Wednesday, August 29, 2012

You CAN judge a book by its cover....right?

I love book covers!

Angels and demonsI love book covers.
I hate to admit it, but I’ve bought books based on their covers, like Angels and Demons, where the title can be read upside-down as well as rightside-up. The book wasn't so great, but the cover was awesome. 

Covers do make a difference.
When my Connor Westphal series first came out, the covers were classic mystery covers—graveyards, skulls, blood, cats. Then, when the books sold to Japan, the covers looked more like “Barbie Does Murder,” with a cute blonde riding on a motor scooter. The German version was just the opposite—
dark, gloomy, like “Connor Does Poe.” 
What a difference.

Cw-dbl-1-coverAfter deciding to e-publishing my Connor Westphal series, I had to find someone to design new covers for the books. I wanted something different from the originals, something that suggested these were cozy, fun books with a strong female protagonist set in a colorful Gold Country town. That’s about as much as I knew. Luckily I discovered Karen Phillips at Left Coast Crime and I couldn’t be happier with her work. She made Connor and her dog Casper really “come alive.” 

Code-2-coverThe covers for my middle-grade series are completely different. Quirky, modern, fun. They capture the mystery element and spookiness of Alcatraz, while showcasing the four bright kids on a quest. 

A for alibi One for money
In my opinion, Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich have boring covers. But they don’t need to worry. It’s their names that sell their books. They could put a picture of a dead cat on the cover and the book would sell.
I’ve had a lot of favorite book covers over the years—too many to list. But here are a couple of recent ones that show the range of mystery novel covers today.

Mercurys rise
Ann Parker’s cover for Mercury’s Rise is perfect for her historical western mystery series. I love the black and white images that suggest that time period. The cover instantly transport me.

Twisted vines
The cover of Carole Price’s new mystery, Twisted Vines, captures both elements of her story, combining Shakespeare and the wine country. The spirit of the Bard hovers over the vineyard.

Going organic

Staci McLaughlin’s new mystery, Going Organic Can Kill You, has a classic cozy cover, with a friendly farm, cute animals, and a pleasant atmosphere. 
Hard to imagine murder lurks among the corn and tomatoes…

All great book covers that show the range of mysteries. And there are so many more.

                     Of course, a book cover like this might be the solution to any cover quandary…
Wood book

Monday, August 27, 2012

I'm having a heat wave

I hope, by the time this appears in the newspaper, our infernal heat wave is over. I don’t tolerate heat well. Of course, I don’t tolerate cold well, nor wind, snow, spring hay fever, fog, or even mild overcast. I like room temperature—a temperature I can control with the flick of a heat/air conditioner switch.

    So you can imagine how well I’ve tolerated this last week. Not well at all.

    I went online at the beginning of our Valley Warming to see what I could do to beat the heat. The government, or someone in charge of power usage, asked us not to turn on our air conditioners or anything else that might cool us down during the major part of the day so we could spare the air. Apparently it was all right to use the air in the morning and in the middle of the night, but not actually during the heat. So I checked out the National Wiki-Weather Service to find tips to prevent myself from melting into a pile of ectoplasm all over the floor.

1.    Listen to the Weather Channel all day for critical updates. I did. The critical updates were: More heat coming. Hotter today. Really really hot soon. So hot you could deep fry a Twinkie on the sidewalk. Got it.

2.    Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, but avoid alcohol and caffeine. What? I can’t think of anything better than an iced mocha frappuccino on a hot day, except maybe a margarita on the blender.

3.    Eat small meals and eat often. Not sure about the logic in this except that if you have a big old turkey dinner, you might fall asleep and miss the heat wave. So instead I ate snacks throughout the day—chips, chocolate, cookies, cupcakes, ice cream—stuff like that. I didn’t feel any cooler and I gained five pounds.

4.    Avoid extreme temperature changes. Seriously? Then why did Mother Nature give us Hot Flashes along with Heat Waves?

5.    Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. What would that be? My bathing suit? Too tight. My wool parka? Too heavy. My black underwear? Yeah, right. That leaves my shoes.

6.    Avoid strenuous exercise. Actually, I’ve been doing that for years, even in cold weather. During the heat wave, I took it down a notch to sloth.

7.    Go to cool places. I’ve been to the mall (bought a sweatshirt for the coming Cold Wave), restaurants (to have those non-alcoholic drinks), and Costco (excellent freezer section), but you can only loiter so long before security guards ask you to put your clothes back on and leave.

8.    Place your sheets in the freezer until bedtime. That way, when they melt, you’ll be sleeping on wet sheets.

9.    Buy a fan. One of those folded ones that women used to use to cover their faces in the Victorian age. They’re light-weight, portable, and hide the sweat all over your face. For added fun, cover them with decals and stickers that say “Zombies are Coming!” or “Stay Calm and Drink Margaritas.”

I think I’ll just suck on Popsicles while sitting in the bathtub filled with ice cubes and wait it out. Before I know it, winter will be here and I can complain about the cold.

Monday, August 13, 2012

My Summer Sand Bucket List

I can't believe summer is almost over! Why is it that the rest of the year seems to last as long as a winter cold, but summer evaporates faster than water in a kiddie pool?
Here's my Summer Sand Bucket List -- all the things I still want to do before August ends.

1) Host Grandma Camp for the Grandchildren. I tried this last year but the kids were too young for the crafts. The 6-year-old painted the birdhouse in less than 60 seconds and the 1-year-old stuffed it so full of Chex Mix that there was no room for a bird. As soon as I find a craft that's more age-appropriate -- and takes longer than five minutes to complete -- I'll reopen Grandma Camp.

2) Lose Weight. It's not easy to lose a few pounds when the smell of barbecue hits your nostrils every night. I gave up trying on bathing suits several years (and childbirths) ago. Now I just grab my old stretched out suit, wrap a towel around myself until I hit the water, and enjoy the false feeling of weightlessness in the pool.

3) Go someplace. We've done the local RV thing and stayed in every park from West Sacramento to Gilroy. But I'd like to go someplace where we don't have to hook up a sewer line, search for Internet service and listen to other RVers talk about their generators.

4) Write some books. I'd planned to write a blockbuster like "Fifty Shades of Tan" (a beach read), a nonfiction bestseller like "Shopping is Real (and so is Chocolate)" and a kids' book like "The Hungry Games" (an activity/cookbook for kids). But summer's nearly over, I'm only halfway through my next Code Busters Club book and so far none of the characters has picked up a bow and arrow.

5) Learn something new. Every summer I try to learn a new skill, such as housecleaning or cooking or bill-paying, but I usually lose interest around day two and go back to what I know best -- house-cluttering, eating and spending. I think learning how to perform Lasik surgery might be easier.

6) Try a new fashion style. I wear the same outfits all year -- denim jeans, "Life is Good" T-shirts and Toms shoes. I need to branch out and change my look. For the rest of summer, I plan to go rogue, style-wise, and wear only denim shorts, "Hello Kitty" T-shirts and tropical print Toms. Maybe even an Angry Birds shirt.

7) Have more fun. I haven't been to a single free concert this summer and the Valley offers plenty of them. Last weekend I could have gone to hear a Justin Bieber cover band or an aging heavy metal group sing "Call Me, Maybe," but I just stayed home and listened to my two granddaughters belt out the chorus of "Somebody That I Used to Know."

8) Enjoy my own backyard. We've worked hard to make our backyard a place to relax, have barbecues and enjoy the weather. I'm going to spend these last few weeks soaking up the sunshine (with SPF 500), sipping a cool coffee drink (low-fat, no sugar, no whip, decaf, small) and reading the newspaper (What? Gary Bogue is retiring? No!!!).

That's my summer sand bucket list. What's yours?