The Val & Kit Mystery Series

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Roz Explains Why Santa Claus Was a Little Late


On Christmas Eve I was given the task of reading ’Twas the Night Before Christmas to my four-year-old grandniece Emily. The plan was that she would fall asleep and I would then join the adults for the ongoing festivities. So, snuggled beside her in the bed, I read the beloved story while Emily studied the pictures in the book to be sure I was on track. As I finally reached the last line, the very wide-awake Emily took the book from me and advised that she would now “read” it to me.

In her version things changed slightly. Turns out that as soon as Santa had his sleigh packed and ready for his round-the-world trip, several of the Disney Princesses showed up with the intention of baking him a cake. For anyone not familiar with Disney Princesses, it’s a safe bet that Cinderella did most of the cooking, since I think she’s the only one who knows her way around a kitchen.

As I got sleepier, and Emily became more energized, she moved on to the story of the Baby Jesus, complete with several songs, one of which was apparently sung by a donkey. I’m also pretty sure there were a couple of Disney Princesses in the Nativity.

But my luck held out when we heard a tapping on the bedroom door (No, Emily, it’s not Santa; it’s your daddy). My nephew took over, and as I gratefully left the room, I heard him explaining how Santa was probably in New Zealand already and would soon be on his way west to England. If the rudiments of time zones couldn’t put that child to sleep, nothing could.

Eventually, much, much later, things turned out as they should. Emily did fall asleep, and good old St. Nick turned up when he was supposed to. At least judging by the stocking at the end of her bed.

Here’s hoping everyone had a joyous Christmas, no matter what time zone they live in, and Santa is back in the North Pole taking a well-deserved break.


Roz's Grandniece Emily (Speaking of Princesses)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Making a List . . .


With Thanksgiving over, Val decides it’s time to start some serious Christmas shopping. So she enlists Kit’s help on gift ideas for everyone on her list.

LET’S START WITH TOM

Val:      It has to be something amazing, but Tom is tricky; he is literally the man who has everything.

Kit:     And yet he appears to have nothing. What does he like? 

Val:     He likes German cars.

Kit:     Who doesn’t? So are you thinking a new Mercedes?

Val:     You’re not helping, and of course not a Mercedes. Think smaller. German smaller. How about a beer stein?

Kit:     Somehow I don’t see Tom Haskins guzzling beer. Why don’t you get him tickets to the auto show?
(Hmm, not the worst idea in the world.)

ON TO PERRY

Kit:     That guy is simple.

Val:     Oh good, you have an idea?

Kit:     No. I was merely pointing out that he’s simple.

Val:     What about a silk bow tie? Or a really stylish vest?

Kit:     Doesn’t he own ten thousand already? How about a Bette Midler CD? You can’t go wrong with Bette.

Val:     You might be right. I notice Perry has recently changed his ringtone to “Wind Beneath My Wings.”
(Yippee! Two presents down, and only a minimum of wrapping paper required.)

NEXT, BILLIE

Val:     She loves Aerosmith. Let me see if they have a concert in Chicago anytime soon.

Kit:     They sing?

Val:     Yes, they sing. Rock. Maybe we should go too.

Kit:     I like Andrea Bocelli, ya know.

Val:     Not sure he’s her cup of tea.

Kit:     Speaking of tea, wanna grab some Starbucks?

Val:     Not till we finish this flippin’ list.

MY MOM

Val:     This should be a no-brainer—for you. You always get her better gifts than I do. Any thoughts spring to mind?

Kit:     No problem; book a cruise for her and William. Somewhere exotic; Bali, or Fiji.

Val:     Er . . . that would be a super-duper idea, Kitty Kat. But I wasn’t planning to take out a bank loan.

Kit:     What do you usually get her? A lump of coal?
(In terms of expense, she wasn’t far off.)

Val:     I think I’ll get her a foot massager.
(I could just hear my mom:  Valerie, is this one of those dangerous foot gadgets from Europe? I can’t say I’ve ever met a European whose feet I admired. Okay, I’d rethink the foot massager. Or get one made in the USA, if that was possible.)

HOW ABOUT WILLIAM STUCKEY (my mom’s husband)?

Val:     He should be a breeze. Books. Maybe a nice coffee-table book on World War II.

Kit:     He reads those things?

Val:     All the time.

Kit:     He does know the ending, right?

Val:     Yeeeeees, he knows the ending, dum-dum. He’s interested in how they got to the ending.

Kit:     Everyone knows—oh, forget it!

OKAY, MUCH EASIER, EMILY AND LUKE

Val:     Done! Bicycles. One each.

Kit:     I thought you said their apartment in LA was tiny; where are they gonna put them?

Val:     Not stationary bicyles; real ones. I’ve ordered them from Sports Authority. They can hang them on the wall.

Kit:     Why don’t you get them memberships to a nice air-conditioned gym? That sounds like much more fun than cycling around California. In the outdoors. In the open air.

Val:     It’s what they want. And some people actually like being outdoors.

Kit:     In that heat? On a bicycle? It’s insane!

KIT’S PEEPS (I was going to be jealous; I just knew it.)

Val:     By the way, what did you buy your people?

Kit:     Oh, mine were easy peasy. I booked Larry into a golf clinic in Arizona for three weeks.  Of course it’s more a present for me, just to get him out of my hair for that length of time. And I bought Sam a first-class ticket to Chicago for two weeks,

Val:     So again, more a gift for you than for your son.

Kit:     Moving on. For my mother and her husband, I am sending a case of good champagne. She’s half in the bag most of the time, anyway, and after she opens the first bottle, she won’t be going anywhere, least of all to visit me. Perfect gift!

Val:     And not in the least self-serving.

Kit:     Not in any way.

Val:     So you are done.

Kit:     Not quite. I still have to get something for you, but I know what it is.

Val:     Oh, please, don’t get all extravagant on me. I can’t afford to reciprocate.

Kit:     Reciprocation has nothing to do with it. When have we ever compared expenditures on gifts to each other?
(Last Christmas I gave her a Starbucks coffee cup and a framed picture of the two of us taken outside our favorite coffee shop. She gave me a gray cashmere pashmina wrapped around a pearl choker with a diamond clasp.)

Val:     Never.
(Although since I had divorced and money was tight, I’d generally felt embarrassed at my measly gifts to her, compared to the lavish presents she gave me—most of which I never used because . . . well, because of the lavishness.)

Kit:     So prepare yourself, Valley Girl. This year I'm going all out.

Val:     Oh no . . . please don’t . . . I don’t need anything. What about a pair of gloves? I’d like that.

Kit:     Forget gloves!  No, no—although this might require wearing gloves and possibly some kind of head covering. And you should be sure your shots are up to date.

Val:     Kiiiiiiiiiiit?

Kit:     Kidding. I’m kidding.

DEAR READERS

Kit and Val:  Since your gift to us has been thankfully and humbly received all year, our gift to you and your family is a wish for peace, prosperity, and the happiest holiday season ever. Please open early and enjoy!
Roz's great-niece Emily on
Christmas morning
Patty's grandson Jackson
Patty's granddaughters Anna Lydia and Ella


Monday, November 10, 2014

THANKSGIVING 1977

“I know what will be fun. Let’s go around the table and say what we are thankful for.” Ugh! My mother said this as though a lightbulb had literally just switched on over her head, as if she’d just thought of this idea two seconds ago. Like she hadn’t said this every Thanksgiving for the past sixteen years I’d known her.

“I’ll go first,” she continued, fingering the hideous turquoise necklace around her neck that she dragged out every Thanksgiving as her nod to Native American culture. Next followed a litany of things she was grateful for, including the mild winter and President Carter (even though she was a Republican, she strongly believed every President deserved mention). My older brother, Buddy, was wedged into her list between Barbra Streisand and our new pastor at church. I came much later, with a caveat that my grades must continue to hold up and I mustn’t get distracted. By distracted, she meant, of course, my best friend, Kit, who was celebrating Thanksgiving in New York with her parents. It sounded so glamorous. So Kit. And although I’d been invited to go with them, my mother wouldn’t hear of it.

“Me next,” my funky Aunt Linda chimed in, cutting off my mother midsentence. Aunt Linda was totally far out. She had arrived wearing cool bell-bottoms, a psychedelic shirt, and a long, skinny, red scarf wrapped around her frizzy perm.

“Well, Linda,” my mother said, when Linda didn’t continue. “Enlighten us.”

“Pink Floyd—”

“Moving on.” My mother turned her gaze toward Gerald, my eighteen-year-old know-it-all cousin, indicating he better come up with something better.

“Apple,” he said.

“Apple?”

“The computer company, Aunt Jean. It’s gonna be so rad—”

“I doubt it. Clarice? What about you?”

Aunt Clarice, who unfortunately bore the maiden aunt title in our family, didn’t disappoint. “I’m so grateful for Miss Marple. She’s my Pekingese,” she explained, as if she hadn’t spent all morning telling us how wretched she felt leaving her home alone. “She’s not used to being—”

“Okay,” my mother moved on to Buddy. “What about you, son?”

Buddy leaned forward, his elbows on the table. He looked so handsome with his hair curling over the top of his pale-blue acrylic turtleneck sweater. Not that I’d ever tell him that, of course. “I’m grateful for . . .”

“Go on,” Mom urged him.

“For this delicious turkey . . . this awesome meal. Thanks, Mom.”

My mother looked satisfied, as her fingers twirled around the large turquoise stones at her throat. Score one for Buddy. Again.

The remaining family members continued. Uncle Frazier was grateful for Reggie Jackson. Aunt Hattie was thankful for disco, in particular Donna Summer (at her age! Aunt Hattie was at least a hundred). My grandfather was delighted that he had his damn sciatica under control and made special mention of the tamales he’d consumed for breakfast (he said this eyeing my mother’s turkey with distaste). And when it was my dad’s turn, he raised his glass. “I’m grateful for my family. For Buddy, who I am proud to call my son; for Valerie, who brings me joy every day. And for my wife, Jean, who makes all this possible.” He waved his glass in the air to encompass everyone at the table.

Content, my mom turned her attention to me. “Valerie. Your turn.”

I had intended to say I was most grateful for my best friend, Kit, who I was missing so much this past week. She’d called me once to tell me they’d been to the World Trade Center and had tickets that night for the show Annie. I would have given anything to be with her.

“Well, Valerie,” I heard my mom’s impatient voice. She put an elbow on the table and cupped her chin in her hand. “Can you think of something before Christmas gets here?”

“Sorry,” I said, toying with the napkin on my lap. “It’s you, Mom. I’m grateful for you.”

She nodded, smiled, and looked the most grateful of all.


Throwback Thanksgiving: (top) Patty, Patty's daughter Melissa, Roz
(bottom) Melissa, Roz, Patty's husband Johnny
Happy Thanksgiving from Roz and Patty AND Val & Kit!!!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Roz Agrees: There’s No Place Like Home—Both of Them

I just returned from a trip to England, and my hometown, London. I am reminded of the famous quote by Samuel Johnson that goes, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” By the way, in case you’re not familiar with Samuel Johnson, he was a famous doctor, essayist, and poet who lived in London in the 1700s. 

Although I spent my childhood and early adult years in London, my family now all live in Surrey, a beautiful county, less than an hour away from the capital, filled with quaint villages, churches built hundreds of years ago, and charming pubs where you can often find a Labrador retriever sitting peacefully by its owner who just popped in for a quick pint (the dog owner, not the dog).

On the day of my arrival at my sister’s house, she had a party. I was struck by how many different generations were there and how everyone meshed beautifully. We danced all night to a variety of current music peppered with a few oldies including a couple of Elvis songs, some Stones, and a touching rendition of Frank Sinatra singing “New York, New York,” with all in attendance crooning along nostalgically with Ol’ Blue Eyes (9/11 was a few days away, so that made it even more special).

My dear brother-in-law, Alan, asked me once why I was so proud of Great Britain. I had to think about it for a while and used as a reference the movie Love Actually, where Hugh Grant plays the Prime Minister (and some people don’t think the English have a sense of humor!). As PM, Hugh was forced to defend Great Britain against the naughty American President and highlighted the following as proof of Britain’s impressive attributes: Shakespeare, Churchill, The Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter, and David Beckham’s right foot (as well as his left one). There are many, many more. I personally love the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, James Bond, Charles Dickens, Downton Abbey, the BBC, The Royal Family, Jane Austen, and good old Richard Branson. As for Gordon Ramsay, well, we all know he’s a tyrant, but he’s our tyrant.

I’m sure there are many people reading this thinking that since I love it so much, I should go back there. The truth is, I love the U.S. equally (and can list exactly what it is I love about it in another blog if anyone cares to hear). Suffice it to say, I feel happy to call Houston my home. I have no plans to return to the land of my birth any time soon, but I can still admire with great affection a small island across the Atlantic Ocean that has accomplished so much.

I can’t wait for Val and Kit to go there, in an upcoming book. I’m a little nervous about what Kit will have to say; she’s very picky. But I’m confident Val is going to love it. As we say here in America, what’s not to love?

Most famous clock in the world.

Roz's niece, Jennie, sleeping in Westminster Abbey.


Friday, September 5, 2014

The Post Roz Wrote After 10,000 Cups of Coffee

I’m just going to come right out and say it: I love hyperbole. I love its name and the way it sounds. Although Patty says she thinks of it as hyper-bull, if pronounced phonetically, hyper-bowl, it sounds like it should be a football event, like the Sugar Bowl or the Rose Bowl, for people suffering from ADD. But said correctly, hyperbole sounds cheery and a little bit Italian. Like you should click your fingers when you say it.

I enjoy people who pepper their everyday language with hyperbole, like a friend at work who could never go to lunch because she always had a million e-mails to catch up on. Or another friend who described his neighbor as being twenty feet tall. And then there was the referee of the World Cup Uruguay vs Italy game who was obviously blind.

If figures of speech were arranged into a pyramid of cheerleaders, Hyperbole would be the one on the top that looked the cutest and had to perform death-defying leaps and jumps to get there. If figurative language had a wedding, Hyperbole would be the beautiful bride, with Metaphor and Simile as bridesmaids. The invitation for Literal (the natural enemy of Hyperbole) would get lost in the mail. Analogy  would be the wedding guest everyone avoided because he drank too much and hit on the bridesmaids. The heavy-handed Rhetoric would be guarding the door, and Euphemism would be responsible for keeping everyone in line.

So since Patty and are I are the biggest fans ever of hyperbole, it’s the most natural thing in the world that Val and Kit are, too. In our latest Val and Kit mystery, set in California and not yet titled, Kit, especially, can’t stop herself.

“He’s so old.” Kit groaned.
“And British. That’s a British accent, right?”
“He’s ancient.”
“But British; don’t you think he sounds—”
“He’s older than Methuselah—”
Okay. He’s getting on a bit. But quick, before he comes back, tell me how you found him.”

And the best part is that I never worry about using hyperbole incorrectly. Patty can whip any narrative into shape faster than a speeding bullet.







Tuesday, August 12, 2014

One Lovely Blog


Thanks, Anna Celeste Burke, for nominating Roz and Patty Write for the One Lovely Blog Award. We’re grateful to be in such good company, among bloggers already given this award. We hope everyone who reads this post will check out Anna Celeste Burke’s blog, Desert Cities Mystery, and read her posts and learn about her books!

Here’s what’s involved now that we’re up for the award. The rules say:
·       Thank the person nominating us and link back to that blog. Click here to meet Anna Celeste Burke and check out the Desert Cities Mystery blog.
·       Share seven things about ourselves—look out below!
·       Nominate 15 or so bloggers we admire—what fun!
·       Contact our bloggers to let them know we’ve tagged them for the ONE LOVELY BLOG AWARD—done!

SEVEN THINGS ABOUT US
·       We love working within our self-imposed deadline for returning chapters to each other. Sometimes we don't make it, but it's good to have. 
·       After Roz scoops ice cream into a bowl, she puts it in the microwave for a few seconds. She likes it slightly melted and the consistency of very thick soup.
·       Patty LOVES delicious apples because they are so, well, delicious. She finds them the perfect complement to many of her other favorite foods: cheese (she is from Wisconsin, after all), peanut butter, nachos, walnuts, Cheetos, cottage cheese, you-name-it.
·       Because Roz lives in a climate where the sun shines most of the time and when it rains it is often torrential, she has grown to appreciate grey skies and light drizzle.  
·       Because Patty lives in a climate that has l-o-n-g winters, she has grown to love spending a couple of those cold months in Palm Desert, California (the setting for our next Val & Kit mystery). She also loves to visit Roz in Houston.
·       Roz likes men who open doors for women and give up their seats on the subway. It's not fashionable, perhaps, but it's just nice.
·       Speaking of men, Patty has five brothers, no sisters.

OUR BLOG NOMINEES
Tamara McCleary              

Sunday, August 3, 2014

No Reservations Required

If you’ve never had lunch served at a restaurant run by Texans Cash Brooks (who’s four) and Bodie, his three-year-old brother, you are missing out. Roz had this great pleasure recently, when circumstances called for a few hours of babysitting.

The “restaurant” was the living room. There was seating available on the couch, but not the recliner since Grandpa Ken had already claimed it. They dined à la carte, as Cash read from the “menu,” a Sports Illustrated magazine that offered such delights as hockey-stick stew and baseball-glove stew. In fact, it seemed that any stew could be whipped up as long as there was an accompanying picture in the magazine.

Bodie, doing double duty as cook and waiter, took their orders and then stirred all the ingredients in a toy saucepan. Once fully cooked, which took several seconds, the stew looked remarkably like a mishmash of Lego pieces. Roz did go off the menu and requested a potato, which the stew seemed to be lacking. This sent Cash scurrying around the house, and returning with a red clown nose that he plunked into her stew. The imaginary beverage menu was limitless. She chose chocolate milk with marshmallows.

They ate casually off their laps, with their cook continuously dishing out his endless culinary delight. This was a real all-you-can-eat place. And, as an extra treat, Cash produced a miniature bottle of steak sauce from his pocket (part of his personal collection of condiments, which he generously shared).

When the cook was asked if a particular piece of green Lego could possibly  be broccoli, he replied very matter-of-factly, “No; it’s a piece of green Lego.” Well, duh! We wonder how many older cooks are that honest.

When they’d eaten as much as they could, Roz asked for the check. Bodie presented her with a tiny piece of paper, a quarter of the size of a postage stamp. Luckily, she had her Amex card handy.

Later in the day, they went to a real restaurant for lunch. It was good, but not as good as Cash and Bodie’s place.

Bodie, Grammy and Cash

As writers, we know that showing is usually better than just telling. Sometimes this doesn’t come naturally, but the Brooks boys delivered this message with a bang.

When Roz returned home, she thought a lot about Cash and Bodie and their fabulous restaurant, and how much there is to learn from little kids. Their creativity was impressive. How lucky was she to dine at such a fine establishment and get to see their imagination soar? Free and uninhibited, and a fine stew thrown in.

We think Kit, our gourmet cook from The Val and Kit Mystery Series, would be very proud of these boys.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION



So it looks like Val and Kit might soon be taking a trip to California. Palm Desert, to be exact—although at this stage, that could easily change, or they could take a detour along the way, and who knows where they might end up. Having wrapped up Lethal Property, set in their hometown of Downers Grove, Illinois, a trip out West seems like a good idea. So far.

Finishing LethalProperty, putting in the endless final touches, and making it available on Amazon is extremely satisfying for us. It feels like we sent our brand-new baby out into the world, and we’re hoping she’s going to win at least one Most Beautiful Baby contest.

But there is no rest for the wicked, or these two authors, so Val and Kit are on to their next adventure, and location is just one of the many fun things we have to decide upon.

Speaking of location, Patty currently lives in Door County, Wisconsin, and grew up in the Midwest, where Roz and Patty first met. Roz currently resides in Houston, Texas, but was born and raised in London. Luckily, she spent her teenage years in that city at just the right time, when London was on the verge of becoming the center of the universe (according to Londoners, anyway). Let’s start with music (known in the U.S. as the British Invasion): The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, The Kinks, and on and on. Let’s move to fashion: miniskirts, Vidal Sassoon’s geometric haircuts, and Twiggy, to name just a few icons. Okay, now on to culture: Mods and Rockers and Carnaby Street. That’s about the extent of what Roz remembers. And really, what else mattered to a teenager living so close to the sun. Good times. For anyone really interested in serious history back then, check out Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.

But back to Val and Kit. We know Val can travel light. Kit, not so much. But most important, they better have a Starbucks wherever they end up.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

In the Beginning ...

Here's how we’ve started No. 5 in The Val & Kit Mystery Series (and now only about 200 pages to go!):

When I heard the loud rat-a-tat on my front door, I bolted up in bed at lightning speed. The bright red numerals on my digital clock read 1:05. I grabbed my reading glasses, as if they would offer some protection, and prepared to wait. For what? To get a closer look at any intruder? After a few seconds of silence I sucked in a big gulp of air, the kind doctors instruct you to do just before they shove one end of a cold stethoscope against your skin.

Okay, whoever was knocking had bypassed the super security system in the entrance of my building. But the dead bolt on my front door would keep me safe. If only I had remembered to lock the darn thing. If only I had remembered to plug in my cell phone for recharging, or, even better, had brought it into the bedroom with me.

Rat-a-tat-tat started up again, and my breathing was becoming dangerously shallow. I’d surely pass out before any would-be housebreaker, no matter how courteous, assumed there was no one home and kicked the door in.

When the knocking started a third time, I had a sudden burst of bravery, no doubt brought on by a lack of oxygen to my brain. I jumped out of bed and grabbed the aluminum baseball bat I kept in my closet, the one I’d found discarded next to the dumpster outside my building.

With the bat gripped tightly in both hands and held high over my left shoulder, I crept out of my bedroom and across the twenty or so feet to the front door. I did at least have a peephole in working condition, and stretching up the inch or so necessary to peer through it, I got a good look at my interloper.

Kit. Kit James. My best friend of over forty years. She was staring straight at the peephole, one hand on her hip, the other waving an envelope in my direction. She looked pissed.

“Will you open this door, for crying out loud? I know you’re standing there, Val.”


Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Versatile Blogger Award—and Seven Things About Us



We want to thank Christian Brown for nominating us for the Versatile Blogger Award. In accepting it, we in turn nominate the bloggers listed below, in no particular order, for the VBA, and we'll also share seven things about ourselves. It's nice to know people are reading our blog and are interested in getting to know us better!


And now for SEVEN THINGS ABOUT US you might not know:

1. In our Val & Kit Mystery Series, we begin without a plot. We not only don't know whodunit, we don't know why or how. Talk about character-driven.
2. We met about 40 years ago (yes, we've been friends as long as Val and Kit have, although we started at a slightly older age J) and have been writing partners for about 30 years.
3. Roz relies on Patty to translate her work from English English to American English. Even though Roz has lived in the United States for over forty years, she sometimes lapses (e.g., windscreen instead of windshield).
4. We both consider ourselves directionally dyslexic, but didn't confess this to one another for a couple of decades. No one appreciates—or needs—the GPS more than we do!
5. Even though we take our Skype sessions in the end stages of a book very seriously, there is always a lot of laughing.
6. We lived in the same state only briefly before moving apart and becoming besties via letters (making us more appreciative than most of the written word).
7. Although our first job, always, is to please each other, we have been blessed by many five-star reviews, and nothing feels quite as magical as reading praise from a total stranger.




Sunday, June 1, 2014

Are You Val or Kit?


Your favorite designer is
Valentino
Hanes

The last book you read was
Bridget Jones, The Edge of Reason
Chanel: The Vocabulary of Style by Jerome Gautier

Your favorite vegetable is
Turban squash
French fries

Your favorite TV show is
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Antiques Road Show

Your favorite meal is
Massaman curry
Cheerios

Your favorite pastime is
Shopping for clothes
Watching Law and Order: Special Victims Unit

Your favorite sport is
Ice skating
Shopping for clothes

Who would you pick to be stranded with on a desert island?
Kit
George Clooney

We’ll leave you to sort out the reds from the blues.  You know who you are!

Now out, LETHAL PROPERTY, No. 4 in The Val & Kit Mystery Series.