Friday, May 29, 2009

My New Cover -- BOOKPLATE SPECIAL

Bookplate_Special.smTricia Miles, owner of Haven’t a Clue mystery bookstore, is still settling into Stoneham, New Hampshire, the kind of town where everybody knows your name—and where everyone’s quick to lend a hand, even when murder is afoot…


The kinder folks of Stonehammight call Pammy Fredericks a free spirit. The less kind, a freeloading thief.Tricia has put up—and put up with—her uninvited college roommate for weeks. Inreturn, Pammy, has stolen $100, among other things. But the day she’s kickedout, Pammy’s found dead in a dumpster, leaving loads of questions unanswered.Like what was she foraging for? Did her killer want it too? To piece the casetogether, Tricia will have to dive in head-first.…

(Isn't it just gorgeous? And don't you just love the way the window glows like a Thomas Kincade painting--and that type at the bottom of the cover that says New York Times Bestselling Author!!! And how long will it take before my "name" is bigger than the title?)

P.S. Starting tomorrow, Saturday, May 30th, I'll be joining the Cozy Chicks blog. Come on over and check it out.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

PET PEEVE THURSDAY--COMPUTER BACK UPS

Emergency computer back up We've all been told time and time again to BACK UP YOUR COMPUTER FILES. I must admit, I am one of those people who means to do it all the time and still seems to forget.

But one thing I am diligent about is baking up my current book. I put in on a flash drive, and I have online storage in case the house blows up. (Well, you never know, right?)

So yesterday I had finished my work for the day and backed it up on the flash drive, intending to go right to the online storage and POOF! My manuscript was gone. GONE! The old version was still on the flash drive, but none of the additions and changes I'd made. A WHOLE DAY'S WORK--GONE!

Can you scream MELTDOWN!!!!!!!!! (Yes, it was upsetting enough to warrant all those exclamation points.) A search of the computer brought up nothing! It couldn't even find an old version of the manuscript.

Hey, I was being good. I WAS faithfully completing my back up and still my manuscript was gone.

Glass of scotch When I could think rationally again, I remembered to check "RECENT ITEMS" -- and sure enough, there it was. Now why couldn't Vista tell me the manuscript was squirreled away in that folder? I pulled it onto the desktop, and quickly made copies. And then poured myself a very strong whiskey--light on the soda.

And what have you lost on your computer lately?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New (to me) Reviews

Bookmarked.sm Sometimes it seems like I'm pretty clueless--at least I think so. One of my vigilant readers has forwarded not one but TWO neat reviews of BOOKMARKED FOR DEATH to me from respected print media--a little late, but always welcome. (Thanks, Lois!)

Mystery Scene Magazine, under "Cozy Favorites"

A bookstore owner's worst nightmare--the author found dead in the washroom--starts off Lorna Barrett's charming Bookmarked for Death (Berkley, $6.99). Tricia Miles, the owner of Haven't Got a Clue bookstore in the little town of Stoneham, New Hampshire, better solve this mystery before she takes the fall.


Mystery News (April/May 2009)

The second in the "Booktown Mysteries" series, Bookmarked for Death is a good cozy set in the village of Stoneham, New Hampshire. The entire community is distressed by huge flocks of Canada gees and the mess they make everywhere at a time when they are hoping to host a successful book fair featuring the numerous bookshops that make them a "booktown."

The Haven't Got a Clue mystery bookstore is hosting Zoe Carter, a reclusive author who is the most famous person from Stoneham. After the signing, bookstore owner Tricia Miles discovers the Edgar-winning author murdered in the restroom. Sheriff Wendy Adams closes the store for four days, causing many problems as well as loss of sales for Tricia. Doubt is cast upon Carter's authorship of her bestselling books, and more violence ensues.

The Characters are likable and the puzzle is intriguing. There is more cooking information than book lore. Tricia's sister, Angelica, a forceful personality indeed, owns the cook book shop next door. The ubiquitous recipes are included and a couple of them look good enough to try.


Naturally, I'm very happy to have positive reviews, and plan to boil them down for promo. How about this.

"Charming!"--Mystery Scene Magazine
and
"The puzzle is intriguing." -- Mystery News

Short and sweet, eh?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Authorly accouterments

I love garage sales. Have I mentioned that before? (Oh, only about a hundred times?) They're terrific. This weekend I got some really good stuff. A new popcorn bowl (I broke the perfect one about four months ago and have been experimenting ever since. This one seems to work well), some new-to-me bone china tea mugs . . . and a business card holder.

Holderwcard1 I use these at signings. I have to admit, not many people take my business cards. But a few times people have taken them with promises to book me for their readers group to to come visit their library. My last one was BORING. Opaque (white) plastic, but you could put cards on both sides. This one has a bit of glamor. Even fake diamonds! Since the heroine in my new mystery series is kind of a girlie-girl, I figured this would be perfect for me (and her).

Isn't it pretty?

What did you last buy at a yard/garage/tag sale?

Friday, May 22, 2009

DUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Duck crossing sign I love ducks. They're so cute. I love that the town where I live is concerned for the ducks' welfare. They hang signs near the retention ponds where the ducks hang around to do duck things. Like swim, and eat and BREED.

What I don't like about ducks is the calling cards they leave behind. (I touched on this in BOOKMARKED FOR DEATH--only then it was geese. Believe me. The geese can be really bad about it.)

Threebadducks But thankfully, geese don't visit me. Ducks, however, do. And you really don't want to encourage them. That's why we're really good about pumping the top of the money pit, er, pool as soon as the ice melts. Unfortunately, we still get rain, so keeping it pumped off becomes a continuing job until the pool is finally opened in June.

That means, I'm on constant duck alert. The problem is, the ducks are used to people. You have to go out there and make an absolute fool of yourself jumping up and down and waving your arms and clapping and yelling to get them to move.

I sure hope my neighbors don't have a video camera trained on our backyard.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

PET PEEVE THURSDAY--What have they done to Uhura?

Have you seen the new Star Trek Movie yet? I have. So what do you think about the changes they've made to the crew? One in particular stands out for guest blogger Rhonda Lane.

I saw the new Star Trek movie on opening night. Believe it or not, despite what this post ends up saying, I mostly enjoyed the movie. It was only afterward, once I was back home, that I started thinking . . . .

If you haven’t seen the new Star Trek movie, you might want to stop reading right here. But . . . If you’re a woman, maybe you want to know before you go in. Especially if you’re a Boomer woman. Really especially if you were a pioneer yourself leading women into new professional territory.

Really, if you want to watch the movie and be surprised — stop reading now.

I mean it. Last chance … because …

Uhura is sleeping with her boss. Not Kirk. Spock. Who is cute, I admit. But a smart cookie like Uhura would be too professional to play where she works. Especially in a military unit. Despite what Battlestar Gallactica portrayed.

Zoe as Uhura2 Thank goodness Uhura’s still smart as far as her job is concerned. She’s still the ears of the Universe picking up odd noises and interpreting them like a crackerjack submarine sonar officer. I’m okay with the fact that she’s a babe, but I do wish she’d been given more to do.

And I wonder what Nichelle Nichols, the original Uhura, thinks.

Nichelle nichols uhura Y’all know the famous story. Nichelle was bored out of her skull with her role as a TV space ship switchboard operator. She was about to quit. Then Martin Luther King Jr. himself stepped up and asked her to please stay, that she was showing a black woman in an important job on a TV show. Even if not many people then were watching her. But Dr. King knew a potential pop culture icon when he saw one.

In those days on the cusp of the woman’s movement, Uhura was a bridge officer on the flagship of the fleet. Smart, good at her job and good in a fight. Every once in a while, she had to act like the flinching pre-ERA woman and say, “Oh, captain, I’m so afraid.”

I think I remember reading where Nichelle had to protest a few of those wimpy throwback moments and remind the producers and directors that Uhura was a soldier.

Marlena_Moreau,_mirror Apparently, the creator of Alias’s tough Sydney Bristow and Fringe’s capable Olivia Dunham forgot that Uhura is a soldier, too. But now she’s a space babe in lacy lingerie. Perhaps on a career track to become “The Captain’s Woman???” It all makes me wonder about what we leading women have wrought.

We embraced the freedom to reproduce when we wanted, not when biology happened. The control that The Pill gave us allowed us to wonder what else we could do now that we weren’t shackled by biology?
Then, we wanted to learn more about our own biology for health reasons. And we took the shame out of acts of love. We didn’t want our daughters and nieces to feel the same taboo that we used to feel, either.

In the ’90s, fashion designer Donna Karan added sex to the power suit, which had morphed from Joan Crawford’s shoulders to a bow-tied-almost-Mormon-nun thing to attorney Ally McBeal wearing a mini skirt in court. Hey, Uhura wears a mini on the bridge of the Enterprise. Both Uhuras.

A positive aspect of the new character is that today’s Uhura takes the lead in the relationship. Which makes Spock whipped, even though he’s in a position of authority. I’m not sure that’s a good image for him, either.

One character trait about the original Captain Kirk, who is probably about 15 years older than the new Kirk of the movie, is that he was always a professional with his subordinates. The military has strict rules against romance in a unit between superiors and subordinates. Kirk’s behavior on the Enterprise showed that he lived by that code. He knew that, when he was aboard his ship, he would spend his nights/afternoons/spare moments alone. His female yeoman’s blonde beauty weighed heavily on his mind. His hormones must have tormented him greatly.

Granted, this crew is young, their hormones coursing. But they’re still in the military. And, supposedly, Spock’s hormones only activate every seven years. So, has the new Star Fleet abolished Zoe as Uhura the military code of conduct?

And I wonder, what would Dr. King say now?

P.S. – Actress Zoe Saldana deserves better.

And what's BUGGING you today?
-------------------------------------

MiniMeSideAvatar-copy Rhonda Lane is a former newspaper reporter, photojournalist and television graphics technician. She is working on a mystery novel about an exiled journalist solving a murder in a small southern town. She is also the creator of The Horsey Set Net, an online magazine blog about horses in culture. She admits that her “I’m Legit” author site needs updating once she figures out how. If you Twitter, you can follow her brief comments on life, writing and horses at @RhondaLane

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

THE BREEZE INN . . .

Like many of author Mary Kay Andrews's readers, I've been following the creation of her very own Breeze Inn on her blog.

Savannah Breeze For those of you who don't know, Mary Kay Andrews (pen name of author Kathy Hogan Trocheck) writes women's fiction. She's written three that feature the same characters, Savannah Blues, Savannah Breeze, and Blue Christmas. In Savannah Breeze, BeBe Loudermilk has lost all her worldly possessions thanks to a bad investment counselor--except for a dumpy motel called the Breeze Inn. For a good chunk of the book, Bebe and her friend Weezie renovate the inn, with a nod to HGTV's Design on a Dime, and stuff from Weezie's second hand shop.

Breenze inn I loved the books, and I was intrigued when Mary Kay bought her "beach house" on Tybee Island. For the past few months she's been chronicling the change from ugly cement block house to her own personal breeze inn, with pink and turquoise paint, wicker furniture, and lots of neat odds and ends.

Breeze knick-knacks She put a lot of effort into that renovation, telling readers about the rooms she'd prepared for her son (also known as "Boomerang Boy) and daughter and her husband. About choosing the paint colors, junking all along the East Coast (from Brimfield, MA to Florida) finding just the right items to furnish her home-away-from-home.

And finally, a few weeks ago, she declared her own personal Breeze Inn finished. I imagined her family using the place on weekends, the house being filled with friends, great food, great drinks, great memories.

Breeze chairs WRONG! The Breeze Inn is now open for BUSINESS! And you can rent it for chump change -- that is if you happen to be Donald Trump. A week's stay at the Breeze Inn will put you back a mere $2,133!!! (Add $100 a week if you want to bring your pooch. $200 if you bring two pooches.) Of course, part of that cost includes a $30 admin fee (for the people who handle the rentals), $125 housekeeping fee, and a 13% motel/hotel tax.

Breezesign Odd as it sounds, I felt betrayed. Mary Kay never told her blog readers that the Breeze Inn would be a money-making venture. We came along for the ride thinking that this would be her great escape, where she go to get away from life and work on her novels. (Her latest, The Fixer Upper, comes out on June 23rd.)

I started thinking about Mary Kay and her books and made a stunning realization. Usually authors live vicariously through their characters. Mine own their own bookstores in a quaint New England village and wouldn't I like to do the same? Mary Kay has taken this vicarious living to another level. She not only has a character who owns a motel on Tybee Island, now...so does she, sort of.

So instead of feeling betrayed, I think now I'm just jealous!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

ON MY TRAVELS . . .

We took the camera along while driving around the area this weekend. It’s apple blossom time, and the trees are just starting to wind down. (But did I take a picture of the trees? Nooooo! It just didn’t occur to me.) But I did take a picture of the beehives.

Bees As you know, there’s a problem with bees. Colony Collapse Syndrome, where the bees die. Is it a virus or some kind of mites killing them? That’s two of the theories. So we were pleased to see so many buzzing hives. And since the fruit crops depend on bees (they grow apples, cherries, and peaches around here), they’re an important (vital) part of the fruit-growing industry.

Pansies & petunias We stopped at the local nursery to pick up a couple of hollyhock plants. As you can see by the pictures, there’s a lot of gorgeous annuals just waiting to be planted. The problem: in this climate, it’s really not safe to plant anything but pansies until Memorial Day.

Pansies The nursery has many greenhouses filled with flowers. We noticed a hummingbird darting back and forth, but not settling on any one of the millions of flowers. He reminded us of an alcoholic in a liquor store-- not sure where to start first.

Redneck yard Not everything is beautiful around the county, as evidenced by this trailer we came across. There's a lot of poverty out there, and for some reason there's a breed of people that just collects junk--and lets it rot in their yards. Dogpatch is alive and well in rural New York.

Hollyhocks And now the hollyhocks are planted. And of course, the nursery doesn’t tell you what color they’re going to be. (Probably because they don’t know.) And since it’s a biannual, they may not flower this year. Well, I guess I always did like to be surprised.

Monday, May 18, 2009

INTERNET WITHDRAWAL

I haven’t had a stable Internet signal since Friday morning. I had it for about half an hour on Saturday morning, ten minutes on Sunday morning, and then NOTHING.

Of course, our Internet access is tied in with our Cable TV. Guess what? We do have cable, but it’s unwatchable. And so we called on Sunday to report it, and were told they might be able to reset it from the office. Guess what? They couldn’t. We were told there was no signal getting through. But, they’d put us on the list for repair on Monday. We were to expect repair some time after 8 a.m.

Well, that’s kind of open ended, isn’t it?

Also, they said they would call us before they’d send a repair guy. Eight o’clock went by, then nine. Then ten. Finally, at 10:15 the guy shows up. (It must be miserable to have to visit all these cranky people--but it seems cable is more important to most people than Internet access.)

Meanwhile, I’m used to doing my Internet business from about 6:30 to 9. (In between I get breakfast for us and the cats.) Today, still no Internet. So I decided to do some vacuuming. Then laundry. Then tidying. I sorted tons of digital pictures, putting them in files (and even did some cropping.) I wanted to go plant my new hollyhocks by the mailbox, but we wouldn’t leave the house because we had to wait for them to call.

Surfing the internet Did I miss anything vital during my Internet inaccessibility? Yes. But I’d just be boring you tell all. Suffice to say, I’m glad I’m back. And BAH! to windstorms that take out access.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

PET PEEVE THURSDAY--STUPID MISTAKES (My Own!)

Today my guest is author Clea Simon, is the author of the Theda Krakow and Dulcie Schwartz mystery series.

Somewhere around page 150, the carpet changed color.

I don’t know how this happened or when, but it went from green to blue – and it really bothers me. Now, usually, our pet peeves are things other people do. Saying “my bad” instead of “I’m sorry.” Putting milk containers back in the fridge with only a half teaspoon of milk in them. But this one is on me (my bad?), and it’s driving me nuts. My pet peeves today are my own mistakes.

The magical carpet I’m referring to is in my upcoming Dulcie Schwartz mystery, “Shades of Grey.” I discovered its weird powers while reading page proofs (the book pubs in the UK in June, US in September).

I know how it happened, at least I think I do. When my heroine first gets a new carpet (the old one being soaked in the blood of her roommate), she notes that it is “a strange green, like you’d see at the bottom of an aquarium.” That’s page 8. The carpet isn’t a major factor in the book, so it doesn’t get a lot of attention. But when it’s commented on again, around page 158, it has become “aquamarine.” Now, I sort of understand the evolution – “like an aquarium” made me think “aqua” – but those are very different colors.

And why it drives me nuts is that page proofs are the absolute last stage of the publishing process. The book is set in type at this point, and usually proof mistakes are of the slight misspelling or odd word break type. I love reading proofs because the book looks like a real book at this point. It even has page numbers. But finding something like this? Argggg.... It’s driving me up the wall!

I should explain, “Shades of Grey” was not written quickly on deadline. This book was the kind of project that has been with me for several years. I wrote it for myself, while deep in my Theda Krakow series. And I rewrote it and reworked it seemingly ad nauseum. Several friends read it. My agent read it. My editor read it twice (when she bought it, and after I made the revisions she suggested). The copy editor read it. My husband has read it at least four times. And I’ve re-read it at every stage of the game. But somehow nobody ever caught my stupid, stupid mistake: the magical changing carpet.

Probable Claws In a way, it doesn’t matter. Critics will always find something to jump on. My new (April) mystery, “Probable Claws,” got some nice pre-pub reviews. But one, from Booklist, said: “An otherwise solid mystery is made somewhat unbelievable when Theda is immediately arrested and charged with murder but has no contact with the cops after she’s out on bail.” Now, originally I did have a scene in which Theda is interrogated after she gets out on bail. But in a fit of fact checking, I called my contact at the Cambridge Police Department (they have a very nice and very tolerant public information officer). And he told me, nope, after someone is out on bail, the cops wouldn’t be talking to her. It’s all between the lawyers at that point. So I took that scene out! Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, I guess. Some people will like my books, some won’t – and some will blame me for mistakes without taking the time to find out the truth. I can’t help that.

But the mistakes that are my own – now those really bother me!

And what's bugging YOU today?
------------------------------------
Clea SImon Clea Simon is the author of the Theda Krakow and Dulcie Schwartz mystery series, as well as three nonfiction (“real”) books. In April, her fourth Theda Krakow mystery, “Probable Claws,” published by Poisoned Pen, is now available, and in September, Severn House will debut her first Dulcie Schwartz mystery, “Shades of Grey.” “Shades of Grey” has cats AND ghosts AND a murder mystery, so she is expecting to take flak for it. You can read more at her home site or on her blog.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

COLLECTING RECIPES

My publisher likes its authors to include recipes in our books. Even though it’ll be a year or more before my Victoria Square mysteries see print, I’m already scouting for recipes to include. My character, Katie Bonner, likes to bake, and since her beloved Grandmother was Scottish, she likes traditional fare that she ate growing up.

Scone What does this mean for me? Well, I’ve got six months to come up with some recipes to include in the back of the book. I’ve always loved scones, and I even have a scone cookbook, but now it’s time to take a basic recipe and make it my own. That means I’ll probably have to make dozens of scone recipes until I find one I really, really like—and then tinker with it. Oh, the hardship of eating all those test scones . . . (With clotted cream and jam. Yum!)

I’ve always wanted to make shortbread, but always kind of afraid—mostly because I’ve eaten more than my fair share of scorched shortbread. Time to be brave. (And do I do squares or petticoat tails?)

Failed bread2 About the only other thing I’ve never had the courage to attempt is bread. Maybe it’s because Betty MacDonald had such a tough time with it, as described in her memoir, THE EGG AND I (which I have read at least 20 times). In it she said, “My first batch of bread was pale yellow The_Egg_and_I and tasted like something we had cleaned out of the cooler. I tried again. This batch had the damp elasticity of the English Muffin that tasted like something we had intended to clean out of the cooler but was too heavy.” She also said, “I baked three loaves of bread twice a week and it made the house smell peasanty and in my letters home I referred very often to my homemade bread, but Bob’s reaction—standard—was the true criterion of my success. He said only, 'Will it cut?'”

Since I love to bake (but hate the effect it has on my hips), I think I may have a lot of fun in the next couple of months while testing recipes. And I will share the bounty with my family. I don’t think they’ll mind too much, either.

(P.S. I wrote a post for yesterday's Writers Plot about old cookbooks you might want to check out. You can find it here.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Murder On The Mind on Audio

A little over a year ago, my first published novel (under the name L.L. Bartlett), MURDER ON THE MIND, went out of print. Let me tell you, that's heartbreaking--especially when there are other books in the series waiting in the wings. Its sequel, Dead In Red, hadn't even been published, and it wasn't possible to get new copies of the book.

Bummer.

I had to find ways to keep the series alive. The first thing I did, was pitch the book to an audio company, BOOKS IN MOTION. They're a very small audio publisher with a niche audience: long-distance truckers. (They rent or buy the books at truck stops and places like Cracker Barrel.) The contract wasn't fantastic, but it is non-exclusive. (Which means, should the series suddenly take off--I can sell the audio rights to someone else. Okay, it's not likely to happen, but it's possible.)

The second way to keep the series alive was uploading it to Amazon's Kindle. It's been available since October. (Where it appears to be growing an audience, albeit microscopic.)

In the meantime, I've had to wait, and wait, and wait for the audio version to become available.

BIM cover The wait is over, and Murder On The Mind is now available. You can find it here. It's available in five different prices/formats (either for rent or purchase), CDs or MP3 download.

Books In Motion is not known for having good covers. In this case, they cribbed the idea behind the Worldwide Mystery paperback edition. Eh, it's better than I thought it would be (but, honest, there is no fireplace, nor is there a leather easy chair in the book. Go figure).

I'm just happy that new "readers" will find the book. Now, when will I get my copy so I can hear my book performed, and will I like it?

I'll let you know.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Night of the Puking Cats

Four cats produce a LOT of hairballs.

Perhaps I should restate that: TWO of our four cats produce a LOT of hairballs. And since this is shedding season, there are more hairballs than usual, despite almost daily brushing of the worst offenders.

When we returned from our trip to the Malice Domestic conference, we noted the lack of hairballs on the rug. We’re good, we told ourselves, and swept up the litter in the laundry room.

But it was not to last.

Betsy & Bonnie at the cottage Why is it that cats pick the most inconvenient times and/or places to eject their hairballs? We took off for our cottage on Friday, taking the sisters (Betsy and Bonnie) with us. Going to the cottage gives them a break from our exuberant boys. We drove for about an hour, and just as we were pulling up, Bonnie started retching. Yuck! All over the towel in her carrier, and all over one of her legs. Ick! Good thing I have a box of tissues in the car.

We get inside, unpack, and sit down to relax for a few minutes. Rukka, rukka, rukka! Next up, it’s Betsy, and wouldn’t you know—she had just filled up on the dry cat food that we put out for the girls.

I don’t know how your cats react, but ours always puke at least three times. The main event, and then parts two and three (not as dramatic, but just as aggravating).

Okay, we figured. We’re good. They’ve both had hairballs. We should be safe for the weekend.

Nope.

There I was, sleeping in heavenly peace, when—Rukka, rukka, rukka! Good heavens! Who’s puking now? Since both cats had been in bed with us when we turned out the light, I didn’t know which one to go after. It was Betsy again! And not only that—she had puked on the pillow between us!

Wow—dodged a bullet. Off came the pillowcase! But Betsy wasn’t finished. Onto the floor. Into the hallway. Next up, the kitchen. She finished with one last volley on the living room rug.

I think I used half a roll of paper towel with that one, but figured she’d gotten it out of her system, and she’d be good to go for the night. And I was right! But I had not reckoned with her sister. Two hours later, I was awakened with a familiar sound: Rukka, rukka, rukka!

“Get off the bed!” I hollered, and Bonnie obeyed. She only puked three times. On the bedroom rug, the hall floor (which, thankfully is laminate), and the kitchen floor. More paper towel, more cursing and swearing.

It’s time like these

that I have to remind myself: I love cats…I love cats…I love cats.

Friday, May 8, 2009

PICTURES OF MALICE DOMESTIC & THE FESTIVAL OF MYSTERY

As most of you know, last week I attended the Malice Domestic conference in Arlilngton, Virgina, and on Monday, the Festival of Mystery (hosted by Mystery Lovers Bookshop) in Oakmont, PA.

6a00d8345202e069e2011570749756970b-500wi This year's malice was my favorite for a number of reasons. First, I got to meet my editor. We've been corresponding via e-mail and the occasional phone call for three years now. I'm happy to say I like him a lot and we had some very interesting conversations. (We're both HUGE Star Trek fans, but see the series in different ways. We decided it's best left as a topic not discussed in future meetings.)

Leann & Sheila The second reason is I got to spend a lot of time with two of my blog buddies from Writers Plot, Sheila Connolly and Leann Sweeney. (Leann and I hung out a LOT.) Another member of our group blog was there (Jeanne Munn Bracken), but she moved so fast and rarely stood still, I never even got a picture of her!

Leann and I were on a panel about animals in mysteries. (Leann's new book is called "The Cat, The Quilt, and the Corpse.") Leann and I were on the cat side, while authors Peggy Webb and Judi McCoy were on the dog side. (And the panel was deftly moderated by Sandra Parshall.)

This year I went to the banquet for the first time. I know some people think banquets are tedious, but I actually enjoyed it, probably because I sat between author Mary Jane Maffini and Berkley editor Sandy Harding, both charming women. Also at the table: Shiela, our friends Krista Davis, Janet Bolin, Daryl Wood Gerber, Deb Baker, and my editor. The chicken wasn't rubbery (in fact, it was quite good!), and the dessert was layered chocolate to die for. (And I didn't think to take a picture. Bummer.)

Sunday things were winding down and Leann and I left early, heading for Oakmont. We paused for lunch, and then headed to Breezewood, where we stayed for the night. (Much cheaper.) It also gave us some time to wind down from the conference.

Rosemary Harris Monday, we were on the road again, heading for Oakmont. Our first stop (after checking into the hotel and having lunch) was a library reception sponsored by the Allegheny County Library Association. Here we pitched our books to librarians and friends of the library. I'm not good in these situations, but my friend Rosemary Harris is. She took me around the room and introduced me to people she'd only just met, and set me up for my pitch. Can you say: ETERNALLY GRATEFUL?

The Festival of Mystery, sponsored by the Mystery Lovers Bookshop, brought together 40 authors from the US and Canada. Several hundred faithful mystery readers attended and, more importantly, bought 1804 books in about four hours. I sat next to Rhys Bowen, who has a LOT of books in print. (I felt like a piker with my three books.) I got to see a bunch of people, but there wasn't much time for talk, as we pitched and sold our books to faithful mystery fans.

Naturally, I didn't take as many pictures as I would've liked. If you'd like to see more of my pictures, they're posted here and here.

It was an exhausting five days. But boy, was it fun!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

PET PEEVE THURSDAY--Speed Bumps

Today's guest is Doranna Durgin, whose latest book is JAGUAR NIGHT.

I wasn't feeling particularly peevish on my way out to agility practice this morning--at least not until I ran into those speed bumps. And then I peeved all over the place!

What is it about people who can't be bothered to drive at a residential speed on a residential street, so the town has to put in *speed bumps* to keep them from mowing over small children? (And, in this area, people on horseback, chickens, and the occasional loose goat.)

Speed bump And what is it about the people who put in the speed bumps that they can't engineer them to suit the posted speed limit? If the street is signed at 25mph, and I'm going 23mph, then those speed bumps should be no problem. They should be smooth little "whee!" moments beneath my wheels. But no! The speed bumps are big Play-doh lumps plopped down onto the road, and if you don't want to hit your head on the car roof or ground out the undercarriage, you'd best be going 18mph or less when you hit them. So that leaves the choice--go the speed limit and hit the brakes hard before each bump for a herky-jerky stomach-churning ride, or cruise the entire stretch of road (and it isn't a short one) at seven miles under the speed limit. Either way gets you from start to finish in about the same amount of time.

Me, I cruise it slowly--a decision reached after plenty of experimenting, because I can't reach my house without traversing one of these bump-riddled roads. And as we approach each one, I warn the dogs--who, crated in the back, are otherwise quite unfairly taken completely by surprise. I think they're getting used to it.

But still. There's a sign at the beginning of my street that's been defaced so it quite coincidentally reads, "Speed Whump!" and I think they got it just about right.

And what's bugging YOU today?
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C_jaguarnight_SM Doranna Durgin writes all kinds of books: Romance, Mystery, SF/Fantasy, and Media Tie-ins. Her current book is JAGUAR NIGHT. Check out Doranna's website. Doranna is also a periodic contributor to the Writers Plot blog!

Monday, May 4, 2009

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

Malice banner Over the weekend, I went to the Malice Domestic Mystery Conference. I had a blast! Unfortunately, I didn't think to download my camera's software to my laptop, so I don't yet have any pictures to show for it. (Bummer, eh?)

We traveled from western New York to Arlington, VA, on Thursday. The skies were gray (can you say "gloomy?") but for some reason the nine-hour drive seemed a lot shorter than usual. Go figure! We actually got in about 45 minutes earlier than anticipated. I got to my room and immediately called my Writers Plot blog buddy Sheila Connolly. We made plans to meet and, having realized we were missing vital supplies (plastic cups for me, and a jug of ice tea for Sheila), headed off to the Rite Aid in Crystal City.

Next, we met up with our other pal Leann Sweeney, and the gab fest began in earnest. You see, Sheila and Leann had never officially met, although we've been blogging together for over two years. We called (and called, and called, and called) the fourth member of the group in attendance--Jeanne Munn Bracken--but for some reason she wasn't getting the calls, and since she has no small children to program her cell phone, didn't have voice mail set up.

Eventually, hunger got the best of us, so, joining up with our pal Toni Kelner, we headed off for dinner at a lovely Mexican restaurant. My meal was okay--could've been a little hotter (I like my food PIPING HOT--I mean, burn your esophagus hot), so tepid was a bit of a disappointment. After being on the Martini road all day, hubby and I figured we deserved a libation. His Dos XX beer was HUGE (I couldn't lift it) and my martini was good. Until I we got the bill--holy crap! $9.25 for a friggin' martini? Okay, maybe I'm a rube from the sticks--but I sure would've savored it a bit more had I known the cost.

Of course, as we were leaving the restaurant, we finally met up with Jeanne and her friend Margy, who had been searching for us--but hadn't thought to give us a call (or maybe she didn't have the number--I was still fuming over that $9.25 martini to pay attention), but we staged a hug-a-thon there in the tunnels of Crystal City before Sheila, Leann, and I headed back to the hotel's convention floor for early registration.

Registering for Malice is kind of like getting an early Christmas. They give you a badge and a BIG bag of books. So of course we had to retreat to some very comfy club chairs to find out what Santa Malice had bestowed upon us. Lots of hardcovers this year, making for a very heavy bag. I managed to fleece my pals of their complimentary copies of American Girl books (for my niece, who works in a rural school system, to give to her kids), while a steady stream of friends came and went (more hugging) until we were so tired we were ready to drop. Then it was back to the room, where I was too tired to write about the L-O-N-G day. (Too tired to even read!!!)

NEXT UP: The Big First Day of Malice Domestic 2009