Sunday, February 28, 2010

DEADLINE LOOMING -- Name that Booktown Mystyer

Contest Today is the last day to enter your suggestion to name the 5th Booktown Mystery.  I posted the contest here.  The prize?  Your name as a character in the next booktown Mystery.  And you get to choose to be a good guy or a bad guy.

I've had over 200 entries so far--and I'll be posting the winner on Wednesday.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

And the prize for the ugliest cover goes to ...

BS-LPedition I was poking around Amazon this morning (I'm not one of those paranoid authors who checks her Amazon stats constantly--just a couple times a week), and wondered if they'd posted the cover for the large-print edition yet.

Oh yes.

And, oh, is it BAD.

What is that?  It has to be the absolute WORST skull and crossbones I have ever seen.  I mean, it looks like I might have drawn it!  (And I have no artistic skills, believe me.)

Someone must have put all of 30 seconds of thought into this cover.

Bookplate_Special.sm2 Now, compare it to the BEAUTIFUL cover that was done by the fabulous Teresa Fasolino for the paperback edition of the book.

No contest, eh?

It's a good thing that large-print editions aren't generally bought by the cover art.  As it is, large-print editions don't sell terribly well, but looking at this cover, I'd say my poor LP version of Bookplace Special is doomed.

What do you think?
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UPDATE:  There's more to the story.  Check out my blog post of 3/5/10 on The Cozy Chicks Blog.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Cabin Fever?

We've had another winter storm.  This one brought 8-10 inches (I didn't get my ruler out to check, but we do have a couple of small drifts in the driveway).  Actually, we've missed most of the snow this year (it went to other areas of the country--fine with me, not so fine with my friends in the south), but it's been cold and who wants to deal with that.

Cabin My Aunt in sunny Spain wondered if by now we all have cabin fever.  (I always get this mental picture of a little cabin in the woods, wood-burning stove, people wearing red longjohns, nothing good to eat, and no indoor plumbing.)

Not me.  I went out yesterday.  And the day before, and a couple of times last week.  Since I lost my day job, I don't get cabin fever as much.  If the weather is crappy, I'd just as soon stay home. 
I used to get cabin fever all the time when I had a day job.  I was out every day, going to work, seeing people.  But on the weekend, I had to go somewhere, ANYWHERE, and I'm not exactly sure why.  Now it might be weeks before I talk to someone other than the check-out girl at the grocery store, but I tend to stay home a lot more now.  Maybe it's because I'm in constant communication with my friends and distant family via the Internet.  (Boy am I glad I learned to type.)

Garage Sale Sign What I am jonsing for (and I've said it many times before) is YARD SALE SEASON.  Believe me, I am counting the days until the weather is warm and people decide to make a clean sweep and get rid of their junk...er, treasures.

What thoughts of spring are getting you through this long, cold winter?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

It's not easy being photogenic

By Guest Blogger, Krista Davis, Nationally Bestselling author of the Domestic Diva Mystery series.

Selling a book is exciting. Unbelievable, actually. For most of us it’s a very long road and when we finally get there, it’s a little bit surreal. Life changes. There are covers to consider and discussions about titles. The things we dreamed of when rejections were piling up become real.

Krista1 There is nothing more real than the dreaded author photo. Ugh. I admit that among our ranks there are those who are made to stand in front of a camera. Attractive, svelte, unblemished, wrinkle-free. By some wonderful cosmic luck, they take a good picture. Not me.

Krista2 Since I didn’t have a lot of time to obtain a photo for the first person who needed one, I asked my mom to take my picture. Amazingly, out of the dozen she took, one was okay. I still use it.

Then came Malice Domestic. I needed a photo for their catalogue. Yikes! I couldn’t put it off anymore. I did my hair. I did my makeup. Holding my breath, I ventured into a professional photo studio. They told me to sit on a stool and lean to the right. Krista3 “No, no. Turn your whole body to the right.” Okay. “Now lean forward and turn your right shoulder toward the camera.” Huh? I’m thinking I shouldn’t feel like a broken doll. Whoops! If I don’t stick my right foot out, I’ll fall off the stool. “Smile,” they say. Smile? When I’m falling off the stool and my abdominal muscles are cramping from holding this bizarre position? The camera flashes.

Krista4  Thank goodness. I sit up straight and stretch. “No, no, turn to the left, lean forward, turn your face to the right and TILT your head back.” Are these photographers real human beings, I wonder? Because real people don’t bend this way. But I try to make them happy because they’re professionals and they know what makes a person look good -- right? In the end, I’ll come out with a great professional photo. Wrong. Apparently they don’t understand that some of us need a lot of shots to find one that’s acceptable.  (P.S.  My Co-stars in the picture at left at (left to right) Buttercup, Queenie and Hansel.)

Why? Because I close my eyes. Because my cheeks are so pudgy that you can’t see my eyes when I smile. Because I need to lose weight. Because the rosacea under my right eye always peeks through makeup. Because my left eye is smaller than my right eye. Because there are so many wrinkles on my face I could be confused with a Shar Pei.

Oh! Maybe that’s why they thought I could bend and lean and tilt.

I paid a fortune and received ONE picture. My mom immediately said, “You look exhausted in that picture. You can’t use that!” Swell, all that money for nothing, and I needed a chiropractor, too.
Krista laughingB So now, when I need pictures, it’s Mom to the rescue. Unlike the professionals, she tells me to stand up straight -- shoulders back. “Stop leaning!” I love my mom, really I do. But the professionals don’t say things like, “Why can’t I see you?” “Not the fake smile.” “Don’t make that face.” "Where do I push?" “Not the fake smile!” “Why are your eyes so puffy?” “Where are you? I can’t see you through this thing.” “NOT the fake smile!”

One hundred pictures later, we usually have one winner. Then there was the time someone asked for a picture of me with my dogs. Try explaining to three dogs that they shouldn’t use their fake smiles. Oy veh!
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Diva Paints Krista Davis is the National Bestselling Author of the Domestic Diva Mystery series. Her first book, The Diva Runs Out of Thyme, was nominated for an Agatha award. Sophie and the gang are sleuthing again in the recently released The Diva Paints the Town. Sophie Winston could hardly turn down her deceased neighbor’s last request for a bequest party, but she had no idea that the crafty old man brought the guests together for a reason . . .

Visit Krista at her website http://divamysteries.com and her blog Mystery Lovers Kitchen.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

All Those Lovely Letters

Lowercase g Yesterday, my editor sent me a link to a wonderful video my publisher has made about fonts.

You know what fonts are.  The typeface you're looking at is a font.

I have a long love affair with fonts, even before I got my first Dover book of alphabets some 30+ years ago.  (I still have a LOT of Dover books.) Back then if you wanted a cool looking headline (for those of us who were doing publications with an electrostencil and mimeo machine) you had to either use Letraset (like the rub-on letters you get for scrapbooking in the craft stores), or what I did, copy the alphabets and cut and paste the letters for your cool type.  I used to do drop caps the same way.  This was before you could do it on the computer.  This was before I HAD a computer. (Pre-1980s.)

I don't do much work in publications anymore.  About all I do these days is a brochure every now and then for whatever book/series I want to push.  I have a Victoria Square brochure, but it needs to be updated.  (Who knew I'd get nominated for an Agatha!)  That's going to have to wait a couple of weeks.  I've got a synopsis to tweak (for Monday), and a book to write (due in June).  Those are my top priorities right now.

Still, this lovely little movie was fascinating.  Not just to hear what favorite fonts the book designers use, but that some of Penguin's authors are heavily invested in the fonts used for their books.  (Like Patricia Cornwell.)  Of course, I would LOVE to talk fonts with the book designers, but I did notice that the authors who get a say in the typeface of their books are also published in hardcover.  Haven't hit that peak yet.  (But, hopefully it's on the horizon.)

If you've got 10-15 minutes to spare and you love fonts like I do, you'll be glad you watched this little gem of a video.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Too much clutter

Box Why is it that when I need a BIG carton, there are none to be had.  And when I need a small one, there are only big cartons hanging around?
I'm in the middle of a project where I'm transferring a bunch of things from one carton to another.  Except I don't have the other carton.  The project is in three stages, and I have stuff scattered around my office, which is beginning to look like a warehouse.

Why is it we never seem to have the things we need when we need them?

Piles of paper I need a MUCH bigger office.  One like they have in all these decorating magazines I read.  They have BIG work tables, HUGE closets with EMPTY SPACE, and no piles of paper hanging around on the floor.  My office is a former bedroom, 12 x 16 with a BIG closet.  The closet has been full for the last 14 years.  I do a purge every couple of years, but no sooner do I empty something from it, than something else takes its place.

I guess I have too much stuff.   Too many boxes of books.  Too many books of bookmarks.  Too many old drafts of manuscripts I just can't seem to part with.

While I'm far from being a hoarder, I can't seem to be ruthless and just toss stuff out.  How about you?  Have you been able to take control of your life and clutter?

Monday, February 22, 2010

From Warp Speed to Full Stop in only seconds

Star_trek_2009-enterprise_warp1 I was going along at warp speed with my work in progress (Booktown #5) until my copy edit for Chapter & Hearse showed up.  Then work came to a screeching halt.  (And it will again this weekend, when I have to put it back on the shelf to get the synopsis written for Victoria Square #2.)

For the past two weeks, I've been tippy-toeing around the manuscript.  I'd add a sentence here, rearrange a paragraph there . . . but no real progress was made.  It was time to sit down and read what I had, and I feared that what I had was one HUGE mess.

The problem turned out to be that I didn't know what day of the week the story started on.  I had over 100 pages (about a third) of the book written, and I still wasn't sure where it began. 
Ferris wheel I first thought the story started on Saturday, but then that would mean Tricia needed to go to the bank on Sunday.  Can't have that--the bank isn't open on Sunday.  So I backed it up to Friday.  Still didn't work, because something else had to happen on Sunday, and Ginny doesn't work at Haven't Got a Clue on Sundays.  Is it logical to start the Founders Day Weekend on Thursday?  Well, it might be, if the Ferris wheel and puke-a-whirl have to be somewhere else by Saturday.

You see my problem?

Yesterday, I spent two hours tweaking the timeline, moving scenes around, and writing transitions.  When I started, I had only six chapters in place.  By rearranging scenes, and putting things in order (a lot of times I'll write random scenes as I think of them, and then put them together later, rather like a big jigsaw puzzle), I now have eleven chapters.  Whew!  that feels more orderly.

I guess that's what I hate most about starting a book.  There's no real sense of order. And when things finally start clicking in place, that's when the fun starts to happen.  Usually about 40,000 words.  Not quite there yet, but I won't be approaching the day's work with quite so much apprehension.

What makes it doubly frustrating, is I can only talk about it in general terms.  I wouldn't want to spoil it for my readers. 

REMINDER:  the contest to NAME THAT BOOKTOWN MYSTERY will close on Sunday.  So if you have any ideas on what you think the title should be, I'd be very glad to hear them.  To refresh your memory bout the contest, CLICK HERE.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A teapot in my future?

So there I was last Sunday night, sneaking away from the kitchen and dinner prep and the phone rang.  I figured it was yet another telemarketer because it said UNKNOWN NAME, UNKNOWN NUMBER on the Caller ID screen. 

Agatha teapot Instead, it was from the head of the Agatha Awards Committee.  Bookplate Special had been nominated for an Agatha Award for best novel.

Whoa! 

The first thing I did was burst into tears.  I wish I could say they were of joy, but I'd been having kind of a bummer of an evening, and to top it off, had been listening to the Chieftains' CD Santiago, and in particular Galician Overture, which is incredibly sad Santiago (hey, it's got bagpipes--nuff said).  So when she said Bookplate Special had been nominated ... I kinda lost it.

Of course, she asked that I not say a word about it until after all the nominees had been informed.  I did ask if I could tell my mother and my agent and editor, and she said yes.

A major award By the time I got off the phone, I had cheered up immensely. (Just about the time the Chieftains were hitting their stride with Getting Sail/Muineira de Frexido--which must be one of the most joyful tunes ever recorded.)  I yelled to my husband, "Bookplate Special--a major award!"  (I figured he was in the exempt column, too.)  And of course, you know what he thought.

It was a l-o-n-g four days until the announcement was made public last night.  In fact, I was beginning to wonder if A.) I had hallucinated the entire phone call or B.) Someone had been playing an elaborate joke on me.  But, no--my name (or Lorna's) really was on the list of nominees (Second, in fact!  We'll just pretend it's NOT in alphabetical order, eh?)

But whoa again--take a look at the nominees on that short list for Best Novel.  How could anyone NOT be thrilled to have their work among these names:

Swan for the Money, Donna Andrews, St. Martin’s Minotaur
Bookplate Special, Lorna Barrett, Berkley Prime Crime
Royal Flush, Rhys Bowen, Berkley Prime Crime
A Brutal Telling, Louise Penny, Minotaur Books
Air Time, Hank Phillippi Ryan, MIRA

Bookplate_Special.sm2 Bookmarked for Death was actually eligible for nomination, as well, but I'm really proud that Bookplate Special got it.  I love that little story (and LOVE the cover, too).  And while the competition is so stiff there isn't a chance in H-E Double Hockey Sticks it can win, it's going to be a fun ride until they announce the winner on May 1st.

My thanks to everyone who nominated my book.  It's a terrific honor!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

FRUSTRATED BY A FARRIER

By Guest blogger Doranna Durgin


Ooh, am I in the midst of a Pet Peeve that really pushes my buttons!  When people you count for animal care services leave you hanging!  (I guess that *really* makes it a pet peeve, get it, heh heh heh.)

Dee & Duncan I recently moved from Albuquerque through the pass and into the East Mountains.  I now live in Tijeras Canyon, which--weather-wise--is an entirely different animal.  Several times this winter the pass has been closed for snow, and our dirt road area has been snowed in a time or two.  Well, that's not my peeve.  This happens to be the worst winter in many years and it happens to be creating a severe learning curve on a new property that handles a horse and dogs, but it's not like I wasn't forewarned.

No!  My pet peeve is that many months ago, I asked my farrier if he worked in this area, or if I should start looking.  For those of you unfamiliar with the whole farrier/horsie interaction...no hoof, no horse.  A poor farrier can lame a horse, possibly for life--while a good one can keep a lame horse sound.  And then there's the whole matter of how they handle the horse.  Handle my Lipizzan with firm respect, and he'll stand untied for trimming while offering various poses to be admired.  Get in his face prematurely, and you might as well escort yourself off the property.  So when my farrier--who is one of the good ones in all those respects--said he worked that area, I was pleased and relieved, and I made our regular 5-week appointment to trim and balance Duncan's hooves.

But!  The other client in the area backed out and I got cancelled!  And then the snow started, so the make-up appointment was cancelled, and now it's "whenever I can fit him in" and we're going on overdue for trimming, three weeks out.  Aurgh!

Horse-hoof-2 Here's the other thing about horse hoof trimming--maintenance and prevention is everything.  Keep a horse trim and level, and you avoid problems.  Let it go, and suddenly there's a hoof crack, or you've broken out a chunk of hoof wall, and you're looking at 6 months of putting things back together, and maybe adding shoes to the mix (at which point the cost doubles, and if you have a horse who tends to overstep and pull shoes, it's a nightmare of a whole different sort).

So what am I doing today?  I have a list of farriers in the area, and phone numbers.  And I'm making calls.  My former farrier is indeed golden, but if he'd told me the truth--that my horse would be at risk due to the whim of other client schedules--I would have started looking for a new farrier months ago!

And what's bugging YOU today?
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The reckoners Doranna Durgin is the multi-published author of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance and Mystery novels.  Her latest, THE RECKONERS, is now available.  Publishers Weekly said:  "Readers will enjoy the humorous dialogue and ghost-busting lingo!"  Visit Doranna's web site.  She also regularly posts on her blog, WORDPLAY.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bland up my kitchen?

My leftovers don't go bad as fast as they used to.  Why?  Because my 16-year-old fridge likes to pretend it's a freezer, and we all know frozen food has a much longer shelf life.  But when you go to pour yourself a glass of milk and get only shards of ice . . . it's time for a new fridge.

We've been waiting for February because NY is offering a Energy Star rebate.  Replace an old appliance and get back cold hard cash.  Truly, this fridge is sucking up energy like crazy.  The gasket has come away from the door and there's a BIG gap.  The fridge runs overtime, and -- you have a big electricity bill and frozen milk. (And frozen leftover potatoes, salad, celery, onions, and on and on . . . .)

Autopsy fridge I watch SPICE UP MY KITCHEN on HGTV on a regular basis, and in all the renovations not ONE consumer has ever bought a fridge that wasn't stainless steel.  (They also buy stainlesss microwaves, dishwashers, and stoves, usually with at least 6 burners and a grill.  How much energy do THEY save?)  Ever seen the inside of an autopsy room?  Okay, maybe not in person, but on TV?  What do the meat lockers look like?  Stainless steel.

No, thanks.  Not in my kitchen.

Fridge Of course, the options for anything but stainless are pretty slim.  In fact, there were only four "bisque" (used to be called "almond") fridges on the sales floor.  (They also had one white and one black one, too.)  Since everything else in my kitchen is bisque (except the microwave, it's white.  They didn't have any bisque ones), that's what I went for.  Wow--fridges have gone up in price in the last 16 years.  But a bisque fridge costs at least $400 less than a stainless steel one, and as we're recycling the old fridge, we're going to get a total of $105 bucks back.  It's still a bite for someone who gets paid twice a year (April is a l-o-n-g way away), but it's time.  Still, for all the price, there aren't a lot of bells and whistles.  (No ice maker.)

The best thing is the door will whole gallon containers.  I don't have to buy my milk in a half gallon jug anymore.  (Yup, I drink a gallon of it a week!)  And this fridge is 4 square feet larger than our last one.  Plenty of room for all those half jars of of jam, pickles, mustard, and chutneys.

Buy local I was in and out of the appliance (I bought locally--yea me!) in less than an hour.  (It would have been shorter, but I had to wait while my mother bought an Energy Star washer and dryer.)  Now to wait for delivery.  It's going to be ten days.  Why?  Because just about everybody else in the area was waiting for the Energy Star rebate.

What was the last major appliance you bought?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Haunted by MSDS

Hollywood If you've ever read my bio, you know it says (and rather cheerfully):  "She's done it all, from drilling holes for NASA to typing scripts in Hollywood."

Yes, I did type scripts, but technically I was in West L.A., not Hollywood.  And I did drill and tap holes for NASA, but it was in a stinky, dirty, horrible little machine shop where the men leered at every one of the woman and spoke to us in sexist terms that today would be the basis of a lawsuit.  Everyone swore Swear words worse than sailors, using the F word as nouns, verbs, and adjectives (and often three or five times in each sentence).

For years, every time I'd get stressed out, I'd dream I was back in that hell hole with aluminum chips in my hair and cursing the day I ever entered the New York State Unemployment system that sent me to that grubby machine shop.  At the time, I was living with my parents and was dead broke, so I took that production job and stayed with it for 18 long months. 

I often worked on a Cincinnati milling machine where I'd have a full two minutes and forty-nine seconds between parts and could write.  I kept a little notebook in my green apron pocket and scribbled notes, snatches of dialog, and often entire scenes.  I wrote quite a few short stories and most of a novella during my tenure.  I quit that job to take one as a secretary at a large local college.  Eleven months later, I quit that to head for California and the movie studio. 

Drill press What's all this got to do with stress?

For years afterward, whenever I felt totally stressed out, I'd fall asleep and dream I was back in the dirty machine shop, tapping holes on a drill press.

As time went by, the dreams came less and less, and then stopped all together ...

Replaced by my LAST day job.  I worked for a former Fortune 500 company as a clerical worker for almost 26 years.  Now when I'm stressed, I end up in my last office, working on MSDS.  (Material Safety Data Sheets.)  Mind you, I didn't mind the actual work.  What I minded was one or two particularly nasty (two-faced) people who mentally abused the majority of us in one way or another. 

MSDS In my dreams, I've been working on MSDS a lot lately.  I'm mired in stacks of them (we're talking up to a foot high--which was actually what the shelf across from my desk often held).  Is this an 8-part MSDS or a 16-part MSDS?  Where's the specific gravity?  I'll page through the documents over and over again, searching for a certain piece of information that is never there.

Why was/am I stressed?  Because stuff keep happening that keeps me from writing.  The book is about a third finished and I'm falling behind.  I need a few stress-free days to catch up.

Oddly, during the most stressful part of my recent life (when my Dad was in the hospital/nursing home), I was able to write straight through it.  writing was my respite.  Even when my Dad was dying, he'd ask, "did you get your words today?"  Work was therapy.  Work got me through it.  Now . . . stupid stuff keeps interfering. 

Are you ever haunted by dreams of a past job?

Monday, February 15, 2010

No More Mail for YOU!

The other night I couldn't sleep, so I dragged my sorry butt into my office at 2:42 a.m. to check my e-mail.  I logged on to find a messages from AOL:

Inbox You have hit 1,000 messages in your in box.

Naughty, wicked, YOU!

We will now bounce EVERYTHING that comes into your in box.

(EVIL AOL.)

I quickly started deleting messages.  But the thing is--I've saved almost 900 of these messages for a pretty good reason.  Or, at least it seemed like it at the time.  Okay, so a couple of them go back to May 2009.  I keep stuff I think I might need.  Or that I might want to revisit.  Stuff like the many kind notes I received when my Dad died in October.  Fan letters.  Invoices.  Backed-up files.

But some of these notes can't be filed because they're still pending, like a note from my agent two weeks ago on something she's trying to negotiate with my publisher.  Or a web site a colleague has told me I really need to check out/join.  (I just haven't had time to do so.)

There are several lists I follow where I get the individual messages instead of the digest.  (Hi Guppies, Cozy Authors, Cozy Armchair pals and Cozy Chicks!)  I estimate that to go through all my messages and file them, I'd need 6-8 hours to do so.  As it is, I spend up to four hours a day going through my email and answering fan mail, taking care of bookmark/bookplate request, and commenting on other posts.

King of the world My god, it's waaaaay too easy to put myself in Leonardo DiCaprio's place as Jack at the nose of the Titanic and think:  I AM THE KING OF THE WORLD...and we all know what happened to HIM!

Something has GOT to go.  And I'm seriously thinking of going digest on at least one of my lists.  Of course, I rarely "play" on the lists where I get messages as digest., but something's gotta give.

Have you ever had the same problem?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I knew there were still Edgar Allan Poe stamps available!!!

I sent out a LOT of mail.  That means many trips to the Post Office, or at least it did.  I recently discovered the joy of ordering online.  I tried downloading software to print my own postage, but that didn't work and I just gave up and ordered stamps.  I ordered a LOT of stamps.  It annoyed me that they charged me a buck surcharge, but I figured it was actually worth it because I would've made more than a dollar's worth of trips to the P.O. for all the postage I bought. 

Forever stamp I don't like boring stamps.  I mean, the forever stamp has got to be one of THE most boring stamps every printed.  (Okay, I'm pretty sick of the generic flag ones, too.  Even the 50-coil 44-cent flags of the US only have 14 states and the US flag interspersed.  BORING.)

Goat stamp I like interesting stamps.  For a while there, I was buying tropical fish stamps, but lovely as they were, there were only 10 to a sheet, and it was kinda hard to find the fish among all the sea weed and stuff.  And it turns out that our little P.O. just doesn't have the variety that's out there.  Shopping online I found 17-cent goat stamps.  How cool is that.  (Okay, I have this thing about goats.  Hubby and I look for our goat of the day, on TV, in books, online, and especially when driving around in the car.)  What the heck.  I bought a page of them. [UPDATE:  Okay, it turns out that's not a goat, it's a sheep.  Can you tell I was not brought up on a farm?]

Poe stamp Last year, I bought a LOT of Edgar Allan Poe stamps.  I mean, how cool is that for a mystery author to put a stamp (and it's a very nice stamp, too) of the father of the modern mystery on every single letter.  I was very disappointed when our local Post Master told me there were no more Poe stamps to be had.  Gone.  Everywhere.  Ah, not so I discovered online.  They're there for the asking.  So I bought three sheets.  And I wondered if maybe I should have bought more.  Okay, they're 42 cents and I have to use a 2-cent stamp along with it, but still, I'm back to being cool when I mail out bookmarks.

Cat_Stamps But it seems to me that compared to other countries, we have some pretty boring stamps.  I love it at Christmastime when I get cards from my relatives overseas and can see the beautiful stamps their country has issued.  The non-religious X-mas stamps this year looked ... well, like a high school art project.

As a kid, I collected stamps and I was more aware of the wonderful stamps from other countries.  Canada has always had lovely stamps.  And they issue them on on a variety of wonderful subjects.  The Internet is a wonderful place to find all kinds of oddball stuff and I came across these wonderful cat stamps from Sweden.  Now, why can't we have cool stamps like that?  (Okay, I might be biased because I have black cats.)

Have you ever had a favorite stamp?  (Elvis counts!)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Name That Title!

It's time for a new contest: Name that new Booktown Mystery!

The truth is, like the name of Tricia's bookstore, I "Haven't Got a Clue" what to call the next book. So far I've been calling it Booktown #5. Not only does that sound boring, it's also no fun.

Shilhouette Here's the deal: Come up with the winning title, and I'll put your name in the next (maybe even this) Booktown Mystery. You can choose if you want to be a good guy or a bad guy.

What needs to be in the title? Something to do with books. Something to do with crime/murder. The deadline?  February 28.

Send me an email with TITLE CONTEST in the subject line, and email it to me contest @ LornaBarrett.com  (remember to close up those spaces or it won't work).

(I'll announce the winner on this blog as soon as my editor makes a determination.)

Good luck!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What's with the stinky magazine inserts?

By Guest Blogger Sandra Parshall vents on today's Pet Peeve Thursday

Vogue All I wanted to do was read a magazine article about the movie Nine. But the magazine was Vogue, and I could smell it from twenty feet away. If I ventured closer, my eyes would tear up and I would start sneezing. If I opened it, I ran the risk of asphyxiation by perfume.

Vogue probably has more perfume advertising inserts than any other magazine on the planet. You know what I mean – those glued-down flaps you’re supposed to pull open to experience the rapture of the scent. Trouble is, you can smell the perfume long before you open the flap, and when a magazine has half a dozen inserts in one issue, the rapture-inducing scents combine to form one unholy stench. I can almost see the fumes rising from the pages.

Perfume Why do advertisers think this is a good way to introduce potential customers to a particular perfume? It isn’t, but that’s their problem. Our problem – I speak for those of us who are sensitive to chemical odors – is how to make use of a magazine that sets off a massive allergic reaction. I once knew a woman who tore out all the inserts, threw them in the trash – outdoors – then left magazines lying open in the garage for a week to air out before she even tried to read them. I could do  that, but I don’t want to throw paper in the trash. It belongs in the paper recycling bin. The bin, however, is in the basement, and I know the whole house will reek of perfume if I ditch the inserts anywhere indoors. Paper is biodegradable, but ink isn’t, so I can’t bury the things in the garden (although the stench might get rid of the mole that’s been tunneling under my daylilies).

As you might guess, I pass up a lot of magazines because I can’t stand the way they smell. I know some people love those perfume inserts, though. I read in the “Hints from Heloise” column that they Skunk make dandy “fresheners” for linen closets and underwear drawers. From the amount of perfume that assaults my respiratory system every time I’m in a crowd, I have to assume the  majority of women douse themselves with fragrances. Men also contribute to air pollution, although to a lesser degree – do guys who overdo the cologne and aftershave think they smell sexy? – and male-oriented magazines probably have their share of stinky inserts.

I know from experience that women who wear perfume don’t like the suggestion that they refrain when they’re going to be in a closed, crowded space such as a theater. Perfume companies, I’m sure, wouldn’t appreciate the suggestion that they stop placing inserts in magazines. So I will continue to steer clear of magazines that reek, even if they contain something I want to read. I have come to expect a headache and runny nose every time I see a movie or stage performance or go anywhere a lot of people congregate.

These problems are just the tip of the fragrance iceberg, though. I haven’t even mentioned perfumed soap, shampoo, detergent, cat litter, furniture polish, glass cleaner....

And what's bugging YOU today?
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Broken places Sandra Parshall is the Agatha Award-winning author of the Rachel Goddard Mystery series. Her current book, BROKEN PLACES, is hot off the press.  For more information on Sandra and her books, please check out her website.  Sandra is also a regular at the Poe's Deadly Daughters blog.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In the bleak mid-winter . . .

Lonely_winter My blog posts would a lot more interesting and fun if I actually led an interesting and fun life.  It's hard to have much fun when you're squirreled away for a very L-O-N-G, D-A-R-K winter in Western New York.  There's a lot to do around here if you don't mind getting frostbite on some appendage (skiing, skating, sledding, etc.), but us writer types tend to hole up in our garrets and write.  So instead of actually living an interesting and fun life, I'm writing about somebody else's interesting and (possibly) fun life (and/or lives).

A little princess Of course, I don't actually have a garret--one of the problems of living in a one-story home, but when I get up in the morning, it's usually 59 degrees in my office (and takes approximately 6 hours for my little heater to pull it up to 70 at eye level--I have no hope of warm feet until July), and I pretend I'm Sarah Crewe as I pull my shawl (or in this case, a sweater or two) a little tighter around me and make believe it's summer in New Hampshire, where my characters are running around in short sleeves and admiring the geraniums.  (How's that for one helluva run-on sentence?)

The book was just starting to really MOVE, and then came to a screeching halt as I had to put it aside for the copy edit of the last book.  I hate copy edits.  I never get the same copy editor twice.  I don't like to make waves, so I accept a lot of the crap they toss at me.  This one wants a comma after "she said, and" -- the last one didn't.  But this one is also tossing in all kinds of exclamation points where they aren't needed and look how she changed one particular sentence:

The scream My version:  "I must admit, I had the same idea," Tricia said.

Her version:  "I must admit, I had the same Idea, Tricia admitted.

ARRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!

(There's a reason authors need high-blood pressure medication during copy edits.)

Okay, end of rant for today.  I'm off now ... to do something interesting and fun.  Like laundry.

What are you doing today?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Dish To Pass

Cup & Saucer I collect Syracuse China Americana dishware.  It all started when I visited a bed and breakfast in Stowe, Vermont.  They served their magnificent breakfasts on that dishware.  When I saw a piece at a yard sale, I decided then and there that I would like to use the same dishware at my family's summer cottage--a place I've come to call B&B Cottage.

Ah, but finding pieces of this restaurant (think diner) quality china has not been so easy.  In the past 10 or 12 years I've managed to find:

2 dinner plates
14 cake (or sandwich) plates
6 cups and saucers
4 soup cups
1 salad bowl
3 relish dishes
1 coffee mug
2 roll plates
and an assortment of odd-sized plates.

Syracuse plate I traveled to the Syracuse China outlet store on a number of occasions, but in all my searches I only found one piece (the salad bowl).  I was told it was no longer a popular pattern and had a limited run.  Since then, of course, the company has folded.  So now my only option is to buy used pieces. 

I bought most of my pieces at yard sales, antique stores, and thrift shops.  I have yet to really look online--mostly because restaurant china is so darned heavy the shipping charges would be out of this world.  (Okay, I did peek on Replacements Inc. (which sells odd pieces of china) and would be a
good source--if I wanted to pay astronomical prices.  That's not my goal.)

Syracuse mug I have other dishware (Stoneware--that chips like crazy), but because I so enjoyed my time at that Vermont inn, I long to eat off the same tableware at my own B&B Cottage.  I wonder how long it will take to find/accumulate all these place settings.
Is there something you collect that seems like an impossible dream to find?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dear Susan Branch

Mr. Big Cheese I'm not one to fall for celebrity.  Back in my 20s, I was secretary to a woman who was married to the biggest newscaster in town.  I worked for her for six months before I decided that "Cal-if-or-nia was the place I wanna be" and on my last day the big cheese asked me (after speaking to me every work day for those six months) if I was "the new secretary."

Then I worked for 20th Century Fox for almost six months.  During that time I got to see and meet a LOT of celebrities and downright TV and Movie Stars.  (Including Alan Alda, David Ogden Stiers, Harry Morgan, and even Sigourney Weaver.)  But after my brush with Mr. Newscaster, I was no longer impressed with celebrity.  Which made it a lot easier for me to leave that job and come back home to Western New York.

In my time as a published author, I've met quite a few big-name authors at mystery conferences.  Believe me, I haven't gone out of my way to meet them, either.  I'm always afraid that people whose work I've admired might end up being like Mr. (now fallen from grace) Newscaster (who doesn't even come up with a Google search).  (Take that, Mr. Arrogant Has-Been!)

So why have I been so tickled to make the virtual acquaintance of author Susan Branch on Twitter

Christmas Heart Home I've have LONG admired Susan's watercolor-illustrated cookbooks.  The first of her books I received was Christmas from the Heart of the Home (which is now out of print.  Oh, that STUPID publisher. How could it ever deprive the world of the best Christmas cookbook (with lots of extras) that (wo)man kind has ever known? ).

When I first saw that Susan was on Twitter, I was quick to follow her.  But how thrilled I was when I retweeted one of her posts and she thanked me for it.  Me.  Right here.  In backwoods old Western New York!

Since then, we have corresponded maybe six or seven times.  The other day, I commented on one of her Tweets and we went back and forth three times.  Wow!  How wonderful it is to "talk" with someone you've long admired and she was just as nice as I'd always imagined.  (And even more cool--that we'd recently both reread a favorite book.)

Susan Branch I have no illusions that Susan and I will ever be friends.  But I love to hear about what she's working on.  (Like when she posted about finishing her 2011 calendar.)  And I love just about everything she draws and writes.  It it just so cool to have had the opportunity to let her know how much I admire her work. 

Have you "met" anyone online (or in person) who you were really impressed with?