January 29, 2010

First Graphs: Stirring Up Strife, A Hope Street Church Mystery by Jennifer Stanley

Today, we welcome Jennifer Stanley, author of STIRRING UP STRIFE, A Hope Street Church Mystery. (St. Martin's Minotaur, Dec. 2009).

WELCOME TO THE HOPE STREET CHURCH…where good folks study The Good Book, but everyone loves a good mystery!

Cooper Lee can repair a copy machine—but can she repair her life? After being dumped by her boyfriend, she moves back home and goes back to church.

The members of the Sunrise Bible Study Group offer the friendships she needs. Then her new friend- the woman who invited her to church-gets her wedding ring stuck in a copier and is found dead. The suspect? Her husband. Now Cooper and the the Bible Study group members hope to snoop out a murderer...


Chapter One

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.
Psalm 25:16 (NIV)

Cooper Lee was more comfortable with machines than with people. She drove all over the city of Richmond to fix them. By the time she got to these copiers, laminators, or fax machines as they waited in their offices, hospitals, or schools, they were broken. Broken and quiet.

Cooper would arrive and meticulously lay out her tools, and as she did so, the machines didn’t raise their brows in surprise or barely concealed amusement that a woman worked as an office-machine repairman. A thirty-two-year-old woman dressed in a man’s uniform shirt didn’t seem odd or funny to them at all.

Most importantly, they never stared at her eyes.

Her left eye wasn’t worth a second look. It was a flat, almost colorless blue. No one would have dreamed of comparing it to sapphires or deep seas or cloudless summer skies. But the other eye, the eye Cooper had received through ocular transplant surgery after being smashed in the face with a field hockey stick in junior high, was a shimmering green. It was exotic—invoking images of lush jungles flecked with firefly light or the green shallows of tropical waters, in which sunshine was trapped just below the surface.

That single moment at field hockey practice, when a girl on Cooper’s own team had accidentally swung her stick too high as she prepared to hit the ball with incredible force, made Cooper more self-conscious than other teenagers. Still, she wanted what most people want. She longed to have one close friend, to be loved by someone she could grow old with, and for her life to have purpose. Cooper thought she had found all of those in her boyfriend, Drew. Until he dumped her.

Shaking off her gloomy thoughts, Cooper cut a piece of crumb cake for breakfast, wrapped it in a paper towel, filled her twenty-eight-ounce travel cup to the brim with milky, unsweetened coffee, and tossed a banana onto the passenger seat of her truck.

She drove east on I-64, the sun blinding her most of the way. According to Bryant Shelton’s weather report, there wasn’t going to be a cloud in the sky this April Friday. For once, it appeared as though Bryant might be right, though it didn’t matter much to Cooper. She’d be inside offices most of the day, but could enjoy brief moments of sunshine while driving the work van from one destination to another.

At ten minutes to nine, Cooper pulled into the parking lot belonging to one of a dozen corporate buildings re­sembling silvery LEGO blocks. The Make It Work! head quarters was on the fringe of an area called Innsbrook in which hundreds of different companies, replete with an abundance of office equipment, depended upon Cooper and her coworkers in order to operate smoothly.

“Mornin’, Coop!” Angela called out a chipper greeting as Cooper approached the reception desk. Angela’s smile, combined with a vase filled with plump, yellow roses, created a warm welcome. Few people visited the office as most of Make It Work!’s transactions were conducted via telephone, but Angela bought a dozen roses every Monday, claiming that a good workweek always began with fresh flowers.

Angela was in charge of setting up appointments and billing. She was at her desk every morning before anyone else, wearing one of her vintage sweaters, a pencil skirt (both of which were always too tight), and a pair of sexy heels. Angela’s platinum hair, powdered face, and fire-engine-red nails and lipstick were supposed to call to mind an image of Marilyn Monroe, but Angela was older and plumper than the late actress had ever been. Still, Angela was the heart and soul of their small operation. Filled with pluck and boundless optimism, even the frostiest customers thawed once Angela worked her magic on them.

“You’ve got an emergency waitin’ for you, sug.” Angela examined her reflection in a small compact that was never out of reach. “Some poor lady has gotten her weddin’ ring jammed in the insides of a copier.” She held out a pink memo pad and ripped off the top sheet with a flourish.

** Visit the Cozy Chicks Blog

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January 28, 2010

The Miniature White House

I finally had the chance to do something I've always wanted - tour the Miniature White House, now on display at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry until Feb. 15.

I discuss the house and some of the rooms today at Fatal Foodies.

** Check out the Chicago Tribune's 36 photos of the miniature White House in this photo gallery.

January 27, 2010

Doll Collecting Inspires Historical Fiction Novel

I first spotted the book, THE QUEEN'S DOLLMAKER, when The Historically Obsessed blog mentioned it and being a doll collector, too, I thought how cool!

Well, although the majority of my collection involves dollhouse miniatures, I also enjoy large size dolls. I have several Barbies and a Cher doll on the shelf above my computer, along with my favorite Thumbelinas sitting in a chair in the living room. Mostly my dolls are smaller and fit in the dollhouses, a way to save space and enjoy two hobbies in one.

But besides thinking this book was a super idea, it appears that author Christine Trent found a way to make her hobby a tax deduction! Laugh, but 300 dolls is no small collection!

In a recent interview, Trent said she was inspired by her dolls, and after reading about France's queen, came up with an idea to combine both interests.

The book, which is sympathetic to Marie Antoinette, is part romance, but deals mostly with the main character's dollmaking profession, which sounds even more interesting.

And get this--Trent is a debut author, who after receiving dozens of rejections, was signed by Kensington after meeting an editor at a conference. Nice to hear good news for a change amid all the the doom-and-gloom book and publishing news lately.

** Buy:

January 25, 2010

Miniatures Monday: Greenhouse Additions

I finally got back to finishing up some things on my Witch's Greenhouse. The 1-inch scale project is set in the Bay Window Shop of the Houseworks' Street of Shops. It is 12.5" w, 11" h and 13" d.

The double window shop of the set houses my Teapot Shoppe. The third corner shop will be a Witch's Bakery, which I have been collecting cakes for. (Most made by my talented friend Kitty. See her work at the Minis by Kitty blog.)

It took me a while but I'm pleased with how the greenhouse is turning out. I decided to make the outside a "regular" shop so if I ever change my mind, I can take out the spooky plants and use it as a regular plant/garden shop. I like the wallpaper (scrapbook paper) so all I'd need to do is change the wall art inside.

The back and outside walls are painted with a gray sand paint (sand added to acrylic paint) to give it texture. After painting and gluing the art, I sprayed the sides with Krylon Matte Acrylic Sealer.

I decided to make a stone/stucco lower strip on each side to match the bottom of the front bay window. I glued different vintage seed packet art on each side as posters. (See preview of house front here.

The stucco is lightweight Spackle tinted with Linen color acrylic. The stones are different shapes cut from the gray egg cartons.

The egg carton stones are tinted with shades of brown, green and orange acrylic, dabbed with black and brown for accent.

The stones are then sealed with Delta Ceramcoat Gloss Varnish and set into the stucco. I like to add a thin layer of tacky glue before I put the stucco on. More glue is added to the loose stones.

(Note: Victoria Miniland has a great egg carton tutorial using pastels to tint the "stones.")

The inside floor is also egg carton stone, though I added more browns to make it darker. I added the wall shelf from a Michael's hutch and am using an old cabinet for plants and supplies. I will also will add a table by the front door. The potting table is handmade and is my original design.

Next, I'm gluing a string of green beads to hang in the front window and deciding how to add a small valance to the door and maybe the windows. The green fabric has these colored stripes that remind me of "snakes."

I probably have more than enough odd plants to fill the shelves, but I keep coming up with new ideas! I'll share more pix as I add new items. Thanks for stopping by and looking!

** Have you done a greenhouse project or are you making any plants of your own? Got a favorite plant? Whose kits do you like to use? Please share!

January 21, 2010

Food and Fiction - sharing favorites

Sharing some favorite mystery books with food today at Fatal Foodies. Check out the questions at the link and share yours!

January 20, 2010

First Graphs: Undivided, a fantasy-mystery story by Marian Allen from Sword and Sorceress XXIII

Today's First Graphs features "Undivided," a fantasy/mystery story by author Marian Allen from MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY'S SWORD AND SORCERESS XXIII. (Norilana Books, Nov. 2008) (What a gorgeous cover!)

The SWORD AND SORCERESS series focuses on strong female protagonists with physical and magical prowess facing difficulties.

"Undivided" is the story of a warrior who must use these weapons, and her wits, to solve the mystery of her servant's kidnapping.

Excerpt from "Undivided" by Marian Allen:

Pimchan's Female did the unthinkable--she burst through the workout room doorway, knocking over the rosewood filigree screen, and entered her Mistress' practice arena uninvited.

Pimchan, ripped from battle meditation, whirled from her knees to her feet and grasped the girl in a double-handed grip designed to tear soul from body. With a brief quiver of muscle, she stopped herself on the very brink of harm.

Through clenched teeth, she said, softly, "Give thanks, my Female, to Chaos, who has granted me control. Now you know why I must not be interrupted."

"Mistress, come!"

The lack of repentance rang alarms. Pimchan released her gently, registering the panic of her female slave, a dark-haired and dark-eyed child of twelve, padded with baby fat. When the girl turned back toward the doorway, Pimchan grabbed her arm.


Allen said she wanted the beginning of the story to paint an image: "the 'seed' was the picture of the girl--called just 'Pimchan's Female'--running to her Mistress for help.

"I wanted to lead with action, communicate who the main character is (Pimchan) and give some flavor of the setting (they have slaves, they use screens instead of doors, they have fighting so they have practice arenas)," she says.

"If the girl has done the 'unthinkable' in interrupting her Mistress, something disastrous must have happened--and it has. Pimchan's reaction to the interruption, and to the news the girl brings, leads directly into the thick of the story. Her punishment of the girl for her action shows what kind of Mistress she is, and foreshadows the resolution."

** Buy:

January 19, 2010

New Logo and new book

New year, new logo.

If you haven't noticed, or haven't been here before, I decided to change my logo and add a photo of my real dog, Shania.

I thought I'd share her photo as the book I'm now sending around, a mystery set in a diner involving a mother-daughter team, also features a white Malamute based on my real-life dog. I'll be sharing more pix at a later date.

January 18, 2010

Miniatures Monday: My Namesake

My friend Kitty and I enjoy trading miniatures and sharing gifts at Christmas. I often find dolls or doll kits during the year that I send to her to redo and re-dress. This year's gift resulted in my own namesake! The doll is named Christine. Thanks, Kitty!

Quite a change as the doll had long (bad) brown hair and now has pretty strawberry blonde hair and a matching dress. I love the colors! I have the twin of this doll so I'll show the original at some point when I redo mine.

You can see more of Kitty's work at her blog, Minis by Kitty

January 14, 2010

Don't Read When You're Hungry!

You know not to shop when you're hungry, right? Did you know not to read when you're hungry? Well, that might be hard to do with some of the latest punny/funny mysteries. See what I mean today at Fatal Foodies.

Be sure to comment and follow us!

January 13, 2010

First Graphs: Children's Paranormal Mystery, Ghost for Rent by Penny Lockwood

In this week's First Graphs, we welcome Penny Lockwood, author of the Middle Grade novel, GHOST FOR RENT. (Hard Shell Word Factory.)

After her parents' divorce, 11-year old Wendy Wiles leaves her city home for a cheaper home in the country in rural Oregon. She soon learns that her quaint country home is haunted.

Wendy, her brother, Mike, and her new friend, Jennifer, soon discover the truth behind the haunting, uncovering an accidental death, a suicide, and murder.

Excerpt from Ghost for Rent:


With the rain pelting her, Wendy ran from her bus stop to her apartment building. She couldn't wait to get home. Maybe she'd call Darcy and see if she could come swim in the indoor pool.Or, maybe, she'd just go to the exercise room and work out before dinner. She couldn't make up her mind. Her twelve year old brother, Mike, liked to go straight to the arcade room, so she and Darcy would stay away from there.

Karl, the door man, greeted her as she skidded to a stop under the rain awning. “Good afternoon, Ms. Wiles.” He opened the door for her with a theatrical flourish.

“Good afternoon, Karl.” Wendy smiled, careful not to show her braces. She always felt grown-up and elegant when Karl open the door for her.

After entering the foyer, she groaned. Mike, dressed in his usual black jeans and tee-shirt, leaned against the elevator button, banging his head to the awful heavy metal music he enjoyed so much. She heard his Walkman even though he listened through earphones. Life would be almost perfect if it weren't for him, she thought.


** Visit Penny's blog

January 11, 2010

Miniatures Monday: Half Scale Dollhouse Rooms

Between writing, I've managed to finally get most of this half-scale shadow box house decorated. (Ignore a few half-finished things in the photos.)

I used some items I've saved from swaps with the Half Scale yahoo group and repainted some plastic furniture like the bed.

I also added some inexpensive wood kit furniture like the living room couch.

I made the fireplaces, and loved trying to make everything match the wallpaper in the blue toile room.

I made all the curtains and the kitchen cabinets. The kitchen table is also a small vintage plastic piece. I painted the top to make it look like an older metal-topped table to go with the wallpaper, and added a matching tablecloth.

As I bought the house already wallpapered, the fun part was adding flooring to divide the lower floor. I wanted to give each section its own look and give the whole floor a shabby chic feel.

Note: Half scale is roughly half the size of 1-inch scale. To give you an idea of size, the refrigerator is just under 3 inches tall; the couch is about 2 1/4 inches wide.

January 08, 2010

Let the Countdown Begin- Agent Search and Book Publication

Yesterday officially began my search for an agent for my mystery featuring a mother-daughter team set in a Wisconsin diner. The first query has been emailed!

This is not the only book I have circulating, but I thought I'd pick one book to track publicly. So stay tuned for updates!

January 07, 2010


Now that I've got your attention...

With my food-related mystery now completed and the submission process ready to start, I've begun blogging about food and mysteries again. I'll be blogging on Thursdays at the Fatal Foodies blog. Today's topic: cheesecake! Why? Well read the post and find out!!

I'll be sharing my submission progress and writing tips also so stay tuned!

January 06, 2010

First Graphs: Killer Career by Morgan Mandel

Today we welcome romantic suspense author Morgan Mandel. The excerpt is a little longer than usual, but I think you won't be disappointed!

In her latest book, KILLER CAREER (Choice One Publishing), a lawyer’s career change could be a killer when her mentor, a NY Times bestselling author, does more than write about murders.

Julie McGuire wants to leave the law firm she and her partner, Dade Donovan built, so she can follow her dream to be a writer.

She’s flattered when well-known author, Tyler Jensen, shows an interest in her. Is she attracted to him or the world he represents? Dade's not taking her defection lightly, and Julie’s not happy about deserting him. Where will he fit in her life?

Excerpt from KILLER CAREER:

Julie McGuire gazed intently from her table in the filled-to-capacity dining room of the Wyndham Hotel. The Love To Murder Mystery Conference had saved the best for last. New York Times bestselling author, Tyler Jensen, now approached the podium.

His entire bearing commanded attention, from his shoulder length wavy chestnut hair pushed back behind his ears, to his sexy sideburns and piercing hazel eyes. She guessed him to be thirty-five, about five years older than she. Clever, rich, tall, and handsome, Tyler Jensen looked the embodiment of any woman’s fantasy.

“Many of you have killed,” Tyler said, pointing to his audience of two hundred plus.

Julie stared. What did he mean?

“Yes, you’ve slaughtered your creativity. You’ve squashed your dreams in favor of immediate gratification.”

My God, he knew. She ignored the tinkling sound, as a waitress placed a carafe of ice water on the table.

Julie stared, transfixed, at Jensen. His every word spoke to her. She’d taken the easy way out and become a lawyer instead of following her heart’s desire to be an author. The decision ate at her. After six years in the practice, she’d saved enough money to get by. She badly wanted to claim her dream and step forward into the world he described.

All too soon, he’d finished his speech. “Any questions?”

Julie shot up her hand. Jensen’s knowing hazel eyes fastened on her, as if assessing her straight blonde hair and tall, slight frame.

He nodded. “Yes, second table.”

On suddenly stiff legs, she rose. “What makes you write mysteries?”

“I have an urge to voyeuristically experience atrocities. I’ve no idea where the fascination comes from. Perhaps I was a criminal in a former life,” he said with a self-deprecating laugh.

Julie swallowed. His answer filled her with a vague uneasiness, but she didn’t know why.

** More information:

* 5-star review, Midwest Book Review

* Choice One Publishing

* Visit Morgan's blog

** BUY:

January 04, 2010

2010 Resolutions vs Goals

With 2010 underway, many people have already broken the New Year's resolutions they made. That's why it's better to make goals.

Goals are something to work towards and things you know can be achieved. Resolutions are often vague notions that sound like a good idea but don't usually get followed up on.

Making a list of goals is motivating and helps you to stay focused. Often when there are too many things you need to do, it's easy to get overwhelmed. By working on one goal at a time, you stay focused and once you check off that goal, you can look at your list later in the year and see what you accomplished.

So feel free to make a list here or publish it at your blog so we can all check in later and see what was completed. Here's to a successful 2010!

My Goals for 2010
1. Find an agent for the just-completed mystery set in a diner.
2. Find an agent and/or publisher for a fun kid's picture book with monsters.
3. Finish short stories in the works and find markets for completed stories.
4. Find more paying nonfiction.
5. Usual ongoing diet and exercise stuff.
6. Complete miniatures projects that are half-done.

* Later, I'll be sharing more posts on the writing process and the agent search process.

** What are your goals and projects for 2010?

January 01, 2010

Happy New Year 2010! The Year 2009 in Review

A look back on some of the year's posts for 2009. I've listed some, but not all, of my favorites, Happy New Year!


* Writing Tip 10: Make a Timeline by LJ Sellers
- Put writing tip in search box to get more great tips from other authors.

* Writing Tip 17: Limit Sentences says Debbie Macomber

* 10 Easy Ways to Improve your Writing
- A few reminders every now and then can't hurt.

* Five Simple Ways to Finish Your Stories - Simple. Really.

* Interview, Barbara Techel, author, Frankie the Walk 'N Roll Dog
- Inspiration from the little dog who can - and does. Fun kid's book.

* First Graphs: Makeovers can be Murder by Kathryn Lilley
- A fun mystery for readers to sample. Put First Graphs in search box to see excerpts of other books.

* Book event in Galena, Ill.
- Had a great time in a great spot with great company. Can't you tell it was great? :>)

* Interview with 'Bollywood' author Shobhan Bantwal, The Sari Shop Widow
- A fun light romance with an Indian background

* Meet author and miniaturist Margaret Grace, Malice in Miniature
- Who can beat that? Miniatures and a mystery! She shares a how-to also on day 2.

* Story in New Timeshares anthology
- My turn: a little about my upcoming story in this time travel anthology from DAW Books. Put new story in search box for information on other stories I've done.

* First Graphs: My Dear Mrs. Jones
- Excerpt of my story in the new anthology, The Bitter End: Tales of Nautical Terror


* Kitty's Fashionable Miniatures
- What woman doesn't love shoes? And in miniature they're even cuter! (Put miniature or miniatures in search box to see work from other great miniaturists.)

* Kitty's Chocolate Shoppe
- Kitty does it again! Who can resist chocolate - and it's calorie free! An amazing yummy room!

* Miniature Rooms in Unusual Containers
- Miniaturist Fern Rouleau has a knack for making the most interesting scenes. Chicken, anyone?

* Patty Clark's miniature babies
- Cutest little babies (and toddlers) ever; a Mother's Day interview

* 12 Days of Halloween in Miniature, Day 1
- Check out the great spooky miniatures. Boo!

* 12 Days of Christmas in Miniature: Twas the Night Before Christmas
- Enjoy 12 days of great Christmas miniatures from various miniaturists

* Thanks for visiting and see you in 2010!