Monday, June 30, 2014

Kate on Pinterest

If you'd ever like to see some of the visuals that go along with my books, I invite you to check out my Pinterest boards. I use the book boards to collect ideas, photos, images, and video links while I'm working on the book, and then later I flesh them out with site photos ... so they're a jumble, but they'll give you a flavor of the locations!

And the Team Kate board is open to anyone who sends a photo of someone in a Team Kate shirt in a notable location or with a notable racing- or book-world person. Join Team Kate!

Avoidable Contact: (Kate #3) set at the 24 Hours of Daytona (Florida) endurance race

Braking Points: (Kate #2) set at Road America (Wisconsin) and Road Atlanta (Georgia)

Dead Man's Switch: (Kate #1) set at Lime Rock Park (Connecticut)

Team Kate: photos of team Kate members around the world

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Useful Quotes

I'm collecting quotes to help motivate myself these days (more on that soon), and I just found a new favorite.

"Always remember: you're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think," said by Christopher Robin to Pooh.

What's your favorite motto or saying that keeps you going?

Monday, June 23, 2014

My Notebook Obsession

I'm not sure if it's a writer thing or just a Tammy thing. But I've got a thing for notebooks. Blank ones. I have a shelf full of them in different shapes, sizes, and bindings. And yet I still covet more.

Maybe it's that I'm still searching for the perfect one. I'm torn, you see, between the "lie flat" variety and the "fold back on itself" types. I suppose that depends on the overall size, since I sometimes want to sit with a notebook on my lap and scribble, but I'm just as often roaming a pit lane or a racing garage hurriedly making notes.

I haven't yet found the perfect notebook to suit all occasions (or the discipline), so I haven't yet managed to take and keep all notes for one mystery novel in one notebook. I keep hoping ... as if doing so would indicate some sign of writing maturity. Probably it won't.

So I know I have preferences about shape and style—and the number of available pages—in a notebook. And I have lots of them that don't suit. I really should get rid of the ones that won't work for me. Right?

That's my problem. I can't.

Just as it is with books I don't like or won't read again, I find it equally hard to get rid of notebooks I'm not likely to use. (The same is true for tote bags ... but that's another blog post!)

The conversations with myself go something like this (pick any one):

  • "Look at all those blank pages! They're still useful, so I shouldn't get rid of them."
  • "But it's such a great cover/premise/saying ... I shouldn't get rid of those."
  • "That one's a historical artifact from that one job ..." (you get the idea).
Never mind that those blank pages aren't plentiful enough, are ruled widely to make writing awkward (or childlike), or that manipulating the book itself is awkward. The potential for utility, even if I'm pretty sure I'll never realize it, makes it very hard for me to throw something out. Of course, that's a bigger issue than just notebooks, and it's embedded in my DNA (also another blog post).

So here's my question: is it just me with the notebooks? Do you all have something similar that you collect because you'll use them someday?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Poisoned Pen Cover Reveal: Caught Dead

Coming in November, from Poisoned Pen Press!

Caught Dead: A Rick Van Lam Mystery
One of the beautiful Le sisters is dead.

Hartford, Connecticut’s small Vietnamese community is stunned. Mary Le Vu, wife of a poor grocery-store owner, gunned down in a drive-by. Her twin sister insists dutiful Mary “wouldn’t be caught dead” in that drug-infested zone. The police rule it an unlucky accident. Skeptics hire private eye Rick Van Lam to get to the truth.

Amerasian Rick—his father an unknown US soldier—is one of the Bui Doi, children of the dust, so often rejected by Vietnamese culture. But his young sidekick, Hank Nguyen, a pureblood Vietnamese, can help Rick navigate the closed world of Little Saigon. Surrounded by close friends—a former-Rockette landlady, his crusty mentor, and his ex-wife Liz—Rick immerses himself in a world that rejects him, but now needs his help. Especially when a second murder strikes in Little Saigon.

Rick and Hank delve into the families of the Le sisters, one poor, one very rich, and uncover a world of explosive ethnic tension and sinister criminal activity ranging from Hartford’s exclusive white suburbs to the impoverished inner city. To solve the murders—and bring closure to Mary’s grieving circle—Rick looks to long-buried memories of his Buddhist childhood for the wisdom that will lead him to a murderer. Caught Dead starts a smart, unusual series.     

*    *    *    *    *
About the Author
Ed Ifkovic taught literature and creative writing at a community college in Connecticut for over three decades and now devotes himself to writing fiction. A longtime devotee of mystery novels, he fondly recalls his boyhood discovery of Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason series in a family bookcase, and his immediate obsession with the whodunit world. Caught Dead is his first novel under the name Andrew Lanh. Previous books are Lone Star (2009), Escape Artist (2011), Make Believe (2012), Downtown Strut (2013), and Final Curtain (2014), all Edna Ferber mysteries.

To find out more about Caught Dead and Andrew/Ed, visit the Poisoned Pen Press site.

Monday, June 16, 2014

An Award From the Experts

I discovered something amazing over the weekend: I won an award from an organization for motorsports journalists!

I've belonged to the American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters Association—the oldest and largest organization dedicated to auto racing coverage—for a couple years now, but I'm not very active aside from reading their newsletters avidly. Last November, I saw a notice to nominate or submit work for the 2013 AARWBA Contest in a variety of categories—one of which was Motorsport Book.

I thought, why not? and submitted Braking Points, the second Kate Reilly Racing Mystery. Then I pretty much forgot about it.

I did consider trying to attend the AARWBA breakfast over the Indy 500 weekend, but it was Saturday at 8 a.m. at the track. I saw they'd be giving out awards at the event, but, frankly, since I hadn't heard a single thing about the contest, I didn't think I was a real contender.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the recent AARWBA newsletter this weekend, and discovered my name as #1 under "Motorsport Book." The organization's Facebook page verifies it: I WON!

I'm still in shock, mostly because one big worry for me in every book is whether or not I get the racing right. Whether racing insiders will scoff or approve. This award tells me I'm doing something right.

So thank you, AARWBA. And thank you friends and readers! I'm going to go write the next one now....

Friday, June 13, 2014

Poisoned Pen Press Cover: Unfold the Evil

Coming in November, from Poisoned Pen Press!

Unfold the Evil (The NJ Mysteries)
Reporter Natalie Joday’s career is at a crossroads. She thought she’d seen the last of cops and courtrooms, but if she agrees to join the Bergen Evening Star’s Crime Bureau, foul play and forensics will be her daily fare. Natalie puts off the decision by getting involved in a newsroom mystery: who is sending letters filled with riddles and signed simply “Enigma” to the Star’s elderly (and easily rattled) advice columnist? It’s just a game to Natalie and her psychologist friend, Rebecca Elias, until the solution points to the murder of an alcoholic bankrupt—a man whose political career was ruined by the Star twenty years earlier.

When she finds the body of a second victim, Natalie’s mind is made up: whoever it was that burned off the dead man’s face must pay. And fast—because a rival paper, the Bugle, is having a field day blasting the Star’s owners as murder suspects on its front page. While her sometime friend Sgt. Geoff Allan tries to drag the truth from Myra Vandergelden, the Star’s glamorous CEO and Editor-in-Chief, Natalie sets out to track down Enigma among the political bigwigs and power brokers of New Jersey. The situation comes to a head at a local Meet the Candidates event, where Natalie finally gets the chance to ask questions of her chief suspect. But can she get a politician to tell the truth? And will there be a paper left to work for if she does?       

*    *    *    *    *
About the Author
Ellen Larson’s short stories have appeared in Yankee Magazine, AHMM (Barry Award finalist), and Big Pulp. She is the author of the NJ Mysteries, The Hatch and Brood of Time and Unfold the Evil. After working as an editor in Egypt for fifteen years, she returned to the states and now lives in an off-grid cabin, enjoying the solitude.

Order Unfold the Evil and learn more about Ellen's other book on the Poisoned Pen website.

Monday, June 9, 2014

My Drug of Choice

I'm kind of boring. I don't drink, smoke, or eat many fried foods. I try to limit myself to Tylenol. The few vices I allow myself (and much of this has to do with having celiac disease and not wanting to irritate my insides more than necessary) are focused mainly on caffeine and chocolate, and I even limit those rigorously.

But I do have a means of escape. Of getting away from it all. Of quieting the fears and lists and "dammit, I really need tos" in my head.

Reading fiction.

I'm guessing I'm not the only one out there with the same "drug." So, my answers to "why do I read?" are escape and recharging.

Currently, I'm reading one of Anne Perry's latest, Death on Blackheath,which I got as an ARC at Left Coast Crime. And I just finished Megan Abbot's Dare Me, which was fantastic if not exactly relaxing.

What about you? Why do you read? And what are you reading right now?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Poisoned Pen Cover: Die I Will Not

Coming in November, from Poisoned Pen Press!

Die I Will Not
Unhappy wife and young mother Penelope Wolfe fears scandal for her family and worse. A Tory newspaper editor has been stabbed while writing a reply to the latest round of letters penned by the firebrand Collatinus. Twenty years before, her father, the radical Eustace Sandford, also wrote as Collatinus before he fled London just ahead of accusations of treason and murder—a mysterious beauty closely connected to Sandford and known only as N.D. had been brutally slain. Now the seditious new Collatinus letters that attack the Prince Regent in the press seek to avenge N.D.’s death and unmask her murderer. What did the editor know that provoked his death?

Her artist husband Jeremy being no reliable ally, Penelope turns anew to lawyer Edward Buckler and Bow Street Runner John Chase. As she battles public notoriety, Buckler and Chase put their careers at risk to stand behind her and find N.D.’s killer.  They pursue various lines of inquiry including a missing memoir, Royal scandal, and the dead editor’s secretive, reclusive wife. As they navigate the dark underbelly of 1813 London among a cast driven by dirty politics and dark passions, as well as by decency and a desire for justice, past secrets and present criminals are exposed, upending Penelope’s life and the lives of others. 

*    *    *    *    *
About the Author
S.K. Rizzolo is a longtime Anglophile and history enthusiast. Set in Regency England, The Rose in the Wheel and Blood for Blood are the first two novels in her series about a Bow Street Runner, an unconventional lady, and a melancholic barrister. An English teacher, Rizzolo has earned an M.A. in literature and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.

Learn more about Die I Will Not and S.K. Rizzolo on her website.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Epic Indy 500: Race Day

I got up stupid early. Let's just get that out of the way. Stupid. Early.

Still, I succeeded in my two goals: avoid traffic and crowds trying to enter the track and feel the racetrack come to life. Here's dawn breaking behind the pagoda as I entered.

My first stop was coffee, and after that, I headed for pit lane and the front straight. As the sun rose over the stands and the campfire haze drifted away, I wandered from one end of pit lane to the other, and out onto the racing surface. Teams cruised around at an unhurried but deliberate pace, hauling scores of tires out to their pit spaces. And local news shows competed for the best location for a standup shot.

Here I was standing at the first position on the grid, looking back up the track toward Turn 4.

I got another look at the Borg-Warner trophy, being maneuvered into view for media. I also saw Pippa doing a quick interview for a local news show, and learned from her PR person that they'd just arrived (around 8 a.m.), having gotten a police escort from Pippa's home to the track. 

That was something I couldn't get over: the ubiquity of police escorts going on during race weekend. Teams, drivers, special shuttles any fan can pay for, and who knows who else, all got police escorts through and past backed-up traffic, straight to the track. I'm used to that happening only for the President.

I spent a long time loitering in pit lane, simply because I could. But then it was time for the Indy Fans Tweet Up, where I met at least a dozen people I "know" from Twitter face-to-face and became new friends and social-media pals with a dozen more. Here are all my new friends (photo by Doug Patterson of

My last adventure inside the racetrack was going out to the grid to see the cars lined up. I ran around with a new buddy and fellow member of the #CrazyHairColorClub, and we took photos of cars, crowds, and each other. Here's Pippa's car on the grid, and a sense of the chaos around it.

Also, one of my favorites from the weekend: me and the bricks, about an hour pre-race. (Honestly, it was hard to find a space on the bricks that clear, since at least half of the people out on the grid had the same idea.)

And then all of a sudden, it was time to clear the grid, and I had to hustle (through the gridlocked crowds on the other side of the track—really, it's a good thing I'm not claustrophobic) to make it to my seat in the Southwest Vista, looking at Turns 1 and 2. But I made it there in time to hear Martina McBride sing America the Beautiful, Florence Henderson sing God Bless America, LeAnn Rimes sing the national anthem, and—most poignantly—Jim Nabors sing Back Home in Indiana, for the final time. (There's me in my seat, the yellow/purple star!)

Then, finally, after all that buildup, the green flag! Greg had a shared scanner for us, set to the radio broadcast and Pippa's transmissions, so we really had an inside perspective. And it all went by in a blur, really. When it was over, we slipped out of the stands, walked 100 yards to the shuttle pickup, and I got back to my hotel in half an hour. Still reeling from everything I'd experienced.

It's going to take a long time to decide how to use what I've seen, and it'll take a couple more trips to feel like I know enough to write about it. But there's time. I'm familiar with the place, the race, and the feeling now, and that's what's important.

Thanks to everyone for making me feel so welcome and involved! (And thanks again to Greg of Glass Hammer Racing for the guidance and this photo, taken mid-race.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Calm Before The Storm: Indy 500, Day Two

My day two at Indy was shorter and a lot more calm. It was Saturday, aka "Legends Day," otherwise known as "ceremonies, but no action on track." The drivers were at the track for an autograph session and a public drivers meeting, and then they were whisked away in a police-escorted bus to a parade in downtown Indianapolis.

I took a taxi to the track from my downtown hotel and arrived midway through the autograph session. I didn't get in any of the lines, which stretched across the plaza. Instead, I strolled pit lane. I'd meant to walk top to bottom, but I was distracted halfway by one of the most famous trophies in sports: the Borg Warner. It's big and very, very shiny. (It requires two attendants to move it. They wear gloves at all times, with which they also compulsively polish the trophy's shiny dome.)

The next event was the drivers meeting, which was more of a general ceremony than a meeting about what drivers should do in the race (apparently, that private meeting happened a day or two prior). But it was fun to see the drivers lined up in the small stands in order of their qualifying, and to be there for Tony Kanaan (the other TK, last year's winner) to receive his ring and "Baby Borg" (the mini version of the big trophy that is his to keep). And something I didn't know: all Indy 500 race starters receive "starters' rings." I thought I'd ask Pippa to tweet a photo of hers, to see what they look like....

After the meeting, I headed for the Hall of Fame Museum, located inside the track. I wanted to get a look inside the place, with the intent of coming back for a real visit on another weekend that's not so crazy! I'd also heard the gift shops in the museum were the best. The crowds were amazing—there were 25 people in line for admission ahead of me, though it didn't take long to get through the doors. 

But the best part was meeting Team Kate members (and now good friends) Rick and Maria. They were kind enough to take me with them to an amazing restaurant out in Broadripple (which still sounds like ice cream), Three Sisters Cafe. One word: YUM. A great meal in a quiet (aka, no crowds and racecars) place was a nice break from the activity at the track. And it gave us a chance to chat. The photo is from the next day, but here's the three of us anyway.

And then Rick and Maria drove me back to my hotel. It was early, and I hadn't done much, but I was exhausted! Plus I was planning to be at the track stupid early on race morning because of all the horror stories I'd heard about traffic on the roads (it took a couple friends almost two hours to reach the track on Friday, let alone race day) and about crowds going through security checkpoints once at the track.

Besides, I told myself, I like seeing a track wake up and come to life before a race. I could do this—even if I was pretty sure I'd be waking up in Indianapolis before my husband was going to bed back in Long Beach. 

I'll leave you with a second photo from the museum. It's a doozie! (As in, a Duesenberg engine.) And so were my Indy 500 race-day adventures. More to come in a third and final blog post....