Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Next Big Thing

I was invited to participate in The Next Big Thing by my friend Joanna Campbell Slan, who is blogging about the next novel in her Jane Eyre series, Death of a Dowager, here:

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

1 - What is your working title of your book (or story)?

Dead Man's Float (Book 1 in the Deadly Pleasures series)

2 - Where did the idea come from for the book?

My husband is a commercial pool and spa contractor in Florida. He’s been in the pool business for about 30 years, and tells me stories about the bad things that have happened. People think of pools as being strictly for fun, and they can be, but they are inherently dangerous – water, electricity, slick surfaces. I had an idea about a woman who comes back to her hometown, and gets into the pool cleaning business.

3 - What genre does your book fall under? 

4 - Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
When I picture the characters, I can see Jennifer Lawrence as Sabal Bishop Taylor, America Ferrara as her friend Maria, Pink as her friend Hannah, Alyssa Milano as her friend Lisa, Paula Malcomson as Sabal’s mother Alma, Stanley Tucci as Thomas Parker, and John Goodman as Sheriff Calvin.

5 - What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Sabal Bishop Taylor finds a dead body in a pool she is scheduled to clean; while investigating the death to clear her name, she finds out her father’s death wasn’t an accident and that someone will kill to keep a secret.

6 - Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I will be sending the completed manuscript to an agent.

7 - How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The very first draft took one month; it began as a NaNo novel. Subsequent drafts have taken much longer, as I thought through the first few novels in the series.

8 - What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I like Sara Paretsky’s books; they have a social component along with business, and the murder is the reader’s entrĂ©e into that story.

9 - Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I am interested in women’s issues, and thought they could be wrapped in a story along with education about pool and spa safety (it may sound dry, but it’s not).

10 - What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

Human trafficking is an issue that is under the radar, but Florida has one of the highest incidences in the country. Nationwide, human trafficking ranks second to the illegal drug trade. Human trafficking is modern-day slavery - trafficked individuals have no control over what happens to them, are bought and sold as a commodity, and are taken to countries where they don’t speak the language to further isolate them.

And now I turn this over to my friends:

Jeffrey Marks will be blogging about his Erle Stanley Gardner bio. “It's currently titled FOR THE DEFENSE. I’m nearly done editing after a large reformat/reconfiguring suggested by my agent. The website address for my blog is, and I’ll be blogging on December 11th.”

Jeffrey Marks is a longtime fan and writer. He's written about the lives of many 1940s/1950s mystery authors including Craig Rice, Anthony Boucher and currently Erle Stanley Gardner. His website is

Synda Roberts will blog about her first project, Phoenix: A Love and Sex Story in Twelve Parts. It will be released as a serialized e-book novel on Amazon, before being released in paperback; the first installment will be released December 14th. Her blog is

Synda Roberts is the pseudonym of an author currently living on the East Coast. Phoenix is her first story of erotic fiction.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Victoria's Secret

Earlier this year I was in Orlando for SleuthFest, a mystery writers conference I co-chaired with Julie Compton. I did a little retail therapy before the conference started, savoring my last few hours of relative quiet before the start of a hectic four and a half days.

I went to the Victoria’s Secret store at the Mall at Millenia looking for a slip to wear under a dress. At 53, I am old school: I wear a full slip, half-slip, or camisole under my clothes as my need dictates. Working in corporate America in the 80s through the early 90s, I wore suits with the appropriate undergarments, pantyhose and heels every day.

I know that dress in general is more casual these days, particularly among younger people.

I was astonished, and not a little dismayed, when the young girl greeting me at the door who asked what I wanted didn’t know what a slip was. It wasn’t that she didn’t know where in the store it was; she had no idea what garment the word slip represented.

I get that she doesn’t own a slip, and her mother may not own a slip. What got me is that she works in a store that sells slips; for that reason alone, she should have been familiar with the word if not the use. The catalog has slips, and uses that word in the name of the garment – I checked.

She offered to get someone else to help me, but I said I would find it on my own. I found two slips that were possibilities, and confirmed at checkout that I could return them to my local Victoria’s Secret if either or both didn’t work for me.

Returning to the hotel, I put both slips away and ultimately didn’t need either during the conference. I knew one slip would fit without trying it on; I had one just like it at home.

The other slip, which contained enough spandex to slim an elephant, I wasn’t so sure about. It was sized according to bra size, so in theory it should fit. Attempting to try it on, I was afraid I would break an arm getting into it and would need the Jaws of Life to get out of it.

I returned it to my local Victoria’s Secret store; when the sales clerk asked the reason, I just said it didn’t fit. No need to mention needing life-saving implements for assistance.

I’ve worked in retail. I know that every salesperson doesn’t know about every item in a store. I do expect a basic level of knowledge about the items a company sells, particularly when they have a catalog an employee can browse through to familiarize themselves with the merchandise their employer offers.

I always thought Victoria’s Secret was a sly reference to the unseen undergarment. It behooves her employees to learn all of her secrets.


Friday, August 31, 2012

Justice for Yeardley?

Yeardley Love, days away from graduating from the University of Virginia, was killed in 2010 by her ex-boyfriend George Huguely. Both were 22; both were lacrosse players.

 He was drunk, pissed off, and came to her apartment where she lay sleeping. He kicked the door in, beat her head against the wall, and then stole her computer – apparently to keep the threatening emails he’d sent her from seeing the light of day.

He was convicted of second-degree murder and grand larceny. Yesterday he was sentenced to 23 years in prison. With good behavior and including time served, he could be out in as little as 18 years.

As in so many domestic or dating violence scenarios, Yeardley did nothing to provoke the violence that ended her life. She was sleeping in bed when she was attacked by the man with whom she had ended a relationship.

The defense argued that George didn’t intend to kill her (despite his messages to her to do just that), but that she died because she suffocated in the pillow. Never mind that she wouldn’t have died at all if not for the savage beating George gave her. Never mind that George traveled from his apartment to hers, had to kick down the door to gain entry, and then beat her while she was asleep.

Yeardley Love’s parents are suing George Huguely personally, as well as the University of Virginia. Could her death have been prevented had the University acted against George Huguely in 2009, when he accosted another lacrosse player while George was drunk?

Clearly he had a problem handling alcohol. He also had anger issues, and his relationship with Yeardley was called volatile by friends. The norm is that most abusers do not serve much jail time unless they kill someone.

The US Senate has passed the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill, S.1925. Congress is considering a version that does not protect all domestic violence/sexual assault survivors. Do they consider that some survivors did not have “legitimate” assaults, and so are undeserving of services?

Violence against women crosses all boundaries of race, class, ethnicity, religion, political belief, and marital status. Worldwide, one in three women will be experience some form of domestic violence; compare that to breast cancer, which affects one in eight women.

The question isn’t why did Yeardley Love stay in a volatile relationship with George Huguely. The question is why did he lash out in violence? We need to put the onus on the perpetrator, not the victim.

We need to make violence against women a national conversation, in the way Betty Ford first made breast cancer a national conversation. We need to bring it out of the closet and stop blaming the victim. We need to address the abusers, provide services to the victims, and stop the cycle of violence by educating the children.

Does the 23 year sentence Huguely received mean that Yeardley received justice? Yes, in the sense that her killer was caught, tried, and sentenced to a prison term. No, in the sense that had Huguely received intervention at some point in his career as an abuser her death might have been prevented.

The answer isn’t to punish the killers of women; it is to stop the violence against them from happening in the first place.