Friday, May 30, 2014

The Indescribable: Indy 500, Day 1

I always stop myself before ever saying, "I can't describe it" or "I don't have the words." I'm a writer, I have words! But it's taking me a long time to come up with the right ones to describe my trip to the Indy 500.

So photos it is! And I'm going to have to break these posts up into each day, because there's a lot to tell.

My whole adventure started with having incredible access to the pits, the garages, and pretty much anywhere I wanted to go. (Thanks bunches to Brie Rentz, for hooking me up!)

Actually, everything started with meeting some new friends at The Yellow Party (a cancer charity fundraising event Thursday night), offering up a new character name for the silent auction (Jimmy and Nikki Gray got the winning bid ... and they're still deciding on a name!), and getting the "2 TKs" photo I'd wanted. As I said on Facebook: Two TKs. Only one of us is an Indy 500 winner.

Friday started with securing the credential and walking into the infield, right by the famous pagoda. I climbed up into the stands with Greg from Glass Hammer Racing, my first and best Indy race-buddy, for the hour of practice. And then we hit the plaza, where I got proof I was there (in pink) on the strip of bricks behind the pagoda. (These are remnants of when the entire speedway was bricked—hence "the Brickyard." When the track was paved, some of the original bricks were saved and set into a strip that runs across the track, pit lane, and through the pagoda plaza at the start/finish line.)

Then I had my chance to see Pippa Mann and get a peek at her garage—and truly, this was one of the best experiences of the weekend. I spent just a couple minutes with Pippa (all she had to spare), but most of an hour hanging out in her garage (doing that "research" thing that looks a lot like staring wide-eyed and trying to take it all in). You can see Pippa's car behind us, as well as the other two cars Dale Coyne Racing fielded.

After that, I headed to pit lane and the front straight for the pit stop competition that took place Friday afternoon. Here's a view of the crowd on the ground and in the stands:

When I found Brie and Heidi, representing Dreyer and Reinbold Racing (fielding incredibly rookie Sage Karam), I had this view for Sage's semi-final run in the competition (yes, it was loud!).

And I swapped phones with other excited visitors to take the obligatory "on the front straight in front of the pagoda" photo.

With the festivities pretty much done for the day (I skipped the evening concerts), I headed back to my hotel for a rest before the Burger Bash that night. I'll leave you with an exterior shot of the track. Yes, those really are the main grandstands, right next to the track, and right next to a regular, two-lane-each-way city street.

This is a speedway that grew big. It wasn't built that way, as some monument to the glory of racing (think Daytona). Indy is old, an oval scratched out in a field that was so great it kept getting used and used, even as the city grew up next to it and around it. Now, the top edge of the stands are right above the city street. Houses, grass or gravel lots, and strip malls ring the speedway. And it feels historic. It feels like it's been there for all of its 105 years.

Posts about days two and three coming soon!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Tammy's Big Adventure

Later this week, I'll hop on an airplane headed for my next big racing adventure. This year, finally (according to some of my racing friends), I'll experience the pomp, circumstance, and glory of "the greatest spectacle in racing." That's right, I'm off to the Indy 500—and I'll be wearing a lot of pink. Let me explain....

There are a whole lot of races on my list to attend—Monaco, Le Mans, Spa, Bristol, Sonoma for NASCAR, something at COTA, and Indy—but I'm trying to get to them in a reasonable order, based on what I'm planning to write about. I know that usually I need at least two visits to a race before the published book comes out (though I may have to cram those European tracks into just one), and I want to focus on where I need the research at the moment. Or where it makes sense to go for promotion purposes.

All that said, don't get too excited, readers who are Indy or IndyCar fans (Bill, I'm talking to you!). Setting a book at the Indy 500 isn't on my radar yet. But starting to transition Kate from sportscars to IndyCars is. Somehow or other, that transition will happen (start to happen?) in book four (Hot Lap), at the Long Beach Grand Prix.

I can hear non-race fans saying, "But that doesn't have anything to do with the Indy 500." And I can hear racing fans saying, "So what, go see the 500!"

And they're both right. Going to Indy doesn't help writing about Long Beach. But it will help writing about the vibe, culture, appeal, and process of racing an IndyCar.

But there are two even more important reasons for going. One is that I've now made quite a few friends in the racing world, and a few of them have repeatedly urged me to get there (Greg, thank you!), offering help showing me around and chortling via email about the fun I'll have.

The second reason is Pippa Mann. Pippa just qualified for her third Indy 500 over the weekend, and she'll be the only woman in the field. Pippa's read my books and offered any kind of help I need in writing future ones. And she urged me to go to the 500, promising to spend a little time with me and get me next to the car.

And then there's her cause. I've always been a supporter of breast cancer charities, and because of that, I hooked Kate up with a real one in Braking Points. Well, Pippa's gone me and Kate one better, partnering with the biggest charity on the planet dedicated to finding a cure and providing support for people with breast cancer. Pippa's going pink (#PippaGoesPink), from her helmet to her racesuit to her car. She's got a site up ( where supporters can pledge donations to Komen for every lap Pippa runs.

The bottom line for me? I want to be there, in person, to see that car racing for that cause.

So I'll be donating money for Pippa's laps. I'll be wearing pink. And I'll be cheering from the stands as Pippa takes the green flag. Who's with me?

(Screenshots/images taken from

Friday, May 16, 2014

Poisoned Pen Cover: Sons of Sparta

Coming in October, from Poisoned Pen Press!

Sons of Sparta
Did the warriors of ancient Sparta simply vanish without a trace along with their city, or did they find sanctuary at the tip of the mountainous Peloponnese? That stark, unforgiving region's roots today run deep with a history of pirates, highwaymen, and neighbors ferociously repelling any foreigner foolishly bent on occupying this part of Greece. Less well recorded are the Mani's families' strict code of honor and their history of endless vendettas with neighbors and with their own relatives. No wonder their farms look like fortresses.

When Special Crimes Division Detective Yiannis Kouros is summoned from Athens to the Mani by his uncle, Kouros fears his loyalty to his boss, Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis, is about be to be tested by family pressure on the detective to act in some new vendetta, for this uncle once headed the Mani's most significant criminal enterprise. Instead, Kouros learns the family is about to become rich through the sale of its property --until the uncle is killed, and thus the deal. Acting swiftly to head off a new cycle of violence, Kouros satisfactorily solves the murder. Or so it seems until, back in Athens, Kaldis' probe into deeply entrenched government corruption leads straight back to the Mani. Both cops now confront a host of unexpected twists, unanticipated players, unanswered questions --and people yet to die.

*    *    *    *    *
About the Author
The New York Times described Jeffrey Siger's novels as “thoughtful police procedurals set in picturesque but not untroubled Greek locales,” the Greek Press called his work “prophetic,” Eurocrime described him as a “very gifted American author...on a par with other American authors such as Joseph Wambaugh or Ed McBain,” and the City of San Francisco awarded him its Certificate of Honor citing that his “acclaimed books have not only explored modern Greek society and its ancient roots but have inspired political change in Greece.” "Sons of Sparta" is the sixth novel in his highly praised Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series, following up on his internationally best-selling "Murder in Mykonos," "Assassins of Athens," "Prey on Patmos: An Aegean Prophecy," "Target: Tinos," "Mykonos after Midnight," and nomination by Left Coast Crime for its 2014 Best Mystery in a Foreign Setting Award.

Learn more about Jeffrey and Sons of Sparta on his website.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Fun at a Literary Festival

Saturday I attended the Festival of Women Authors, an annual event put on by the Literary Guild of Orange County. In addition to having been an author guest in the past, I've been a member of the Literary Guild for the last six years.

The Festival brings seven female authors to speak to 400-500 avid readers (photo of the ballroom stolen from Hank Phillippi Ryan). And the best part for me is that, as a member of the Literary Guild, I get to host one of the authors and hang out with all of them during the event and at dinner the night before.

This year we had a wonderful slate of authors on hand. They all spoke intelligently and movingly about the the power of words and the importance of storytelling. I recommend every single one of their stories.

The event's authors were Anne Perry (author of 82 mystery novels), Nicole Mones (an expert on China and Chinese food and culture), Hank Phillippi Ryan (Emmy Award–winning investigative reporter and mystery author), Deborah Crombie (author of 16 British police procedurals), Monica Holloway (memorist and autism activist), Attica Locke (screenwriter and creator of historical literary thrillers), and Ivy Pochoda (emerging literary novelist).

I was especially happy this year because we had so many mystery authors, including two of my friends and favorites, Hank and Deb. I got to host and introduce Deb, and then spent a leisurely dinner with the two of them, talking writing and life by the fireplace in the Irvine Marriott.

Anyone who's interested in great writing, female writers, and an incredible day of literary inspiration should join us next year for the Festival of Women Authors. And if you like good stories, check out the authors above and discover for yourself the power words and stories have to improve, enrich, and enlighten our lives.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Poisoned Pen Cover: Desert Rage

Coming in October, from Poisoned Pen Press!

Desert Rage: A Lena Jones Mystery
Ferociously ambitious U.S. Senatorial candidate Juliana Thorsson has been keeping a secret.

The horrific slaughter of a prominent doctor, his wife, and their ten-year-old son inside their Scottsdale home brings Thorsson to Private Investigator Lena Jones. The slain family’s 14-year old, Alison, and her boyfriend, Kyle, have confessed to the murders. Thorsson wants to hire Lena to discover if Alison is telling the truth, but before accepting the job, Lena demands to know why a rising political star wants to involve herself with the fate of a girl she’s never met. Desperate for Lena’s help, Thorsson reveals her explosive secret – that Alison is the candidate’s biological daughter, a fact she’s kept hidden for years. But that’s not all. Thorsson then confides something even more unusual than a mere hidden pregnancy, something that could ruin her political plans forever.

Suspecting that Alison’s parents had secrets of their own that could have led to the murders, Lena finally accepts Thorsson's assignment. But interviewing those who knew the family well soon puts Lena -- now a strong defender of the two teens -- in danger of her life.

Fast paced, probing, and filled with the trademark twists of the Lena Jones series, Betty Webb is unsparing of her characters yet writes their stories with wit and compassion. 

*    *    *    *    *
About the Author
Before writing mysteries, Betty Webb was a journalist, and interviewed U.S. Presidents, Nobel Prize winners, astronauts who walked on the moon, and polygamy runaways. Now she is best known for her prize-winning Lena Jones books (Desert Noir, Desert Wives, Desert Shadows, Desert Run, Desert Lost, Desert Cut, and Desert Wind) and the Gunn Zoo books (The Anteater of Death, The Koala of Death, and The Llama of Death).

Learn more about Desert Rage and Betty on her website.
(photo credit Paul Howell)

Monday, May 5, 2014

My Weird Startup Process

I'm starting to plan my next book (book 4 in the series, tentatively titled Hot Lap), and I have to admit my process looks a lot like complete inaction.

Mostly I'm thinking of a new idea, jotting some notes, and then living with it a couple days to see if it holds together. Then I'm adding another idea to the mix and repeating the process.

Think of it this way: I'm making a quilt. I don't have a pattern, and I'm not sure what material I'm using. All I I know is I want it to fade from light to dark to light again across the entire piece.

That's it. So I'm starting to figure out some of the details.

Partly I let the universe talk to me. I have a conversation with someone who asks a question about a character ... and I think, "I should use that character again." Someone else asks about a method of death in a previous book ... and I think, "I should have someone do the opposite next time."

And so forth. I build my pile of notes, discussing ideas with myself (every page is titled "ideas," as if I'll feel committed something later?) and thinking through implications of different decisions.

An example. When do I set the next book? Book 3 (Avoidable Contact) is set in January 2014, the first year of the new, combined sportscar series (I don't mention the date, but if you know the racing, you know that's when it is).

The next book will be set at the Long Beach race, which is in April. I can set it in the same year, three months later, or I can set it a year and three months out. Both have advantages to do with how relationships (family, romantic, business, and sponsor) might have developed. A year later means I worry I might be aging Kate too fast in the series. But staying in the same year means many people could be reading a book about "the new combined series" at the start of the series' third season.

Yeah, I think I'm going with a year and three months later.

So that's how the process goes. Thought by thought. Note by note. It might not look like I'm doing much, but I promise, I'm thinking!