Critical praise for Christy!

For "Murder Hooks a Mermaid:"
"Author Christy Fifield creates the kind of characters that stay with you for a long time. Fifield’s new Haunted Souvenir Shop mystery, Murder Hooks a Mermaid has it all: a sunny, relaxed setting, captivating locals, delicious food, and—of course—murder! Delightful amateur sleuth Glory Martine is back with her wisecracking parrot and charming group of friends in this thoroughly entertaining adventure. Don’t miss it."—Julie Hyzy, National Bestselling author of the Manor House Mysteries and the White House Chef Mystery series
"A whodunit with a dose of the supernatural, "Murder Hooks a Mermaid" is a worthy successor to the series opener and showcases Fifield's talents for plotting, characterization and humor." - Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Quirky and unique, a heroine for whom you can't help but root. The story sucks you in." - The Maine Suspect
"With a lovable cast of characters, good conversations and a great setting, this well-written book is a terrific read." -- Dru's Book Musings

For "Murder Buys a T-Shirt:"
A refreshing new sleuth! - Lynne Maxwell, Mystery Scene Magazine
"A fun book that will make the dreariest of days a little brighter! Socrates' great Book Alert" - Socrates' Cozy Cafe
"An entertaining and clever Florida whodunit" - Harriet Klausner
"Hilarious! A great murder mystery with well-written characters" - Paranormal & Romantic Suspense Reviews
For the Georgiana Neverall Series:
"Christy Evans will find legions of fans with this new series" - Sheldon McArthur, Lincoln City News Guard
"Funny and entertaining -- a solid mystery filled with likable characters." - RT Book Reviews"
Cute cozy mystery debute -- wry humor -- adorable dogs" -Publisher's Weekly
"Will have you giggling out loud! Four Stars." - Kathy Fisher, The Romance Readers Connection"The Book is good! Keep them coming, Ms. Evans!" - Mystery Scene
"Evans delivers a fast-paced mystery with admirable finesse!" - Sharon Galligar Chance, FreshFiction.com
"Christy Evans has a hit on her hands" - Harriet Klausner, Bookreview.com
"Christy Evans is aces. I'll be very suprised if Sink Trap isn't an instant hit with cozy readers!" - CozyLibrary.com

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Only Thing Constant is Change

Maggie's post on storytelling really resonated with me. For several months, I've been thinking about the amazing changes happening in the publishing industry.

If you had asked me - even as little as a year ago - about electronic publishing, I would have been skeptical. Make that very skeptical. Sure, a few people were breaking out in e-pubs, but to my mind they were the exception, not the rule.

However, over the last few months, I have been looking closer at electronic publishing, and the wide variety of new publishing paradigms available to writers. I began to consider, very cautiously, the opportunities opening up for me.

Then, a couple weeks ago, I came to a startling conclusion:

All those manuscripts that didn't fit the structure of New York publishing?
They fit just find in e-pubs!

The book that was too short for a print publisher? 
An e-publisher would take it.

The subject matter that wasn't commercial enough for a large audience? 
E-publishers can serve those niche markets.

The genre that is currently out of favor with the big guys?
The little guys don't have the same restrictions.

Let me say, right here and now, that this is not meant as a condemnation of New York publishing. Quite the contrary. In New York (and other major publishing centers) there are financial and corporate constraints that shape their publishing programs. It's simply a fact of business life.

Although large publishers operate under restrictions that small presses and e-publishers don't have, they also have resources which aren't available to the smaller publishers. Established relationships with major booksellers, an experienced national sales force, savvy marketers, and an army of professional
editors, art directors, copyeditors, accountants - all the people that keep a business running.

All this is to say that there are good reason to publish, or not publish, with each company across the broad spectrum of publishing options. And I was starting to look at my options.

Then I read Maggie's post and started thinking about what she said. We are storytellers. We want people to read our books, to hear our stories, to share the thoughts and images in our heads.

What we want most of all is an audience.

So, when I realized there were places I could take those stories that didn't "fit" the big markets, I got excited. I could get my stories out into the world, give them an audience, share them with readers.


And I made the leap.

DORY COVE (written as Christina F. York), a sweet romance set on the Oregon coast, just published from Tsunami Ridge Publishing (http://www.tsunamiridge.com/). It's available at http://www.smashwords.com/, and should be available soon at http://www.amazon.com/ in Kindle format. Other books and short stories will follow soon, according to the fine folks at Tsunami Ridge.

Does this mean I've abandoned traditional publishing? Heavens, no! I'm actively working with my editor at Berkley on new projects, and I'm excited to see what we'll do next. I'm also working with my agent on some cool secret projects.

Will I stop writing mystery in favor of romance? Once again, no! I have written across several genres from the beginning, and romance is only one of them. I love writing mystery, and I don't think I could stop.

All it means is that I have a whole bunch more options and outlets than I did a year ago. And I am excited at the possibility of trying all of them!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

STORYTELLERS

Maggie Sefton is a fabulous writer, and a thorough professional.  Here she explores what makes us tick.  Thank you so much, Maggie!!


Christy and I actually met this last spring at Malice Domestic mystery conference. We first met online when we joined a cozy mystery writers group. Since we both needed a roommate to make the conference more affordable, we joined forces and shared a hotel room.


What fun! As mystery authors, we were both already storytellers. But as we started talking—immediately, I might add—we found all sorts of other connections. One of them was a lifelong love of STAR TREK. Yep. We’re both Trekkies. The original was the one that hooked us, but most of us Trekkies went on to be faithful fans of all Star Trek productions---The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and the others as well as the myriad movies.

We also discovered that we’ve each written many other types of novels and stories under other names. Some published, some not. When you’re a born storyteller, you simply HAVE to tell the stories that come to you, capture those fascinating characters that show up in your mind and translate them onto the page. Sometimes the novels sell, sometimes they don’t. Whatever happens. . .you keep telling your stories. And, telling other people about them.

I’m in the midst of touring this month with the newest release in my New York Times bestselling Knitting Mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime. The 8th in the series, SKEIN OF THE CRIME, came out June 1st. Personally, I love to travel around and meet readers and other book people. But then, I’m a “people” person and am certainly not shy. You can ask Christy. I love talking about my sleuth, corporate refugee Kelly Flynn, and her friends who gather at that great yarn shop in Colorado. That’s where they kick back and knit and juggle their fast-paced 30-something lives. Of course, a murder always intrudes, and CPA Kelly cannot resist poking her nose into the investigations.

If you’d like to learn more about Kelly and the gang and the other mysteries, you can check out my website at http://www.maggiesefton.com/. I also blog with six other cozy mystery authors on http://www.cozychicksblog.com/. And---Christy and I are letting our characters blog on KILLER CHARACTERS with a bunch of other mystery authors. Please check it out. http://www.killercharacters.com/.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Love Letter to Malice

Malice Domestic is a cozy mystery conference held in the Baltimore/DC area at the end of April each year.  From my perch overlooking the Pacific Ocean, it's on the other edge of the continent.  It's a long trip for a three-day event, but I tried it this year and it was worth every mile.

 I really tried to talk myself out of it.  It was too far.  The registration/hotel/airfare was expensive.  I couldn't get time off work.  All the usual arguments.  I bargained with myself.  I couldn't afford to go, but if SINK TRAP was nominated for Best First Novel (hey, a girl's gotta have her dreams!) I'd go anyway.  When that didn't happen, I told myself I'd won (or lost) the argument about going.  I was staying home.

The Internet, however, had other ideas.  First, Travelocity taunted me with a ridiculously fare for the cross-country flight.  Then my boss said he thought we could manage if I was gone a couple days.  And I got on a list with other cozy writers and asked about a roommate - within minutes the fabulous Maggie Sefton (who'll be guest blogging here in a couple days) popped up and said she was looking for someone to share.

What could I do?  I was outnumbered; Travelocity, my boss, AND Maggie were all aligned against me and my fading will power.  Add to that the incredible Malice organizers who managed to get me in the program book and give me a signing, even though I decided at the last minute.  I had to go!

Which is how I found myself on a flight leaving Portland at 11 pm on Wednesday, heading to Atlanta and connecting to Washington National.  I landed in Atlanta with just enough time to race from one gate to the other, lugging my laptop and my Kindle - my two travel must-haves.

Even after working all day and flying all night, I was excited to arrive in DC.  The Marriott had a shuttle, and my room was ready, even though I arrived about 10 in the morning!  By the time I met up with Maggie a bit after noon, I'd settled in and was ready to explore Georgetown.

After our walking tour, we met a bunch of other writers for dinner and to assemble the goodie bags we gave out over the weekend.  I can't believe how many wonderful people I met!  When I finally fell into bed well past midnight, I could hardly wait for the next day.

Friday was a blur of activity, leading up to the dinner hosted by my publisher, Berkley.  An incredible meal with my amazing editor, Michelle, and the other editors and writers.  It was especially wonderful to share a dinner table with my editor-sisters, Diana Orgain and Lila Dare.

Saturday was more of the same, interrupted by a lovely lunch with my editor, a book signing, and winding up with the awards banquet on Saturday night.  Parnell Hall was hysterical, Rhys Bowen was delightful, and Mary Higgins Clark was charming and gracious.

My biggest regret was that I had to leave before the finish of the Tea that closed the convention on Sunday afternoon.  Next time I'll know I need to take a later flight.

And I can guarantee you, there WILL be a next time!!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Kindle!!!

Last week Penguin and Amazon reached an agreement about eBook pricing for the Kindle.  Now why, you ask, is that important to me?  Well, I'll tell you.

During the negotiations, all of Penguin's new release were not available for Kindle.  Anything that was already available remained available, but nothing new was added.  This meant that LEAD PIPE CINCH, which released the first week of April, didn't have a Kindle edition.

So, when I heard about the settlement I breathed a sigh of relief.  But it took a few days for the books to get through the posting process and show up on Amazon.

Last night LEAD PIPE finally appeared in Kindle form, making this writer very happy!!  For those of you who were wanted a Kindle edition, you can now read Georgie's continuing adventures.

And follow Georgie on Twitter, where she will be reporting on her Road Trip to Reno.  Take a peek at the tweets in the sidebar, then follow #Rd2Reno and @sinktrap for the latest news from Georgie!

Monday, May 24, 2010

ROAD TRIP!!!

Georgie’s exams are past (or they will be when you get to read DRIP DEAD in February), and she’s ready to celebrate, so we’re taking her on a road trip to Reno!


There’s a trade show in June, which is her justification for the trip. But the Beetle isn’t a good choice for a road trip, and she can't drive the 'Vette. Her solution? Invite Sue along with her dog-friendly SUV.

But any trip with Georgie won’t be free of complications, and this is no exception. So get ready to follow her tweets from the road as she and Sue discover lost property, hidden agendas, shady characters, and maybe save the day for one of her new-found friends.

Just follow #Rd2Reno on Twitter, or Georgie’s new handle @sinktrap, for Georgie’s messages from the road to Reno. Feel free to join in the conversation, as Georgie and Sue try to track down the bad guys before their vacation time runs out!

And, as an added bonus, if you send me your address, Georgie will send you a postcard from Reno! Just email Christy@ChristyEvans.com with “Road to Reno” in your subject line, and include your name and complete mailing address. Around the middle of June, Georgie will send postcards from Reno to all her fans.

And who knows what other treats, tricks, and goodies will appear along the way!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Life Is Full of Mystery

Guest blogger Paty Jager finds a little bit of mystery in everyday life.  As an honest-to-god ranch wife in the modern West, she writes fascinating tales of the Old West, including a forthcoming paranormal series.

Wife, mother, grandmother, and the one who cleans pens and delivers the hay; award winning author Paty Jager has not only brought her husband of thirty years to maturity, but four children and over a hundred head of cattle and swine. She not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

Every day of our lives has a bit of mystery or intrigue in it. The gas light is blinking in your car. Will you make it to the gas station or have to call someone to either pick you up or bring you gas? You're on your way home from work. What's for dinner? Did you put meat out that morning or will it be something leftover from the night before? Or You've been called to the boss' office. Are you getting a raise or are you getting the boot?

For a writer each unique person we see becomes a puzzle or mystery. We wonder about their occupation, their background, their family life. We invent lives for them and eventually use them in a story.

It is these mysteries and our inquiring minds that bring forth books.
My first published book was inspired by thoughts of—what if an accident prone woman pretending to be a young man was made Marshal of a small town? While the story is a historical western romance there is mystery woven throughout the book. Is the Mayor really what he seems; is the hero a hero or an outlaw? What happened in the hero's past? Will the heroine keep her identity a secret when it matters most?
The first contemporary western I wrote started after I heard on the radio about a youngster who ordered items over the internet with their parent's credit cards and the parents didn’t know until the items arrived at their home. A mystery. My book started with a nanny showing up to start a job and the ranch owner not having a clue why she was there because his preteen daughter and a neighbor ordered the nanny over the internet. Mystery- Does he let her stay or send her packing? Why did she pick a remote ranch to be a nanny? Why does he not want anything to do with a woman? Why does he need a nanny? All these mysteries are solved in the book.
I enjoy reading mysteries and I enjoy incorporating mystery into the stories I write. What was a book you read that wasn't categorized as a mystery but it had elements of mystery within the pages?


Paty has four historical western romance novels available through The Wild Rose Press and one contemporary western, which won the 2008 Best Contemporary Romance EPPIE. In June her fifth historical western, Doctor in Petticoats, will be released and her first book of a historical paranormal trilogy, Spirit of the Mountain, will be released in August. To learn more about Paty, her books, and to enter her website contest go to http://www.patyjager.net/ or visit her blog at http://www.patyjager.blogspot.com/



Christy, thank you for having me here today. I enjoy Georgiana Neverall and the interesting characters that keep her company.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Back From The Dead

… or at least that’s how it feels! The last month has been a whirlwind in both good and bad ways, and I am just beginning to feel like I can draw breath again.
     First, I found out that SINK TRAP is being released in Large Print format, and it has a new cover.

Is that just a fine cover? I love it - expecially the wrench, which looks exactly like the cool gift-wrench, courtesy of the incredible Cindie Geddes, that now hangs on my office wall!


Then there was the release of LEAD PIPE CINCH, which was wonderful. I got to sign at North by Northwest again – always fun – and then two weeks later at Murder by the Book in Portland.

MBTB is a great store, and I want to talk about them at length, but this post is just a catch-up with a tease or three of things to come.

Unfortunately, just before the signing at MBTB, I contracted an infection that slammed me into bed for three days with a fever of 103 and some exceedingly strange and vivid dreams. Massive doses of antibiotics got things under control, and I was at least able to make the signing. But the whole business left me very tired and weak. It has taken a month just for me to get back on my feet. Especially when I threw in a cross-country trip in the middle!

At the end of April I flew to Arlington, VA, for Malice Domestic, an awesome collection of readers and writers focused on cozy mysteries. I met other authors, readers, fans of Georgie (!), editors, and the amazing organizers of the conference. Which is another story I’d like to tell.

And throughout all the turmoil I’ve been working on three secret projects that I hope to be able to talk about soon. (See, I told you there was a tease!) All three are still in the “maybe” category, and I don’t want to jinx anything, so all I can say is that there is the potential for good news in the coming weeks.

Let’s all keep our fingers crossed! And if you haven’t read LEAD PIPE CINCH yet, go find a copy – readers are telling me they liked it even better than SINK TRAP!

Friday, April 9, 2010

LEAD PIPE CINCH sneak peek!

Haven't got your copy of LEAD PIPE CINCH yet?  It's out there, and I've been hearing from readers who love it!  But just in case you need some tempting, here's the first chapter of Georgie's latest adventure:


LEAD PIPE CINCH
Chapter 1

“Let’s get a move on, Neverall,” Sean Jacobs, the crew foreman, said as he gestured toward the muddy bottom of the trench. “The inspector’s due in an hour.”


Mud sucked at my boots as I slipped down the steep side of the troublesome McComb moat project, a shovel banging clumsily against my leg.

With permit hearings, never-ending inspections, and construction snafus, this job was fast becoming a plumber’s nightmare.

The drainpipe we buried last week had to be uncovered this week. As the apprentice, I got all the bottom-of-the-barrel jobs. Or in this case, bottom of the moat.

We were supposed to be done before the rain started, but this year summer limited itself to a few weeks of clear skies and temperatures in the high nineties. Now it was only October, and the Great North-wet was already living up to its nickname.

I bit back a curse as the mud squished beneath my weathered steel-toed boots. No swearing on the job. It was one of the rules my boss, Barry Hickey, insisted upon. Barry had a lot of rules.

I reached the muck at the bottom of the six-foot-deep trench and checked the marker stakes. Buried beneath fourteen inches of dirt—now mud—was the pipe in question. It had to be uncovered and inspected—again—before the concrete lining could be poured.

This close to the recently erected bridge piers, the power equipment was useless. With the piers in place there was no room for a power shovel to maneuver. All this job required was a strong back and a lot of stubborn.

Sean and I had reached a truce of sorts. Although he still didn’t believe a girl belonged on any kind of construction crew, after working together all summer I felt as though I was slowly earning his respect.

It was a familiar scenario. Several years in the boy’s club of Silicon Valley high tech had taught me how to adapt. When I left behind the Union Square wardrobe and the hundred-hour workweeks, I had come away with some hard-earned lessons.

Not to mention a flattened bank account, a bruised ego, and a broken heart—all courtesy of some of the slimier boys in the club.

By comparison, the thick mud at the bottom of the moat felt clean.

I shifted another shovelful of ooze, depositing it behind me. Water, dark with the rich soil, ran back down into the hole I’d created, obscuring the bottom.

I moved along the width of the moat, carefully uncovering a narrow trench. We would have to pump it dry for the inspector, but at least the rain had stopped. With luck, we could get the approval we needed and re-bury the pipe before the skies opened up again. The concrete, fortunately, would be someone else’s problem.

Building a moat sounds simple. It’s nothing more than a ditch, dug in a circle instead of a straight line. It was the stuff that went inside that circle that was the problem.

Power lines, cables, water lines, drainpipes—all the modern conveniences had to be fed to the McComb’s castle—and had to run under the moat. It was one of the requirements of the permit. A local ordinance said underground utilities. That meant at least a foot of dirt over every pipe and cable, and we were sticking to the letter of the agreement.

It was a complex puzzle, feeding the latest technology to a state-of-the-art castle at the farthest reach of the grid. Three years ago, I would have been on the design team. As owner of Samurai Security, it was precisely the type of challenge I had looked for.

Instead I was up to my ankles in mud, dressed in stained coveralls and work boots. I was shoveling the muck, my hands protected by heavy leather gloves. I wore no jewelry, except a battered plastic wristwatch.

I was happier than I’d been in years.

Above me I heard a vehicle crunch to a stop on the gravel apron next to the bridge supports. I glanced at my watch with a sinking feeling. The inspector was half an hour early, and we were nowhere near ready.

“Hello, Mr. McComb,” I heard Sean say, and I breathed a silent sigh of relief.

Chad McComb, the eccentric millionaire who wanted a castle and was willing to pay for it, was a welcome visitor at the job site. A retired Microsoft engineer who’d been hired so early in Microsoft’s history that his employee number was rumored to be only two digits long, McComb treated the contractors and their crews well.

“Chad please, Sean.” I could hear the smile in McComb’s voice. “How’s the work going?”

Sean sighed. “Another blasted inspection. We’re getting ready to pump out the rainwater. Inspector should be here in a few minutes.”

“Won’t keep you, then. Let me know if you need anything.”

“Thanks, Mr.—Chad. I’ll do that.”

Footsteps rattled the boards over my head as McComb and a second person crossed the temporary bridge to the building site.

“Watch your step there, Blake,” McComb said.

My heart did a little flip at the mention of his name, and I shook my head, disgusted with myself. There must be thousands of Blakes in the world, and Blake Weston was ancient history. So why, after three years, did I still react to the mention of his name? Just because I was thinking of the boy’s club didn’t mean a member of it was going to magically appear, like some evil sorcerer conjured out of my thoughts.

But before I could lift another shovelful of mud, I heard a voice that took my breath away as though I had been punched in the solar plexus.

Blake Weston’s smooth voice, a rich baritone that used to give me goose bumps, answered McComb. “Certainly.”

My veins were suddenly full of ice water. How could I be so sure, with only a single word? Maybe I just thought it sounded like my Blake. It had been three years, after all—just a coincidence.

Blake and McComb were looking at the building site in front of them, not at the muddy moat below, when I stepped away from the supports to look up.

I just had to look.

And I wished I hadn’t.

The profile, the slick dark hair, the confident bearing, were all instantly familiar. It wasn’t the power of suggestion, or a sound-alike, or some evil magic. It was Blake Weston.

I ducked back under the temporary bridge, forcing my attention back to the job at hand. With luck, I could stay in the moat, hidden from sight, until Blake and McComb left.

I strained to listen to their conversation, but they had moved away from the bridge.

“Ready for the pump?” Sean called down.

I froze, waiting for him to call me “Neverall,” and reveal my presence to the last person on earth I wanted to see. But for once he didn’t.

“Yep,” I called back, pitching my voice low, and hoping it wouldn’t carry.

On the other hand, would Blake even recognize my voice? If he didn’t, I wasn’t sure whether I would be relieved or insulted. But the two men gave no indication they had heard our exchange.

A few minutes later, their footsteps muffled by the rhythmic thumping of the pump, Blake and McComb passed back across the temporary bridge and walked through the gravel.

Unable to resist, I clambered a few feet up the side of the moat, peeking over the rim of the trench. I had to confirm what I already knew.

One glance was all it took.

The first thing I saw from that vantage point was a pair of hand-stitched Italian loafers, now speckled with mud from their owner’s trek through the construction site.

How appropriate. Blake Weston would never wear sneakers or work boots, even on a muddy construction site.

I hoped it was the last I would see of those despised loafers.

No such luck.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Local Love for SINK TRAP!

This week I had my first experience with a book club. I've never belonged to a book club, never attended a meeting. To tell the truth, I was a little intimidated by the whole idea of a book club - especially one that had read my book!

Let me give you a little background: I got a call a few months back from a local lady named Marcy Taylor. Marcy, I have found, is a huge fan of books and writers, and something of a force of nautre. She told me she likes to support local writers, and buys books by every local writer, even if it isn't something she will read.

Marcy has a system for what she reads. "If you're under 50," she explained, "you have to give a book 50 pages. Over 50, you subtract your age from 100, and that's how many pages you have to give it. I'm 85," she said with a little chuckle, "so I only have to give a book 15 pages."

Apparently, she gave SINK TRAP 15 pages and then more, until she had finished the book. She liked it well enough to give several copies as gifts, and to suggest it to her book club as a monthly pick.

Then she invited me to join them for their monthly meeting.

I have to tell you, it was a strange feeling to walk into a group of strangers, and have every one of them carrying a copy of my book!

Some of the women I recognized. After all, in a town of 7,000 you see everybody at the grocery store or the coffee shop, or somewhere. But none of them were people I would say I knew, yet they all knew me, through my words and my characters and my stories.

Colleen, the esteemed first reader, went long as wingwoman (hey, if a guy has a wingman, can't a gal have a wingwoman?) and support system - for which I will be eternally grateful. (I really own you lunch for this one, C!) It made facing that room of strangers easier with a friend there to help me out.

Not that they weren't friendly. They were. They came armed with questions about how the books got written, how they got sold, why did I write mystery, what was my writing schedule like -- and they listened to the answers, laughed at my lame jokes, and generally made me feel like a real celebrity.

But that wasn't all. There was a SINK TRAP theme for the entire event, and our hostesses - Marcy, Pattee and Patty (I think, there were a lot of new people to sort out) - went above and beyond in the creative department. Everything, including our lunch, was an inside joke for fans of Georgie and her friends.

The morning started with cookies and coffee, but not just cookies - broach cookies! Cut in fanciful shapes, some with "windows" of melted hard candy, the cookies were decorated wtih miniature jelly beans to resemble tiny jewels. There were name tags, carefully printed with a little piece of art from the book cover (mine had the picture of Buddha - has to Buddha, Daisy wouldn't sit still long enough for a picture), and a font made up of pieces of pipe.

We settled down a bit after ten, and the morning flew by as a lively discussion ranged over many topics, mostly related to books and reading and writing. Then lunch arrived, in the form of the "unpaid help."

The "unpaid help" is actually Patty T., Marcy's daughter-in-law, and a very creative hostess! She showed up in a flannel shirt and overalls, wearing a tool belt and hard hat - perfect for a lady plumber!


But that wasn't all. Lunch came in tidy Tupperware-like boxes, which had been neatly stacked in the refrigerator, though they swear Sandra hadn't been anywhere near the kitchen. Inside each box was a lovely combination of chips, fruit, vegetables, sandwiches - including egg salad! - and cookies. The napkin had been carefully rolled and slipped inside a napkin ring made of a short piece of PVC pipe.

The best part, though, was the toolbox.

Patty, hostess extrodinaire, had cast chocolate toolboxes for each of us, and filled them with tiny chocolate tools. I cannot begin to tell you how touched I was by the thought and effort that went into that toolbox. It was just incredible!

We talked through lunch, and an hour past the normal end of the meeting - and I think some of us could have gone on all day. Eventually, though, I did have to leave. My boss had generously allowed me to take a half-day off on a Monday morning (very generously), and I had to leave the glamour and accolades of my fans and head back to the office.

I left with a bag of lovely gifts, courtesy of the delightful hostesses. When I got home I discovered a small package in the bottom of the bag. Someone (I suspect Patty T.) had made wrapping paper by creating a photocopy collage of the SINK TRAP cover. Inside was a group of blank notecards - perfect for thank-you notes. The front of the cards had been carefully printed with a reproduction of the SINK TRAP cover, in full color. And if you look very carefully, that pencil is imprinted "SINK TRAP BY CHRISTY EVANS."  I'm telling you, these women were amazing!

I have no idea if this is what a book club gathering is like for other writers, but for me this was an entirely postive, incredibly enjoyable day. My hostesses and all the members of the group were delightful, charming and oh, so warm and welcoming. I really didn't feel like a stranger for long.

And, bless their hearts, they all said they would read the next book.

A writer can't ask for better than that!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Winning Proposal!

Jenn Mc Kinlay is today's guest blogger.  Jenn's new series, The Cupcake Bakery Mysteries, just launched with SPRINKLE WITH MURDER, and she graciously shares the query that landed her a three-book deal with Berkley Prime Crime.  In its starred review, Publishers Weekly says, "Readers will look forward to more of McKinlay’s tasty concoctions. "

I don't know about the rest of you, but after reading this proposal, I have to read this book!!

Thanks, Chris for inviting me to blog! I'm normally found blogging Wednesdays on Mystery Lover's Kitchen http://www.mysteryloverskitchen.com/, but it's always nice to branch out to another location!

When I was trying to get published, I listened to what everyone said.

They all said, "Write what you want to read and you'll get published".

Well, I did and I didn't.

Then everyone said. "Write what you know and you'll get published."

Well I did and I didn't..

Honestly, I was beginning to believe that there was some secret handshake and if I just knew where to work n the high five and the back hand slap, I'd get in the published club. Yeah, well, there isn't. (Believe me, I checked).

What there is, however, is luck, timing and presentation. For once in my day late, dollar short life, I think I got lucky and my timing was spot on, but it really helped that I presented well. After not selling a bazillion
ideas, I wrote a simple proposal with no chapters, sent it in, expecting nada, and sold it in a three book deal in five days.

I can't help you with luck and timing, but I can share with you the proposal that launched my cupcake bakery mystery series, which debuted on March 2 with the first title: SPRINKLE WITH MURDER.


SPRINKLE WITH MURDER: A Fairy Tale Cupcake Mystery

by Jenn McKinlay

Melanie Cooper: 34, born and raised in Scottsdale , AZ.  Chubby as a kid because of her sweet tooth, Mel attends college in Los Angeles , loses all the weight, gets a degree in marketing, gives up sweets and is miserable.

Finding solace from her unhappiness in a nearby bakery makes her realize she wants to pursue her interest in cooking.  She moves back to Arizona , finishes studying at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute and goes to study in Paris for one year where she learns how to have her cake and keep the weight off.

When she moves back to AZ, she decides to open up her own business, Fairy Tale Cupcakes, with seed money from her two childhood friends, Angela DeLaura and Tate Harper.  The shop specializes in catering weddings and parties, but it also has several flavors of the day for drop ins, and Mel teaches cupcake baking and decorating classes.

Unfortunately a rival bakery owner, Olivia Puckett, would like nothing better than to see Mel fail.
Mel lives in a studio apartment situated above her cupcake shop in Old Town Scottsdale, a big tourist venue with a small town flair.  She loves her view of the town green and her proximity to the art museums, but she is less thrilled that her mother has a key to her place and likes to use it.

Joyce Cooper has never given up hope that Melanie will marry her childhood sweetheart, Tate Harper, even though Melanie keeps telling her that they’re just friends.

Angela DeLaura: 33, Mel’s best friend since the 6th grade, when Angie moved to Scottsdale from Queens , NY .  Angie is the youngest of eight children, all seven older siblings are brothers who would prefer she lived in a convent and have ruined every relationship she’s ever had with their overprotective ways. 

Angie leaves teaching at the school where her oldest brother is principal to go and work at Fairy Tale Cupcakes with Melanie.  None of the brothers are happy about this decision and frequently show up at the shop to check on her. Several of the brothers are married with children and their wives think Angie is doing the right thing and her nieces and nephews love the cupcake store. 

Angie is determined to gain her independence. Mostly, because she’s been in love with Tate Harper since they were kids and she knows this is her last chance to get him to notice her.  No one knows about Angie’s feelings for Tate and it comes as a shock to Mel when she figures it out, especially since Tate is about to marry someone else.

Tate Harper, 35, a childhood friend of Mel and Angie’s. He’s always been their protector and confidant.  A complete nerd in school, Tate befriended Mel and Angie because of their shared love of sweets and old movies and the three of them spent much of their teen years gorging on junk food and watching classic movies in Tate’s childhood home, which was a mansion. Even now, they quote classic movie lines to one another and get together for popcorn and movies.

An economics major, Tate has a true gift for numbers and makes oodles of money for his father’s investment company, but he has no sense of people and is frequently taken in by con artists and scammers.  Aside from being very wealthy, he’s also become very handsome. Women have been chasing him for years, but he has always been oblivious. That is, until Christie Stevens comes along. In a few short weeks, she steamrolls him into an engagement.

Since Mel is just starting up her business, Tate thinks his wedding would make a fine showcase for her shop and asks her to make a three hundred cupcake tier for the wedding. Mel doesn’t like Christie but Tate is her friend and investor, so she agrees. Angie balks, but Mel thinks she’s just sore because Tate is getting married first.

Other Characters:

Olivia Puckett: Owner of a rival bakery, Confections, is very unhappy with Mel’s arrival and would like nothing better than to se her fail and slink out of town. Olivia is not above a little sabotage to make it happen. In fact, she frequently does drive-bys in her delivery truck to see how Mel’s business is doing.

Joyce Cooper: Mel’s mother. A widow of ten years , who refuses to date, she really wants to see Mel settled down with a husband and children, preferably with Tate and she tries to throw them together at any opportunity.

The DeLaura Brothers: All seven of Angie’s interfering brothers, including Joe (whom Mel has had a crush on since they were kids), like to keep an eye on their baby sister and frequently arrive at the shop unannounced, unhappy with their sister’s life choices, and not afraid to say so.

Joe DeLaura: A lawyer, working for the district attorney, Joe is handsome, smart, funny and politically ambitious. He has his eye on the mayor’s seat and is working very hard to get himself in the running. Although, he’s always been fond of his kid sister’s friend, Mel, he never really noticed her until she feeds him one of her cupcakes. Now he finds he can’t stop popping into Fairy Tale Cupcakes, even when Mel is suspected of murder and it is political suicide to be anywhere near her.

Christie Stevens: Tate’s fiancé. Christie is the spoiled daughter of a dog food magnate. She is big, blonde and brash and has a pathological need to be noticed. Currently, she has her own clothing design business but rumor has it she’s about to be sued for stealing other people’s designs and calling them her own. She is not well-liked in the community, but her father’s money has bought her a lot of friends.

Old Town Scottsdale : A hive of old western kitsch stores, exclusive art galleries, exotic eateries and more, Old Town is the place to see and be seen. Events like the Parada Del Sol, the only exclusive horse drawn parade in the country, keep the town’s cowboy roots alive and well. The park, in the heart of Old Town , hosts concerts, art shows and cooking events. There is always something happening in Old Town , and yet, most of the residents of this small urban community have lived here all their lives. It retains its small town feel. Everyone knows everyone else and no one minds their own business. Having grown up here, and lived temporarily in Los Angeles and Paris , Melanie can’t imagine any other place she’d rather be.


BOOK 1: SPRINKLE WITH MURDER

Melanie Cooper is happily back in Scottsdale in her brand new business venture Fairy Tale Cupcakes. Business is good, but if she’s going to show a return on her investor’s money, she needs to bring in the bucks. Her investors are her two best friends Tate Harper and Angie DeLaura and while she knows they’ll happily wait for their profits, she feels an obligation to them to succeed as swiftly as possible.

When Tate asks her to make a tier of 300 cupcakes for his wedding, she can’t refuse, even though she is not overly fond of his bride to be, fashion designer Christie Stevens. Because it is an excellent showcase for the business and because he’s her chief investor, she agrees.

Christie is in full bridezilla mode when they meet up to discuss the flavors of the wedding cupcakes. She wants signature cupcakes in her wedding colors in flavors that have never been created before and she wants Mel to sign a contract stating that she will never replicate the cupcakes again. Mel feels torn between wanting to do whatever it takes to make Tate’s bride happy and pushing her face into a bowl full of icing.

Angie talks Mel into taking Christie’s contract to her brother Joe. Mel needs legal counsel and he comes at the best price – free. Joe reads the contract and is disturbed that Christie is demanding to have ownership of the cupcakes. He thinks it’s a little over the top and they wonder if she is doing this to all of her wedding vendors. He advises Mel not to sign it and to talk to Tate about it, but she is reluctant, not wanting to ruin his wedding. She brings Joe some cupcakes as a thank you, and she manages to talk to him for the first time in her life without stammering or turning red. Joe sees his little sister’s friend in a whole new way.

When Christie is found dead in her design studio with a half eaten Fairy Tale Cupcake still in her hand, everyone (including Mel’s own mother) assumes Mel poisoned Christie because she loves Tate. This is very bad for business.

Neither Tate nor Angie believes it, both knowing that she loves Tate as a friend. But as the police seem reluctant to let go of her as suspect number one, Mel realizes she is going to have to solve the murder to save her business and her life.

Mel’s uncle, Stan Cooper, is one of the investigating officers and he seems to think that Tate is the likeliest suspect. He thinks Tate got cold feet and murdered Christie instead of just canceling. Mel wonders if it could be Olivia Puckett, in an effort to have her carted off to jail and squash her competition.

As they begin to investigate, it quickly becomes apparent that Tate didn’t know his bride-to-be very well, and in fact is unclear how they even became engaged. He woke up one morning and she had a ring on her finger, so he just assumed he must have proposed. Angie seems awfully happy about this news, and Mel realizes that Angie has feelings for Tate. She worries what will happen to her if her two friends hook up, or worse if one of them gets heartbroken, but she says nothing.

Mel wonders if it is one of the other wedding vendors, who signed a contract they didn’t want to uphold. She starts to investigate the local wedding businesses. While there are several who are not sorry that Christie is no longer their client, none of them seem to be murderers.

Thinking it must be one of her clothing designers, Mel starts to investigate the design house by using Angie as would be buyer for a clothing manufacturer. It goes well until Angie’s brothers catch on to the plan and botch the whole operation. One of the designers does stand out, however, a young woman by the name of Phoebe. Mel is certain that she knows her but she can’t think where or how.

Christie’s father blames Tate and Mel. He is convinced by the salacious reports in the newspaper that they planned this together. He is applying pressure on the DA’s office to make and arrest, and Angie’s brother Joe has been stalling as long as he can but time is running out. Mel realizes that they have to catch the killer. She and Angie, Tate and Joe stay up watching old murder mystery movies, trying to figure it out. They fail.

*****Paragraph removed to keep from spoiling the mystery ;-)******

Mel, Tate and Angie celebrate the good news. Joe joins them. He is very relieved that Mel is no longer a suspect but admits that he would have asked her out anyway. Tate and Angie seem happy and Mel notices that neither of them is acting any differently than they did before, but every now and then she catches Angie looking at Tate and she knows that her friend is smitten.

The only problem Mel has now is keeping Joe away from her mother. Joyce has given up on foisting her off on Tate, but Mel thinks a lawyer would really make her mother happy. Too happy.

Recipes for cupcakes and tips on decorating to be included.


Future Titles:

Butter Cream Bump Off: Olivia Puckett is once again trying to steal Mel’s customers. This time by dressing up as a giant cupcake and giving away free cupcakes to the first fifty customers in her store every day. Mel knows the challenge can not be ignored and she and Angie cook up their own crazy marketing scheme for Fairy Tale Cupcakes. They offer themselves up in a raffle as the winner’s own Fairy Godmothers for twenty-four hours. Now while Mel is trying to appease their cantankerous contest winner, a crotchety old man who wants real magic, she is once again drawn into intrigue when her widowed mother Joyce is found unconscious at the scene of a murder. Joyce’s first attempt at online dating does not go well when the real estate mogul she is dating is found dead in one of his palatial estates and Joyce is found there with him, unconscious and clutching the murder weapon. While Mel and Joe’s relationship gets stronger, he’s trying to help her mother as much as he can, Angie is beginning to give up on Tate ever noticing her. When she accepts a date with the slain mogul’s son, who is also a suspect, Tate finally realizes that his feelings for Angie are more than friendship. But if the murderer has his way neither Mel nor Angie will be dating anyone ever again.

Death by the Dozen: Fairy Tale Cupcakes is gearing up for its first year of participation in the Scottsdale Culinary Festival. Melanie has entered the Challenge to the Chefs, pastry division, and her main competition is her rival Olivia Puckett. Participants receive a basket of mystery ingredients and have one hour to prepare a scintillating dessert. But when one of the judges is found dead in his car from an apparent suicide, the competition is postponed until the end of the week. The judge, Vic Mazotta, was a cooking school professor of Mel's and she can't accept the verdict of suicide when she knows his estranged son has been trying to get his hands on Vic's estate for years. But her investigation turns risky when Vic's murderer appears to be coming after her. Joe is unhappy with the risks Mel is taking and it strains their relationship. Meanwhile Tate finally screws up the courage to make a play for Angie, but is it too late?



I hope this helps future authors to get published.

The best advice I can give is don't give up -- ever.

For anyone interested in being written into the sequel BUTTERCREAM BUMP OFF as a character, check out my pre-order contest: http://www.jennmckinlay.com/bio.htm

Thanks again for the invite!
Jenn

Saturday, March 13, 2010

LEAD PIPE CINCH - what the cover says

And here it is, my friends, straight from the editor! 

The back cover copy for LEAD PIPE CINCH!!

Drowning in a moat is so Dark Ages…


When Georgiana Neverall left behind her fast-paced, corporate lifestyle to become a plumber’s apprentice in Pine Ridge, Oregon, she thought she knew what she was getting into. But she hadn’t pictured herself knee-deep in a muddy trench building a moat—part of a state-of-the-art castle that would soon house a retired Microsoft engineer.

She also hadn’t planned on running across the man who stole her former company and dumped her—Blake Weston, who’s on site to provide security for the castle. When it turns out Blake’s in a little over his head—in the moat, that is—Georgiana finds herself the number one suspect in his murder. To clear her name, Georgiana will have to pursue the remote possibility that someone out there despised Blake Weston more than she did…


Includes fun plumbing tricks and tips!



Praise for Sink Trap:


“We thoroughly enjoyed reading Sink Trap, a clever mystery with fresh, fast-paced writing.” —Jim and Joyce Lavene, authors of A Corpse for Yew


“[A] cute cozy mystery debut…with plumbing tips and moments of wry humor.”
Publishers Weekly

“Fun…Christy Evans has a hit on her hands.”
Genre Go Round Reviews

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Coming Events

With the release of LEAD PIPE CINCH in less than a month, I've got a trio of appearances lined up.  I'd love to see all Georgie's fans at one (or all) of them!

On April 3, we'll be doing a Sneak Preview event at North by Northwest Books her in Lincoln City.  Our last event - for the release of SINK TRAP - was a great success, and we're looking forward to a fun afternoon with local bookseller and mystery guru Sheldon McArthur as our host.  Watch this space for the details!

Then on April 17, there's a "meet and greet" event at Murder By The Book in Portland, Oregon, from 1 to 3 pm.  They promise books and snacks, and a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.  What more can an author (or a reader) ask?

Finally, April 29-May 2 I'll be at Malice Domestic in Arlington, VA.  This is the mack daddy convention for cozy mysteries, and I am delighted to be able to attend this year.  Especially with LEAD PIPE CINCH out just three weeks before the convention!  I'm really looking forward to meeting the fans and the writers, and having a whole weekend devoted just to mysteries.

So there you have it, three coming events that should be lots of fun.

Hope I see you there!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Secrets from Georgie's Past?

Well, not exactly. But guest blogger Carolyn Nicita has provided us with an incredible wealth of tips and tricks for keeping our data secure - exactly what Georgie used to do.

Carolyn Nicita writes fiction, screenplays, and occasionally does articles on data security for authors. Her passwords are longer than most men's. She says they hold up longer, too, and I'm just going to take her word for that!

In honor of Georgiana Neverall and Samurai Security, may I present top-secret intel on data security.

It may be useful.

Some of you might be authors yourselves, and you just got the news that in this market you have to have something called a Web Presence.

Or, you might be one of these people:

Lately one of my friends has gotten hacked, another has gotten credit card numbers stolen, and a third had her house broken into and her writing computer stolen. This along with all of her jewelry, but since she's an author, of course the computer was most important.

Seeing my friends' discomfiture, I called a member of my family who works as a data security expert for a government contractor--a satellite company. I asked her for advice.

She gave me toys.

These toys are Spy Decoder Rings on crack. They are tools to ensure government-level security.

I'm not even going into the elementary things you should already know, like "don't open email attachments" and "make sure they've set up the firewall on your router".

Instead, I'm going to introduce you to four of these toys.


TrueCrypt


How would you like to be able to put your files into a secret, invisible place on your hard drive or thumb drive? How would you like it so secret and invisible that professionals can't detect the hidden data, yet easy enough to access that it doesn't impede your work?

Most importantly, when someone steals your computer or you lose your thumb drive, nobody gets your data.


With TrueCrypt, you create a special file called a partition, and use it like a file folder. You can use the files in this folder all you want, add, change, right on the fly, and as soon as you close the folder your files are instantly protected.


So now, download this free program. Make a TrueCrypt container and, for practice, copy in all the files you're supposed to be backing up. You do back up, don't you?





Stegdetect

If you tell the owner of a blog "Never let guests post random pictures onto your site" he'll probably answer "It's just a picture. What's the big deal?"

But...

If you inspect some of those innocent pictures using Stegdetect, the answer will become shockingly obvious.

Download this free set of programs and use xsteg to inspect some of the web pages and pictures you've randomly downloaded.

The program will tell you that some of these innocent-looking pictures include something called jphide.

This threat doesn't even include the fakepicture.php.jpg type files, programs masquerading as pictures. This is about actual jpeg files where people have put code inside them. They can put the graphic up on your website as their forum picture or an illustration, or a picture that you "just got off the Web somewhere" and used without permission of the owner (but you'd never do that, would you?).

I found this bit of code in a jpeg file from a respectable web site -- here's a snippet --
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple Computer//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
<plist version="1.0">
<dict>

I have no idea what they're trying to do with it. It's probably all very innocent. However, finding this did prove to me that you can indeed put code into a jpeg.

How do they execute that code? Sometimes a senile browser will do it for them. Sometimes you turn off javascript and then the code which asks "Hey this file isn't really a picture, is it?" doesn't execute.

Or they use outside code of their own.

How?

Read stegbreak.pdf, also enclosed in the stegdetect download.

It tells how to hack somebody's web site using those innocent-looking jpeg files -- by using the code in stegbreak to launch what's called a brute-force dictionary attack against your site or account.

A hacker successfully used this dictionary attack on one of my author friend's web sites.

If my friend ever finds said hacker, I will lend my friend the 1024-page 1990 edition of the Webster's New Dictionary and Thesaurus, which sits on my desk.

He could use it to launch a brute-force dictionary counterattack.

But I digress.

To help prevent dictionary attacks, at least of the digital variety, you can make long, gobbledygook passwords that the brute-force dictionary attack can't break. And you don't even have to memorize them.

You use....


KeePass

Despite its name, this program actually works to help you make and keep secure passwords.


It's like a briefcase for passwords. You use one password to open the briefcase program, open your browser, then quickly copy and paste the long, incomprehensible, randomly-generated password from the briefcase into the site. It will even let you generate passwords with non-alphanumeric characters. And KeePass makes it easy for you to change your password frequently, another safety tip you've heard often.

Your main password never goes online. It can be a password you type in, or the fact that you're using the program on your own computer.

I'm recommending this program although I know somebody's going to blame me when they get it set up and then forget their main password. Use some common sense. Back up the KeePass file. It's a bit inconvenient, but a lot less so than having to write to all three credit reporting agencies, finding the federal agencies necessary to report identity theft crime, and waking up at night wondering what they're going to be doing with your personal information in the future.

Or waking up some morning and finding that your blog has been magically turned into a Neo-Nazi Jihaad billboard.

Fedora on a Stick

One of my friends decided to do some online banking from a public hotel computer. Silly him. Of course, someone had put a keylogger on this oh-so-public computer and of course, every keystroke my friend entered got sent to the criminal.

Don't do that.

But what if, for some reason, you're on the Kona coast in the middle of executing a wedding and you have to do some last-minute online transactions with the photographer?

-Or-

What if you want to try to get files off a computer whose operating system has just crashed, without incurring a $150 tech support bill?

-Or-

What if you don't want to write any data to a strange computer? You've learned that even if you delete the data, it can still be read off the hard drive.

-Or-

What if you just want to use your own little computer to take notes on a project...and amaze your friends...mooch off their hardware....

True, you may not find the need for this very often, but dang it's a fun toy, so I'm including it.

I call it "Make Your Own Parasite." The techies call it Fedora on a Stick.

Use Fedora Live USB Creator to install a small operating system, complete with word processing, web browsing, and persistent file storage, onto a thumb drive.

Then plug your new baby parasite into a host computer.

Now you can surf the web, write some manuscript pages, and save the results. Afterward, pull your computer-on-a-stick out and take it home with you. Their disease-infested PC can't access the thumb drive because their operating system isn't running the hardware. And you've written nothing to their computer.

Oh, and by the way, this type of thing is why antivirus programs will ask you to unplug thumb drives before turning off your computer.

Lastly--


To figure out how to use these toys, read their instructions. It really isn't hard, and most important, it will train you in data security.

None of these toys will fry your PC. Much. They are real spy toys, though.


This blog will self-destruct...

Monday, February 22, 2010

COMING ATTRACTION!!

OK, much celebrating here in Christy-Evans-land. I am loving the cover for LEAD PIPE CINCH, and wanted to share. I don't have final cover copy, but that should come in the next couple days.


In the meantime, here's the blurb from the preliminary Amazon listing:

Georgiana Neverall never pictured herself knee-deep in a muddy trench building a moat-part of a state-of-the-art castle that would soon house a retired Microsoft engineer.


She also never imagined being a murder suspect, but that's exactly what happens when a floater in the moat turns out to be her ex-boyfriend.

Yep, we start digging into Georgie's past as she continues digging the moat for Chad McComb's castle, and dealing with her mother, her current sort-of boyfriend, and her two adorable Airedales.

Stay tuned here for more guest bloggers, upcoming appearances, and some fun surprises as we get ready for the release of LEAD PIPE CINCH on April 6th.

And thank you all for your support of Georgie, and of me.



Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Adventures in Plumbing

As promised, I am getting back on track. Here's the first of February's guest blogs, the fabulous Krista Davis!!


I love houses. It’s silly, I know. I adore looking at houses and
checking out their nooks and crannies and architectural features. So
it probably comes as no great surprise that I was very involved with
the building of my house.

There are some things that anyone can do. Running phone wire, for
instance. You don’t need special training for that. But I recognize
my limitations. I left the electric matters to the pros.

So then there came a long weekend. I was alone in the house (probably
running more phone lines) and getting pretty tired of leaving the
house to, well, to pee. Shiny brand new toilets waited to be
installed. They called to me over and over. I found myself circling
them, daring to run a hand over that cold porcelain. I examined the
holes in the floor where they would be positioned.

I wouldn’t be electrocuted. I couldn’t set the house on fire. The
worst that could happen would be a flood and that seemed unlikely.
Most of all, though, I was tired of running down the hill just to use
the facilities.

Instructions, there must be instructions. Apparently, toilet
installation is such a no-brainer to everyone except me that toilets
don’t come with instructions. The only hint was on the wax ring the
plumber had told me to buy. “Install wax ring.” Oh good! That
helped a lot. The wax ring was about the size of the hole in the
floor, and it was obvious that something had to join the toilet to
that hole. In went the wax ring. Surely there was more to it than
that?

There was. Do you know how much a toilet weighs? Honest to goodness,
the hardest part was hauling the toilet over to the hole on which it
would sit. But I struggled, determined that I would not run down the
hill one more time to use a bathroom. I planted the toilet on the wax
ring and tightened the nuts on the sides. It rocked. That couldn’t
be right. I sat on it and wiggled to set it. I tightened the nuts
more and the rocking stopped. A quick attachment to the water supply
in the back, (it screwed on, even I could do that!) and I was ready
for the flood. I opened the water supply, ready to shut it off again
-- fast!

I didn’t need to. I flushed. It worked. I was brilliant! What a
handy dandy skill -- I could install a toilet! Now, if the bathroom
only had a door . . .


About the Author:

Krista Davis is the nationally bestselling author of the Domestic Diva
Mystery series. Her first book, THE DIVA RUNS OUT OF THYME, was
nominated for an Agatha Award. Her second book, THE DIVA TAKES THE
CAKE is a fun romp for anyone who loves weddings.

In her just released third book, 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 . . .

Krista blogs at http://mysteryloverskitchen.com, where mystery writers
cook up crime ... and recipes! Learn more about Krista's books at http://kristadavis.com
.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Passing of a Hero

I was all set to spend some time today catching up on things that got backed up while I was traveling (Note to self: Better preparation next trip!), but instead I have to take time out to mourn the passing of one of my favorite writers, Dick Francis.

A three-time Edgar Best Novel winner, and an MWA Grand Master, Mr. Francis started puiblishing mysteries in 1962, and has one book yet to be published - a career that spanned an incredible 48 years. I started reading Mr. Francis's racing mysteries in the mid-60s, and loved them from the beginning. I fell in love with Sid Haley, and was overjoyed when he came to the small screen in the short-run ITV series, The Racing Game.

Mr. Francis provided me with many, many hours of reading enjoyment over the years, and he will be missed. Tomorrow I'll work on that whole "catching up" thing, but for today I am going to go to the bookshelf and find my old paperbacks of "Odds Against" and "Whip Hand" and fall in love again, just for a little while.

Farewell, Dick Francis, and thank you for sharing your stories with the world. And with me.

Monday, February 1, 2010

No Plot? No problem, or, what I learned about plot from writing mysteries

Melissa Yuan-Innes is an amzingly talented writer, mother of an active preschooler, and an emergency-room physician. Don't ask me how she does it all, I'm in awe of her energy and ability to keep a balance in her life. She's our guest blogger, and I'm pleased to present her thoughts on the things she's learned from trying her hand at mysteries.



1. Conflict

"The cat sat on the mat" is not a story. "The cat sat on the dog's mat" is a story. --John Le Carré

Dean Smith and Kris Rusch define a mystery story like this: a crime occurs and must be solved in a satisfying way.

It doesn't have to be a murder, although that's classic. But you need to have that crime. You probably already knew that, but it's cool to think of that cat sneaking over to the dog's mat.

Also, I like when people think outside the box for crime or conflict. My friend and talented writer Steve Mohan wrote a thriller novel, Paper Eagle, that opens with a man trying to get a trainload of food into North Korea. I love this. So many thriller novels make up some overdramatic "world hanging in the balance" Hollywood garbage, but this is a real crisis in real time. So have fun with your conflict, whether it's a stolen ribbon or nuclear Armageddon.

2. You should have an idea of two stories: the story of the crime and the story you are unfolding for the reader

A police officer friend pointed this out to me. I'd had so much fun with my detective's love life, I hadn't properly plotted out the crime and sprinkled red herrings or thought out the timeline.

In my defense, I write 1000 words a day and I don't have much time. And I get bored easily. So just plunge in and write, write, write, even if it's awful. When I go back, I find a lot of it is pretty good, but the plot might not hang together. If you prefer to plot it out first, more power to you.

Either way, you've got two stories to work out.

3. The antagonist should be three-dimensional

It's nice to blame things on the Big Bad. Very convenient to have some sociopath mincing people for fun. And in truth, I'm sure there are some people like that. But it's cool if you can add some sort of twist to it. In From the Corner of His Eye, Dean Koontz wrote about a murderer who thoroughly enjoyed his work, but vomited violently after each killing.

You can take it a step further. In my latest novel, High School Hit List, I spent a great deal of time and words trying to figure out why my antagonist, Sickle, made up a hit list of five people at his school.
I wrote my way out of it. I let Sickle talk (lots of macho bragging), I let his girlfriend talk (more interesting, but it didn't end up in the book), I let people talk about him. Finally, someone mentioned that his sister had Down's Syndrome. I ran with that until I finally figured out how Sickle went rogue.
In the end, two of my first readers said that was what pulled them through High School Hit List: trying to figure out how Sickle went from normal to psycho.

To sum up, you need a conflict, preferably using a 3D antagonist, and you need to figure out how to tell that story.Thanks, mystery genre, for teaching me.


Melissa Yi's story, "Indian Time," will debut in Indian Country Noir this year. She tackles real-life mysteries as an emergency doctor and creates imaginary insanity as a writer outside of Montreal, Canada. Her short fiction has appeared in everything from Nature to Weird Tales. Say hi on Facebook, Twitter, or www.melissayuaninnes.net.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

It Happened in Las Vegas: Off-Topic, But I HAD to Share

Things have been a little quiet here the last few days, because the DH and I got a chance to sneak off for a cheap vacation in Las Vegas - cheap because it was off-season, there were good deals to be had, I had some time off work, and we are really cheap gamblers. You know, the kind that bypass the nickel slots as "too expensive"? Yeah, like that.

In addition to the Vegas trip, we drove over to Southern California for the weekend (when things were more expensive) and visited my son and daughter-in-law, and The World's Most Beautiful Granddaughter. We stayed over Sunday night and watched a taping of The Late Late Show on Monday, then drove back to Vegas.

There were a lot of fun times this week, but there was one "Awwwww!" moment that made me sniffle. If you have the least bit of romance in your soul, it'll get you, too.

Last night (out last night in Vegas) we went out wandering on the Strip, just seeing the sights and people-watching. We ended the evening at the Bellagio to watch the fountain show. They run every fifteen minutes, and it was a wonderful, cool evening.

The 9 p.m. show was the ultimate "old Vegas" tribute - dancing waters set to Frank Sinatra singing "Fly Me To The Moon," an unabashedly romantic ballad from the '60s. It was the whole package, and we turned away at the end of the show full of warm fuzzies. As we walked toward the hotel entrance, I spotted a young couple a few feet away. The attractive girl in a strapless black cocktail dress was trembling slightly and whispering "Oh my god!" over and over. A second glance confirmed the situation. Her boyfriend, all decked out in a nice suit, was slipping a ring on her finger.

We walked on, the warm fuzzies reinforced by the wonderfully romantic gesture of the young man. He had managed one of those incredible moments, one they will remember for the rest of their lives. As we glanced back, we saw them embrace, their surroundings forgotten.

I have no idea who that couple was, but I wish them all the luck in the world. If this young man's proposal - and her response - are any indication, they're already winners!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Keeping It Real, or Why People Believe My Lies

Guest blogger Steven Savile has a new book out this week. SILVER mixes elements of fact, fantasy, myth, and thriller into a blend that's garnering raves from advance readers.

We're a little late this week, due to a spur-of-the-moment trip, so without any further ado, let me introduce you to the fabulous Steven Savile.



Telling Lies For a Living

Steven Savile

That’s what we do, after all, us writers, isn’t it? We tell lies for a living. Some of us tell great whopping ones... I mean my current work in progress, London Macabre, is Fabulist Victoriana (I say fabulist rather than fantastic as the latter term seems to be have co-opted by steampunk and infernal machines and my tale is nothing like that, it’s about elementals and daemons and gentlemen with extraordinary gifts) and I am basically selling you a London that never was. For that matter my latest novel, Silver, posits at least six impossible things before breakfast, to abuse Alice’s words.

I first heard the phrase ‘The willing suspension of disbelief’ back in high school, when my teacher, PJ Knock (we called him Peanut for reasons not too difficult to guess when you saw him) started trying to explain why it was a bad idea to ‘animate the inanimate’ and why our heroes shouldn’t leap out of hospital windows to escape the bad guys when they were four flights up. Obvious stuff but fundamental just the same. A few years later I read a review of a book - no idea what the book was, but elements of the review stuck with me for... twenty years... egads! - in which the reviewer expressed his disappointment in terms that rang the memory bell and had me thinking about old Peanut’s lesson. You see, in this review the main objection seemed to be that the book was ruined because this basic covenant of reader and writer was broken by the writer’s stupidity or lack of research, and because of some elementary mistake (in this case the writer made reference to MI5 working a case in Australia, and any thriller writer worth his salt knows that MI5 only operates on sovereign soil, ie back in dear old Blighty. Once things go overseas it is always MI6) he couldn’t trust anything the writer told him. This one mistake led the reviewer to moan about a dumb joke the author made about someone hiding out in ‘the bush’ ‘What the Australian Bush?’ ‘Nah, the other one...’ obviously meaning to make us chuckle and think of the villain hiding out in the shrubbery but it had the reviewer up in arms. Didn’t this moron of a writer know there was only one Bush?

God, or the Devil, you see, is in the details. We have five senses. As writers we need to use them to sell our stories. It’s so so important we use all of them to ground the story and make it feel real. The world is about more than just we see. I guess what I am saying is a good writer lets us experience their little lies with every faculty available to us. And get the little stuff right, make us trust and believe in what you are telling us, and we’ll be more willing to believe you and continue suspending our disbelief.

Silver offered some pretty unique disbelief challenges - I mean everyone is familiar with the thirty pieces of silver, and Judas, and, well, let’s face it, the story of the garden, the Judas Kiss, all of it. So, setting out to tell Silver I knew it was really important I got the small lies right if I wanted the reader to swallow the big ones, and that’s what it is all about. Not only did I need my Bible stuff right, even though I was spinning a story grounded in the gnostic gospels, I couldn’t just ignore what people knew - I couldn’t say Jesus was hanged in the Garden and expect readers to swallow it.

Likewise, I needed to make sure the settings were authentic. When we meet Noah for the first time in a sleazy bedsit-hotel in London I needed it to feel like a sleazy bedsitland hotel room. It helps of course that I’ve slummed it more than once and have plenty of experience when it comes to grubby curtains so thick with used smoke they could stand up by themselves, and bedsprings that poke through threadbare mattresses like something from the princess and the pea. It’s easy to get those details right. And by getting them right your reader will automatically be inclined to trust you’ve got other stuff right. It’s just the way our minds are programmed to receive.

One set of details is research, another experience, the last one though is outright lie.

I’m selling you lies from quite early on. By themselves they are just little things, for instance while Nonesuch, Sir Charles’ house and the operational hq of the Ogmios team, isn’t on any map that I know... the roads are all right, the landmarks they pass on the way there, they are all real landmarks, in the right places... it’s just Nonesuch that’s a figment of my imagination. It’s believable though, because everything around it is dead on. In other words I sell the lie by surrounding it by truth. Someone might think it’s a homage to a great record label, given my habit of making musical references hither and thither, others might think it’s a tip of the hat to the Nonesuch Dickens - not unreasonable to have another writer linked to Wyndham, given Sir Charles’ own borrowed name... or perhaps I just misspelled Nonsuch and based it upon the Palace of Henry VIII built for his wife - the same palace and grounds I did cross country running through the grounds of for 4 years when I was at school? It could be any, all or none of these. Sometimes I just like to play.

Of course, being writer now is so much easier than it was even as recently as a decade ago. We have the world literally at our fingertips. That’s right, the big bad interwebby...

Take the scene quite near the beginning when Ronan is driving his bike up to Newcastle, it’s a simple job to check the street maps and trace a route, but technology has come on in leaps and bounds to the extent that you can go into Google Street View and block by block drive the same streets without leaving the comfort of your arm chair. I was able to look at the front of the house he breaks into live on the web. Okay, I’ll admit that’s a little creepy when you think about it, but the technology is there so use it. That kind of attention to detail means everything from being able to capture an authentic feel of the place you want your readers to visit even if you haven’t been there. Of course, I grew up in Newcastle, so I know those streets well - but I know them from 1997. I remember how the smelled, how the cold bit in the more exposed areas, all of that physical detail, but technology allowed me to give my memory a quick refresher course.

That’s not saying that the internet can replace actual honest to god experience, but it sure as hell can supplement it. God is in the details, after all. By doing something, going out there and absorbing it, we find these little details that sell the lies.

Research, in any way shape or form, is our friend.

And down on this basic level, a meticulous eye for detail - not simply listing this then this then this, but actually finding beautiful tactile vocabulary that revels in the authenticity of the bad bed in the crummy bedsit - is where we lay the foundations for the whopping great lies.

For instance, quite early in the research for Silver (after I had decided to use the Sicarii zealots as the historical core of the story) I came across this little tidbit of information: there had been an earthquake in the Masada region a few years before. With that simple truth I knew not only how I would lose the silver dagger (there’s no secret there, it’s on the cover of the book so I am not spoiling anything for you) for two thousand years, but more importantly how I would recover it. I brought it back with a truth that was verifiable. Of course there never was a dagger, not one forged from the thirty shekels Judas earned in return for his kiss, that’s the big lie I want to sell the reader... If I keep my MI5s and MI6s straight, have the right sort of trees on the right street corners (no ironwood trees in Newcastle for instance, little things like that), give you a feel for the seasons, having it rain or snow or shine, having leaves mulch beneath your feet or cars splashing water as they don’t slow down for corners where the drains have flooded, then you’ll believe me when I say ‘Come, closer, I want to tell you a story about a dagger, and about these men, these modern day terrorists, who call themselves the Disciples of Judas...’

Do I pull it off? Do you believe my glorious whopping great lies? Well, you’ll need to read Silver to find out, won’t you? Available, as the adverts say, at all good bookstores today... Ahem. Sorry about that. Normal service is resumed.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Guest Colleen Kuehne: My Life as a First Reader


Being a “first reader” is a new and thrilling experience for me – and, as I’d expected, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

So let’s just get those negatives out of the way: it is really hard for me to spend days, or weeks, or even months, without knowing the end of the story. I read rather quickly and usually finish a book in two or three sittings - so you know that I’m literally chomping at the bit, wanting the next installment. Just ask Chris / Christy; I can really be a pain about it.

And now that I think about it, that really is the only negative I can think of, although I suppose it would be difficult spending a lot of time with a story that really didn’t appeal to me. I’m lucky, though, and don’t have to deal with that; the Georgie books are “right up my alley.”

As far as the positives, they are legion. Getting to work with, and for, a wonderful writer - who also happens to be a friend - is reward in itself. Seeing behind the finished product and learning about the nuts and bolts of writing is educational as well as entertaining. Having actual input to the author is, well, priceless!

As for how I, personally, go about it… Well, I usually try to read each segment at least three times.

Every pass, I try to be conscious of continuity. By that, of course, I mean being sure that names and places are consistent, keeping the timeline in mind so that the right number of days pass, stuff like that.

Mainly, though, the first pass is just for the story. I make notes if I don’t understand something, or if I have suspicions about the villain, or feel the story drags or is erratic, but mostly I’m reading for pleasure. My writer seems to appreciate getting my initial reaction, so I let her know where I LOL, where I shake my fist at the villain, and where I get confused because this person’s name is just hard to remember or is too close to that character’s name. (To this day, I have a hard time remembering that Gregory isn’t, in fact, Geoffrey. I can’t explain it, but there it is.)

The second pass, I’m looking for nits. I grew up in a family of teachers; my Grandmother actually returned my letters to her with red-inked corrections, so I’ve become pretty fussy about grammar, spelling, sentence structure and word choice. Of course, after noticing something, I have to decide whether or not to flag it, especially if it’s dialog. After all, people just don’t speak in perfect English. And a writer’s style is just that – her style. If in doubt, I’ll make a note and draw it to the attention of my writer, just in case it isn’t what she intended.

I have a couple of favorite websites I check; I don’t want to flag something as incorrect when I’m the one who’s wrong!

http://www.grammarbook.com/english_rules.asp
http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/561/01/

I try to wait a while before the third pass. I want it to be fresh again when I read it for the last time. This time, I’m reading to see if my notes and questions make sense and are worthwhile, and if my corrections help or hinder the telling of the story.

I’ve said I’m lucky, and I can prove it: I have a good friend who is a talented writer. She lets me share in the experience, she listens to my input, and she signs my copies of her books. Life is good!

Monday, January 11, 2010

What Is a First Reader?


Finding a good first reader can be a real tightrope act. You want someone who is an avid reader, who reads the kind of books you write, who can be honest with you when something doesn't work, who doesn't try to rewrite the book their way, and who is willing to read in fits and starts when necessary. And those are just the general qualities!

Each writer has specific issues and idiosyncrasies that they bring to the mix. For me, I cannot listen to any comment or discussion while I am writing. So if I have already given part of the manuscript to the first reader they cannot speak of it (sort of like Fight Club) until I finish the manuscript. The obvious solution is to wait until I'm done and hand over a full manuscript, but when I have a tight deadline I need to allow my first reader the opportunity to get started while I finish up.

On several projects I worked without a first reader, or I acted as my own first reader, because there wasn't anyone to ask. My writer friends were busy with their own projects, or they were far away, or they didn't read the kind of work I was writing.

Many writing couples act as readers for each other, but Steve and I quickly found that was not a good idea for us. That whole rewriting-the-book-his-way problem? Yep! I love him to death, but he can't turn off the creative brain enough to be a good first reader for me.

Then, a few years back, Colleen started working as a contractor at the hotel where I work. She was clearly a voracious reader, always carrying a book at lunchtime, and we struck up several conversations about what we were reading. She found out I was a writer, and we talked some about the kind of things I wrote. We compared favorite authors, and genres we loved, finding similar tastes

One day I suggested she read one of my favorite cozy mystery authors, Anne George. Her response was, "I love Anne George!" Sadly, Ms. George has passed away, but we both pull her books off the shelf and re-read them from time to time. (If you haven't read them, may I suggest you do so at once? Charming, laugh out loud funny, and characters you will fall in love with. I promise!)

So, when I got the offer to write the Georgie books, I excitedly shared the news with Colleen. When she confessed she had always wanted to "have my name in the front of a book," I decided to take a chance, and offered to let her read my manuscript.

We talked for a long time about how we would work, what I expected, what she felt qualified to do, and the mechanics of passing a manuscript back and forth. Then I gave her the manuscript for the first book and crossed my fingers.

The results were truly amazing! She completely understood what I needed, and gave me good feedback on the places where I slipped up - including one character who changed names partway through. But besides that, she had a good grasp of spelling and grammar, and was able to do a thorough copy-edit as well.

Over the course of three books, I have come to really appreciate her support. First readers don't get paid - except for the occasional lunch. They get an acknowledgement (sometimes) and they get to read the book months before it ever goes on sale. But that's about it. Mostly, it's a labor of love, and I'm very fortunate to have found a first reader who loves Georgie.

Thanks, Colleen!!

On Thursday, first reader Colleen Kuehne has a guest blog about her process and why she likes her volunteer job.