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.

The number one requirement of a book title

Yesterday I spent at least an hour on the phone with my parents, working on a replacement title for what used to be called Telling Lies, a book I’m going to self-publish real soon now. This book has had that title for probably 7 years, but in the middle of last year, someone came out with a mystery of the same name. I was about to say, “Eh, screw it,” and use that title anyway (they’re not copyrightable) when I got an email from the author (whom I’ve never met) asking me to nominate her book for an Agatha. It was just too much, you know? The hunt was on.

What makes a good book title?

It makes people buy the book. That is the number one requirement of a book title. Do not get this aspect confused with how well a title fits a book after it’s read. I don’t care how much someone appreciates your clever wordplay when they’re done with the book. “See, not only was she telling lies, but the lies she told were telling – about her!” Great, but remember, the book is already paid for at that point. P.S. My dad says that if a title really doesn’t fit a book, he might find that annoying enough to shun a second book by the author, even if he really enjoyed her writing. But Daddy fits no one’s idea of the average person, so let’s move on.

How does a title sell a book?

1) The title has tension, asks a question the reader wants answered, or piques the reader’s interest so much that he buys the book. Everyone knows that telling lies is bad, but it’s also sometimes necessary. One word can convey tension, which is why there are about a million romances with reckless in them. If you don’t mind a long title, you can create a whole scenario with tension. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Sometimes tension comes from words that seem to war with each other. The Accidental Tourist. How is that possible? (Oh, look, it asks a question, too.) Try piquing their interest: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. WTF?

2) The title tells the reader the tone of the book. This works particularly well with books of a specific flavor, especially one that isn’t widely available but has hardcore fans. Southern lit used to be rare enough that putting Sweet Potato Queens in the title was enough to make the right reader snatch it off the shelf. I don’t know if that’s the case anymore. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Speculative fic readers LOVE that title, and for good reason. It’s frickin’ brilliant on so many levels. (In case you don’t know, that book became Bladerunner.) How ’bout The Da Vinci Code? Sounds kind of like an art-themed thriller, doesn’t it? (Btw, Da Vinci Code would also make a great self-help book title, a la The Seven Habits of Highly Lengthy Titles.)

3) No one else has used the title, at least not recently, or famously, or in a book that’s really similar. Yes, Telling Lies was a great title. I’m trying to get over it, okay?

Let’s talk about stuff to avoid.

1) Clichés. My book deals with a reluctant Tarot reader, so all kinds of card-related sayings suggested themselves. Wild Card. Full Deck. In the Cards. Meh. Clichés pass through the mind with barely a trace. You want a title that rattles around in the ear canal like a moth with fangs. 

2) Insulting potential readers. We briefly considered Mystic Lies, then realized that title would piss off every Tarot reader out there, and they might be expected to buy the book because there isn’t much fiction with Tarot in it. (Note to Tarot readers: This book is not anti-Tarot. You can safely buy it.)

3) Titles that make no damn sense. There may have been books with nonsensical titles that made it big, but I’m pretty sure they became famous because they had a publicity machine behind them. Case in point – I can’t remember any of them.

All right, so what title did we come up with? I’m not going to claim it’s great. I did use some card imagery, although I think I dodged the cliché bullet. I think it has tension. It works well with the cover art I picked, and also with the blurb. Here’s my very preliminary mock-up of the cover. Because it requires some photo manipulation (putting the card in the model’s hand), Angel Joe is going to clean it up this weekend. It will change in other ways.

And here’s the blurb.

LeeLee Moldovar’s mother is dead, leaving her debts, her angry Chihuahua, and her abandoned Tarot clients. After losing her job, LeeLee decides to read Tarot for a living. Her first client is a very attractive man, and there’s definite chemistry. The cards say Adrian should dump his newest girlfriend – or is that what LeeLee wants? It’s only after Adrian leaves that LeeLee discovers he’s dating her best friend. When the next client arrives, she’s afraid to say anything and risk another Tarot disaster. But something inside LeeLee speaks out, giving advice she doesn’t anticipate and can’t control. To silence this unwanted voice and regain her sanity, LeeLee must discover her true self, despite attractive men, best friends, and the specter of her mother’s loving wishes for her.

Oh, look, I’ve already changed the cover.

Comments? Suggestions? Lay ’em on me.

A new sweater for Josie O and an upcoming book on Kindle

I’ve been taking Josie O outside, just on the porch and the grassy area immediately beyond. Our house doesn’t front on the street, so I figure this is safe. She hasn’t been through her entire vaccination cycle, so that’s as much as I dare risk, to minimize the chances of her getting diseases from other dogs.

Being outside distracts her from the fact that she’s wearing a harness and leash, and she’s getting used to them pretty quickly, but it’s cold outside, and she starts shivering within about a minute. I’ve been looking for a sweater small enough to fit her, and Petco came through for me yesterday. Yes, the brand name is Smoochie Pooch. If you can’t embrace the cute, don’t get a Chihuahua.

(Put your cursor on the pix to get mouseover captions.)

In other news, Telling Lies, the book I’m going to self-publish, came through its reading with the psychologist with flying colors. (It has a therapist in it, and I wanted to check for realism.) She was very complimentary, although I don’t have permission to quote her yet, so you’ll have to take my word for it. This story also includes a Chihuahua, although the poor thing has some problems. Don’t worry – happy ending, happy ending.

So the next three things on my agenda are:

1) learn to format the book for Kindle and start that process,

2) compose back-cover copy, including a descriptive blurb,

3) decide whether I want to use the cover I made with clip art, which is acceptable, or hire a graphic artist to spiff it up (especially in the title font area) or even start from scratch.

Birdee and Bella get a new book.

Birdee, Bella and Beasley are three Chihuahuas owned by Denise Fain Bast. I imagine it’s Denise who will be doing the actual reading, though I’ve heard from several Chi owners that their dogs really do love to listen. Beasley isn’t in the picture. According to Denise,

Beasley has a mind of her own! Bella & Birdee are very ‘treat-motivated’ but Beasley just assumes you are up to something if you try to bribe her… smart?!! … With Bella & Birdee I can get a ‘head-tilt’ by just asking, “Want a treat?” So much fun!

Writer Crafts & Cuisine. Win a book!

My guest blog post on Writer Crafts and Cuisine is up on Lois Winston’s site. I had a lot of fun with this tongue-in-cheek post. Not only will one commenter win a hardback copy of Chihuahua of the Baskervilles, but I’ll throw in one of the mice and a coaster. Remember, you have to comment there, not here. Have fun!

What from the Black Lagoon? What?!

I had two radio interviews today, one with Cathie Martin of WGRT-FM, serving Michigan’s towns of Port Huron and Sarnia (the latter is accessible by going out the back door of a sandwich shop [that joke is for the Brits]), and a second interview with Maggie Linton of SiriusXM satellite radio’s show, Book Radio. Way fun gals, both of them, and I was on my game. For early morning interviews, I get up at least an hour beforehand so I can eat, drink some tea or coffee, and be able to string two sentences together. “Yes, I am a writer! Thank you for talking with me today! Here is my website!” That’s three, but you get the idea. I’m actually a little more suave than that.

I forgot fellow writer Lynda Hilburn had rescheduled her visit today, so the house is clean, which is a nice bonus for the weekend.

I need to write two blog posts — one for Mystery Fanfare (one of my fave crime-fiction blogs) and one for Lois Winston, author of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries.

And I’m still trying to find the perfect riff on Creature from the Black Lagoon for the third book in my Tripping Magazine mystery series. I’m willing to settle on Critter from the Black Lagoon, but I wish it were better.

I did find a more flexible online rhyming dictionary, Rhymer.com, and it suggested a few words that made me chuckle, although they have nothing to do with giant prehistoric pigs, which is what this book is about. Still, plug the following words into ” ____ from the Black Lagoon,” and see if you get a giggle.

Bachelor
Gesture
Moocher
Squelcher
Denture
Fixture
Cheaper

…and my current unusable favorite, which I came up with all on my own, Nietzche from the Black Lagoon. Is that unusable? I’m not sure. For all I know, giant prehistoric pigs are all over “will to power” and perspectivism. Has anyone asked?

 

 

 

Giant Pigs and Bed Races

Today’s interview/review is at Chiseled in Rock, a blog that’s associated with the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. I belong to that group periodically, usually when I can attend their excellent Colorado Gold conference (I have a wedding and to attend and can’t go this year). I got my agent, Jennifer Unter, by winning Colorado Gold’s mainstream fiction category way back in…I’d have to look it up. Let’s say 2007. That sounds about right. Anyway, they’re a great group.

E.C. Stacey is a delightful interviewer, and I gave full rein to my comedic impulses in answering. There is some serious(ish) stuff there, too.

Oh, and in case you’ve lost track of the what blog I’m appearing at today, it’s here.

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.