> to <woohoo, and there’s even a sand pit known as the “devil’s pit” and what could be better than that?>

Well, there was something better than that — I “heart” research, seriously — goats!! The Goats of Lahinch. They wander around as they please and are known as weather predictors because they congregate near the club house before rotten weather.

So, in the end I got my scene, and it’s way more fun because of the location. Character X, a minor character, is more interesting. The scene is more interesting all the way around.

So I was happy. Goats! I thought about having one of the goats nibble on Danny’s notepad, but I refrained. But there’s a feisty one named “Molly.” :-)

Goat lovers out there — I’m open to renaming the goat in my scene. Any suggestions? I picture her looking like this one:



Letter from Camp: Award Nomination, Writing Retreat, and Cover Reveal Giveaway

Colonyhouse4Dear gentle readers and anyone who’s landed here randomly,

I’m having the best time at camp! Today we swam in the lake and I got to hold a baby bird!

It occurred to me today that I wanted to write you a note as if I was writing from camp. Kind of goofy and enthusiastic and over the top, like kids get sometimes. I’m going to embrace my inner kid … here it goes:

Dear everyone in the whole wide world who’s reading this blog post!

I just found out that KILMOON is a finalist for the Silver Falchion Readers Choice Award for Best First Novel (Cozy, Traditional, Historical category). Awesome-sauce!

You just gotta vote–you’d better! :-) :-) You only have to go right here:

But beeeeware: If you’re on your cell phone, first click “Switch to desktop site” on the bottom of the page.

I’m sorry I didn’t write last week, but I was on writers retreat on the Oregon coast! See?

Colonyhouse3I wrote like 7500 words on the first draft for novel #3. That’s a lot for me! The story is called “Touch of Death” <shiver, shiver> and it will be a really great mystery by the time I’m done. The title will probably change, but I don’t care! It’s totally cool for now.

What else? Oh yeah! I’ve seen the cover for the second novel that’s coming out in August, 2016, from Midnight Ink Books. Wooowoooow, I’m so in love with it I could kiss it, but I won’t because, well, that would be weird, right? Kissing my computer screen? Gag.

Anyhoo, yeah, so I’ll be doing a cover reveal giveaway! I’ll let you know all about it soon! But I can tell you the title: WHISPERS IN THE MIST.

Awesome-sauce x 2!

This morning I had oatmeal and a banana for breakfast. I can’t wait for dinner: smoked salmon from the Oregon coast!

OK well I gotta go do more novel work now. I’ll write again soon, I promise!

Sincerely, Lisa “the best writer in the world” Alber

:-) :-) (Just kidding–not!) :-) :-)

All the World’s a Coffee Shop

cafetheatreIf all the world’s a stage, as Shakespeare wrote for “As You Like It,” then isn’t one of the best impromptu stages a good old-fashioned coffee shop?

If you’re a cafe lover like I am, then you know that all kinds of characters in all kinds of life costumes walk on and off the cafe stage. You’ve got the yoga moms with their nonfat lattes and the ragged old codgers nursing their black coffees. You’ve got stressed-looking students and business types glued to their devices. Single dads on their weekends with the kids. Lovey-dovey couples after a night of rambunctious bed-romping. You might encounter the odd high person muttering to herself in a corner or a street person coming in out of the cold.

And, of course, you’ll find lots of folks like me hunched over their laptops and intermittently staring into space.

all-the-world-is-a-stageCoffee shop regulars are often odd ducks, those lovably strange people who live on the fringes of polite society — like the disheveled gardener who always seemed to have a toothache — or who hail from some old school lifestyle — like the aging rocker dude with black hair that looked like it had been dyed with shoe polish — or who strain after a Quixotic quest — like the garrulous professor who’d been writing his theory of everything for the past twenty years.

After awhile, these oddballs cease to be characters that I observe from behind my laptop, and the coffee shop ceases to be a stage. It becomes its own world, and its inhabitants transform into people nursing hopes and fears just like I do. I get to know their names — Marshall and Ward and Steve — and we become coffee house friends.

coffeehouseAll this is to say that I’m ecstatic that I discovered my neighborhood coffee house! I’ve been living in my new home for three months now. Yesterday I happened to mention to a neighbor my longing for an indie coffee shop within walking distance. Well, lo and behold, we have such a shop! And it’s super cute too. I stopped in this morning to check it out. I splurged on a Mexican mocha, just cuz, and eyed a cool red modernist metal wall hanging for my bathroom.

To start the process of becoming a regular, I introduced myself to the owner. I mentioned that I was a writer. She didn’t quite roll her eyes, and I didn’t mind her I-hear-that-a-lot reaction. I’d probably react the same way! Hah! At some point maybe I’ll bring in a few copies of KILMOON so that she can sell them along with the crafts from other local creative types.

Most of all, I’ll just add myself to the cast of regular characters. After awhile, people will know my name.

How important is it for you to have a regular hang-out place outside your home? What do you think it says about a person that she or he seeks these social milieus?

Sunday at Home with a Procrastinating Novelist

So much has changed since I last wrote — what a whirlwind! I last wrote three months ago while in the midst of home-buying and manuscript-finishing craziness. Stress, thy name was Lisa Alber.

Here’s an image of my view at this moment  … hold on a second, I’m taking the picture now …

With Fawn "The Ears" Alber, my mascot. Don't mind her bad manners, it's just the outside table.

With Fawn “The Ears” Alber, my mascot. Don’t mind her bad manners, it’s just the outside table. She’ll fall asleep soon.

This is where I’ve been hanging out as much as possible: in my very own backyard! Yes, I’m moved and settled and writing the first draft of a new novel — novel #3 actually, due in about a year. Seems like a long time, but it’s not. It’s really not, not the way I write. For a quick update on the result of finishing novel #2 by the May 1st deadline, check out this page on my website. More information to come!

I’ve decided to get back into updating my blog — quick posts like this one because I’m over-busy and can barely remember the basics sometimes. Almost forgot a friend’s birthday last week!

I love being home so much now that sometimes I just want to be in it, that’s it. Puttering around, drinking coffee slowly, lingering in the bath manicuring my grungy toenails (another thing I haven’t had time for this summer). In fact, now it’s about 1:00 p.m., Sunday afternoon, and I have to get to the writing. Of course, writing this post is yet more procrastination …

And to my left, Trio, who has taken over the old Adirondack chair that came with the house.

And to my left, Trio, who has taken over the old Adirondack chair that came with the house.

Funny thing about lingering — or maybe malingering — is that sometimes it opens up the necessary space in the subconscious for ideas to burble up. Two writing thoughts occurred to me while de-gunking my toenails. Nothing momentous. Sometimes I just need a way into the writing for the day.

I’m about halfway through writing the body scene, cue official start the murder investigation. It’s fine — first drafty fine — but … blah. Just blah. Thankfully, about the time I tackled my first pinkie toe, I realized how the scene affects my detective, Danny Ahern. Not just professionally — that’s the easy part. The hard part is the personal. A character’s internal arc. So a thought burbled up … aah … and now I have my way in for the day.

Luckily, I also had a thought about the next scene. So hopefully I can write on through without noodling around any more than I have today.

So off I go now. The writing awaits.