Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Support Your Local Muse

by Bethany Maines

Last time I blogged about identifying ways of marketing a book in preparation for making a marketing plan. My list, to recap, was…

Tip #1: Identify Marketing Message Distribution Channels
(aka Think of ways to promote yourself and your book)
• Live Audience – signings, guest speaking, launch party
• Internet Presence – website, facebook, twitter, youtube, goodreads, linkedin
• Internet Ads – Google AdWords, facebook ads, ads on websites
• Email – newsletters, e-fliers, personal email
• Video – book trailers, promo videos
• TV - news, reality shows, talk shows
• Radio - programs, ads
• Written Word – “expert” articles, reviews of other books, blogging, guest blogging, books, short stories
• Print – newspapers, magazines, print ads, fliers, posters, mailers
• Word of Mouth – book clubs, fans, bookstore staff, reviews

Farhad Manjoo recently wrote a piece about the fact that he didn’t really care if independent bookstores failed. (Don’t Support Your Local Bookseller) He made some salient points about Amazon strengthening US readership and book sales (and annoying hipster sales staff), but when came to the idea that independent bookstores don’t offer authors anything compared to Amazon, I had to shake my head. As a reader, I think bookstores are good things in general, but as an author, bookstore signings are the fastest, easiest way to talk to people about my books and to me that equals sales. Bookstores are an essential part of the writing economy and an essential part of every local economy (To quote the Washington state economist, “Please go buy things.”). So needless to say, I will not be following Mr. Manjoo’s advice and I will be keeping my relationship with bookstores strong (aka buying books and shooting the breeze with staff).

To me talking to readers is my primary sales tool and one that is happily free. Other tools, like social media, are very important, but more secondary. Some of the secondary tools, like having a Facebook page or twittering are free, but many items like ads, book trailers, and giveaways (like book marks), all cost money. So in determining my marketing plan, I will be assessing a “distribution channel” for three things: how much time will it take, how much will it cost, and what will be my ROI (Return On Investment). A Facebook page is fast, free, and has a return of increased awareness and legitimacy. Facebook ads? Definitely not free, and the return depends on many variables. Better stop and consider.

Of course, as I look for ways to market my books I should keep in mind the fact that a marketing goal goes nowhere if I don’t meet the writer’s prime directive (no, I never watched Star Trek, and no, I don’t totally love everything that Data ever did including those two episodes of Night Court, shh, go away now): To be a writer, one must write.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


by: Joelle Charbonneau

The New Year is approaching fast. Normally, I looked to the new year with a sense of excitement and anticipation. There are so many possibilities. I am always anxious to see what the year will bring. This year I am finding it hard to look forward. I know there are great things coming. I have two books coming out this year. My son will be doing all sorts of wonderful and exciting things. There are stories to write, songs to sing and life to be lived to its fullest. And yet, I find myself clinging to the old year and wishing I could go back. Not far. Just a few days. Just to last week or maybe the week before. I just want one last moment of this past year to fully appreciate what I had and now have lost.

Last Tuesday night, my father-in-law, Joe Blanco, suffered a severe

aneurysm. Wednesday morning some friends arrived at his house to see him and grew concerned when he didn’t answer the door or the phone. They called 911 and found my father-in-law unconscious. He was rushed to the hospital, but there was nothing that could be done. On Thursday, we were forced to say goodbye.

To say that his passing was unexpected is both true and untrue. Dad B was a walking miracle. Over 16 years ago, he had a heart transplant that gave him a second chance at life. And boy did he use it. He retired from his high powered consulting job and began to teach. He worked with special needs college students. He revived a struggling homeless shelter program at his local church and founded a second one at a different church. He worked on breast cancer walks. He volunteered to drive seniors to their doctor appointments. He sang in two different vocal groups. The list goes on and on. But more important than all of that – Joe loved his family.

Nothing was more important to him than spending time with his family. We saw him only two days before he collapsed. We talked to him that night. Yes, we knew that at any moment the gift he had been given 16 years before could be taken away and yet- we thought somehow he would live forever. Maybe because we needed him to.

And now he is gone and time marches on. A new year approaches….a year he will not ring in. A year he will not be making resolutions for. A year he will only live in our memories. And I don’t want the year to come.

And yet – I know he would not want time to slow down for him. He believed that each day was a gift. I owe it to him to embrace the new year with joy and hope…not with sorrow. And I will try. Today, I will sing at his funeral and say one final goodbye to the man who held my hand when my own father died and did his best to fill that hole left in my heart. And tomorrow I will do my best to look to the future with hope and happiness because that is what he would have wanted.

So to my Stiletto family I say – may 2012 bring you great hope and great joy. And may you remember that every day of that year no matter how frustrating or unhappy is a gift to be treasured.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Lori's Book Sense

Lori's Reading Corner

Welcome to this months edition of Lori's Book Sense.
I hope you enjoy these great titles I've chosen for you this month.

Wishing everyone a very happy & healthy holiday season. 

Catch Me by Lisa Gardner (release date Feb 7th) ~ In four days, someone is going to kill me . .Detective D. D. Warren is hard to surprise. But a lone woman outside D.D.'s latest crime scene shocks her with a remarkable proposition: Twenty-seven-year-old Charlene Rosalind Carter Grant believes she will be murdered in four days. And she wants Boston's top detective to handle the death investigation. It will be up close and personal. No evidence of forced entry, no sign of struggle. Charlie tells a chilling story: Each year at 8:00 p.m. on February 21, a woman has died. The victims have been childhood best friends from a small town in New Hampshire; the motive remains unknown. Now only the last friend remains to count down her final hours. But as D.D. quickly learns, Charlie Grant has been preparing, and she doesn't plan on going down without a fight. As D.D. tracks a lone gunman who is killing pedophiles in Boston, she must also delve into the murders of Charlie's friends, seeking the elusive insight into who might be stalking and killing these childhood playmates, in the hopes of preventing whatever might come this February 21. Just how much can she trust Charlie Grant, a woman who by her own admission can outshoot, outfight, and outrun anyone in Boston? Is Charlie truly in danger, or is she hiding a truth deep within her that may turn out to be D.D.'s biggest surprise of all? .....In four days, someone is going to kill me. But the son of a bitch has gotta catch me first.

Catch Me once again brings back the formidable Sergeant Detective and her tight-knit team, definitely Boston’s finest!  While D.D. may be in mommy mode a lot of the time, she is still a detective at heart and determined to find both the vigilante killer and Charlie’s intended killer – hopefully before it’s too late. Being the sixth book in the D.D. Warren series (see Alone, Hide, The Neighbor, Live to Tell, & Love You More) the characters are well developed and familiar. You can certainly read this book as a stand-alone, but to fully enjoy D.D. and her crew, you should start with reading Alone.  Catch Me is a pulse-pounding, earth-shattering thriller that will take you on the ride of your life.  But pay close attention, because not everything is as it appears to be.   This is, without a doubt, Lisa Gardner at her finest.

The Burning Edge by Rick MofinaLisa Palmer has barely recovered from the sudden death of her husband when she is drawn into a new nightmare. On her way home from upstate New York, Lisa stops at a service center minutes before an armored car heist. Four men are executed before her eyes—one, an off-duty FBI agent she tried to help. Now Lisa is the FBI's secret witness and the key to finding the fugitive killers. FBI agent Frank Morrow leads the investigation of the high-profile case. Hiding a very personal secret, Frank knows this assignment will be like no other he's ever faced…and it could be his last. Pressured to land an exclusive, journalist Jack Gannon chases the elusive thread of an anonymous tipster. With every instinct telling Jack the story is within his grasp, he risks everything to reveal the chilling truth…before the cold-blooded killers can take the next step in their vengeful mission.

The Burning Edge is the story of one woman’s need to regain her life, one man’s desperation to save his brother, one man’s desire to stop everything from crumbling down around him, and one man’s drive to simply do his job. The Burning Edge, the fourth book in the Jack Gannon series (see Vengeance Road, The Panic Zone & In Desperation) is Rick  Mofina at his pulse-pounding best. The writing is solid, the storyline intense, and the action non-stop. It’s a story of despair, redemption, salvation, hope, family, and the future. 

Affairs of Steak by Julie Hyzy (release date 1/3) ~ White House chef Olivia Paras and her arch nemesis, White House Sensitivity Director Peter Everett Sargeant, must work together to solve the double murder of one of the First Lady's assistants and the Chief of Staff-before they become the next victims of a merciless assassin with a secret agenda.

Affairs of Steak, the fifth book in the White House Chef Mystery series (see State of The Onion, Hail To The Chef, Eggsecutive Orders & Buffalo West Wing) once again brings you into the heart of the house – the kitchen. And so what if that house just happens to be the most important house in the United States – the White House?  Julie Hyzy has created a culinary delight that will appeal to all of your senses.

Until next month.....

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Gift of Thanks

By Laura Bradford

While I know the official holiday for being thankful took place about four weeks ago, I've decided to take a do-over and merge it with a holiday more often noted for new starts. 

Don't get me wrong, when I see the ball making its way down the pole in Times Square each year, I find myself considering the notion of a "New Year/New Me" just like everyone else. I could certainly stand to drop about 10 pounds and get in better overall shape. And maybe in 2012, I'll do just that. But before I look forward, I also like to look back. You know, to see where I succeeded and where I failed. Where I improved and where I need to do better.

I also like to whip out my stationery and write the people who made a difference in my life throughout the year. Sometimes, the difference was more indirect, like a teacher who has been particularly good with one of the girls. Sometimes, the difference is something I experienced first  hand--like my Aunt Mary who never ends an email or a phone call without saying, "I love you."

The notion of a "thanks for who you are/what you do" letter started when I was young. At that time, it took the form of the more traditional "thanks for the present" acknowledgement I was expected to write after every birthday or Christmas. But as I got older, I began to see the things people do that go far beyond the normal gift wrapped affair.

I wrote my first extensive "thanks for who you are/what you do" letter to my high school history teacher, Mr. Filo. I gave it to him the morning of graduation. He was passionate about teaching and, in turn, had made me passionate about a subject I'd had little to no interest in prior to my time in his classroom. I wrote that letter because I wanted him to know that his work, his efforts had meant something to me. To this day, I'm glad I gave him that letter. I'm glad I said, "thanks." I'm glad I said, "you made a difference in my life."  Because when Mr. Filo died of a massive heart attack two weeks later, he knew he was valued. He knew he'd made a difference.

For a long time, I was good about letters like that. Until life got busy--first with kids, and then a host of assorted stuff that made the concept of putting off 'til tomorrow way too easy.

So I'm getting back to that now. Call it a resolution, if you will. Call it a long overdue case of manners. Call it my holiday mix-up. Regardless, I'm going to start

2011 has been a wild year, full of ups and downs the likes of which probably should have come with some sort of warning. But the ride was made easier by a handful of people who deserve a "thanks for who you are/what you do." Each one made a difference in my life, and for that I am grateful.

*Our own Maggie Barbieri--for humoring me with an occasional lunch outing. Moving (yet again) at this point in life is tough. But having someone be open to a new face has made the transition a bit easier. Thanks, Maggie!

*My friend, Lynn C--for, well, being a loyal, steadfast, and true friend. I've learned so many things from this woman...not the least of which is courage and persistence.

*My friend, Lynn D--for teaching me about basic kindness. Not sure what I did to have God put this angel in my path but I am truly blessed.

*The aforementioned Aunt Mary--for loving me unconditionally. There is no greater gift.

*My readers (Dru Ann, Aimee, Carol S, Mary H, and so many others)--for helping turn my childhood dream into a reality and for becoming my friends in the process. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

So here's to 2012. May it be an extra special year for all of us--a year in which we laugh often, love unconditionally, and take a moment to thank those who make our world brighter!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Creme de Vie!

by Maria Geraci

Every Christmas there are traditions that I strive to keep alive. Such as buying my kids their own Christmas ornament (no matter how old they happen to be!). Another one is making traditional Cuban eggnog (or Creme de Vie) to enjoy on Noche Buena (or Christmas Eve).

If you've never made homemade eggnog, then this might be the year you need to start. Creme de Vie is not only easy to make, it's extremely tasty. It's also not for lightweights. Bacardi Rum is a major ingredient!

Here you go:

2 cups sugar
1 cup water
8 egg yolks (no whites!)
1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweet condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups white Rum
ground nutmeg for garnish

Add sugar to water and bring to a boil over med heat until the sugar completely dissolves and the syrup lightly coats a spoon. Set aside and allow to cool.

Lightly whisk egg yolks. Add the evaporated and condensed milks and whisk until blended. Mix in vanilla and rum. Slowly add the cooled syrup, mixing in well.

Strain the mixture.

Pour into bottles and let sit one hour, then refrigerate. Most recipes call for you to allow the Creme to Vie to settle for a couple of weeks before drinking, but I think it tastes perfectly awesome within 12 hours. Yum!

Enjoy! And Feliz Navidad!

PS: This also makes a great Christmas gift or host gift!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Tale of Christmas Eve (or how a seven-year-old picks out gifts at the last minute)

By Maggie Barbieri

We celebrate Christmas Eve hard in my family.  The reason for this is that when I was young, my father was a New York City police officer who worked many a holiday but usually seemed to be around for some of Christmas Eve, making it easy for my mother to load gifts under the tree and have them ready for us to open at midnight (really, eight thirty…it was dark and we couldn’t tell time).  Usually, the day before Christmas Eve, or earlier in the actual day, my father would realize that while he had been busy keeping the citizens of New York City safe, he had forgotten to get my mother a gift and had to go into serious shopping mode if he was going to have something for her to open.  This particular year, I guess I was around seven, he grabbed me, dusk just about to fall as snow dropped from the sky, and dragged me to a neighboring town where a boutique was still open.  It was called The Pearl Shoppe and sold things like giant pairs of white underpants, enormous bras, girdles with lots of snaps and elastic and some fancy duds that the well-heeled women of Rockland County wore to holiday parties.  We wandered in, immediately assaulted by a woman covered in Jean Nate cologne, and given the hard sell.

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted the most gorgeous silver lame (and apologies that I don’t know how to put either an accent ague or accent grave over the e) gown, hanging close to the window on a hangar, clearly an item that was being highlighted as something every woman should have.  It was hanging alone, calling to me.  As a devoted Barbie aficionado, it seemed like something my leggy doll should wear.  From there, I made the leap that it was something that my mother—the parent of four children under the age of seven, two still in diapers—should have.  After all, she could wear it to all of the holiday parties that she and my father would go to, I thought, not taking into account that the parents of four little children rarely get invited anywhere.  I posited my theory to my father.  He had a wad of cash and little time. 

He was in.

The Jean Nate lady was more than happy to wrap it up in a big box with a giant silver bow, reminding my father that here at The Pearl Shoppe, there were no returns for cash, just store credit.  But we were both blinded by the silver lame gown—it even had a bolero jacket that you could wear when it got chilly—so it didn’t matter.  In our minds, my mother would never return such a glorious item.  Why would she? 

We were both trembling with anticipation when my father handed her the box. 

“Oh, The Pearl Shoppe,” she said, clearly not as excited as we thought she might be.  She undid the beautiful bow and riffled through the tissue paper covering the most exquisite silver gown this side of Garnerville.  While two of us fought over the bow, she let the baby play with the tissue paper.  She uncovered the silver gown, throwing my grandmother a look that said, “where in God’s name am I—the mother of four little kids—going to wear a silver ball gown?” but to my father she proclaimed it the most beautiful item of clothing she had ever seen and would ever own.

It may come as a surprise to you to find out that my mother never did wear the silver gown or that I was with her when she went to return it to The Pearl Shoppe.  The Jean Nate lady was not amused.  Nor was my mother when she found out that the only thing she could exchange it for were a dozen packets of giant white underpants and an enormous bra.

I learned a few things that year:

You can never have enough giant white underpants or enormous bras.

You should never take gift advice from a girl whose fashion icon is a twelve-inch doll with inordinately long legs and is made of plastic.

Always marry a man who thinks that despite the fact that you spend the better part of your day changing diapers and wiping up spilled milk, he always think you should look like a princess.

Happy holidays from all of us at The Stiletto Gang!

Maggie Barbieri

Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Fun

Chanukah, the festival of lights, begins Tuesday night and lasts for eight days. This year it overlaps with Christmas. It doesn't always happen that way because Jewish holidays follow a lunar-solar calendar. Because there is roughly an eleven-day difference between twelve lunar months and one solar year, the length of the Hebrew calendar year varies. Sometimes Chanukah is in early December and we're just finishing up our holiday when Christmas celebrations begin.

Latkes, potato pancakes, are traditional Chanukah treats. I've seen recipes for latkes made with a mixture of zucchini, carrots, and parsnips. For those looking for something new or healthier to celebrate the Chanukah, maybe nouvelle latkes will float your boat. But since I only make potato pancakes once a year, I say go for it, use the potatoes and cut down on the fat intake somewhere else. Because nothing quite says Happy Chanukah to me like the smell of potatoes and onions sizzling in oil, and then topped with some cool applesauce. YUM! Below is my recipe for latkes. As they would say in Hebrew, B'taya Von! Or Bon Appetit!!

Any holiday is an opportunity to enjoy family and friends, reflect on the year, and count our blessings – including the ladies of this delightful blog and you, our readers. Whatever and however you choose to celebrate, we wish you a time of joy and peace.


Traditional Potato Latkes

5 large potatoes, peeled (I use Yukon Gold)
1 large onion
3 eggs
1/3 cup flour
Pinch of baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (you may need to add more)
¼ teaspoon pepper


Grate potatoes and onion (I use a food processor).
Strain the grated potatoes and onion to get rid of excess water.
Add eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
Heat ½ cup of oil in frying pan, and when hot, add 1 large tablespoon of batter. Fry each side about 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from pan and drain on paper towels to remove excess oil.

Add more oil as necessary.

Enjoy with applesauce (or even sour cream, which is decadent but delicious).

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Lottawatah Twister - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Missing in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Sullivan Investigations Mystery - e-book series
Murder Off the Books Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Murder Takes the Cake Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Moonlighting at the Mall (short story) - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, December 16, 2011

Why It's Always a "Great Day" when I Talk About Books on TV

by Susan McBride

I had the pleasure of appearing on "Great Day St. Louis" again yesterday, something I've been doing about every other month or so for a few years now.  Watching myself on TV today compared to when I was first published in 1999 is a hoot.  Back then, when I was nervous, I tended to do bug eyes (aka "deer in headlights").  The longer I spoke, the bigger my eyes got.  Although, come to think of it, I did that when speaking in person to others, too.  I remember one conversation with Charlaine Harris eons back when she finally shouted at me, "Blink, dammit!"  Thank goodness, I got over that.

Back to "Great Day" and the Great Reads segment from yesterday.  I always look forward to going downtown to the KMOV Channel 4 studios.  It means getting to play hooky from my current work-in-progress (and those pesky looming deadlines), so I jump at the chance!  Ed loves going with me, so he usually takes the morning off.  I never protest, as I don't mind a bit having a "driver" drop me off in front of the building while he goes to park the car in the appointed lot a few blocks up (it's especially handy-dandy when the weather is ugly).

I even have fun pushing through the revolving doors to get into the KMOV lobby, where I sign in at the reception desk and then wait for Sammi, an assistant producer, to come get me (and any other guests hanging around).  We enter the newsroom where various reporters, meteorologists, and even anchor-people are working on stories in their cubbies. Then it's back through a hallway and into the studio, approaching from behind a wall and emerging right beside the Weather Center (Ed loves the Weather Center most of all).

Since it's the holiday season, the anchor desk has lots of poinsettias around it, which looks so pretty.  The chairs for guests of "Great Day" are right beside it.  Ed and I always like to poke around, take pictures, talk to Jenn and Brooke, the producers (who are adorable!), or Matt Chambers (one of the "Great Day" co-hosts and one of the station's most beloved weather dudes!), and also with other guests (that's how I met Lisa Bertrand, Wade Rouse, and a whole bunch of other cool people that I like to keep in touch with, or at least keep tabs on!).

Yesterday, the owner of a gold, silver, and coin shop was on-set for a segment, and I got his card (I really want to sell my old jewelry from high school that I will never wear again or pass down to anyone!).  He gave us newly-minted quarters and a newly-minted dollar.  So cool!  You never know what's going to happen on "Great Day"--I once got a fabulous cookbook from a visiting chef!  But I digress!

Once Sammi gets me settled inside, she hands me a script.  I find out which co-host will do the segment with me (yesterday, it was Matt) and what Matt will see running across the teleprompter.  That way, I have a good idea of what to expect when I sit down with him on the set, the camera rolls (and my mike goes live), and we start talking about books. The script also notes the approximate time I'll be on-air, so I know if I'm early in the show or later.  For Thursday, I was on at 10:34, so Ed and I got to sit and watch the cooking segment (turkey pot pie!), an interior designer discussing her family's "Christmas auction" (which they do in lieu of buying lots of gifts), and a therapist explaining seasonal mood changes (my mood only gets better the colder and snowier it gets!).

And then it was my turn!  Sammi had me miked up the back of my sweater, and I followed her over the camera cables to the kitchen area, where I sat on a stool behind the counter with Matt.  I'm usually on the other side of the set behind a glass-topped table (or, occasionally, on the sofa).  So this was something new!

Once the previous segment finished (we got to watch it as it aired), Matt introduced me and the Great Reads segment...and off we went!  Here's the bit so you can see it for yourself (I gush about three recent books I loved, including our very own Maggie Barbieri's PHYSICAL EDUCATION and recent Stiletto guest blogger Marilyn Brant's A SUMMER IN EUROPE).  It only takes about five minutes, and then I'm done!  As always whenever I leave the "Great Day" set, I can't wait to go back again!  ;-)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New Year = New PR

Or How to Teach an Old Brain New Tricks
by Bethany Maines

I’ve been thinking about short stories lately. Wait… I recant that. I’ve been intending to think about short stories lately. What I’ve actually been thinking about is PR, Social Media and writers.

You’d think Social Media would be right up a writer’s alley. We don’t have to leave the house. We get social interaction without having to brush our teeth and theoretically we can do it without interfering with our writing. Now clearly, that last one is problematical. Due to theory of the Hierarchy Avoidance (first formulated by The Hobo) there are many much less fun things than Facebook that a writer will do to avoid writing. But supposedly slipping in five minutes of Facebook time shouldn’t hinder the production of a manuscript. And yet, most writers I know were extremely reluctant to start using Social Media. Why? Because it felt like PR. And we suck at PR. Clearly most of us got over that and formed a lasting Facebook addiction, but beyond that, here’s the real problem.. With the economy in the crapper, and the publishing industry teetering on the edge of not being able to find their… er… heads with both hands and a map, authors are being asked to handle more of their own PR and promotions.

Frankly, I cannot imagine a group of people less equipped to do PR. Writers, in my experience, are an introverted, sweats wearing bunch. (Female writers dirty secret #82: underwire bras are for “fancy” days when we have to leave the house.) If we had wanted to go outside and be judged on our appearance and have people listen to us talk, we would have gone into politics and we’d be totally different people/aliens/insane. So basically, writers are fundamentally unprepared for PR and we wander around secretly wondering if everyone else knows something we don’t.

For those who haven’t tuned into one of my blogs before, my day job is as a graphic designer, which makes me a proficient technology user, with a rudimentary grasp of how marketing works. And I’m here to tell you that yes everyone does know something you don’t - OK, well maybe not everyone, but the PR people certainly. The reason that PR is hard (besides the having to talk to people) is that there are skills and information that we writers don’t have. PR and marketing people also tend to do something that most writers HATE doing – they think of a book (and an author) as a commodity. And since books are our precious, adorable babies, thinking about them as “just another thing to sell” kind of hurts. But… we all want our books to sell right? We want our babies to go out into the world and do well, so as their parents we’d better think about getting out there and giving them the best shot they can in this cruel world.  And in my experience, that means having a plan.  

Before creating a promotional or marketing plan I evaluate how much time, effort, & money I'm willing to invest on promotion. Yes, this means that I have to know, at least roughly, how much my yearly household budget is, and how much time (per week/month/year) I have to devote to my writing job. You don't have to be super detailed, but it helps to know how big you can dream. Then I evaluate my yearly calendar in terms of writing deadlines (these will drive promotional deadlines) and other life goals; this helps me spot when I should be doing more promotion and when I will actually be available to do it. 

Once you know your personal parameters you can start on the actual PR plan by identifying the possible methods of promotion. Step 2 will be to evaluate the pros & cons of a particular channel against your budget and your brand. Below is the list I created for my 2012 plan. So take a look and see if it sparks any ideas for you. Feel free to share your own ideas and PR experiences in the comments!

Step #1: Identify Marketing Message Distribution Channels
(aka Ways to promote yourself and your book)
· Live Audience – signings, guest speaking, launch party
· Internet Presence – website, facebook, twitter, youtube, goodreads, linkedin, blog
· Internet Ads – google adwords, facebook ads, ads on websites
· Email – newsletters, e-fliers, personal email
· Video – book trailers, promo videos
· TV - news, reality shows, talk shows
· Radio - programs, ads
· Written Word – “expert” articles, reviews of other books, blogging, guest blogging, books, short stories
· Print – newspapers, magazines, print ads, fliers, posters, mailers, books
· Word of Mouth – book clubs, fans, bookstore staff, reviews

I'll be discussing my own marketing plan (and technology tips) in upcoming blogs. In the meantime, you can find me on Twitter @BethanyMaines, Facebook with Bulletproof Mascara and on the web at

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tis the season....

by: Joelle Charbonneau

Yikes! There are gifts to buy and packages to wrap. Cookies to bake and a toddler too excited to nap. I have trees to trim and trips to the post office to make. Oh and did I mention the gingerbread houses to bake? It’s the holiday season which is sparkly and bright. And in the middle of it all, I have to find time to write!

Two years ago, I wasn’t under deadline. My first book was under contract. The option book was written and waiting for submission. And for some strange reason, I decided to write book three. Stranger still, I made the choice to finish writing the book during the holidays. My reasoning was that if I wanted to become a multi-contract author, I should be able to be productive at any time. Which meant no matter how many halls needed to be decked or bells needed to be jingled, I should be able to crank out the pages.


That plan didn’t go so well. Did I get writing done? Sure. Did I finish that book during the holiday season? Yeah, right. Instead of making myself jolly with pages galore, I frustrated myself during a season filled with joy and love and lots and lots of to-do lists. Needless to say, the book was finished in January—long before the contract for it and the deadline for delivery appeared. But though my attempt to write during the holidays stressed me out, it made it glaringly apparent that I never want to write during the holidays again. Last year, I managed to time the completion of MURDER FOR CHOIR to coincide with the first week of December. Score! I then celebrate the holidays by baking, wrapping and going on a serious reading binge.

Talk about Joy to the world!

Sadly, this year didn’t work out so well. I am halfway through my current work in progress and while it isn’t due until months and months into the New Year, I kind of want to get to the end. I mean, I need to know who done it! Not to mention, I have a few other book ideas I’d like to play with. (Yeah—I can’t help myself!)

However, the one thing that I learned from my last foray into holiday writing is that I should be grateful for every page that I write during this crazy time of year. But more important, I need to be grateful for the time I don’t have to write—the time I spend with my family and friends. While getting those pages written is important, the people who I love and who love me are more important still. So I will sit and type when I can and when those bells need to be jingled I’ll put aside the computer and have a blast jingling them.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Moonlighting at the Mall

Our first mystery, Murder Off the Books was published in 2007. It introduced three memorable characters: Mac Sullivan, retired D.C. cop and newly-minted private detective; Whiskey, his adorable canine sidekick, an Irish wolfhound who could tackle a cheeseburger and a murderer with equal ease; and Rachel Brenner, makeup artist in a funeral home whose clients never complained.

We followed it up two years later with Murder Takes the Cake, a sequel with a killer mystery, lots of laughs, and a nice touch of romance. We also published Riley Come Home, a short story featuring this delightful trio, set in the hard-edged world of purebred dog shows.

And then we moved on to a new series featuring psychic Brianna Sullivan, a distant cousin of Mac's, and set in Lottawatah, Oklahoma. We've written seven Brianna novellas - with lots more to come.

But we missed Mac, Whiskey, and Rachel. And for this holiday season, we are delighted to bring them back in a new story sure to intrigue and enchant you. Moonlighting at the Mall finds Mac Sullivan as an undercover Santa Claus, determined to find the mall thief who is brazenly robbing local jewelry stores. He's got more help than he wants. His girlfriend Rachel Brenner is very convincing as Mrs. Claus; septuagenarian Edgar is a less-believable Elf; and Whiskey steals the show as Rudolph.

We're delighted to be back with the Sullivan Investigations crowd. They're old friends of ours- yours too, we hope. Enjoy this holiday whodunnit with a mystery to confound you, humor to make you laugh out loud, and a romance that doesn't need any help from mistletoe.

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Lottawatah Twister - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Missing in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Sullivan Investigations Mystery - e-book series
Murder Off the Books Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Murder Takes the Cake Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Moonlighting at the Mall (short story) - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, December 9, 2011

I Owe, I Owe, So Off to Blog I Go!

By Laura Spinella

Panic mode. I owe a blog. It’s two plus weeks until Christmas; I haven’t bought a single gift, and I owe a blog. My regular part-time job at the newspaper stops for no one. Ever work at a newspaper? News staffs endure worse hours than the ER at Cook County Hospital. My beat, while a tad tamer, isn’t much different with two front-burner stories slated for my byline. News stops for nothing, certainly not holidays, and definitely not a blog. But never mind that, I still owe one.

A couple of weeks ago, a dream job that is a dotted line to the publishing world fell into my lap. I’m not at liberty to spill the details, but let’s just say you couldn’t make it up. Hopefully, it will replace the newspaper gig, but in the meantime, I get to do both. Oh, yay! That and I also get to write a blog. So far, the new job is crazy hectic with bizarro hours and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants directives. I’m okay with that. While I wait for the Lifetime people to call, I can busy myself with a cash-in-hand challenge. The perks are kind of cool. Just this week, I spoke with two bestselling authors! Very nice peeps, those mega bestsellers. I get to do the new job from home, which you’d also think would be a plus. Actually, it’s been the bump in the road. Book writing and newspaper work moves at my pace, meaning I deal with interruptions as they pop up. There’s something about a six-month old kitten flying across your keyboard while taking copious author notes that isn’t quite as cute as it sounds. Well, like anything new, glitches are to be expected. In between working the insane and fascinating new job, I owe a blog.

Add to this the endless treadmill of promoting BEAUTIFUL DISASTER. (makes a great holiday gift!)I went on a binge a few weeks back and sent copies to bloggers we’d missed during its debut. I haven’t heard back from all of them, but one did manage to put it on her radar. Happily, luckily, gleefully, she found favor with the book. And while I could have spent a good chunk of this week trading complimentary emails with her, I had zero time penciled in for self-adoration. Two, “I need it yesterday,” jobs, plus, you guessed it, I owe a blog. Of course, strategically woven into the psychedelic tapestry of my day is a WIP. This past Tuesday, I started feeling the stress of my Ringling Brothers juggling act. I was tearing through a late chapter revision, having changed the name of a minor character. I’d decided too many characters’ names started with a vowel. A seared-to-my-mind memory from a book club reader prompted this fear: “I would have enjoyed your book more, but so many of the characters names started with an M, I got confused.” (I’m sure as an author you eventually reach a place where crap like this doesn’t stick. I’m not there yet.) So along with banning the letter M from my WIP, at least concerning names, I launched a preemptive strike to keep complaints about vowel sounds to a minimum. Only after completing the change did I realize I’d given both the character and Isabel’s cat the same name. What a mess. But I couldn’t fix it, as the alarm had sounded announcing the afternoon session of musical jobs. No worries, I’ll get back to my WIP soon. There I’ll spend a chunk of coveted writing time with a 377 page, one-by-one search and replace. In fact, I’ll relish it, because despite cash flow or an incredible opportunity, that WIP is what gets me moving. It’s important not to lose sight of that. A little stressed, slightly overwhelmed, wishing Rudolph would postpone until Valentine’s Day, I’ll still be excited to sit down with it. And I’m going to do just that… You got it, as soon as I don’t owe a blog. 

Happy Holidays to my fellow Stiletto Gang and all our wonderful readers!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why the Dog Will Never Die in My Books

When we were young, we had a host of animals, mostly cats and dogs, but with a couple of Guinea pigs and hermit crabs thrown in for good measure.  One of our best, and most ill-behaved, pets was a sixty-pound Golden Retriever named Dusty who had a habit of escaping at the first sound of the open screen door, usually taking my frail grandmother down with him as he bounded outside, happy to be running free and in the fresh air.  I can speak favorably and lovingly of him now because he’s been dead for thirty-five years but back when he was living with us, well, he was a royal pain in the tuchus.

My parents both worked in those days so my grandmother was charged with getting us off to school with our frozen bologna sandwiches and Devil Dogs, a dime each for the carton of warm milk we would buy when lunchtime rolled around.  My grandmother didn’t drive, so getting us on the bus was imperative because once the bus left, if one of us hadn’t made it on, we would have to walk close to two miles to get to school.  Now that doesn’t sound like a long distance now, but back then, our legs were shorter and the miles seemed interminable.  Suffice it to say that we would ran, en masse, when we heard the squeal of the breaks, someone older pushing someone younger ahead so that we didn’t have to hoof it.  We always made it.

Except for one day.

Dusty had a travelin’ jones that beautiful fall morning and was just waiting for the chance to get out and run pell-mell throughout the neighborhood.  I went out after him, chasing him all the way down our street toward the reservoir, begging him to come back home.  I knew I had all of five or six minutes to make this happen, but as luck would have it, he was out without his leash or even his collar so I had to pin him to the ground and basically drag him up the street, his sixty pounds feeling like a thousand as we inched our way up the street toward home and the bus stop.  We were about halfway up when I heard the familiar siren song of the bus coming down the street and saw my siblings running toward its open doors.  That’s when I began to cry.

Through some sheer force of will, I did manage to get the dog the two hundred and fifty feet back to the house, where I threw him inside and cried to my grandmother that not only would I have to walk to school, I would now be late and probably have to serve detention, meaning that I would have to walk home, too.  She cried right along with me, apologizing for never having gotten her license and trying to figure out what we could do to get me to school in time for the bell.  Desperate, I ran outside and spied my neighbor, Bobby, getting into his brand-new Mustang convertible, the one with the white leather seats, the one that he didn’t let any of us near.  He was on his way to his job as a first-year teacher at a local high school and while I won’t go so far as to say that he was unhappy to see me, let’s just say that, well, seeing me crying in my uniform with my book bag wasn’t the way he wanted to start his day.  I begged him for a ride, explaining the tale of dragging Dusty up the street and missing the bus, the same one that two of his younger brothers rode with me to St. Catherine’s.  He finally relented after my grandmother intervened, making me sit at the edge of the passenger-side seat, lest my plaid uniform leave some kind of deleterious stain on the white leather upholstery.

I spent the day smoldering with rage at the dog, who was a colossal pain in the butt about 90% of the time.  In addition to escaping, he ate our socks, our sweaters, our shoes; he stole things from kids disembarking the school bus; he barked at things we couldn’t see; and he needed to be loved and petted constantly even in the middle of dinner.  But when I got home, and he ran to me, slobbering and jumping and just so excited to see me, I could do nothing but hug him and kiss him because when all was said and done, he was just a dog.  And a beautiful, fun, loving one at that who adored me in spades and who had a bad habit of escaping when he should have been napping next to my grandmother.

Dusty died at the age of two, after a brief, but horrible, illness, right around the time that he stopped escaping and started becoming the dog we always wanted.  I will never forget my mother, painting the trim in our bathroom, crying and telling me that she didn’t think we could ever get another dog because she just got too attached and it was too painful when they died.  She cried for several days and while I couldn’t really understand it then—the kids and I moved on with extreme alacrity—I do now.

Intellectually, when we get a pet, we know that they are only ours for a short time in the grand scheme of things but the comfort and pleasure we get while they are here on earth with us is so powerful and all-encompassing that we can’t resist the pull to ownership.  With my dog advancing in age, I’m already thinking about getting another dog so that when she goes—and it will happen—I’ll have someone else to comfort me in her absence.  She is a part of our family and plays just as important a role as the humans who make up our little band of Barbieris.

I was thinking about our pets—both past and present—this weekend after I got a call from a good friend telling me that her beloved dog, a miniature Schnauzer named Stella, had died suddenly and unexpectedly.  The shock of hearing that, coupled with the knowledge of how much I love our little Westie and our big, giant cat, made me so sad that I burst into the tears, my friend and I crying over the loss of this twenty-pound animal who loved to bark at squirrels, who played with my dog in the summer while the kids swam in the pool, and who loved to bury her bone in the couch cushions to protect it for later consumption. So while this blog may seem like just a bunch of ramblings about a disobedient Golden Retriever named Dusty, it is a tribute to all of our beloved pets, the ones who grace our lives for a short time but who bring us so much joy and happiness while they are here.

To Stella—I hope you are enjoying a big, giant JumBone in heaven.

Stiletto faithful, tell us about your favorite memory of a beloved pet.

Maggie Barbieri

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sometimes I Wonder if I'm Crazy

The day after Thanksgiving I jumped on a virtual tour bus with 13 other mystery authors on a 14 day book tour. Of course we started long before the tour began by sending each other information about what we wanted to be sent for each blog post, and then of course we had to comply with the requests. Some of the writers took much longer to get their information sent off. Once it was received, in my case I immediately posted it to my blog with the correct date and time for it to appear.

Once the tour began it was important to promote the blogs as much as each author had time to do it. So far I've been promoting my blog with the guest author and whatever blog I'm appearing on that particular day. I've also made an effort to visit each of the other blogs and leave a comment.

Many books are being offered as prizes on this tour and some folks who love books, especially those that are free, have begun to catch on and there names and comments are appearing on the different blogs.
For my blog at I asked the authors to write a post about setting. If you read each of their posts, you'll see that none of them are alike at all. Some spoke about setting itself, others described the settings of their books. I found it fascinating.

Today I'm appearing on Timothy Hallinan's blog he's the author of The Queen of Patpong, a wonderful book.

We have authors of all genres within the mystery field, I think you'll recognize most if not all of these names:
Beth Anderson, Ron Benrey, Pat Browning, John M. Daniel, Alice Duncan, W. W. (Wendy) Gager, M. M. (Madeline) Gornell, Timothy Hallinan, Jackie King, Jean Henry Mead, Mike Orenduff, Jinx Schwartz, Earl Staggs, and Anne K. Albert who organized this whole tour.

It's been a bit of work, but I do think it's paid off. I kept checking my numbers on Amazon for the e-book and they've been going down, which is a good thing.

Being with a small press (two, actually), I've had to work very hard to promote any of my books. The one I've been focusing on for this tour is Bears With Us.

Of course I've also been busy with in-person events, some of which I've written about on this blog.

All that's left for this year is spending two days, December 9 and 10 at the Christmas Boutique at the Porterville Art Gallery from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. I've done this several years and it's a lot of fun. The artists who have their jewelry, cards, pottery, and of course paintings on sale are fun to chat with and their work is wonderful. It's like going to a Christmas party that lasts for two days.

And in the mean time, I had 13 for Thanksgiving dinner, then the next day hauled the leftovers to may daughter's so we could do it all again. (Daughter and granddaughters and great-grand daughter had spent the whole night and most of the day shopping for bargains. I was not crazy enough to do that.)

Hubby and have put up all the Christmas decorations we felt like and it doesn't amount to much.

My collection of moose--not a collection I planned, people just kept giving them to me.

And sort of an Indian display. Oh, we have a small tree with lights that you just have to plug in and the stockings are hung on the mantel, and few other decorations here and there. But with no kids to help me decorate a big tree, not bothering with that this year.

Oh, and about being crazy? This virtual blog tour has taken up a lot of my writing time, but as I tell other authors, if you don't let people know about your book, how will they know to buy it?

And I think I'll take this time to wish everyone a Happy Holiday Season no matter what you might celebrate, as for me it'll be a Merry Christmas.


Monday, December 5, 2011

The Zen of Giving

Around this time of year the discussion inevitably turns to the crass commercialism of the holiday season; the need for everyone to get a grip on the amount of money spent; the debt incurred; the environmental impact of wrapping paper; the need to focus on the less fortunate.

And it's all absolutely true.

Which is why what should be a time of delight is, for me, also often a time of guilt. Now my kids would say that I have two middle names: worry and guilt. So it's no surprise that I worry that I send the wrong message about the holiday and that I'm guilty of all the transgressions mentioned above.

As I understand, giving presents as part of the Christmas tradition follows the example of the gifts brought by the three wise men to the baby Jesus. For Chanukah, the traditional gift was gelt (Yiddish for money). The rationale was twofold. First, Chanukah celebrates the Jewish defeat of the Greeks who had defiled the Holy Temple. Chanukah comes from the same word as Chinuch which means education. The Rabbis believed that the Jewish people, adults and children, needed to be reeducated about the Torah after years of Hellenic domination. Gelt was given to children as an incentive to learn the Torah, with the idea that as youngsters grew older they would understand the beauty of learning the Bible without the incentive. Giving gelt was also used to model charitable behavior and to teach children the concept of giving charity with their own money.

None of which explains me and the Barbie doll purchased for my granddaughter, wrapped in Chanukah paper festooned with colorful dreidls.
The truth is I like finding just the right gift for each person on my list. I adore wrapping paper and making crisp corners and neat folds around cardboard boxes. I have way too much tissue paper for a normal person, but when I find it, on sale, in colors or designs never before seen by these eyes, I can't resist. Is there a 12-step program for wrapping paper addicts?

But most of all, I love the joy that the perfect gift elicits – especially when the recipient hadn't even asked for that item. Being able to indulge someone's wish is a blessing for both the giver and the receiver. It doesn't have to be expensive or even new. It can be homemade. But it has to be thoughtful.
One mother I know wrapped up a box of sugared cereal, usually a no-no in the house, and gave it to her son as one of his gifts. Bingo! I still smile, lo these many years later, at the look of sheer delight when my oldest son opened a Star Wars action figure. It cost $3. I had searched all over town because they were in such short supply, but my child looked like he had won the lottery, heck even the Powerball, when he opened it. I was so happy for his happiness.

I do try to give generously at holiday time. Surely the concept of charity, especially in this difficult economy, is more important than ever. When my kids were little, I would take them to select gifts to donate to Toys for Tots and the local children's hospital.

And so I am making an early New Year's resolution to give reasonably and thoughfully – and to enjoy, without guilt, the experience. However, you choose to celebrate, I wish you a time of peace and joy.
Happy Holidays!


As our gift to you, we'd like to provide you with a coupon for a free ebook copy of I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries from Smashwords   Please email us at and we'll send one to you.

Brianna Sullivan Mysteries - e-book series
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Undying Love in Lottawatah- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
A Haunting in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Lottawatah Twister - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Missing in Lottawatah - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Sullivan Investigations Mystery - e-book series
Murder Off the Books Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Murder Takes the Cake Kindle - Nook - Smashwords
Riley Come Home (short story)- Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Love Lessons - Kindle - Nook - Smashwords

Friday, December 2, 2011

All I Want for Christmas is Escada Couture Swarovski Crystal Jeans

by Susan McBride's Second Cousin Once Removed, Tiffany Van Cleef Arpel

My dear cousin, Ms. Susan, has to get cracking on a book deadline, so I told her I'd fill in on the blog today, offering my always fabulous holiday shopping tips. If I'd left Susan to discuss the subject, she'd be all about "Take care to mind your budget, blah blah blah." Budget? Hello! That word's not even in my vocabulary, unless my stable hand says, "Hey, Tiff, can't seem to get Appletini's ass out of the stall, even when I try to budge it."

Look, I've done my best to pick out truly reasonable items for everyone on your gift list (meaning: me, me, me!); so don't panic, even if your trust fund is tied up in litigation because your money manager finally got caught running his silly ol’ Ponzi scheme. I know how to spot a bargain, particularly if it's really sparkly. So without further ado, here are my awesome recommendations!  No need to thank me.

A pink leopard guitar for a piddly $9,900. It’s, like, musical art with a mahogany neck, rosewood finger board, and hand-applied Swarovski crystals. Do I know how to play the guitar? Heck, no! Well, not any better than Brittany Spears knows how to sing without Auto-Tune. But I’m a rock chick at heart so I’d just wear this puppy around my neck instead of pearls.

While you’re pretending to play that guitar, you’ll need to look hot, right? So how about a pair of Escada Couture Swarovski Crystal Jeans, available at Neiman Marcus for a mere $10,000. Honestly, you can never have too many jeans, and why not have some that glitter like the Vegas strip when you're caught in the headlights of your boyfriend's Lamborghini? Just be really careful about wiping sweaty palms on your thighs when you're wearing these babies, as you can cut yourself up pretty good. (Don't ask.)

If you like something simpler, you can always go with the Dolce & Gabbana Astrakhan Jeans, which are incredibly priced at $3,950. It's like stealing, I swear.

For the very special woman on your list who likes things soft and fuzzy (and that's me, me, me!), how about a lovely and practical Louis Vuitton mink scarf, a mere pittance at $1,710. It can double as a mink pillow if you stay at a hotel where the sheets smell too bleachy (yeah, Paris Hilton, and you can tell you dad I said so!).

Not into scarves? Then go for J. Mendel silver fox vest (price tag: $5,475). Though I'm afraid my arms would get cold, so, please, spring for both. You wouldn't want me wandering into Donald Trump's Christmas Eve bash hacking up phelgm 'cuz I've got pneumonia, now would you?

The perfect outfit for any holiday party is the little black dress, and Miu Miu has the cutest ruffled one for a paltry $820. I know. What a deal, huh? And since you'll only wear it once, you won't feel like you're getting ripped off or anything.

You're probably saying, "Tiff, my God! What fantastico ideas! Surely you can't have more?"

Ah, but I do.

Like this little gem: Faraone Mennella for Carolina Herrera citrine, rose quartz and pink tourmaline brooch. It's understated yet pretty as my picture. "But what's that cost, Tiff?" I hear you asking. To which I reply, "You can easily afford it AND the mortgage payments on your villa in Tuscany without selling off those Rembrandt etchings." $14,000. Yes, that's right. Unbelievable, huh? So make it two, please!

If you're wondering about New Year's Eve ‘cause you'd like to bring a bottle of bubbly to that party Skip and Bitsy Vanderhaven are throwing in Greenwich, my suggestion would be to take them a set of Hermes cocktail glasses (just $400 a glass) and the Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne 1990 ($231). I guarantee Skip and Bitsy will be your pals for life, or at least until they run out of the Cristal.

And, finally, the perfect holiday present. One that will never be returned or re-gifted. Here goes (drumroll, please, Ringo): a yoga retreat at Hotel Tugu in Bali. At $2,590 per couple x four nights, it's even cheaper than the jeans!

So there you are, my darlings. Just have your valet and/or your personal assistant wrap 'em up, and you can call it a day. It was a lot easier than you thought, wasn't it? Because life is too short to waste a lot of time in places called "The Galleria" when you could be at the spa, getting high colonics and Brazilian bikini waxes and your eyebrows plucked to smithereens.

If you need further inspiration, just repeat this ditty (my personal mantra): "Gucci, Pucci, Prada, Fendi, nothing's wrong with being trendy."

Ciao, babies...and happy shopping!


(Note from Susan:  Tiffany wrote this lovely piece for me a few years back so some of the prices may have changed, although I'm not sure if that matters much, if ya know what I mean.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

When Can I Raid My Character's Closet?

By Kris Neri

Do you ever long to raid your characters’ closets? I do, though only when that character is Samantha Brennan the fake psychic featured in my Magical Mystery series HIGH CRIMES ON THE MAGICAL PLANE and the newly-released, MAGICAL ALIENATION.

I don’t long to borrow any duds from her co-protagonist, Annabelle Haggerty because, although Annabelle a genuine Celtic goddess, descended from the gods that fill the mythology books, she’s also an FBI agent. She dresses not the way female FBI agents are often depicted on TV, with their tight blouses and bare midriffs, but as I imagine they dress in real life, in stodgy professional suits with sensible heels.

Samantha, on the other hand, is anything but sensible. Here’s how she presented herself to me when she first introduced herself to me early in the planning stage of the first book of the series, HIGH CRIMES ON THE MAGICAL PLANE, a Lefty Award nominee for Best Humorous Mystery:

"Man, what a sight I was! Long blonde hair curling wildly in every direction, crowned with a wreath of battered silk flowers held together with Christmas tree garland. Makeup by Crayola. And that dress I wore—half Renaissance ball gown in bright blue satin and lace, half soothsayer garb with its filmy organdy layers, half jester suit. Too many halves, I know, but it was quite a dress.”

That was exactly how I heard it in my head, and that’s also exactly how it appeared in the book. How could I, a mere writer, hope to top the appearance of such a determined fake psychic?

HIGH CRIMES ON THE MAGICAL PLANE was so much fun to write, not just because of Samantha’s eccentric wardrobe, but because of the wild paranormal adventures it contains. And the latest in the series, MAGICAL ALIENATION, was even more fun.

Here’s a little tease of the story to tell you what it’s about:

“A spaceship crash in Roswell…a rumored alien…the mysterious Area 51…a harmonic convergence in Sedona. No connection, right? With its rock stars and shape shifters, gods and haunting militia leaders — MAGICAL ALIENATION will turn what you think you know upside down.

Fake psychic Samantha Brennan and Celtic goddess/FBI agent Annabelle Haggerty team up again. While the rock people twist the surface of the earth and Sedona heads into the darkest night the planet has ever seen, Samantha wonders which, if any of them, will survive it. But when Celtic gods are involved, nothing is ever as it appears.”

The trouble with setting the bar high, though, is that next time you have to top it. I’m happy to say that in MAGICAL ALIENATION, Samantha and I successfully did top her first appearance. Here’s how she’s dressed in one of her early appearances in MAGICAL ALIENATION:

The dress I wore today was a medieval gown I’d bought from some touring attraction that had shut down. The floor-length gray silk dress had looked too simple for me, so I covered it with red and black graffiti; snotty jibes written in Middle English. I’d also placed my wimple properly on my head, but my long, curly blonde hair was so wild, it kept knocking that pointy hat askew. Now I probably looked more like some crazed lunatic who’d been mugged by the Middle Ages.”

And then there was this outfit:

I wore a court jester suit today, with puffy jacket sleeves and short pants in magenta and gold. Under the pants I wore bright purple tights. A bell dangled from the jester hat perched at a rakish angle on my curly blonde hair. I’d chosen high-heeled gold lamé pumps in lieu of jester shoes. Normally, I preferred dresses, but since I was visiting a politician, I thought the occasion called for some whimsy.”

Samantha insists she dresses as she does so potential clients will take her seriously as a celebrity psychic, and yet she’s continually shocked when people regard her as a flake. I personally believe her taste in clothes simply reflects the inner girl, who’s definitely marching to the beat of a tone-deaf drummer.

And here’s another little secret: While I doubt I’d have the guts to dress as Samantha does, a tiny part of me probably wishes I could. If her wardrobe expresses her true spirit, it expresses my buried-too-deep-to find-it spirit, which I’m only able to access through her.

The real reason why I have such fun clothing Samantha? She’s dressing for me, too. With a pronounced taste for the offbeat, Kris Neri writes the Samantha Brennan and Annabelle Haggerty Magical Mystery series, HIGH CRIMES ON THE MAGICAL PLANE, a Lefty Award nominee for Best Humorous Mystery, and MAGICAL ALIENATION. She also write the hilarious Tracy Eaton Mysteries, featuring the daughter of eccentric Hollywood stars, the latest of which was REVENGE FOR OLD TIMES’ SAKE, also a Lefty Award nominee.

buy Magical Alienation at Well Red Coyote