Friday, May 24, 2013
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
“Board Stiff,” my new Dead-End Job mystery, is the ultimate beach book. In fact, reviewer Oline Cogdill calls it a “vicarious Florida vacation.”
But researching this novel was no day at the beach.
In my twelfth Dead-End Job mystery, newlywed private eyes Helen Hawthorne and Phil Sagement have been hired by Sunny Jim’s Stand-up Paddleboard Rental to find out who’s sabotaging his business.
The smaller recreational companies – Jet Ski rentals, ocean kayaking, paddleboarding, and parasailing – are in hot competition for tourist dollars. According to the South Florida papers, some of them will stoop to sabotage, especially before spring break. The annual migration of college students to the beaches results in a burst of business for locals.
Paddleboarding looked like an incredibly cool beach sport. I watched people get on a board a little larger than a surf board and row with a long paddle. They made it look easy.
That’s why I took paddleboarding lessons for “Board Stiff.”
In the paddleboard ads, women always wear bikinis. Not this woman. I wore a T-shirt down to my knees. If I could have found my grandmother’s bloomers, I would have worn them.
My first lesson was on the Middle River, a calm, condo-lined waterway that runs through Fort Lauderdale. The water didn’t seem quite so calm when I was out there on my paddleboard. The instructor, Mario, started in about three feet of water. He stood up on his paddleboard as if he’d been born in the water.
I wobbled around in the water, and then I started getting the hang of it. I paddled over to a tree filled with nesting water birds. Because the paddleboard was so quiet, I could get right up to them.
Meanwhile, Mario was watching the bikinied chicks at a nearby condo.
“You can get really close to the wild life on a paddleboard,” I told him.
“Sure can,” he said, his eyes bulging.
I stayed up on my paddleboard for 45 minutes before I fell off when a JetSki roared by. “You fall very gracefully,” Mario said.
That fall led to a bigger downfall a week later. I took another paddleboard lesson, this time on the Intracoastal Waterway, in a section where the big yachts cruise. I got up on the board, and fell off.
I got back on and fell off.
I got up the third time, fell off, got back up and was stuck – rear end in the air, “mooning” the yachts in my red T-shirt.
“Relax!” my instructor said.
I don’t know about you, but the word “relax” makes me go as rigid as that paddleboard.
In my case, pride really did go before a fall.
“Board Stiff,” Elaine Viets’ new hardcover mystery, is set in the cutthroat world of Florida tourism. The New York Times Review of Books praises her “quick-witted mysteries.” Elaine’s bestselling Dead-End Job series is a satiric look at a serious subject – the minimum-wage world. Elaine’s second series features mystery shopper Josie Marcus. Elaine won the Agatha, Anthony and Lefty Awards.
Check out the first chapters of her mysteries at www.elaineviets.com.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Monday, May 20, 2013
Now, anyone who knows me realizes that is a completely ridiculous question to ask. I only clean for company. So obviously that hadn't happened, as we didn't have anyone coming to visit!
After this had happened a few times, I knew there must be some linkage to his distance running. So I went to my old reliable go-to source for knowledge, Google. Sure enough, I typed into my computer, "why do I smell ammonia after a long run?" and Google, via Runners World, told me the answer: because if your body lacks adequate carbohydrates to burn during exercise, it begins to burn proteins, and ammonia is a byproduct of protein metabolism. Your body is actually producing ammonia, which is picked up by your blood and carried to your respiratory system, where you then smell it.
My kids and I have long joked about the bizarre things you can learn on the Internet. Once, late at night on a long drive, we were coming up with stupid questions just to keep me awake, and we decided we simply had to know if spiders experienced flatulence. The answer: not exactly, but sort of. An unsatisfying response at that. Perhaps more entertaining, though, was asking Siri (the iPhone virtual assistant, to this unfamiliar with her) to find that out for us. Siri, the font of all knowledge.
Last week I was making a large batch of granola, only to realize that the Aunt Jemima Lite "syrup" (if you can call it that) in my closet wasn't a satisfactory ingredient: all the recipes called for real maple syrup. Now I'd recently heard in the news a story about a major heist — of maple syrup — due to it's exorbitant price, and realized that the cost of said syrup would preclude my purchasing it to save money while making my own granola instead of buying the expensive stuff already made. But then I remembered, ages ago my mother had sent us one of those odd gifts we never got around to using: a "breakfast" kit, with some sort of flavored waffle mixes and a bottle of — ta-da! — maple syrup, long since relegated to the back of the food pantry. I checked out the bottle, with a veritable antique expiration date stamped on it, and gave up hope on being able to use it. But then, I figured I'd Google it, just in case…And sure enough, I learned from Chowhound that I'm pretty sure I could use maple syrup tapped back in the 1800's, if given the chance. I cracked open the bottle; it was fine, tasted fine, needed not one bit of intervention, and the granola was perfect (although it was likely more perfect because I also used honey from my friend's bees).
We have high-maintenance pets that require all sorts of particular types of foods, but that can also not eat all sorts of particular types of foods or they could die. I am constantly Googling what you can and cannot feed parrots and rabbits, for instance. Thank goodness our dogs and cat can get by with the standard chow. The other day I was happy to see fava beans in Whole Foods finally (a harbinger of spring), and purchased a bunch. I then thought that would be a treat for my parrot. Alas, I learned from those-in-the-know in the bird world that that could've killed her. If you know our surly parrot Graycie, you'd probably have urged me to feed her a bunch, but I simply couldn't do that to the old girl.
Last night I noticed a large brown stain on the stove. Now I've mentioned my cleaning skills aren't exactly the hallmark of my existence, and I am particularly bad at getting cooked-on food off of the cooktop. Invariably I scratch the enamel, which is a bad plan. So as I was failing at Windexing away this large brown burn, I stopped. Let's see what my Google Guru has to say, I thought. Sure enough: a simple paste of baking soda and water worked like a charm. I might even start not loathing cleaning the cooktop. Nah.
A while back we had a large group at our house for dinner in New Year's eve and someone dripped butter on her new silk dress. Now I'd have written that dress off for a goner, stain-wise. But Google knew otherwise. Cornstarch! We rubbed a bit of cornstarch into the stain and it pulled the grease right on out. She was able to head on to another party that night without looking like she'd needed a bib for dinner.
I think the thing that intrigues me the most when I type a question into Google is that someone else has already entered that question. I'm now motivated to come up with bizarre questions that surely no one has contemplated (or at least contemplated into that vast database in the clouds). It's become my obsession to come up with the unasked one. I'd hate to believe there is no more unexplored territory in the world of curiosity, and I'm determined to blaze a trail, Lewis and Clark-style, until that one unknown question materializes. Wish me luck.
Jenny Gardiner is currently an armchair scholar at the University of Google. You can find her at www.jennygardiner.net
Sleeping with Ward Cleaver
Slim to None
Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me
Accidentally on Purpose (written as Erin Delany)
Compromising Positions (written as Erin Delany)
I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in this Relationship (I'm a contributor)
And these shorts:
Idol Worship: A Lost Week with the Weirdos and Wannabes at American Idol Auditions
The Gall of It All: And None of the Three F's Rhymes with Duck
Naked Man On Main Street
find me on twitter here
find me on my website
Sunday, May 19, 2013
|A village in Italy aka The Gannec Fortress from ALLEGIANCE SWORN|
|Example of armour I included in my portfolio|
|Chris H. inspired Arek, my hero from ALLEGIANCE SWORN|
|Arek & Imhara|
Saturday, May 18, 2013
|Istanbul by Bertil Videt|
Friday, May 17, 2013
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Introducing Toni Holmes of “Gluten For Punishment” a Baker’s Treat Mystery--
Can a gluten-free baker find her place in a small wheat town?
Toni Ryder returns to her home town of OilTop, Kansas, to fulfill her mother’s wish that Toni keep her sprawling Victorian homestead in the family. The wheat ranchers around her are not happy when Toni tries to make the best of things and opens a gluten-free bakery storefront. Matters grow worse as Toni becomes suspect number one when a wheat farmer is found dead, face down in the horse trough outside Toni’s bakery door. Getting nowhere with the local police, Toni takes the investigation into her own hands as threats grow closer to home, but her number one suspects ends up dead in front of the local bank. Both deaths seem to point to Toni as threats escalate, her home is broken into and her mother’s things smashed and slashed. Can Toni catch a killer and make a place for herself or will the town prefer to be Toni-free over gluten-free?
Here's an excerpt from Gluten For Punishment -
“Toni, did you kill George Meister?”
My mouth went dry. My jaw went slack. The camera’s flash kept popping, blinding me. “What?” I glanced toward Grandma Ruth for some help.
“It’s a fact George vandalized your store before he was killed,” Candy Cole, Oiltop Times reporter pushed on. “You were inside the store at the time he was murdered.”
“I was?” I shivered at the idea. It was bad enough to have a dead body nearby but to have a murder happen within a few feet of you? Nauseating.
“Honey,” Candy said. “You had motive and opportunity. Did you do it?”
“Seriously?” Here I’d been ready to give her a free cup of coffee. Not anymore. I stepped back. “Of course not, I wouldn’t kill anyone.”
“Are you telling me, it’s a coincidence that you’re new in town and a man is murdered outside your bakery?” Candy’s eyes glittered like a snake’s.
“I’m not new in town,” I crossed my arms in front of me. “I grew up here. Are you saying any murders that happened while I lived here as a kid were my fault?”
“No,” Candy said thoughtfully. “But it’s a good angle. I can check and see how the murder rate was when you lived here and what happened after you left.”
“Stop it,” Grandma Ruth slapped the counter. “Toni wouldn’t kill anyone.”
“Oh, really? Then why is the Chief at the courthouse right now getting a warrant signed to search your home and your bakery for evidence?”
I sat down hard at the word warrant.
“Put your head between your knees.” Grandma was beside me. Her sharp tone of voice combined with her palm on the back of my head had me doing exactly what she said. I have to admit staring at the black and white tile floor was a bit more calming than looking at Candy. Her delight at my distress was unnerving.
“I thought we were friends, Candy,” I muttered.
“We are friends, honey,” Candy came around the counter and squatted down to peer at me. “That’s why I’m here.”
I turned my head. “You came to warn me?”
“Good friends hide the body, honey, remember?” Her gaze took on a warm and concerned look. I wasn’t sure if I should believe it.
*Glutenfree recipes included
Nancy J. Parra
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
From paranormal to historical and contemporary, there is just something about a warrior. And for me as well enjoying reading about them, there is just something extra special about writing a warrior hero. I love exploring his possibilities and depths.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Detective Shane Ford, Sugarland’s favorite cop, has been blindsided by the sudden death of his best friend, NFL star Brad Cooper, and becoming the legal guardian of Brad’s son, Drew—a bitter, angry sixteen-year-old with a dangerous secret. Shane is determined to pry the truth from Drew, but only manages to alienate him—and winds up going head to head with Juvenile Detective Daisy Callahan, whose job is to protect the teen’s best interests.
Shane has always been drawn to Daisy’s beauty and strength, but he’s determined not to allow their intense attraction to interfere with his duty ever again. It’s a vow that will prove difficult to keep, as the realities of Shane and Daisy’s blossoming love and their growing bond with the grieving teen propel Shane headlong into danger for the new family he’s sworn to protect.
Monday, May 13, 2013
Yesterday I wrote a blog for Mother's Day about my grandmother and a very special teapot. She was a strong woman, a 'feisty' woman who loved so fiercely. Add to that my own mother and my mother-in-law, two women who taught me so much...well, I think that's why the idea of family is the the focus of so many of my stories. It's because I've been blessed to be surrounded by a family I not only adore, but truly like!
|You Are Invited...|
There's something special about May-December friendships. The generations who came before us offer so much wisdom, so many insights. I've been lucky to have people like Hank in my life!
Yesterday was a day for family. It was great to have my children celebrate Mother's Day with me yesterday. It was nice to be able to honor a women who helped shape me in my blog, and to go visit my mom. I also took time to remember all the people who helped shape the woman I've become. My grandmother's best friend, Jean, who's read all my books and supported me in so many ways. Marge, an older friend who helped me shape Lily and Hank's May/December friendship. And Papa John, a man who wasn't related to me, but was my grandfather in every way that counts.
|A Walk Down the Aisle|
Do you have older people in your life, related or not, who helped shape the person you've become?
Sunday, May 12, 2013
When our children were young they were on a swim team. Both were good swimmers though never destined to be champions. But always in each race they strove to achieve their personal best. If that won a race or brought a pink or yellow ribbon that was added delight. But the important objective was to do your best.
I have always tried with each book to write the very best book I could write. But as books went out of print, their worth seemed to diminish.
We all have a tendency to be immersed in now or as Zen enthusiasts understand, we are in the moment. My energy was focused on the new Annie and Max - DEAD, WHITE AND BLUE in May, the new Bailey Ruth - GHOST GONE WILD in October, and the new standalone - WHAT THE CAT SAW, last fall.
And I am excited about those titles. Since DEAD, WHITE, AND BLUE is the 23rd in the Death on Demand series, I made a special effort to offer something fresh. This time the book doesn’t open with murder. Instead a reckless, careless young woman walks into the pines and is never seen again. In GHOST GONE WILD, I maroon Bailey Ruth on earth and who knows if she will ever make it back to Heaven. In WHAT THE CAT SAW, Nela Farley and Steve Flynn struggle with their own heartaches as they seek the truth about a forceful woman’s death.
But the past is suddenly very much in my present. Unexpectedly and happily, two small presses are publishing many early titles. Perhaps because they were out of print for so many years, I was dismissive of those early books and uncertain of their worth. For the republication, it was my task to read galleys of books that I had not read for more than 30 years. I was apprehensive and ended up feeling great relief. I hope readers will not begrudge me a moment of happiness when I realized that I had done my best with the early books just as I have for the later books.
There are more titles than readers will have time for but perhaps one or two might appeal. These books are harder edged and faster paced than the series books.
Out last year: RENDEVOUS IN VERACRUZ, college students plunge into danger in Mexico City in the early 80s; FLEE FROM THE PAST, Janey Hamilton builds a new life but the past catches up with her; SKULDUGGERY, the missing Peking Man bones surface in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
Out this year: THE DEVEREAUX LEGACY, February, a ghost haunts a South Carolina plantation; A SETTLING OF ACCOUNTS, March, Kay Emory returns to post war London but the danger of the war isn’t over for her; ESCAPE FROM PARIS, June, two American sisters in Occupied Paris help British airmen escape but the Gestapo is only a step behind; NO EASY ANSWERS, July, an Army brat opposes the Vietnam War; BRAVE HEARTS, August, star-crossed lovers flee from the Japanese in the Philippines; DANGER: HIGH EXPLOSIVES!, September, students oppose the Vietnam War; DEATH BY SURPRISE, November; K.C. Carlisle is a street savvy street lawyer who comes to her family’s aid when a blackmailer threatens.
The year ends with publication in December of CRY IN THE NIGHT, a suspense novel set in Mexico City in the early 80s. Never before published, Berkley released it as an e-book last year. In December, it will be in print for the first time.
For the first time in many years, almost all of my books are available. I hope some may appeal. My only promise is this: I did my best each time.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
May has become a really significant month in Romancelandia. And not just because it's spring in the Northern Hemisphere, the season when minds traditionally turn to love.
Brenda Novak holds her wonderful auction to raise money to help find a cure for juvenile diabetes. Here's a link to the auction's home page: http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com/
Brenda is an amazing example of the power of one. I'm in awe of what she's achieved just through hard work and vision. So far, she's raised over $1.6 million for her cause and this year, she hopes to break the $2 million mark. More power to her right arm, I say!
Every year, the whole romance community rallies behind this marvelous cause. There are gift baskets and trips and treats galore, and appropriate for a writer's auction, there are critiques and marketing packages and educational opportunities. Not to mention more signed books than you can poke a stick at! How can you resist?
First up, for writers, I'm offering a detailed critique of three chapters and a synopsis of an unpublished romance novel. I've done this every year and I've met some amazingly talented writers as a result, many of whom have gone on to stellar careers (names would be revealing too much but can I say NYT bestsellers?). Here's the link for my critique if you'd like to bid: http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com/Bidding.taf?_function=detail&Auction_uid1=2841432
THE RAKES AND ROGUES DUO - signed mass market paperbacks of SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE'S BED and MIDNIGHT'S WILD PASSION http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com/Bidding.taf?_function=detail&Auction_uid1=2841434
THE COURTESAN COLLECTION - signed mass market paperbacks of CLAIMING THE COURTESAN, TEMPT THE DEVIL and MY RECKLESS SURRENDER http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com/Bidding.taf?_function=detail&Auction_uid1=2841435
I'm also part of the wonderful Romance Bandits basket which includes goodies from all my blog sisters: http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com/Bidding.taf?_function=detail&Auction_uid1=2961814
Annie West: http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com/Bidding.taf?_function=detail&Auction_uid1=2864988 Annie is a Tote Bags 'n' Blogs regular and her latest release is the fabulous CAPTIVE IN THE SPOTLIGHT.
I find Brenda so inspiring. So now I'd like to know who you find inspiring and why.
And don't forget to check out the auction!
Friday, May 10, 2013
One of the things we do as writers is continually learn more about the world we live in. We can’t write out of our imaginations without drawing from reality as well.
Even if we write fantasy, we need an inner logic on which to base our characters’ actions. And if we write romance or mystery or westerns or, well, just about anything, we have to understand the world we are writing about.
For me that often means finding the nitty-gritty details about what my heroes or heroines do for a living, where they live, what sorts of places they live, why they live there. It has to do with setting a scene, it has to do with motivation. It has to do with who they are and what made them that way.
Some of the things that I draw on are things I grew up with – beaches, cowboys, volleyball players, artists. Some are things I’ve learned about as I’ve found characters who intrigued me. They did things I’d never have done: rode bulls, designed buildings, worked as models and photographers, built ships, sailed around the world.
So I’ve learned about all those things. I’ve talked to people engaged in those occupations. If I haven’t been there and done that, I’ve talked to people who have.
But this past year I’ve been digging less in the present than in the past. I’m just finishing a course in British military records and I’ve been spending my days – and far too late many nights – reading photocopies of service records from men who were in the trenches in World War I, who fought at Trafalgar, who were Loyalists in South Carolina and barely survived the Battle of King’s Mountain.
It’s been an interesting month. Before that there were months I dug into old mining records, learned about the industrial towns of the British Northeast, delved into records from textile mills and pored over apprenticeship records.
It’s been a break from the usual sort of digging and scratching I do when I come to write a book. But it has primed the pump in a way that contemporary research hasn’t been doing recently. It’s not necessarily a new itch, but it’s definitely a different one to scratch. It started out as an interest in my own family history. It’s gone on to make me interested in lots of peoples’ histories. They all bring the past into the present.
And I find that the past and the present are in many ways not so different. Or, rather, people aren’t. People still hope and dream. They work and they play (though more of the former than the latter). They rejoice and they mourn. And always, it seems to me, I find an undercurrent of a need for connection – a desire for love.
Maybe it’s coming full circle. But at the same time that I’m writing my latest book, I find that my characters’ story is both unique to them, and filled with echoes of other stories, other lives, both real and fictional.
So the truth is, maybe I’m not lost in the past at all. Maybe I’ve looked there and found that what I write about in the present is there as well.
Have you looked into your own family history? Do you get excited about those people whose decisions have had an impact on your life. Or are you like my mom whose eyes always glazed over at the very thought?!
Great War: Richard Caton Woodville [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; St Lawrence Mine, Butte, MT [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons