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Chihuahua of the Baskervilles is the first in my new mystery series, which features the staff of Tripping, a low-budget travel magazine that covers destinations of paranormal interest.

In Chihuahua of the Baskervilles, Tripping hears about a ghostly Chihuahua seen by Charlotte Baskerville. Charlotte is the rich founder of Petey’s Closet, a clothing catalog for small dogs. Editor Angus MacGregor, photographer Suki Oota, and writer Michael Abernathy travel to Manitou Springs, where the ghost howls advice and spells out threats in tiny paw prints. Is the glowing apparition really Petey’s ghost, or is someone in Charlotte’s household trying to teach a dead dog new tricks – like murder? It’s up to Tripping Magazine to save Charlotte Baskerville, preferably without losing their story.
(Read Chapter 1. Read reviews.)

Each book is set in an actual, tourist-oriented town, and I try to feature fun events that you can attend. For example, the first book takes place in Manitou Springs, Colorado, during the Emma Crawford Memorial Coffin Race.

Portrait of Doreene Gray is the second book, set in Port Townsend, Washington, during the Wooden Boat Festival. Look for it in July of 2012. You can read a description and the first two chapters here.


The old ways suck.

Sadly, she can't read.One of the few times I buy paper books is when I do a signing at a bookstore. I figure it’s the least I can do. That’s how I wound up with the hardback version of At Home, by Bill Bryson. It’s a great whacking lump of a book, so good that I bought my parents the Kindle version on our shared account.

Yesterday I was reading while eating, which is when I do 90% of my reading, and this monster book wouldn’t stay open on the table unless I held it with one hand. So tedious. So although the paper version was RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, I went upstairs, got my Kindle, downloaded the ebook version, and read that.

To tell the truth, I don’t even like to go into bookstores anymore. Looking at all that paper that has to be stored on your shelf, knowing that many of those books will be returned to the publisher and pulped… Honestly, it makes me all twitchy. What would I take with me on a desert island? My phone and some sort of magic cell connection. I don’t want to travel by horseback (ooh, the smell and feel of horses!), I don’t want to churn my own butter, and I don’t want a paper book.

Book Giveaway!

Mystery Most Cozy is both a website and a Facebook page that’s a great forum to talk about cozy mysteries. Unlike a lot of other sites, it’s not cluttered up with a bunch of self-promotion. I’ve gotten a lot of great recommendations from them. Right now, they’re celebrating TEN YEARS with a series of author interviews, and I was lucky enough to be one of those authors — and yes, one lucky commenter will get the first two books in the Tripping Magazine mystery series (plus I’m going to slip in some other nice surprises). There’s a little more to it than commenting, actually. Here are the instructions.

So what are you waiting for? Oh, right. A link.

Mystery Most Cozy Interviews Moi

“What is this, Mi-am-i Beach?”

Our temperatures have been in the single Fahrenheit digits for a couple of days now, so to get Josie O (my Chihuahua) her quota of mental stimulation, I’ve been taking her to stores. Yesterday we went to Marshalls. I put her carry box in the front of the cart, and she stood with her front paws on the edge, like the figurehead of a ship if the figurehead of a ship were covered in fur and made licky faces at people. (Note to self: horror movie idea: seafaring werewolves.)

Afterwards, I stopped by Ideal market and bought Popsicles, because no weather is too cold for Popsicles unless you’re in a tent.

In other news, I’m reading Maddy Hunter‘s Passport to Peril mysteries, which are hilarious. In Pasta Imperfect, two bestselling romance writers bicker about how “ten inches of flaming virility” really behaves.

“People have actually done surveys and the consensus is, it doesn’t throb!”

I cleared my throat and raised a tentative finger in the air. “If you ladies don’t mind my asking, if it doesn’t throb, what does it do?”

“Maybe it quivers,” Nana said thoughtfully. “You know, kind of like a handheld blender.”

So I’m going to put Maddy Hunter on my list of fantastically funny mystery writers, up there with Laura Levine, that goddess of laughter.

Lastly, I seem to be over my embarrassing writers block and working well on Critter from the Black Lagoon again, although there was a moment when it was possibly going to be Beaver from the Black Lagoon, because in addition to killer hogs, prehistoric central Florida was also home to beavers the size of black bears.

Luckily, a cooler head prevailed (my head, just cooler), and I’m sticking with pigs.

I’m still shooting for a July release date, which is the soonest I can bring it out according to my  contract with St. Martin’s.

P.S. If you don’t understand the title of this post, it’s a reference to the movie Groundhog Day.

Tales from the Technology Trenches

I’m a big fan of electronic options. I choose ATMs over tellers and vote by mail to avoid all that nasty community at the polls. But really irritating tech is out there, and one of the strongest bastions was also the first – telephones. Herewith, two tales that both happened yesterday, one to me, one to my mom.

Notification from my smartphone:

In order to enable WIFI calling, you must provide your address for 911 calls. Please visit my.tmobile.com.

So I went to the site, where it asked me to log in. The user ID was my phone number, so I knew I had that right, but after trying all my usual passwords (and Angel Joe’s), I hit the Forgot your password? option. Bing! A new, temporary password appeared in my phone messages, and I carefully typed it in: UU4ZJ4.

Website: Password must be at least eight characters long.

At possibly the same time, my mom was trying to cancel her paid subscription to a newsletter that automatically renewed. The website insisted that she get on the phone. The automated phone system was clearly designed to be obstructive. First it hung up on her when she paused too long to pick one of the options, then it had difficulty recognizing her subscriber number, no matter how slowly and clearly she read it.

Automated system: Are you Jose Martinez?

Mom: No. (reads number again)

Automated system: Are you Erin Whitehall?

Mom: No!

Finally it took the number, only to shunt her into a menu cul de sac where none of the numbered options were useful.

Mom, boiling over with frustration: Fuck you!

Automated system: That is not an option.

How about you? Any recent run-ins with terrible tech?

Grown Up Love Song

I wrote this song earlier this year. This is hosted on SoundClick.com.

Click here to listen. The lyrics are below.

Grown Up Love Song

He woke up at three o’clock from a dream about snakes and water,
Where ice had fallen out of the sky and covered the face of his daughter.

She woke up at one o’clock and poured another glass of wine.
Looked at her bills and her bank account, and told herself everything would be fine.

They meet in the usual way – photos and words on a glowing screen,
Secrets told to a stranger online, but after you tell them you want to be seen.

And they both had been alone.
Felt broken to the bone.
But they made a date by phone,
And they met.

Hope and need are powerful things, driving us to take chances.
They moved in together that spring, after months of questioning glances.

And they sold one of their beds,
Discovered they both liked red,
Put his weight bench in the shed,
Just for a while.

She wakes up at six o’clock, feeling his hand brush her hip.
He rolls onto his side in the dark and smiles as she smiles against his lips.

For Sale: Replica of Disney’s Haunted Mansion

How many times have you thought of Disney’s Haunted Mansion and thought, “I would totally live there.” (Three, thanks for asking.) Well, now you sort of can, because some inspired wingnut built a replica, and it’s for sale!

I was only interested in seeing if props from the mansion ever went up for sale. (“Antique” mirror frame, slight vomit marks, requires 220 outlet.) What I found was so much better, and at $873,000 for 10,000 square feet in a gated community near Atlanta, GA, it’s a screaming deal. (Oh, like you could have resisted that pun.)

What do you get? A lot, but of course the most important thing is the one electronically haunted bathroom, because otherwise, WHAT IS THE POINT?

Home Highlights:

  • Over 10,000 Square Feet (Closer to 11,000)
  • 7 Bedrooms and 6 Bathrooms
  • Two story Library with Gas Burning Fireplace & Separate Wet Bar
  • Corian Counter Tops in Kitchen with Butler Pantry and Great room
  • Professional Kitchen Equipment stays with a Vulcan Commercial Stove
  • Wood Floors & Walk In Closets Throughout
  • 1,100 Square Foot Cypress Wood Roof Deck
  • Lower Trex Deck with top of the line 8 Person Hot Tub
  • Magnificent Private Backyard with Wooded Conservation Land View
  • Matching Custom Wood Children’s/Pet Play House
  • 2nd Floor Front Terrace overlooking Neighborhood Park on Cul-de-Sac
  • 3 Car Garage with 1200 amp Electrical Service & Distributed panel Electrical system
  • Ready for Elevator in Central Stair Shaft
  • Concrete Hardie Plank Siding and 2nd Floor Heat Pump
  • Blown-in Insulation and Metal Roof
  • 6″ Interior Walls around Lower Level and All Bathrooms to Reduce Sound
  • Community Security, Pool and Recreation Center

It’s really a lovely house. Click on this photo for the eBay listing, and scroll down for bunches of luscious photos.

The house is being sold through Theme Park Connection, where you can “Buy sell and trade Disney items.”

Secrets of my eight-year-old self

My best, funniest interview ever is up on Scene of the Crime, and it includes a page from my SUPER SECRET journal from when I was a kid. What dark thoughts lurked in my childish noggin? Apparently they involved novelty socks. You can read it here.

Fancy crappers.

It was Nikki of Obsessive Chihuahua Disorder who pointed out the Swarovski-studded toidy.

Now, this strikes me as inherently unhygienic, but the article mentions that the same maker came up with a chrome toilet, and I love that idea.

I think I’d have to make “vroom noises” while sitting on it.

Now, if your commode budget doesn’t stretch to the  tens of thousands, may I suggest this small chrome toilet with a clock in the seat, which is also a business card holder.

I’m trying to think of an appropriate use for this sucker… Reminder card for your gastroenterologist appointment? Sales rep for a hangover cure? Bulemia support group? Help me out here.

Josie O’s first time on TV

It all began yesterday, as I stood in line at the Post Office. I checked my voice mail and there was a message from Dreux (pronounced Drew) DeMack, a producer at COCO (Colorado and Company), Denver’s Channel 9 morning show.

Hi, Esri! We were wondering if you could be on the show tomorrow to talk about The Portrait of Doreene Gray

Eek! The message had been left at 11:00 that morning, and now it was 3:30. Due to a surfeit of stupid political calls, I’d been ignoring unknown numbers. I called back and told Dreux’s voice mail I’d be overjoyed to come. Then I rushed home and washed Josie O. Then I rushed to Nordstrom Rack and bought a cute new dress, suitable for TV. 

But I didn’t hear from Dreux the rest of the day. I resisted the urge to beat my head against the wall. Now that I’d missed this chance, would they call again?

The next morning, today, I woke up around ten to eight and dialed Dreux’s number, just in case. He picked up. 

Hi, Esri, I just walked in the office. Sorry I didn’t get your voice mail yesterday, but we’d still like to have you on today. Did you get the message I left on your phone about an hour ago? 

I hadn’t, but the upshot was that they wanted Josie O and me there sometime between 9:30 and 9:45. It was now eight o’clock. I had an hour and a half to get myself and Josie ready and drive to Denver during the tail end of rush hour. 

No problem, Dreux! I’ll be there!

Esri’s 4-Step TV-Prep Program

Step 1. Drink a cup of soy milk to avoid passing out from low blood sugar.

Step 2. Careful grooming: Brush teeth. Wet ridiculous bed head. Attempt style with super big bobby pins. Give up and pomade it into submission. Put a whole crap load of make up on, and the aforementioned dress. 

Step 3. Get Josie’s stuff together. Sweater dress, toys, treats, food, water bottle, leash, ohmygod why does this dog have so much stuff?

Step 4. Drive to Denver. 

We made it there at 9:20 or so – plenty of time for Josie to have a wee on the manicured lawn and for me to sign in and get my visitor’s tag. Dreux came out and met me, and was just as warm and welcoming as last year. Great guy. This time, I was with the regular host, Denise Plante, a tall, gorgeous creature with boots I wanted to steal right off her shapely legs. I refrained. 

It’s chilly in a TV studio, except on the set proper, which is warmed by those bright, bright lights. Josie O sat quietly in her carrier while I reviewed my script and went over my answers to questions. Up on the set, Denise talked with guests about new treatments for thyroid problems and low mortgages. Dreux wandered over and looked down at Josie, who was napping. 

Him: She’s really good. 

Me: Next time, you’ll have her on and skip me. 

Finally it was our turn. I ran the mic up my dress, made sure my books were propped up, and gave Josie a few treats. Earlier I had walked around the set to get her familiar with it, but she didn’t seem to care. Josie has been in so many situations that her attitude is, “Is this what we’re doing now? Okay then.”

Denise gave me a lovely introduction, read the blurb for my book, and then asked about Josie. As I answered, I put Josie on the floor and had her do a spin, then picked her back up and took her sweater off, so she wouldn’t get warm and fuss. We only had about five minutes, and she sat quietly in my lap the whole time, being cute, which is her job.

Then we were done, and it was time to pack up. I asked Drew when the show would air. 

Didn’t I mention? This was live. We’ll probably run it again, though, because it’s general. I’ll let you know any subsequent air dates. Remind me to send you a DVD of your segment. 

So there it was, my second time on COCO and Josie’s first. As before, I did fine, but I also could have done better. Short appearances are a real art, and it’s hard to stay tightly on message. But hey, I had a cute dog with me. 

If you’re interested in Josie’s sweater, you can find it at The Doggie Market on Etsy.com. Just click here

 

 

Actual things I have said to my dog.

It would be kinder to eat that from the head down. 

You have very poor impulse control.

See? Mommy doesn’t eat her poop.

Wake up and be cute. 

And as a bonus, one from Angel Joe.

You’re kind of prissy for a cat puke and poo eater.

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