My journey with Peri and her friends

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Look over there. No. Over there.

Posted by Gayle on December 11, 2009

When I started this blog, I had three different sites to blather about different subjects. I envisioned this site as giving people news about my Peri Minneopa “mystery series” – I use the quotes because, although I’m currently writing the second book, one book doesn’t make a series. I also had a blog for talking about the writing process, and a blog for whatever popped into my head, no matter what the topic.

After a few months, all of my posts started to wind up at the same site. Peri, processes, piddly ideas out of nowhere, all drifted to On the Edge of the Chair of Literature. My updates here fell away.

So if there are any lingering readers who want to follow Peri’s adventures, plus share your ideas about writing, visit my highly maintained and updated site here. Oh, and occasionally I talk about taking the family Christmas picture.

Cheers.

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All the news in fits of print!

Posted by Gayle on February 21, 2009

I met with my (fun, funny and savvy) publisher, Karen Syed, last week and found out Freezer Burn will be officially released in September 2009. But wait, there’s more: we will have a pre-release launch party in July! I’m very excited, especially since I know just where to have it – the Backs Building at Kraemer Park. Why there? Because I can rent it for, like, fifty bucks, and it’s where the first body is discovered. Cool, huh?

So, I’ll have my big launch party in the building (I’m still thinking of creative ways to work murder, mayhem and Dean Martin music into the soiree), then I’ll invite my friends back to my house to truly enjoy Peri’s weakness for dirty martinis… and their weaknesses for beer, wine, and munchies!

Then I’ll pack up some books and head to the Gray Eagle Lodge, where I will do an event at the Lodge. Why there? Because the bartender, Mark Tieslau, suggested a dirty martini as Peri’s favorite drink. It was a perfect suggestion, in that karmic-soprano-chorus way: Peri used to have a housecleaning business, so she likes clean houses and dirty martinis. Score, yes?

In the meantime, Peri’s life as a housekeeper, and her subsequent career change, are chronicled in a short story, “Cleaning up at the Franks”, which has been included in an anthology, MISSING, from Echelon Press.

Missing

This anthology includes short stories by a lot of really good authors, and all the proceeds from the sale of this book go to benefit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. You see, in addition to being a savvy businesswoman, Karen wants to give back to the community, so each year she finds a charity that will allow us to advertise that we’re raising money for them by publishing an anthology in their honor. Last year’s THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT benefitted the families who were affected by the San Diego wildfires. This year we’re trying to help the people who find the lost. Click here to buy a copy – you’ll get to meet Peri!

Just to give you a teaser, here’s the opening sentence:

Either Grant was getting better with his aim, or he hadn’t been using this toilet for at least two days.

 

There. Now you’ve gotta figure out who Grant is and why he can’t concentrate long enough to pee in a bowl.

 

Gotta run, children. Much to do!

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Another Slide Show: One Ring to rule the mall…

Posted by Gayle on January 22, 2009

Here’s another peak into Freezer Burn, told in pictures:

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Greetings from Placentia

Posted by Gayle on January 3, 2009

I put together a slide show of the places that inspired me to set Freezer Burn in Placentia. Enjoy.

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A pleasant place to live

Posted by Gayle on November 18, 2008

I’m listening to Benny’s favorte music, The Essential Dean Martin, and trying to figure out how to explain why I set my murder mystery in Placentia, California.  A large part of it is because this has been my hometown since about 1984. I’ve never been a P.I. and never solved a murder, so I wanted at least a piece of the book to be familiar, even if it was only the territory.

But there were another few reasons for setting it here. Placentia is teeny, really, about 6.6 square miles wedged between Brea, Fullerton, Anaheim, and Yorba Linda. These are all cities at the north end of Orange County, which is south of Los Angeles. Even people who are unfamiliar with SoCal know Anaheim as the home of Angels baseball, Ducks hockey, and Disneyland. Recently, Brea and Yorba Linda have been in the news because they’ve been on fire, but it’s a helluva way to make headlines, and I don’t recommend it. Placentia rarely makes the news. And that was one of my reasons.

Many novels and movies have set themselves in tiny places, out of the way towns that no one would blink at, until scandal or tragedy hits. Then the magnifying glasses come out. “The Birds” is an excellent example. Who would even know of Bodega Bay’s existence, if not for the horrific events? So a mystery set in a small town is not exactly new territory. But why Placentia?

Because I like the town. I’m proud of it. For small acreage, it has a lot of faces, and I’d like to show them all to the world.

My last reason has to do with location. Placentia is a small fish in a big pond, and lots of fishes swim through, on their way north to Los Angeles, south to San Diego, west to the ocean, and east to the desert. In addition to freeways, we have train tracks running through town. People may not plan to visit us, but they can stop by, accidentally. So if I want Peri to solve a lot of murders, it doesn’t look suspicious to have them occur in and around Placentia. One of the endearingly funny things about “Murder, She Wrote” (a show I still love) is that there were so many people getting bumped off in Cabot Cove, Maine. By the second season, the town’s population had to have decreased by a third!

Enjoy my town. Get to know it as you follow Peri around.

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Benny

Posted by Gayle on November 13, 2008

I thought I knew Benny Needles when I plugged him into my story. He began in 2006, at the Southern California Writer’s Conference in Palm Springs. I wrote a 250-word story on the topic “Ice”. Here’s the entry:

He was the kind of man who made you want to disinfect your eyeballs when you looked at him.

“You the private dick?” His voice oozed from the doorway.

“Private investigator,” I corrected him.

The stranger slunk into my office and poured himself into a chair. Pale and thin, his wispy blond hair lay pasted against his head, making his ice-blue eyes look large and reptilian. Taking a picture out of his pocket, he threw it across my desk.

“I lost something. I need you to find it.”

I studied the picture. “It’s an ice cube tray.”

“Not just any ice cube tray,” he told me. “It’s the ice cube tray used for Dean Martin’s drinks on Ocean’s Eleven.”

I stared at him, clearly unimpressed.

“It’s signed by Dino! I paid $1500 for it on Ebay!”

“Okay, okay,” I said. “I get $100 a day, plus expenses.”

“Anything. Just find it for me.”

Taking out my notebook, I got to work. “Where did you see it last?

“In my freezer,” he said. “It’s still there somewhere, but I can’t see it for all of the ice.”

I sighed. Opening the bottom drawer, I pulled out my travel-sized hair dryer. “Give me your address,” I told him.

What the hell, I figured. It’s a paycheck.

That’s where Benny started. When I outlined my book, he was going to be that slimy little man with no redemptive qualities that Peri helps despite her better judgment. Although I wasn’t 100% certain, I was even looking at making him an amoral murderer. And then a funny thing happened.

Benny took human form. Once he started interacting with the police, his insecurities came out. His purchase of a Dean Martin ice cube tray became an obsession with Dean Martin. Peri isn’t a woman who would help out a sleazebag just for money, so I made his mother one of her first housecleaning clients. In the end, Benny wasn’t slimy at all, he was just OCD, and a social arthritic.

Of course, this meant going back to the beginning of the novel and softening Peri’s responses to his attempts at mixing in with society. And I cleaned him up a little, physically.

As for the name, I chose Benny after my uncle, who was kind of the black sheep of my dad’s family. Needles came from Needles, California – I was having one of those parallel trains of thought, remembering my grandmother’s discussion of Needles while I was thinking about character names. Mike Sirota told me I had to change it because it sounded too cartoonish. If more people had told me that, I might have, but I hardly ever do what one person says… unless it’s my hubby.

After my experience with my very first (really bad) novel, I knew that characters can be willful brats, so Benny’s conversion from slimy to misunderstood, while inconvenient, was easier for me to deal with. Now everyone loves Benny, even if I still find him a little creepy.

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Reality is becoming more real

Posted by Gayle on November 4, 2008

My editor told me that the tentative release date for my book is April 2009. Eek! Six months away! One of the things I have to figure out is my launch party – mostly, a place and a theme. As far as a place, I’ve got some ideas, but a theme? I may need some suggestions in that department.

Here are some of the main elements of the story:

1. Peri used to clean houses for a living.

2. Her favorite drink is a dirty martini with four olives.

3. Her client is a Dean Martin fanatic.

4. The case revolves around a severed hand and a famous piece of jewelry, called ‘The Forever Roses’ ring, because the biggest diamond has been cut so its facets look like rose petals.

Now, what do I do with those ingredients?

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And off we go again

Posted by Gayle on November 3, 2008

Kat returned my edited manuscript today. Again, there were no major changes, and no stupid, why-is-she-doing-this changes. It was all good except for one: I had written a joke, where a police officer is giving Peri the latest gossip about the hand found in Benny’s freezer. According to the officer, they found a foot in the freezer. It was supposed to be one of those, ‘that’s what happens when you play telephone’ kinds of moments. Kat didn’t get it, but that’s okay. After I re-read the scene, I didn’t get it anymore either.

At any rate, I’ve already got her comments incorporated, but I’m a little hesitant to send them back right away. I’m certain I’m not the only author on her plate, and she’s probably thinking she can go do something else for the rest of the week or so. But, no, little Nerdy Author immediately jumps up and fixes her errors – isn’t she just too damned eager? I can feel her rolling her eyes, all the way from the East Coast.

I’ll read everything over one more time before I send it back. That should take some time. I do wish I knew what’s next.

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She’s ba-a-ack

Posted by Gayle on October 25, 2008

Kat emailed me today to say she’s done with the first two items on her to-do list, which means she’s ready for the third task – editing my book. Getting an email from “Senior Editor” is like finding a Glen Ivy gift card in my stocking on Christmas morning. Yay!

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Who is Peri Minneopa?

Posted by Gayle on October 15, 2008

I had been joking for quite awhile about a private eye named Peri Menopause, who solved every case by crying, eating chocolate, and bitch-slapping everyone until someone confessed. I figured she’d bat a thousand with that approach. But when it came time to actually write a murder mystery, I didn’t want such a caricature. You just don’t get as many miles on stick characters.

First, I had to come up with another last name. There is a general rule that your protagonist should not have a difficult name, but I decided that it would be a funny gag if she did. It could be a running joke, that people would mangle her name a million different ways – including ‘Menopause’.

So I spent a lot of time googling different words and spellings that could be mangled into “menopause”. At last, I found ‘Minneopa’ – a creek and a state park in Minnesota (www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/minneopa/index.html). It’s a Dakota word, but I really didn’t want Peri to be from Native American roots, because I wasn’t prepared to deal with any subplots about her heritage. It would have meant research into the Dakota tribe(s), and I was already doing research about what a severed hand looks like, and sometimes I’m just lazy. Because the park is in Minnesota, I decided to make Peri’s family Scandinavian, figuring that if their Viking ancestors stole the Dakota lands, they probably stole their names, too.

So Peri is tall, blonde and blue-eyed, just like Ingrid Bergman, or Ann-Margaret… or Hans Christian Anderson. She’s fifty years old and used to clean houses for a living. She still likes cleanliness, so her house is immaculate, and going into Benny Needles’ messy house makes her skin crawl.

When I began Freezer Burn, I really didn’t know much more than that about Peri. I wanted her to be sassy and independent, which have turned out to be her strengths and her weaknesses. She is curious and willful – this works for her when she is reaching for a goal, but when she cannot temper that with caution, it puts her into danger.

I thought long and hard about how to let the reader know who Peri is. I hate to “jump into” a character in a book. No offense to Patricia Cornwell, who I really like as an author, but the first Kay Scarpetta book I read (All That Remains) kind of hit me in the face with Kay getting all weepy at the mention of her ex-boyfriend’s name. I wasn’t ready to cry with Kay.  So I tried to let Peri’s emotions and beliefs build thru the book, like layers. I introduced the subplot about her personal life to let the reader find out about who Peri is – at least, who Peri thinks she is.

You see, one of the things I wanted to do with Peri was to show a 50-year old woman who thinks she knows who she is and what she wants, and then turn that supposition on its head. I hope I did it correctly, and I hope my readers like it.

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