Category Archives: Books

The Portrait of Doreene Gray – Review

Available in hardback and ebook right now.

Lesa Holstein is the winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer, plus a slew of other awards. Here’s her review of the second in my Tripping Magazine mystery series.

Once again, Esri Allbritten has given readers a solid mystery with a well-developed cast of characters. But, it’s the staff of Tripping Magazine that are the best characters, as they argue and plot their way to the solution of the mystery. Angus tries to find a paranormal connection and Michael tries to debunk all such possibilities. If you enjoy a little local history, a few ghost stories, fun sleuths, and a great deal of humor, you won’t go wrong with the latest Chihuahua mystery, The Portrait of Doreene Gray.

Click here to read the entire review.

Click here to read the first chapters of the book.

Click here to buy Portrait at the bookseller of your choice.

And if you haven’t read the first book in the series, it’s available in paperback now.

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Chihauhua of the Baskervilles now in Paperback

Hi, kids! Just a heads up that the first book in the Tripping Magazine mystery series is available in paperback as of today, and they have dropped the Kindle price to match ($7.99). Remember, you don’t need a Kindle device – you can download a free app to your PC, Mac, iPad, smartphone, Blackberry, or tablet.

 

 

The Portrait of Doreene Gray, second in the series, comes out July 3. Right now it has an Amazon pre-order price of $15.35 for the hardcover, $11.99 for Kindle. That Kindle price will probably stay the same until there’s a paperback, but the hardcover price will likely go up a couple of bucks when it officially comes out.

Reviews for The Portrait of Doreene Gray:

“A little bit X-Files, a little bit Agatha Christie and a whole lotta charming. If you like your mysteries baffling, bizarre and, above all, fun, you’re going to love it.” — Steve Hockensmith, author of the New York Times best seller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and the Edgar Award nominee Holmes on the Range.

“The three quirky main characters add an appealingly hip edge to the cozy core of Allbritten’s sequel to 2011’s Chihuahua of the Baskervilles” —Publishers Weekly

Want to read the first couple of chapters of either book? Be my guest.

Excerpt, Chihuahua of the Baskervilles

Excerpt, The Portrait of Doreene Gray

And if you’ve already read Chihuahua of the Baskervilles, don’t miss the free short story I wrote using some of the same characters.

Crowdsourcing the Bacon Museum

Within the next day or two, I’m going to be putting Porky Johnson’s International Bacon Museum on the page in Critter from the Black Lagoon, the third book in my Tripping Magazine mystery series.

I love coming up with creations like Porky and his museum. It’s a romp through the wilds of the internet, especially eBay. Usually I’m selfish and controlling as a writer. I don’t want input. But I have been working with a writers’ brainstorming group, and have loosened up enough to enjoy bouncing ideas off people. Also, there are fewer bacon collectibles out there than you’d think, even when including “ephemera” in the search terms.

“Ephemera” is a good word to know.

So I thought I’d see if anyone has suggestions on what an International Bacon Museum might contain. This is a roadside museum in central Florida. Porky is a hunter, a character and a highly motivated entrepreneur. For exhibits, he’ll probably have  Bacon through the Ages and Bacon in Wartime (I’m thinking a diorama for the first, perhaps a full-size scene using 70s-era mannequins for the second). There will be a painstakingly drawn Bacon Family Tree, which will include both the near relatives of ham and jerky, as well as far-flung cousins such as Vienna sausages in a can. There will be a gift shop, of course, with bacon bandages, bacon mints and bacon bumper stickers. There may be a curtained-off area devoted to jokes on the theme of “makin’ bacon.” He’s either gotten his hands on an educational film about the actual production of bacon, or made his own unflinching documentary. “Sensitive folks may want to cover their eyes at the beginning. You have to kill a pig to make bacon. That’s just a fact of life.”

So far, I have not found an actual, physical museum of bacon, which astonishes me. If you know of one, tell me. And of course, if you provide an idea that I use, I’ll put you in the book’s acknowledgements at a bare minimum.

Cocaine Blues is FREE today!

This is the first book in my favorite mystery series EVER, and you can get it free today (and remember, you don’t need a Kindle device, just download one of their free apps). If you’ve never read one of the Phryne Fisher books, I envy you. You have the whole series ahead of you. Enjoy!

Get it while it’s still a buck…

I’ve submitted a price change to Kindle for Jokers & Fools, from .99 to 2.99. If you haven’t gotten it and want to, now is the time, before it takes effect.

Where Mystery Readers Go

Must Read Mysteries not only sells print mysteries, but also makes readers aware of new releases, sales, and free ebook mysteries through their Facebook page. They’re a fantastic resource, so I was extremely geeked when Mr. Must Read Mysteries (Scott) asked if I’d like to guest post on their blog.

You can find me there tomorrow, Wednesday, writing on Death and Comedy. I think it’s worth reading if only for the joke at the end.

Discussion Questions for Reading Groups

Today I received an email from Cynthia Provenzano of the Pikes Peak Library District, asking if I had discussion questions for reading groups. What a good idea! I asked if she had any tips, and she did. First, she suggested that I not have more than 10 or 12 questions per book. Second, she gave me the websites of two authors she felt provided excellent questions: Sandra Dallas and Carol Goodman. And finally, she said not to ask what actors would play the characters in a movie. (D’oh! That’s an author’s favorite game, but apparently we’re the only ones who care.)

With this information under my belt, I wrote discussion questions for both Chihuahua of the Baskervilles and The Portrait of Doreene Gray (available July 3, 2012). They are, of course, chock full o’ spoilers, so don’t read them unless you have already read the books. Or if you have no intention of ever reading them – that works, too.

Thanks, Cynthia!

The mystery of Must Read Mysteries – solved!

If you’re a Facebook friend, you may have noticed me sharing a lot of posts by Must Read Mysteries. That’s because it’s a great source for ebook mysteries that are reasonably priced or free. Eventually, I got curious — who was behind Must Read Mysteries, how did they find all these great books, and what was the motivation behind this great service? So I sent a message. Here are the answers.

Who are you?

While on the internet I am a man of mystery, at home I am a husband, father of 4 children ranging in age from 2 to 16, and a life long reader of mysteries, especially hard boiled ones. My wife Stephanie, another mystery lover, also contributes to the page, particularly when it comes to the cozy mysteries.

How did you get into this?

One of our favorite things to do is to go to library book sales and find new mysteries to try and fill in some of the holes in our collection. Unfortunately we ended up with a small house bursting at the seams with 4 kids and thousands of books. So we bought a Kindle and started to supplement the income from our real jobs by selling old pulp paperbacks and lots of mysteries on eBay grouped by author, series, and theme. As eBay became less and less seller friendly (making the feedback system meaningless by not allowing sellers to leave negative feedback for buyers even when they did not pay, taking a 9% cut on the cost of shipping) we created our own site, mustreadmysteries.ecrater.com, to sell the used books. To try to drive traffic to it we created the Facebook page and slowly started building a following. Then last summer we were away from home for an extended period of time, and in order to keep the page active I started putting up Amazon links to mysteries I enjoyed or were bargains. It seemed to generate traffic, and Stephanie enlightened me that if I was going to throw up links that we might as well become an Amazon associate and make a few pennies when people actually bought the books. As a bonus it is fun to share the freebies we find with the people following the page. It is a bit like a treasure hunt. So that is what we did and that is how the page came to be what it is today. The income from the links gives us just enough money to feed our mystery reading habits, and now we have a Kindle that is as stuffed with books as our house used to be.

How you find all the books (unless that’s a trade secret)?

There are several ways, but the starting point is using Amazon’s rather robust and varied search and recommendation mechanisms. I also follow several blogs and keep an eye on favorite author’s pages to see when they have sales. More recently authors have started emailing or messaging me to alert me when they have a promotion coming up. I also have been getting ARCs and gifted Kindle books so that we can do reviews. We have been able to get to most of those, but do not guarantee a positive review.

What feedback have you gotten from fans?

The most common feedback is people thanking us for alerting them to books or series that they were not aware of. There are also several recommendations that keep popping up: 1) start doing B&N links for the Nook, 2) start a page focusing on science fiction/fantasy/paranormal books, and 3) start a blog with more detailed reviews, musings, recommendations, and perhaps having authors guest post about some of their favorite books from other authors. Those are good ideas that we will try to incorporate as time permits. We welcome feedback from the community because it helps us find new things that might be of interest to others and help us stay responsive to rapidly changing trends.

What are your opinions on the future of publishing?

The industry is changing rapidly and my opinions tend to change too. In general I am pretty much in the JA Konrath/Barry Eisler camp that the traditional publishing route does not make sense financially for many (though certainly not all) authors. I have found eye opening some of the very open financial pieces written by Konrath compared to similar pieces by a traditionally published authors like Jennifer Stanley/Ellery Adams. The big question now is what the impact of the KDP select plan where authors can have their book be free for 5 days out of 90 at Amazon. Are people going to expect to get everything free and hold off on making purchases? Might they end up with so many books on their Kindles that they stop buying? Libby Fischer Hellmann had an interesting blog post about this recently.

One thing I really like about ebooks is the way it is making short stories and novellas available that might not have otherwise seen the light of day. I know this is particularly true for the more hardboiled crime fiction. I have been having a bunch of fun reading through the shorter pieces from Nigel Bird, Ray Banks, Keith Rawson, Heath Lowrance, James Reasoner, Edward Grainger/David Cranmer, Patti Abbott, Thomas Pluck etc.

Another thing I think about is the change to the used book market. When we first started promoting lots of used books on the Facebook page, there were complaints from several authors that they would not be making royalties on the sales of used books. I think that used books are a great way of introducing readers to authors that they will later buy new, much like a library is, but as ebooks become more dominant this dynamic is going to change, and it should change in a way that authors are going to earn more royalties off of their back list, especially when the rights revert to them. Right now most back list ebook titles are priced too high, and people looking for inexpensive titles might still buy used books. But as prices go down and e-readers more popular people will buy the inexpensive e-books instead, which should mean more royalties for authors.

Scott

(After I read all that, I had another question.)
Do the kids participate in the business in any way? And do you think it makes them aware of the possibilities of entrepreneurship?

My oldest daughter (16) has contributed a couple of recommendations (Dave Zeltersman’s Julius Katz mysteries for one) and is thinking of doing a similar page for music. So it has definite made her aware of the possibilities. If we do branch out with Sci Fi/Fantasy/Paranormal she would help with that. The 7 year old is a big reader (“How To Train Your Dragon” is current favorite) and the little ones (5 and 2) love having books and being read 2. The 7 year old has the kindle app loaded on his tablet, but it has to compete for time with Angry Birds.

.99 Two-Day Sale: Jokers & Fools

Two publishing contracts ago, this book, originally titled Telling Lies, won the Mainstream category of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers contest. Jennifer Unter, my agent, took me on as a result of it. Publishers read it and loved it, but didn’t know how to sell it unless they labeled it Chick Lit, which was considered dead at the time. So we got a lot of rejection letters like this one,

Dear Jennifer:

TELLING LIES was utterly clever and fun and often startling truthful. And you’ve really got a wild ride of a writer on your hands.  But I think this is just a bit too far on the other side of chick lit for me—the voice wasn’t exactly hitting my chords and I think the tone, overall, falls outside of Harcourt’s best range.

Thanks, though, for the read—which was completely unforgettable.

and this one,

Dear Jennifer:

Thanks so much for sending me TELLING LIES. I had great fun reading it.

This is a really charming novel and I think Esri is a promising talent. I especially enjoyed Julio because my neighborhood is full of Chihuahuas with attitude, so he made me laugh. I’m afraid my gut sense was that this isn’t a big commercial hardcover, so it’s not right for me. If I were still buying paperback, it might be a different scenario. I do think that you’ll find a publisher for this, though, and I wish you the best of luck with it. It was by far the most entertaining novel I’ve read all week!

Finally Kensington/Zebra asked if I had any other books for sale. I did, and we left this book behind. And that’s why, six years later, I can offer you what is possibly the best book I’ve ever written – for a buck. At least, for two days it’ll be a buck. After that, it’ll be three bucks.

I believe that with the vast audience of the internet, books can be sold inexpensively. That’s why I’ve turned down a second hardback contract with St. Martin’s and plan on self-publishing my books in ebook and print-on-demand from now on. Here’s your chance to validate that decision. Buy it. Read it. If you like it, review it and recommend it.

I’m working on making Jokers & Fools available on Smashwords and also in print form, through CreateSpace. For now, it’s on Kindle, but you don’t actually need a Kindle to read it. There are free Kindle apps you can download to your PC, Mac, phone or whathaveyou. Here’s a link for those.

The “When Will Josie Climb the Stairs” pool. No fee, win stuff.

Josie, my Chihuahua puppy, is bound to try to climb the stairs to the second floor at some point. I’m offering a free advance review copy of The Portrait of Doreene Gray to the person who guesses closest to the date/time she does. It’s just like sports betting, only cuter and fluffier! (Also, no one named “Brass-knuckle Chuck” will come to your house and beat you up if you lose.)

Here are the stats.
  • Josie weighed two pounds, two ounces as of yesterday, January 26.
  • She is three months old.
  • Two days ago, she put her front paws on the bottom stair and looked up. That’s all she’s done.
  • There were no stairs in her previous house.
  • She has had one instance of being timid with a shallow outside step.
  • Each stair riser is 7.5 inches tall. There are 14 stairs.
  • Josie’s legs are 4 inches long.
  • The cat hangs out upstairs.
  • So does Angel Joe, and Josie LOVES Angel Joe.
  • We are not encouraging her to climb the stairs. That’s the cat’s safe space, and it’s also carpeted up there, and Josie isn’t fully housebroken.

You can leave your guess as a comment here or on Facebook. Once you pick your date/time, you can’t change it. There will be two prizes:

An ARC (advance review copy) of The Portrait of Doreene Gray goes to the person who guesses when Josie will climb all the way to the stop of the stairs.

Some glow-in-the-dark Chihuahua Soap goes to the person who guesses when Josie climbs at least two stairs, but doesn’t get all the way to the top.

If I were guessing, I personally wouldn’t guess within a week and a half of now, but this is my first puppy. You long-time Chi owners may know better.

—————————————

Dorothy MacKay-Holmberg, (here), Jan. 29, (time?) Note: I applaud Dorothy’s faith in Josie. It was clever of her to guess the tail-end of this weekend, because Josie is out of her pen more on Sat & Sun than on weekdays.

Nikki of Obsessive Chihuahua Disorder, Jan 31, 10:00 am

Shirley Blanks-Pettis, FB, Feb 3, noon

Deborah Sheeler, FB, Feb 8, 11:00 am

Theresa Edkins Danley, FB, Feb. 9, 11:00 am

Fawn Frazer, FB, Feb 10, 10:00 am

Shawna Nicole McCain, FB, Feb 10

Denise Fain Bast, FB, Feb 14, 10:30 am (Thank you for getting the ball rolling!)

Anna Fontana, FB, Feb. 14 (time?)

Wilhelmina Callaghan, FB, Feb. 14, 7:00 pm

Bloomers Chihuahuas, FB, Feb 17, 5:00 pm

Karen Bryant Doering, (comment below), Feb 18, 10:00 pm

Debra Cochran, Feb 23, 6:30 pm

Marlene Morrill, FB, Feb 27, “before 2:00 pm”

Marsha Graves-Realtor, FB, Feb 29 , 8:00 am

Faith Craig, FB, March 6

Debbie Fanton, FB, March 10

Dianne Lynn Stebens, FB, “never”

 

Update: Debbie Fanton from FB won this.