July 26, 2013

The Suspension of Disbelief

Today's blog was going to be on the suspension of disbelief - a thing my very literal husband has a great deal of trouble with. You fiction writers know it, that magical reader's mindset that allows you to do all sorts of things that would never happen in real life.

For instance, it amazing how many times people on TV who have never held a gun before manage to kill someone with one shot. Bam, he's a goner! I have the feeling that not only would that be highly unlikely, but the shooter would very possibly be knocked backward and be lucky not to blast his foot off.

Another is the hero who is beaten to a within an inch of his life, but gets right up and back into the fray. Let's face it, most of us sit out the rest of the day if we knock ourselves on the head with the trunk lid. But, we as readers, usually love it. We are suckers for indomitable heroes. Even so, this device is one I personally do not employ in my books. When my hero, Daisy Forrest, gets conked on the head, her first instinct on waking up is to reach for an ice pack and the vodka, the hell with chasing the bad guy.

I was going to go on for quite a bit, but a very funny thing happened while writing this blog. I got the galley of my book! What a thrill! Tom, my husband and greatest fan, experienced a suspension of disbelief moment. He kept looking at the cover and saying, "Look at this. 'Penny Clover Petersen'. This is something!"

I know how he feels. It hasn't really sunk in yet. 238 pages of words written by me that someone thought good enough to publish. Wow! It's humbling and exhilarating and, most of all, unbelievable! I just don't feel like an author, yet. If asked what I do, I do not reply that I write books. My brother-in-law suggested that I start wearing large hats, lots of jewelry, and carrying a small dog wherever I go. I am not sure this would make anyone, including myself, believe I am an author. More likely they would simply believe that I've gone round the bend and I'm channeling Barbara Cartland.

At any rate, I did the final edits this week and the book is soon to go to the printer, review copies will be sent out, and come December will be on sale to any and all who might like a cozy little mystery for Christmas. So the next time someone asks what I do, I'm going to tell them, "I'm a mystery writer". I may not believe it, but it happens to be true.

July 18, 2013

Super Glue and the Not Too Bright

You know what's not funny? I know it always gets a laugh in cartoons. Laurel and Hardy can make it seem hilarious. It even sounds funny in the telling, but is actually a royal pain in the old gluteus Maximus. Super-gluing your hand. Not amusing. I know. I did it. To myself.

I ponder two questions - Is it just me? Am I the only one who does these incredibly stupid things? And, assuming I am, why do I choose to do things that have no urgency whatsoever (as in, if they never got done at all, no one, and I do mean no one, would ever notice) when I am in the middle of packing for vacation and running out to the store for last minute necessities. I think I am beginning to see a connection.

My mother's high school ring from St. Patrick's Academy Class of 1932 has been in my possession for twenty-seven years now. The medallion on its face has been loose for all of those twenty-seven years. I've been meaning to fix this for exactly twenty-seven years. The Friday before last as I was ironing a linen shirt before packing it I felt an overwhelmingly urgent need to take care of this little ring problem.

Why, I ask myself? Why in the midst of running around like a chicken sans head did I need to fix this ring immediately? I had no intention of wearing the ring. I plan to pass it on to my granddaughter to keep in her jewelry box until she passes it on to her own granddaughter. And so on.

I think, perhaps, it's because I had finally found a Super Glue that can be used more than once. This Loctite glue does not glue itself shut. I had used it about a year ago and then earlier that week I pulled it out to glue the handle back onto my sugar bowl. And it worked like a charm. One little drop eased out of the container, settled onto the broken bowl and in the blink of an eye, Voila! handle reattached! I was thrilled! (It strikes me here that I do seem to be easily amused. Hmm. Perhaps I should get out more.)

Now for whatever reason, I dropped the ironing, dug out the ring and the glue, sat at the desk right next to the keyboard, and began my little project which should have taken no more than thirty seconds.

I quickly realized that the sugar bowl had been a fluke.

You may notice the PROFESSIONAL CONTROL boldly written on the label. It really should say NOT TO BE USED BY IDIOTS NAMED PENNY.  I pressed the bottle and nothing came out. I pressed harder and - nothing. I put the bottle down and examined the nozzle. It seemed clear. I could have read the directions, but chose not to. I just picked it up again and squeezed really hard. This time, of course, I squeezed the little red thingys on the sides and discovered that this is how one is supposed to squeeze the stupid thing.

The glue came out just fine. Lots of it, all over my hand and the desk barely missing the keyboard (thank God, or I'd still be hearing about it), and I later noticed on the new slacks I was wearing. It was sheer luck that I didn't actually attach myself to the desk.

Getting super glue off is certainly harder than getting it on. My recommendation should this ever happen to you: generous amounts of nail polish remover followed by Goo Gone, Dawn, and Krud Kutter. Then you can spend the entire afternoon peeling off little pieces until, by the next morning, it's gone from you skin and the wood top of the desk. It will not be gone from your slacks.

On the plus side, I successfully glued the medallion back onto the ring and put it safely away to give to Sophie in another twenty-seven years.

July 12, 2013

Part 2 from Malcolm's Casebook

Boy, oh boy! Spank my fanny and call me Judy if last night wasn’t one to tell the grandkids about – supposing I ever settle down long enough to have them. Roscoe and I were on patrol, hunting for the little rat-bastard (excuse my French, ladies) when we heard a brouhaha right in my own back yard. I had to hand it to this guy, he had some nerve!

Well, we doubled back down the driveway quick as a wink and quiet as field mice. A little warning about field mice. I don’t know if you’re familiar with them, but they really are pretty darned sneaky. Not too long ago one of these little critters scared the bejesus out of me when I was cutting across the field late one night after a little friendly carousing. Damned thing practically bit my nose off before I could get away.   

But that’s really neither here nor there, is it? Where was I? Oh, yeah, we were doubling back. It was a dark night, no moon and cloudy to boot. I was glad to have Roscoe by my side. His night vision is pretty darned phenomenal and I let him lead the way.

We had just reached the gate when I heard the trash can go over. The porch light was on and in its yellow glow I could see the lowlife and I stopped dead in my tracks. This was no idiot kid. I was right. This was the Masked Bandit. This guy’s a bad egg. He’s been one of Old Towne’s Most Wanted for as long as I can remember for everything from B&E to aggravated assault. And Roscoe and I had him in our sights.

We didn’t need to talk. Over the years R. and I have gotten pretty good at reading each other and at glance from me my partner winked and slid off silently to the other side of the porch. We moved in slowly, backing him into a corner. Yeah, I know how dangerous a cornered villain can be. But he hadn’t heard us, yet, so we still had the edge.

When I was in pouncing distance I gave Roscoe the nod and he went to work. Roscoe can seem to double in size when he wants to put the fear of God into someone. He stood there menacing and shouted, “The jig is up, buddy boy!”

And then I attacked. I sailed through the air and took him down. The stiff never knew what hit him. I’ve been working on this move since I could walk and it’s never failed me. I use my whole body, hips first, and kind of just glue myself to the hapless victim.  And then I keep them pinned until the cuffs come out.

The Bandit struggled, but Roscoe came over and swiped him hard in the jaw. After that he sort of gave up and laid there. He wasn’t fooling me, though. I never loosened my grip. I was practically turning purple with the effort, but I knew he was just waiting for his chance to get away or worse, take me down.

At this, Roscoe was laughing his butt off. I told him to knock it off. He said he couldn’t help it, that we were quite the picture.  Just then the door opened and Daisy looked out. She started screaming so loud, I thought I’d lose an ear drum. I love the dame, but in an emergency, she’s not the gal I’d call first.

Luckily, Rose came to the door and I was able to get a word in. She nodded and put a call into the local constabulary. It wasn’t long before the cavalry arrived and I was able to get up and stretch. I looked at Roscoe and he looked at me. A knuckle bump, a nod – Boom! – there was nothing more to say.

Later that night, over a drink or three, the four of us got to laughing about the take down. We must have looked a right bunch of idiots. Daisy screaming, me turning purple, the big R. laughing till he almost, well, you know.

Daisy kept apologizing for the screaming. Said she was just startled. If that was just startled, I’m a four-legged booze hound. But she’s so cute, I just nodded and kept that to myself.

Then Rose actually patted Roscoe on the head and said, ‘Nice job.’ Just a little patronizing on her part. I mean, Roscoe’s old enough to be her father! But she means well and she mixes a damned fine martooni. Well, the night moved on and as R. and I were leaving to spend the rest of it sleeping under the stars, the girls told me they’d learned their lesson. They told me the next time I tell them something hinky’s going down, they’ll listen with both ears. But I’m not holding my breath. As I said before - Women! You can’t tell them anything.

You can read more about Malcolm and his cronies in Roses and Daisies and Death, Oh My! when it comes out this December.

July 6, 2013

Part 1 from Malcolm's Casebook

I'm in St. Paul visiting family, so for this week and the next I have the privilege to turn this blog over to my good friend and ace detective, Malcolm Boxer-Basset. He has graciously agreed to share his notes on one of his biggest cases. Malcolm is an interesting guy, if a little rough around the edges, and I think you'll enjoy his rather unorthodox outlook on life.

from The Casebook of Malcolm Boxer-Basset

Women! You can’t tell them anything. I know. I live with two of them in a big old house in a little place outside Washington, DC called Old Towne. Hey, I heard that snicker. Get your mind out of the gutter. They own the place. They’re my landladies. I’m their tenant. And over the years we’ve become pretty good friends.

I’m Malcolm Boxer-Basset. I know, what were my parents’ thinking? Right? But a name like that makes you tough – fast. And in my line of work I need to be tough. I’m in Security. I keep people safe.

My landladies, Daisy and Rose, own this big Victorian right in the center of this little antiques village. Antiques! I never got the charm. I like new, shiny and comfortable. Anyhoo, the two of them have this neat little business on the first floor and they live upstairs. I have my own room, of course, but we’re all friends here. I have the run of the house. What can I say, they love me!

Those gals even built a great little shed out back for me –a man-cave! Sometimes a guy just needs to be alone with his thoughts. Sometimes he likes to have some friends in for a friendly game of poker or a little shop talk.

But I digress. I know it’s not PC to say so, but the gals are pretty helpless. If they didn’t have me around to keep an eye on things some mighty nasty stuff would have gone down.

Like last December. There was this jerk who was definitely one kumquat short of a fruit basket running around Old Towne, scaring people witless. I figured out who it had to be early in the game, but does anyone listen to the professional? Not on your life. Women never listen.

Well, things almost went pear-shaped one afternoon. The girls were planning a party for that night and Daisy, the cute little blond, was alone in the shop putting the finishing touches on the place when she was ambushed by this loon. She was just inches away from being sliced and diced when I happened to return from a long day of investigating. I took the psycho down with one of my patented maneuvers and waited till the cops got there.

After that, you’d think they’d listen when I talked. But nooooo. Just one boozy night getting over the shock and making drunken promises to take me seriously in future, then it was right back to what does Malcolm know?

Well, let me tell you, not six months later everybody and his mother in our little berg is being blackmailed by another fruit loop. This town seems to be a veritable Winesap orchard, I kid you not. Of course, I knew who it had to be, but those two gals just smiled and shook their pretty heads. They wanted proof. I had no proof, just my gut instinct. But, baby, my instinct is never wrong!

And it was just a matter of time till they got proof and plenty of it when the weirdo tries to make a permanent dent in Rose’s head during a hurricane. And what a loss that would have been! I mean, Rose is one beautiful auburn-haired babe. But it never happened. Thanks to my impeccable timing - again - and some help from my associate, Roscoe, we not only caught the nasty piece of work, but sweated out a full confession that I had the foresight to put on tape.

A word about my associate, Roscoe Birman. Roscoe’s a great guy, even if he is a little on the short side. He’s got this funny red hair and he’s always ready to crack wise. The dude can make me laugh! We didn't always hit it off, but over the years, he's become my best buddy. After the slice and dice caper, I took him on as apprentice in the firm. His help with the take down during the hurricane cemented our association and he became a full-fledged partner. I know who's got my back. When the going gets tough, Roscoe gets going.

Lately, things around here have been quiet - a little too quiet. This is a low lie, but I like the sound of it. Actually, there have been some late night high jinx that are becoming more than a nuisance. I’ve tried to tell the gals to watch their backs, but they keep saying it’s nothing to worry about. But something sure as heck ain’t right. It could just be some kid with too much time on his hands and too little brain in his head. But I’m not betting the farm on that. I think it’s a lot more sinister.

I’ve been on the look out the last week or so and I’ll get him. My gut tells me tonight is the night! I can feel it in my bones. And I can’t wait to see his face when I catch him in the act.
Continued next week...