Tag Archives: suspense

…And That’s My Cover Story

Woohoo! The cover art and blurb for Book 11 are finished! As with any process where I’m involved, there have been some giggles along the way.

Rick Hand of Hand Crafted Images always makes it fun to shoot the cover photo, and luckily he’s got a great sense of humour. He needs it when he’s working with a so-called model like me.

I’ve mentioned my uncanny knack for twisting my face into the world’s goofiest expression at the precise moment the camera clicks. (At least I prefer to think I only look goofy for that instant. If it’s all the time, please don’t tell me – I prefer to cling to my illusions.)

But apparently I also have a gift for twisting my body into poses that make a photographer (and everybody else) go “WTF?!?”

For example, Rick was testing the lighting levels when I did this:

I don’t know what the hell I was thinking but apparently it was something like, “‘Scuse me while I stick this cardboard gun up my own ass. And if I place my left hand just so, it’ll look like a giant schlong hanging out the front of my jeans.

Yep, I’ve got a real gift for modelling.  It’s a lucky thing Rick’s good at arranging me because my sole talent is holding still once he’s got me in place.

Moving on to the title selection:

You probably already know that my geeky OCD personality requires spreadsheets for everything, including titles. I’ve itemized every word that rhymes with ‘spy’, along with a list of common phrases that include those words. So when it’s title time, I consider the themes in the book I’ve just written and try to match up a phrase that works.

But apparently there’s an easier way:  An app at portent.com generates titles automatically based on user-supplied keywords. So I entered ‘female spy’ and sat back to wait for the perfect title for Book 11.

Here are the contenders:

“How Female Spies Make You A Better Lover”: I do my best to make my sex scenes hot, but I didn’t realize I was providing such a valuable service to society. Go, me! *buffs fingernails against shirt and looks smug*

“Doing Female Spies The Right Way”: Is it me, or does Portent seem to have a one-track mind?

“True Facts About Justin Bieber’s Love For Female Spies”: Okay, now they’re just scaring me.

“The 12 Biggest Female Spies Blunders”: This one’s pretty appropriate since Aydan does tend to blunder into situations, but it’s not really the catchy title I had in mind.

“Why Female Spies Are The 51st Shade Of Grey”: Why Portent, you kinky thing! You’ve been peeking through my blinds again, haven’t you?

“Why Female Spies Are Scarier Than Dating Taylor Swift”: I’m not sure what level of fear we’re talking about here. It seems reasonable to be more afraid of female spies, but then again I don’t know Taylor Swift.

“Shocking Ways Female Spies Will Make You Better In Bed”: I’m sensing a theme here…

“How To Fight Lex Luthor Using Only Female Spies”: Superman, are you paying attention?

“How Female Spies Killed Kenny”: I’ve never watched an episode of South Park but apparently Kenny has died in all sorts of creative ways, so this seems plausible.

But I guess I’m just set in my ways. Despite the stellar appeal of Portent’s shortlist, I decided to stick with my spreadsheet even though one of the above titles could probably have made me famous. (Or infamous. It’s a fine line.) So voilà, Book 11:

Secret agent Aydan Kelly is hoping to resume her peaceful life as a bookkeeper, until her director issues an ultimatum: Go undercover as an arms dealer or go to jail for life. But when Aydan realizes her co-worker’s son has been taken by a serial killer, she defies orders in an attempt to save the child.

Neglecting her undercover assignment may cost more than just her freedom. When the gunrunner she’s been baiting threatens her loved ones, Aydan must choose between protecting them herself or entrusting their safety to geriatric amateur vigilantes while she closes in on the killer.

How much will she risk for a child who may already be dead?

* * *

The release date is March 18, 2016, and The Spies That Bind will be available for pre-order in about a week. If you’d like to receive an email notification when it’s available, please click here to sign up for my New Book Notification List.

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The Scariest Word: ‘Oops!’

A couple of weeks ago I was scooping ice cream out of a one-gallon pail when my hand slipped and a gob of ice cream hurtled across the kitchen to land on the floor. Not surprisingly, I yelped, “Whoa! Shit!”

Hubby looked over at the scene of the crime and said, “You know, ‘shit’ is one of those words you just never want to hear coming from the kitchen.”

That’s very true.  But after considering it for a while, I think ‘oops!’ is probably the scariest word on the planet. For instance, here are just a few of the times and places you really, really don’t want to hear anybody say ‘Oops’:

  • In the hairdresser’s chair
  • In the operating room
  • At the accountant’s office
  • At the lawyer’s office
  • Any time condoms or birth control pills are involved
  • In answer to the question, “You remember I’m allergic to (fill in the blank), right?”
  • When checking in for a flight/hotel/rental car
  • At the bank
  • In the dentist’s chair

The list (and the potential for scary situations) is virtually endless, but if you’re lucky ‘oops’ isn’t always disastrous.  I emitted a benign ‘oops’ a few days later. It was quickly followed by a facepalm, but it made me laugh because it was such a quintessentially Canadian mistake. Here’s what happened:

It’s been an unseasonably hot summer here in Calgary, and Hubby and I were driving to our garden outside the city. We had a plastic gas-can in the trunk to fuel the rototiller, and the fumes were strong (we discovered later the can was leaking, but that’s another story).

Anyway, I rolled the window down.

After a few miles, I thought to myself, “Why is it getting so warm in here?”

Uh, DUH! *facepalm*

It’s hot outside. You’re letting the air conditioning out and the hot air in, dummy.

You can tell I’m from Canada, where we always expect it to be colder outside than inside.

* * *

But that’s enough about words you don’t want to hear. Here are some words you do want to hear (at least those of you who are waiting for Book 10 to come out):

The beta readers are hard at work and I’m well into my first round of edits.  And… We have a cover and blurb!  (These aren’t finalized, so if you spot any ‘oopses’, please let me know.)

Bookkeeper-turned-secret-agent Aydan Kelly has barely begun to relax after her last mission when a shotgun-wielding man kicks in the front door of her country home. She doesn’t recognize the would-be assassin, so who hired him and why?

As evidence mounts against her abrasive co-worker, Aydan begins a deadly game of cat and mouse with herself as bait. If her suspicions are correct, the Department’s security has been breached and no one is safe.

With the lives of her dearest friends at risk as well as her own, Aydan must stop her unknown enemy before the next assassin succeeds.

More good news: I can now set up pre-orders, and all retailers will release the book on the same day. Pre-orders for Spy Away Home should be active in another couple of weeks (if you’ve signed up on my New Release mailing list, you’ll get an email when the pre-order pages go live), and it looks as though the final release date will be at the end of August. I’ll keep you posted with more details as I get them confirmed.

If you’d like to have a say in which day Spy Away Home gets released, please vote in the poll below.  Thanks for your help!

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Cow Farts And Doobies

Hubby and I were discussing cow farts the other day.

We didn’t suddenly turn to each other at the dinner table and exclaim, “Cow farts!”  No; our conversation actually began as a semi-serious discussion of global warming.  It’s just that whenever I’m present, the conversation tends to go rapidly sideways.  I blame this on my brain’s annoying tendency to latch onto useless but amusing bits of trivia.

In this case, the factoid in question was:  Cow farts are a major contributor to global warming gas emissions.  Because of the fermentation that takes place as organic matter moves through their four stomachs, large quantities of methane gas are produced.  The gas is, erm… expelled.  Human beings raise lots of cattle.  Lots of cattle equals lots of cow farts. (Update: Sadly, the Blog Fodder has pointed out below that this is only a factoid, not a true and useful fact.  But I still like the idea of farting bovine enviro-pirates.  It’s good to be a fiction writer.)

Anyway, that got me thinking about cows in general.  You know how some things are intrinsically funny?  For example, bananas are funnier than oranges.  Turnips are funnier than, say, lettuce or radishes.  And cows are funnier than horses or just about any other farmyard animal.

I think that’s partly because of another little piece of trivia that may or may not be true, but it sounds logical and I want to believe it:  Cows spend pretty much their entire lives intoxicated because alcohol is another by-product of the digestive fermentation process.  Maybe that explains why they’re so placid.  Whenever I see a cow I giggle at the thought that behind those big brown glassy eyes is an animal that might be completely snockered. (Update:  Nope, this one’s not true, either.  Bummer.)

And cattle are funny-looking.  They could have been designed by a six-year-old kid:  a big rectangular block supported by four knobby legs with a head stuck on the front.  Oh, and a tail on the back.

The tail always makes me laugh, too.  The skinny rope with a tassel on the end is funny in itself, but what truly amuses me is that cows and lions have exactly the same tail.  I don’t know whether to congratulate the cow on its badass likeness to the king of the beasts or offer my condolences to the lion for getting tagged with the same hair-handle as the ungulates.

And if you’ve ever seen a cow jump a fence (they are actually capable of jumping, though not very high), that in itself is giggle-worthy.  Unless the cattle in question are escaping your pasture, in which case it’s not very funny at all.

Anyway…

Fasten your seatbelts, ‘cause here comes a topic-swerve that’s only loosely linked to cow farts:  doobies.  (That’s a funny word in itself.)  Yes, I’m talking about bombers, joints, reefers; wacky tobaccy in general.

How is this related to cow farts?  Well, cow farts are funny.  And doobies are funny cigarettes.

Why am I making this extremely tenuous connection?

Because it’s a cheap and sleazy segue into announcing that Book 9, SPY HIGH has cover art and a release date!  Woohoo!  My beta readers blasted through it during the Christmas holidays – thanks, guys, you ROCK!  Now I only have to do some final polishing and it’ll be ready to roll out the door.  The tentative release date is January 16, 2015 (to be confirmed next week).

And yes, that is a funny cigarette on the cover…

Spy High book 9 cover

After four uneventful months spent guarding her boss’s eccentric hippy parents on an isolated raincoast commune, bookkeeper-turned-secret-agent Aydan Kelly is beginning to hope mildewed undies will be the only hazard she’ll face.

But some of the blissed-out flower children are not what they seem.  Aydan discovers a plot to kill her lovable charges, and in her fight to protect them she unearths the commune’s deepest secret.  Suddenly she’s facing dozens of enemies who threaten the lives of all the innocent commune members as well as her own.

She’ll only survive with a little help from her friends…

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Season’s Greetings!

I finished the final draft of Book 9, SPY HIGH, on Sunday and the first beta reader is already finished – woohoo!  Now I’m looking forward to a week of family, food, and festivities.  Merry Christmas if you celebrate it, and general merriness to you if you don’t!

snowscape

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Hello From Planet Innuendo

Apparently Mercury was retrograde from June 7 to July 1, which astrologers say is supposed to cause general chaos.  I don’t know much about astrology, but if there’s a planet that governs accidental double entendres, it’s definitely exerting its influence this week.

Friday night I was sitting in the pub with the usual suspects, regaling the crew with tales of our recent search for a good used RV.  I had only one requirement:  a queen-size bed with some space around it.  I didn’t care about the kitchen or living area or anything else.  Just the bed.

(Those of you with dirty minds are getting ahead of me… oh, never mind; whatever you’re thinking, you’re probably right.)

Anyway, we found a trailer Hubby really liked, with a nice big living space and kitchen, only seven years old, yadda, yadda.  But the bedroom was designed for a double bed.  The current owners had put in a queen mattress, but that left only a few inches between it and the wall.  You could still squeeze in, but only if you had skinny legs.  Grrr.

Now back to the pub scene…

Fuelled by some very tasty beer, I was expounding upon the idiocy of the designer who planned the layout of a huge trailer without allowing for a queen-size bed.

“Goddammit,” I ranted.  “It’s a thirty-one-foot trailer, for shit’s sake!  It’s not like the guy who designed it didn’t have any space to work with!  I can’t believe he couldn’t give me just six more inches in the bedroom!”

My rant was completely derailed when my buddy Chris burst out laughing.  “You want six more inches in the bedroom?” he sputtered.  “That sounds like a blog post.  But I want credit!”

So here you go, Chris – this is your five minutes of fame.

After we dried our tears of laughter, the conversation wandered as it usually does and we got talking about cars and buying gas and the oddball sensor in my car that requires the gas cap to be cranked around several times after it’s tightened to prevent the ‘check engine’ light from coming on.

My friend Swamp Butt spoke up:  “Our new car doesn’t have a gas cap at all.  It’s so easy to fuel up.  You just stick it in, pull it out, and you’re done!”

More raucous laughter ensued.

But Planet Innuendo still wasn’t finished with me.  The Calgary Stampede is on now, so everything around here is western-themed.  And wouldn’t you know it; the patron saint of dirty minds blessed me with another gift this weekend:  a completely serious ad from a staid and reputable company, exhorting me to “Celebrate the cowboy in you.”

I might have let that pass if not for the fact that I’d just finished reading an article about how all the health clinics brace for the annual surge in syphilis cases during Stampede.  Save a horse; ride a cowboy!  Give the gift that keeps on giving!  Yaaa-hooo!!!

Needless to say, I laughed myself silly(er).

Did anybody else notice the effects of Planet Innuendo this week, or was it just me?

P.S.  The word ‘innuendo’ always gives me a childish snicker, too.  It sounds like the Godfather describing a sex act:  “In-U-end-o”…

* * *

Speaking of celebrations, I’m celebrating the upcoming release of Spy Now, Pay Later by giving away two signed paperback copies!  If you’d like to enter to win one, here’s the contest link:  https://blog.dianehenders.com/do-you-know-me/book-8-giveaway/.

Look for the first e-book versions of Spy Now, Pay Later at Smashwords and Amazon on July 17.  As usual, Kobo, Nook, and Apple versions will show up later than Smashwords and Amazon… but my distributor promises me they’ve improved their system and it should only be a few days instead of a few weeks.  Time will tell, but regardless, I’ll email notifications to everybody who’s signed up on my new book notification list.

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MWF Seeking Woman With Gun

This week I’m working on the cover art for the sixth book of my series, and I’m wading through images that range from OMG to WTF and everything in between.

As you may have noticed, the visual theme for the Never Say Spy series is “woman with gun”.  Try searching that phrase on a stock photo site.  You won’t believe the range of results.  Apparently there’s an enormous need for stock photos of women from all walks of life holding firearms.

Brides, women in schoolgirl uniforms, soldiers, police officers, business women, rednecks, slutty cops in lingerie, bikini models in sky-high heels, punks, cowgirls, pregnant women, pioneers, spies, pirates, Cossacks, construction workers, Muslim women, duck hunters, and female SWAT personnel are just a few of the variations I’ve found.

Wardrobe choices range from leather, lace, fur, camo, denim, and spandex to more unusual garb like plastic wrap, tartan micro-minis, hard hats, headscarves, men’s pajama tops, parkas, sailor suits, a Napoleon uniform, metallic gold body paint, and nothing but a hat.

Clearly most of these women have never actually fired a gun, though it would be fun to watch them try using those grip positions.  And maybe I’m just a strait-laced old lady, but I’ve never felt the urge to shoot in the nude (or even wearing a nice conservative string bikini).  I prefer to keep my tender parts covered when there are hot brass cartridges flying around.  I guess I’m just a wimp.

Weapon choices vary wildly.  There are the usual assault rifles, semi-auto pistols, shotguns, revolvers, and air rifles, but bananas seem to be an extremely popular choice of weapon, too.  I wonder if the gun control advocates realize that these deadly weapons are readily available in every supermarket, stored within easy reach of children.  It’s shocking, I tell you.

If you’re looking for more unusual weapons, there are dangerous-looking women brandishing paintball guns, water pistols, fingers, hair dryers, tattoo guns, drills, cannons, gasoline nozzles, muskets, flintlocks, nerf guns, cameras, caulking guns, or a heavy-duty perforator.  If I ever write a thriller about construction workers, I’m gonna use the photo of the blonde with the hard hat and perforator.  That chick’s got muscles.

And… in all the thousands of photos retrieved by searching “woman with gun”, there was one picture of a cowed-looking young guy in a shirt and tie, holding a little-bitty gun and looking apologetic.  I’m not sure whether the photo was tagged wrong or whether they popped that one in there just for fun, but I got a good laugh out of it.

Which was nice, because I figured they owed me after making me look at a naked woman posing with a bleeding, severed pig’s head.  No matter what you need, there’s a stock photo out there for you.  Though if you need that one, please don’t tell me.  I’d rather sleep tonight.

But I really can’t complain.  There are worse ways to spend a day than looking at pictures on the internet while blasting my favourite tunes.

I’m off to work now…

What are you up to today?  Brandishing your banana?  Decapitating pigs?  Do tell.

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It Was A Dark And Stormy Night…

Well, not really.  It was dark, but it was calm.  Unlike me.  I was scared shitless.  I wouldn’t admit it, but I was pumping adrenaline and wondering if we were all going to live through this.

Dad was carrying the double-barrelled shotgun, my new boyfriend was in the middle, and I brought up the rear with a flashlight.

This is a true story.

It all started with the old barn on our farm.  It was a creaky, drafty structure with missing boards and broken windows.  There were still some bales in the hayloft, and as kids, we often played up there.  We knew enough to avoid the rotten spots in the floor, and it was a private place where we could spend the afternoon with our Barbie dolls, or, more frequently in my case, shooting at bales with a bow and arrows.

It was great, except for the turds.

Big turds.  Man-sized turds lying in the straw over in one corner.  And there were flattened-down areas in the straw.  We’d fluffed it up the last time we played there.  We knew we hadn’t flattened it.

Sometimes when we played in the lower part of the barn, the loft creaked overhead with the rhythm of stealthy footsteps.

We never talked about it.  Sometimes we stayed out of sheer bravado, hovering wide-eyed near the door for a quick escape if necessary.  Sometimes we tacitly decided to play elsewhere.  I never mentioned this to our parents because I refused to admit I was scared.

I’d always thought my nervousness around the barn was childhood foolishness until I brought my new boyfriend home from university years later.

It was a moonless night in October.  The trees were bare skeletons and the yard was shrouded in the profound darkness and silence of a secluded prairie farm.  Inside the farmhouse, it was warm and bright.  I don’t remember how it came about, but Dad rose and loaded the shotgun.

We had a plan.

We would sneak up on the barn.  Dad would be ready with the shotgun, my boyfriend would fling the barn door open, and I would flip the switch to turn on the three remaining light bulbs in the cavernous lower level.

We crept across the yard.  Took up our silent positions outside the barn.

Dad gave the nod, swinging the shotgun up like the deadly trap-shooter he was.  The door flew open with a bang.  The lights flashed on…

And nothing was there.

I trembled my way back to the house, and the conversation remained subdued for the rest of the evening.  My boyfriend showed a certain reluctance to visit after that.

I felt validated to think Dad shared my suspicions about the barn, but I don’t know whether he actually expected to have to use the shotgun, or if it was just a convenient way to keep an upstart boyfriend in line.

I never asked him.  And he never told.

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