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.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Making Choices

Women are a big topic of this election. Working women, who work in the home raising a family, work in an office, or run a business from their home. Women making choices: work choices; marriage choices; health choices; choices about children; election choices.

Choice is a hot button word. It shouldn’t be, but it’s been made that way by the abortion debate. Legalized abortion in the USA was the result of Roe v. Wade, a court case that went all the way to the Supreme Court in 1973; the debate still rages 39 years later.

I saw Marco Rubio on the Today show yesterday being interviewed by Matt Lauer. Mr. Rubio seems to be under the impression that all women are mandated to have abortions because of Roe v. Wade; he argued that it’s not just men who don’t think abortion should be legal, even some women don’t think abortion should be legal.

Of course it should be legal. No woman makes the decision to have an abortion lightly, but every woman has the right to make her own health decisions, and to have safe and legal health options available to her. That doesn’t mean that every woman will have an abortion.

Pro-choice means that access to safe and legal abortion is available, otherwise there is no choice.

If you feel strongly against abortion, then your choice is not to have one. Abortion won’t go away if it’s illegal – it’s been around as long as women have gotten pregnant, and it always will be.

As soon as a man can get pregnant, then he can make decisions affecting his pregnancy. Not decisions for every pregnancy, just for his.

It is no man’s business. In 2003, President George W. Bush signed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban, surrounded by 9 male members of Congress smiling and congratulating him. Where were the women? Why should old men decide any woman’s health options?

In 1972, when I was 13, a girl in my class was raped by her 13-year-old boyfriend. She got pregnant. Abortion wasn’t legal, and she wasn’t from a family with the resources to send her to Europe for a “vacation” where she could have a legal abortion. She carried the baby to term, and the child was raised as her sibling. The vivacious girl transformed into a shattered woman before the end of her freshman year in high school.

I always thought that was unfair. Unfair to her, having to live with the reminder of her rape every minute of every day. Unfair to her child, raised under false pretenses about who her parents were, and possibly not the most wanted child. How did that dynamic affect them, and the rest of the family? In 1972, at 13, what were her options? She had no choice.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of health care to women who cannot afford private providers. What other options do they have planned for those women?

Their argument is based on the abortions that are performed at Planned Parenthood clinics, which amount to 3% of the services Planned Parenthood provides. They are talking about cutting funding for legal services because they don’t like one of the services offered.

Every child should be a wanted child. Every woman should make the health care choices that are best for her, without any man telling her what she can or can’t do.

Some choices are easier to make than others.



Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pick Your (Weather) Poison

Every area has its natural hazard, whether it’s hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, blizzards, or earthquakes.
I write this with Hurricane Isaac having shed much rain and wind on Vero Beach on its way to New Orleans, seven years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. Considering that the path Isaac took was through the Gulf of Mexico, the amount of rain dumped on the Atlantic coast of Florida caused more flooding than Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004, and Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

New Orleans braced for Hurricane Isaac, confident that the levees would protect the city sheltered in their embrace. They didn’t order mandatory evacuations, but suggested that anyone outside of the levee system who felt uncomfortable staying should leave.
Today people who stayed were interviewed, and more than one expressed regret that they hadn’t left town. The levees held, but some were breached by overflowing waters. Ironically, areas flooded because the water was held captive within the levees.

I’ve lived in Florida for over 20 years. I lived in Fort Lauderdale when Hurricane Andrew hit; and I lived in Vero Beach when Hurricanes Frances, Jeanne and Wilma hit. The damage is incredible, and the aftermath is not pretty. Loss of power, downed trees and tree limbs and palm fronds, flooded streets, lack of services – no thank you, I’ll get out of town.
There is too much emphasis placed on the strength of the storm. “It’s only a Category 1, no need to worry,” is a common sentiment. To get a feeling for what a Category 1 storm feels like, drive your car 70 mph with the windows down during a driving rain storm. Then decide whether it’s nothing.

The trouble with Isaac, as it was with Jeanne in 2004, is that if even a Category 1 storm moves slowly it dumps huge amounts of rain on an area. The biggest problems aren’t necessarily from wind strength; flooding can cause more problems than wind damage.
Water saturates the ground, weakening the support system for tree roots, and making it easier for the wind to lift the trees out of the ground. Living on the Treasure Coast, I saw the damage to the citrus crop from Frances and Jeanne. The water sat and damaged the roots; the wind abraded the fruit and scarred it, which made it okay for canneries and cattle but less so for eating out of hand – pretty fruit makes it to market, ugly fruit goes for juice.

Hurricane reporting is so much better than it was 10 years ago, but people need to make their decision on worst case scenario. Rely on your desire, or lack thereof, to stay housebound for days on end without power if the storm is bad. If you choose to stay, be prepared; there is no obligation to find you and provide food and shelter – the city/county/state will be busy cleaning up and restoring power and other services.
Enjoy the benign embrace of Mother Nature, and be prepared for her wrath. Ignore her at your peril.