Thursday, July 31, 2014

Avoidable Contact: Daytona's Checkered Flag

**5 Days Until Avoidable Contact Launches!**
**Read an excerpt of the book, and posts about the research backstory, the first 10 hours,
and my sleep research**

The 24 Hours of Daytona 2013 wasn't a good race for The Racer's Group. For about three seconds, I wondered if I was a bad luck charm for them, and then I remembered ... that's just racing. And perhaps being there to experience disappointment on disappointment on disappointment was appropriate to remind me that I write happy endings, and they sure don't always happen on the track.

That's why I make sure Kate has successes in my books, but she doesn't do everything perfectly behind the wheel every time, and she doesn't take pole and win all the time. Because that's certainly not realistic!

But good race for the team or not, I was there with them the whole time, and I learned a ton. The final two posts from that year:

As research does, it all helped. Going into it (research/races), I never quite know what to expect (see my sleep research post). But I know I'll get plenty of information, and I'll be able to do something with it.

Which is what happened after the 2013 race. I came home, wrote a bunch, did a lot more research by email and video, and then decided to return in 2014 to make sure I had the details right—especially of the brand-new series and the brand-new Corvette. Two posts from this year:
And there you have it, my on-site, at-race research. Of course, there are bunches of friends, sources, and stories that didn't make the blog posts or the book. But maybe they'll turn up in the future!

Next week, Avoidable Contact!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Avoidable Contact: My Sleep Research

**8 Days Until Avoidable Contact Launches!**
**Read an excerpt of the book, and read posts about the research backstory and first 10 hours**

In the end, I couldn't stay awake all night at the 24 Hours of Daytona. But I thought I could manage if I slept three hours—which was a compromise between as little as I could get away with and as much as I thought would allow me to be functional. And it worked! Therefore, that's how much Kate sleeps in the book.

As a sidenote, when I conceived my brilliant idea of starting the book with the green flag and ending with the checkers, I didn't consider one basic fact that would really mess up my schedule: writing in first person means lost time when Kate can't think about solving the mystery. Driving time and sleeping time weren't sleuthing time! That's when I got a little creative with the book's timeline and my fictional race's yellow flags.

On a different note, one of the wonderful aspects of research—whether it's history, modern technology, physical locations, or races—is when the writer stumbles across a great story or activity that they can include in their books. For me the best moment of my trip to the Daytona 24 was standing on the spotter's platform, high above the track, at 2 a.m. The view was incredible. I had other opportunities to talk with one of the spotters (Dr. Chris Murray, a chiropractor in his real life) before the race, after the race, and again at the 2014 race, and thanks to his information, I gave Kate's spotters a great story to tell in the depths of the night. (So thanks, Dr. Chris! That's him on the right in the photo above. On the left is Bob Dickinson, TRG's COO.)

The morning of a 24-hour race is an incredible time. The teams are past the halfway point, but they're exhausted. The dawn and daylight bring a sense of renewed energy, and there's a sense that if we've made it this far, we'll make it all the way. The worst is over. Two blog posts took me through the night and the next morning:

I'll finish out the race with the last posts....

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Avoidable Contact: Racing Into The Night

**12 Days Until Avoidable Contact Launches!**
**Read an excerpt of the book, and read the first post about the research behind it**

Something I knew I had to do, if I was going to write about a 24-hour race, was to convey just how long the race goes on. I mean, 24 hours is a long time to do anything continuously, and I expected that, to the teams, it could feel like an eternity. I wanted readers to feel something of that experience, and so I wanted the race to span the entire book I was writing. In the end, I cheated a little, and the total elapsed time in Avoidable Contact is in the 25-26 hour range. But I think readers will still get the idea!

One of the research experiences I wanted was to sit in the pits for hours on end, just as the crew does. Drivers come and go, and I knew that's what Kate would be doing. But I also wanted to understand what went on to keep the car running the whole time. And so, at the 2013 race, I sat in the pits for hours, listening to the radio transmissions between driver, spotter, and crew chiefs.

At five and then nine hours in, it already felt like we'd been doing this forever! See the posts:

I had one other important research task to accomplish in the depths of night during the Daytona 24: see how little sleep I could get away with! Many people don't sleep at all, or grab catnaps all day and night. I didn't think I'd be able to manage that ... and sure enough, I couldn't! I snuck away in the wee hours of the morning for some shut eye (but not a lot). That's the next post. 

I'll leave you with the panorama from the top of the spotter's stand at 2 a.m. An incredible sight!

The next posts take us into morning of the second day....

Monday, July 21, 2014

Avoidable Contact: The Backstory

Avoidable Contact, the third Kate Reilly Racing Mystery, launches in two short weeks! Have you read the first-chapter excerpt I've posted?!

As a lead-up to that day, I thought I'd revisit the experiences I had doing research for the book—namely, what I learned while I embedded with a race team for the 24 Hours of Daytona 2013.

At the end of 2012, I'd started writing Avoidable Contact, only it didn't have that title yet. It was a story I'd plotted out and set at the 24-hour race, but I wasn't yet comfortable with the idea of writing it ... because I knew I needed an insider's look at the event. That's when I contacted my good friends at The Racer's Group, who I know from my first year involved in racing, and asked for a favor.

Kevin Buckler, the team owner, and Bob Dickinson, my former marketing/communications contact at the ALMS and current TRG COO, came through for me. "Sure," they said. "Happy to have you embed with the team. Come on out!" They hooked me up with a credential, and I prepared to take a lot of notes (and plug their team whenever possible!).

I wrote eight blog posts that weekend, and took dozens and dozens of pages of notes. I'll spare you the notes, but I'm reprising the blog entries (they're all short) to give you a flavor of the research experience that went into my new book. Here are the first two:

And here are two panoramas, one looking back at the pits from the front straight and the other looking at the front straight and the stands, all during pre-race ceremonies ... my experience there was peaceful and sunny, unlike Kate's!

More posts and tidbits to come soon....

Monday, July 14, 2014

Win Pippa's Helmet!

I went to the Indy 500 this year in part to see Pippa Mann and her pink car, racing for the Susan G. Komen Foundation and breast cancer awareness. One of the coolest sights was Pippa's pink helmet.

Her helmet is what started the whole journey of #PippaGoesPink, when Pippa thought to turn her normal red and yellow helmet pink for the race—and the pink kept spooling out from there! But the idea all along was to auction that race-worn, autographed helmet off to benefit Komen's efforts.

And now it's time. Pippa's helmet is up for auction this week (closing next Sunday, July 20, at 8 p.m. EST). All funds received will go to Komen Central Indiana to support local and national breast cancer research, as well as breast health services for underinsured and uninsured women in the Central Indiana community.

I'm sure the helmet is going to go for more than the small amount I could bid, but I can't be too upset because it's going to benefit such a great cause. We'll just have to hope we'll see Pippa in pink again ... maybe next year?!

Bid in the auction!

(photo from

Friday, July 11, 2014

Poisoned Pen Press Cover: Deeper Than The Grave

Coming in November, from Poisoned Pen Press!

Deeper Than The Grave
Will the Civil War add two modern-day casualties to its death toll?

It’s taken almost a year, but Tai Randolph has her new life together. She’s running a semi-successful Atlanta gun shop catering to Civil War re-enactors. Her lover, the sexy if security-obsessed Trey Seaver, is sorting out his challenges. There’s not a single corpse on her horizon, and her previously haphazard existence is finally stable, secure… and unsurprising. Then a tornado blows by a Kennesaw Mountain cemetery, scattering the skeletal remains of a Confederate hero. Assisting the bones recovery effort is a job her late Uncle Dexter would have relished, as does Tai. Does she hit the jackpot on discovering a jumble of bones in the underbrush?

No. The bones reveal a more recent murder, with her deceased uncle leading the suspect list. As Tai struggles to clear Dexter’s name — and save the business he left her — she uncovers deadly secrets were also buried in the red Georgia clay. And realizes there’s a live murderer on the loose, a clever killer who has tried to conceal the crimes of the present in the stories of the past. As she risks her own life to unravel two mysteries — one from a previous century, one literally at her doorstep — Tai rediscovers her dangerous taste for murder and mayhem.

*    *    *    *    *
About the Author

Tina Whittle is a mystery writer living and working in the Georgia Low Country. The Dangerous Edge of Things, her first novel, was published February 2011 from Poisoned Pen Press, followed in March 2012 by Darker Than Any Shadow. Described by Publisher’s Weekly as a “tight, suspenseful debut,“ this Atlanta-based series features gun shop owner Tai Randolph and corporate security agent Trey Seaver. The third book in the series—Blood, Ash and Bone—is available now. 

Learn more about Deeper Than The Grave and Tina on her website.

(Photo credit James Whittle.)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Vacation Time

I've got one vacation day left here on my mini-summer-vacation (which I'm enjoying the hell out of, thank you very much). As I told one pen pal friend, I am doing my best to emulate our lazy backyard cat, pictured here.

But part of what I'm doing with my vacation is turning the limited brain power I have (day job tends to suck it up like a zombie) to plan. And by "plan," I mean "plan book stuff." So I'm working on promo ideas and posts and materials. And I'm getting my head together about the next book (what must Kate experience while she's in Los Angeles?! hey, that might be its own blog post...).

And blame my mother, but I'm even thinking about what next year's vacations might be. Or at least, how I will use vacation time next year. Mom wants a big vacation for a Voldemort birthday (it will not be named, get it?). I (and some friends) have an unfulfilled desire to get to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. And now I also want to get back to the Indy 500.

Maybe all of those things can happen. But I should probably consider what race books 5 and 6 will be about, and be strategic about the racing trips.

So I have questions. What races should I go to next year? Is it too early to be thinking about this? And where should we go on vacation with Mom? I welcome all suggestions.