Blog Archives

Another chance to win The Portrait of Doreene Gray.

Heads up: Angus MacGregor will be on Dru’s Book Musings tomorrow to talk about what it’s like being the editor of Tripping Magazine. (Your guide to paranormal destinations.) And yes, one lucky commenter will win a hardback copy of my newest book, The Portrait of Doreene Gray.

If you’ve read both my books, drop by anyway and ask Angus some personal questions. He loves those.

In honor of Angus, here is a photo of a very fat Chihuahua in a kilt.

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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.

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.


.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.

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.

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.

Mystery Writer joke

It occurred to me that I’ve never heard a mystery-writer joke, so I made this one up.

_______________

During a publishing conference, a mystery writer, a romance author, and a thriller writer get to talking and decide to have a drink together at the hotel bar.

The romance writer orders a Sex on the Beach.

The thriller writer asks for a Bloody Mary.

The bartender makes those drinks and then asks the mystery writer what she wants.

The mystery writer looks the bartender in the eye and says, “Muddle a slice each of lime, lemon and orange with one clove. Add a shot of British gin, a dash of French absinthe, and crushed ice. Shake well, and strain everything into a martini glass. Stab a cherry with a toothpick and plop that on top.”

The romance writer makes a face. “That doesn’t sound very tasty. What do you call it?”

I’ll tell you what,” the mystery writer says, smiling. “If either of you can guess the name of this cocktail before the bartender finishes making it, I’ll buy all your drinks tonight.”

“We can do this,” the thriller writer says confidently.

So they try to guess the name of the bizarre drink while watching the bartender make it.

“It has British gin and French absinthe,” the romance writer says. “I’d call it the International Lover.”

“Nope,” says the mystery writer.

“Think about how she described it,” the thriller writer says. “Crushed ice, a stabbed cherry… It’s probably something like Death in the Glass or Murder by Booze.”

“Wrong track entirely,” says the mystery writer. “Keep guessing.”

So they keep throwing out names until the drink is finished and the bartender drops in the stabbed cherry.

The thriller writer shakes his head. “I give up. What’s it called?” He turns to find that the mystery writer has vanished.

The romance writer looks at the bartender, “Hey, where’d she go?”

The bartender puts the weird cocktail on the bar. “I don’t know, but she finished both your drinks while you were guessing, and somebody owes me twenty-five bucks.”

Article on Chihuahua of the Baskervilles in the Denver Post

Q&A with Bruce Wolk of the Denver Post. The paper version is awesome, cause not only is my photo at the top, but a different smaller one is at the top left of the section’s cover, as a teaser.

Couple of corrections:

Miramont Castle wasn’t built by volunteers, it was renovated by volunteers.

I had a skin-care business in a salon, but didn’t make my own products (he might have thought that because I gave him some glow-in-the-dark soaps that I did make).

There are no paranormal elements in the book (not actual ones).

Crime-Fiction Blogs

Here are three crime-fiction blogs I found through Twitter. You find one that you like, and then follow the “similar to” links.

Do Some Damage

In Reference to Murder

Mystery Scene (magazine) blog

Oh, and my paper.li Mystery Books Digest is out, if you didn’t see that elsewhere. It’s a once a week thing. You can subscribe, and everything  (Zero Effect reference).

And if anyone is wondering why I disappeared for about three weeks, it’s because I was on a chorus trip to Costa Rica, and now I’m racing to my deadline. Wrote 23 pages yesterday. Boo-yah.