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I'm happy to announce that Mad Dog Down the Road, Coyote Run Book Two, is now available!

When awkward canine rehabilitator Maddie "Mad Girl" Whitney rescues a half-dead "bait dog," she resolves to help identify a dog-fighting ring and steps into a bigger world of crime hiding in plain sight.

Her situation is complicated by discovering that her friends are keeping secrets and her suspicions about a beautiful young widow and a life insurance policy.

About The Dog Thief, Coyote Road Book One

"Amazing! A gripping read that will have your heart racing from start to finish." —James Sinclair, Autistic & Unapologetic

Can she save herself by saving the dog she loves?

Canine rehabilitator Madeline "Mad Girl" Whitney stumbles upon a murder victim, thrusting her into the limelight of her small town. She makes a wild claim, hoping to help her struggling business, but it has the effect of drawing too much attention. When the hostile sheriff, her ex-girlfriend's twin brother, threatens to take away Maddie's former military dog, she's forced to work with him to establish a Search & Rescue team.

Now everyone, including a killer, is watching the girl who can't make eye contact.

The Dog Thief celebrates the special bond between humans and our canine companions and is set in a small Northern California town.

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"Acosta's talent is staggering...She shows readers all over again just how funny, ridiculous and thoroughly gifted she is at plotting."
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Mad Dog Down the Road


I've settled on a title for Coyote Run Book Two. Mad Dog Down the Road will be available late November. I hope to share the cover art soon!

What does the title mean? Suffice it to say that I've read To Kill a Mockingbird several times. I remembered a family camping trip, lying in the cool shade of the ancient redwoods, and being transported to a sweltering Southern town, where "Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o'-clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frosting of sweat and sweet talcum."

The hottest days of the year were thought to bring out rabid dogs. We have other things to fear on these hot days.

I've also started Coyote Run Book Three and plan for a spring 2021 release.

Apocalyptic Skies & Progress Report

 

The sky turned blood red this summer with smoke from fires blocking the light. The wildfires have been raging, voracious and terrifying. Yet I've never seen so many butterflies and in such variety as I have these last few months. I watch out my window into the garden as I write. The tiger swallowtails have been frequent visitors for years, but we have Monarchs, Painted Ladies, Skippers, and I saw a rare glorious indigo Pipeline Swallowtail for the first time in my life.

I'm happy to announce that I've finished writing Coyote Run Book 2, the second in my series about Maddie Whitney, a neuroatypical dog rehabilitator. Maddie's survived a fire and that danger is always on her mind as she rescues dogs, helps train their owners, and hunts down the identity of a vicious dog fighting ring.

I don't have a title yet, but I'm thinking of Dog Days of Summer, because the story is set during the dog days, named for the rising of Sirius, the Dog Star, when the season is at its hottest, when mad dogs roam the streets, when dry lightning storms strike, and trouble brews.

More news on this book soon!

Stay safe.

The Solice of a Book - DARK COMPANION Free Now!



The Corona Virus has swept across the world, and we are all living in varying states of anxiety and fear. In California, we have a shelter-in-place order. My day-to-day life is not much different, since I am always at my desk, with only my family and dogs as companions, but I'm anxious for everyone.

More About DARK COMPANION
A book can be a fine companion in difficult times. That's why I've decided to give away my Young Adult Gothic novel Dark Companion for at least the next month.

You can get it free now at:
In a few days, it should also be free at Amazon.

Please share this giveaway with your friends.

I hope that you and yours will stay well during these, the worst of times.




Maya and Lola Between Bouts of Play

All the controversy surrounding the publication of American Dirt, about a Mexican mother escaping danger by crossing the border, motivated me to post a series of tweets today. I absolutely understand why many Latinos and others are offended by the book, I think the bigger issue is the publishing business. Because the business dominates the art.

My books have been published by Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster), Tor (Macmillan), and Hyperion (Disney), and my editors are brilliant and talented women. I stepped away from traditional publishing with my last novel because I wanted to hold onto control of my book -- not so much the story as the direction and my rights. I dearly miss my editors' guidance, wisdom, and friendship. Heaven knows, I miss the copyeditors and proofreaders!

But I don't feel the constant anxiety of failing to fit in a business that always wanted me to be something else.

Well, you can read the tweets, @martaacosta.

Me at Writers with Drinks, October 12, San Francisco


Betty Von Snoggles & Flowers

A bar in the Mission, books, authors! Yes, it's a super fun event. I'll be speaking (or rather rambling or possibly ranting) this Saturday night with Michelle Ruiz Keil (All of Us With Wings); Imani Gandy (Rewire News); Dr. Jennifer Gunter (The Vagina Bible); Vivian Ho (Those Who Wander: America's Lost Street Kids); and Nazelah Jamison (Evolutionary Heart)

WRITERS WITH DRINKS
The Make Out Room
 Cost: $5 to $20, no-one turned away
All proceeds benefit a local nonprofit, TBA
3225 22nd St.
San Francisco CA
7:30 PM to 9:30 PM, doors open at 7 PM
If you're in the neighborhood, come by! Borderlands Bookstore will be there selling books, but if you just want to have a drink and say hi, I'd love to meet you.

I'll be talking about my life a weird kid, dogs as the perfect writer's companion, how I should be writing more, watching streaming shows less, and how books have defined my life.

Daydreaming, Dogs, The She-Hulk Diaries...and Poetry?


The She-Hulk Diaries Poster
My writing process consists of a lot of daydreaming, and I do this on daily walks with my dog, Lola. I haven't yet figured out a crucial character for my current project, the second in the Coyote Run series, but it will eventually come to me. The working title is Trickster God, or maybe Trickster Dog, because I've always been fascinated by the trickster gods in folklore.

I delight in a good con artist, a hoaxer, a charlatan,  I'm very fond of crazy-as-a-bug Don Pedro, who appears in my Casa Dracula books and convinces Milagro to ghostwrite his loony autobiographies. Or, as she calls them, his "fauxoirs."

So that's where I am on that: still daydreaming, starting and stopping and chopping out chapters.

In other news, there's word that Marvel will be producing a She-Hulk series for streaming. Yay! Shulky doesn't get enough attention, and perhaps a few fans might pick up my rom-com The She-Hulk Diaries.

I'm thrilled to have been invited to talk at one of my favorite writing events, Writers with Drinks, hosted by the fabulously talented author and essayist Charlie Jane Anders:

Writers with Drinks
The Make-Out Room
 225 22nd St., San Francisco
7:30 PM to 9:30 PM, doors open at 7 PM
October 10, 2019

Now all I have to do is think of something to say. I'm considering reciting a few of the poems that I keep sneaking into books. Here's one of my favorites from The She-Hulk Diaries.


LOVE/EVOLution

I'll crawl from the primordial sludge
For you.
I'll give up my gills and prehensile appendage
For you.
I'll invent the wheel, I'll discover fire,
Inspired by desire,
For you.
I'll draw your pictograph on cave walls,
I'll slay T.Rex with a sharp rock,
And all
To win your heart.

I know. Don't quit my day job. Too late!

Summer Comes in Autumn

Illustration by Christian Nacorda for Dark Companion/Shadow Girl Trailer
I live in a microclimate where summers are cool and foggy, and sunshine finally comes out in autumn. I went to Catholic schools with wool uniforms, which were particularly unpleasant during heat waves. I woke at 6 a.m. and took three buses to reach my all-girls high school, set in the low East Bay hills, surrounded by gardens.

The good thing was: I always had books to read on the rides. When I was deep into a story, the miles passed too quickly. I remember the smell of my school's polished linoleum floors, the ornate entrance with marble steps leading to huge carved doors, the mysterious hallways, and architectural artifacts -- features left in place from another time. I remember the sound of hundreds of teenage girls chattering, laughing, shouting as classes let out. I remember sitting on back campus or the front gardens with my friends, dreaming of our futures. In this boy-free zone, we could compete and also support one another. We could confidently ace tests, and we were the ones our teachers called upon. We studied and explored science and math, literature and history, the arts and sports.

And yet, all I wanted was to escape high school. Well, youth is wasted on the young.

All this is to say that The Shadow Girl of Birch Grove (published by Tor as Dark Companion) is a book very close to my heart. I think of my gothic young adult novel as a strange-looking wonderful child that no one understands. Everyone wants a pretty and perfect girl doing all the right things for all the right reasons and discovering that she's really a princess. I wanted my Jane to be more real than that.

She says, “You know, I’ve always hated stories about handsome princes and beautiful princesses with some extraordinary ability, special because they’re born special...I didn’t see how those were happy stories, because life has given princes and princesses enough unearned advantages. I’d rather believe that anyone can accomplish remarkable things when she really tries. Maybe her accomplishments will never be recognized, but simply loving and caring for someone else, that’s miraculous to me.”

I'm offering The Shadow Girl of Birch Grove free on Amazon from October 3-17. I'm also having a free promo for Fancy That, a lighthearted romcom, from September 26-30. (If loving romcoms is wrong, I don't want to be right.) Both books are available on Kindle Unlimited. If you haven't had a chance to read them, please grab them now!

Read The Shadow Girl of Birch Grove at Amazon US and watch the video trailer, narrated by Patricia Fructuoso and illustrated by Christian Nacorda!

Read Fancy That at Amazon US.

Guest Blog & Dog Food


Anna Palij was kind enough to have me as a guest on her site, The Writer's Pain. I regret to say that I veered into utter nonsense. Like my character, Nancy Carrington, I believe that silliness is one of the highest forms of delightfulness. Others may not agree. If you agree, please visit Anna's site.

In other news: The Dog Thief has received some very nice reader reviews. Some reviewers have used the term "heartfelt," and I'm glad I was able to convey my deep love of dogs and other animals in this novel. When I was a child and imagined my future life, it was a home filled with books and animals. Right now, I only have the one dog, Lola, and a cardboard box with caterpillars that I'm trying to protect from birds, but I watch squirrels, birds, and cats outside the window as I work.

Lola was having Issues of the Noxious Kind, so I did what I always do, google like crazy for alternative brands of dog food. Finally, I thought, the heck with it. I made up a huge pot of chicken, vegetable and rice food for her, enough to freeze and use for weeks. Her digestive problems vanished.

Of course, my mother thinks I'm crazy to cook for a dog. But Lola is a companion who always wiggles in utter delight when she sees me, who always wants to play tug, who alerts me to activity near the house, who nuzzles my hand when she wants to be pet, and who yowls in greeting when I return home. She makes me laugh when she leaps into a mud puddle, or plays chase with her friends at the park.

So I don't mind cooking for her.

I've started the sequel to The Dog Thief and planning on a multibook Coyote Run series. The working title is Trickster Dog, and Maddie will struggle to work with a new Search and Rescue dog and to unravel the mysteries surrounding the death a local vintner.

Science Fiction & Me

My closest pals know that I'm very anti-social media these days, reacting against the collection and selling of personal data because blah, blah, blah, paranoid rantings, etc., because I'm prone to paranoid rantings. The question is: does a love of speculative fiction lead to paranoid rantings, or are paranoid rantings the result of reading too much speculative fiction during one's formative years?

Rather than belabor the downsides of social media, one upside is connecting with old friends. I recently got together with a best friend from high school. I can still recall meeting her. She was a striking girl, two grades above me, tall and blond. She was sitting on a bench in the school yard, intently focused on a paperback.

"What are you reading?" I asked

"Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein," she said. "You're not mature enough for it."

Thus began our friendship, and we spent the next few year's together tearing through her older sisters' stacks of science fiction books, talking and writing and studying and exploring the world beyond high school. We dreamed of writing science fiction novels. Well, the closest I came was writing The She-Hulk Diaries for Marvel. She became a successful computer programmer for the biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley.

She said, "You should write a science fiction novel.

I mentioned this to my brother, also a fan of science fiction, and he said, "That's a good idea. It was your first love."

So I'm thinking about it. And perhaps it's time for me to revisit favorite old books as well.

A New Look & Old Name for Dark Companion



UPDATE: My YA Gothic Suspense/Gothic Romance is now published under my original title, The Shadow Girl of Birch Grove. I've always liked this title, but my publisher's marketing department replaced it with Dark Companion

My young adult gothic novel, Dark Companion, has a new cover by designer Dar Albert of Wicked Smart Designs! I thought the cover by Tor/Macmillan was beautiful, but I wasn't happy that my multiracial protagonist was "whitewashed." The American Library Association's YALSA had an article back in 2012 discussing whitewashing on YA book covers.

Is it a big or little thing? It was a big thing for me, because one of my recurring themes is being Other in society. My publisher had purchased a beautiful photo for the cover art, but the girl didn't look like my brown-skinned character Jane Williams. And I thought this contributed to the perception that my character was not a person of color, even though this is clearly stated in the novel.

But being multiracial is only one aspect of Jane's outsider status. She's also poor and without a family. We all need our families.

Which reminds me, my favorite brother informed me recently that there is no such word as "reoccurring." Seriously? I wish someone had corrected me before because I use that word all the dang time, and I'm sure my pals are cracking up afterward. I will have to interrogate them and find out.

I love Dar's design with the small cottage among the trees, the sense of danger, the red petals, and the girl who is looking straight out at the reader. Because Jane Williams is direct and serious.

Dar also designed the fun new covers for my Casa Dracula series.