Friday, November 27, 2009

An Unexpected Review

The other day, my publicist . . . (doesn't that sound hoity-toi? Mind you, I share her with at least 99 if not 9,999 other authors) sent me a review for Bookplate Special.

Okay, what's so special about yet another review?

This one happens to be from Booklist.

So, big deal, you're probably saying to yourself.

Titanic_sinking Well, it is a big deal. Booklist is one of the BIG FOUR reviewers. With budgets being slashed for books, many libraries make their book-buying decisions from reviews in one of the big four review sources: Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and ... BOOKLIST. Believe me, if you're a small press author, a big four review can make or break you. (I didn't get one for my first hardcover and the book sank like the Titanic, which absolutely broke my heart.)

The BIG FOUR review primarily hardcover books.

Bookplate Special is a mass market paperback.

Hey_Mikey The best part of all: Booklist liked it, hey, Mikey! They said, in part, "Small-town New Hampshire life, the sisters' turbulent relationship, a
budding romance, and plenty of cooking (includes recipes) provide the ambiance in this satisfying series. A good bet for readers of Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen mysteries."

Not bad, eh?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pet Peeve Thursday--The Season that drags on FOREVER!

Today, my buddy Jeff Cohen makes a return visit to Dazed and Confused. Jeff's latest book is A Night At The Operation will have you laughing all the way to the box office of Comedy Tonight--so don't miss it!

Pilgrim This is, I’m told, the day we’re supposed to take stock, sit back and better appreciate those things for which we are truly thankful.

So, try to come up with a pet peeve while you’re doing that!

Well, I have a real one, a juicy one, a pile of bile that gets me going every year around this time. And many of you reading this are going to be good and annoyed with me, cuff me around, call me names, possibly stop reading my books, or (more likely) find out what books I have written and then go out of your way not to read them. But I’ll say it anyway.

Chinese take out The Christmas season is as annoying and irritating a time of year as I can imagine. And yes, you can say it’s because I’m not one of the American majority who celebrate said holiday, although I am a member of the minority who take the day off to go to the movies and eat Chinese food.

But it’s not Christmas that bugs me. You want to have a day to celebrate the man who founded your religion? That’s lovely—go ahead and do that. I’m happy to have my wife and kids home and to go see that movie and eat that Chinese food. Everybody’s happy.

The problem is, you guys aren’t satisfied with one day. No. I have to be hearing about Christmas since before the end of the baseball season. Christmas stores open up for business in SEPTEMBER, for crying out loud. Entire radio stations are devoted to playing nothing but Christmas music. You can’t get near the Post Office for at least the last two weeks in December, and I have to mail stuff a lot.

“Oh Jeff,” I hear you say, “don’t be such a Scrooge.”

Mr. Magoos christmas That’s another thing. The first 150 versions of “A Christmas Carol” weren’t enough? It wasn’t enough that this story has been the basis for everything from a classic Mr. Magoo cartoon to an episode of “The Odd Couple?” We had to have a 3-D version using digital technology with Jim Carrey playing, you know, everybody? What, nobody understood the scores of tries that came before it? The idea of a Christmas movie itself is weird--what other holiday has become a genre? I'm waiting for the first Tu B'ishvat movie. Once I find out what holiday Tu B'ishvat might be.

Fireworks Imagine this: For Independence Day next year (I chose what is a secular holiday, at least for Americans), we started getting the fife-and-drum music in, say, late March. Radio stations devoted themselves for a FULL MONTH to playing the score of “1776,” and nothing else (especially that endless song about the slave trade and the depressing ballad about a mother searching for her son killed on the battlefield). Every year, someone decided to produce a new version of “Ben and Me” until it became an action movie starring Nicolas Cage and a CGI mouse with the voice of Jim Carrey. Everyone felt the need to buy 4th of July gifts for everyone they’ve ever known, and those who didn’t were considered “Benedict Arnolds.”

How would you feel THEN?

There’s nothing wrong with Christmas. Except that it goes on way too long.

And what's bugging YOU today?
Night at the operation Check out all of Jeff's Double Feature Mysteries and his web site.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fish -- on Thanksgiving???

Buffalo_fishfry Oh, no, not fish on the ACTUAL day -- I'm talking about a pre-Thanksgiving holiday treat. And that's visiting the Globe Hotel in East Aurora, NY.

Unlike most restaurants, the Globe offers fish fries every day of the week. (Man, if I only lived in East Aurora.) It's about the best fish fry you're likely to find in New York--and maybe the ENTIRE country!

For the past decade or so, we've made it a day-before-Thanksgiving ritual (and on Good Friday, too) to visit the Globe for one of their wonderful fish fries, and today will be no different. We'll hoist a glass of some kind of cheer (for me it's a gin Martini), and no doubt we'll be toasting my Dad, who'll be missing from the table. So it'll be a little bit sad, but a lot of good eating.

Tomorrow we'll fill up on turkey and all the trimmings, but today--it's my wish for fish come true!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Clean Sweep

Woman cleaning We've been talking about it for several years now. Today, we finally made a decision: we're getting someone in twice a month to CLEAN THE HOUSE.

When I had a day job, somehow I not only managed to put in 40 hours a week there, but I had a booth in an antique co-op, and I kept us in clean clothes and the house pretty tidy. Since then, my life has been a lot more chaotic. (Especially this past year when my Dad was so sick.) I've found it hard to take care of us (including four cats), my parents, and the house, AND write two books, AND do all the promo for them. In fact, it was the house that suffered the most.

When we got the cost break down, and it was much less than we'd anticipated, I kicked myself for not investigating this years ago.

Of course, the messiest room in the house (my office) will not be part of the cleaners' job. But that's okay. I still hold out some hope that one day I'll become super organized. And if I really only have to worry about this room, then that should be okay.

Rainbow_2 I feel this tremendous sense of relief. The house will look better, we'll be happier, and I'm nearly sure we'll see a rainbow in the sky every day (or once every other week) from now on.

At least I hope so.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Big Favor To Ask

Lipstick kiss Tomorrow, Sunday, Nov. 22nd, I'll be guest blogging on The Lipstick Chronicles. This is one of THE biggest mystery reader blogs on the Internet, and I was absolutely THRILLED to be invited.

The favor part? Please, please, PLEASE go over and check out my post. If enough of my readers check it out, there's a chance they'll invite me back when the next book comes out next August. (And as I'll be in deadline hell and not doing much/any face-to-face promotion, it would be a very big deal.)

Lipstick tube So, if you haven't already checked out The Lipstick Chronicles (go ahead, spend a couple of hours reading their older posts, you'll probably enjoy them as much as I do), please do so tomorrow.

(P.S. I'm writing about my one-star review on Amazon--hopefully it's an amusing take. And please feel free to leave comments!)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hot Topics

The view Before TV went totally digital back in June, I had a little television in my kitchen. I would somehow often find an excuse to be in the kitchen at 11 a.m. on weekdays and -- oh my! -- the TV would magically come on and I'd have to stand there and watch The View. (I'm a big Whoopi fan, so when she took over as moderator I ended up in front of the tube even more.) I'd walk in place and pretend I was doing my exercise of the day so that no one could accuse me of totally wasting my time.

My favorite part of the show was the "Hot Topics" segment. I was good for half an hour of exercise on any given day, and more so if they devoted the whole show to the subject.

Cold turkey Then TV ceased to be analog and not only did I stop watching The View, but I stopped walking in place for half an hour. Okay, I have a TV with cable, so it's not like I went cold turkey, but it's just not the same.

Levi And I'm not half as well informed as I was. I mean, what are they saying about Sarah Palin and Levi Johnston these days? Beats me. I have no clue who's Dancing With The Stars (like I ever cared) or is on American Idol--which isn't even on right now, is it? How would I know. When they cut out analog TV there went my access to, well, Access Hollywood AND Entertainment Tonight. (Surely they've dragged Anna Nichol out of mothballs what with her attorney and doctor set for trial, right? Hey, I read the newspaper, so it's not like I'm totally cut off.)

Tyler My husband trolls the Internet for world updates, and if anything's breaking, he'll yell out important news, like what Tyler Florence is cooking on AOL Food. (Hey, we have our priorities in this house.)

But I miss the Hot Topics. Still, I've found that my world has not stopped revolving. I have more time to goof off on the Internet and, oh yes! actually write. (Okay, I'm goofing off more than working on my next novel--but part of that goofing off also includes blog entries.)

I can't be the only one who's not up to speed on who's who or who's in whose bedrooms, etc. Anybody else as uninformed as me?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

PET PEEVE THURSDAY: "Can I Get It From The Library?"

by guest blogger Kate Flora

Pet peeves--you want pet peeves? How about people you've known for years who still begin conversations with, "How's the book doing? I haven't read you, but...." Or who ask about your books and then say, "Can I get them at the library?"

I learned, when people ask that to say, "You can get it at the bookstore." And I learned (I hesitate to share this, but it is important) to end my library and bookstore talks with the following:

Books clipart I've been in this business since 1994, and over the years, I have seen a lot of really good writers get dropped by their publishers and disappear, so their books can no longer be read. A lot of readers don't realize that the way we survive is by our book sales. Our publishers may like it that we're good writers and good speakers, but for them, it's the bottom line that counts: If we don't sell books, we don't continue to get published.

If I'm in a library, I will often say...I know we're in a library and you can read the book for free, but if you don't support the less well-known authors, your own choices get more limited.

In a bookstore, I often point out that the bookstore is going out of their way to support this event for their readers, and that they, too, survive on their book sales.

Occasionally I'll get a question that makes me go the whole nine yards, and explain that our publishers expect us to do all the marketing, event arranging, publicity, write our own newsletters, print our own postcards, etc. Readers are often shocked by this.

Starbucks and reading A paperback costs no more than a few cups of Starbucks coffee. A hardback a little more, but it gives many more hours of pleasure. When you're done, you can share it with a friend or give it to your library. So please, seriously consider buying a book. If you don't buy mine, please give your support to some other author. And help keep us published.

Basket1 Once readers understand how critical book sales are, some of them really go the whole nine yards themselves. Kind readers have made my books, especially the anthologies, hostess gifts or holiday gifts, or sponsored my books at their libraries by buying and donating a copy. These are such painless ways to support an author. And how about this? An apple pie or apple cake and a copy of one of Sheila Connolly's Apple Orchard mysteries? A small, bow-tied packet of Lorna Barrett's Bookstown Mysteries in a basket with cookies and good cocoa? Wed your creativity to ours, and everyone wins.

So what's bugging you today?
Stalkingdeath Kate Flora is not only a terrific author, but she's also co-editor of the new anthology, Quarry, stories of crime in New England from Level Best Books. Don't miss Kate's 7th Thea Kozak novel, Stalking Death, soon to be available in soft cover.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


The New York Times Does the picture on the left tell you anything?

Sunday, November 22nd, BOOKPLATE SPECIAL will debut on the New York Times Bestsellers list for mass market paperbacks at #20. (Bookmarked for Death only made it to #30.)

Can you say: "YEEEEE HAAAA!!!!"

What? You still haven't bought your copy? Well, come on -- help me move up the list to #19 -- or even (heaven forbid) #15!!!

I'm pretty chuffed about all this, but that doesn't mean I can slack off. I'm working, Working, STILL WORKING on the first Victoria Square mystery (yipe! the deadline is next week!!!) and will jump right into the next Booktown Mystery (which doesn't yet have a title).

Thank you cake So I'll be busy, Busy, BUSY for quite a while.

But I did want to say thank you to everyone who has already bought the book.

Monday, November 16, 2009

From The Heart Of The Home

Okay, Thanksgiving is still more than a week away, and maybe I do rush the Christmas season--but, hey, the happiest times of most children's lives is Christmas. The anticipation is monumental. Was it just greed or was it the absolute joy of everything about Christmas that made a kid's heart soar?

For me, as an adult, getting into the Christmas season means two things: music and -- surprise! --books.

I have a lot of Christmas (coffee-table) books, but my all-time-favorite is the very first I ever got. It was a gift from my Mum, which makes it even more special. It's Susan Branch's "Christmas From The Heart Of The Home." Unfortunately, it's out of print (Yes, YOU MISSED IT) -- but Susan's "keepsake" version "Christmas Joy" is still available. (Hey, and just to name drop, Susan is now my friend on Twitter. She has ACTUALLY tweeted TO me, how amazingly COOL is that???)

SB_Christmas_from_the_heart_of_the_Home Usually my Mum signs the books she gives to me (for birthdays and Christmas), but for some reason she forgot to do that with this one (and with my very favorite decorating book, The Romance of County Inns by Gail Grecco). I can't tell you how many times I've read Christmas From The Heart Of The Home--not just glanced at the pretty pages (Susan illustrates all her books with charming watercolors), but READ THE ENTIRE BOOK--ALL THE RECIPES and everything!!! At least three or four times every Christmas season for at least ten, if not fifteen, years. (I've made quite a few of the recipes, too!) I love the art. I love the recipes--but most of all, I love the suggestions on celebrating.

But one of the things I love most is that Susan wrote about Christmas on Martha's Vineyard. I love new England, and one of the things on my "bucket list" is the Nantucket Stroll." Since I Xmas tree on boat first read Susan's books, I've longed to visit both Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket--off season. (Have I mentioned how much I hate crowds?)

It will probably never happen, so maybe one holiday I'll spend the holiday at my family's summer cottage. To do that, the place would have to be winterized. Our neighbor, who winterized a summer cottage to make a year-round home said it was THE BIGGEST MISTAKE OF HIS LIFE, and in retrospect wished he'd razed the place and started from scratch. There's so much of my Dad in that place (he gutted it and did a total remodel and addition), that I don't think I could do that.

So, as in years before, I will (okay, already have) delve into my copy of Christmas From The Heart Of The Home and dream about spending the holiday on the shore. (And maybe down a couple of "Peach Cream" drinks--recipe on page 31...just in case you'd like to join me.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Major Mistake!!!

So there I was, corking in the changes on the new manuscript and came across a note I'd made to myself: Check time line to make sure what day the funeral was on.

My time line is kind of a fluid thing. I usually end up writing MOST of it at rewrite time, so I can figure out where the holes in the story are. I was working on Chapter 13, and I needed to check something in Chapter 10. So back to the time line I went, to see what happened on what day and OHMYGOD -- I had an extra day in the week!!!! That can't happen. I've read this story about a gazillion times, there's no way I could've made that kind of error!

Hourglass So I started shuffling papers, and wondering how the heck I can fix a mistake this honking big with only two weeks left to go before the manuscript is due.

Can you say: PANIC ATTACK???

So back I went, trying to figure out where I'd made my mistake, my stomach churning, tears close to falling when all of a sudden I saw it. The mistake was in the TIME LINE not the manuscript.

Whew! What a relief.

Pass the Mylanta, will you?

Ever have one of those day?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

PET PEEVE THURSDAY: A bad day at the grocery store

Grocery-cart My friend, and fellow author, Kate Flora has had a bad time at the grocery store. Here's a few of her peeves:

  • People in grocery stores who let their kids eat stuff and leave the
    empty package in the grocery cart. Nasty! Often they also leave dirty
    napkins behind, too.

  • Grocery store checkers who put the milk on top of the bread, so the loaf comes out squashed flat. They also bruise the pears, smash the chips, mangle cookies and put the salad in sideways so it spills lettuce and oil all over the other stuff.

  • Grocery store checkers who think you have to cram as much as possible into a bag, so when you try to carry it inside, the bag splits and everything falls on the cement garage floor.

  • Grocery store checkers who persist in carrying on a conversation with someone else the whole time they're ringing up your order.

And what's bugging YOU today?
Kate Flora is not only a terrific author, but she's also co-editor of the new anthology, Quarry, stories of crime in New England from Level Best Books. Don't miss Kate's novel, Stalking Death, soon to be available in soft cover.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Let Me Eat Cake!

Yesterday my Mum went to her monthly knitting group. It was her turn to take dessert. With all the chaos that's been part of our lives for the past four months, her knitting friends weren't sure she'd make the meeting, so someone else baked. That meant leftovers.

Guess who was the happy recipient of said leftovers? (Her initials are L.B.)

Ultimate white cake It so happens, that my mother had purchased one of Wegmans' ULTIMATE WHITE CAKEs. They're pretty yummy. I think they could go with a little less sugar in the frosting, but that's just my opinion. (And I could be wrong. They've already had--and addressed--some complaints about there being too much frosting, but can you EVER get too much frosting?)

We ate the cake for breakfast.

What? Breakfast?

Yeah, who says you HAVE to eat two eggs and a side of bacon? (Although you could probably entice me to do so if YOU do the cooking.) Or a bowl of steaming oatmeal (about as inviting as catching a cold while in Hawaii). Kids get fed bowls of sugar in disguise as breakfast cereal, so why not cake for breakfast?

Pork chop I remember once I took a visiting friend to the cafeteria at Kodak for a hearty breakfast. This cafeteria was feeding guys who'd been working the night shift and they were hungry. We feasted on pork chops and scalloped potatoes at 8:15 a.m. and it was absolutely delicious. (And we didn't need a big lunch, either.)

I think people (including myself) should feel free to eat whatever they want at any meal. So why don't I? Maybe it's all those commercials I've been subjected to over the years about eating a "good breakfast." If it's the most important meal of the day, shouldn't we be eating the biggest meal then (or at least a bigger portion of the daily intake and then slack off at night so we can digest in peace)?

From now on, I'm going to eat whatever I like for breakfast.


How about you?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Today's stop on the blog tour . . .

Train at station Today I'm visiting the Conscious Cat blog, talking about -- what else -- my cats, including Miss Marple.

I hope you'll check it out.  Just click here!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pet Peeve Thursday: Whatever Happened to "THROW THE BUMS OUT?"

Vote for felons cartoon This past Tuesday was election day. For most of the summer the local newspaper has been awash with letters from disgruntled voters, complaining about the problems both in Albany (our state capital) and here in the Rochester area. It costs more to live in New York than even parts of California. (We're running neck and neck.) For all our tax dollars spent we still have roads and bridges that are falling apart, school children graduating with reading skills at the elementary level (if they even achieve that), and jobs evaporating like a puddle on a hot day in July.

The problem? Too many of our elected officials would rather listen to the voices of special interests than listen to the problems of their constituents. They seem to spend their years in office scheming how to STAY in office and raising war chests of loot to keep themselves in office, so they can continue to line their pockets from the lobbying of special interest groups.

The answer? Vote them all out and start fresh. That's the only way to clean house with new people to change the way our government is run.

And what does the voting population do? They vote these politicians (who are mostly white and male) in again and again and again. And then months from now those same voters will be complaining that nothing ever changes, that our tax money is wasted, and we're taxed to death, and still they won't see that they are part of the problem.


But on a happier note, I've jumped off my soap box and am the guest today at Lori's Reading Corner blog (talking about old cookbooks). Not only that, but I just had enough time to stop by the Jungle Red Writers blog, too. (Those women know how to party!) Hope you'll check them out!

But before you do: What's Bugging YOU Today?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I Only Read Good Reviews

Okay, that subject line is a lie. I read the bad ones and cry. But I don't have to cry about the reviews I've received so far for Bookplate Special. (I'm sure disgruntled readers will be posting some pretty nasty ones on Amazon any minute now.)

I don't usually brag (okay, not TOO much at least) about good reviews for my books, but this one really tickled me. (I mean, I love the crack about the plantar's wart.) The Feathered Quill Book Review site is relatively new, and I'm thrilled they wanted to review Bookplate Special. In case you're interested, click here to see the review. Not only that, but they also interviewed! Click here for that, too.

Smashed pumpkin The Richmond-Times Dispatch ran a review on Sunday on their Book Blog, In it they said, "Barrett is skilled at making her characters flawed and fully believable. This book-based book is a perfect autumn read — right down to those smashed pumpkins."

Blush. Then again, as I myself am pretty flawed, maybe it's just easier to make my characters reflect my shortcomings. Either way, it seems like people are liking the book. And I hope they'll take seriously some of the themes featured--like going green and donating to food pantries.

Crossed fingers Okay, I have a few more stops on the blog tour, and I'll be plugging them in the next couple of weeks, but after that--and inbetween--it's back to tomfoolery and tommyrot!

I promise.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

1st Stop On The Blog Tour

Bookplate_Special.sm2 Yikes -- almost forgot to mention that today is the first stop on my
blog tour for Bookplate Special. I was interviewed on the Authors
Exchange Blog. I hope you'll check it out:


Bookplate_Special.sm2 What do you get with murder, good eating (with recipes), and a phantom pumpkin smasher? Get ready to chow down on one honey of a BOOKPLATE SPECIAL, which is officially released today!

In BOOKPLATE SPECIAL, Tricia has put up—and put up with—her uninvited college roommate for weeks. In return, Pammy, has stolen $100, among other things. But the day she’s kicked out, 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 case together, Tricia will have to dive in head-first.…

You can check out an excerpt on my website--click here!

I'll be signing in a bunch of places in the Rochester, NY area in November and December. For a list, click here!

B&N For my kick-off, I'll be signing books at Barnes and Noble in Greece Ridge Center on Saturday, November 7th, 2-4 p.m. Since the book features a food pantry, I'm encouraging my readers to bring a non-perishable food item for the Greece Ecumenical Food Pantry. Those who do will receive a free (unpublished, limited edition) short story written by me! (Those who don't bring anything, but still want the story can make a donation.)

Can't make it to Rochester (and let's face it--we are kind of off the beaten track)? I'd love to send you a bookplate for your copy of Bookplate Special. Just send an email with your name and address to contest @ (to avoid spam, I put spaces in that email address--just take them out, and it'll go through fine).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Rolex, anyone?

Watches It seems like every week I'm being spammed by a new schemer. At first, it was "male enhancement." And don't get me wrong, I'm STILL getting a lot of those kinds of emails. And over the summer, I was getting a lot of solicitations for watches--all kinds of watches. Cheap ones, expensive one, and some of them even came from an address from my own web site. (And believe me, this isn't the first time those addresses have been hijacked. I'm sure there are people in Timbuktu cursing the name Lorraine Bartlett for being inundated with offers of watches, drugs, and god knows what else.)

For the past couple of weeks, I've been bombarded with offers of fake diplomas from some pretty prestigious universities. Hey, with just giving up my credit card number, I could become an instant graduate of Harvard, Yale, Princeton or Smith, and without the bother of attending classes or handing in homework assignments. Pretty cool, huh?

Diploma No. Pretty pathetic.

People who fall for these scams are pretty stupid. Sure, put that institution of higher learning on your resume and you might get a call back and maybe even an interview. Okay, some people have even gotten a job with phoney credentials, but somewhere down the line the truth will come out and then humiliation and the unemployment line will be in that person's future. (And try getting a good job after that. Can you say "Walmart Greeter?")

Unlike most people, I check my spam filter several times a day, and that's mainly because I have mail forwarded from my web sites. Some of it is real mail I want to read, and without going to the site itself to retrieve it. But it sure is a pain in the neck to wade through the other crap.

I wish everyone would check their spam filters on a regular basis. You might also find important emails lurking in there. Like maybe newsletters you've signed up for? Many people sign up for my newsletter and then complain they don't get it. Why? Caught in their spam filter. (I advise people who sign up to add my newsletter e-mail to their address books.) And is just so happens -- I sent out my newsletter this morning.

How often do you check YOUR spam filter?