Wednesday, June 30, 2010

All I Want For Breakfast Is . . .

When I worked at the Big Yellow Box at their world headquarters many moons ago, they used to staff their own kitchens with their own workers who made homemade delights five days a week.  Oh, they had a TO-DIE-FOR walnut cake that was out of this world.  Their homemade soups were stupendous.  And they also made all their own muffins.

Mind you, when I'd leave the building on any given night, the air would smell heavenly -- just like a bran muffin.  It was actually the brewery across the river, but it smelled like breakfast to me.

Bran muffin And what did I love most at breakfast time?  Their marvelous bran muffins with raisins.  Several times a week I'd buy a bran muffin for my morning meal and hope that the guy in the with the gray eyes would be up at the cafeteria taking a coffee break so I could wave to him.  (Yeah, I ended up marrying the big lug.)

Fast forward way too many years.  The company went down the toilet, and long ago let go all their kitchen staff, and the company that took over the eats tossed out all the old favorite recipes.  The food wasn't as good, and the company ... well, let's just say the stock options I have are worth dog poop.

Bran flour But I remember those muffins.  And I recently bought a bag of bran flour in hopes of recreating them.

My first attempt was not satisfactory.  I think my oven runs a little hot.  But they also weren't sweet enough.  I got the recipe from a 1930s cookbook.  "Hmmm," says I, "I'll find a better recipe on the Internet."

NOT!

Every recipe I've found wants to use bran CEREAL, not bran flour.  Like the actual flour is something that became extinct back in the days of the dinosaur.

So, I guess I'll have to tweak that 1930s recipe (Angelica would be proud of me) until it tastes just right. 
In the meantime, has anybody got a bran muffin recipe that uses real bran flour (and without buttermilk or molasses)?  If so, will you share?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lemonaide from Lemons

As I mentioned last week, I went out of town for a wedding over the weekend, and I was nervous because I was under deadline ... yada yada yada.

35 Marina pix Well, it was a beautiful wedding.  The bride looked lovely; they were married overlooking a marina on Lake Erie and, although the skies were overcast, it didn't rain.  Whew!

I was worried I wouldn't have anyone to talk to -- but it turned out I did know someone, who was seated at our table.  Some years back, we had a "cat situation."  We'd adopted two adult males into a home that already had one adult male cat.  Trouble with a Capital T.  One of them attacked the other cats (George the tiny terrorist--you can read his story here) and after much soul searching (and not a few tears) decided we needed to find him another home.  We kept his brother, Fred (they were named after the Weasley twins from Harry Potter).

What's this got to do with the wedding?  We gave George to the maid of honor's mother.   George now runs her home and is absolutely adored.  We couldn't have asked for a happier solution.  So I got to hear all about George and his many adventures.

Also, I had a ringside seat overlooking the marina.  It just so happens, I have a story in the works (or, at least I'll get back to it some day) that involves a marina.  Hot dog!  I took pictures and made copious notes, and even had an entire scene show up in my head.  (Better write it down before I forget it.)

Wedding cakes The cake?  There wasn't one.  There were eight!!! -- plus four Italian cookie trays!!!  I went for what looked like traditional white wedding cake, but it wasn't -- it was amaretto, and boy was it de-lish.

There was a live band.  I haven't been to a wedding with a live band in AGES.  No, we didn't dance (grrrr) but the band was terrific and played all kinds great songs.
All in all, it was a wonderful wedding.  And then I went back to the hotel and watched HGTV for an hour and again in the morning.

(I hated to have to come home.)

Lemonaide All in all, the whole thing was fun.  And the book got off on time--er, a month late, but on time for the new deadline.  (Whew, glad it's gone so I can get working no the next one.)

So, have you made lemonaide from lemons lately?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Oohh! Look what came in the mail

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  I hope they don't get rid of Saturday mail delivery, because you never know what treasures will show up in your mailbox.

Donnas beans The other day, there was a little package in mine, and it came from a reader.  (Hi, Donna!)  Donna reads this blog and the troubles I've had with my bean crop.  In fact, an almost total bean failure (at least at the cottage--the third planting (with different seeds) seems to have taken at home).  So, Donna sent me some pole bean seeds from California.  Yee-ha!  How cool is that?

First of all, I think it's only the second present a reader has sent me.  (Ohhh, I LIKE getting prezzies!) And second, I'm sure hoping these seeds will grow in our cottage's bean patch.  Of course, planting at the end of June is a bit late, but hey, I'm more than willing to give these little guys a chance. (I also popped some in a container on my patio.)

Peapods The snow peas crop has been exceptionally good.  In fact, we can't seem to shut them off.  We've been eating sauteed mushrooms with pea pods for about two weeks now.  Hubby is getting sick of them, but I don't think I ever will.  In fact, I seem to enjoy beans (in any form) more every day. 

This past year or so, I've been experimenting more and more with beans--particularly dried beans.  Until about a month ago, I'D never had black bean soup.  Now I've made it twice (and enough for an army.  Luckily it freezes well), and can't get enough of it.  I bought a package of mixed beans and am looking for the right recipe to use them in.  (Okay, I haven't yet tried hard enough.  Gotta eat all that black bean soup, first.)

Llb's roses I can't express how much pleasure I get out of my garden.  Right now there are flowers everywhere, and the Brussels sprouts have taken off.  (We've got flowers on the tomatoes and peppers, too!)  What's great, is I can see all this botanical industry right from my office window--the one without the blinds.  : )

(That picture on the right is of a smidgen of my out-of-control rosebush.  This year it's putting on quite a show.)

So what do you see out of your favorite window?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Looks Like A Winner To Me!

JessParkrelativelyfamous Oh, look!  My friend Jessica Park has a new Young Adult book up on Kindle.  It's called RELATIVELY FAMOUS and it sounds terrific.  I like reading YA -- so this is on my list.  Maybe you'll want to give it a chance.

You can find here here in Kindle.

Here's what best-selling YA author Mary Kennedy had to say about it:
Dani McKinley is an intriguing character--a bright, engaging 14 year old with a wicked sense of humor and a strong moral compass. She's close to her mother, Leila, and devoted to her best-friend, Samantha, but something is missing in her life: a father. As the book unfolds, the author draws a dead-on portrait of Hollywood, creates a set of believable characters and offers enough twists and turns to keep readers turning the pages. We're rooting for Dani all the way. It's a delight to meet a teen character who is thoughtful, kind and has scruples. Both adults and teens will enjoy this novel and one hopes there is a sequel in the works.

Sounds like a winner to me!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I Still Have ARCs of Chapter & Hearse to Give Away . . .

Chapter.sm Whew!  I'll be glad when all the Advance Review copies of Chapter & Hearse have been given away -- then I can take a break from having contests for a while.

But -- there are still copies to be given away.

Here's the deal:  Have you written a review of any of the previous Booktown Mysteries?  Are they on an online site -- like Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com or a blog?  If so, let me know where and you might qualify for an Advance REVIEW copy of Chapter & Hearse.

You can write to me at:  contest@LornaBarrett.com

Friday, June 25, 2010

Save The Last Dance For Me?

Sunset bride and groom I'm going to a wedding tomorrow. 

I used to love weddings.  I mean REALLY LOVE them.  But these days ... not so much.

The wedding we're going to should be a blast ... for most of the people involved.  The parents of the bride are fun people.  Sadly, I will know about four people at the wedding, including my husband and mother-in-law.  (Yup, his side of the family.)  Mother of the bride will be so busy and happy, she'll have about 13 seconds to spend talking with wallflower me.  But it should be lovely (If the weather holds--it'll be outdoors on the water).

Wedding dance Hubby really doesn't like to dance, in public or in private.  Once in a while I can drag him up for a slow dance should "The Long And Winding Road" be playing somewhere, so my dancing days are essentially done.  These days it's confined to great news from my fellow writers (the Snoopy Happy Dance) or with the stereo turned up really loud on cold winter nights so I can get the circulation going and warm up.  And it seems to me that wedding DJs turn up the music sooooo LOUD that conversation is impossible.  (Maybe that's why I had a harpist at my own wedding.)

Wedding cake I'm sure the dinner will be fabulous, and the highlight of the evening for me will be the wedding cake.  Ahh...I love wedding cake.  At my own wedding, it was so hot (102) that most of the guests left just as the cake was being cut.  I took it home and cut it up and froze it in every large Tupperware container I owned and it took me a year to eat it.

The fact that this wedding comes when I'm on deadline makes me even more anxious.  I want to hand in my manuscript on Monday and hubby is my last reader.  He likes to stretch it out over a couple of days.  And as I've been on a writing retreat and out of town, I won't be able to print it out until later today.

Biting nails So while the bride and groom are dancing the night away, I'll be sitting there, wondering if I've filled all the holes, caught all the typos, and berating myself for missing my original deadline--especially when I have another book to turn in IN ONLY TWO MONTHS.

Yup.  I used to enjoy weddings a lot more.

How about you?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ugh -- pass me a towel

I love summer.  I love to be outdoors in the garden.  I love the sunshine, the warm breezes.  The hummingbirds.  I love seeing the windsocks dance in the wind.

But I don't like humidity.  At.  All.

Humidity Humidity ruins an other lovely summer day.  Even when it's only 72 degrees out, if the humidity is high, the day is ruined.  (Hey, I once visited San Antonio, Texas and it was 98 degrees out with 98% humidity.  I'm surprised the suicide rate there isn't off the charts.)

This morning it's a lovely summer day.  There's a little tinge of pink along the clouds on the horizon.  The blue sky is nearly the color of my agent's eyes.  (She has the most gorgeous blue eyes like I've never seen before.)  And what's ruining it?  80% humidity.  Okay, I do happen to be "on the water" this morning, and you expect the humidity to be higher than in "the city."  But does it have to ruin my lovely writing retreat?

Back home, there's central air conditioning.  That's another thing I hate about humidity.  It drives me into the house and into what feels like canned air.  The temp might only be 72, but it feels like -22 and I end up wearing sweaters and sweatpants to keep the chill off.  (Don't tell me to turn up the temp -- I share the house with someone who likes it that way.  And I'm not the only one with this complaint.  I mentioned it on Facebook last week and a lot of ladies are living with the same situation.)

So, go away humidity.  Now.  Not tomorrow.  NOW!

And what's bugging YOU today?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

SKUNKED!

I don't always sleep well, so I get a little irritated when "outside" events wake me in the middle of the night.  Annoying things like our neighbor's motion-sensor light.  Yup, RIGHT OUTSIDE OUR BEDROOM WINDOW.  Black-out shades?  Forgettaboutit.  This light is bright enough to search the heavens for incoming bombers . . . or a waddling skunk.

Skunk The light didn't go on last night, but the skunk did traipse through our yard--and apparently right under my open window.

Skunk.

Even the word is unpleasant.

Chanel5 Hubby likes to tell me that Chanel #5 is really just essence of skunk--watered (or rather alcohol-ed) down.  That most perfumes have behind them a really bad stink.  Okay, so how does one figure out that one drop of skunk stink in a hundred gallons of alcohol equals lovely perfume scent?

As I laid awake (for far to long) I kept telling myself ... the stink will go away soon.  The stink will go away soon.  Eventually, it did.

I sure hope Pepe Le Pew stays home tonight -- either that, or walks on the other side of our neighbors hour.  Yeah, by THEIR bedroom windows.  It's their turn to be awakened in the middle of the night.

Have you been skunked lately?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fried no more?

My home office has the distinction of being the farthest room in the house from the furnace.  That means I freeze in the winter and fry in the summer.

Sweater In winter, I have a heater.  Okay, it takes a couple of hours to get the place toasty warm, but isn't that why God invented sweaters?

In summer.  I fry.  Of course, we thought we'd solved that little problem by buying a custom-made blind.  When the sun comes streaming in around 3 p.m., the blind was SUPPOSED to go down, block all the light/heat, and I would be able to see my computer screen.

Fred Holding Court II That was the plan.  And then came Fred.  Chester (hubby's cat) had already chewed the cord on his shade.  Chewed it right off, in fact, so Hubby can no longer lower or raise his shade.  Luckily it was in the raised position, but his window faces North, so it's not a BIG problem. Mine faces West.  BIG PROBLEM.

Fred is a copy cat.  I knew what the term meant, but I never actually saw it in action until we got Fred.  Fred watches everything every other cat does, and if it's something bad, he will copy that behavior.  So, Fred saw Chester chewing Hubby's blind cord, came in my office and did the same thing.  Chewed it right off.

We kept saying, "We'll get new blinds," and even went to look at them at Home Depot.  To get cordless blinds costs an extra $100+ to add onto already NOT-cheap custom made blinds. (Because you KNOW our windows are not a standard size.)

Window4 While we wrestled with the "should we or shoudn't we" cough up that much dough TWICE -- the very down-to-earth sales person said, "Look, why don't you just go on the cheap and buy a room darkening pull down shade.  It'll save you about $150-$200 bucks.  It's ugly, but it works."

Hmm.  How much is beauty worth?  I'm the only one who ever uses this room, and I never entertain guests here.

Let's go for it!  And we did.  Only we did not reckon with decorative molding and a very shallow window casing.  Hubby to the rescue!  Using little blocks of wood, and a little Yankee ingenuity, he was determined to make the cheapie blind fit.

Ahhh...no more frying in the late afternoon.  (And did I mention that hot sunlight also keeps the office hot for HOURS after the sun goes down?)

I'm looking forward to sitting in the dark on blazing hot sunny days.

Ahhhhhhhh...comfort at last.

Except . . . that shallow casing seems to have defeated us.  We're still trying to jury rig something that will hold up the shade.  So . . . it looks like I fry a little while longer.

Or I go back and buy another custom made shade.

Fried egg *Sigh*

And the weather report is for lots of hot days to come.

I feel fried.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Strawberry Shortcake Forever!

You know it's really summer when all the festivals roll round.

I don't go to many summer festivals.  In fact, despite the fact there seems to be one on just about every weekend throughout the summer, I only go to one a year, and that's the Wolcott, NY Strawberry Festival, and I go despite the fact I absolutely despise strawberries.

Postponed Wolcott is a charming little village near Lake Ontario.  (Near being 5-6 miles.)  It's sorta near Sodus Bay and Port Bay (and Fair Haven) NY.  The festival is always the third Saturday in June (unless there's a monsoon, like last year, and it got canceled--that's last year's sign.  But as mentioned, it wasn't postponed, it was canceled.  Bah--Humbug)

Numchucks The local school band plays.  There's always a martial arts demonstration (this year one of the participants had a split in his pants, and every time he tumbled on the mats you could see his white underwear under this black martial arts outfit--and it wasn't the guy in this picture).  Usually these martial arts demonstrations are kid heavy.  But this year there were four adult (males) and four children (two boys, two girls) and an enthusiastic contingent rooting for them.  (Wisely parked under the trees, sucking up the shade.  Man, it was HOT AND HUMID.)  Some of those guys have been going after their black belts (in various degrees) for between 17-27 years.  Whoa!  And I thought waiting 11 years to get published was a L-O-N-G time.

We always seem to time our arrival (around noon) in time for this demonstration, and this year was no different.

Salt potato But that's not why we go.  We go for the food.  I always have the same thing:  salt potatoes and fried dough.   I posted about it on Facebook and was shocked to find out that a lot of my FB chums had no idea what salt potatoes OR fried dough was.  The festivals in their neck of the woods don't feature these delights.  Go figure! 
In case you're from another part of the country, I'll explain.  Salt potatoes are small, and round, and are boiled with lots of salt.  (Except these weren't.  I guess they're taking the Surgeon General's suggestion to limit salt intake seriously, because I, who am very sensitive to overly salted food, couldn't even taste ANY salt on these potatoes).  They're smothered in something that's supposed to be butter, but probably isn't, and they go well with clam bakes.  I like a LOT of pepper on my food, so I Fried dough not only took my own pepper to the festival, I took my own fork.  It can be difficult to cut these little guys, and I knew a metal fork would do a better job than a plastic one.

And for dessert, delicious (and utterly un-nutritious) fried dough.  It's just what the name suggests.  Fried bread dough, dipped in cinnamon sugar.  Ooh!  Yum!

On the other hand, hubby goes for the Strawberry Shortcake.  It's a long story as to why I loathe strawberries (but in a nutshell:  childhood illness, strawberry Jello, and prodigious amounts of vomit).  Even the smell of them gives me the heebie-jeebies. But there sure were lots of folks chowing down on dessert and enjoying every bite.

Shortcake The festival also features a raffle by the Historical Society (we visited their yard sale and I bought a Betty Crocker Pie and Pastry cookbook for a buck), some kind of bouncy (blown-up) thing kids enter (no shoes) and jump up and down in; wreck a car for a buck (yup--they give you a sledge hammer and you can bash away to your heart's content) crafters (heavy on jewelry and light on customers), baked food sale, and voter registration booth, with a demonstration on the new voting
Make it at home machines.  (I passed on that.)  You can also buy everything you need (okay, maybe not the whipped cream or THE WORKS--ice cream--for your own strawberry shortcakes at home.  (Ick.)

All in all, it took about an hour.

I can't wait until next year's festival.

Friday, June 18, 2010

In all its purple glory

CLEMATUS Last year we bought a clematis.  It wasn't our first one.  Or even our second.  Those were eaten by some rodent with fur and a twitchy nose.  So instead of shelling out the usual $5 -- we went for an ESTABLISHED plant and shot the wad at about $25.

Still, for the price, this little guy was kinda beaten up, thanks to a hail storm that had hit a few days before.  But we planted him and hoped for the best.  The best didn't happen in 2009.  Mr. Clematis existed.  Hubby was depressed.

This spring, we weren't sure Mr. Clematis had survived the winter.  It was slow to take off.  And then one day--WOW--it shouted, I WANT TO LIVE.  And see how it's blooming. (The arbor it grows on is at least 8 feet tall.)

Yup, I think he survived the winter.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Abused: those in the arts

"No is the saddest experience you'll ever know."
-- Harry Nilsson

If you are familiar with one of Three Dog Night's biggest hits, ONE, you know that line.

No is the saddest experience, and anyone in the arts (think actors, writers, dancers--anyone who has to audition, and writers do audition when they query an agent or editor) is far too familiar with that kind of rejection.

That's why I love to hear success stories.  And I've got a (very) little one.

C.truelove.wee When I was writing confession stories, hoping to beef up my professional credentials, I belonged to the local Romance Writers of America chapter.  My critique group decided  to try our hands selling to the "confession" market.  Turns out, I was the big winner (which caused hard feelings and jealousy among some of the other members, but we won't go there) with six sales in less than a year.  And then it just stopped.  My favorite story was rejected three times.  Someone must have liked it, they asked for three revisions; but that third time I decided the time expenditure was just too much and abandoned it.

Years later, I had a chapbook made out of that story and handed it out at my book talks.  People love getting a "parting gift" at the end of a talk.

I wish I could say that story had a happy ending, but it was actually another confession story that has found true success as a Kindle download.

Confession mags LOVE lurid titles, and my title was:  Daddy was a Bully, and Mama Paid with her Life!  I hated that title, and I'm not even sure if I even submitted that story for publication.  We're talking 15-16 years ago.  When I upgraded from (formerly) floppy disks to CD storage, I took that little story along, and I'm not even sure why.

Fast forward to April 2010:  I decided to try my hand at putting some of my old stuff up on Kindle.  I couldn't put up the confessions I'd sold--the publisher got all the rights to those (and one of them was a real beaut).  But I did have three unsold stories, one of which I give away free on my web site.  It was time for Daddy to find an audience.

Abused The most fun was choosing stock photography to go with the stories.  I'm particularly pleased with What I Did For Love, but it was the photo of the crying girl that actually gave me the new title for "Daddy."  Abused:  A Daughter's story. 

And it just so happens that this story has turned out to be my most successful Kindle download.  I don't know if it's the title or the picture, or just that people like to read about triumph over hardship (well, it sure has been successful for the books on Oprah's Bookclub). This little story seems to have touched people's hearts, and has been chugging along just fine.
 
Who knows if it'll last, but I'm kind of proud of that story.  Maybe you'll give it a read.  (On Kindle or on Smashwords.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In the spotlight

Not to beat a dead horse, but as you know, my third Jeff Resnick book, Cheated By Death, was released this month.  I wish the book had made a bit more of a splash, but at least it's selling which pleases me. 

Killer Characters logo Today, Jeff makes a guest appearance on the new Killer Characters blog.  (I hope you'll mosey on over there and take a look.)

Poor my poor Jeff books run a distant second when compared to the Booktown Mysteries.  (Distribution is everything, my dears.)  Still, I'm pleased I'm to have a chance to give him a much-needed boost in the ratings.

ColdCase.sm In an effort to do that, I'm offering the readers the chance to meet Jeff in a short story, Cold Case.  For details, you might want to check out my Facebook Fan (or like(?)) page here. (For a description of the story, check out the Kindle page.)

For those of you who are already familiar with Jeff, I'll be uploading a second short story to Kindle and Smashwords in early July.  It's called Bah Humbug.  (Just what you need--and little Chistmas in July.)  The story takes place the day AFTER the end of Cheated by Death.  Alas, poor Jeff.  (Or as my Dad used to say, he experiences "one damn thing after another.")

If you haven't already given Jeff a chance -- I hope you will soon.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

And the ideas keep on coming . . .

The thinker For the past week or so, I've been thinking a lot about Booktown #6.  I'm really looking forward to writing it.  So much so, that I've started it!  Yes, right there -- hand written, a chunk of the first chapter, just waiting to be input into the computer.  And notes to be made because this sucker wants to be written.

There's just one problem:  I haven't finished #5, and I have another book to be delivered by September 1st.  (Whew, glad that one's already in 2nd draft.) 

I've been setting up situations in Sentenced to Death (#5) so that they'll play out in Murder on the Half Shelf (#6) and the story has been simmering on the back burner.

And did I mention that Sentenced to Death is late?  (So far only five days -- and I do have until the end of the month to deliver it.  Thank you, Tom (my editor) for giving me that extra three weeks.)

Actually, I'm hoping to finish the book before the weekend.  But it needs some time to gel (I'm thinking of a full 24 hours), and I need to send it to my beta reader (thank you, Colleen!), and then let hubby go over it for typos. 

Since the synopsis for Murder on the Half Shelf is due in September, I'm really happy to have all these ideas wwwwaaaaayyyy up front.  But right now, I need to be concentrating on its predecessor.

Bright ideas So, why are all these bright ideas coming now when it's not convenient?

(I guess I don't care--I'm welcoming them!)

Monday, June 14, 2010

And The Winners Are ... and BECAUSE ....

MIB.sm For the past week or so, I've held a contest to see who the favorite Booktown secondary characters are.  When I wrote MURDER IS BINDING, I was sure that everyone was going to love Frannie May Armstrong the best.  Much to my surprise, most of the letters I received from readers mentioned Mr. Everett.

Actually, Mr. Everett was almost a total afterthought.  He was just there.  But as the story took shape, this quiet senior citizen just started inching his way into this writer's soul.

Victoria Noble said:  "Mr. Everett is my favorite secondary character.  I love what a gentleman he is, how important his job at Haven't Got a Clue is to him and that he blushed when it came time to kiss his bride." Stephanie backs her up:  "Mr. Everett is charming, loyal, and reminds me of the kind of grandfather I wish I had. When he found love and marriage in book three, I was happy for his character. I could easily imagine myself sitting down with Mr. Everett and discussing books with music playing softly in the background and a great meal prepared by Angelica before us."  And Mary Barker said, "I like Mr. Everett because he grows into an employee and friend."


It turns out, that Angelica runs neck-and-neck with Mr. E as favorite character.  Glenda Stice said, "I know Angelica drives her sister crazy but I think she's truly interested in her well being and a relationship with her. I think she'd always have her back. Even in families with bad blood, blood tends to be thicker than water. These two aren't bitter enemies but they do have their history. Plus I just love her personality and the way she thinks. LOL Sometimes I can relate."

I was really surprised when Julie Anderson Whitcomb chose Bob Kelly as her favorite secondary character.  "Angelica's beau, Bob Kelly, has great potential.  He seems willing to do "almost anything" to make his town successful, but, would he really do almost anything?  Tricia is starting to like him, for Angelica, but the tension he caused at the beginning was good.  I don't like it when everyone gets along (of course I don't like it when everyone is not getting along - ha ha).  But he's developed enough to go either way, so is he good or is he bad?  And he's close enough to the sisters that they could "just" trust him enough to overlook some actions, and get close enough to get themselves in some real danger...."

Anna Kurland loves Nikki Brimfield.  "I love to bake and would love to work in a bakery."  (Nikki has a tiny part in Chapter & Hearse, but she'll be back with more to do in Sentenced to Death (June 2011).)

Bonnie Schelts has a special reason for liking Lois Kerr, Stoneham's librarian:  "I guess being a librarian, I identify with her.  I really liked when she was consulted in I think it was Bookmarked for Death.  It reminded me of people coming in my library asking questions about people around town.  Librarians know a lot more than just books!"

Cori_BW.sm And Miss Marple has her fans, too.  Angeline Emery said, "She has the same name as a legendary mystery character, and spends her days lounging around a book store.  Now, that's the life! Miss Marple is constantly sneaking around and getting into something, but she always knows how to get back in Tricia's good graces.  A little swoosh of the tail... a little nudge of her head, and she's in the clear again.  She's a real cat's cat!"
=============================
And now for the winners of the contest:

For the HAVEN'T GOT A CLUE MUG:  Victoria Noble

Copies of the Advance Review Copy of CHAPTER & HEARSE go to:  Stephanie and Mary Barker.

PLUS:  15 runners up will receive Haven't Got a Clue/Miss Marple buttons.

Thanks for entering!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Win a Copy of COLD CASE

ColdCase.sm A lot of people have never read my three Jeff Resnick books:  Murder on the Mind, Dead in Red, and Cheated by Death.

I'd like to change that.  So, I'm going to give away five copies of my short story that features Jeff and his brother Richard Alpert:  COLD CASE.

To enter into the drawing, all you have to do is tell me WHY you'd like to give Jeff a try.

I'll pick five next Saturday (June 19th). 

Mail your entries to me at:  contest@lornabarrett.com

Hope you win!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Take that, you fat bunny!

Fat bunny For years, I've had a war going on with the bunnies of this Earth.

Bunnies - 1000
Lorna - 0

They've eaten my crops, growing fat and sassy, and nothing I tried would keep them from enjoying a delicious salad, mostly from my tiny tender green bean seedlings.
I tried fencing, I tried moth balls.  I was told to have all my male friends and relatives take a wiz around my garden perimeter.  (Uh, we didn't try that one.)  Nothing worked against stealthful bunnies.

Plantskydd And then my hubby found Plantskydd Repellent for Rabbits and Small Critters.  (Yes, that's honestly what it's called -- critters and all.)  According to their web site:
  • Plantskydd Deer Repellent works by emitting an odor that animals associate with predator activity, repelling the animal before it nibbles on plants. The odor is not unpleasant to the applicator.

Of course, this year we had a problem even BEFORE we could get out the Plantskydd -- and that's getting the beans to actually pop out of the earth.  Years ago, we used to buy our beans by the pound (and usually never more than 4 ounces at a time) from a little farm stand along Route 104 in NY.  But then they stopped selling it that way and we had to revert to seed packages.

Kentuckey blue This year we bought Ferry-Morse, mostly because that's the only thing that's available around here.  The package says GUARANTEED TO GROW.  And to that I say:  HA!  It has taken four packages of the suckers to before we saw much action.  (From the first package we got one bean; from the second we got nine.  Which is why we're onto packages three and four right now.)

Some years we haven't had enough rain--this year, whoa!  Turn off the sprinkler, God!  The package advises you to soak the beans (which we have always done) for quicker germination.  This year, I think between soaking and Noah's Ark type rain, the beans rotted in the ground.

But now the tiny plants have pushed their first leaves up through the soil, struggling for sunlight, warmth -- and a decided LACK OF BUNNIES!
Once they start climbing, we're out of the woods.  (Except for Japanese Beetles.  I have a running battle with them, too.)  Of course, then I'll have to start worrying about my Brussels Sprouts plants and Mr. Groundhog.  But I have a (hopefully) powerful weapon against him, too.  Mr. Havahart Trap.  (Okay, it wasn't entirely successful last year, but this year I will bait the trap and then call on Officer Animal Control.)

Yup, it's all out (non-violent) war against critters who'd invade my garden.

And how does your garden grow?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Running Out Of Room

By Guest Blogger Maggie Sefton

I’ve just returned from a publisher book tour in the Midwest for the 8th in my Berkley Prime Crime Knitting Mysteries, SKEIN OF THE CRIME.  That means a LOT of flying.  Each day, it’s another flight to another city.  Most people complain that they don’t like flying.  Some hate it.  Not me.  I still enjoy it.  Maybe I’m simply still crazy after all these years (to quote singer-songwriter Paul Simon).  However ... there is one aspect to flying that bugs me.

Overhead luggage Carry-on luggage.  Years ago, people carried on briefcases, over-sized purses, or big shopping bags stuffed with purchases.  They were manageable, and they fit into the overhead compartments.  Now  ... yikes!  People are boarding with these roller suitcases almost as big as the one I check at the ticket counter.  Most of them do NOT fit easily into the overhead compartments.  So ... all of us who are standing in the aisles, waiting to find our seats, have to continue to stand and wait and wait ... while Traveler pounds, pushes, and wedges his over-sized carry-on into the compartment -- if he’s lucky.  Often, Traveler has the bag taken from him/her by the amazingly patient flight attendant for separate check-in.  All resulting in more waiting and delays.

The problem has gotten worse since the airlines are now charging $25 bucks a bag for each leg of your trip.  More people are trying to avoid those charges by shoving stuff into their carry-ons.  I’ve noticed that passengers on Southwest Airlines don’t carry as many big bags onto the planes.  That’s because the airline doesn’t charge fees for the first two bags.  I’ve heard their bookings have increased because of that.  No surprise.

What’s your biggest peeve about flying?
==================================
Skein of the crimeMaggie Sefton is the author of SKEIN OF THE CRIME, the latest in her New York Times bestselling mystery series.  You can find out more at www.maggiesefton.com.  Not only does Maggie post on Tuesdays at the Cozy Chicks Blog, she also posts on KILLER CHARACTERS.  Her first post was Tuesday.  Go ahead---go read it here

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

It 'sploded, Lucy!

The other day I decided I'd like to have egg salad for lunch.  So I promptly put four eggs in a pan, set the burner on high, looked at the clock and said to myself, "Self, come back in 15 minutes."

Of course, I went back to my office (the other end of the house) and started working on emails.

About forty-five minutes later my husband said, "What's that noise?"

"What noise?"

"The cats must be up to something.  I go look."

Lorna goes back to work.

"ARRRRRGGGGGGGGG--the kitchen is full of smoke.  The eggs have exploded!  The pan is ruined!!!"

Uh . . . I guess I kinda forgot about my lunch.

Burned eggs And, thanks to hubby's scrubbing power, the (Farberware) pan was NOT ruined.  It's once again shiny and back in the cupboard ready for it's next adventure.

Next time I make hard-boiled eggs . . . I'll set the timer on my desk.  (Yes, I keep one there.  Otherwise I forget cats out on the enclosed porch on winter days.)

Um . . . that is, I'll set the timer . . . if I remember.

Have you had any cooking disasters lately?

(P.S.  Honestly compels me to tell you that the above picture was not taken by me.  My eggs were far more interesting because they'd exploded.  So there were shells and yolks all over the place.  Rats.  Why didn't I take a picture?)
 


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Look out, Annie Leibovitz -- Me and my Canon are on the loose

A_Crafty_Killing.sm Now that I have the cover for my first Victoria Square Mystery (and isn't it lovely) I can start work on the revamp of my web site.

My LorraineBartlett.com site was created two or three years before I even sold a book. So it needed to look pretty generic.  I didn't know if I'd sell my Jeff Resnick Mysteries, or a cozy mystery first -- so ... generic it was.  Jeff sold first, and under another name (L.L. Bartlett) so it seemed like a good idea to give that name its own site, although they were connected -- just to keep my Lorraine Bartlett options open.  (They have now been separated . . . which created some problems, too.)

Blimp Still, the Lorna Barrett name is the name I'm best known for, and I'm trying to figure out if the title page should SCREAM THAT!!!  (Or should I just hire the Goodyear Blimp to go around the country to let readers know that we are one and the same?)

In discussing what I wanted for the new site with my web designer, I asked if we could use a stock photo of a spilled candy jar.  My character has a very bad habit.  She eats hard candy.  That is, she unwraps a peppermint, pops it in her mouth and CRUNCH!  (Bad for the molars -- ask me.  Where do you think she picked up that bad habit?)  But for long complicated reasons we won't go into here, the stock photo wasn't going to cut it.  Hey, bright idea on my part:  let ME take the photo.  Heck, I've got this super-duper camera.  Why not give it a try?

So, with white butcher paper as a background, a 50 cent jar from a yard sale, and a bag of Starlight Mints, I took a bunch of shots from many angles and passed them on to my designer.  She'll choose whatever angle goes well with her design.

Annie It was fun playing Annie Leibovitz (although her subjects are alive and mine was just a jar of candy). Photography has long been a love of mine (although I'm strictly amateur--and I gave that "hobby" to Jeff, too), and it was great to have a bigger part in the design of my web site by using my lovely Canon Rebel.

I'm hoping to unveil the new site by the end of the month.  (And the LLBartlett site is getting a refresh as well.)  When they're ready, I'll let you know!

Candy small Oh, and here's one of the candy shots.