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.
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.
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!
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
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Saturday, March 13, 2010
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.”
“Fun…Christy Evans has a hit on her hands.”
—Genre Go Round Reviews
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
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?
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
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.
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?
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">
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.
Or they use outside code of their own.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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...