Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Magical Little Beige Pad of Paper

The Book Shoppe Back in December, I had a wonderful signing at The Book Shoppe in Medina, NY.  (You can read about it here.)  While there, I wanted to take some notes for a future story, and the owner, Sue Phillips, gave me a little beige pad of paper with THE BOOK SHOPPE on the top, with address and phone number, and the things they sell on the bottom.  At the end of the signing, I tried to give the pad back, but Sue insisted I take it.

Well, am I ever glad I did!  That little pad has been a terrific source of ideas.  Okay, maybe IT didn't have the ideas, I did.  Why is it every time I go to write down Pad2 and idea for a blog or the new book on that little pad, suddenly I have many, MANY ideas?  We're talking scribbling over every square inch of paper, turning it over, and scribbling there, and then--maybe even ripping off another piece to keep the flow of ideas going.

Of course, now I realize that I can't keep ripping off another piece so cavalierly.  I mean, there's only so many pieces of paper in this little pad.  What happens when they're all gone?  Will my ideas suddenly dry up, too?

Gad.  I might have to take a trip to Medina and beg Sue for another pad as it seems to be my new lucky charm. 

What do you have that brings you luck?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Retailers discover startling fact: not all women are size 6 or smaller!

Last week in the USA Today's Money Section, they featured an article about plus-size women's clothing.  It seems retailers have JUST DISCOVERED that plus-size woman want to buy clothes that, get this, ACTUALLY FIT and might even be somewhat stylish! 

DohTalk about a Homer Simpson "Doh!" moment.  Here fashion designers and retailers have been trying to lure skinny Minnie's into buying clothes when most of the country is --- SURPRISE -- overweight.  In this time of recession, when nobody is buying much of anything, retailers have decided they might as well try to sell clothes to overweight people.

Rider jeans Then there's something that's just as annoying to me as a consumer.  I'm sure you've all seen this Lee Rider Jeans ad in various magazines.  Why does a woman without an ounce of fat in her body need tummy control jeans?  And there's the equally skinny designer looking smug.  Wow--that's something to be proud of.  Making some skinny broad look -- well, the same.  Come on, Stacy London, why don't you design something that will make, say, the size 12-18 crowd look halfway decent?

All I can say is:  Grrrrrrrrrrrrr!

How about you?
UPDATE: I've been contacted by Lee Jeans.  They offered to send me (and of course I accepted) a pair of the tummy-tuckers.  I'll let you know when they arrive and how they fit.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pet Peeve Thursday--Don't Call Me Mr. MOM!

By Guest Blogger Jeffrey Cohen

Mr Mom It's been more than twenty years, and I still hear it every once in a while: "You still playin' Mr. Mom?"

Man, that burns me.

When my wife and I were first married, I swear, the issue of child rearing never really came up. Before you have kids, you can't imagine what it's like, to have kids. Not really. So we just bounced along and let nature take its course. Which it did. And two years after we were married, we introduced the world to our son Josh. Three years after that, we came back for seconds, and launched the good ship Eve.

Even then, it was never a question about how things would proceed. I was (and remain to this day) a freelance writer, at that point a mere thirteen years from publishing my first mystery novel. I worked--and still work, six days a week) out of our home. And I earn about as much as the average fast food employee, assuming the tips aren't all that good. My wife, on the other hand, is an attorney working for the government (first state, now county), and does somewhat better. Thank goodness.

Happy children I did not raise those children. WE raised those children. The fact is, you raise children until they're about eight or nine, and after that, you just help them raise themselves. But the fact remains that I was the parent who was home most of the time when they came home from day care (hell yes they were in day care--I had to work during the day, and those of you who do both: you're a better man than I am) and then school, and then middle school, and then high school.

Today, they have a collective age of 37. Come September, they'll both be living in college dormitories, assuming we can find a pile of money stuck in the couch. And I'm still hearing from people, casual acquaintances, who want to know when I'm going to stop "playing Mr. Mom" and get a REAL job.
Give me a break.

Those of us who were the "main caregiver" during the early years--and all that means is that we were home, not that we worked harder or less hard--are assumed to have it easy. We play with the kids and play at our jobs, and have the best of both worlds, right? Quality time with the children AND a (nominal, in my case) salary? Who wouldn't sign up for that?

All I can say is: Try it sometime. Conduct newspaper interviews with a screaming baby in the room. Postpone other interviews because you have to take your child to the pediatrician unexpectedly. Try to explain to your five-year-old daughter why Daddy can't make her kindergarten graduation because he has a chance to make $500 that day. Go ahead.

THEN you can tell me what I did all those years was "playing."

By the way, we did a damn good job raising those kids, too. I'm thrilled with both of them. They're good people and good company. I love my children, but you know what? I LIKE them, too. I'd rather spend time with them than with the vast majority of adults I know. THAT was a job well done.

And maybe the pay wasn't so bad, after all.

And what's bugging YOU today?
Night at the operation Jeffrey Cohen is the author of the Double Feature Mystery series, including the current A NIGHT AT THE OPERATION. If you want his kids to go to college, you might want to buy his books.  Check out his web site.  Jeff also blogs on Monday on Hey There's A Dead Guy In The Living Room.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My New Cover and BIG NEWS!

I've been bugging my editor for weeks now to show me the cover.  Yea--he did.  But then they couldn't decide if they wanted the title to have an AND or an ampersand.

The ampersand won!  And here's the cover.  (What do you think?)

Chapter_& But I have even MORE news.  (Sounds like one of those informercials.  But wait, order now and....)  I'm very pleased to announce that the Booktown Mysteries will soon (relatively speaking) be available as audiobooks (and downloadable).  The recording for the first book, MURDER IS BINDING, was to have begun last week.

It was very exciting to talk to the production manager at Deyan Audio about certain pronunciations.  (Who knew Squamscot soda pop was actually pronounced Squamskit?  And if you're in New Hampshire, why don't you try some of the local soda.  It's de-lish!) He also said I'd be hearing from him about other questions they have as they get read to record the other books.

Cassandra Campbell And I already know who my reader will be: the lovely (and lovely voiced) Cassandra Campbell.  I've heard a sample of her work, and I think she'll do a great job performing the books.

I know I can't wait to hop in my car and spend lots of gas money listening to the book on CDs. 

Do you like to listen to audiobooks?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Where Have All My Classmates Gone?

For months now, I've been bombarded with messages from an Internet site telling me that former classmates are just dying to get in touch with me.  And for a low, low price of only $9.99 they will reveal just who it is that wants to contact me.

I almost fell for it before a friend told me she'd fallen for it.  And then she found it extremely difficult to get out from under them and stop them billing her credit card.  Another acquaintance said she'd gotten a computer virus trying to download a message from a classmate.

Smart move not to get tucked up with that lot.

Spartan helmet And just why DO I want to get in contact with these old school chums.  The people who looked at me and rolled their eyes.  Yes, I was a geek, who walked around reading and writing Star Trek stories (even though the show had been canceled before I entered high school.  Ha!  Little did they know the franchise would be resurrected and live a long and happy life in syndication and on the big screen.  But I digress).

I had hair down to my backside that I usually wore in braids or a ponytail.  I dressed in sweatshirts, jeans, and baggy wool (Pendleton) shirts (Hey, I was cold!), love beads and sneakers.  I was no fashion plate.  I spent most of my spare time in the library reading biographies.  (They had four of Edgar Allen Poe--is it any surprise I became a mystery author?)

In all these years, I never went to a class reunion.  I never was invited, so I never knew when they were.  So why this burning desire to suddenly get in contact with people who had no time for me back in the day?
Tshirt_style2 I met one of my classmates at a signing just before Christmas. She remembered me.  She bought two of my books.  She was very nice.  I don't suppose we exchanged more than a few sentences in the four years we were at Greece Olympia High School, but it was such a pleasant encounter, I suddenly wondered if more of my classmates had mellowed with age and might be more accepting of the geeky girl.

High school was not a fun time--at least for me.  I'd like to think that we all came away and became better people with happier lives.  It would be nice to know if that were true.

Have you kept up with your high school classmates?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Can One Learn To Love Wine?

Poured wine There's so much romance connected to wine.  It's been celebrated in story and song for thousands of years.  And I just don't like it all that much.

My sister-in-law hit it on the head with her description of most wines:  "Tastes like shoe polish remover."

The problem is, I don't have an educated palate--and neither does my husband.  (Who, by the way, taught me to like whiskey and gin.  I like them both waaaaaay too much, too.)  My parents did occasionally drink wine when I was a kid.  Pink Catawba.  Not exactly high brow, eh?  But they liked it and offered us kids a sip now and then.  (Maybe that's why I don't like wine.) 

When we were courting, then-date (now husband) and I went to several wine tastings thanks to free tickets from our workplace.  Our reaction to most of the wines?  Tasted like shoe polish remover.

Taylor Wine Company used to have marvelous wine tastings, where they even served hot hors d'ouevers.  That's where I learned about cream sherry.  (Don't drink it very often anymore.  Drank too much of it once and then combined with pizza ... well, we won't go there.)

Red wine?  I have tried it on many occasions, but I remember the first time.  I'd been feverishly working on a novella the entire day and kind of forgot to have breakfast and lunch.  Had three HUGE glasses of wine with dinner and ... see paragraph above.  (God, nothing worse than a red wine hangover.)
That's not to say I dislike all wine, but I admit it, I like the sweeter ones, like asti spumante.  Champagne?  Never did much for me.  Too dry.  My current favorite wine is canei, which I first had at my aunt and uncle's home.  They always have wine for guests when they entertain, and it's not often I turn down a glass of canei.  (In fact, I think I've done most of my wine drinking at their house.  See paragraph above for red wine hangover.) 

Despite his uneducated palate, hubby is a faithful follower of the wine column in our local paper (mostly because it's written by the daughter of an ex-work buddy.)  In November, hubby read all about beaujolais nouveau and how marvelous it's supposed to be, and how it cannot be sold until a certain day in November.  Hyped up over the marvelous description, he bought a bottle and took it to my aunt and uncle's for Thanksgiving.  We cracked it and sipped.

It tasted like shoe polish remover.

We'd both like to learn more about wine.  Got any ideas on how to do it?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Happy National Pie Day!

Pi PIE Did you know today is National Pie Day?  Even more shocking, did you know there's a National Pie Council?

I didn't either, until I read about it in yesterday's USA Today.  Seems like it's a big deal, too, with pie championships, recipes, happenings, festivals, and even pie seminars.

Who knew there was a wonderful world of pie-dom out there?

Lemonmeranaguepie The truth is ... I'm not a big pie eater.  One thing I learned from one of the many diets I've been on -- if you don't like something, don't eat it.  Therefore, it's quite easy for me to turn down pie.  Most pies.  Every once in a while I like a slice of lemon meringue pie.  At Thanksgiving, I'll eat a slice of mince pie.  Once in a blue moon, I'll have a slice of apple or maybe pecan pie, but that's as far as I go for dessert pies.  I'm a cake girl.

Meatandpotato pie Still, I wouldn't say no to a meat pie.  (And no one on earth makes a better meat pie than my Aunt Sunny.)  I love the meat pies you get in British pubs.  (Yum-yum.) Although I've never been able to work up the courage to eat a steak and kidney pie.  (Kidneys process urine.  Enough said.)  I've got several pot pie cookbooks.  Maybe I'll make a pot pie for supper to celebrate the day.

Do you like pie, and if so, what's your favorite slice?

Friday, January 22, 2010

What Makes A Good Web Site?

My friend E.J. Copperman and I have been having an ongoing conversation.  E.J. needs a web site, and I need a refreshed web site.  We both have hired our designers, we both love their work, but there's just one problem, and E.J. said it best:  "I wish I knew what I wanted on the web site. I just know I want something ... else."

Pinning down that something else has proved problematical.

H.home When I first set up my web site, I was unpublished and pretty discouraged.  I wanted a neutral background.  I had no kind of logo in mind, so my web designer came up with a pretty simple, yet dignified web site that I have not been unhappy with.  (Don't you love that little drop of blood on the L?)  But now, with a new cozy mystery series on the horizon, I just want something ... else.  And I don't know what that else is.

I know I want to keep my photo gallery pages, which are mostly devoted to my pets--both past and present.  But I'm not sure what else to keep.  FAQs don't seem as important as they did eight or ten years ago.  They should probably go.  Colors?  I'm not sure.  I probably won't see my cover until July or August.

"Here's how I look at it," E.J. said to me.  "What would make me stop and open pages on an author's web site?  Should I anticipate who my readers will be (this is, after all, my first novel), or make something that pleases me and hope that will carry over?

"My good friend Jeff Cohen has an interesting web site, but it's very much tied to the subject matter of his series. Should it be more about the author? What will stand out?

"There seem to be a million crime fiction authors out there, and now I'm told that web sites aren't as important as social networking. Do readers care about web sites? How do they find out about your web site?
Night Living Deed "The cover for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEED has been getting raves from everyone who's seen it. Should I emphasize that on the site? Should I include a lot of author information? Do readers CARE about author information, or are they just looking for a good book?

"It's a stumper, I'll tell you.

"I looked at a lot of web sites (including your excellent one, Lorna/Lorraine) to get ideas. But I don't want to have ideas that have already been used--that feels like cheating. I feel like the site should be a reflection of my personality and that of the books. Should it be more calculated, more geared toward an anticipated demographic? It's hard to know."

So, dear readers, what would YOU like to see on our web sites?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

PET PEEVE THURSDAY: Space, the Frustrating Frontier

By Guest Blogger Julie Hyzy

Have you noticed that people who religiously abide by the Rules of the Road when they’re on an expressway lose all sense of “space” when they’re driving a shopping cart, or trying to snag a parking space?

How hard is it to stay to one side? Obviously, very.

Grocery shopping I can’t tell you how often I encounter a shopper who strolls down the very center of the grocery store aisle, stopping when a product catches his or her eye. Because these folks are smack dab in the middle of the narrow aisle, there isn’t enough room on either side to pass. It’s the same in the parking lot. Folks stop in the very center of the aisle to wait for a plum spot, when there’s a perfectly good parking space just three spots down. And when they walk to the store from their cars, they do so down the middle of the parking aisle. I drive a big van. It’s old, but very quiet. These folks don’t know I’m behind them as they amble down the center-way. I can’t get around them and it would be rude to honk my horn. So I wait.

Okay, I hear you… you’re thinking I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, don’t you? Maybe I am. Except … this happens constantly. And if you’re in a hurry, as I usually am, the never-ending game of “obstacle course” gets frustrating pretty fast.

The other evening I was grocery shopping with my husband and one of our daughters. About halfway through our jaunt, we encountered a woman taking inventory of her cart. Problem was, she decided to do so right at the mouth of the baking aisle. She’d stopped mid-turn, which meant her cart was twisted so it stood sideways, completely obstructing the way in. Kate Moss wouldn’t have been able to Kate Moss wiggle past her to get to the bagged sugar (not that she would want to, of course. I doubt any skinny supermodels know what sugar is).

The three of us, however, take up a whole lot more room than a skinny supermodel would, and that day I desperately needed a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips. (For a recipe, not for personal consumption. Yeah. And if you believe that…) When the woman finally noticed the three of us standing there, she made a face of disgust and grumbled about us interrupting her. But at least she moved.

I completely understand folks wanting to double check their lists. I completely understand when people take time deciding between Ragu or Prego. There are flavors to consider and ounces to measure. I get it. But maybe it wouldn’t hurt if that shopper allowed enough space around himself or herself to allow others to maneuver while they made these weighty decisions.

It’s not just a matter of convenience. I find it’s a matter of courtesy—of being aware of those around us. And although I’ve been guilty of forgetting too, I think that if we all tried a little harder to remain aware that we’re not alone—to remember that we share space in this world—we would all get along a little bit better.

Oh, and don’t get me started about people who forget to step aside when they alight from an escalator or out of a revolving door!! Ack!

And what's annoying YOU today?

Eggsecutive orders Julie Hyzy is the Barry and Anthony award-winning author of the White House Chef Mysteries.  Her latest book, EGGSECUTIVE ORDERS, is now available.  Check out Julie's web site.  Julie also blogs on The Mystery Writers Kitchen, giving lots of yummy recipies.  Julie's also got a new series on the horizon, The Manor of Murder Mysteries.  The first book, Grace Under Pressure, will be available on June 1st, 2010.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I love Shabby Chic ... but ....

Shabbywhitemainix5 I guess Rachel Ashwell gets the credit (or blame) for the shabby chic decorating.  Mind you, I like most  shabby chic decor.  Old picture frames, mirrors, vases of flowers, chandeliers, lots of white and pastels.  It can be very pretty.  And I really like the idea of rescuing old furniture, dishes, and pictures.  I've tried to incorporate it into my own home and our family's cottage.

I'm just not so keen on flaky furniture.

For one thing, who knows how old the paint is on this furniture.  Until the late 1960s, most paint was lead based.  That's not good.  Lead is a deadly poison, and at it's best, if you inhale or eat the stuff (I'm not saying grown-ups would, but children are attracted to lead paint because it has a sweet flavor), it can damage you.

Flaky painted furniture That's only one reason I don't like flaky furniture.  The other?  It's kinda ugly.  I can't see why someone would want to incorporate something that looks like that dry sink on the right into their home.  Mind you, in all the books and magazine articles I've read on shabby chic decorating, I've only seen one that warned about the dangers of lead paint, and suggested anyone incorporating such a piece of furniture into their home should seal the piece with polyurethane.  Of course, the purists scream that ruins the patina.  Well, better that than brain damage -- but that's just my opinion.

Mind you, I do have a piece of flaky furniture in my house.  It's my second computer desk.  I bought the table my iMac sits on about ten years ago at a yard sale.  (Quite a coup at $8.)  I didn't buy it because it was shabby chic.  I bought it because I needed another computer table.  And I had every intention of repainting it.  The problem.

Flaky desk2 I'm lazy.

The thing really needs to be stripped, but that's a lot of work.  That said, I was worried about that lead paint, so I at least took lengths of sealing tape and pressed it on the entire surface, lifting off any loose paint.  I may yet strip it and take it back to a natural look--or paint it.  But I'm not in any hurry.  I have a lot of other stuff ahead of it on my to-be-done list.  And I'd kind of hate to lose the floral decal on the front of the table.

What do you think about flaky painted furniture and shabby chic decorating?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dry, White Toast

When I order breakfast in a restaurant, I'm often given odd looks by my dining companions. Why?  Because I always order dry, white toast with my eggs.

"Ugh!  How can you eat that?"

Usually that is said by someone eating wholewheat bread, which is GOOD for them.  (And what about the greasy eggs, sausage and home fries on their plate?)

Skim milk The truth is, I got used to eating toast with nothing on it back in my yo-yo diet days.  And I actually got to like the taste.  Same as I got to like skim milk.  In fact, I like skim milk so much, I drink at least a half gallon, if not a gallon of the stuff every week.  I was on vacation a few years back and ate cereal for breakfast.  (No hot breakfast in that motel chain.)  They only had whole milk.  Yikes!  It tasted like I'd poured melted ice cream on my corn flakes.  (And even 2% milk tastes pretty decadent to me.)

You'd think with no butter on my toast and fat-free milk I'd be a Kate Moss look-alike.  No such luck.  (It's portion control that's the key, and sometimes--okay, OFTEN--I need someone to slap my hand when I reach for that second helping.

Of course, I have a conference coming up at the end of April and I'd like to lose some weight--but I refuse to diet, since that only means I'd gain it all back and then some.  So portion control is the name of the game.

Dry toast For toast, you can't do better than Wegmans Country White (it's especially good on BLTs), but it is a bit too much for regular sandwiches. (Those slices are FAT.)  So I've switched from the Wegmans ( bread (100 calories per slice) to Monks white bread (80 calories per slice) for toast, and have gone back to eating pumpernickel bread (more fiber) for most sandwiches.

I remember having one of my characters eating toast as comfort food and a critique partner chiding me that comfort food HAD to be something decadent, like a hot fudge sundae.  Sunbeam toaster That made me feel odd, because there's nothing like bread for comfort when you're feeling down, be it toast or a nice, thick slab of Italian bread slathered with a thick layer of butter.

But I'm trying to cut down, remember.  So...hand me another slice of that dry white toast.  Mmm, Mmm, good.

What's your idea of comfort food?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Found: 1 Potato Cookbook

Potato book The other day I was passing by my bookshelves in the living room.  This is where I keep most of my non-fiction:  cookbooks, decorating book, etc.  (And boy, are there a lot of books there.)  Something didn't look quite right so I bent down to a lower shelf and found a fat squat book:  SuperCookery:  Potatoes and Vegetables.

I have a LOT of vegetarian cookbooks.  Not that I'm a vegetarian, but I just happen to LOVE vegetables. (A lot more than my husband. In fact, I could probably BECOME a vegetarian and not miss meat (well, except for pork).)

When I say I found this little book, I mean it:  I found it.  I'd never seen it before, or at least I don't remember ever seeing it.  I took it into my husband's office and asked him, "Did you buy this book?"  He said, "Never saw it before in my life."

Fairy-with-wand Hmm.  Do you think the book fairy dropped it off one night while we were sleeping in heavenly peace?

I opened the book and there was a yellow Post-It note inside that said:

I knew you were looking for a book about cooking with vegetables.  I thought this one was pretty nice.
(Check is inside the book.)

At least I THINK it was signed Allar.  While the note was printed, the signature was not and it was pretty incoherent.  More important, I flipped through the pages to find the check.  Darn.  Mom must have taken it out and cashed it!  And since there was a post-it note inside the book, there's a good chance I bought the book at a garage sale.  But if so, why don't I remember it? I usually devour cookbooks (not literally, thank goodness), and this one is just the kind of thing I enjoy.

And I did enjoy reading through it, and marked a number of recipes I'd like to try.

Do you ever forget you've bought a book?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

On My To-Be-Read-List

There are a bunch of new books on my To-Be-Read List this month--books written by friends of mine.  I hope you'll give them a try.

Stirring up strife cover Of course, topping the list is the first in Jennifer Stanley's Hope Street Church Mysteries, Stirring Up Strife.

Cooper Lee can repair a copy machine—but can she repair her life? That’s one of the many Big Questions that lead this newly single Richmond girl to Sunrise Bible Study at the Hope Street Church. Cooper hasn’t attended church in ages, but after getting dumped by her long-time boyfriend—and moving in with her family—she could use some new friends, and a new outlook on life. Happily, the members of the Bible group are anything but cookie-cutter, which suits Cooper just fine. There’s a blind folk artist, a playboy meteorologist, an investment banker with a sweet tooth, an ambitious realtor, and a cute shy web designer who just might be “the one” for Cooper. But the member of Hope Street Church who invited Cooper to join this motley crew—an office worker who got her wedding ring stuck in a copier—is something else altogether: She’s dead And her husband is suspected of murder!

The Sunrise gang jumps into action, vowing to solve this unholy mess—with God’s guidance—and Cooper’s snooping…

Includes heavenly recipes from Mrs. Lee’s kitchen!

Eggsecutive orders Eggsecutive Orders a White House Chef Mystery by Julie Hyzy.
Chef Olivia Paras has too many eggs in one basket-and is feeling like a basket-case...

When NSA big shot Carl Minkus dies right after eating the dinner Olivia Paras's staff had prepared, all forks point to them. Now the Secret Service is picking apart the kitchen-and scrutinizing the staff's every move. The timing couldn't be worse with the White House Lawn Easter Egg Roll to prep for without access to a kitchen. Olivia must find the real culprit-before she cracks under pressure.

Eggsecutive Orders is the third entry in this award-winning series.

Dead Air Dead Air is the first Talk Radio Mystery by Mary Kennedy.

When a psychologist hits Florida's airwaves, there's no telling who she's reaching...and there's no telling who wants to reach back.

Maggie left her clinical practice in Manhattan and moved to sunny Cypress Grove, Florida, where she became host of WYME's "On the Couch with Maggie Walsh." From co-dependent wives to fetish fiends, all the local crazies love her show.

Then threats start pouring in against one of the station's special guests-self-styled new age prophet Guru Sanjay Gingii. When one of the threats becomes a deadly reality, Maggie's new roommate, Lark, is surprisingly the prime suspect. Now, Maggie has to prove Lark innocent while dealing with a killer who needs more than just therapy...

Need yet ANOTHER blog to read?  My friend Deb Baker has started a blog about ... reading!  It's called Powered By Books, and features all kinds of books in all kinds of genres.  I hope you'll give it a try.

And what's on YOUR to-be-read list?

Friday, January 15, 2010

I have seen my cover...and it is beautiful

One of the best parts about being an author (besides those lovely royalty checks that never seem to come often enough) is getting to see your cover for the first time.

My editor teased me back in December, telling me the cover was "gorgeous."  Did he send it to me?  No!!! At that point, all he had was the painting by the fabulous Teresa Fasolino.  It took a while for the Marketing Department to get around to having the cover graphics added.  (Hey, it was Christmastime.  Everybody was busy!)

So, I very patiently waited and occupied myself with other things...until I couldn't stand it any more.  On Monday, I heard from my editor about another matter (BIG EXCITEMENT--but I can't say anything about it YET--hopefully soon, which will be cause for another issue of my newsletter), and asked about the cover.  He said I'd see it later that afternoon.

Except I didn't.

I'll give him until Wednesday, I said. And then I didn't want to seem like a nag, so I waited until late Thursday.  He wrote back with apologies -- they (whoever they are) were arguing over the title.  It's Chapter and Hearse, what's to argue about?

No, no!  It MIGHT be Chapter and Hearse, or it might be Chapter & Hearse.  Did I have a preference? Nope.  I don't care. ( But I thought maybe it should be Chapter AND Hearse.  Maybe.)

Anyway, the version he sent was Chapter & Hearse ... and ... it looks pretty darn good.  In fact, the cover is MARVELOUS.  There are a few tiny errors -- like Miss Marple looking out the window of the cafe (she never leaves Haven't Got A Clue) but for dramatic effect--who cares!  It's a WONDERFUL cover.  And, hopefully it will SELL A LOT OF BOOKS!

Another marvelous feature?  Lorna's name ABOVE the title, and large enough one doesn't need to use a magnifying glass to find it. 

Happyface So am I pleased?  You better believe it.  And as soon as I get the final version--BOOKMARKS!!! 

Thursday, January 14, 2010


By Guest Blogger Jennifer (J.B.) Stanley

Raccoon No, I’m not talking about prowlers wearing pantyhose on their heads. At this point, I think I’d prefer that kind! My pet peeve revolves around a troupe of invaders coming into the house through our cat door, wreaking total havoc!

I love animals! All of them except for poisonous snakes, sharks, and caterpillars (don’t even ask).

I knew we had raccoons and opossums and other nocturnal critters living in our neighborhood and I’ve always kind of sort of fed them by tossing our dinner remnants over the deck. This way, the lucky creatures would dine on rib bones or pieces of steak or bits of potato. You get the idea.

Oreo I guess the raccoons weren’t satisfied with leftovers. Starting around Christmas, I’d come downstairs to find our pantry torn apart. And do you know what? These raccoons only wanted chocolate!  Over the past few weeks, those danged masked bandits have eaten four bags of semi-sweet morsels, a package of chocolate shavings, boxes of chocolate-covered granola and protein bars, and all the 100-calorie Oreos!

My kids were not pleased. I was not pleased.

I barricaded the pantry door (it doesn’t close all the way). They pushed aside objects I could barely lift, and each morning I go down to prepare breakfast only to find a new mess.  Finally, I got smart and bought an industrial-strength rubber doorstop. Wedged that sucker right in the crack below the door and stopped them from getting into the pantry.  In retaliation, they went for the garbage.

To make a long story less long, I’m no longer throwing food over the deck. Now I can only hope they’ll move to my neighbor’s house in the near future! :)

And what's bugging YOU today?
Stirring up strife cover Jennifer (JB) Stanley writes the Supper Club Mysteries and the Hope Street Church Mysteries.  Her latest release is Stirring Up Strife.  Check out Jennifer's website.  And you can find her posts on Thursday's at The Cozy Chicks Blog.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My Characters As Inspiration

A few weeks back, I was contacted by one of my readers and asked if I minded if she did a piece of fan art for my character, Tricia Miles.  Whoa!  That was a surprise, and very flattering.

Last week, Alyssa White "presented" me with the finished art.

I like it, but I think this is more how Tricia must have looked when she was a bit younger.  (She's 40 in the first book.)  So I think of this as "Single-In-Manhattan Tricia."

The thing is, I really DON'T have an exact picture in my mind of what she looks like.  I know she has short brown hair, is slim (she works at it), and his shorter than her sister. (I know exactly what Angelica looks like--I found a picture in a magazine that screamed:  "I'm Angelica!" (except maybe 10 years older than she is in the books.)

This isn't the first time I've had artwork made for my characters.  I wrote a novella using Richard Albert and Brenda Stanley and fan artist Pam Loomis drew them.  I knew what Brenda looked like (I supplied her with a picture), but she drew Richard as she saw him, and in my mind--that's him!

It's very nearly perfect, except for one thing:  Brenda is at least nine inches shorter than Richard.

And of course, there's Jeff--the star of the Jeff Resnick series.  I commissioned a piece of artwork by the amazing Karen River, who is well known for her pen-and-ink illustrations.  I also supplied a A_jeff_SM photo for it, but she gave him longer hair (which I asked for) and make a few other minor alterations.  Both these pieces of fan art hang over my computer desk.

Will I ever receive another piece of fan artwork?  I don't know -- but it sure is nice to think someone is inspired by something I created.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Home Renovation and Me

It's winter, and thre's not a lot to do but sit around and read (when I'm not writing).  And I've got a LOT of decorating books--and tons more decorating magazines.  (For some reason, I have this aversion to tossing out the printed word.)  Add to that, I watch Hometime and This Old House on PBS.  Lately, I've been watching a lot of episodes of Divine Design, Spice Up Your KitchenHGTV , and Income Property on HGTV.

(No, I still don't get HGTV with my cable package--but my mother does!)

Mum and I sit there and criticize--or praise--these home makeovers.  And unlike ABC's Extreme Makeover Home Edition, these other makeovers take a lot longer than seven days to complete (and probably have a much longer life expectancy that the buildings that are whipped into existance in so short a time).

So what's my point?

All these makeovers (especially in a kitchen) are making me unhappy with my outdated kitchen.  (And I want to totally revamp our summer cottage's bathroom, too.)  There's just one problem.

Yellow dollar sign

A lot of readers make the mistake of thinking that authors make tons of money.  The truth is, 94% of Farm sink us don't make enough to live on, let alone give us extra cash for renovations.  Unfortunately, I am not very handy, and neither is my husband.  (Those skills died with our fathers.)  So why torture myself with those TV shows and magazines and their ceramic farm sinks with sculptured aprons, soaker tubs, and $50,000 makeovers?

I must be a masochist.  (How about you?)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Fattening, disgusting (and tasty) food

We had a nasty snowstorm last week.  Thanks to pick-up trucks with plows on the front, our days of shoveling are long gone.  However, a shovel is necessary to do a little extra clean-up.  I also do the clean up at my mom's house.  So off I went to shovel her walk.

Unhingethejaws_2Afterwards, I went inside and on her TV was a rerun of an unbelievable Food Network show about cheesy hamburgers.  I mean, these burgers were a heart attack waiting to happen.  They were HUGE (half a pound or more of meat) with tons of melted cheese (one burger had two slabs of jalapeno cheese, each a quarter-inch thick.)  They showed patrons  in the resaurant trying to unhinge their jaws to get these burgers into their mouths, which were soon dripping with secret sauce, melted cheese, and flecks of lettuce.  Talk about food porn!

Cheeseburger5What is this romance Americans have with the absolute worst, bad-for-you food?  Well, I'll tell you:  IT TASTES BLOODY GOOD.  Look at the crisp lettuce, that pink tomato (Okay, I'll grant you--it does look hothouse), and the sauce and cheese on the homemade bun.  Couldn't you just shove that in your pie hole right now?  (I guess I shouldn't write blogs when I'm hungry, eh?)

God, those burgers looked fantastic.  (Don't even get me started on the fries soaked in vinegar and then deep fried.  If the TV had smell-o-vision, I'd've jumped through the screen.)

Tight_jeans Of course, there's a bad side to all these tasty lunch and dinnertime treats.  Fat.  Big gobs of ugly fat hanging off your body.  Now, I don't happen to be a candidate for the lap band or gastric bypass...and truth be told, I almost NEVER eat a hamburger out.  (And rarely at home, as well.)  But there was something about seeing these people eating those burgers that had me salivating like Pavlov's dog.  (BTW, that's NOT my flab over there.  What, you think I want my blubber all over the Internet???)

Within the next few years, more people will die of diabetes than heart disease.  And what about those clogged arteries?  Angioplasty is now more popular than face lifts.

We're constantly being bombarded with food ads--on TV, newspapers, magazines--even the radio. 

Wouldn't you like a nice Milky Way hot chocolate with an M&M donut (mentioned almost hourly on my favorite morning radio talk show); how about two sausage egg McMuffins for the price of one?  We're temped to overeat from dawn until the drive through shuts down after midnight.

Fat children  We're now the fattest nation on the planet.  Up to 33% of the children in this country are obese.  They don't run around playgrounds (the chance of lawsuits is way too high) -- and they eat fatty foods, and watch too much TV/play too many video games/surf the Internet.  While schools are trying to convince the kids that eating healthy is good, if Mom still packs a lunch that's filled with fat, nitrates, high fructose corn syrup, and other empty calories--and supper might be a stop for fast food on the way to the soccer game where Junior sits on the sidelines because he can't keep up with the fit kids.

What's the answer?

Diets?  They don't work.  Lifestyle changes? Yes, but it's not easy.  I did not make a resolution to lose weight this past New Years, much as I want to fit into smaller jeans.  I knew I'd be off a diet as soon as my stomach was empty, so I vowed to eat healthier...and I'm making a bit of headway.  (Rye instead of white bread.  More fruits and veggies. Smaller portions (that one's proving the most difficult.)  But lose weight?  It's tough. 

It takes commitment.  It takes an in-house cook and a personal trainer.

Hey, that's the way Oprah did it!  (And did it.  And did it....)  Any ideas on easy lifestyle changes?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Icicle Season Has Begun!

January If I didn't have any calanders in the house, I would still know that January has arrived.  Why?  Because the icicles have returned to my house.

The bright-boy architect (it had to be a man, because this house was built in 1967) decided to put the front door smack-dab under a roof valley.  That means the gutter builds up a massive ice dam, and we get loads of icicles.

Icicles_2a While they're really quite pretty to look at (especially if you look at them through the glow of your Christmas lights, but honestly, can I keep turning them on through March?), they make entering the house a real safety hazard--not just from melting onto the step, but possibly falling on your head.  (Since that picture was taken, they've grown to massive proportions--and in only a day or so.)  I whack them off--they grow back.

What hazards are you avoiding at your house?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pet Peeve Thursday--Toni Kelner & Celebrity Reporting

By guest blogger, Toni L.P. Kelner

My pet peeve?  Celebrity reporting.  It's gotten out of control!

Now don't get me wrong.  I don't insist on an unending string of hard news.  In fact, unending streams of hard news depress the heck out of me, and make me crave a feature about Lafayette on True Blood getting a on-air love interest or a discussion of who is wearing which designer duds on every red carpet in the world.  I am a longtime subscriber to Entertainment Weekly and I frequently read People.  And I'm always willing to read about what the kids from The Brady Bunch are up to.

But as I write this, I've got the window for open.  One of the thirteen headlines under "Latest News" is:

Tiger woods shirtless How Tiger's wife spent the holidays

 Another story, under "Editor's Choice" is:

Tiger shirtless on magazine cover

 Are either of these important enough, or even interesting enough, to put on the front screen for CNN?

I know, this is a radical thing for me to say, given the fact I write the "Where are they now?" mysteries about Tilda Harper, a freelance entertainment reporter who tracks down the formerly famous.  Who Killed the Pinup Queen?, the second in the series, was just released earlier this week, for crying out loud.  But Tilda and I have rules for good entertainment reporting, and my pet peeve is media people who do not follow them.

1) Celebrity reporting has to involve a celebrity.  And by celebrity, I mean somebody who has become fairly well known and who has stayed well-known for a reasonable length of time. Is the star of this week's viral video a celebrity? Not unless the star was already a celebrity (think Rick Astley, the man who sacrificed his name to Rick Rolling), or the star then becomes a celebrity by appearing in venues other than Youtube (such as Sarah Boyle), or the video enters the cultural zeitgeist (as did Matt Harding's videos "Where the Hell is Matt?"). Personally, I count very few reality show "celebrities" as celebrities at all, but I admit that I may be biased.

Elizabeth taylor 2) The detail of celebrity must be proportional to the level of celebrity. For example, Elizabeth Taylor has been a celebrity for decades, so almost any story about her is going to be of interest. Taylor Lautner is a newbie--he's attractive and talented, but there's a definite limit to how much I want to know about him. Give the kid a chance to do more, then report on that.

3) Celebrity reporting is fluff, and should be treated that way. There is no need to pretend that a reality show's producer having a relationship with a contestant is a huge scandal.  It's barely trivia.

Nice Matters 4) Be nice--I don't want to see mean entertainment reporting. A little snark, sure, but don't slam people because they picked a bad outfit or got a photo taken from a bad angle. Remember what I said about fluff? Fluff is supposed to be fun, and being mean just isn't fun to me. Along those lines, do remember that celebrities have kids, and their kids just might be reading this stuff.

5) Don't beat a story into the ground. Okay, I suppose reporting on Tiger Woods's marital problems was valid entertainment reporting. But I don't care if it was the slowest news week since CNN went on the air, there were other stories to talk about that week! Move on! There are plenty of other pieces of fluff out there!

Britney 6) My personal least favorite bit of entertainment reporting would have to be "where are they now?" stories about people who haven't left yet. Unless a celebrity has been out of the public eye for at least five years, they haven't been gone long enough to write about! (Note that Tilda's targets in Who Killed the Pinup Queen? date back to the 1950's.)

Now I realize this isn't a new situation.  In fact, I remember a classic run of Doonesbury, back in the mid-seventies, when Rick Redfern attended a symposium on personality journalism where the media panelists were bemoaning the overuse of the word "superstar."  To which I can only say, "Here, here!"

 * For what it's worth, I think the story about Tiger Wood's estranged wife violates Rules #2, #3, and #5, and the story about Tiger's lack of a shirt violates #3 and possibly #5.

And what's bugging YOU today?
Pin-Up Queen Toni L.P. Kelner's latest book, Who Killed The Pinup Queen?, second in the Where Are They Now? Mysteries is now available.  Check out Toni's web site.  Toni also blogs with the Femmes Fatales.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

But I left off the butter ...

Okay, we're into Day Three of the "Would Hank Phillippi Ryan Eat This" campaign.  The first day was great...until I went to Sam's Club.

See, I needed a new toner cartridge.  Before the holidays, you could graze through Sam's and get your fat calories for the week--and in only one session.  But now, fugettaboutit.  (Although they did have one sample:  Angel food cake with a black berry.  Not fattening, and quite tasty, but a teeny weenie portion.)

Croissants Since we were in the "goodies" section anyway, we passed by the croissants.  Yum!  I love 'em. (Doesn't everybody?)  They had baby croissants and the JUMBO ones, too.  I recently bought four jumbo croissants at the grocery store.  The check-out girl forgot to ring them up, and, being the honest person my parents brought me up to be, I went to the Service Counter to rectify the situation.  I was thanked profusely for my honestly, and as I had no cash, bellied up to the credit card machine, thinking I'd be embarrassed at such a paltry sum, and was shocked to find out those croissants were $1.25 -- EACH!


It just so happens that hubby has one of those digital watches with a calculator in it.  He whipped out his arm and did some calculations and found that the jumbo croissants at Sam's were a mere 45 cents each.  Well, you just KNEW they were going into our cart, right?

Jackie O dressed So there I was at breakfast yesterday, looking at the lovely dozen and thinking to myself:  Would Hank eat this croissant?  Of course, she'd be thinking, "Would Jackie O eat his croissant?"  And of course the answer would have to be YES!  I mean, wasn't Jackie O part French?  (Her maiden name was Bouvier, she wore Paris gowns, and spoke French--certainly croissants HAD to be at the top of her "things I will eat" menu.  Of course, she would have chosen a small croissant--as I'm sure Hank would--not the jumbo kind.  But I digress...)

I thought I did well.  I only ate one (jumbo) croissant.  No butter.  Just a very thin layer of raspberry jam.

It was de-lish.  And, honestly, don't you think I HAD to eat it?

What would you have done?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I've finally Made It!

Last week (or so?  I've got a memory like a sieve), I wrote about Christmas gifts and how my brother always gets me "good stuff."

Yesterday, I got an IM from him saying he'd left me a little present over at my mother's house.  (Mind you, I live only 7 houses away--he COULD have stopped over and brought it himself--but that's a rant for Pet Peeve Thursday.)

It was VERY COLD AND WINDY so I didn't make it down the road until six or seven hours later, and there on the rocking chair sat my present, still in it's cardboard shipping box.  To tell you the truth, I'd actually forgotten about the present until my mother handed it to me.  "Oh, I thought this was for YOU."

Drum roll So, I open it up and inside, nestled against the cardboard packaging is...


A roll of yellow crime tape.

I laughed so hard!

My brother has never taken my writing all that seriously--not even when I dedicated my first book to him, but I guess he "gets it" after all.

Crime scene Yup, I've finally made it.

Monday, January 4, 2010

What Would Hank Do?

Lose inches It's that time of year when a lot of us make resolutions to change.  One of the biggest resolutions is the old I WILL LOSE WEIGHT gambit.  I've tried this a number of times and it's never worked out.


I was pleased to see that Dr. Oz says to toss away the scale and start eating right, concentrating on losing inches, not pounds.  Inches around the belly.  Easier said than done.

Hank-phillippi-ryan-sitting-thumb A few weeks back, my friend, Hank Phillippi Ryan, revealed the secret of how she keeps so trim.

Hank is an Emmy-award winning investigative reporter with Boston's Channel 7 WHDH-TV station.  She's also won the coveted Agatha Award for her first mystery, Prime Time.  (And she's got a new book out next month, Drive Time, 4th in the Charlotte McNally mystery series.)

Anyway, when Hank is tempted by luscious desserts, fattening sauces, and marvelous munchies, she asks herself one question:

JackieO Would Jackie Kennedy Onassis eat this?

Whoa!  Students of history know that Jackie O didn't have an ounce of fat on her.  (She was also a chain smoker, which may or may NOT have helped her keep that trim figure.)  Hank doesn't smoke, so I have to think that she stays in dynamite shape because of those six little words.

So like Hank, I'm going to adopt six little words to help me NOT give in to temptation.

Starting today, when I want to eat that cookie, or take an extra helping of potatoes, I'm going to ask myself one question:

Would Hank Phillippi Ryan eat this?

I think I already know the answer to that.  (How about you?)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Know a library that needs $$$$$

Please give Sisters In Crime a hand and forward this message to your favorite library.

Sisters in Crime is pleased to announce the first "We Love Libraries" lottery.  Monthly grants of $1,000 will be awarded from January through December 2010.  At the end of each month, a winner will be drawn from entries received at our website at  Only U.S. libraries may enter the drawing.

To enter, simply complete the entry form and upload a photo of one or more of your staff with three books in your collection by Sisters in Crime members.  You can find a list of members on the website here.

After the random drawing on the last business day of the month, the winning library will be contacted and announced.  All branches within a larger system may enter; however, once a library in the system has won, no other libraries within that system can win the grant.  Those not successful in one month will automatically be entered for subsequent drawings.  Grants must be used to purchase books and may not be used for general operating expenses.  Book purchases are NOT restricted to the mystery genre nor to those by Sisters in Crime members. There is no cost or obligation other than allowing us to post winners' photos on our website.

All libraries are welcome to enter. If you have Sisters in Crime author mysteries in your collection we would love for you to enter this money giveaway.

We at Sisters in Crime LOVE our libraries and want to see them thrive. Enter for your library's chance to win beginning January 1, 2010 at

Access to the entry form will be available on January 1, 2010.

If you have any questions please contact Beth Wasson.
SinC Into a Good Mystery!
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