Monday, April 21, 2014

Going to the Source

The story of my ride with Mario Andretti behind the wheel is only half the story of my incredible Long Beach Grand Prix experience. The other half has to do with going to the source for information about the racing world. Or maybe it's partly being immersed in the source and partly talking to the source. The being immersed int he world is the easy part: go to a race, walk around, and see what teams, drivers, and fans are engaged in.

Talking to the source seems like it'd be a little more difficult—until being at the races reminds me how nice people in the racing world are and how willing they are to talk about what they do for a living. (Usually the only catch is if they have the time to do so.)

The first person to sit and chat with us was Martin Plowman, or Plowey, a young driver who's racing anything he can get his hands on—including the Indy 500 this year with Foyt Racing. Plowey's long been a favorite of my friends Barb and Mary, and to Barb's delight, he was the driver for her two-seater ride! (That's the two of them pictured.) He was gracious enough to chat with us after our rides and tell us a bit about the difference between open-wheel cars and sportscars, since he's driven both. And he was kind enough to say he'd answer questions down the line for me, when I'm ready to transition Kate.

But the most amazing and incredible conversation was the hour I got to spend with Pippa Mann. A real-life, honest-to-goodness female racecar driver. The first female driver I've actually gotten to talk to who's a current competitor in the highest ranks. (It's kind of embarrassing to admit it's taken me this long to be able to get to one.)

The best compliment she paid me was telling me I'd gotten a lot of what it's like to be a female in the world correct (yes, I about fell over with relief).

Of course, what I learned from her is how much of the story I'm missing, primarily about the struggle for current drivers (of either gender; Plowey had similar stories) to put together deals to get themselves in a racecar. It's not what we might think, most pros don't sit at home waiting for the phone to ring, a team on the other end waiting to pay them to drive a car. No. Most pros are out hustling, pitching deals to multiple sponsors (and probably dozens of potential sponsors) and working with teams and corporations to assemble funding for a season. For a partial season. For a race.

I've sidestepped those issues for Kate so far. But I might need to reflect reality a bit more in a future book ... we might have to see Kate struggle with being assertive (but not aggressive) and direct (without being a bitch). To see her try to balance being tough, pushy about her needs and wants, and businesslike, while still being feminine. (To be clear, those weren't Pippa's words. That's my evaluation based on the role of women in the business world in general and from watching what seems like the tightrope that all female racers walk.)

Pippa is a lovely, warm human being. She's incredibly savvy about marketing herself, especially through social media, where she's built an enormous following—something she's done because she's genuine and personal with her fans. I'm enormously grateful for the time she spent with me, as well as for her offer to help me in the future. I'm really hoping that her absence (so far) this year from IndyCar's lineup is just a minor blip in her resume. I believe it will be.

Because of her (and others who are strongly encouraging me), I'm seriously considering two actions: heading to Indy for the 500 this year to see what that whirlwind of awesomeness is all about and getting Kate into open-wheel cars sooner, rather than later. I'll keep you all posted....


In the meantime, thank you to Pippa for the time, encouragement, and information (past and future). As much as we see and hear and talk about more and more women in the racing world, Pippa is one of the few who's working hard to make it happen. I'm always moved by someone working to fulfill a dream, and to see a woman doing so in a world populated mostly by men (drivers, at least) makes me want to support and cheer her on with everything I've got. 

Part of why I created Kate was to provide another instance of "racecar driver" as a normal, possible occupation for a female. So you go, girl. All of you, and Pippa in particular. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Poisoned Pen Cover Reveal!

(I'm going to get to share new—and usually awesome—covers for my fellow Poisoned Pen Press authors on my site occasionally. This is the first one ... and let's all wish the inimitable Reavis well!)

Vengeance is Mine: A Red River Mystery

by Reavis Z. Wortham
July 2014, Poisoned Pen Press

In October of 1967, The Summer of Love is history, rock and roll is dark and revolutionary, and people in the small east Texas community of Center Springs simply want to live their lives as quietly as possible. But a handsome darkness in the form of Las Vegas gangster Anthony Agrioli has left the business to hide out in the tiny backwater settlement with his blond bombshell girlfriend.

Two years earlier, Agrioli met newlyweds Cody and Norma Faye Parker in a Vegas casino and heard their enthusiastic descriptions of the perfect place to settle down and raise a family. At least it was perfect, before their peaceful world found itself directly in the crosshairs of a coming confrontation.

Back in Center Springs, thirteen-year-old Top Parker has what his grandmother, Miss Becky, calls a Poisoned Gift. His dreams, though random and disconnected, always seem to come true. This time Top dreams he’s a wagon hub with spokes converging from all directions. To him, the spokes symbolize that something is coming, but he doesn’t know their quiet community will soon be a combat zone when the gangsters arrive, but they’re after something else and not Agrioli…yet.

A sheriff crooked as a dog’s hind leg, an unsolved murder in the river bottoms, counterfeit money and a bank robbery all wrapped in a country Shakespearian comedy once again brings together Constable Ned Parker, Constable Cody Parker, Deputy John Washington, Judge O.C. Rains, and the rest of Wortham’s real and sometimes wacky cast of characters.


About the Author

As a boy, award-winning writer, Reavis Z. Wortham hunted and fished the river bottoms near Chicota, Texas, the inspiration for the fictional setting for The Rock Hole and The Red River Mystery Series. He was born in Paris, Texas, but lived in Dallas. "We grew up in the city and went to school there, but every Friday evening my parents put us in the car and made the 120-mile drive to Chicota, where we truly lived at my grandparents' place in the country until Sunday evening, when we came back to the city. Our real home was that little scratch farm in Lamar County."

Author Reavis Z. Wortham's first novel, The Rock Hole, is described by Kirkus Reviews as "an unpretentious gem written to the hilt and harrowing in its unpredictability." Kirkus also listed it as one of the "Top 12 Mysteries of 2011." 

Burrows, the second Red River Mystery, received a Starred Review from Publishers Weekly, "Wortham's outstanding sequel to The Rock Hole (2011)... combines the gonzo sensibility of Joe R. Lansdale and the elegiac mood of To Kill a Mockingbird to strike just the right balance between childhood innocence and adult horror."

In a recent Starred Review by Kirkus Reviews says of Burrows, "As in Ned's debut (The Rock Hole, 2011), his grandchildren, Top and Pepper, are on hand to provide welcome humor and lend perspective to the acutely and unobtrusively observed small-town landscape. The result is that rare bird, a mystery with something for everyone.

Book three, THE RIGHT SIDE OF WRONG, was released in July, 2013, and is now gaining such reviews as "A sleeper that deserves wider attention." ~ The New York Times

Reavis also penned Doreen's 24 HR Eat Gas Now Café. More than 1,500 newspaper and magazine articles bear the byline of this award-winning Texas writer. The Rock Hole was recently a finalist in the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Award presented by the Independent Book Publishers Association, is a member of Mystery Writers of America, the Writers' League of Texas, International Association of Crime Writers (North American Branch), and International Thriller Writers.

He lives with his wife, Shana, in Frisco, Texas. Find out more.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Who Do You Think You Are? Mario Andretti?

(This is Part 1 of the "My Epic Weekend" series of posts ... because everything amazing that happened over the weekend will take more than one post to explain.)

I was prepared for a whirlwind of activity as the Long Beach Grand Prix weekend arrived, but I had no idea of how mind-blowing it would end up being. The first day, Friday, was overwhelming, and I spent the next two days coming down from that high (and watching good racing).

To start things off with a bang, my friends Barb and Mary arranged a surprise for me: all three of us got rides in a two-seater IndyCar. That means a pro in the front seat and a passenger (us) in the rear. For one lap around the LBGP circuit, at plenty of speed.

That was exciting enough, and then I was randomly placed into the line to take a turn in the first car. The one being piloted by Mario Andretti. Yes, THE Mario Andretti.

Really, is there anyone you would trust more to drive you around any pavement in any vehicle anywhere?

I got one exhilarating lap around the Long Beach circuit, during which I kept thinking, "REMEMBER THIS! This is Mario F**king Andretti driving. REMEMBER THIS!"

To make matters even more awesome, Barb and Mary had found a friend, pro photographer Scott James, to record our adventures. Like this great shot of me waiting for Mario to pull away. (This image and the next are copyright and courtesy of S. James Photography.)

So not only did we experience an incredible moment—we all did, since Mary got a lap with former pro (and current team co-owner) Davey Hamilton, and Barb went a lap with current pro (and friend) Martin Plowman—but we also got incredible shots to help us remember the moment.

Like this one, just after I'd gotten out of the car and been divested of my helmet. You can hear what I'm thinking, can't you?

"I just got out of a car that Mario Freaking Andretti was driving!"

(Yes, I actually used the swears in my head.)

Then we made our way back to the Indy Racing Experience trailer, where we got out of our firesuits and lingered, talking. That's when Mario returned, changed clothes, and was kind enough to pose for photos with me to commemorate the moment.


And that was what happened in only the first two hours of the race weekend! More to come about the incredible generosity and kindness of the racing family in Part 2....

Monday, April 7, 2014

Here Comes the Circus

That's right, it's race week in Long Beach! The trucks should start rolling in mid-week, and by Thursday night, the key players—drivers, teams, media, and fans—should be here. Which means I've got to get prepared!

My husband and I have a saying (I think he coined it): The business of racing happens at the track.

You can arrange and plan and make deals for months, but everything will come together at the race track during a race weekend. Or some new deal will be formed. Or you'll meet the contact you never dreamed of meeting. Or I'll get 27 questions answered in a 20 minute period, which otherwise would have taken three weeks and 15 emails.

It's happened over and over. Like when I ran into Dr. Don Panoz (founder of the American Le Mans Series, at right) in the Atlanta airport and handed him a book (come to think of it, he never did write to tell me what he thought; maybe I'll see him this weekend and ask). Or when I met Harlan Charles (project manager for the new Corvette Stingray) and handed him a book. There's a theme here.

So here's my to do list:

  1. Hand a book to anyone important!
  2. Meet IndyCar driver Pippa Mann for the first time.
  3. Interview my friend Pattie (and maybe other women in racing) for the Steel Ovary Nation site.
  4. Check in with Corvette Racing driver Oliver Gavin to see if he's reviewed my racing scenes in Avoidable Contact.
  5. Bother Corvette Racing Manager Doug Fehan (at right) just because he makes me laugh.
  6. Ask someone at The Racer's Group a question about the brake-light system in a Porsche.
  7. Hang out with super-crazy race fans Barb and Mary.
  8. Run into all the people I'm not thinking about yet but will be excited to see.
  9. Figure out where to kill someone for Kate's book #4, Hot Lap!
  10. Hang out with my friend, former co-blogger, and Bouchercon 2014 toastmaster, Simon Wood.
  11. Agree with all my race friends who live in the Midwest and South that yes, LA is a little nuts.
  12. See if I can spot the porn stars in the paddock this year (really). 
  13. Figure out why someone might need to die for Hot Lap.
  14. Give away some Team Kate gear?! (Who wants some?)
I'm sure there's more. Fortunately I have four days to finish the list....

Friday, April 4, 2014

April 4 Roundup

Saturday I'm going to be part of the Literary Orange event, which I'm very excited about for two reasons:
  1. I've never attended before, and I've heard great things.
  2. One of the keynote speakers is Marlo Thomas. Hello? Paging my childhood!
If you're in the Irvine area, maybe you should stop by!

And in case you missed it, I blogged this week on the Poisoned Pen Press site about starting the book process all over again—and how to put myself in a receptive frame of mind for the creative process. I'm not sure I have the answers, but the best suggestion I got was "jalapenos." (I'm not kidding, check out the comments.)

Here's the blog: And Start All Over Again

And here's the video I wanted to embed, but couldn't on that site. 


Happy weekend!

Monday, March 31, 2014

What are you reading now?

While hosting a table at the Ladies of Intrigue event over the weekend, I asked everyone what they're reading now.

I'm not asking your favorite book ever, if what you're reading's good or bad ... even whether you're embarrassed to admit to it.

Just tell me: what are you in the middle of reading, right now?

My turn:
I'm reading Charles Todd's fifth Ian Rutledge novel, Watchers of Time.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Pink Hair and The Helmet

I find that life goes along at sort of the same-old, same-old pace for a while, and then, BOOM. Things change all at once.

For me, the last six months were a slog. Some good times (and plenty of professional success), but a head-down, don't be distracted, get this thing done kind of time. No social life, not much fun. Because I was finishing a book.

But now it's done, over, turned in! Hooray!

And suddenly it was time for some shopping. For some attention paid to myself. And for some fun.

Now, BOOM, in the span of a single week, a few aspects of my life are very, very different.

For one, I have pink hair. Not solid pink, kind of layered. (I'll take and post a better picture of it soon, but this one with my friend Rochelle will have to do.)

For another, I have a new, fun car to drive. See, I've been driving a leased Buick the last couple years, and the lease will be over soon. So my husband has been shopping for deals. And he found one. What I like is the quirky, fun aspect of the car (I've missed personality in my daily driver; I love the Buick, but it is personality-free).

It's small, cute, and a great lease deal. Plus it feels good to go zero-emission. Yes, we have a Fiat 500e (all electric!).

Meet the Helmet.