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,
"Christy Evans has a hit on her hands" - Harriet Klausner,
"Christy Evans is aces. I'll be very suprised if Sink Trap isn't an instant hit with cozy readers!" -

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!

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.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Guest Blogger Irene Radford:Blurring the Lines Between Mystery and Magic

Irene Radford has been writing stories ever since she figured out what a pencil was for. A member of an endangered species, a native Oregonian who lives in Oregon, she and her husband make their home in Welches, Oregon where deer, bears, coyotes, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers feed regularly on their back deck.

A museum trained historian, Irene has spent many hours prowling pioneer cemeteries deepening her connections to the past. Raised in a military family she grew up all over the US and learned early on that books are friends that don’t get left behind with a move. Her interests and reading range from ancient history, to spiritual meditations, to space stations, and a whole lot in between.

Her signal corps brother has launched several communications satellites on the shuttle. Watching those launches got her hooked on the ideal of humans reaching out into the universe.

Reading Science Fiction or fantasy is work – part of my day job as a novelist who deals with dragons¸ magicians, demons, space ships, and ray guns. For fun I read cozy mysteries.

A mystery lies at the core of almost every story. What secret does the romantic hero hide that keeps him from committing to the heroine? Which magician has the power to use the elusive talisman hidden deep in the dragon’s hoard? Who murdered the very wealthy diamond merchant on the 4th floor of a flea bag hotel?
Through the course of writing 22 fantasy and science fiction novels I delved into many mysteries. But I always wanted to write a straightforward cozy, the kind of story I love to read.

Instead of a straight, mundane, mystery, I plotted a murder into the 2nd book of my urban fantasy series: “Moon In The Mirror, a Tess NoncoirĂ© Adventure” by P.R. Frost. (one of my 3 pen names) Magic and paranormal beings abound in this series. Tess and her cohorts discover the truth by use of magic. But this is an urban fantasy set in our modern world. Magic is not evidence in our courts. So other means must be used to prove guilt.

I had other problems in organizing this book as well. One of my first readers informed me that he knew who had done the dirty deed as soon as they found the body. There was only one disposable character in the entire cast. A cast that grew with every draft. In fantasy this wouldn’t be a problem. The protagonist can kill a bad guy in order to save the planet. Or one of the regulars can do prison time for manslaughter and show up in the next book emotionally scarred. Not so much in cozies.

How to divert attention away from the culprit while dropping clues at the same time?

I’d entered an entirely new world of writing and had to add a new layer of thinking. Time to read more cozies. Research. Honestly. I read 7 books in 2 weeks for research. Research. Honestly.

Among those I read were several paranormal mysteries where magic, witchcraft, and ghosts featured heavily, including “Hex Marks The Spot” by Madelyn Alt, “The Remains Of The Dead” by Wendy Roberts, and “Ghost of a Chance” by Kate Marsh (Katie Macalister). In every one, the paranormal aspects had to remain hidden, and if the evidence gained by paranormal means could not be presented in a way mundane courts could accept, then a different justice had to be sought. That justice had to look like an accident. Always the mundane explanation had to rule. But we, the readers know a different truth.

Oh, yeah I could deal with that.

I’m not going to go into specifics, because I don’t want to spoil the stories for you if you haven’t read them yet. But I learned a lot about how to write a mystery.

But most of all I learned that if a mystery writer is going to introduce paranormal elements, they have to figure in the problem, the solution, or both. Otherwise, they are just a gimmick. One of the first lessons I learned when I decided to take my writing seriously was that a gimmick had to earn its keep. The rescued Great Dane with retinopathy who wears goofy sunglasses has to be instrumental in bringing the hero and heroine together in the romance (I honestly read this story 20+ years ago). He can’t just prove the heroine is kind to animals. The same goes for the ghosts and telepathy I tried putting into some of my earliest novel efforts that never saw print.

So I dove back into “Mirror” with new enthusiasm and insight to the structure of a cozy mystery. I hope I succeeded.

Chris has arranged a free autographed copy in a contest.

In between other projects I worked on a cozy mystery of my own. I developed a setting and a cast that I could love: a spooky old hotel with as much character as any of the people that try to run it, a spunky heroine with a passion for the creaky building, a love interest who has secrets, and wacky friends with off-kilter views of the world. I fell in love with Whistling River Lodge and wish I could prowl the back hallways, secret rooms, and hints of ghostly guests in this fictional place. Yeah, I had to get something paranormal in there somehow. But it’s only hints and questions, nothing overt.

“Lacing Up For Murder” by Irene Radford is currently serialized for free on the Book View CafĂ©, A new chapter every Thursday¸ or if you don’t want to wait 32 weeks to find out who done it, you can download the full novel for $4.99 in a variety of e-­book formats.
Paranormal romances and mysteries are plentiful on bookshelves these days, as are urban fantasies and paranormal historicals, but the structure of the story, the rules if you want, remains the same. The extra elements have to be woven into the story and become an integral part of it. You cannot separate one from the other or you lose the essence of the story.

That’s what we read the book for, the story; the story of the characters, the story of the spooky old hotel, the story of the mystery, the magic of well crafted fiction.

Phyllis Irene Radford
aka Irene Radford
aka P.R. Frost
aka C.F. Bentley

Don't forget, Irene has promised a signed copy of "Moon In the Mirror," so leave a comment and get in the drawing for your very own copy!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Which genre are you?

Last year at this time, Steve and I were preparing to attend the Space Coast Writers Conference. Besides the fact it was in Cocoa Beach, Florida – which meant a short drive to Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral – it was a great conference, and I’d highly recommend it.

We did two presentations while we were there. One was our “Sketch a Novel In An Hour” workshop (available at, and the other was an overview of genres.

What do I mean by “genre”? A genre is not what you write, it is what you sell. A genre is just the marketing category that tells the bookstore where to shelve the book, and the reader where to look for a book that will meet their expectations. That’s really what it’s all about: reader expectations. What do you, as a reader, want? How can you find it? Who can you trust to meet your expectations?

Of course not all books fit neatly into categories, and my friend Phyllis Irene Radford will be guest blogging on Thursday to talk about crossing the lines between genres. But before we start mixing and matching willy-nilly, let me try to condense that hour-long talk into a few paragraphs. It can’t be done, of course, but that won’t stop me from trying. I hope it will at least give some background for her Thursday post. Oh , and after Phyl’s visit on Thursday keep checking back – I have some great guests lined up over the next three months, one every Thursday, with a Monday post to set up each guest.

Now, on to a whirlwind tour of the genres!

For our presentation, we focused on the primary commercial genres: science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, women’s fiction, literary, young adult/juvenile/children’s, western, thriller, and horror. We didn’t have time for in-depth examinations, this is just an introduction. Each genre has some specific characteristics, and each one has certain reader expectations, and we tried to touch on both.

Science Fiction – Some extraordinary subject (time travel, sentient computers, faster-than-light drives) is treated as scientifically plausible. Alternate history is also considered science fiction. There is no “set” ending in a science fiction story.

Fantasy – Some form of magic is present. The resolution is positive; fantasy readers expect some kind of positive ending.

Mystery – There is a crime, the story focuses on the crime, and the crime is resolved. The story always addresses issues of right and wrong. There’s a wide range of mystery sub-genres, but in all of them the reader expects the crime to be resolved.

Romance – The story focuses of the relationship between two characters, and the hero and heroine live happily ever after. There are a lot of sub-genres of romance as well, but the defining element is “Happily ever after.”

Women’s Fiction – Female protagonists, in stories that address the issues in women’s lives. Women’s fiction may have romance stories, but the reader does not automatically expect “Happily ever after.” In women’s fiction, “Happily until next Saturday” is an acceptable substitute.

Literary – Defined by style and voice. Beautifully written. There are no other absolutes – literary fiction is primarily about the writing.

Young Adult/Juvenile/Children’s – An umbrella genre that contains all others. The protagonist is young – only a few years older than the target audience – and the audience looks for character and voice. The actual level is determined by the age of the reader, but kids read all up and down the spectrum once they get started.

Western – Defined by the setting in time and place: the American West prior to about 1900. The western reader expects a positive resolution. After all, Marshall Dillon always got his man, didn’t he?

Thriller – Big in scope, with multiple viewpoints and high stakes. Thriller readers expect action and suspense ratcheting up with every chapter.

Horror – Is horrific. Like pornography, you’ll know it when you see it.

Okay, a one-hour talk based on years of reading and writing, condensed into a few hundred words. It doesn’t begin to cover the subject, but at least it’s a place to start.

But don’t try to write a genre. Write the book you want to write, then find a genre in which to market it. Don’t try to follow a trend. As someone said recently “By the time you can see the bandwagon, it’s too late to get on.” And look outside your comfort zone, keeping an open mind. Maybe that book you thought was a romance is really women’s fiction, or mystery, or maybe even fantasy.

Or maybe, like Phyl, you’re crossing genres. Stick around, she’ll be here Thursday to offer some advice to those of us who can’t seem to color within the lines.