"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The return of Benny Needles

People-In-General: "So when's the next book coming out?"

Me: "As soon as I write it", "It's about halfway done", "Not sure", "Ummmm..."

I'm getting this question a lot lately. There are probably folks out there with a lot of She-Should'ves advice. As in, She should've been writing the second one as soon as the first one was finished. She should've been working harder on the second one. She should've had several plots lined up before she even wrote the first one.

Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

Here's the thing: Even though I'm just a genre writer, who writes fun and entertaining romps, I take my writing seriously. I can't just plop the same characters into the same location with a different dead body and call it a book. I need a crime that appeals to me, either in its cleverness or its irony. I need a twist. I need subplots that show my characters going through real situations.

Wow. I sure sound needy, don't I?

So, I'm more than halfway through the first draft. I'm happy with the crime, the criminals, and what Peri's going through in this story. I can finally settle onto my tush and do some serious writing this week because I don't have to travel to an honor choir or sell concessions or do anything besides write and teach a few riding lessons. (Sorry, housework - you're gonna have to wait.)

In the meantime, here's a teaser for HIT OR MISSUS: A Peri Minneopa Mystery -

When private investigator Peri Minneopa takes on a surveillance job for a suspicious husband, she finds herself being stalked, possibly by the woman she's trying to follow. Is this rich housewife dabbling in more than infidelity?

There's more, but you'll have to be patient. Skip is back, as well as Blanche, and the other members of the PPD. In addition, Benny Needles is back. I hadn't planned for him to re-appear so soon, but he has become such an overwhelmingly popular guy, I found a way for him to return. Here's an excerpt for your amusement (note: Peri is temporarily fostering her neighbor's cat. The neighbor, an elderly woman, died of a sudden heart attack - or was it something else?):

* * * * *

As she flipped through the papers, Peri became aware of a whirring noise in her tote bag, so she excavated her cell phone and answered it.

"Miss Menopause?" The voice was unmistakable.

"Benny, please call me Peri."

"Oh. Yeah. Miss Peri. I'm out of jail."

Peri's former client, Benny Needles had been convicted of receiving stolen property. With no priors and a full, weeping confession, he had only spent 30 days behind bars. She heard he was now completing a few hours of community service.

"I know. How are you?"

"I'm good. I'm good."

"I was a little worried about you in jail. I'm glad you're out." Peri didn't think Benny's obsessive-compulsive constitution would hold up well in an Orange County Jail cell. In addition to his OCD, Benny was an incurable Dean Martin fan, and had stuffed his house with Dino memorabilia. He needed his things, just as he needed certain foods, and a certain schedule. Under stress, Benny either suffered anxiety attacks requiring hospitalization, or he reverted into Dino mode. Neither of these was a pretty sight.

"It wasn't so bad," he told her. "Except I missed my house and my things. And they wouldn't let me wear my suits in jail. And their food didn't taste very good. But I taught all the guys in my block to sing 'That's Amore'."

"That's nice," Peri said. "What can I do for you?"

"I have to do community service, Miss Mmm-Peri. One hundred fifty hours. It's hard."

"What are you doing?"

"That's the thing… I was working as a janitor at Aunt Esmy's church, but I guess I don't keep things too clean, which was okay 'cause they never played any Dino music there. So then I went to work at the library, but the director didn't think the Dean Martin biography belonged at the front of the shelves. We kinda fought about that, so I wasn't invited back. I tried to help out at Bradford Square, but those people are so old and cranky."

"Geez, Benny, how many jobs have you had?"


Peri felt uneasy, but asked, "How many hours do you have left?"

"A hundred. I was wondering if you had anything for me to do."

"Oh, Benny, I can’t really think of any-"

"Miss Peri, please." His voice rose. "I need these hours or they'll maybe send me back. I can't go back there. I can put papers in files, or dust or something. You used to clean for my mom. I could clean for you."

Peri nearly erupted in laughter, but held herself back. "I don't know-"

"I could run errands, do your shopping. Miss Peri, I gotta do something and it won't even cost you."

Not in money, but probably my sanity, Peri thought. The cat's bad enough - do I have to foster Benny too?

"Okay, Ben, we'll try it out," she told him, while Robbie the Robot appeared in her head, bellowing Danger, Danger, Will Robinson. "Come to my office tomorrow afternoon at two o'clock and I'll give you something to do."

"At two? But Rio Bravo is on TV then, and I wanted to-"

"Don't push me, Benny. Be there at two tomorrow or the deal's off."

* * * * *

Now, if you don't mind, I gotta get back to writing.


Bossy Betty said...

Is there a chance Benny and Peri get together? Hummmm....

Gayle Carline said...

Betty - Um, no. Peri is quite happily non-cohabitating with her main squeeze, the handsome and smart Placentia Police Detective Skip Carlton. Benny is more like her younger, annoying brother.

See: http://www.gaylecarline.com/freezerburn.html

B. Miller said...

Great excerpt. Don't worry about the second one, it'll be done when it's done. And you're not "just a genre writer", my dear... you're an AUTHOR who caters to specific tastes. (Like me - I'm "just a genre writer" who writes about scary stuff.) :D

Villavillain said...

OMG, Benny and Peri together! Great! Now I have to scrub out my mind's eye with a brillo pad...

dino martin peters said...

Miss Gayle Carline, thank you so much for sharin' a bit of your new mystery tome. Can't tell you how delighted I am to know that Dino-lovin' Benny has become beloved by the readers of "Freezer Burn." Loves this teaser of Benny's latest Dino-capers...so lookin' forward to readin' the new book. Know that your blog post will goes up this very day at ilovedinomartin....all my best as you write on....

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