How my first published book began

Now that a tight deadline is behind me, I've had a tiny slice of free time to clean out and sort through books, clothing, and papers I might not have touched in years. And look what I found! The beginnings to my first published book, Circles of Confusion.

Here's the Publisher's Weekly synopsis and review:
An amateur sleuth with an unusual day job debuts in this lively romantic mystery, Henry's first novel. Claire Montrose works for the Oregon Motor Vehicles Division in Portland, checking applications for vanity license plates. Her mundane job is interrupted by a call from her mother, who reports that Claire's great-aunt has died, bequeathing to Claire the contents of her mobile home. Aided by her boyfriend, an obsessively careful insurance adjuster, Claire sorts through Aunt Cady's belongings. Among the piles of old knickknacks, she finds a beautiful small painting of a woman sitting at a table. Aunt Cady had been in Germany during WWII and Claire suspects the artwork might be one of many masterpieces that disappeared in Europe around that time. To have it appraised, she flies to New York, where an expert tells her that the painting is a forgery. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, however, a handsome artist says that the canvas may be an authentic Vermeer. Attempts to steal the painting convince Claire that the artist may be right?but can she trust him? Or should she trust the expert who thought the painting a forgery? Danger follows Claire back to Portland, but she proves clever enough to outwit even the wiliest villain in her offbeat, vital first outing as a sleuth.

When I was writing the book, I needed to describe the possible Vermeer she inherits. It's believed that Vermeer painted in his own home, usually in one room, which is why the light falls the same way from the same window, the same chair appears in painting after painting... So I created my own Vermeer by cutting and pasting bits of other Vermeers. Here it is:

I also brainstormed what would happen in the book, starting with the words "Find Painting" in the center circle:

Now there's a program you can use for free to create mind maps like this, which you can find at . I used it to brainstorm next year's book, Finish Her Off. I think I might start start a new one for 2014's book, The Girl I Used to Be.
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I think that link is (without the "e"). I read/have circles of confusion (and heart shaped box). It's interesting to see how your writing has changed over the years, not just the style, but the subject matter. I bet it was telling to see your first samples of writing compared to a dozen or so books later!
I think I've gotten darker. How would you say I've changed? It's probably hard for me to see.
The characters feel more personal and real. The stories are more captivating, but that also might be me comparing mystery to YA. I like YA more.