Interview: J.A. Kazimer

Please welcome J.A. Kazimer, author of the Deadly Ever After series, Wilde Crime series, and Assassin’s series.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
My perfect day starts with waking up late. Sometime around noon is nice. Take the pups out for a quick walk, and The Fairyland Murders_ebook (1)then hit a bookstore followed by a museum or other activity before enjoying a four course meal. Then winding up on the couch with a movie or one of the books I purchased earlier in the day, add in a bottle of whiskey and a hot guy and my perfect day is complete.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
Does the smell of dog work as a signature scent? If not, I have to go with the color pink and salads. I love both very much.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
I am in awe of so many authors, and many books, movies, and songs so witling it down to three is tough. But the top ones are Oscar Wilde, Christopher Moore, and Art Alexakis. Would you believe that question took me an hour to answer?

Do you listen to music when you write?
Absolutely. I need background noise. I tend toward indie rock and some pop. Right now as I’m answering this question, I’m listening to Frank Turner’s England Keep My Bones.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Something fun sized and dark. My last book, The Fairyland Murders, uses humor with a dark, noir style.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I love a good murder, and what is better than a string of Tooth Fairies strung up by dental floss? I also adore my hero. His name is Blue, and he is flawed nearly beyond belief and snarky, which makes me love him that much more.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Flawed characters are a big part of all my novels. I love to explore how dysfunction impacts a plot. Without character flaws, a protagonist would be boring, so I like to add in as many as I can and still make them the hero.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
When Blue was six months old, he was left on the doorstep of an orphanage. The nuns who took him in called him, Little Boy Blue, as he had and still has a shock of bright blue hair as well as the ability to conduct electricity. This ability makes it impossible for him to touch or be touched by anyone without causing pain.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Part Sam Spade, part Grumpy the dwarf from Snow White, and total slacker from any 90’s movie.

If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Oscar Wilde would sit head of the table, Christopher Moore, Luke Davies, Julie Garwood, Tim Dorsey and Dave Barry. This would make for a fabulous and quite perfect day too.

What’s next for you?
I’m currently in the final revision stage of Book 2, The Lady in Pink, in the Deadly Ever After Series (Book 1 is The Fairyland Murders), at the same time I am writing book 2 in The Assassin’s series, The Assassin’s Kiss. Following that, a nice long nap sounds in order.

***

J.A. Kazimer is a writer living in Denver, CO. When she isn’t looking for the perfect place to hide the bodies, she spends her time surrounded by cats with attitude and a little puppy named Killer. Other hobbies include murdering houseplants, kayaking, snowboarding, reading and theater. In addition being a writer, Kazimer spent a few years spilling drinks on people as a bartender and then wasted another few years stalking people while working as a private investigator in the Denver area. Her novels include: CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope Sick: A Love Story, SHANK, Froggy Style, The Assassin’s Heart, and The Fairyland Murders. Forthcoming novels include The Lady in Pink and The Assassin’s Kiss.

www.jakazimer.com
www.facebook.com/JulieAKazimer
@jakazimer

Amazon buy link: http://www.amazon.com/Fairyland-Murders-J-Kazimer-ebook/dp/B00LGZ9JL4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418317256&sr=8-1&keywords=kazimer
Barnes & Noble buy link: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-fairyland-murders-ja-kazimer/1119908501?ean=9781601832610

Ice: Jump on in

I was feeling a bit snarky and rebellious earlier this week.

See, my Christmas spirit has been on the thin side. What with not even having a tree yet (we wanted to downsize and it hasn’t arrived yet – and while I’d love a real tree, the husband is not as enthusiastic), not even starting to decorate, cookie plans still in flux, general running around, no Advent activities, and the chill/gray/dreary weather, well, “bah, humbug,” is all I had to say.

And then, during my Monday morning Twitter check, I saw an announcement that the Minotaur/MWA First Crime Novel contest deadline was 11:59 that night.

I checked the eligibility. I was good to go. I have a manuscript that I am getting ready to query in the new year.

Why not? I thought, rather mulishly, I admit. If it’s good enough to query, it’s good enough for a contest.

I pondered. Should I? Shouldn’t I? Doing these things on a whim isn’t good, right?

The heck with it. I filled out the form, uploaded the manuscript, and clicked Submit.

Then I stared at the confirmation “thanks for entering” message and panicked.

It was a little like a Polar Bear plunge, I think. You know, those people who, on New Year’s Day, go jump in an icy river or lake or other body of water. I suppose it seems like a good idea at the time. All the cool kids are doing it. Why not go along with the crowd, right?

So you jump, and the icy water hits you, wakes you up, and you get out of the river/lake/whatever and into some warm, sensible clothes. Maybe you grab a mug of hot chocolate. Anything to get back to reality.

In a way, I think any time a writer clicks Submit or Send on a manuscript – be it a query to an agent, a submission to a magazine, or entry in a contest – it’s a bit like being doused in ice. Right up until you click that button, it seems like such a good idea. You’re ready. You’ve slaved over this story for weeks/months/years. It is read to fly. You’re ready to fly. Never mind sugarplums, images of acceptance letters dance in your head.

And the second you send it off, the ice hits. Oh my gosh, what did I just do? There is no going back. No “takesies-backsies” as my kids would say. You’ve plunged right into the ice.

And since that’s the case, relish it. Enjoy it. You did something that a lot of people talk about and never do. Maybe they’ll say “no.” But you were at “no” before you pushed Submit. So what do you have to lose?

So enjoy the icy fresh feeling of “wow, did I really do that?” Because yes, yes you did. Congratulations.

Then run and get yourself some warm clothes and hot chocolate.

And in a bit of BSP, in case you are looking for a digital stocking stuffer, the ebook version of Lucky Charms: 12 Crime Tales is now on sale for 99 cents through Christmas Day. Published by the Mary Roberts Rinehart chapter of Sisters in Crime, the collection includes my story, Batter Down, written as Liz Milliron.

Ice: Hiding in Plain Sight

One of my favorite Indiana Jones moments comes in the opening sequence of Temple of Doom. In the scene (which you can see here), a valuable pouch of diamonds gets confused with the contents of an ice bucket. A dramatic fight scene ensues, all while the gold-digging songstress dives into the melee, attempting to procure the jewels for herself. It sets the tone of the movie as one that mixes danger and humor, and lets us in on the fact that the character of Indiana cares less about walking away with the valuables, than making sure the bad guys don’t either.

The ice/diamond confusion serves to hint at another theme of the movie: that things are often not what they seem. Like in a mystery, what we, as readers, think we know, might not be what we know. And often the truth is hiding in plain sight. Red herrings and clues coexist like ice cubes and diamonds. As a detective or amateur sleuth turns up the heat on the investigation, the false leads melt away, leaving us with the real culprits, the real clues, and the real conclusion.

I enjoy the process of trudging through the melting slush to determine which clues will run down the drain and which will prove to be something of value. In a mystery, it’s important for the sleuth to at times feel like the trail has gone cold. It’s important for her to realize that she might have missed something that’s been hiding in plain sight. And it’s important for her to eventually be hot on the trail of the bad guy.

Ice is like a plot device that keeps our protagonist in the dark while a criminal gets away with murder. Whether it’s in cold blood or the heat of the moment is the subject for a different blog!

Hardheaded Icy Thoughts

I was two the first time I took to the ice. All these years later, I can still visualize the day. My Dad took me to a place called Meadowbrook. It was a frozen pond. He strapped my double runner ice skates over my boots. I took one look around me and started to wail. All the other kids wore single runner skates, or at least double runners that looked like single runners. Mine were the big blocky kind with the blades separated by the width of the platform that held them. Kind of like roller skates with the rollers replaced with a single blade. I wanted no part of them.

I didn’t know there was a hierarchy of ice skates based on age and experience. First, you got the blocky double runners, then the close together double runners, until finally, you graduated to the glorious single runners. Black leather boots for hockey, white for figure skates. I’m sure my blocky things were stable, and, thinking back, I was the youngest kid at the pond. But to me, that wasn’t the point. I wanted single runner skates. I would not get on the pond. He took me by the hand and tried to lead me to the pond, picked me up and carried me to the ice, pleaded, cajoled, and bought me hot chocolate. No matter what he tried, I would not budge.

Completely embarrassed and at a loss for what else to do, my father took me to a hobby shop and bought me child sized, white leather booted, single runner, figure skates. He told me years later that he expected to bring me home to my mother with, at the least, a broken arm. Somehow, he said, facing my mother’s wrath was easier in his mind than facing my outrage.

We got to the pond, he took off my snow boots and put on my glorious, wonderful, single runner figure skates and led me to the ice. I carefully walked alongside on my points the way the salesman said. There I was, a tiny child tiptoeing on skates, my hand firmly held by my six foot four Dad. He picked me up when we got to the edge of the pond and he carried me to the smoother ice of the middle where he carefully set me on my feet. I remember wobbling when he set me down. Trying to find balance. He let go of one hand, and turned from facing me to next to me. My left hand held firmly in his grip. He took a step. I glided mine just like the children all around me. He took another step. I glided again, my blades straight on the ice. Together, we circled the ice hand in hand. At some point, he let go of my hand and I cruised over the ice like a professional. I don’t remember falling. I’m sure I did, although my Dad claims I didn’t. That was my first trip to the ice.

A few years later, I got my first two-wheeler bike. We had a similar discussion over training wheels. I won, and after an initial circuit of the playground with my father running alongside supporting the bike, I soloed and never looked back.

The well-remembered incident with the ice skates defined my character in some ways. Whenever I face an obstacle. One I can’t see a way around. I remember the two year old who wanted, and got, and successfully used, single runner skates. Like the well-loved book of my childhood, if I think I can, I can. It doesn’t matter if I succeed. What matters is that I reach deep inside below the fear and pull up the courage to try.

What childhood incidents do you remember that set your character in ice?

Icebreakers

Pamela's father in Antarctica

Pamela’s father in Antarctica, McMurdo Sound, with the USCGC Eastwind. (Photo property of Fred C. Walters)

There are few things that fail to capture a writer’s attention. We are giant sponges, constantly looking at the world around us and finding opportunities for research, exploration, and learning everywhere. It’s pretty cool. My dad, who is not a writer, is also a curious person. Growing up in a fairly small, rural area of Pennsylvania, the second of three children of a single mother (a single mother in the 30s and 40s–can you imagine?!?), Dad didn’t have opportunities to see much outside his hometown, but he was curious. As soon as he was able, he joined the U.S. Navy so that he could see the world. Later, after he left the Navy, he joined the U.S. Coast Guard. Joining the military definitely allowed Dad to see the world! He spent two years stationed in Naples, Italy, visited Istanbul, Libya, New Zealand, Germany, St. Thomas, and many other places. Pretty cool for a small-town kid! I don’t know about you, but I never realized just how far members of the U.S.C.G. traveled! While Dad got to do very cool things, like be stationed in St. Thomas, where he trained as a Navy rescue diver, my favorite story is about his travels aboard the USCGC Eastwind.

The USCGC Eastwind (WAGB-279) was a Wind-class icebreaker built for the U.S. Coast Guard. The history of ice

The USCGC Eastwind in Antartica as part of Operation Deep Freeze

The USCGC Eastwind in Antartica as part of Operation Deep Freeze (Photo by Fred C. Walters.)

breaking ships in the US originates in the 1830s, in the northeastern part of the states where ships often encountered iced-over harbors that made shipping difficult and very dangerous. Over the course of the next 100 years, ideas for ships designed for ice breaking continued to evolve, and ships continued to be built privately, until finally the government officially decided there was a need for specialized ships, dedicated to ice breaking, particularly to allow fuel oil barges safe passage during the winter.

The USCGC Eastwind was the second of five Wind-class icebreakers built for the U.S. Coast Guard (Northwind, Eastwind, Southwind, Westwind, and the Great Lakes breaker the Mackinaw). She was launched on February 6, 1943 and commissioned on June 3, 1944.

Field of burgie bits (Photo by Fred C. Walters)

Field of burgie bits (Photo by Fred C. Walters)

Icebreakers were instrumental during World War II, particularly after President Roosevelt promised support to Denmark to help protect them from Nazi attempts to take over the island, and later promised to assistance in protecting Greenland, as well. The USCG history site (link at bottom) explains, “The Greenland patrol operations included keeping convoy routes open, breaking leads through ice when necessary, search and rescue, escort and patrol duty, running surveys, maintaining communications among Greenland and U.S. bases on the island, and reporting weather and ice conditions. Above and beyond these, the Coast Guard was to search out and destroy German weather and radio stations and keep supplies coming to isolated Eskimo and Danish communities.”

Interestingly, the first American naval capture of the war was carried out by the Northwind, and the Eastwind and Southwind shelled a German vessel that found itself stuck in ice, capturing the crew and destroying another German radio station. After the war, the icebreakers found themselves assigned to a much more challenging role: ice breaking in Antarctica.

"They said there might be some ice on the ship, but I'm not sure."

“They said there might be some ice on the ship, but I’m not sure.” (Photo by Fred C. Walters)

In October 1960, as part of Operation Deep Freeze, USCGC “Eastwind departed Boston, passed through the Panama Canal, crossed the Pacific, and visited New Zealand and McMurdo sound. Leaving Antarctica, she traveled the Indian Ocean, came through the Suez Canal, crossed the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean to return home in May 1961.” (Wikipedia, link below)

The Eastwind was the first cutter ever to circumnavigate the globe, and Dad was part of the crew. As a navy-trained diver, one of his duties was to check the hull for damage by diving under the ice at regular intervals. Seriously. Definitely an adventure he couldn’t have imagined as a kid in rural Pennsylvania!

In September of 1966, the Eastwind left Boston for Operation Deep Freeze ’67, a second trip to Antarctica, and returned in April, 1967. In early June 1968, the Eastwind departed Boston again, and participated in Arctic East 1968, returning home in early November. Sadly, in 1972 the Eastwind was sold for scrap and was last seen at the breaking yards in New Jersey in 1977.

Penguins

Penguins–for the “Awwww” factor. (Photo by Fred C. Walters)

Would you believe, the past crews of the Eastwind still try to get together once a year?  If you’d like to read more about the U.S. Coast Guard, there are many great online resources. I like this one:

http://www.uscg.mil/history/

but Wikipedia does a decent job here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USCGC_Eastwind_%28WAGB-279%29.

The next time I complain about the ice in New England, I’ll need to review these photos! Thanks, Dad, for great stories.

Guest Post: Debra R. Borys

Ice Art

“She looked at him with an icy stare and he knew he was in trouble.” “He said the words in an icy calm.” “A shiver ran down his spine like ice spreading across a windowpane.”

There’s something quite chilling about ice. Usually the connotation is a negative one. Our natural thermostat is set to 98.6 degrees and any temperature below freezing is hazardous to our health. Maybe that’s why.

But ice can be nice, too. An ice cold lemonade on a hot summer day. A cooler full of ice will keep your food from spoiling. Ice artwork.

Yes, that’s right, ice artwork. Four years ago, the company I was working for sent me to Fairbanks for the winter. That’s Fairbanks, Alaska, you understand. For the winter.

The thing about Fairbanks in winter is… it’s cold, it’s dark, it’s boring. I had to find some way to entertain myself, and I knew no one there except the two people I worked with. The theater in town had more movie screens than any I’d ever been to before, but there are only so many movies you can watch.

HorseSo when the BP World Ice Art Championships came to town in February, I was intrigued and bought a season pass. What’s that? You don’t understand why I had to get a season pass? Well, the events last for about a month. It takes at least that long, you see, when there are so many different ways to create ice art. There’s the single block competition, the multi-block one, the amateur exhibition (you are correct in thinking that means there are actually professional ice sculptors), and the youth awards.

Ice Alaska has been hosting the competition for 25 years, though the history of the event dates back to the 1930’s. Each year 1000 blocks of ice are cut out of pond ice. The block dimensions vary from 5 x 8 feet square for the single block sculptures to 4×6 feet square for the multi-block ones, which are comprised of twelve blocks of ice each and will weigh up to 20 tons and could tower over 25 feet in height when completed.

Giant squidThe Ice Park is like a regular fun park without the roller coaster rides. There’s a maze, an ice rink, ice sculpting classes, and hot dogs. There’s a kiddie park with ice sculptures the kids can climb on, slide down, and pretend to ride. One ice castle even held up to a battle or two by the kiddies.

If you visit during the few hours of daylight each day, you would be amazed at the microscopic detail you can see in each face, fin, and feather. At night, the glass-like ice glows with multi-colored lights that give the shapes an ethereal beauty. Contestants come from all over the world to vie for prizes, and so do the sightseers.

I would not say that I loved my six months of winter in Fairbanks. I wouldn’t even say I’d be willing to go back there to work again, no matter how much they paid me. I would, however, be tempted to go for just a few days, at least during February or March to enjoy some of these marvelous creations.

***

Now that she’s not freezing her buns off in Alaska, Debra R. Borys is back in Illinois getting the word out about the boxofraincover-smallrelease of the third book in her Street Stories series, Box of Rain. The first two books, Painted Black and Bend Me, Shape Me were released in 2012 and 2013. In addition to a willingness to brave the icy north, she also spent over fifteen years volunteering with homeless organizations in Chicago and Seattle, which still serve as the inspiration for her novels.

You can find out more about her at:
www.Debra-R-Borys.com
www.StreetStoriesSuspenseNovels.com
www.facebook.com/StreetStoriesSuspenseNovels

Ice: A Block

What should you do when your writing is frozen like a big block of ice? You don’t know how to proceed. You turn on the computer and stare at the blank screen. You switch to your favorite IBM selectric, but that doesn’t help. You switch to paper and your favorite pen. Still nothing.

Writing teacher and journalist Donald Murray says maybe that’s OK. Maybe your unconscious is still working things out. Maybe it’s OK to wait.

But, Mr. Murray, I have a deadline.

OK, then, he would answer, lower your standards.

Say what?

Yes, go ahead and write what you can write today. You can fix it later.

Or freewrite. Set a timer; write nonstop for 10 or 15 minutes, ignoring spelling and grammar. Don’t stop no matter what. If you run out of things to say, write “I’m stuck” over and over until you think of something else to write. Or write about how much you hate freewriting.

Another exercise that helps me unfreeze is from Susan Griffin. Do you have a ruthless critic, that little voice that tells you how bad your writing is, that it’s all been said before, that it’s all clichés, that people will laugh, etc., etc? Virginia Woolf just up and killed her critic, but Susan Griffin suggests a dialogue. First, identify the part of you who is your creative self. Describe her or him. How does she dress? What does he do on Saturday night? What does she like? Does he have superpowers? Write this in first person. “Hi, I’m Theresa’s creative self and . . .”

Now describe your critic. Use a similar format. Different questions may pop up. One time I did this my critic could walk through a library, simply touch a book, and know everything that was in it. I was in graduate school at the time. She also wore three-piece suits and lived in NYC. Intimidating little bit . . . ah hem.

Next? Let them talk to each other. Let me rephrase that. Make them talk to each other. Make them work out a deal. Your critic will turn out to be remarkably pliable.

“Don’t worry. I won’t send this out until you’ve looked at it.”

“Why don’t you go have some ice cream while I write? I’ll call you when it’s your turn.”

I spend six whole months not allowing myself to cross anything out. That was in the pen and paper days. It was remarkably good for my writing.

What if your writing doesn’t thaw out?

Go see Frozen. Buy Frozen paraphernalia. Celebrate the state of being frozen. It will get irritated and change.

Remember Shelley, “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”