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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.

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.

We have a winnah!

Thanks to all of you who visited the day of Marni Graff’s post. Marni very kindly sent me the first two books in her series to give away. I called Angel Joe and said, “Pick a number from 1 to 10,” and he picked 4, so Betsy Dornbusch is our winner, which saves me some shipping, since I see her once a month. Yay!

Thanks to all the commenters for visiting. I hope you had a great holiday weekend!

Marni Graff, author of The Blue Virgin and The Green Remains

Marni Graff is the author of the Nora Tierney mystery series – which falls somewhere between a police procedural and a cozy. The second book in this very interesting series just came out, and I wanted to find out more. One lucky commenter will win a copy of The Green Remains.

Before we start talking to Marni, let me catch you up on the series. In The Blue Virgin, American writer Nora Tierney travels to Oxford, England. Her good friend has been wrongfully accused of murdering her partner. But is the accusation wrong?

In The Green Remains, Nora is living at Ramsey Lodge in England’s Lake District, anticipating the birth of her first child and the publication of her first children’s book. But when she finds a body by Lake Windemere, her illustrator, Simon Ramsey is implicated. As the body count rises, Nora and her unborn child will face risks and perils she could never anticipate.

Pretty riveting stuff, huh? Now, I’m a big fan of stories that take me to other countries, so I decided to ask Marni about setting her books in England rather than the U.S.

Author Marni Graff

Esri:

Setting is such a great way to add a tone or feeling to a story, especially if the setting has a strong “personality.” I’m trying to imagine a chipper comedy set in a place where it rains all the time – it’s difficult. I’m assuming you didn’t finish the books during your visits to the UK. Do you ever look at photos to get yourself back in a certain mood?

Marni:

I keep my photo albums of my last trip to Oxford and to the Lake District on my desk. As a matter of fact, we used a photo I took on Lake Windermere as the basis for the cover of The Green Remains. Cumbria is a place of such natural beauty, as opposed to Oxford, which has beauty of a very different kind, all of those golden ancient buildings and bustling crowded streets. It’s town vs country for sure; both strong in personality, as you mention, but of a very different kind.

When I read Elizabeth George’s newest (Believing the Lie) I wasn’t surprised to see she’d taken Lynley to a visit to Cumbria. But then I don’t have a lock on that place, as evidenced by Reginald Hill’s The Woodcutter, and one entire series by Martin Edwards, aptly called The Lake District Series. It’s one of my favorite places, and anyone who has seen the natural beauty of Cumbria comes away impressed. Beatrix Potter and Wordsworth and Ruskin all reveled in the tarns and becks, the fleecy clouds reflected in the many lakes’ surface.

Esri:

After I leave a remote book location, I sometimes have a logistical question about it. I once used Google Earth to find out if a parking lot had a convenient bush beside it, for my sleuths to hide behind (it did). Have you ever had this happen, and what did you do about it?

Marni:

Ah, yes, the challenges of setting …  since my books are set so far away, I use a local contact to answer email questions and keep my photograph albums out for reference. But Google came into play when my copyeditor was going over The Blue Virgin. I’d set a character on a walk from his flat to the Covered Market, past Magdalen College, and it sounded like he’s arrived in about three minutes. Turns out Google told her the distance was a mile and a half, so we changed the text to show it took Davey a bit longer to get there!

Esri:

Any funny stories about travel or other experiences you had in the UK?

Marni:

When I studied at Oxford as an adult, I kept buying books and souvenirs, things I fell in love with because I knew it would be a while before I could go back and I loved the town. But I ran out of suitcase space and ended up having to mail myself a two cartons home … don’t ask about the postage. Since the cost was based on weight, I packed the boxes mostly with dirty clothes and put the books in my suitcase! Then I went through the security check on my way home, and this was before 9/11 and they did random baggage checks. Of course, mine was pulled and when the woman opened my suitcase, it was mostly all books. She looked at my passport, saw I’d been there over a month, then looked at my bag and said, “Lor, lass, where’s your knickers?”

Esri:

Nora is writing an illustrated children’s book in the same area where famed Peter Rabbit author Beatrix Potter lived. Did you (and Nora) take the tour? Buy any souvenirs?

Marni:

I’ve taken the tour (lovely) to Hill Top, and Nora will in a future book with her child. The World of Beatrix Potter attraction (think All Things Peter and Friends) is in the village where The Green Remains is set, right near Windermere. Potter’s influence in the area is enormous; she bought up 14 farms and over 4,000 acres of land and left it to The National Trust in her will so that it would never be developed. In this book, Nora is name-hunting for her child and considers a few Potter favorites, which she ultimately discards. But she does use Peter Rabbit and friends to decorate her son’s nursery.

Esri:

Good for her. You can’t go wrong with the classics. A non-location question: Each of your titles mentions a color. Do you remember what brought that about?

Marni:

The first book, The Blue Virgin, was my original title, based on a club that’s mentioned in the first chapter but is actually metaphor for the young woman whose murder sets Nora on her initial investigation. I work with an outstanding book designer, Giordana Segneri, and it was her idea when she designed the cover, to use the blue wash. We liked the effect so much I made certain I worked color into the title for The Green Remains. This one refers to the appearance of the dead body Nora stumbles over at the edge of the lake but is also a metaphor for what remains at the end of the book: new lives to be molded from the aftermath of tragedy. Right now I’m working on The Scarlet Wench, which is the name of the local pub already mentioned in Bowness in The Green Remains, and is a metaphor for …  you’ll have to read it and find out! The fourth book’s working title is The Golden Hour.
———————–
If you’d like to read excerpts of Marni’s books (and who wouldn’t?), they’re below. And don’t forget to comment for the chance to win a copy of her newest!

Excerpt – The Blue Virgin

Excerpt – The Green Remains

Marni Graff, also known as Auntie M,  M.K., and Marnette, grew up in Floral Park, NY. She currently resides in rural North Carolina, living on the Pungo River, part of the coast’s Intracoastal Waterway. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime, and runs the NC Writers Read program in Belhaven. Graff is the author of screenplays, stories, essays and poetry, and writes two mystery series. Her creative nonfiction was most recently seen in Southern Women’s Review. She is also co-author of Writing in a Changing World, a primer on writing groups and critique techniques. Visit her at her blog, which has fab weekly book reviews, AuntiEmWrites.

Bonus link: A great guest post by Marni on Motherhoot, about her interesting journey to writing.


Scary Chihuahua Stories Around the Campfire

Chihuahuas have almost no downside. They’re portable, good-tempered, quieter than the average dog (you heard that right – they don’t bark more than average dogs and their bark is quieter), reasonably healthy (they’re prone to seizures and tooth decay), long-lived (14-17 years, on average), most of them can’t get on the furniture unless you provide a set of stairs, they’ll never drag stuff off the kitchen counter, and you can train them to use the indoor potty system of your choice. So what’s the catch?

They’re fragile.

Chihuahuas are so fragile that I have been told many firsthand stories about Chihuahuas dying in freakishly easy ways, simply because of their size.

[Chi mommies who have lost pets tragically, you should stop reading now and look at cute puppy pictures instead. But if you’re planning on or considering Chihuahua ownership (or any other small breed), you should be aware of the risks. Don’t worry – there are no grim pictures, and I’ve tried to keep things on the lighter side.]

One of the rules of humor is that a lot of anything starts to get funny. People warned me about so many ways Chihuahuas had been known to die that it got darkly ridiculous (but don’t think I’m not grateful – I am). It got so I’d wander into Angel Joe’s office and say something like, “Just heard a new one. Chihuahua fell out of a puppy purse during a blender demonstration at the Home Show.” (That did not happen.)

So I’ve create an educational quiz, to highlight the risks and responsibilities of owning a tiny dog. See if you can pick the real ways in which Chis have perished versus ones I made up. (Of course, the ones I made up could have happened.)

All right. Here are the answers.

Fell from a standing person’s arms. Yup. Usually when a puppy.

Crushed trachea. This is a trick question, because their tracheas can be crushed (you should always walk them with a harness), but I’ve never heard of one dying right away from it. Usually the breathing problems result in heart trouble, and that eventually does them in.

Gator. Actually, gators seem to prefer poodles. But surely it’s happened, as evidenced by this Halloween costume.

Fell off stairs through bannister railing. Heard that from several people, including my vet. In fact, I think I heard of one that just fell down the stairs and died. We have become paranoid about keeping the door to the basement shut.

Baseboard heater. I made that up. We have baseboard heaters, and I don’t know if I should be worried.

Stepped on. Yup, usually puppies.

Ran into wall chasing toy, broke neck. Actually, it was a coffee table leg. Probably the most shocking one I heard, as it happened right in front of the owner. Horrible.

Drowned in toilet. Don’t be ridiculous. How could they reach a toilet?

Choked on stub of carrot. Yup. Heard that one first hand. She slices the carrots in thin slivers now.

Sat on. Despite the famous cartoon, I haven’t heard of this actually happening. My mother was surprised when I told her. Turns out she sits on her black cat with some regularity when the room is dark. Good thing she’s skinny.

Door closed on head. Made it up. Seems like it could happen, though. Both my mom and I have closed sliding glass doors on our cats’ heads. Cats have hard noggins. Chihuahuas do not.

…and all the rest are true. I think death by house cat was another puppy.

So there you have it – the joys of Chihuahua ownership in the manner of Edward Gorey. Turns out that the price of owning an adorable, convenient dog is constant vigilance. Some things to consider before getting one:

Chihuahuas, alone among dogs, have a soft spot on their skulls that never goes away.

Those little twig legs and tiny ribcages are delicate enough that you should never have a Chihuahua if you have young children. Seriously. I’d probably wait until the kid is seven.

For similar reasons, it’s inadvisable to own a Chihuahua if you are an alcoholic, have vertigo, or are very unsteady on your feet for any reason. Those who own Chihuahuas often develop what Nancy, my dog’s co-breeder, calls “the Chihuahua shuffle,” a manner of walking that doesn’t lift the feet, so tiny toes can’t get caught beneath your shoes.

When walking a Chihuahua, you need to constantly scan the surroundings for  unleashed  large dogs or, depending on your neighborhood, wild animals. Never walk a Chihuahua off leash, and always use a harness. You need to be able to pull that sucker off the ground like a yo yo.

Your decor and landscaping may suffer from having chick wire, orange webbing or Plexiglas over the open spaces between bannisters, deck railings and fences.

You should never leave your Cihuahua alone in a fenced yard, because of birds of prey. Oh, and avoid gator-filled swamps. But that’s a good idea anyway.

Denver booksigning tomorrow!

I’ll be at the Glendale Barnes & Noble tomorrow, August 25, at 7 PM.

The address is 960 South Colorado Blvd., and their phone number is 303-691-2998:

Hope to see you there!

I’m gonna be on TV Wednesday!

I have a glorious five minutes on Colorado & Company tomorrow, to promote Chihuahua of the Baskervilles. Show starts at 10:00 am MST, KUSA, Channel 9, and they estimate my bit will be on at 10:45. It’s live, so if you’re lucky, maybe I’ll do something really embarrassing!

The show has a streaming video feed. There’s a commercial on first, just so you know.

I got the news from my publicist around noon today, which may mean that I’m replacing someone who had to cancel. Or it may not. What do I know? Anyway, I hit Sephora today, to replace some of my more pathetic makeup, and then Macy’s, where I bought a blouse and two non-essential pairs of shoes. (Although I might wear one pair of them tomorrow. Haven’t decided.) Stopped at the grocery store on the way home and when I got back out, the car wouldn’t start. Freaked out. Was within 10 minutes walk from home, so gathered up two shopping bags, purse, bag of groceries (with popsicles), and stepped out into the heat. Then I had a thought. Unlocked the car, looked inside, and sure enough, the floor mat was shoved up under the clutch. Problem solved. Whew!

Now it’s ten pm, and I have to make sure my black leggings are clean, find a white bra, and maybe test out the new foundation. Had chorus from 7:00 to 9:00 tonight, so I’m getting started on those things a little late.

In conclusion, I’d like to thank my publicist, Susan Schwartzman, for getting me the gig. If we’re lucky, this will show that I don’t stutter or belch uncontrollably, and other people will want me.

Chihuahua of the Baskervilles: Librarian review, Facebook ad

Allbritten’s debut mystery offers a good mystery, a terrific team of sleuths, ghost stories, and a number of possibilities for future locations. I can’t vote, but half-way through 2011, Chihuahua of the Baskervilles would be one of my nominees for the Agatha for Best First Mystery.

That’s from a wonderful review by Lesa Holstine, of Lesa’s Book Critiques. Lesa has been a library administrator and manager for 30 years. She’s  a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, and various websites, and was also winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer. So this is kind of a big deal. My eyes got a little prickly feeling when I read her review.

She also sent me a list of great interview questions, and the results will be on her site tomorrow.

In other news, I’m picking my parents up from the airport today. They often visit, and are timing this one so they can attend my first book signing. Of course, this meant that I woke up from a dream this morning where I lost track of time and looked at my watch to realize I was supposed to be at the airport five minutes ago.

Ten of my author copies came yesterday. I’ve never understood why they arrive in dribs and drabs like that (I’m due another ten). I got one all on its lonesome a while back, but immediately gave it to a well-connected friend at her birthday party, so it’s nice to have one to fondle again.

Still have three blog posts to write. — Wait, maybe four. I’ve discovered that it’s a good idea to keep checking back with people to make sure they still have you on the schedule. Also gotta make a bunch of glow soap for the signing, and also to mail to various people as thank-you gifts and for general promo.

I whipped up a Facebook ad last night. 

Am having it click through to my website (with excerpt, reviews, etc.) rather than straight to a sales page on Amazon or whatever. Don’t know if that’s a good idea or not, and of course, it’s impossible to track actual sales when you’re not working with your own sales site. If you’re wondering about the headline, Chihuahua of the Baskervilles was too long to fit, so Chihuahua of Doom is what I came up with. I went back and forth on the all-capped Doom, but in the end decided it was funnier. I’m running a week-long test.