Blog Archives

How to Construct a Local Legend

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In body I may be at a conference in Vegas, but in spirit I’m on Lois Winston’s blog, Anastasia Pollack’s Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers, talking about how to construct a local legend. Comment there, and you could win a book! Come say “hi,” so I can continue to tap away on my smartphone while people smarter than me talk in the front of the room.

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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.

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.
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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.


I’ll be your warm-up comedian today…

I have a guest blog post at Must Read Mysteries today. The topic is Death and Comedy, and it ends with one of my favorite jokes. As an appetizer for that, here’s another of my faves.

A guy starts to develop black spots on his penis. Naturally, he’s concerned, so he goes to see a doctor. The doctor takes one look and says, “I’m very sorry, but you have Chinese Black Gonorrhea, and we’re going to have to amputate your penis.”

The guy is stunned. “You’ll understand if I get a second opinion.”

The doctor nods. “Of course, but any other doctor will tell you the same thing.”

So the guy gets a second opinion, and a third, but both of those doctors tell him the same thing. His penis will have to be amputated.

He goes out drinking with his best friend and tells him the news.They sit in glum silence for a while.

Finally his friend says, “They call it Chinese Black Gonorrhea, right?”

“Yeah,” the guy says.

“Then why don’t you go to China and see a doctor there? Maybe they know a treatment that hasn’t made it to the States yet!”

“That’s a great idea!” the guy says.

So he books a plane ticket and visits a well-respected Chinese doctor who speaks English. The Chinese doctor makes a thorough exam, runs some tests, and finally comes back in. “It’s Chinese Black Gonorrhea, all right.”

“So is there any treatment?” the guy asks. “Because in America, all the doctors tell me that I have to have my penis amputated.”

The Chinese doctor breaks into laughter. “Those American doctors! What a bunch of quacks!”

The guy feels hope for the first time. “Are you telling me I don’t have to have my penis amputated?”

“Nah,” the doctor says, waving a hand. “It’ll fall off by itself.”

Thank you, you’ve been a great audience! I hope you enjoy the second act, now appearing at Must Read Mysteries!

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!

Random Morning Thoughts #1

I’m always chatty in the morning, but Angel Joe goes to work immediately, the cat just wants out, and the puppy, while freakin’ adorable, is basically limited to sign language. So far, hers consists of “let me out of this pen,” “I love you, please love me,” and “throw this.” So here I am, talking to the interwebs.

The boss man from the kitchen cabinet company is coming today to check out these last two cabinets that don’t have the right hinges. Seems like no matter how many photos Joe takes of the doors with their hinges, without, partially open, etc., they can’t figure it out. We’re hoping this gets the job done. Angel Joe is not usually a complainer, but he was really bitchin’ about taking the hinges off for photo purposes and then having to put still-wrong ones back on. It irks him to expend effort on brokenness.

One of the things I’m working on today is getting author endorsement quotes for The Portrait of Doreene Gray (July 3), and also hunting up review sites to send advance review copies to. If you have any sweet, sweet knowledge, please lay it on me. Word.

The bathroom counter guys came on Monday. Turned out both sink cut outs were off center. One can be fixed by moving the cabinet under it, the other one needs to be redone, which Atlas Flooring is doing for free. The benefits of working with a reputable local company are significant. The medicine cabinets come tomorrow. Aren’t they pretty? They’re recessed into the wall.

That’s supposed to be “antique silver.” The bathrooms will be a bit of a mish-mash, with notes of Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and contemporary, but the kitchen is like that, and it works.

Josie O gets her last round of shots tomorrow, and then I can take her on actual walks! Part of the reason for getting a dog was to get me out of the house twice a day, so I’m pretty excited. Today Colorado’s big wind, the Chinook, is howling and banging around the house, so I wouldn’t want to go out anyway.

Time to get to work.

Meet a fellow Chihuahua writer (and her Chi)!

Fawn Frazer is author of the delightful children’s book, Tiny and His Big Adventure, which teaches kids that they need to be gentle with small animals, such as Chihuahuas. [Sciencey note: Apparently kids under three don’t actually realize that animals are living things rather than toys. My personal apologies to childhood pet Mousie.]

Fawn has read Chihuahua of the Baskervilles and is a fan, resulting in these pictures of one of her Chis, Merlin.

I am the size of a hardback book. You totally want to get a dog like me from your local shelter. KTHNXBYE.

I can’t get enough of these pix, so please, Chihuahua owners, send me more. Buy Fawn’s book, while you’re at it.

The Page 69 Test

Marshall Zeringue’s Campaign for the American Reader has a couple of fun blog offshoots. The Page 69 Test asks you to post your book’s 69th page and tell if it’s representative of the whole (or not).

Here we go.

What do book clubs want from visiting authors?

I’m meeting with my sister-in-law’s book club this afternoon (yes, she is a champ). They all have read Chihuahua of the Baskervilles. I’ll sign copies, give out glow-in-the-dark Chihuahua soap, and answer questions, but is there anything else an author can do to really ring a book club’s chimes? Ooh, maybe I’ll print out sneak peak booklets of Portrait of Doreene Gray.

Has anyone out there had a really outstanding book-club experience, either as a reader or an author?