“You Seem Like Such A Nice Person…”

The other day I was talking to an acquaintance who mentioned that he was almost finished my latest book (Spy In The Sky).  He said he was enjoying it just like he had the previous ones; but then he added, “You always seem like such a nice person, and then I’m reading your books with all that sex and violence…”  He trailed off.

I wasn’t quite sure how to respond.

I guess it’s good to be seen as a nice person; although ‘you seem like a nice person’ is a very different statement than ‘you are a nice person’.  But that unfinished sentence sounded a lot like it might be completed by, “…and then I realized you’re actually just a scary pervert, gotta-go-goodbye-don’t-call-me!” 

Come to think of it, he didn’t stick around long after saying that, either.  Hmmm.

I generally keep a tight rein on my dirty mind and potty mouth when I’m in public because I don’t like to upset people unnecessarily.  But then new acquaintances think that’s what I’m really like; and nothing could be further from the truth. 

I mean, I like to think I am basically a nice person:  I try to be kind and patient, I offer a helping hand and a listening ear wherever needed, I donate and volunteer, and I’ve never once eaten a kitten or puppy for breakfast.  Or any other meal (or snack).

But when the wrench slips off the bolt and my knuckles hit solid steel at high velocity, nobody would ever call me ‘nice’.  ‘Shockingly vulgar and potentially violent’, maybe.

So that’s my dilemma:  Is it better to horrify and repel new acquaintances by letting it all hang out right off the bat?  (That’s ‘letting it hang out’ in the linguistic sense, not the physical – I do have some boundaries.)  Or should I lull people into a false sense of security, only to shock the shit out of them later?

I’ll let the philosophers decide…

Update: I’ve known this acquaintance for a while, and he has an offbeat sense of humour. He was teasing, and I thought the whole thing was funny. I meant this post to be funny, too; but realized afterward that it might be misconstrued. I hope nobody was upset; and if so, I’m very sorry. I should have mentioned that I was chuckling while I wrote this! 🙂

Hamster-Brain

Well, it’s that time of the book cycle again:  The days after releasing a book when the busy hamster that powers my brain is still churning his little legs frantically, but there’s a big sadistic hand preventing the hamster-wheel from turning. 

My poor brain-hamster dashes up the side of the unmoving wheel only to plop unceremoniously to the bottom and start all over again, panting and wheezing. I wish the stupid little rodent would just give up and stagger over to curl up in the shavings for a snooze.

But, no.  During the day I rocket from one task to the next, trying to catch up on all the things I left undone during the final publishing push.  I’m tired and ready to sleep by the end of the day; but unfortunately, hamsters are nocturnal. 

As soon as my body gets horizontal, the hamster-wheel in my head accelerates to warp-speed, spitting out to-do lists and urgent reminders of upcoming deadlines both real and imagined.  (I’m pretty sure that’s what’s been causing the squeaking noise I hear in my head at night.  Or possibly I have bats in my belfry.)

But Book 16 should be released in paperback sometime in the next week or so, and I’ll start to recover from “hamster-brain”. And my usual spring gardening frenzy should ease off in a couple of weeks, too. Then I’ll take some time to rest and let my starved brain gorge on some new reading before I start plotting Book 17.

Which means… I NEED BOOKS! 

Any suggestions? My ideal binge-read would be a thriller series with humour in it, but I’ll read just about any fiction if the characters are likeable and it gives me a chuckle.  (And no killing off the good guys!) Thrillers, mysteries, cozies, sci-fi, paranormal, fantasy, mashups of any of the above; you name it, I’ll read it.  I’m not big on horror, mostly because “funny” and “horror” rarely overlap. Romance, women’s fiction, and chick lit aren’t really my thing, either; but I do occasionally read in those genres.

So if there’s a book (or better still, a series) you love, please mention it in the comments below. I’d appreciate any recommendations you can offer!  (Book recommendations and/or advice on how to wean my brain-hamster off its addiction to exercise.)  😉

Dinosaurs and Unicorns, Oh My!

You know how modern science can now determine how much Neanderthal DNA we have in us? Well, I’ve got a new revelation for them: Apparently I have dinosaur and unicorn DNA.

I determined this through rigorous scientific investigation, of course: I studied my own hair follicles.

As you may have heard, some dinosaurs probably had feathers. A feather’s structure consists of a stalk with downy stuff attached to it. Well, guess what? I’m growing those. Out of my chin.

I realize this is probably far more information that you wanted to know; but it’s true: I have two follicles that each grow a short, stiff, pure-white feather. Even though I’ve yanked them out the instant they appear, over and over for the past few decades, they still haven’t given up. That dinosaur DNA is tough stuff.

On the unicorn side, one has only to look at my forehead to spot the evidence. As people age, it seems as though their eyebrows either slowly disappear or else attempt a hostile takeover. Mine are the latter type — if I didn’t break out the hedge trimmers regularly, I’d have dense shrubbery protruding several inches from my face.

But my unicorn horn isn’t an errant eyebrow hair. It’s special. It doesn’t generate the same tough wiry strands that threaten my scissor blades; nor does it try to take over my entire brow. Instead, it emits a single fine, silky-soft golden (or maybe that should be ‘gol-dern’) hair that grows and grows and grows from the centre of my forehead. It’s virtually invisible against my skin until it reaches such a ridiculous length that I can spot it curling softly out into space when I catch the correct angle in the mirror. And my unicorn-horn won’t quit, either, no matter how often I pluck it out.

So there you have it: Dinosaurs and unicorns do exist in the modern world; they’re just cleverly disguised as middle-aged women.

And if that’s not enough news for you, here’s some more: Book 16, Spy In The Sky is now available for pre-order at all retailers, hooray!

Book 16 of the Never Say Spy series, SPY IN THE SKY, is now available for pre-order!

Click here for retail links.

The release date is May 7, 2021 — if you want to get an email when it goes live, please click here to sign up for my New Book Notification list.

Anybody else have dinosaur or unicorn DNA?

The Big Drop

Guess what I did last week?

If you guessed ‘skydiving’, you’re right… and oh-so-wrong.

Yes, I got trussed into a tandem skydiving harness by Gord from Skydive Vancouver Island. But that’s as far as it went; although I did have a moment of panic when he finished tightening the harness and said, “So, we’ll be taking you up now?”

He took one look at my expression and burst out laughing as I yelped, “No!”

Why did I get into the harness if I wasn’t going to jump, you ask? (Okay, maybe you didn’t ask; but I’m going to tell you anyway.) Because… *drumroll* …I was doing the cover art for Book 16, which will be available for pre-order in only a few short days, hooray! The only ‘drop’ was the impending drop of the book.

Digression: I’m not sure why everybody uses ‘drop’ when referring to the release of movies or music or books these days, but here we are. I was tempted to title this post ‘The Long Drop’, but since ‘long drop’ is Aussie slang for a hole-in-the-ground toilet, I refrained. (Barely.)

Anyhow, in SPY IN THE SKY, Aydan unwillingly goes skydiving. I had a lot of fun writing those scenes, but I have to admit that my chief enjoyment came from the fact that I didn’t actually have to experience it. I’ve done most of the stunts Aydan tries in my books, but I draw the line at skydiving.

Gord told me the attachment points on the harness will hold a combined weight of 1500 pounds, and statistics say skydiving is actually safer than the drive to the airport. If I could completely, 100%, trust that the parachute would open and I’d stay attached to my instructor, I’d probably give it a try. But I have serious trust issues, so I don’t think I’ll ever jump out of a perfectly good airplane at any altitude greater than two feet.

I’m pretty sure my depiction of the experience is close, though, because Gord was kind enough to give me a crash course (sorry, couldn’t resist) in what it’s like to skydive. Many thanks to Gord and Allison for the generous donation of their time and expertise!

Would you ever skydive? Have you? Inquiring minds want to know!

To be released May 7, 2021:

When secret agent Aydan Kelly investigates a disgraced CIA agent, he insists he was only following orders.  Four days later he mysteriously dies while in custody.

Aydan suspects that a CIA director committed murder to hide his profitable connection with an international arms dealer.  As she digs deeper, Aydan knows she’s on the right track when assassins start trying to kill her.  But when the arms dealer deposits twenty million dollars in her bank account, suspicion veers toward Aydan.

With only three days left before she’s jailed for treason, Aydan fights to stay alive, capture the elusive arms dealer, and clear her name.

Want to get an email with purchasing links when pre-orders are available and when the book is officially released? Click here to sign up for my New Book Notification list.

Silver Tea and Senior Moments

My grandmother (Dad’s mother) was a poised and gracious woman. I never heard her raise her voice; never saw her make any movement that was rushed or awkward. She was unfailingly kind and polite, with a gentle sense of humour. When she finally had to enter a care home after a devastating stroke, the staff affectionately nicknamed her “Queen Bea”. It suited her perfectly.

One of her little quirks has stayed with me all my life: Her preference for ‘silver tea’.

You won’t find silver tea in any internet search, because there’s no such thing. Maybe Grandma developed her taste for it during the war(s) or the Depression years when everything was either rationed or beyond their budget, or maybe it was just her preference; but its recipe was simple: A cup of hot water.

When offered coffee or tea, she’d smile and respond with her usual humorous twinkle: “I’ll just have silver tea, thank you.” And she’d pour herself a cup of hot water from the kettle. It became one of our family quips, and to this day I often drink silver tea when I don’t feel like brewing actual tea.

But the other day I inadvertently made ‘real’ silver tea. I didn’t think that was possible, since it doesn’t actually exist; but I managed it. I always have several tea infusers on the go, and I usually get two steepings from each. I’d brewed a cup of pumpkin pie rooibos in the morning, and decided to go for Round Two in the afternoon. I grabbed the infuser, dropped it into my mug, and poured boiling water over it. A few minutes later I checked on it, only to find no pleasant spicy aroma at all.

Yep, I’d accidentally grabbed an empty infuser. I wonder if I can market that as “Steeped Silver Tea”?

Normally I’d worry that I was showing early signs of ‘senior moments’ (and yes, I’m flattering myself by pretending I’m much too young for that). But since I was in the final throes of finishing Book 16, I wasn’t too concerned. After a decade of writing novels, I’ve come to accept that I simply don’t have enough brainpower to immerse myself in writing the final chapters of a book and stay on top of all the details of daily life.

Which leads me to my big announcement for this week: The draft of Book 16 is DONE, woohoo! It’s already been passed by my first speedy beta reader, and we have a title: Spy In The Sky. I’m hard at work on a blurb and cover art, and hopefully pre-orders will be available in a couple of weeks.

And soon (with any luck) my wrung-out brain will return to normal and I’ll drink silver tea by choice instead of by accident.

What’s your favourite cup of tea?

Book 16 update: The draft is done, and beta reading and final edits are speeding along. Then it’ll be into proofreading and production. Stay tuned for a cover reveal and release date!

(Want to get an email when Spy In The Sky is available? Click here to join my New Book Notification list.)

Riddles And Chicken Earlobes

“I live in a house with no windows or doors. If I want to leave, I have to break through a wall. What am I?”

When I sat down to write the draft for this post, my mind was blank. Back in the days when I actually had human contact, I didn’t have much trouble writing blog posts — I could talk about something funny I’d seen, or tell somebody else’s great joke, or report on my latest ‘should-have-been-uneventful’ comedy of errors. But comedic opportunities dwindle when your biggest outing is going to the lab for blood tests.

So I looked to the internet for ideas. It’s been years since I encountered riddles; so when I found a page of them, I spent far too much time scratching my head over the clues and giggling at the answers. (And occasionally groaning. Not all riddles are good.)

I was stumped by the one at the top of the page, and I had to peek at the answer to discover that it’s “a baby chick”. Which (by way of a particularly twisty rabbit-hole) led me to discover… chicken earlobes.

I didn’t know chickens had earlobes. I didn’t even think they had ears. I mean, I knew they had earholes; but earlobes? I love learning new and useless facts, so I followed that rabbit-hole a bit farther and discovered that a hen’s feather colour doesn’t affect the colour of the eggs it lays — it’s the colour of her earlobes that matters. Chickens with white earlobes lay white eggs; chickens with red or brown earlobes usually lay brown (or other coloured) eggs. Who knew?

I realize this is not earth-shattering news, but it was a bright spot in my admittedly monotonous daily routine. I’m SO close to finishing Book 16 now! My entire world is focused on those last few chapters, and (dare I say it) I may even write “The End” in a couple of weeks!

But, just in case chicken earlobes aren’t as fascinating to normal people as they were to me, here are some other bright spots from around our place this week:

Crocuses of every colour!

Lovely little snowdrops surrounded by heather

Adorable minnow daffodils

Botanical tulips no bigger than the crocuses

I think these giant crocuses nestled in the cranesbill geranium leaves are actually bigger than the botanical tulips.

And just for good measure, here’s a riddle about a bright spot from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: “A box without hinges, key, or lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid.”

Book 16 progress: I’m on Chapter 46 and Aydan is scrambling to face threats from all directions. Arnie and John have her back as always, but there are some things even they can’t fix…

Answer to the final riddle: “an egg”. Yes, I apparently have chickens on my mind. Does that make me a bird-brain?

P.S. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

It Fell From The Sky

Several months ago, before there was snow on the ground (yes, we had snow; stop laughing), I looked out the front window one morning and saw a rabbit’s foot. Clearly not a lucky one, since it had been recently detached from the rabbit.

I’ve never been squeamish, but I have to admit that being confronted by a dismembered limb first thing in the morning was a bit… disconcerting. (Although probably not as disconcerting as it was for the victim.)

I grew up on a farm, so this wasn’t the first time I’d discovered evidence of some predator’s successful hunt; but it was unique in that there were no other signs of carnage. No tufts of fur flung wide, no other remains, nothing. That was what weirded me out: The fact that the leg had apparently dropped from the clear blue sky.

A moment’s thought reminded me that we now live in eagle habitat, so after that it wasn’t too hard to guess who ate the rest of the rabbit. Still, it was a bit disturbing.

But life went on (for us; not the rabbit), and a couple of weeks later we poured a concrete pad in front of our house, effectively interring the rabbit remains. All was forgotten.

Until two weeks ago, when I looked out the front window and saw this:

Hubby and I had each taken a walk and followed different paths several yards apart. Neither of us dropped or threw anything. So… what’s that divot in the snow, at least six feet away from the nearest footprints?

I ventured over with some reluctance to check it out, but there were no grisly remains. So either we have a tiny volcanic vent in front of our house, or else the eagle flew over again and dropped something a little more *ahem* liquid in that spot.

Meanwhile, I’m happy to report that the snow is gone, and spring is on its way. Our crocuses are blooming (at least the ones that managed to escape our hungry squirrels), and we are the proud proprietors of a penis garden. It’s more work than you might think: We have to be vigilant about turning it every day to make sure the sprouting schlongs don’t develop a permanent curvature.

I didn’t want to post anything pornographic, so instead of the original flock of phalluses, here’s the end result:

The amaryllis garden in its (mostly) post-porn phase

What’s popped up in your world this week?

Book 16 progress: I’m on Chapter 42 and Aydan has finally discovered who’s trying to kill her; but now a sniper isn’t the worst of her problems. Things are getting complicated…

Wait, Who Is This?

One of the cool things about being a fiction writer is that I’m constantly learning new things.  Some are interesting and useful; some are boring but necessary; and a few are downright disturbing.  Sadly, the disturbing ones can never be purged from my brain.  (Like the photo of the naked woman holding a severed pig’s head that I discovered back in 2013 when I was looking for cover art for Book 6.  Why?  Why???)

But mostly my new discoveries are fascinating and fun.  F’rinstance, until I decided to publish the Never Say Spy series as audiobooks, I knew nothing about ‘voice artists’.  My narrator, Michelle Armeneau, has opened my eyes (or rather, ears).

What a talent!  She makes each character’s voice distinctive by subtly modulating the pitch, cadence, accent, speed, and forcefulness of her speech.  I’m blown away by her ability to create unique voices, because I have absolutely zero vocal ability.  I don’t have a great track record with voice recognition, either.

I have a few friends with similar voices who occasionally phone and start chatting without identifying themselves.  If I’ve grabbed the phone without checking the call display, it can get awkward. When somebody’s yakking away like we’re best friends (and I’m pretty sure we are), I’m embarrassed to stop them and ask, “Wait, who is this?”

Plus, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by not recognizing their voice, so I try to figure out who it is by the context of the conversation. Usually that works, but sometimes it backfires badly when I’m long minutes into the conversation and still have no idea who’s on the other end of the line.

Then I have to do the Talk of Shame: “Um, hey, it’s been great gabbing to you all this time, but… I have no idea who you are.”  I’m sure most normal people don’t have this problem, but ‘normal’ is another one of those admirable qualities that seems beyond my grasp.

Anyway, Michelle and I have always communicated via email, and a few weeks ago we decided to have our first phone conversation.  I’d like to proudly point out that, having just finished reviewing eleven hours of Michelle’s narration, I recognized her voice instantly.

I’d like to point that out; but I can’t.  The truth is that if I hadn’t been expecting her call at the appointed time, I wouldn’t have known who it was.  I thought her speaking voice would be the same as her narrative voice, but that’s yet another persona.  I’m in awe!

And a bit worried.  If she ever decides to mess with me, she could call me with a different voice every day and I’d be doomed to repeat the Talk of Shame over and over.

Fortunately, she’s far too nice to do that.  And she’s far too busy to waste time on prank calls — she’s hard at work narrating Book 4.

Yes, it’s true: Book 3 is now available in audiobook, and Book 4 is under way – woohoo!  Thanks, Michelle!

Get REACH FOR THE SPY on Audible

Middle-aged bookkeeper Aydan Kelly never wanted to moonlight as a spy, but she doesn’t have a choice. Working with computer networks in a secured building sounds safe, but it turns out the job’s a killer – literally.

When Aydan’s trusted co-worker is shot while committing an apparently treasonous act, Aydan embarks on a secret mission to clear his name.

But her investigation casts suspicion on the director of operations himself. If he’s a double agent, Aydan’s in more danger than she ever imagined…and national security hangs in the balance. 

Dishing The Dirt

Wow, the last few months have been so crazy-busy, I feel like I’ve been living under a large rock.  I kinda look as though I have, too.  I’d like to blame the COVID-19 isolation for my dishevelled appearance; but with gardening season in full swing, well… even basic personal hygiene seems a bit futile.

I get up, shower, and sit down at the breakfast table all shiny-clean. Mere hours later, I’m caked with dirt, soaked in sweat, and greasy with sunscreen. My fingernails are pitch-black crescents, and I have hat-head worthy of a clown show or a horror movie.  (Is there really a difference between the two?)

Here’s the embarrassing truth:  I’m perfectly happy like that. What’s more, I love wearing old clothes because I don’t have to worry about wrecking them. I’ve been wearing the same gardening jeans for at least fifteen years. They’ve been exposed to so much sunlight that they’re almost white, except where they’ve been permanently stained by dirt, engine grease, paint, caulking, glue, and/or other unnamed substances. They’ve fallen apart and been sewn back together so often that even their patches have patches.

But they’re comfortable.  And I live out in the sticks so nobody can see me; and even if they do see me and judge me, they’re far enough away that I don’t know they’re doing it.  So it’s all good.

Problem is, that kind of laid-back comfort gets insidious.  If I’m not careful, I’ll become that stinky old lady with the tattered clothes, matted hair, and feral expression, who shows up at the grocery store twice a year to buy staple foods before vanishing back into the dilapidated hovel whence she came.

Fortunately Hubby is much more civilized than I, and he somehow manages to stay clean(ish) no matter what he does.  So I have a model for normal human behaviour; and at least I’m still capable of cleaning up when it’s time for cover photos (albeit with a big assist from Photoshop).

Which, of course, is my ever-so-subtle segue to dishing today’s dirt:

It’s release day for Book 15, A SPY FOR HELP, woohoo!  (And whew.  It’s finally done! But the next book is already knocking at my mental doors…)

Off-duty secret agent Aydan Kelly knows she shouldn’t interfere when her lover finally locates his long-lost sister, but she’s afraid Arnie’s too upset to stay on the right side of the law.

Arnie’s sister has been outed in a social media firestorm, and threats against her escalate to a violent attack.  Aydan and Arnie rush to her rescue, only to discover she’s being targeted by a powerful crime lord from her unsavory past.  As danger mounts, Aydan realizes Arnie will do anything to save his sister… including murder.

Caught between love and legality, Aydan faces an unthinkable choice:  Risk her career and freedom by turning a blind eye to Arnie’s deadly plan, or save the crime lord and condemn Arnie to prison and his sister to death.

Click here for links to retailers

More Juggling (But Not With Fish)

September is shaping up to be a crazy month!  (Lucky I’m crazy enough to deal with it.)  I’m still picking piles of fruit and veggies from the garden, and we’re busily socking it away to enjoy throughout the winter.  The considerable overflow goes to our friends and neighbours as well as the Food Bank.

We might have been just a teeny bit over-enthusiastic when we were planting the garden, but… look at all this glorious food!

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

A single picking of tomatoes. (I pick a couple of times a week.)

 

Ten gallons of chopped carrots all ready for the freezer.

 

50 pints of pickles, 22 pints of jam, 7 pints of salsa, 28 pints of beans (another 20 pounds frozen), 24 pints of tomatoes and lots to go, and still a bit of space left for the rest of the beets and tomatoes and pickled hot peppers. YUM!

 

But our autumn isn’t only about food.  The flowers are still gorgeous, too, and the bees and other wildlife are hard at work stocking their own pantries:

This little black bear has been feasting on the wild cherries only a few hundred feet from our house. Don’t be fooled by his casual pose — he’s actually about 30 feet up a tree. (He’s a little blurry because Hubby took this shot using a LONG zoom — we have a healthy respect even for small bears!)

 

This little guy has been hard at work snipping off pine cones and stashing them away.

 

I’m not sure whether it was my camera or the tiny white spider (near the centre of the flower) that chased this bee off the zinnia. Either way, he’s buzzing off.

 

The snapdragons are still putting on a show.

 

One of our newest rhododendrons, Medusa, is a bit confused as to whether it’s spring or fall, but she’s beautiful anyway!

 

We’ll have a couple more rounds of houseguests this month, so maintaining my writing schedule for Book 15 will be a juggling act.  (Fortunately not with fish.)  To salvage some time I’ll dial back my blogging schedule to every second week for the month of September, so my next post will be September 18.

How’s your September shaping up?  Are you harvesting any goodies from your garden?

Book 15 update:  I’m bombing along on Chapter 4!  Hellhound would normally be voted “Most Likely To Get Arrested While On Vacation”, but Aydan’s the one who’s ended up in handcuffs…