The Val & Kit Mystery Series

Monday, April 1, 2019

Meeting of the Minds, in Person


Since one of us lives in Wisconsin and the other in Texas, it’s not possible to meet on a regular basis; but we recently met for a long-overdue face-to-face visit. It was way too short, but our plan was to get a lot done on our work in progress, No. 7 in The Val & Kit Mystery Series, as yet untitled.  We started by posing for a couple of pictures.

Look busy, not clueless (directions from our photographers, Mike and Johnny).

Oh, you mean like this?

Somehow, our regular Skype session seemed more productive, where there is no chance of going out to restaurants, or stopping everything to catch the latest episode of This is Us. While we were together, we met a couple of times with Sarah, our editor, who wanted to know when she will be getting our next bookand could she have a Bloody Mary while she's waiting. (We assured her she has time for two or three.)

But despite the many interruptions, we got a lot of actual work done, together with a lot of laughs. As for all the fun we have . . . we still got it.


Mike, Patty, Roz, Sarah, Johnny






Friday, March 1, 2019

Our Favorite Job Perk



Between the two of us, we witness three or more murders a week. Happily, many of these vicious crimes are solved within fifty minutes or so, not counting commercial breaks. And in most cases, we have to use English-language closed captioning to understand what is going on, particularly for British crimes (even though one of us is British).


The authorities working these cases vary, depending on the country where the murder occurs. American female crime-solvers generally resemble ex-supermodels, with long, flowing hair that the perpetrator could, but never does, grab during an altercation.  British female cops usually arrive at the crime scene looking like they just made breakfast for four kids and dropped them off at school. Australian policewomen often have a healthy, outdoorsy look, almost as if they stored their surfboard in the trunk of their car before putting on their blue rubber gloves. The men, in nearly all countries, are typically either very good-looking or hopelessly rumpled and disheveled. As a rule of thumb, the more disheveled the guy, and the more he mumbles, the more likely he is to be brilliant and solve the case.

           
  
So, as a murder-mystery writing duo, does this watching we do help or hinder us? Is it a form of research, since we are unlikely (we hope) to come across real murders in our everyday lives except on TV? Well, we’ve learned a lot about police tape, not compromising the murder scene, and the popularity of the blunt-force object used to bash in skulls. In the US the preferred weapon appears to be a gun, whereas knives are widely popular in the UK (not withstanding an Agatha Christie adaptation, where poison is very popular).


We’ve also learned a lot about DNA, which on the surface would seem to make any crime solvable. And we’ve learned police jargon. And the importance of CCTV cameras and cell phones—or mobile phones, as the case may be—both excellent deterrents when it comes to proving false alibis.  Same goes for good old social media and Google, which appear to play an important role in modern police investigating.

Whatever the source (e.g., Prime Video, Netflix, or, heaven forbid, regular TV), it doesn’t hurt us a bit to plunk down on the couch, often still in our pajamas, with a cup of coffee and a TV remote. Let the bingeing—er, research—begin!!!!!


Monday, February 4, 2019

Valentine’s Day for the Rest of Us






If you don’t have anyone in your life who is likely to make a romantic gesture toward you, then Valentine’s Day might just as well be called Small Pox Day. And it’s not subtle. It doesn’t just creep up on you. No, its pending arrival is displayed everywhere you go as soon as Christmas is over. Its red tentacles coil around you with flowers, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, and greeting cards as big as cereal boxes.

I was in my office, my eyes transfixed on my colleague’s desk. On display was a white teddy bear with a lighted red heart beating beneath its chest, glimmering on and off as it pumped synthetic stuffing through its veins.

When my phone rang, I tore my eyes away from Teddy’s aorta. It was Kit, my BFF. “Val, why don’t you come by tonight for dinner?” she asked. “Larry’s at a meeting and won’t be home until very late.”

“Today? You do know what today is, right?”

“Of course. Very important day for tax accountants. They dig out their abacuses and oil them.”

“No, I meant—never mind. Are you sure you will be alone?”

“Yes. And I feel like making paella.”

***

At Kit’s, after two helpings of her paella and three glasses of Rioja, I glanced at my watch, happy to learn that Valentine’s Day, and all its paraphernalia, had only an hour to go. “Here’s to Easter,” I said, raising my wine glass in a toast. Easter I could handle. It didn’t discriminate. It didn’t care if you were alone and single. It was a celebration for all the people.

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” I heard Larry, Kit’s husband, yell from the front door. “Val’s here? I noticed Val’s car in the driveway.”

“Well spotted. What gave it away?” Kit rose from her kitchen chair.

Larry now stood in the kitchen doorway. He had flakes of snow on the shoulders of his coat, wet discarded boots in one hand, and a shopping bag in the other. “I’m glad you’re here, Val.” He ceremoniously put his boots on the floor and the bag on the table. Then he removed from the bag a box, stunning red and shaped like a heart. It was as big as the extra-large pizza I like to order.



“I’m going,” I said, feeling awkward. Like I had been cast in a movie playing the perennial best friend.

“No, don’t go. This if for both of you.” He held the box between us, but since neither Kit nor I made a move to take it, he set it down on the table. “Happy Valentine’s Day, ladies. And Val, don’t let Kit get all the orange creams. You have to watch her.”

“Give her all my secrets, why don’t you.” Kit untied the red ribbon encasing the box.

“Sorry you have to share,” Larry said. “But the shop was closing just as I got there, and this was all they had left.”

I smiled up at him, then rose to give him a kiss on the cheek. “Larry James, you are the worst liar in the world, but a very sweet man. Thank you,” I said. My half of the chocolates weren’t a romantic gesture by any means. They were better, so much better.

He blushed just a little, then said, “Can you believe it? They were starting to put out Easter stuff.”

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy New Year!



We say good-bye to 2018 with mixed feelings. Like many of you, we experienced some highs, and some heavyhearted lows. But throughout it all, we kept writing, maybe not as fast as we have in the past, but never letting our work sit on the back burner for too long.

This month’s blog is purely to thank our readers from the bottom of our hearts for their support. Whether you downloaded to Kindle, purchased paperbacks, or posted wonderful reviews on Amazon, we can’t thank you enough. And a special thank-you to all of our readers who have inquired when the next book is due. It’s coming sometime in 2019.

So, here’s wishing all of you a fantastic and safe New Year. May all your dreams come true.

With love,
Roz and Patty



Sunday, December 2, 2018

Making a List, Checking It Twice (And Deleting It Once)




“Kit, I’m making my Christmas list, and I’d like to get you something you really want.”

“I don’t want anything, Val. Just come spend the day with Larry and me. That will be more than enough present. You are still coming, right?”

“Yes, of course.”

“And for crying out loud, I’m begging you, don’t go wasting your money at Family Dollar. I don’t need a thing.”

I ignored her, and since I had a big, fat Christmas bonus coming, I put a question mark next to her name.


“Hi, Mom, it’s me.”

“Who?”

“Valerie. Your daughter. Remember, you went to the hospital about fifty years ago, and they sent you home with a little baby.”

“Oh, are you that baby? How could I forget? Seventy-two hours of excruciating labor, and then you howled nonstop for a month.”

“That’s the one. I’m calling because I’m starting my Christmas list, and I wondered if there is anything you and William particularly want.”

“Valerie, don’t go squandering your money on William Stuckey and me. We don’t want a thing.”

“Seriously, Mom, I’m expecting a huge bonus from work, so don’t worry about the cost.”

“Well, why don’t you spend it on yourself? Get a decent haircut, or join one of those gyms.”

“Er, no, I love my haircut, and I hate gyms.”

“You know, Valerie, it’s bad manners to ask people what they want for Christmas—”

“Oops, my other line is ringing; gotta go. Forget I called.”


“Emily, it’s Mom. I know it’s early, but I’m making my Christmas list. Anything in particular you and Luke would like? And don’t hold back. I have an enormous Christmas bonus coming.”

“Oh, Mom, Luke and I were just talking about this very thing. What we would like . . .”

“Yes, tell me. Anything.”

“We’d like you to make a donation to a charity; it would mean so much.”

“What are you thinking? Whales, baby seals?”

“Show Dogs.”

“Show . . . dogs? Do show dogs really require a charity?”

“Yes. It’s the name of a rescue shelter for homeless dogs.”

“Hmm. Didn’t you tell me about an antique bookcase you have your eye on?”

“Mom, some of the dogs are vision impaired; they would have no use for bookcases or even books.”

“Well, I meant the bookcase would be for you—oh, never mind. I see your point. Because some of the dogs can’t see. Or read.”

“Exactly.”

“Let me think about it some more.”


“What are you doing, Val?”

“Oh, hi, Tom, best boss in the whole world; I’m making my Christmas list with the help of that gigantic bonus we’ve got coming—”

“Yeah, yeah, about that bonus—”

“Don’t worry, you’re on the list too. How about a bottle of that Louis XVI cognac you like?”

“It’s Louis XIII, and it costs seven grand, and about that bonus—”

“Oh, that much? Do they perhaps sell it in those little airline bottles? Maybe a couple of those—”

“Sorry, Val, but there won’t be a bonus this year; we lost that big sale on Main Street, and it looks like the Higginbothams are pulling out of—”

“Wait! No bonus? But I thought—”

“Sorry, Kiddo. Maybe later in the year we can catch up moneywise . . .”

I deleted my list and opened the website for Edible Arrangements. Who doesn’t like winter fruit? Even a vision-impaired mutt can enjoy a pomegranate.


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Father Doesn’t Always Know Best (Even in 1979)



What is that thing?” my mother asked. Parked at our curb was the most beautiful car I had ever seen. Sleek, red, and glossy. Kit sat behind the wheel looking like the cat that got the automobile equivalent of the cream.

“It’s Kit’s eighteenth birthday present from her parents,” I said in awe.

“A. Pontiac. Firebird.” My dad said it slowly, as if the meaning of life had just dawned on him.

“I love it!” I squealed. My best friend was waving, urging me to get in. “Kit, it’s so cool!” I opened the passenger door with great care.

“Have you even passed your driver’s test?” my mom asked Kit.

“It’s a beaut, all right.” My dad seemed to be in some kind of trance.

Twenty minutes later Kit and I were driving, somewhere, we didn’t know where exactly. “Why didn’t you tell me you had passed your driver’s test?” I yelled into the wind. My head was hanging out the window, like a golden retriever with floppy ears blown back.


“I haven’t,” I heard her shout.

In an instant, I was back from retriever land. “You haven’t? Wait . . . what? You don’t have a license?”

“Nope.” She pressed her foot harder on the gas pedal. “But it’s in the works.”

“Stop!!!” I screamed, turning down the radio and Chaka’s voice claiming to be “I’m Every Woman.”

“Relax. I’ll have one soon enough.”

Later, over dinner, my dad asked, “So, Val, I expect you would like a car too.”  I had thought about this a lot, since I did at least hold a recent license. But with Kit in her flashy new vehicle, and never really going anywhere without me, I wasn’t in any rush.

“She’s in no rush to get a car.” For once, my mother, who was spooning peas onto my plate, seemed to have her finger on the pulse of the matter.

“Every kid wants their own car. They all want to drive, right, Val?”

“Some do,” I offered weakly, mentally scanning my group of friends. Cynthia Hogg didn’t drive, but the Hoggs were so wealthy they had a chauffeur. Eileen McMullen went everywhere on her bike, which probably accounted for her overly developed calf muscles. And then there was Bart Purcell, who definitely didn’t drive, but mainly because he was currently in juvie. I felt sure stealing a car would be at the top of his list once he got out.


Dad was not convinced. “How about we go car shopping? I have a couple of options in mind.”

“Make sure it has four real seats.” My mother was now spooning carrots onto our plates. “Not those baby seats in the back like Kit’s death trap.”

The following Saturday, I gingerly drove home in my new (to me) 1969 Chevrolet Corvair. It was a misleading shade of cream, or possibly white, depending on the light. The seats were hard black plastic, and there was a strange banging sound when the engine was turned on. I did my best to avoid driving it, but wanted to please my dad, who seemed happy with the purchase. Luckily, my mother came to the rescue when she produced Ralph Nader’s 1965 report in which he claimed the Corvair was unsafe at any speed.

That did it. The Corvair was returned and the new search began, this time with my older brother. I love my dad dearly, but note to self: don’t go car shopping with a man who is on a first-name basis with the local bus driver.



Monday, October 1, 2018

There’s No Buddy Like a Brother





“Is Buddy home?” I remember asking my mother back in the 1970s. She was busy spreading meringue on a lemon pie.

“Don’t go bothering your brother, Valerie. He’s in his room studying.”

As I suspected, my seventeen-year-old brother was hard at work playing Pong on his Atari. “Buddy,” I said quietly, opening his door.

“Val, it’s you; good. Here, take this.” He shoved an Atari paddle into my hand, and I reluctantly sat on the edge of the bed next to him.

“Man, this is slammin’,” Buddy said, his eyes alight and focused on the TV screen. “See how fast it is?”

I wiggled the joystick on the paddle. “So, I need a favor, a big one. Would you drive Kit and me to Milwaukee on the eighteenth to see David Cassidy?”


“Who?”

I relaxed a little since he hadn’t said no. “David Cassidy. The Partridge Family. He’s got a concert and—”

“Oh, that guy! No.”

“Buddy, please. Mom will let me go if you go with, and you don’t have to actually go to the concert—”

“Yeah, right, ’cuz why would I want to see that guy?” He was furiously moving his joystick left to right. That guy blows, Val.”

Later, as Buddy was leaving to go see Blazing Saddles, the new movie everyone was raving about, I attacked him at the front door. “Pleeeeez, Buddy. I’ll mow the lawn for you. For a month.”

“No.”

“Two months?”

“No. I kinda like mowing the lawn.” That was true, but only because it gave him an excuse to go bare-chested, which apparently held some sort of attraction to the sixteen-year-old Bermondsey twins who lived three doors down.

Next morning at breakfast: “How about I write your English essay on To Kill a Mockingbird?”

“Don’t need ya; I’ll see the movie.”

And at dinner that evening: “I’ll wash your car.”

“And vacuum the interior?”

“Yes, yes,” I said eagerly.

“Still no; you’re not going near my Mustang.”


Finally, that night I had to resort to Plan B, which involved my dad, which in turn meant it involved my mother. “Daddy, David Cassidy has a concert in Milwaukee on the eighteenth, and I was hoping—”

“David Cassidy—doesn’t he work at Oswald’s Pharmacy in Naperville?” my mother asked.

“No, Mom. Well, maybe a David Cassidy does work at Oswald’s, but I mean David Cassidy the singer—”

“Ya call that singing?” Buddy piped up.

“You know, from that cute TV show, The Partridge Family.” I looked at my father, who appeared clueless, but my mother chimed in.

“Oh, that David Cassidy. By the way, I really admire his mother’s hairstyle.”

“You mean his mother on the show, Shirley something?”

“No, I mean David Cassidy from Oswald’s. His mother has a stunning French twist.”

I retreated and concentrated on my meat loaf. “This is so good, Mom,” I said, hoping to butter her up some. Twenty minutes later, when she was slicing the lemon meringue pie, I launched my second offensive. “So, Daddy, do you think you could drive Kit and me to Milwaukee on the eighteenth?  I know it’s a two-hour drive, but perhaps you could—”

“What, Valerie?” my mother demanded. “What would you have him do? Drive around Milwaukee hoping not to get shot by the Balistrieri Crime Family while you are enjoying your rock and roll?”

“True,” Buddy said. “Because in Chicago we don’t have any crime families.” He gave me a wicked grin.

“Sorry, honey,” my dad finally spoke. “I will be out of town on the eighteenth.

“So, that settles it.” My mother looked thrilled. “No concert for you, young lady.”

I felt tears of frustration sting my eyes. I pushed my plate of lemon meringue deliciousness away, and Buddy quickly moved it in his direction.

“I’ll take ya.” He spooned a heap of yellow and white fluff into his mouth.

My tears suddenly vanished. “You will?”

He continued chewing. “I will. But only you and Kit, and you have to leave fifteen minutes before the show ends, and no David Cassidy cassettes in the car—”

“Done. Oh, thank you, Buddy, thank you.”

“I haven’t finished yet. My essay on that dead mockingbird thing is due on Friday, and you can vacuum my car, but not wash it. And you can start on the lawn tomorrow.”

I remembered then that the whole Bermondsey family, including the twins, was out of town.

“You got a deal,” I said. Triumphantly.