Monday, May 31, 2010

Come for the tour, stay for the murder...

Today is the official launch date for GRACE UNDER PRESSURE!

Read part of the first chapter here: First Chapter

Learn about the *starred review* in Publishers Weekly here: *Starred Review*

There's still time to enter the contest here: Contest
(Winners will be announced here and on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen on June 8th)

and please don't forget the launch party *THIS SUNDAY* here: Launch party


Friday, May 28, 2010

Manor House? Manor of Murder? Does it "manor"?

Just found out this minute that my new Grace Under Pressure is *not* the first book in my new Manor of Murder Mystery series... it's the first in the Manor House Mystery series. I had no idea until I sat down to take a look at the author copies that arrived yesterday. But... but... Kate Kingsbury writes the Manor House Mysteries. Oh my gosh, I thought, they mixed us up!

I sent a panicked email to Berkley saying that the cover had a typo, and found out that the series name had been changed....

I feel sorry for Kate Kingsbury. She had the name first. I know I would be upset.

In the spirit of making lemonade.... do you think the cover flats I received a couple of months ago (with the original series name on them) will become collector's items?

But...I just wanted to announce it here first.
Now I need to run around and see where I have to change it elsewhere.

Summer Reads

I've been talking about Grace Under Pressure a lot lately (not "alot" heh, heh), but there are so many wonderful books debuting the exact same day that I'd love to share with you.

Coming June 1st!



Amateur writers become amateur sleuths in the new Books by the Bay mystery series.

In the small coastal town of Fog Horn, South Carolina, you'll find plenty of characters, ne'er-do-wells, and even a few celebs trying to duck the paparazzi. But when townspeople start turning up dead with haiku poems left with the bodies, writer Olivia Limoges and the Fog Horn Fiction Group are determined to get the story before there's an unhappy surprise ending.



Florida's newest talk show radio psychologist Maggie Walsh has no sooner gotten involved with a local movie production than the leading lady turns up dead. Now Maggie has to find the killer before the credits roll-or it might be her final performance.



Welcome to the first Haunted Guest House mystery-the getaway every reader can afford.

Newly divorced Alison Kerby wants a second chance for herself and her nine-year-old daughter. She's returned to her hometown on the Jersey Shore to transform a Victorian fixer-upper into a charming-and profitable-guest house. One small problem: the house is haunted, and the two ghosts insist Alison must find out who killed them.




The newest installment in the series, with knitting patterns and recipes included!

Fall has come to Fort Connor, Colorado, and the cool air has inspired the knitters at the House of Lambspun to start on their hats and mittens. It's also brought an influx of students to the university town-and into the shop for knitting classes. Kelly Flynn is happy to teach them the tricks of the trade-until one of them is found dead on the river trail near Kelly's house. Compelled to investigate, Kelly finds herself following a path that twists more easily than the yarn with which she knits. Knowing the killer could be close, Kelly must work fast to unravel the skein of this crime.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Visit Marshfield Manor. Meet Grace Wheaton

Sneak preview of the opening of
Grace Under Pressure
first in the new
Manor of Murder Mystery series

For your reading enjoyment... approximately 2/3 of the first chapter:

Chapter 1

There were at least sixty people in the Birdcage room this afternoon but not one of them made a peep. The animated conversations, gentle laughter, and musical plinks from the harp had gone suddenly silent, as though a giant thumb had hit the mute button.

And that giant thumb stood in front of me.

“Please keep your voice down,” I said to him.

The big guy paced in circles, his untamed red hair ballooning like a lion’s mane. He stopped moving long enough to glare at the crowd. “What are you all staring at?”

Guests, who moments before had been nibbling finger sandwiches, now exchanged awkward glances. They tried, and failed, to shift their attention elsewhere. But who could blame them? The heavyset fellow with the ripped jeans, dirty shirt, and wild eyes didn’t belong in this serene setting. He made a show of looking around the room then shouted again, his voice echoing. “Huh? Whatcha all looking at?”

I tried to get his attention. “Sir, why don’t you tell me how I can help you?”

He shot me a dirty look. Resumed pacing.

Next to me, our hostess, Martha, took a half step back. She had called me down to help with a “problem guest.” I hadn’t expected 350 pounds of fury. The worst complaint we usually received about afternoon tea in the Birdcage was about it being too hot or too cool. Regulating temperature in an all-window room was always a challenge. I whispered to Martha to call security and she took off, clearly relieved to get away.

Trying again, I smiled at the big guy. “What’s your name?”

He stopped moving. “Why do you want to know?”

“My name is Grace,” I said, inching forward. “I’m the assistant curator here at Marshfield Manor.”

“Cure-ator? What does that mean? They sent you here to cure me?” His angry look was replaced by confusion. “And you’re, like, just an assistant? Where are the important people? I don’t want to talk to some dumb assistant.”

“Why don’t you tell me what you need,” I said, more slowly this time, “and I’ll do my best to get the right person to help you.”

Teeth bared, he spread his arms wide and lifted his gaze to the glassed ceiling as though begging the heavens for patience. Whatever biceps he might have once had sagged out from short sleeves, seams shredded to accommodate his arms’ girth. He looked as though he’d slept in this outfit. All week. At about twenty-five, he was younger than I was, and a few inches taller than my five-foot-eight, but he outweighed me by at least two hundred pounds. A morbidly obese time bomb. I glanced over to the wall where we kept the defibrillator and hoped I wouldn’t need to use it.

Still staring upward, he asked, “What do I have to do to get a cheeseburger around here?”

A nervous laugh bubbled up from the back of the room.

Snapping his attention toward the giggler, the guy yelled, “What, you think this is funny?”

Two of our plainclothes security guards eased in. Older guys, decked out to look like tourists, they didn’t cut an imposing sight. I wished they’d sent a different team, but beggars couldn’t be choosers. I moved into the big man’s view, distracting him. “We don’t serve cheeseburgers here, I’m afraid . . .”

“Why not?”

“This,” I gestured, “is our tea room.” Maybe if I explained things, he might be encouraged to leave. “We serve light refreshments here, like savories and sweets. If you want a more substantial meal, our hotel offers a full menu.” Not that our bellicose guest would fit any better there than he did here. “Or maybe you’d prefer to try one of the great little diners off property? We have a shuttle that can take you into Emberstowne, if you like.”

He worked his tongue inside his bottom lip. “Don’t want that,” he said more to himself than to me. Grabbing the back of a nearby chair, he shouted, “I want a cheeseburger.” He lifted the chair over his head and leaped sideways toward the outside wall. “Or I’ll . . . I’ll . . . throw this through a window.”

He certainly had plenty to choose from. This room was called the Birdcage for good reason: Jutting out from the mansion to the south, the cylindrical room was a two-storied glass marvel. Each of the clear panes was framed by black support beams, which arched to meet at a buttressed central point. Though impressive, the Birdcage was just one more showstopper setting in this 150-room gothic beauty. A giant museum as well as a home, each huge room showcased priceless artifacts. Stepping inside the manor always made me feel tiny, yet protected.

I kept my voice even and tried to smile. “Just put the chair down and we can talk.”

His arms faltered. He bit his lip and glanced from side to side. I could only imagine what he was thinking. I had my back to the rest of the room, focusing completely on this wild-eyed, crazy-haired man in front of me.

“Tell me your name,” I tried again.

“How come it’s just you talking to me? I mean, shouldn’t they, like, send security in here?”

I sincerely hoped the security guards would make their move soon. They must be waiting for backup. These two men were both over sixty, unarmed, and relatively small. The toughest assignments this team usually faced was stopping kids from entering roped-off areas or adults from using flash photography. I doubted these two could take down our sizeable guest. Not even working together. Not even if I jumped in to help.

The big guy waved the chair over his head again. I got the feeling his arms were getting tired.

“Come on,” I said, “How can I help you if I don’t know your name?”

He surprised me by answering. “Percy.”

“Nice to meet you, Percy. Now why don’t you put down that chair and we’ll talk.”

Without warning, he threw the chair to the floor and ran to my right. The two elderly security guards had rushed him but they were a half-step too slow. Percy threw a fat arm against William, the smaller of the two guards, sending him sprawling onto the marble floor. When he hit the ground, I heard William whoof in pain.

Percy hustled along the room’s perimeter, arms pumping, his mane of hair blocking his view as he glanced back at the guard sprawled on the floor. The big man didn’t run out of the room, as I expected. Instead, he ducked between tables, grabbing the backs of patrons’ chairs as he dodged the other guard, Niles, who was trying his best to corner the big man all by himself.

I pulled up my walkie-talkie and called for assistance, requesting an emergency team to help the fallen William. He’d managed to sit up, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

People screamed. Some shouted. Those nearest the doors got out. Who could blame them?

Our young harpist, looking shell-shocked and too panicked to run, kept her arms protectively around her instrument. Nearby, an elderly woman with arthritic hands stared up at the big man. Her eyes were bright and wide. Just as I thought she might faint, she hurled her teacup at him. It bounced off his shoulder before crashing to the floor. Percy turned and ran past her, patting her blue-white hair more gently than I would have expected. “Good aim, lady,” he said. Then, waving his arms over his head he skirted tables with surprising agility, crying out, “My kingdom for a cheeseburger.”

Had this been a scene in a movie, I might have laughed. But this was Marshfield Manor. Outbursts like this didn’t happen here. Our guests must not be terrorized. This magnificent, extraordinary haven should not be compromised. Ever.

I was not amused.

The rest of security finally stormed in. Although Percy’s wild behavior had probably only gone on for about a minute and a half, it seemed ten times longer. Uniformed guards took positions at every exit and three tough officers—two men just hired by our head of security, and the top man himself—came in, hands on holsters. These men were armed but I knew they wouldn’t draw their weapons with patrons present unless it became absolutely necessary.

The chief of security, Terrence Carr, sidled up. “What do we got? Talk to me,” he said.

I gave him a quick rundown, adding, “I don’t think the guy is dangerous. Just a little unstable.”

Tall, black, and stunningly handsome, Carr had an Ironman triathlete’s physique and—much to the disappointment of many female staffers—a wife and three kids. He didn’t take his eyes off our unwelcome guest. “Mr. Percy,” he called. “We will take you out by force if we have to. But I think it would be much better if you came out on your own.”

“Yeah, right,” Percy answered. A woman behind him leaned as far away as possible, the look on her face making it apparent she was too terrified to get up and run. As he backed up, Percy stumbled against her seat, knocking it sideways. She jumped to her feet, squeaking in fear. “Sorry,” he mumbled. He offered a quick smile. “My fault.”

An apology? This made no sense at all. I started feeling sorry for the big guy. Maybe he had just come in looking for a handout. Maybe he’d missed taking his meds.

When Carr’s two men got within striking distance, Percy took off, nimbly avoiding further collisions with patrons, tables, and harp. I stepped back, letting the professionals do their job, sad to see this beautiful room suffer as Percy threw empty chairs into the officers’ paths and knocked furniture to the ground. Abandoned meals crashed loudly and messily to the floor. I winced.

This was one of my favorite rooms in the entire mansion, and the only place in the actual home where guests could sit, relax, and grab a bite to eat. With its reproduction furniture—rattan chairs and settees with peach-, cream- and pale green–striped cushions—potted palms, and a soaring ceiling, this was always the brightest place to be.

Sitting in this room, as I had as a young child with my family, always made me feel special. Like I belonged here. And now, as assistant curator, I really did belong here. I was as protective of the Marshfield Manor castle as I was of my own home.

I stepped forward instinctively as Percy grabbed another chair, using it to fend off the guards as a lion tamer might tease his quarry. I didn’t know what I could possibly do, but I felt a powerful need to do something. With Percy’s leonine appearance, watching him fight the guards with the upturned chair was a peculiar sight. Again, in another situation, I might have laughed. No one wanted to hurt this guy, but we couldn’t let him get away with this behavior. Carr repeatedly ordered him to put the chair down.

Instead, wiggling the chair like a sword, Percy grinned, pointedly ignoring the officer’s demands. Carr pulled out pepper spray. I hoped he was bluffing because pepper spray would affect everyone in the room if he used it. From the set of his jaw and the tension in his posture, however, I could tell he was itching to spring.

...the rest of Chapter 1 is available at the end of Eggsecutive Orders, or in your copy of GRACE UNDER PRESSURE, on sale June 1st (but apparently available early at some Borders stores and through

Friday, May 21, 2010

Herding cat

Last night the cat got out. As you may notice from the picture above, not only does Kitka have a face that says "trouble" she is also mostly black. This makes it difficult to see her at 10 PM.

She's an indoor cat, although we take her out occasionally on a leash in the back yard just because she cries so pitifully at the back window. She doesn't have front claws, so she will remain an indoor cat for the rest of her life.

That is, assuming we're quick enough to keep her from running out.

I'm relatively new at life with a cat, so I confess to being unsure of the best way to handle a cat getting out. First of all - we never intend for her to run out again. The panic was just too great for all of us. My daughter was closing the door after saying hello to a friend she saw outside, and Kitka bolted. We had four kids and two parents out there (in the rain, mind you), calling to the little cat, and trying to tempt her with food and promises that she could be safe and warm inside if she'd just let us near her. She loves hiding under shrubbery, by the way, and we have a lot of that out front.

Our neighborhood has a particularly active hawk and several coyotes, so we really didn't like her being outside, even for the five tense minutes we couldn't corral her.

She's fast. She's less than a year old, and as I mentioned earlier, she's trouble. But too cute for words.

Any suggestions from veteran cat lovers out there? I hope we never need to try to catch her again (that's the plan) but if we do, hints for the best way to do it would be appreciated!

Books are out!

I've been getting word that people who ordered GRACE UNDER PRESSURE from have already begun receiving their books. Wow! This is super early - almost a full two weeks!

That kind of changes the "pre-order" contest, doesn't it? LOL
We can never predict these things... but we just do our best.

As you may know, early sales on new books are key to their success, so I'll keep my contest running, but maybe I need to change the name. It's an order contest, I guess. No longer just pre-order. But the rules stay the same... order Grace Under Pressure from any bookseller before June 5, 2010 and let me know - put CONTEST in the email subject and let me know when you ordered it and where you ordered it from, and you're entered to win a $25 bookstore gift certificate.

How wild. I had no idea they'd be available this early. Very exciting! Thanks, everyone who ordered, for letting me know!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Eggsecutive Orders - Large Print

Eggsecutive Orders came out in large print as of yesterday, May 19, 2010. Although some online retailers are still showing it as "not yet released" I'm getting updates and alerts all over the place indicating that it's out there (somewhere).

No book cover at this point. But if past covers for the large print editions of State of the Onion and Hail to the Chef are any indication, it will be "interesting."

Can't wait to get a look at it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stop and Smell the Irises

These came from my garden out back. Aren't they gorgeous? Lots more back there, too, but this year I'm trying (again) to encourage peonies and some of these beautiful blooms were blocking the new growth. So, why not clip them and enjoy them indoors, right?

I originally placed this vase on the kitchen table and set to work on a project right next to them. My husband came down to ask me to endorse a check for deposit and leaned over the table right next to the vase, handing me the check and the pen. I said, "What do you think of the flowers?" He looked behind me (toward the back yard) then off his right shoulder into the kitchen, then back outside, then back where he'd come from. I pointed and said, "They're right here." Truly less than six inches from his face. He turned and from his reaction (shocked!) I could tell that he hadn't been goofing around.

This was really one of those stop and smell the roses moments. Except this time it was irises.

Don't miss the irises in your life...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Rooster Dishes

When my husband, Curt, was growing up he had two older sisters who liked to argue about which one would get what when they married/moved out/etc. As the story goes (and aren't family stories the best?), one day they were arguing, heatedly, about the rooster dishes. My husband had to be about 8 years old at the time and he listened in as his sisters fought. His mother apparently had hit her limit at that point because she said, "Enough! I'm tired of you two fighting over the rooster dishes." She pointed to Curt. "The rooster dishes are yours."

Fast forward to this past weekend. Curt and I visited a few estate sales (so much fun!) and at the last one, we stumbled upon a table full of rooster dishes. Yep, the exact same ones. We already had dinner plates, a few bowls, and cups and saucers. This estate sale offered a set including much, much more. There were bowls, a thing we think may be a gravy boat, a coffee pot, two platters, salt and pepper shakers and lots more. Wow. Really cool. Guess who came home with three boxes of rooster dishes?

Because it was still fairly early in the day, Curt and I hit a few antique stores. We've almost never found rooster dishes anywhere, and we'd never seen the salt and pepper shakers or the coffee pot... didn't even know they existed until we bought them. But one antique store was selling the coffee pot and another the shakers. How wild! We were a bit north and west of where we live. Maybe rooster dishes were a big thing out there?

Now the only problem is where to store them...

Anybody out there know where I can find a lovely antique oak buffet?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Grace Under Pressure Launch Contest

Book Pre-order Contest! - (SLIGHTLY AMENDED as of 5/7/10)
see the *blue* wording for changes

The first book in my new Manor of Murder Mystery series, Grace Under Pressure, debuts June 1st! To help launch the book and to celebrate its release, here’s a very special contest:

Pre-order Grace Under Pressure before May 31, 2010, and you're eligible to win a $25 gift certificate to Mystery Lovers Bookshop. (If I get more than 50 entries, I'll add a runner-up prize or two!) Also -- because it's been brought to my attention that digital downloads cannot be preordered, I'm extending the entry date through June 5th.

No receipts required. Just email me at with the date that you pre-ordered and the name of the bookstore you ordered it from, and you're entered! Please put "CONTEST" in the subject of the email. If you've already ordered, you're eligible too. Just let me know where you ordered from and when.

I'm cross-posting this announcement on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen all month too!

Don't forget your Independent Mystery Bookstores:

Mystery Lovers Bookshop (free shipping on book orders over $10!)

Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore (my local bookstore - autographing available)

Barnes & Noble