Tuesday, June 30, 2015

RUN YOU DOWN @JuliaDahl opens a new window on a hidden world

HALLIE EPHRON: When I finished reading Julia Dahl's Edgar-nominated first novel, Invisible City, I dearly hoped that the story wasn't over. Because though the main mystery was solved, a bigger (to me) mystery -- why Rebekah's mother had abandoned her and where she was now -- remained to be answered.

So I'm delighted that Julia's second novel, Run You Down, is a sequel. And I'm thrilled to host Julia herself to tell you all about it.
JULIA DAHL: The idea for my first novel, “Invisible City,” was simple: I had been told by activists and police officers that in cases of sexual abuse and domestic violence, people in the insular Hasidic Jewish neighborhoods of Brooklyn, N.Y. were often reluctant to talk to authorities about what they had witnessed for fear of bringing scrutiny onto their community. But what would happen, I wondered, if there was a murder in this tight-knit world? Would people speak out then?

Over the next six years, I explored that question.

HALLIE: I was riveted by all the details Hasidic famlies, neighborhoods, their relationships with the police and religious authority. How did you find all that out, given how secretive the community can be?

JULIA: I met people who had grown up Hasidic, and some who still lived the strict religious life. I sought to tell their stories through the eyes of my narrator, Rebekah Roberts, a young reporter trying to make a name for herself at a seedy New York City tabloid.  

To connect Rebekah to the world of the Hasidim, I created the character of her mother, Aviva Kagan, who ran away from the cloistered world of Borough Park as a teenager, got pregnant, and then abandoned Rebekah and her father. When, at the very beginning of “Invisible City,” Rebekah is assigned to report about the murder of a Hasidic woman, she uses the opportunity to learn more about her mother’s world – which is she both disdainful of and fascinated by.

HALLIE: Rebekah's personal story is just as compelling as the murder she's investigating. But left those answers hanging.

JULIA: As I got to the end of the tale of the murdered woman, I knew that there was a missing piece to Rebekah’s story: her mother. Why did she leave Brooklyn? Why did she abandon her child? And where has she been for the past 23 years?

But introducing Aviva would have taken “Invisible City” in an entirely different direction. It was, I realized, another story. Another book.

HALLIE: Did you know there'd be a sequel?

JULIA: I hadn’t initially conceived of “Invisible City” as being the beginning of a series, but when Minotaur gave me the opportunity to write a sequel, I jumped at it.
Immediately, I knew that “Run You Down,” would be different from “Invisible City.” I wanted part of the book to be told by Aviva, and I wanted to examine different issues. I also had a deadline, which was something I hadn’t had with the first book, which I wrote in my spare time, unsure if it would ever get published.

HALLIE: Ah, a deadline. How did that work out for you?
JULIA: I wrote the first draft of “Run You Down” in about 10 months, then spent six months doing revisions. Alternating narrators was a challenge – I had to make sure the voices were distinct, that present and past action flowed smoothly, and that the reader wasn’t “ahead” of Rebekah in her investigation into the death of Pessie Goldin.

Writing “Run You Down” was by far the hardest work I have ever done. For whatever reason, the plot of “Invisible City” came relatively easily to me. “Run You Down” – perhaps because there were more moving parts – was a puzzle. There was a lot of frustration (I have nearly 300 pages of deleted scenes), but each time I hit what I thought of as a “plot knot,” I knew that if I just gave myself a little time, I’d unravel it. I started to think of the finished book as a Rodin sculpture. I had a block of marble and for nearly two years I chipped away, knowing that as long as I kept chipping, eventually, the rough stuff would fall away and the object inside would appear.

HALLIE: Your process sounds as chaotic as mine. My "OUT" file is usually almost as long as the novel.

Did it make it any easier knowing who Rebekah is?

JULIA: As I was writing, a lot of people remarked that writing a sequel “must be easier” because I “know the characters.” In some ways this is true, of course: I know Rebekah’s backstory (though I was fuzzy about Aviva’s), but Rebekah was not the same person I began writing about so many years ago. When “Invisible City” began, she was in many ways unserious and immature. By the last page, she had evolved into a more professional reporter and a more empathic, if still judgmental, human being.

In “Run You Down,” which begins just a few months after the end of “Invisible City,” I knew these new parts of her would be tested. Could she balance the demands of reporting for a tabloid with her growing instinct that she is, as she puts it, “a human being before a reporter”? What choices would she have to make? Who would she have to disappoint?

I knew that if I was going to keep readers interested in Rebekah (heck, if I was going to stay interested in her) I had to answer these questions. I spent a lot of time gazing at walls, trying to slip into her skin and feel what she would feel. We’ve become close, Rebekah and I.

And now, as I write her third story, I am happy to say that if we met in the newsroom, I think we might be friends.

HALLIE: And I'll be lined up to read it. 

Thinking about this, I'm wondering do series protagonists need to change? 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Beyond the pail

HALLIE EPHRON: Writers everywhere got a giggle out of a widely copied headline from The Oregonian celebrating the debut of the Oakland A's switch-pitcher Pat Venditte.

Blogs had a field day with it:

From Snopes.com: "Oakland A’s reliever Pat Venditte may be able to throw with either hand, but he can’t pitch underwater."

The Washington Post quipped: "... well, let’s just say he made a splash."

It reminded me of a sadder news story I'd read a few weeks earlier about a victim who was "killed by a rouge bullet."

I like to collect these turns of phrase, especially the ones where the mistake renders a new layer of meaning. My cache includes
- Beyond the pail
- Have a quick peak

And in my own writing, there was the time I was talking about a bowls and instead wrote bowels. Fortunately someone (not me) caught that before it went to galleys.

Here are the nearly-alikes that I often confuse:
discrete discreet
descent decent
dessert desert
crêpe crepe
ascent assent
peak peek
liable libel
mold mould
rein reign
cache caché
plow plough

Have you made some interesting "typos" in your manuscript? Are there words that trip you up?

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: It's so funny that you put this up — only this morning I was having a steak/stake moment — yes, I was talking about a metaphoric vampire, so it was stake — but does the "steak" mean I'm unconsciously hungry? Tired of mostly vegetarian life? What should I make for dinner?

Hallie, I also do discrete/discreet and descent/decent and others. I think we U.S. Americans are so much-mouthed when we speak that the differences are unintelligible, making for vague spellings. (Or, you know, that's what I tell myself.)

A friend recently mixed up "vaginal" and "vestigial" in conversation — that was a bit confusing until we sorted it out....

And I always have to remind myself about "Hear! Hear!" as opposed to "Here! Here!"

HALLIE: Is it "Hear! Hear!" -- really??? And what about "making due" or is it "making do"? I could go either way. And "cut the muster" or "cut the mustard"?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: It's making do, no question.  And yes, Hear, hear.  Cut the mustard. (But why, that I don't know.) Pass muster. (That I do. Military.)

But is it carrot AND stick approach? Or is it: carrot ON A stick approach? Or is it: carrot or stick approach?

And don't even get me started an effect and affect. I men, I understand it, I do. I just can't remember it. And it ALWAYS sounds so wrong..I just avoid it.

It's like one of my (very funny but strangely-educated) pals once said to me-- "This is SO difficult! I't like Godot pushing that boulder up the mountain."

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Hank, it's "Carrot AND stick." Because you use both to get the donkey to do what you want:-) And Sisyphus! How funny. "Discrete" and "discreet" get me every time. I think it's because I was a biology major, where "discrete" means "apart of detached from others." So confusing. And "affect" and "effect." But then I have the British stuff to contend with, too, like "inquiry" and "enquiry." Ack.

Oh, what is the "pale", by the way? And why are we beyond it?

Hallie, I'm glad someone caught "bowel." :-)

HANK: But I always imagine the carrot hanging from a string tied to the end of the stick, and the rider holds it out in front of the mule, and the mule keeps walking toward the always-ahead-of-him carrot. Carrot ON a stick. which is still, carrot and stick. And string. But you are not whapping the mule with the stick.

RHYS BOWEN: I have always struggled with spelling (unlike my friend who got a stoke of the cane for every word she got wrong and was thus a terrific speller. I also have to battle with Transatlantic differences. Draft versus draught.

Discrete  is a big stumbling block for me. Affect/effect also really have to think through that one every time it comes up. Don't you think that soon English will be purely phonetic and thus none of this will matter?

I can answer the Pale question. In the middle ages villages had a fence of stakes (not steaks) around them and that was called the pale. If you were beyond it, you outside society. BTW a pet peeve of mine is the use of "outside of"

HALLIE: So what words and expressions trip you up? And Susan, I hope you'll share what your friend was trying to say when she used vestigial instead of vaginal, or was it the other way 'round? Rhys, that's brilliant! I never knew the origin of "beyond the pale." And I'll never hear the play title WAITING FOR GODOT without thinking of Sisyphus.

Sunday, June 28, 2015



SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Happy Sunday, Reds and lovely readers! I'm delighted to tell you that MRS. ROOSEVELT'S CONFIDANT is now out in ARCs (aka Advance Reader Copies)! And yes, I do have one to give away to one reader who leaves a comment below! And wow, the book's publication date is October 27, 2015 — that's just four months away! As our Hank would say, "Whoa."

The other books in the Maggie Hope series are doing well, too. MR. CHURCHILL'S SECRETARY is now in its 16th printing, the other titles are in multiple printings, and Barnes & Noble has come up with a nifty bookshelf display. This one is from our local B&N, but I hear there are others?

So, in between getting Kiddo through the last of 4th grade (sniff), getting ready for summer (Rhode Island!), and copy edits for MRS. ROOSEVELT'S CONFIDANT (hair-pulling and nail-biting), I've also been researching and writing book #6 in the Maggie Hope series, THE QUEEN'S ACCOMPLICE.

This is now two books ahead for readers — and I want to be careful not to spoil anything for anyone. But I can say that THE QUEEN'S ACCOMPLICE will follow Maggie from Washington, D.C. back to London. And in it, we'll meet a new baddie — the Blackout Ripper — a serial killer (or, rather, a "sequential murderer," since the term "serial killer" wasn't in use back then) who preys on the smart, ambitious, professional women.

I knew Maggie would be back in London for this book — and so I began to think her struggles against the patriarchy as a smart and capable woman weren't getting enough page space, the way they did in the earlier books. And so I deliberately created a killer who was targeting strong professional women — the women who were to be sent abroad to fight in the SOE (the Special Operations Executive — the British black ops organization Maggie has been working for). Since the killer is targeting women of SOE, Maggie's brought in by old friend Peter Frain of MI-5, to work alongside her old frenemy, Mark Stafford — and also a new character, a detective from Scotland Yard. 

[ When I began the project, I became obsessed with the literature of Victorian London. Many of the books I'd already read (women in Victorian lit was my specialty as an English major in college). But I wanted to go back to the really gothic books. So I chose DRACULA and DR. JEKYL AND MR. HYDE. DRACULA, I'd read in junior high or thereabouts, but it was still plenty scary. As well as unintentionally hilarious: "Get Mina recipe for chicken paprika."]

And then there's Jack the Ripper, himself. I started with THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF JACK THE RIPPER, then on to 1880: LONDON MURDERS IN THE AGE OF JACK THE RIPPER, and lots more. Like many, I knew the story without really knowing a lot of facts. The details are grisly.

But — why the fascination with Jack the Ripper, you may ask? 

Good question. 

Jack keeps coming up in the public consciousness as well as literature and pop culture for many reasons. Any plot about about the Jack the Ripper (or a new Ripper) contains coded discussions of the dangers of unrestrained male sexuality, misogynist fears of female sexuality, and censure of female autonomy. 

And so I turned to the scholarly book, A CITY OF DREADFUL DELIGHT, a feminist interpretation of the Ripper murders and their effects. The book also explores how Jack the Ripper (and his many fictional variations) has acted as a catalyst for women’s anger against male violence against women in the public sphere. As author Judith R. Walkowitz argues: "The Whitechapel murders have continued to provide a common vocabulary of male violence against women, a vocabulary now more than one hundred years old. Its persistence owes much to the mass media’s exploitation of Ripper iconography. Depictions of female mutilation in mainstream cinema, celebrations of the Ripper as a 'hero' of crime intensify fears of male violence and convince women that they are helpless victims."

And so, in other words, if I'm going to take on the Ripper myth as a feminist writer with a strong heroine, I'd better tell it in a radically different way. And that's my goal. In the usual Ripper stories and films, the Ripper's challenger is a man — a detective or a journalist usually. The female victims are peripheral to the hunt/catch story. 

In this newest Maggie Hope book, I want to turn that traditional Ripper narrative on its head.

Reading about Jack the Ripper led me to books about our own first serial killer here in the U.S., H. H. Holmes, including Erik Larson's excellent THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY. Jane Addams, the urban reformer who founded Chicago’s Hull House, wrote about the time period — which has its parallel in London of World War II — “Never before in civilization have such numbers of young girls been suddenly released from the protection of the home and permitted to walk unattended upon the city streets and to work under alien roofs.”

I'm also doing research on women in police force during World War II. Yes! It's true! 

And not just researching, but writing, too — it's just a wee bit too early for me to feel comfortable showing any pages. But please rest assured there are about 100 rough pages written, 100 more sketched out pages, and a whole slew of notes and ideas. Maggie's met a lot of horrific people in wartime, but this — a serial killer — is a first. And it's scary. (I'm scaring myself sometimes, which must be good, right?)

Dear Reds and lovely readers, please leave a comment below to be entered to win an ARC of MRS. ROOSEVELT'S CONFIDANTE!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

HID FROM OUR EYES and Hot Red-Headed Men II: The Redheadegeddon

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: It's back to the scene in HID FROM OUR EYES with Officer Kevin Flynn undercover. I gave you a piece from it last February. Here, he's finally meeting up with the drug dealer he's been trying to get to. Plus, of course, hot ginger men, because it's always a good day for hot ginger men!

Easy lifted his chin toward Kevin. “What's your story, kid?”

I was studying at t' university, but my money ran out.”
Easy's stone face cracked a little with surprise. “You're really Irish. I thought it was just because of the hair.”

Yeah.” Kevin rubbed at his red beard. “Because I wasn't enrolled anymore, my student visa expired, so I can't work legally. I need to make money, a lot of it, and this is somet'ing I'm good at.”

Why'nt you just go home?”

I can't.”

Why not?”

T'ats my business.” He had a reason, if he had to give it, but it was better to keep something hidden. A fake secret to distract from the real one.

You a cop?”
Kevin laughed. “No. Are you?”
Easy pulled a slim box about the size of Brock's cigarette carton out of his back pocket. He flicked a button on the device and began tracing Kevin's outline with it, like a particularly attentive TSA agent. Lights on the front of the box began cascading as Easy reached his hip pocket. “You got a phone in there?”
Kevin fished it out. It was a dupe phone, filled with numbers that all led to the same three people at the HIDTA office.

Turn it off.” Kevin did so. Easy took it and handed it to Brock. “Take this and go stand by the kids over there.”

The Little Leaguers were playing maybe two hundred yards from them. Brock glanced at Kevin, then nodded. As he walked away, Easy continued his sweep of Kevin's body. When the box failed to light up again, he grunted his satisfaction and turned it off. “The cops don't wear actual wires no more, like in TV shows. It's all wifi, nowadays.”


I'll give you a unit of one hundred, on trial. I expect eight hundred back; that gives you a twenty per cent cut. If you can sell them for more'n a dime a pill, you keep the extra. If you can't get that much, I still get my cut. You gotta flush 'em down the john because the immigration guys are coming through the door, I still get my cut. Somebody knocks you over on the street and takes 'em--”

You still get your cut. I got it.” Kevin took a drag. “Do you have a time limit?”
Easy paused for a moment. “Why'nt you try to impress me, kid?”

I will.”

Easy looked for a moment as if he might smile. “Couple other rules. No selling to the blacks or the Latinos, they got their own people. Don't sample too much of the stock – the minute you look like you got a problem I'll cut you loose. Try not to sell to high schoolers – they're stupid enough to keep your number on their phones and next thing you know, the parents are giving you to the cops.”

I'm doing just fine in bars so far.”

Well, I guess that's natural for a Mick.”
Kevin smiled thinly. “How'll I get in touch wit' you?”

I'll get in touch with you. If I'm satisfied with your work, I'll give you a burner. You'll use that for business from then on.”

Right, then. The stock?”

You get Frat Boy and follow me. Oh, and Irish?” Kevin turned to him, and this time Easy did smile. “If you get any ideas about ripping me off and skipping back home to Leprechaun Land, know this. You will be dead before you get a chance to check your bags.”

Tell me what you think of the dialect. Too much? I want to give the flavor of an Irish accent without veering into absurdity.

Friday, June 26, 2015

What We're Writing: @deborahcrombie-- In the Beginning

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I have been saying for years (many) that I was going to reread my own books, in order, from the beginning. Not that I haven't browsed through them for continuity issues (I should have browsed more thoroughly!) And I had actually reread a few of the books here and there, but not in any sort of order. There were always deadlines, and other books to read and things to write, and somehow I just never managed. 

But this summer I decided I absolutely must, and I have to admit I looked on it as a bit of a chore. I was given a push by the fact that Rick, cleaning out an old box of floppy disks, found the disk with the original manuscript of A Share in Death. (This was 1992! Floppy disks! Word Perfect!) The sight of that little square of plastic somehow brought back the thrill of sending off that first manuscript, and of having it published. So I pulled out my hardcover copy.

This is the original cover! I didn't like it much at the time--I thought it was too cozy and made the book look like a period mystery (which it wasn't, then!) But now I think it is utterly charming. And then there's me on the back flap in my first-ever author photo, looking impossibly young and skinny!

 And the book itself? It's been the oddest experience. Like meeting old friends too long missed, and at the same time having vivid little flashes of my own life as it was when I was writing the novel, and of Yorkshire, where the book is set. And although I know what happens I was totally caught up in the story.

A little synopsis: Overworked Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid takes up his cousin's offer of a week's holiday in a Yorkshire timeshare. But he can't escape work--first an employee is murdered, then another guest. He is compelled to solve the crime, enlisting the help of his new detective sergeant at the Yard, single mother Gemma James.

It has been fascinating to see those first glimpses of Duncan and Gemma, knowing that I had absolutely no clue how they--or their relationship--would develop. But the seeds are there. I remembered one particular scene as being my favorite when I wrote the book, and I found it was still.  Here, Duncan pays a visit to the female police surgeon who has certified death for the two murders in the Yorkshire time share.

The single track road wound back toward the very base of the hills.  Kincaid had left the Midget's top down and turned the heater up full blast, hoping the crisp evening air would clear the cobwebs from his brain.  The sky looked faintly luminous against the opaque shapes of the trees.
     Presently he saw the lights of the bungalow through the trees on his left and pulled the car carefully into the leaf covered drive.  It was a low house of rosy-colored brick, with light streaming from the large French-paned windows either side of an arched front door.
     The door swung open, revealing two small girls with dark hair surrounding heart-shaped faces.  They gazed at him solemnly, then before he could speak they burst into a fit of giggles and ran toward the back of the house, shouting, "Mummy, Mummy!"  Kincaid thought he'd better have a look in a mirror before long, if the mere sight of him reduced children to hysteria. 
     The room stretched the width of the house, with dining furniture to his left and the sitting room to his right.  What he could see of a worn rug was liberally covered with doll-hospital casualties.  Books flowed off the tables, a fire burned steadily in the sitting room grate, and the temptation to sit down and go to sleep became almost unbearable.
     Anne Percy appeared, wiping her hands on her white cotton apron, and saved him from embarrassment.  She smiled with pleasure when she saw who it was, then looked at him more critically.  "You look exhausted.  What can I do for you?"  The little girls were peeking out from behind her like Chinese acrobats, only slightly subdued by their mother's presence.  "Molly, Caroline, this is Mr. Kin­caid."
     "Hallo,"  he said, gravely.  They giggled again, and swung out of sight behind her back in unison. 
     "Come into the kitchen, if you don't mind my cooking while we talk."  She led him through the swinging door in the back of the sitting room into a large, cheerful room full of the aroma of roasting chicken and garlic. 
     Anne shooed the children out with a reminder that supper wouldn't be ready for a half hour yet, pulled up a tall stool for Kincaid, and went back to stirring something on the cooktop, all with a graceful economy of movement.  "Drink?  I'm having Vermouth, since it went in the chicken, but you look as though you could use a whiskey.  Off-duty and all that.  Is it really true that policemen don't drink on duty, or is it just a myth perpetrated by the telly?"
     "Thanks."  Kincaid gratefully accepted the whiskey she splashed into a glass, and after the first sip warmth began to radiate from the pit of his stomach.  "And no, it's not true.  I've known quite a few who do.  Chronic alcoholism is just as likely to turn up on a police force as anywhere else, I guess.  Maybe more so, consider­ing the stress level.  But I don't, if that's what you're wondering.  Don't like to feel muddled."
     "I know your rank but not your given name.  I can't go on calling you Mister or Superintendent.  Doesn't seem appropriate in the kitchen."
     "It's Duncan."  He grinned at her surprised expression.  "Scots for­bearers.  And my parents had an inordinate fondness for Macbeth.  It could have been worse.  They could have saddled me with Prospero or Oberon."
     "Lucky you.  My family still calls me Annie Rose.  It makes me feel three years old, not a grown woman with children of my own and a fairly respectable profession.  My patients call me Dr. Anne.  It makes them feel more comfortable."
     "I'd settle for just plain Anne."  He sat and sipped his drink while she moved from cabinet to cooktop and back, feeling the warmth of the room and the whiskey move through him like a tide.  He felt as though he had been sitting on this stool, in this kitchen, for years, and could go on sitting there for as many more.  Concentration became Anne Percy, he thought, watching her tuck her hair behind one ear as she stirred.  She had the same heart-shaped face as her daughters', but the soft, fine hair was lighter, the color of demerara sugar. 
     She checked a casserole in the oven, then dusted her hands off and turned to face him, leaning against the counter.  "Now.  Everything should take care of itself for a few minutes."
     Kincaid found himself at a loss, distracted by a floury smudge on her eyebrow.  What he wanted from her was so formless, so nebulous, that he couldn't think where to begin.  "I'm finding myself in a very awkward position.  I've no official sanction to investigate either Sebastian's or Penny's death‑-not yet, anyway.  And yet I'm involved, even more so than I would be under ordinary circumstances, because I knew them both."
     Anne Percy studied him with the same serious regard she had given her casserole, and Kincaid felt suddenly uncomfortable, as if his face might reveal secrets he hadn't intended.  "I've been known to lose my professional detachment upon occasion, too."  Her apparent non sequitur, thought Kincaid, went right to the
heart of the matter.  "I checked on Emma this morning, to see if she wanted a sedative or‑-"
     "She didn't,"  Kincaid interrupted, smiling at the thought.
     "Damn right, she didn't.  She gave me hell.  But she talked to me.  People do, sometimes, when they're in shock.  They tell you things that ordinarily they wouldn't dream of revealing.  Emma had been worried about Penny's behavior for months, and it seemed to be getting progressively worse.  Episodes of forgetfulness, confusion.  It sounds like it might have been the onset of Alzheimer's, or some form of premature senility.  I don't know if it's any comfort to you, but the quality of her life probably would have deteriorated rapidly."
     "No," Kincaid said angrily, "no, it bloody well isn't.  Whatever the quality of her life, no one had the right to take it from her.  And I'm an utter fool.  It might have been prevented. She tried to talk to me and I wouldn't take time to listen, because it wasn't my case, because I didn't want to take responsibility, because I judged her as foolish and ineffectual.  I should have known better‑-it's my job, for god's sake.  Now we'll never be sure just what she saw.  The night Sebastian died, Penny waited until Emma fell asleep and then went downstairs.  She'd forgotten her handbag and didn't want Emma to know.  A silly little thing, but if she knew Emma was worried about her forgetfulness‑-"
     "You think that Penny was killed because she saw something that would lead to Sebastian's murderer?  That just one person is responsible for both deaths?"
     "I think, from something Emma overheard Penny say, that Penny saw two people that night‑-two people not where they were supposed to be.  Did she remember where she had left her bag, and slip into the sitting room in the dark?  Did she see someone coming out of Cassie's office?
     "Did they see her?" Anne asked, caught up in his reconstruction.
     "Well, we don't know, do we?" Kincaid asked softly.  "But I think not.  Either the plan would have changed, or Penny would have died then and there.  This . . . person . . . is a remarkable opportunist.  It seems to me that neither killing was premeditated, not in the usual sense, but they were both done with great ruthlessness and a willing­ness to take almost insane risks.  It was sheer, tremendous luck to have managed both these killings without being observed‑-"
     "Except, perhaps, by Penny," Anne interrupted.
     "Yes.  But it's rather an odd profile.  People who kill on the spur of the moment usually do it in anger and regret it after­wards.  Those who premeditate like to plan it carefully and execute it from a distance, with as little risk of discovery as possible.  Poison­ers are the perfect example."
     "Maybe this person has an inflated idea of his own invincibility."
     "Could be, but I don't think these are random killings by a psycho, violence for violence's sake.  There's an objective in this, a sort of single minded cunning."  Kincaid laughed abruptly, then shrugged.  "Sounds fanciful, doesn't it?"
     "Possibly.  But back up a minute, Duncan."  Anne frowned, the smooth skin between her brows crinkling with her intensity.  "If the murderer didn't see Penny, how did he know she'd seen him?"
     "I think," Kincaid measured his words carefully, "that she told him."  Seeing Anne's incredulous expression, he shook his head before she could interrupt him.  "I know it sounds crazy, but Penny . . ."  He searched for words that would make Anne see Penny the way he had seen her, hoping the whiskey hadn't made him maudlin.  "Penny lived with scrupulous honesty‑-except perhaps in protecting Emma.  She wouldn't have wanted to falsely accuse someone."
     "You think she just walked up to this murderer and said 'I saw you.  What are you going to do about it?'  But that's‑-" Anne's voice rose with righteous indignation, and Kincaid thought he'd hate to be a patient who'd disobeyed a reasonable doctor's order.
     "Foolish.  And if Penny saw two people, she picked the wrong one to speak to first."  Kincaid stretched and looked at his watch, took another swallow of the whiskey.  "I should be getting back, just in case something turns up.  Peter Raskin's taken some pity on me‑-if he hears the p.m. results tonight he might let me know.  Thanks for letting me sound off."  In spite of his words, he stayed slumped on his stool, swirling the remains of the whiskey in his glass. 
     "Stay for dinner.  There's plenty.  Tim's out on call so we won't wait for him.  We never know how long he'll be."
     "What does he do, your husband?"
     "He's an obstetrician."  She spluttered a laugh at the sight of his face.  "Close your mouth.  That's most people's reaction.  But who could be more sympathetic to a doctor's schedule than another doctor, or a vet?  Or a policeman," she added thoughtfully.
     "Now I know where I went wrong.  I should have married a doctor.  My ex-wife wasn't sympathetic to my schedule at all."  He finished his drink and stood, finding it a great effort. "I'd love to stay, but I'd better not.  Maybe some other time."  They stood, suspended in a brief awkward silence, then Kincaid reached over and rubbed the smudge from her eyebrow with his thumb.  Anne caught his wrist and held it for a moment, then turned away.
     "I'll show you out, then."
     The children were arguing intensely over whose turn it was to bandage the doll, their faces rosy in the firelight.
     "Goodbye, Molly and Caroline."
     "Are you going to visit us again?" said Molly, curiously.
     "I hope so."
     "Come any time."  Anne's fingers brushed his arm, light as down.
  As the door closed behind him Kincaid saw that all the light had gone from the sky behind the hills.  

   Although neither he nor I knew it then, it's clear that he was longing for all the things that would come to him later--a relationship, a family, a home. And reading this scene gave me serious chills because in the book-in-progress all those things are at risk.

I've almost finished reading the second book, All Shall Be Well, and while it's a little weird switching back and forth between reading the past and writing the present, I'm loving seeing the characters grow. I'll definitely be rereading the rest of the series--by which time there will be another book finished and that will make SEVENTEEN!

I want to know, fellow REDS, do you, or have you, reread your own books on a regular basis? And what did you think when you did? 

And readers, do you reread series novels? If so, do you see earlier books in a different perspective, having read later ones? What are your favorites to reread?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What We're Writing: @LucyBurdette #FATALRESERVATIONS #giveaway

 Breaking news: The winner of Fatal Reservations is Beth Kanell!

LUCY BURDETTE: with Fatal Reservations launching in less than two weeks, it’s hard to think about anything else. Never mind write about anything else! So if you'll indulge me, I'm going to talk about one of my favorite characters in the Key West series.

In Fatal Reservations, my recurring character, Lorenzo the tarot card reader, is accused of murder when one of the other street performers from the Mallory Square sunset celebration is found dead.

Lorenzo has been a character since the debut of the Key West series with AN APPETITE FOR MURDER. While writing that first book, I’d seen a tarot card reader on Mallory Square, and knew he belonged in the story. I imagined my protagonist Hayley Snow taking her mother’s lead, preferring a reading to a psychotherapy session. I had no idea how important Lorenzo would become. And how he’d also become a friend, and a muse. In honor of the real Lorenzo, and the Lorenzo in FATAL RESERVATIONS, I will take you on a short tour of how his role has changed…

AN APPETITE FOR MURDER: At this point in time, neither Hayley nor I really knew Lorenzo...

this is the first time I talked with Lorenzo
After leaving the bar, I drove my scooter the length of Whitehead Street toward Mallory Square to see if Lorenzo was working. Every night at sunset, except in the very worst weather, street performers marked off sections of the pier and set up shop to entertain tourists and part them from a few of their dollars. Along with the zaniness of Duval Street, the spectacle of the sun setting over Mallory Square tended to stick in the minds of visitors more than anything about Key West.

Lorenzo has been working the square for almost twenty years, wearing a star-studded turban, a deep blue cloak with a matching blue stone glued to his forehead, and a mustache waxed into loops. Sounded hokey, but even I felt more confident having my cards read by a guy who took the time to look and act professional.

DEATH IN FOUR COURSES: Hayley's mother, Janet, was the person who got her hooked on having her cards read. Here Hayley has taken her mom to meet Lorenzo.

Lorenzo turned over my three cards: the devil, the tower, reversed,  and the emperor.
I groaned. “I knew I should have skipped this today.”
Mom patted my leg, a worried frown playing on her lips. “It’s only cards.”

But I’d seen how happy she looked when Lorenzo turned over the two of cups and explained that true love lay in her future. She believed completely in this stuff. Two new customers, middle-aged women wearing tropical sundresses and heavy tans, approached Lorenzo’s table and peered over my shoulder.

“Oh my gosh, she’s got the tower,” said one to the other, and then they backed away.

It made no sense to let myself react so strongly to a couple of colored cardboard cards, but the last time Lorenzo had turned up the tower, I’d nearly been killed by a crazy woman.

By the time TOPPED CHEF, the third book, came along, I had had lunch with the real Lorenzo, and so Hayley and Miss Gloria did the same:

But where’s your eye makeup? And your turban?” asked Miss Gloria. “Hayley and her mom described you but you look nothing like what I imagined.”

Lorenzo's style evolution
He touched both hands to his dark hair, looking sad. “Oh, I loved that turban. I felt like Lana Turner when I wore it. But all dressed up like that, I was being treated like a tourist attraction. People kept coming up and snapping photographs while I was reading my customers’ cards. They didn’t take me seriously—treated me like a fool. And it was so intrusive for the people waiting to hear what I had to say.” He sighed dramatically. “There’s a mass level of consciousness—or should I say unconsciousness—that turban tapped into, so I had to give it up.”

MURDER WITH GANACHE:  Now I had begun to feel I couldn't quite write a book, without talking to Lorenzo. Hayley was feeling the same way about Lorenzo and her life...

at Mallory Square
Anxious to get a tarot card reading from Lorenzo, I pushed through throngs of tourists enjoying the Mallory Square party. The last few days had left me feeling sad and unsettled--I hoped he could shed some positive light on the future. In the distance, the Disney Magic cruise ship had swung around and started to chug through the channel, on to its next stop in the cycle of manufactured fun.

Lorenzo had set up his table about ten yards from the water, looking distinguished in sunglasses and a jacket shot through with gold threads. Three middle-aged women were stacked up only feet from his table, fidgeting and trying not to stare at his current customer as they waited for their readings.

DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS: Hayley and Lorenzo have become friends...

Ten minutes later, Lorenzo took the seat beside me, carrying a cup of tea and a slice of pie. His dark hair curled like mine in the humidity, and he wore Harry Potter–style round glasses and red clogs. I felt instantly calmer in his presence.

“I was hoping you weren’t on a diet,” I said, pointing at his plate.

“The cards say, ‘Never pass up key lime pie,’” he told me as he swallowed the first creamy bite.

And finally, comes FATAL RESERVATIONS. In this book, Lorenzo is at the center of the mystery, when he's accused of murdering one of the other street performers. In real life, of course, no such thing has gone on. I can only say he's been such a good sport!

Lorenzo with Tonka
Lorenzo nodded, adjusted his collar, and came forward. By dress alone, he stood out from most everyone in attendance: long-sleeved white dress shirt, high-waisted black pants, black tie, tortoiseshell glasses—even his wavy hair had been smoothed into a neat ponytail. All very proper and distinguished. But his face shone in the spotlight and large damp circles spread from his underarms to the body of his shirt. He looked very hot. And rattled.

FATAL RESERVATIONS will hit bookshelves on July 7. But you can order it now, wherever books are sold, including...

And I’ll be giving a signed copy away today because I’m too excited to wait! Leave your email address to be entered in the drawing...