…And I Missed It.

Update Jan. 23/22: Just a heads-up — I didn’t mean to scare anybody off the booster shot, and I’m sorry if I did. I’m just a freak, and I’ve reacted hard to ALL the shots, including the booster. Meanwhile, Hubby and all my friends just breezed through it. So don’t be afraid — if your first two shots went fine, your booster should, too. 🙂

*

Well, it’s been an interesting couple of weeks… as far as I know. To be honest, I was stoned and I missed it.

I knew in advance that I wasn’t going to enjoy my COVID booster shot. My second shot had made me feel as though somebody had thumped me in the back for a day, and my arm hurt for three days. So when I woke up at midnight feeling like I’d been repeatedly kicked in the armpit with a pointy-toed shoe, I wasn’t surprised. I took an acetaminophen and went back to bed to tough it out. Next came pain in every joint. Then fever. For the next twenty-four hours, I watched the clock and gulped acetaminophen at the exact minute my next dose was allowed.

I almost never take acetaminophen, and I was surprised at how dopey it made me. I guess it wasn’t a bad thing in retrospect: I was miserable, but at least I was stoned. I didn’t even bother trying to work that day; just lay around and binge-read. After four books and most of the day, the fever subsided and I went to bed knowing the worst was over.

The next day I was fine, except that somebody had apparently sneaked into our bedroom overnight and replaced my armpit lymph nodes with red-hot pebbles. Painful, but an improvement overall.

Until the insanely itchy rash appeared.

No good ever came from a conversation that begins with “Let me tell you about my rash”, so I won’t. But it turns out that antihistamines make me even dopier than acetaminophen. For most of the day, I stayed in the kitchen baking because I had to stay on my feet. If I stopped moving, my eyelids dropped shut. And I read the recipes VERY CAREFULLY. Over and over. Even though I’ve been making them at least once a month for the past couple of decades. Yes, I was that stoned.

But I’m pretty sure I was doing it wrong, because these guys look like they were having ’way more fun than me:

(I’ll have what they’re having, please.)

Anyhow, I’m finally back to normal; or as normal as I ever get. So, hmmm… I wonder what I should do for a high this week?

Marijuana is legal here, so I guess I could try that; but I’ve heard it causes the munchies. I have a permanent case of the munchies even when I’m stone-cold sober, so that could get scary. If my next post contains nothing but a photo of me nesting in a pile of empty Doritos bags with a beatific smile and crumbs all over my face, you’ll know what happened.

Actually, y’know what? Maybe I’ll skip the weed and go straight to guacamole corn chips. And Cheezies. And sour-and-cream-and-onion potato chips… Mmmm… now that’s my kind of high!

What’s your “food drug” of choice?

Book 17 update: Despite my ongoing back problems and my chemically-altered downtime, I still managed to make a bit of writing progress. I’m on Chapter 12, and charming liar Ian Rand has just messed with Aydan… again.

“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! 🙂

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.)

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. 

The Smarter I Think I Am…

One of the blessings/curses of being a fiction writer is that I spend a lot of time surfing the internet for my research.  (Other people waste time on the internet, but I’m doing research.  Honest.)

I’ve gone down all sorts of rabbit holes, but it really messed with my mind the day I discovered illusory superiority and the Dunning-Kruger Effect.  Dunning and Kruger’s tests showed that the less competent a person is in any given field, the more likely they are to think they’re an expert.

Yep, the dumber we are, the smarter we think we are.  (Which explains why 90% of drivers think they’re better than average.  You math majors, stop giggling.)

When I first read about that study, I had an ‘Aha!’ moment:  At last I understand why there are so many idiots out there who think they know everything.  It’s immensely annoying to those of us who do.

Oops…

Seriously, though, I know I’m not good at everything.  In fact, I know I suck resoundingly at a lot of things. But in the things I think I do well…

What if I’m just too stupid to know the difference?

Thanks for nothing, Dunning and Kruger. You’ve made me second-guess everything I once thought I knew.  And seeking constructive criticism won’t help:  Apparently there’s another cognitive bias that lets people believe only the parts of criticism that they want to hear, while disregarding the uncomfortable bits (i.e. the information that could actually help them improve).

So now that my brain has been twisted into a particularly unattractive macrame project, I’m really glad I live out in the country so I can wander around mumbling to myself without anybody calling the nut-catchers. (Fortunately Hubby is used to me mumbling to myself, so I’ve got a free pass there.)

Anyhow…

I have no illusions of superiority in the field of graphic design.  So I’m hoping that all you brilliant readers will help me: I’m thinking of updating the covers for the Never Say Spy series.

I still like the current covers, but the latest trends lean toward lots of colour and bold fonts. Also, the current covers don’t hint that there’s a sense of humour in the stories, and I’m wondering whether a different design might draw in readers who aren’t necessarily looking for a hardcore shoot-’em-up thriller.

Here are the original and proposed covers side by side — what do you think?

Please click on the poll below to vote.  The first five questions are for everyone, and the last question is only for people who have actually read the series.  And if you have any other comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear them — please drop them in the comments section of this post.

Thank you so much for your help!  🙂

 

 

Evil Seagull Lady

The other day I was down at the ocean (and I’m still thrilled that I can get there in fifteen minutes).  This is my favourite time of year to go to the beach – the days are crisp and the tourists are gone, so it’s only me and the waves and the seagulls.

And the Seagull Lady.

An elderly woman drove up and parked as I was walking down to the water’s edge, but I didn’t pay much attention – I was focused on getting to my favourite sandbar while the sun was turning the waves blue and silver.  I made a beeline for my special spot and stood there smiling, tuning out everything but the gentle hush of the waves and the cries of the seagulls.

Except… there seemed to be more seagull cries than usual.  And they weren’t the normal squawks that seagulls emit while they’re casually flying overhead deciding whether to shit on you.  These were more urgent squeals that were easy to translate:  “Feed me!  Feed me!  Feed me!”

I glanced over to see the Seagull Lady seated on a big driftwood log holding a bread bag and surrounded by gulls.  She tossed handful after handful of bread to the greedy crew, who gobbled it up and screamed for more.

I had several thoughts in quick succession:

  1. “Aw, that nice little old lady must love gulls.  That would make a great photo, with her sitting on that big log backlit by the sun and surrounded by birds.”
  2. “Jeez, I’m glad that’s not my house right next to the parking lot.  Now I know why there are always dozens of squawking gulls and a river of birdshit on their roof.  I bet the homeowners would love to smack that nice little old lady.”
  3. “I wonder if that nice little old lady knows that bread is unhealthy for gulls and she’s not really doing them any favours?”

That’s when my brain took a hard left (as it frequently does) and kickstarted my urge to create stories of mayhem and betrayal.

My next thought was this:

“What if that little old lady actually hates gulls?  What if she’s purposely feeding them bread in the full knowledge that it will make them malnourished and less able to fend for themselves?  OMG, what if that little old lady is actually a twisted psychopath who intentionally inflicts suffering on all living things?  That would make an awesome storyline!”

…And that’s what it’s like to live inside my head.

So the next time you see a woman at the beach gazing across the waves and smiling, don’t assume she’s all zen-and-happy-meditation.  She might be devising evil plots…

*

P.S. I’m travelling, so I’ll catch up with comments later in the day.  “Talk” to you then!  🙂

Book 14 update:  I hit the 50% mark this week, hooray!  This is where the plot gets complicated…

My Life’s A Thriller

The weeks leading up to a new release are always stressful for me – so much to do!  So little time!  And after spending the last five years immersed in writing, I’ve developed a few habits that spill over into my ‘real’ life (such as it is).  For example, the habit of building as much tension as possible into even the smallest events.

Sometimes I get a little too caught up in my work…

caught up in my work

And, in other thrilling news:

First:  Is that a turtle in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?  http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/ont-man-fined-for-smuggling-nearly-40-live-turtles-in-his-pants-1.2792723

I suspect it wasn’t much of a thrill for the turtles, but, as my blogging buddy Beth Younker points out, if one of them had been a snapping turtle it might have been an exciting time for both smuggler and border guards alike.  Sadly, no snapping turtles were included, but the article does have a rather questionable reference to ‘red-eared sliders’.  Sounds like a euphemism to me…

And this:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/wynne-photo-op-goes-wrong-1.3470752. ‘Cause seriously, how often do you get to see a premier posing with a giant pink phallic object?  I doubt if it did much for her, but the media got a cheap thrill from it… and the rest of us laughed our asses off!

Any thrills in your life this week?

Pre-orders are available for Book 11: The Spies That Bind!  So far Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Apple are up, but I’m still waiting on Kobo (as usual).  As soon as they’re all available, I’ll send out an email to everyone on the New Book Notification list.  I’ll also send a second email on March 18 when the book is released. 

If you’d like to sign up for new release notifications, just click here.  (If you already signed up for a previous book, you’re still on the list unless you unsubscribed or changed your email address.)

Bouchercon Special: Free E-books

I’m honoured to have been one of the mystery/crime/thriller authors selected to promote Smashwords at Bouchercon 2015, the world mystery convention being held this weekend in Raleigh, NC.

Never Say Spy (Book 1) and The Spy Is Cast (Book 2) were included on the Smashwords USB drive given to all Bouchercon attendees.

North Carolina is a helluva long trip for most people, though, so I’m making both e-books free to everyone this weekend.  (Never Say Spy is free through all retailers, but The Spy Is Cast freebie is only available through Smashwords.)

Get the freebies from Smashwords here:

Never Say Spy (Book 1):  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/96058

The Spy Is Cast (Book 2):  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/100014 (Enter coupon code NH25H and click the ‘Apply Coupon’ button when you check out.  The price will reset to $0.00.)

Note:  This series contains coarse language and adult content.

This deal ends tomorrow (Sunday, October 11, 2015) so please spread the word.  Thanks!

 

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!