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Pervs in Duluth
Readers often ask me how I come up with the quirky characters or wacky situations included in my short stories and novels. I usually mumble “imagination” or some other cliché. Truth be told? I am as weird as any of my characters, and just as deluded. I’ve always been that way. From my experience at a Mennonite college where I decided to host a male beauty pageant and somehow convinced three Mennonite young men to burn their underwear in protest -- to the fact that on my way to a mystery convention my pants fell to the ground as soon as I walked into a crowded truck stop. My art doesn’t just mimic my life, it taunts it. But sometimes writing about the strange things that continually happen to me helps me to heal. Or at least understand. Or, if nothing else, makes someone chuckle. Someday the following will turn into a fiction piece you may recognize. But for now, it’s unfortunately fact.
My husband and I headed to Duluth, Minnesota for the Thanksgiving holiday. We wanted to celebrate it alone, sequestered in a plush hotel suite that overlooked Lake Superior. The hotel we checked into was a few blocks from the lake, but the view was still amazing. The shimmering lake was in the distance. The skyline features the lights other small hotels and even the backdoor of the jazz/topless dancer club had a really, cool green door. There was also a parking lot directly across the street from our third floor room.
The night we checked in, I was staring out of the bedroom window. I noticed movement three floors below in a car parked in the parking lot that faced our hotel. My eyes are getting worse every day as I age, but I was able to make out a tuft of white hair and something black. Binoculars? Was the creep using binoculars? I continued staring for a few minutes. By now the white head seemed to staring back at me. I moved to the left, he/she moved to the left. I moved to the right, ditto. At first I was amused because, frankly, I am too old to be ogled. Then I got annoyed. Perverts in Duluth? We came up here to get away from the big city, people and pervs.
I yelled at my husband Steve to come into the bedroom. I pointed out what was happening. He looked out, but couldn’t see very far either. It didn’t help that the fog was rolling in, or it was dark. He mentioned he saw something, but he wasn’t concerned. Of course not, I reminded him, because it wasn’t him being stared at. That started the “If you wouldn’t act like it was Mardi Gras” conversation, comebacks, quips, and eventual rolling of eyes that happens in a 27-year old marriage.
I kept stressing that someone having binoculars in a hotel parking lot was a reason to be concerned. There were other women staying there as well. Since he was going on a walk, I suggested he check it out. I didn’t even think of calling the police.
I stepped away from the window, went into the living room to read. Steve left for his walk. Ten minutes later he returned. As soon as he opened the door he demanded, “Follow me. I want to show you who was peeping at your breasts.” (I hadn’t said that but it was kind of nice he thought someone still wanted to look.)
We walked to the bedroom window and he pointed down at the creepy car. He said, “See that? That white hair? It’s a big white dog. And the black you kept seeing? It was probably his nose.”
My immediate response, “Did they leave the window open?”
Steve answered, “Yeah, a little. And actually he’s a pretty friendly dog. Watch him watch every car and person walking down the street.” And we did for a bit, now that we knew who the pervert was.
A few hours later I asked Steve, “So did you break out laughing when you saw that it was a dog that was staring at me?”
Steve always refuses to smile, but I could tell was forcing himself not to when he answered solemnly, “No, but I was really looking forward to coming back up here to tell you who was checking you out.’
The Next Big Thing
My good friend Lois Greiman asked me a few questions about the Next Big Thing in my life. So here goes.
What is the Working Title of Your Book? Murder by Chance (actually that’s the title. I am currently not working on a project I’d like to announce. But the publication of my next novel is a big deal, to me.)
Where did the idea come from? For several years I worked as an entertainer on tour busses heading to casinos in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Approximately thirty minutes before the bus arrived at its destination, the tour host would introduce me. I’d stand up at the front of the bus, microphone in hand. I’d do my stand-up comedy routine until we arrived at the casino. Truthfully, they were some of my best shows. Comedy is meant to be intimate and the smaller the room, the better the performance. You can’t get too much closer to an audience than being in an interior of a bus. On the way to the casino, everyone was in a great mood. Happy, chatty, hopeful, all of them convinced they would hit the jackpot. On the way back, not so much. The mood was much different and as an entertainer you learned to sit at the back of the bus, hidden behind a newspaper. Although some folks did come out a winner, most did not. Still, time and again I’d see the same people riding the bus, hoping to make their dreams come true. I too am a gambler and usually lost most of my comedy salary at whatever casino we landed at. Still, I look back at those days as some of the best days of my life. And because I always thought it would be fun to be a tour host, I eventually became one via my book. My main character is Betty Chance, whose husband left her for an older, fatter woman. She’s broke, unemployed but a strong believer in Oprah’s “do what you love and the money will follow” philosophy. Because Betty loves to both gamble and eat, she opens not only a tour business that specializes in casino junkets, but reviews casino buffets on her blog.
What genre best defines this book? This is a traditional mystery with a touch of culinary mystery to spice it up.
Which Actors would play roles? Cathy Bates, Camryn Manheim, or Octavia Spencer as Betty. For the role of the mind reader/ casino entertainer Boris? I’d choose Daniel Craig. Of course the character looks nothing like Daniel Craig or even remotely acts like him. That casting and it’s subsequent fantasy casting couch is just for me and me alone. Sigh.
What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book? Know what? I haven’t even thought about how to condense it…so I won’t. But it’s about being left in your fifties, reclaiming yourself, the importance of friendship, gambling,losses, murder, and of course, all-you-can eat buffets.
Will it be self-published or represented by a traditional agent? It is being published by Forty Press. I submitted to them directly, via a recommendation that I do so by Once Upon A Crime’s Pat Frovarp.
How long did it take to write the first draft? Probably around a year.
Who or what inspired writing the book? I have no idea why I keep on writing books that until now did now sell. I have had very little success commercially, a few short stories here and there. Oh, and HOTDISH TO DIE FOR which has sold a remarkable 25,000 copies…pretty good for a self-published collection of short stories. I earned way more with comedy than I ever did with writing. And according to my husband, I would have earned way a regular, 9 to 5 job. But, being a writer is just what I am. It’s in my DNA, and though I have fought it all my life by not doing it, the urge to scribble pops up every now and then. It’s kind of like this creative virus that lives on its own, saying “look at me” every once in a while.
Side Note: I couldn’t convince any of my friends to do The Next Big Thing interview, not one. Why? I found out they’ve already been asked by other writers to do it, and most of them did. Once again, I was the last girl to be invited to the prom. Still, you may want to read their entertaining blogs. Anne Frasier Aka Theresa Weir’s Monkey with A Pen, Marilyn Victor’s Backyard Views, Sujata Massey’s blog, and Barbara Lindquist Schlichting’s First Lady Blog