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Author of the Faye Longchamp Archaeological Mysteries
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Friday, April 30, 2010

A Comedy of Covers, Part Neuf

I made an Amazon bestseller list.  But I'll have to tell you about it at the bottom of the post, because it will increase the suspense, and because you'll understand my italicized glee after you learn the background.

I'm winding down to the end of my cover stories.  Really.  I do believe I'll exhaust this topic before the cover for my as-yet-nameless (and, in fact, as-yet-unbegun) Book 7 in the Faye Longchamp mystery series.  But I still have stories to tell about my own cover designing exploits.  SoLet's talk about "Starch."  It is a short story that first appeared in Plots with Guns about five years ago.  Plots with Guns is long on prestige and style and swagger, but short on cash.  The editor, Neil, had bought me a couple of drinks, and they claim that they usually pay in liquor, so we called it even.

Since it's a very noir publication, and I don't usually write in that blood-and-guts-oriented style, I thought long and hard about the plotline.  (Neil, God bless him, said, "All we ask is that you mention a gun in the story.  Have Faye dig up a musket." But I wanted to aim higher.  Ooh, a gun metaphor.  I should alert Plots with Guns.)

I was musing on blood and guts, and I realized that the place where you'd usually find the most of those things is in a hospital operating room.  My mother was an OR nurse in the Fifties, and I thought that would be a very noir setting.  She was so much help in researching the layout and equipment of a Fifties-era OR that I gave her co-writing credit.  As is usual for me, once I knew where the story would take place, the people who would inhabit that spot came to life, and I knew what their problems would be.  From there, it is a very short step to actually writing the story.  Sometimes, as in this case, the story almost writes itself.

Short stories don't often get reviewed, but Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind called "Starch" twisted, and I thought that was cool.  And then the story just laid around until I published it as an ebook last month, and until yesterday, when it was listed Amazon's Top 100 Medical Thrillers for the Kindle.  Yay!

And what did I do for the cover of this opus.  Well, here's a very cool graphic that's related to the story that I rejected.  It wasn't attention-getting enough and it was too busy.  But it's still pretty cool.

And here's the actual cover.  It's simple.  The scalpel and blood mirror the story and they grab you viscerally.  And the red, black, and white color scheme grabs the eye.  Do you agree?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Comedy of Covers, Part Huit

And you thought I would run out of stories about book covers.  Not hardly.  Because now I'm designing my own!  The only problem with this is that I am now the butt of any jokes I might make about clueless designers.  But I'm a big girl.  I can handle it.

When I decided to e-publish Wounded Earth, I decided to also test the waters with some short stories to which I hold the rights.  I published them all through Smashwords and Amazon's Kindle store, and set the lowest price those venues would allow.  So for $0.99 an intrepid reader can sample my work without plunking down $24.95 for a hardcover.  And for the e-reader-less--like me--the stories can be read on any computer.  Cool!

But I needed to come up with covers for these things.  A short story is a pretty compact piece of work, so you don't have much to work with, when you think about it.  Take "Mouse House."  It's about a security chief at a nameless theme park in central Florida with a castle and a man dressed up like Peter Pan.  Slapping a photo of Cinderella's Castle on the front of my e-book would quickly get me sued by someone with very, very deep pockets.  So I wasn't about to go there.

Creepy-looking generic public domain photos of castles weren't doing it for me.  Too much like a horror story.  One of the murder victims was poisoned, and I just didn't want to use the image of a middle-aged Mafioso face-down in his apple strudel, even if I could find one.  The other murder victim fell off the castle while doing a high-wire act dressed as Peter Pan, and I wanted to avoid the aforementioned lawsuit, so that was out.

Somehow, I stumbled onto a photo of a hand holding out three apples.  It was a very interesting photo, in that the hand didn't look like it belonged to a hand model, and the apples were a little shriveled.  It reminded me very slightly, subliminally, of the scene in Snow White when the old woman held out a poisoned apple.  This felt right.  The image absolutely didn't represent anything in the story, but it gave me the feeling I wanted the story to convey.  And that, my friends, is my definition of art--the conveyance of feeling from one human being to another.  Here's the cover:

I liked the cover so well, that when I decided to offer a mini-anthology of my short stories for the astounding price of $1.49, I adapted that cover.  I wasn't sure how many stories to include, so I let the cover dictate the answer--three apples and three stories.  And when I went to name the anthology, I took at look at that cover and came up with a fitting title, I think--Offerings.  Here 'tis:

Yet more cover stories tomorrow--happy reading!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Comedy of Covers, Part Sept

Seven cover stories...that's a whole week of blogging.  (And more because I took a couple of days off to do things like vacuum and write exciting and fascinating books.)  Just think how much sausage I'll be able to make with stories like the time I didn't know my book was coming out in audio until I got the publisher's catalog! 

That's right, folks.  I found out when you did.  Let's take a moment to hope that all six books have already sold to the movies, but everyone concerned has forgotten to tell me.  I'll find out when Halle Berry issues a press release saying how excited she is to have landed the action-packed yet cerebral role of Faye Longchamp.

Okay, back to the seventh cover.  But you're wondering what I'm talking about, because I've only written six books.  Au contraire.  (Wow.  You start counting in French and, next thing you know, you're just spewing the language of romance at every opportunity.)  I wrote an environmental thriller called Wounded Earth in the mid-1990s, and it was good enough to get me a hotshot Manhattan agent.  It was also good enough to get me attention at all the major houses and nibbles from the movies, but it never actually sold.  Reasons for turning it down included things like, "Everybody here loved it, but we're concerned that the heroine is too smart and successful and a little hard-edged, and we think our readers won't identify with her."

I don't know about you, but I read that and I think two things.  First, I think they see their audience as people who can't identify with a dynamic woman because, maybe, they're not real smart or successful or dynamic.  As a reader myself, that hurts my feelings.  Second, I think they see themselves as different.  They can identify with a successful woman, but their readers can't.

As a writer, this makes me ask myself, "They want me to live with a wimp for 90,000 words?  I don't think so."  And thus, Faye the independent archaeologist was born.

The fact is that I still loved Wounded Earth.  I thought readers would love it, and its heroine Larabeth McLeod, and I'm just thrilled that modern technology has given me the ability to publish it myself as an ebook.  So, as of this month, Wounded Earth is available in versions to suit most e-readers and your computer on Smashwords and on Amazon, with more vendors to come.  (See ordering information at the bottom of this post.)

But that meant that I had to come up with a cover, and I don't have a brilliant and talented graphic artist on staff.  I have me.

I fired up Microsoft Paint, which came free on my computer.  I fumbled around and learned to use it a little.  Then I went online, searching for public domain images that suited the book.  Given the title and the environmental theme, Earth was a no-brainer.  I found a beautiful public domain stock image, and was very sorry to have to cut off a beautiful starry sky, so that I had the planet only.  (And only half of it, for dramatic effect.)  Then I found actual images of nuclear tests done in the 1950s and 1960s, and they're in the public domain, as all images made with your tax dollars should be.  I used the Mohawk test, because I liked the colors and the perfect mushroom cloud.  Then I overlaid Earth on top of it, and figured out how to put a whitewashed band across the whole image to carry the title.  I really like the colors and visceral impact of the result:

To learn more about Wounded Earth or to purchase it, go to:

And feel free to let me know what you think of the cover.  I'll be e-publishing more work in the future, and it's good to get feedback.  Thanks!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Comedy of Covers, Part Six

I learned to count to ten in French in grade school, but I sure didn't remember that six was spelled the same in French and English.  Gee, blogging is teaching me stuff I didn't know I didn't know.

Okay, we have blog-slogged through my entire oeuvre (another French word I know how to use and spell!), and today's cover story is about Strangers, which will be out this October.  This blog is so cutting-edge that you're getting a look at the cover before it even goes up on Amazon!

This is my third cover designed by the amazing Patrick Hoi Yan Cheung.  Let's look at the other two real quick, so that we can see his work en masse.  (Wow, you wouldn't know that my only languages are English and FORTRAN, with a smattering of BASIC.  Remember BASIC?  Remember FORTRAN?  No?  Oh, well, never mind.  Back to the covers...)


And the first draft of the Strangers cover:

There's certainly lots to like here.  I cannot believe how well Patrick uses plot details that I truthfully wouldn't have thought could be translated to the cover.  He managed to work Confederate money and old love letters into the cover of Findings (see "A Comedy of Covers, Part Quatre" for that story), and he got the old handwritten journal onto the cover of Strangers.  Bravo!  (And there's another language for monolingual me.)

The forlorn girl is just perfect for the cover of a book about a missing young woman.  And if you look closely, there's a chilling shadow  of a hand on the windowpane.  But I don't know what that bloody flower is about.  And the red shadow on the girl's face looks like she's been burned to me.  Also, for plot reasons, my editor wanted the girl emphasized, particularly her hair.  Fortunately, Patrick is a genius, and he granted our wishes.  Gorgeous, isn't it?

Tomorrow--I'll tell you how I designed the covers for my ebooks, which really is like making sausage...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Comedy of Covers, Part Cinq...

I did have to look up the spelling for "cinq."  It just looks wrong, even when you factor in the fact that French is a whole different language.  I was almost sure "cinq" was right, but something in me just didn't want that "q" to dangle.  But "cinque" is five in Italian, and I didn't think it wasn't the same as in French.  So Google is my friend and I got it figured out without embarrassing myself.  Well, without embarrassing myself in that particular way...

So Book 5 was Floodgates, which I'm fairly certain is sitting up there on the top of your screen looking beautiful.  But my webmaster Ramon is such a genius that sometimes he designs pages with random book covers showing up hither and yon.  Which means that I have no idea what you are looking at when I'm looking at the cover of Floodgates.  Here it is, just in case:

I think it's just perfect.  It shows the horror of Shelly's death, without being too grim.  Maybe that's blood flowing upward on the right, or maybe it's just her hair.  And her hair blends upward into the water, which is central to any story about New Orleans and Katrina.  It has the artistry of an impressionist painting, to me, yet I'm told that it was generated digitally, on a computer.  Amazing.

With the exception of one reviewer, I've gotten nothing but good feedback on this cover.  What do you think?

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Comedy of Covers, Part Quatre

Is that right?  Is that how you say "four" in French?  And did I spell it right???'s the genesis of the cover of Findings, which is one of the most effective of any of my covers and, not coincidentally I'm sure, is the cover of my most successful hardcover to date.  A person scanning a bookstore shelf or an Amazon page has a microsecond to think, "Hey!  That looks interesting."  Covers are critical.  Why do you think I'm spending a good chunk of my first month as a blogger talking about them?

And since you, my young Grasshopper, are here to learn how sausage is made how books appear in your hands, read and learn...

The first draft of the Findings cover was a work of art.  It was truly, truly beautiful, but it was just not going to work.  Here it is:

Those of you who have seen the book are probably thinking, "That's the final cover.  I've seen it with my own eyes.  What is this woman blathering about?"

There are so many things right about this cover.  The emeralds are bleepin' gorgeous, and the storyline spins on an emerald.  I told the press that Confederate money and a collection of 19th-century love letters figured into the plot, but I had no idea how they could work on the cover, but Patrick the Genius Cover Artist pulled it off.  He even added an old-style dip pen to the mix.  I loved it...

except...take a gander at that blue eye.  And those oh-so-Caucasian features on the woman's face.  Faye is multiracial, and I make a big deal about her full pretty lips and soft brown eyes.  This is the first cover that might possibly portray Faye and all the people who read the first three books will look at it and go, "Huh?"

My first response from the contact at the publishing house was, "Maybe it's not Faye."  Again, I ask, "Huh?"  There's a middle-aged redhead in the book who's not nearly this pretty.  There's another middle-aged woman, an archaeologist, who's not nearly this pretty.  There's a librarian of indeterminate age, and the face isn't really right for her, either.  But the point is that those are secondary characters.  If there's a face on the cover, people will presume it's the heroine or the murder victim.  Since the murder victim is an elderly black man, they're going to think this is Faye, and it ain't.

So the artist tried again.

This is better.  Much better.  The eye is now brown.  I could live with this, if I had to.  But look where he put the pen.  It's as if he's emphasizing the narrow, European lips that look nothing like Faye's.  And I still don't like the pointy nose.  I asked, very politely, for him to try again, and I absolutely love the final version.

The lips and nose are almost completely blurred away, and we're left with an evocative eye.  (And an eye that's brown.)  Does it look like my image of Faye?  No, not much.  But there's plenty of scope for the viewer to develop a personal image of what she looks like.  And I like that.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Reading for a living...a bibliophile's dream...

I'm interrupting my saga of ridiculous book cover stories because...well, because I can.  :-D  One of the attractions of blogging is the fact that there is no one looking over your shoulder and telling you what to do.

Today, I'm mailing in the edited galleys of Strangers (coming in October, preorderable now--buy early and often...), so it's time to turn my attention to Faye's next adventure. 

This is the unglamorous part of writing fiction for a living.  You do not produce a book a year by sitting around and eating bonbons.  You finish one job, then you start another.

Anyway...the new book is nameless, but I know that it will be set in the Keys, because I love the idea and my agent loves the idea and my editor loves the idea.  So that was an easy decision.

I'm currently in the phase of book development that I call "reading for a living."  I have crawled all over the web for information, rumor, and innuendo that might be useful for this book.  Now, I've assembled a stack of books that I believe will give me a good grasp of the history and culture of my setting.  When you write the kind of books I do, you've gotta know this stuff.

So for the next few days, I'm diving into an archaeology paper reporting on work done in the Keys in the 1970s. A history of the building of the railroad to Key West in 1912. A Keys history book aimed at tourists. A memoir of a black man who dived on a slave ship sunk in a great storm in the 1700s. And, my favorite, a tome called X MARKS THE SPOT: THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF PIRACY.

Gawd, I love my work...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Comedy of Covers, Part Trois...

A comedy of covers, part trois...the big mystery is whether I'll run out of funny cover stories before I run out of French numbers that I know.

My third book was Effigies. This is the only book that had a complete false start. The first draft of the cover featured an attractive photo of Choctaw baskets, which was appropriate to the plot. But it didn't scream "mystery" and my editor, who also owns one of the biggest mystery bookstores in the country, didn't think it would sell.  See what you think--

We kept this cover so long that I actually had brochures printed with it.

I had sent them ideas for a cover, and one idea had involved a historical photo of Nanih Waiya, the Mother Mound of the Choctaw.  It's a very spiritual place that I enjoy visiting.  One of the opening scenes of the book is set there, and other important scenes are set at similar mounds.  So I emailed the publisher a link to a digital image of that photo.

The eventual cover used that photo, artistically blurred in shades of green and turquose with a skull centered in front of it.  It's an eye-catching cover.  You really can't miss that skull, leering out at you.  Now, there's no skull in the book, but that seemed to be a tiny quibble and I wasn't interested in pressing my luck.  So that was the final cover.  It looks like this:

(And here's another funny/sad cover story--Amazon has been showing this large-print cover for my regular print paperback for two years. You have to either laugh or cry. If you'd like a copy of this book, click on the link and it will not take you to the large-print edition. Just ignore that big yellow seal. Sigh.)

Months after the book came out, I visited my publisher and got a chance to talk to someone involved in making this cover.  She told me that the digital image of the historical photo I sent had been of poor quality, and that they had really tried hard to get a better one.  They'd talked to people with the Mississippi archives and the Choctaw museum.  No luck.  To the best of anyone's knowledge, the original photo no longer exists and and all we have left is a digital image of a damaged snapshot.

"That's why we altered the color and blurred the image," she explained.  "To cover the poor quality of the original."

"That makes sense," I said.  "But why'd you put that skull on there?  For dramatic effect?"

She shook her head.  "No.  The original photo had an old man in overalls standing in front of the mound.  We didn't want him on the book, so we slapped a skull on top of him."

Ahahahahahaha!   You just have to laugh.

I'm telling you.  Watching books get made is just like watching somebody make sausage...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Making sausage in another kitchen...

Red Adept has a really nice book review blog, and she recently asked a group of writers to talk about how they chose their settings.  I wrote about the reasons I chose New Orleans and two nuclear waste sites for the settings of my new ebook Wounded Earth.  I love visiting New Orleans, which is a no-brainer for choosing a book's setting.  But, well...the Hanford Site and the Savannah River really have to be motivated to want to go there.  But I did!

Check out Red Adept's blog at .

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sometimes, sausage-making is downright fun...

I'm working today.  Notice on the timestamp that today is Sunday.  Welcome to my life.  :-)

But I don't mind much, because I'm combing through the review copies for errors.  This is my last chance to put my hands on the text.  Any errors that I miss (and I know that I'll miss some), will go into the final books and be preserved for prosperity.  So this is not a low-pressure task.

Nevertheless, it's really fun to see the manuscript that left my hands as a run-of-the mill Microsoft Word file come back to me typeset and printed and bound into a plain-vanilla yellow cover.  For the first time, it looks like a "real" book.  It's a rush when the review copies land in my mailbox.  The only thing that beats it is that day when the final books with their beautiful covers land on my doorstep and fill the whole house with that new book smell.   Mmmm...gotta love that smell.  Just like sausage.  :-D

Let's look at that beautiful STRANGERS cover again. 

And, by the way, it's available for pre-order at Amazon here:
Strangers: A Faye Longchamp Mystery (Faye Longchamp Mysteries (Hardcover))

Amazon doesn't even have the cover yet, but by peeking here, you get a sneak preview. 

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Comedy of Covers, Part Deux...

Book 2--Relics:  The Case of the Mysterious Moon

I had no preconceived idea for the cover of Relics.  They sent me a draft of the dustjacket and I saw a lot to like.  It was very similar to the final cover--

Buy Relics at Now!

--except instead of the eclipse at the top, there was a triangular shape made of flames thrusting down through the top half of the design like a dagger.  And the font for the title was decidedly gothic.  It looked like a horror novel, and until that moment, it had never occurred to me that Relics could be the title of a horror novel just as easily as it could be the title of an archaeological mystery.  The dagger and the gothic font really needed to go.

The graphic artist was very cooperative and I really liked the new font.  But the space above the title was now blank and she said we needed something to fill it.

No problem!  I told her that a solar eclipse figured prominently in the story line.  I pointed her to NASA's website.  I even gave her the page where they display eclipse photos.  Then I sat back and waited for the next draft.

It came promptly, but when I got a good look at the new image above the title, I had to laugh.  Either that, or I had to cry.  Then I immediately zapped a quick email to her saying, "The new cover is lovely, darlin'.  Really.  But that's the moon."

She dug up a photo of the sun in eclipse, slapped it on the fourth draft, and we had ourselves a gorgeous cover.  But imagine what it would have been like if I hadn't been involved in this conversation.  I could have spent the last eight years saying, "Yes, I know there's an eclipse of the sun in the book, and that's an eclipse of the moon on the cover, and yes, I do know the difference, but..."

Friday, April 16, 2010

The first helping of sausage--A Comedy of Covers

My publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, treats its authors very, very well.  One of the first indications I had of this fact came when I was asked for my ideas on the cover of Artifacts. Having heard horror stories from authors who weren't consulted, then got atrocious and inaccurate covers that sunk their book sales, I nearly fainted.  But I got myself together and told them exactly what I thought should go on the cover:  a depiction of Faye's ancestral home, a dilapidated plantation house that is eating her alive financially.  I also told them that I thought a Florida artist would probably do the best job of capturing the twisted live oaks and fan-like palms and turquoise water of north Florida, and I knew just the artist. 

They okayed this plan.  I commissioned and bought the painting, and they bought the reproduction rights.  It's hanging on the wall behind me as I type.  Here's the resulting cover:

Buy Artifacts at Now!

I got a good taste of the way authors are generally treated a year later, when the mass-market rights for Artifacts  were sold.  First, I didn't even know it had happened until I saw the mass-market edition on Amazon.  Second, the cover was long done by then, so I had zero input.  Even worse, I never saw the blurb printed on the back and neither, apparently, did anyone literate, because there are three typos in it.  Faye's name is spelled two different ways in the same blurb.  Sigh.

In fact, I never even spoke to anyone at my mass-market publisher (now long out-of-business), and no one every even told me how I might go about getting author's copies or an author's discount.  Fortunately for me, I bought a bunch of them off the shelf at Booksamillion and from some online retailers.  I say "fortunately", because it was a very small print run that sold out instantly, and there was no reprint.  I have seen these books offered for $200 by used booksellers...and I have a small box full of them in my closet. 

Bwahahahaha!  Those mass-markets are now my retirement plan.  Think what they'll be worth if when I hit the top of the NYT bestseller list...

Since you're unlikely to ever see one, here's the cover. It's not bad.  The house doesn't quite match the description in the book, but it's okay.  And the vaporous skull is a little lurid, but I guess that sells books, and there is a skull in this book.  Unlike a later book that features a skull prominently on the cover but not in the text...but more on that later in the week...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

It's like making sausage...

I was looking this page, thinking, "This thing needs a title." People say, "I read it on The Huffington Post," or "I read it on Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind." They ain't gonna say, "I read it on Mary Anna Evans' blog."

It needs a title and it needs a theme. I was thinking of blogging intensively about the business aspects of my new enterprise--publishing ebooks, but that's of limited interest to the general public.  And there are a squillion authors out there blogging about, "Hey! I wrote a new book!"  As far as I'm concerned, that ain't news, so I ain't gonna do that, either.

I've decided that the purpose of this blog will be to share the stuff that most people who love to read don't know about publishing.  Where do the covers come from?  (I have a hair-raising cover-development story that involves NASA's website, a flaming dagger, and the mistaken identity of a well-known celestial object, so stay tuned.)  And how does a writer work with an editor to develop a plot for a new book.  (My editor once rejected my book idea by saying that a major American city had "been done."  What?  Does this mean that no one can ever write another book set in New York or Los Angeles because they've been done?  Fortunately, my editor is a reasonable person and we resolved this problem, but still...)

The publishing industry is a whole lot like the sausage-making industry.  The end product can be mildly serviceable or it can be awful or it can be sublime, but you really don't want to know how that product is made.  Because I have a mildly quixotic streak, I'm going to show you the sausage- book-making process, whether you want to know or not.

Happy reading, and enjoy those tender succulent sausage patties books while you can--
Mary Anna

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I'm actually blogging now...

...instead of the slow-moving narrative that I've been keeping since building my website before Artifacts came out in 2003.  I basically just posted updates a few times a year when a new book was finished or I was going on tour.  Now, my wonderful webmaster Ramon has set me up with an actual blog that's easy to do, and it alerts me when I get comments, which my last blog iteration did not do.  Yay!

I'm in the midst of sending Ramon updates that will include my travel schedule for Strangers, which is due out on Columbus Day, October 12, 2010.  There will be more information on my new ebook, Wounded Earth, which is now available at Amazon and on  And I'll share the good news about the educational text, Mathematical Literacy in the Middle and Secondary Grades, which I will be co-writing with Dr. Faith Wallace.  I signed that contract yesterday.  We've been working toward this for almost five years, so it's a great moment.

There will be more details on all that tomorrow and the next day and the next day, because I'm now an actual blogger!  I know my children are astonished.  :)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Check out the new cover for STRANGERS!

How do you like the cover for Strangers????  I love it!

March 4, 2010

I just shipped the edited manuscript for Strangers to my publisher. This is my sixth book, so I'm becoming accustomed to the ebb and flow of the book-writing process, but I don't think it will ever get old. Finishing a 400-page manuscript, then reading it and finding out that you're really proud of it, is such a heady experience. In a few weeks, the review copy will arrive, and it's always a thrill to see my story in print. Then, in October, several cases of finished hardcovers will land on my doorstep and that intoxicating new-book smell will fill the house yet again. I love my work...

July 28, 2009

I am so thrilled to have a website built by someone who knows how. The worldwide web is now a better place...

July 11, 2008

Yesterday was the release date for Findings, so I'm shifting into full promotional mode. Well, not full promotional mode...I have to write Floodgates. More on that later. First, the exciting news.

Findings spent its release day steadily hitting more and more rarefied bestseller lists on Amazon. It started out on the list of Hot New Large-print Mystery Releases, then I found it nestled on the Hot New Large-print Mystery Releases. So far, so good. Sometime yesterday afternoon, the regular old non-large-print hardcover edition hit the list of Hot New Mystery Releases featuring a woman sleuth. (Yes, they really do slice the data that thin. On a site with more than a million books available, there are quite a few ways for your sales to look good, but there's about a million ways for them to look bad. I'm glad my book's looking good.)
Then, right about bedtime last night, it bumped up another notch and cracked a seriously nice bestseller list--Hot New Mystery Releases. I broke out the champagne. Well, okay, it was Coca-Cola, but it felt celebratory anyway.

As for Floodgates, I'm a few chapters into it, and it's developing nicely. As always, though, I'm in some danger of enjoying my research too much. New Orleans is such an evocative setting, and recent history is so stark. I've been in touch with a gentleman whose team coordinated rescue of Katrina victims by interfacing satellite photos with laser topographic surveys to determine water depths so rescuers knew whether to go in flatboats, airboatss, or high-axle vehicle. Then they located each known stranded victim using the latitude and longitude harvested from their panicked text messages. (Texting worked better than voice calls. Why? I don't know.) Those texts, sent to worried loved ones, were turned into various emergency agencies then sent to his mapping team so that they could prepare satellite photos for rescuers to use in finding people before it was too late. (Submerged street signs are fairly worthless.) Internet service was non-existent, so these maps had to be sent by satellite phone, or airlifted into the city in the form of data bricks--major-league jump drives. Fascinating.

And I'm also now in touch with an archaeologist who worked at Andrew Jackson's Battle of New Orleans battlefield. She also did the research for the Historical Register application for the New Orleans drainage system, which was more riveting reading than it sounds. But then, I'm an engineer. More romantic projects of hers include the Hotel Rising Sun and the station for the Streetcar Named Desire. These things will worm their way into the book. I just wish I was sure how. Floodgates is due out in August 2009.
I've got a lot of signings and talks and interviews lined up over the next few months, so hop on over to my schedule and see if I'll be near you. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

June 6, 2008

It's barely a month until the publication date for Findings and I am one busy woman. I've been scheduling signings and media, but I'm nowhere near finished with that. The manuscript for the next Faye Longchamp mystery, Floodgates, is due in November. And I'm ramping up an addition to my writing business. I'm getting an increasing number of invitations to do speaking engagements and to teach writing classes, so I've decided to get organized about it. I've signed with a speaker's bureau that books speakers for educational audiences called . I'm listed on and I'm also still working with personal contacts who call me directly to speak to their groups. I've put more information elsewhere on the website here.

I'm also starting a business called Evans Writing Consultations to expand my ability to teach aspiring writers. I've enjoyed teaching since my first job out of graduate school, teaching math and physics. The subject is different but the personal contact is the same, and I really enjoy the balance that teaching gives to the writing life, which can be a little solitary at times. To make the accounting easy and safe for my students, I was advised by my children (always the best source of technical advice) that I should just start an Ebay store. People can pick a course or a service, click on a link, pay through Paypal, and the business activities are done, so that we can start on the fun part--learning to produce fiction and non-fiction that an editor will want to buy. You can read more about it here.

In the meantime, the early reviews of Findings are fabulous. I've posted several of them on the What People Are Saying page. I have to say that my favorite review came from Library Journal, which gave the book a starred review and said, "This is a series that deserves more attention than it garners." That made me smile.
I'm creating my usual frenetic travel schedule. I currently have signings scheduled in Gainesville, Orlando, St. Augustine, and Tampa, Florida; Wetumpka and Montgomery, Alabama; Hattiesburg, Vicksburg, and West Point, Mississippi; Baltimore, Maryland; and Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I have radio interviews in Gainesville and Tampa, FL; South Bend, Indiana; and New York City. The Gainesville paper is doing a feature article this Sunday, and Mississippi Magazine and the Florida Humanities Council's magazine, Forum, will also being doing features. And there will be more signings and media appearances to come. My schedule is posted on the Schedule of Appearances page. Please come out and see me if I'm coming to your town.

December 6, 2007

You can see by the date that this has not been a good year for frequent website updates...because I've been too darn busy enjoying the success of my last book and getting the next one written. :-) The hardcover of Effigies was published on February 1. By February 15, I heard from my publisher that stock in the warehouse was low...dangerously so, since I was in the middle of a huge book tour. Frantic calls to various bookstores to make sure they had already received their books ensued, and the publisher rushed a trade paperback edition to press. Heroic organizational coordination and split-second timing meant that I never arrived at a bookstore, only to find that they had no stock. Some people were disappointed to miss the hardcover, which I suppose might now be considered slightly collectible, but the paperback got out in time to keep them from going home empty-handed. My habit of throwing a couple of cases of books in the trunk of my car helped the situation substantially. It was stressful, but how can running out of books be considered a bad thing, really? I bet the publisher prints more next time. And the bookstores pre-order more, to make sure they actually get them. And the readers buy early and often, so they don't miss out.

During my March tour of Mississippi, my daughter and I visited my friend archaeologist Robert Connolly. He has a podcast called Archaeology Overlooked that has achieved a certain level of notoriety due to a mention in USA Today.l Robert interviewed me for his podcast, which was particularly fun for me, since a Ph.D. in archaeology will naturally ask different questions that the usual interviewer. And while I'm posting links to the sound of my own voice, you can listen to a recording of the song I recorded for The Merry Band of Murderers here. The song, "Land of the Flowers" won second place in this year's Will McLean Best New Florida Song contest.

More exciting developments for Findings remained. In March, it was named a Book Sense Notable book. The reviews were fabulous. You can see them here. And the educational interest in my work continued. I was a featured speaker at a reading conference for the Mississippi Writing/Thinking Institute. I was an invited presenter at the Kennesaw State University Conference for Young Adult Literature, at the Mississippi Association for Middle and Lower-school Education, and at the Georgia Council for Teachers of Mathematics. A point of pride for me was the placement of all my books on Georgia state lists of recommended books for teaching both science and mathematics. Two educational consultant groups in Mississippi are also recommending my books to schools.

Particularly close to my heart was an invitation to speak to the faculty of Choctaw High School, on the reservation of the Mississippi Band of the Choctaw. They purchased a copy of Effigies for each student in the school. I saw that book as a tribute to an old and enduring culture, and I was so pleased that they appreciated it.

August 8, 2006

The final draft of Effigies is at the typesetter, so I am in that exciting but vaguely nervous-making gestational stage--it's too late to change the book, but too early to start organizing my promotional travel. I'm amusing myself by plotting the next book and spending time with my younger daughter, who will enter middle school this month. My other two children are college students with apartments of their own, but they're both still in town, so my husband and I still see them often. How time flies...

My publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, has opened a branch in the UK, so my books are coming out "across the pond," which seems very cosmopolitan to this Mississippi-bred girl. Artifacts came out in August, Relics is due out in September, and Effigies will come out in April 2007, shortly after its US publication date of February 2007.

Two of my short stories will be out in anthologies this month--"Land of the Flowers" will come out in A Merry Band of Murderers, and "Mouse House" will be in North Florida Noir. I also have an essay called "The Caves of Steel" in Mystery Muses, a collection of essays by mystery writers discussing classic books that have influenced their own writing.

I've started blogging, a development that has stunned my offspring. "Mom. A blog? But...what will you write about?" My answer: "Don't worry. I won't write about you. Much." I blog with four other mystery-writing women and we call ourselves "The Lady Killers." Check us out here:

On the personal front, I've traveled a bit since I last updated this page. In April, I enjoyed a week-long book tour with one of my blogmates, Rhys Bowen, as we took a slice through mid-America, traveling from Pennsylvania to Indiana to Kentucky to Tennessee to Alabama to Florida. In May, my husband and I took a fifteenth-anniversary trip to Hawaii (delayed 11 months due to our respective schedules, but at least we got it in before our 16th.) And, in June, we took our youngest child on a two-week trip through Italy, accompanied by 13 other Evanses. (Italy has survived invading armies before, and it apparently survived us.)

On the way home from Italy, I had quite a medical adventure. Imagine emergency-room level abdominal pain. Imagine you are 35,000 feet in the air and will continue to be there for 12 hours. Imagine that your ten-year-old daughter is sitting next to you. (When she asks, with her little brow furrowed, "Are you okay, Mommy?" what can you do but slap on a smile and say brightly, "I'm fine! Mommy's just fine!"?) When we finally landed, I had my first ambulance ride to a hospital near Washington DC. Sparing you the gory details, let's just say that I left my gall bladder there. And then I had some kind of endoscopic thingie to fetch some hard-to-reach stones. And then my pancreas objected to its ill treatment. (Pancreatitis is something I highly do not recommend.) Ten days later, the hospital finally let me go. Whenever I wonder how sick I really was, I ask myself, "My insurance company okayed ten days in the hospital????"

I'm recovering spectacularly well, but the doctors told me to cancel my appearances for two months, so if you were planning to come see me on my North Carolina tour, I'm sorry. I'll reschedule it next spring, after Effigies comes out. I was supposed to volunteer, along with my mother and my youngest child at an archaeological dig at a very important site in Indiana called Fort Ancient, but I had to cancel that, too. I'm sure we'll get over the disappointment someday...

I'll be back to normal and back on the road in September, appearing at the SIBA Book Show in Orlando; at Bouchercon in Madison; at Magna Cum Murder in Muncie, Indiana; and at the National Council of Teachers of English convention in Nashville. And probably other places, so watch this site. I don't like to let grass grow under my feet.

February 28, 2006

I shipped the rough draft of Effigies off to my agent last Friday, so I have time to do things like update my website. (And organize my closets. And clean my oven. And start doing my income taxes. Notice what I chose to do first. :-) )

Relics has been out for seven months now, so you'd think that the exciting news would have stopped coming. But, no! In December, Relics made the IMBA's (that's the International Mystery Bookseller's Association, for the uninitiated) bestseller list. And it didn't drag in at 10th place, either. It was tied for third, right up there with Michael Connelly. (When I start pulling in royalty checks like Michael's, I'll let you know.)
Then, in February, I learned that Relics had been nominated for the SIBA Book Award. (Again, for the uninitiated, SIBA stands for the Southeastern Independent Book Alliance.) This is a very literary-oriented group. To be nominated for such a prestigious award is nice recognition for my work and for the quality of modern mystery writing .

You may recall from my last entry in this very slow-paced blog that I'd turned in a recording and a story, both called Land of the Flowers, for an upcoming anthology/CD called A Merry Band of Murderers. On a lark, I sent a copy of the recording to the Will McLean Festival's Best New Florida Song contest. The judges, who were apparently also on a lark, awarded it second place. So I'll be traveling to the Will McLean Festival in Brooksville, Florida on March 11 to perform the song and pick up the award.

I've sold another short story called "Mouse House," which will be in an anthology compiled by Pottersville Press called North Florida Noir, to be published in August 2006.

And I have an essay in an upcoming reference book called Mystery Muses published by Crum Creek Press. In this book, 100 current mystery authors will pay tribute to a book that has influenced their life as a writer. Not one to think inside the box, I chose a book that you'll never find on a library's mystery shelves: The Caves of Steel, by Isaac Asimov. Generally regarded as the first detective novel to be set in a futuristic science fiction world, it was written in 1954. I think it still stands up to critical scrutiny today.

I mentioned my recent surgeries in my last post, so here's the good news: I'm completely recovered. So if you come to see me on the road, I'll be moving more comfortably and smiling even more. Thanks for your interest in my work!

December 5, 2005

Hmm. At least two entries in this pseudo-blog seem to have disappeared into cyberspace, which somehow doesn't surprise me. I'll try to reconstruct the events of 2005, which have been many and varied. Relics hit the shelves in August, along with the new trade paperback edition of Artifacts and they both continue to sell well. Relics is getting wonderful reviews, which I've posted on the "Reviews" page of this site..

Another wonderful development from Ingram Books, a major distributor of books in the US. They select about two novels every month to feature in their e-newsletter, the Advance Handseller. This publication is intended to call booksellers’ attention to books with the potential to be “the next big thing” or a “sleeper hit,” as they say on their website. Out of all the books published in August, they chose Relics as one of their picks. I went to Ingram's Nashville headquarters in September where my publisher Rob Rosenwald and I met and greeted buyers for libraries and bookstores, giving away a tremendous stack of books. Besides Nashville, I've signed Relics so far in 11 states, with a few more left to go.

The next Faye Longchamp mystery, Effigies, is under contract to Poisoned Pen Press, which plans to publish it in January/February 2007. I'm about a third of the way into it, with my deadline still several months away, so things are looking good. It will be set in Neshoba County, Mississippi, and it will explore the conflicts between archaeologists who want to study and preserve cultural Artifacts, landowners who want to preserve their property rights, and Native Americans who object to having their ancestors' graves disturbed. I'm a native Mississippian, so I'm happy to be "going home" with this one.

I have a short story in a new anthology called A Kudzu Christmas. This is my first story in print, which is quite gratifying for a writer who wrote a tremendous number of rejected stories during her formative years. The story is called "A Singularly Unsuitable Word," and I'm happy to e-mail a copy to those of you who are Anthony or Agatha voters.

I've submitted my story and song, both called "Land of the Flowers" for an upcoming anthology with accompanying CD called A Merry Band of Murderers. All the writers have been professional musicians at some time in the past, and we all wrote and recorded original songs to go with our stories. I'll remind y'all next September when it comes out.

I had articles in the September issue of Mystery Readers' Journal and the October issue of Mystery Scene, which made me feel like a contributing member of the mystery community. Attending Bouchercon and Magna Cum Murder had the same effect. We mystery readers are a fun, warm, and welcoming bunch, and I'm proud to play my small part in that.

A non-work-related highlight to the year was our recent trip to the Galapagos. A non-work-related lowlight to the year was my recent neck surgery, from which I'm recovering very well. Then I'll have jaw surgery for Christmas (pureed turkey for Christmas dinner, anyone?), and when all that's done, I hope to be free of some chronic pain issues that have put a damper on the last few years.

I've got upcoming events in St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Delray Beach, Gainesville, Safety Harbor, and Panama City, Florida; Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Columbus, Georgia. Come see me if you can--I love to put names to faces!

January 29, 2005

Well, Relics is off to the typesetter and we have an official publication date: August 2005. I'll be planning a fall tour soon, so if you have a favorite bookstore or library, let me know. I visited 14 states while promoting Artifacts, so the odds are good that I'll be visiting a city near you.

Artifacts was listed as an Adult Mystery with Young Adult Appeal by Voice of Young America (VOYA), which means that it is being read in high schools, which I'm absolutely thrilled to hear. The mass-market paperback of Artifacts exceeded sales expectations, which means that they're completely sold out. If you're still hoping to get a softcover edition, Poisoned Pen Press will be issuing a trade paperback in March.

While waiting for Relics to come out, I'm plotting out more adventures for Faye and tackling smaller writing projects--most notably, a short story that will appear in a Christmas mystery anthology featuring southern authors being published by River City Press. More detail will be posted here as I have them. I'm very happy with the story, called "A Wholly Unsuitable Word."

August 29, 2004

Well, it's been a long strange summer, folks. First, and most exciting, Artifacts won the Benjamin Franklin Award in Mystery/Suspense. This is a national award given by the Publishers Marketing Association (PMA) to recognize excellence in small and independent publishing, and I was simply thrilled to receive it. It was presented in Chicago at the PMA's annual awards banquet in a very Oscar-esque kind of ceremony. As the nominees for each category were announced, the cover art for each nominee was projected on a huge screen behind the dais. After the "and-the-envelope-please" moment, the winner's cover grew and filled the screen. Très Hollywood. I had a blast at the ceremony, as well as during a whirlwind tour of Chicago given by my friend and fellow Franklin nominee, Libby Hellmann. (She wrote An Eye for Murder, A Picture of Guilt, and An Image of Death. All good books, you should check them out.)

Why is it taking me so long to tell you this great news? Because I left immediately after coming home from Chicago for a long-anticipated trip: three weeks in Italy and Greece with our two older children. Our younger daughter stayed in Mississippi with her Mamaw because she's just too young to withstand our travel style. We fly tourist (for free--God bless frequent flyer miles.) We sleep cheap. We linger in museums. We think taxis are for wimps. If you have older teenagers, I encourage you to travel with them before they leave home. Young adults are interesting people, particularly for parents who remember when those self-same people called them Muh-muh and Pop-pah. And the rewards keep rolling in. Our son started college this week. He'll be taking Art History, studying works of art he just saw in person, and Modern Greek Politics, learning about a society he just visited. I don't think the trip will influence him much in Calculus, though...

Since returning from Italy and Greece, I've been to Tennessee and to Mississippi three times. (Yes, I've traveled more than four thousand miles by car in the last two months.) And in the meantime, I'm nearly finished revising Relics. In other authorial news, my first published short story, "Starch," will appear in Plots with Guns ( ) this fall, and my essay on the relationship between mystery fiction and the art world, "Stealing Mona," will appear in Mystery Readers Journal in early 2005. I've been a busy woman, but that's a good thing. Who wants to get bored?

April 22, 2004

I've had two pieces of wonderful news this month. First, Artifacts was given the Patrick D. Smith Florida Fiction Award by the Florida Historical Society. This award was established to recognize the valuable contributions made by writers of Florida fiction in stimulating the promotion and study of the Florida’s history and heritage. My husband David and I went down to Melbourne last week for the awards banquet and found that the historical society is just full of gracious and knowledgeable folks. I'm so proud that they liked my book.

The second piece of news is just as exciting. Artifacts is one of three finalists for the Benjamin Franklin Award in Mystery/Suspense. It's a national award given by the Publishers Marketing Association to recognize excellence in independent publishing, and the winner will be announced at a gala banquet in Chicago on the eve of Book Expo America. One of the other nominees is my friend Libby Hellmann, who is also a Poisoned Pen Press author. We'll both be attending the banquet, glad to be finalists and hoping for a win for Poisoned Pen.

March 23, 2004

Since I last updated this page, I've toured the eastern seaboard, finished the first draft of Relics, and made a goodly number of personal appearances all over Florida. I'm deep in revisions for Relics, and I'll post a definite publication date as soon as I know it.

The exciting news of the moment is the mass-market paperback edition of Artifacts, which will be in bookstores in April. I think the mass-market cover is suitably atmospheric, and I daresay that the $6.99 price tag sounds a lot better to most people than the $24.95 price for the hardcover. It's being published by iBooks, a division of Simon and Schuster, so the odds are quite good that you'll find it in your local bookstore. If, by chance, you don't see it on the shelves, your bookseller can have it in your hands in a couple of days, so just ask.

I've posted a new contest, and I'm giving away copies of the new paperback. Click here to register for my e-newsletter. When you register, you'll automatically be entered in this contest. As long as you stay on my e-newsletter list, you'll be automatically registered for any contest I run, so there's no telling what you may win. On April 15, I'll pick three names on my e-newsletter list and those people will receive the paperback edition of Artifacts. If you don't enter, you can't win...

I've also posted a new review (click above on "What People Are Saying" that I think you'll find interesting. The gentleman who wrote it is an archaeologist who seeks out popular fiction on archaeology, then reviews the books he finds on the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse website. I'm sure you can imagine how pleased I am to find that practicing archaeologists enjoy Faye and her exploits.

October 31, 2003

Wow! The past four months have blown by. I can't believe I haven't updated this page since then. I'd blame my webmaster, but she is me. I've been in the eye of a hurricane of signings and conferences and interviews. I've also been trying to find time to write the next book, Relics. The biggest news, I guess, is that Poisoned Pen Press is planning to publish Relics next summer--assuming I make my deadline. (Never fear. I worked for many years as a consulting engineer. I may forego, sleep, food, social interactions, and many other pleasures of life, but I always make my deadline.)

Artifacts has sold very well. (Collector's notice: There are very few first editions left. Run, don't walk to the nearest bookstore and get a copy while you still can.) The large-print edition is also doing well, particularly in libraries. Since Christmas is coming, I'll mention that many folks are finding the large-print edition to be a thoughtful gift for elderly relatives, which I think is rather sweet.. I think it's very nice that Poisoned Pen Press is now publishing many of their hardcover mysteries in large-print.

I leave next week for my Busting Out of Dixie tour--if you're near Baltimore, Philadelphia, NYC, or Boston, check the Schedule page of this website. This will be a new experience for me. I'm from Florida, you know, so I had to mail-order a coat suitable for northeastern temperatures. Besides signing books at a slew of bookstores, I'll be recording interviews to be broadcast in New York City and in Oregon. If you're in those areas and want to be notified when those interviews air, e-mail me at and I'll keep you posted. Best of all, I'll get to finally (after 6 years) meet my agent, which will be fun.

June 12, 2003

The first copies of Artifacts landed on my doorstep on May 14, and I've been too busy to even sit down and update the website. The books themselves are absolutely gorgeous, so I spent a little time just looking at them. I took them to the High Springs Mystery Readers group and flashed them around. (And a few other places, too!) Then I had my first signing at Goerings Books here in Gainesville on Sunday, May 18. They sold every book they had. Then they sold every book I had. Then they took orders for more. This is a wonderful town, and a lot of wonderful folks live here.

Then I spent about a week working on the next Faye Longchamp novel, Relics, before heading for Omaha where I pulled a twofer: visiting my sister and her lovely family and experiencing Mayhem in the Midlands. Mayhem was a blast. I met authors and readers that I only knew by their e-mail addresses. I participated in some fun and entertaining panels, moderated one, and enjoyed several from the audience. And I was honored to sign a very goodly number of copies of Artifacts. This author gig is a good one.

Since I returned from Omaha, I've had very successful signings at the High Springs Woman's Club and Wild Iris Books. Much of my time has been devoted to preparations for my first tour. I have a friend with a humongous RV and an analytical chemistry lab to market. We have another friend with an environmental consulting firm to market. We will be driving across Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, stopping at contamination sites and bookstores. We call it our "Terrorizing Dixie Tour." Check the "Schedule of Appearances Page" for details, and come see me if I'm coming near your town.

Since I am my own secretary, my own publicist, and my own publicist's secretary, I am very proud of this tour: twelve bookstores in eleven cities, four television appearances, and radio interviews that will air in eleven markets. And some degree of newspaper coverage but I have found that, where newspapers are concerned, you find out about your coverage when it is published and not before.

Watch this page in July for a complete report on the "Terrorizing Dixie Tour."

March 6, 2003

Artifacts will be mailed from the printer tomorrow. The pre-publication reviews are excellent! (I've posted some of them on the "What People Are Saying" page of this website.) I'm booked for more than a dozen signings in May and June. I just found out that there will be a large-print editions, which I think is really cool. And who knows what other surprises wait around the corner?

March 24, 2003

Artifacts is due back from the printer by April 30. It can be ordered directly from the publisher at at that time. If you pre-order now, your copy will be autographed, then shipped directly to you. It should be on the shelves of mystery bookstores by May 15. If your favorite bookstore doesn't have it in stock by that time, just ask for it--they should be able to get it for you within a couple of days. And it will be available from all the major online booksellers, as well.

My first public appearance came as a complete surprise--Lesa Holstine at the Lee County (Florida) Book Festival contacted me on March 6, hoping I could fill in for an author who'd had to cancel at the last minute due to a family emergency. While I was more than willing to help out, it was a bit nerve-wracking to pull myself together and make the 5-hour trip to Fort Myers, with little more than 24 hours' notice. But I got there on the afternoon of March 7, in plenty of time to attend the Authors' Reception and, afterward, to make some notes to prepare to sit on two authors' panels. My first efforts as a panelist went pretty well, considering that I'd never actually seen an authors' panel discussion. Check out for a report on the entire festival (a large and exceptionally well-run affair) and several mentions of this humble author. I particularly enjoyed meeting P.J. Parrish, David Morell, Randy Wayne White, and Jonathon King, all of them extremely kind to a brand-new writer.

Close on the heels of the Lee County Book Festival was SleuthFest, a conference for published and aspiring mystery writers. It was an exciting and information-packed weekend. Some of the highlights for me were hearing Sue Grafton speak on 12 Things That Are Probably Wrong With Your Manuscript, attending Daniel Keyes (of Flowers for Algernon fame) speak on plotting, and hearing Dr. Henry Lee discuss forensic science.

February 2, 2003

Publicity is tough for an engineer/writer, two introverted professions...Publicity is tough for an engineer/writer, two introverted professions if there ever was such a thing. But thanks to my friends at the High Springs Mystery Readers Group, the High Springs Herald published a very nice piece before ARTIFACTS even hit the streets. Here's a picture of us mystery readers, and if you live near High Springs and want to join us, e-mail Beth Slater, our charming librarian and mysterian-in-charge, at this address: