I credit Annette Dashofy, author of the fabulous Zoe Chambers Mysteries, with a lot in my life. She was one of the first to welcome me into Sisters in Crime. She critiqued my first (never to be published) book and gently taught me there was a lot more to writing a mystery than pushing a noun against a verb. She’s commiserated with me and helped celebrate my successes. And since she’s one of my critique partners, if you’ve ever enjoyed anything I’ve written she’s someone who helped me get there.
All of that means I’m thrilled to host her today as she celebrates the release of her eighth Zoe book, Fair Game. And she’s talking about something a lot of writers can relate to.
An Introvert in an Extrovert’s Life
I’m currently in the middle of a mini book tour (the tour is mini, not the book) for the release of Fair Game, the eighth in my Zoe Chambers Mystery Series. Although I’m a writer, not an actor, I deserve an Oscar for faking my way through all these public speaking gigs. Standing in front of a room of people and chatting about my books does not come naturally.
One of my earliest memories is of meeting the girl who would become my childhood best friend. Her mother brought her to our house to introduce us. I hid behind my mother’s legs. To say I was paralyzingly shy would be accurate.
In grade school, I was the quiet kid. One teacher moved me, so I had to sit in the middle of the rowdy kids, hoping I’d rub off on them. I didn’t. Nor did they rub off on me. I think I lasted two days before pleading with my teacher to move back to my normal seat.
In high school, I was the wallflower at dances—on the rare occasion that I even attended. No one asked me to dance. I was the last one picked for sports.
Well, you get the idea.
The first big step out of my shyness shell came when I joined 4-H. I thought it was simply a way to learn more about horses since I’d recently gotten my first pony. But my club’s leaders had other plans. As in most clubs, finding people to take offices was a challenge. Reluctantly, I was cast into that pool and eventually found myself in the role of vice-president. VPs never have to do much, I reassured myself.
Unless the president is absent. And our president was absent a lot. At least, that’s how I remember it.
Standing up in front of the other kids and leading a meeting was the hardest thing I’d ever done up to that point. But even at the time, I realized it was a defining moment in my life. I could be in a leadership role and not die of embarrassment. Who knew???
A few decades later, I found myself in front of a room, as a yoga teacher. Another defining moment. One of my teaching instructors gave me some words of wisdom that still stick with me. Even if the class doesn’t flow and you forget what you’re supposed to be saying, remind yourself afterward that no one has died. Besides, if I could stand in front of strangers doing downward facing dog in yoga pants, speaking in front of a group of readers while wearing normal clothes should be a piece of cake!
In truth, I still get nervous, sometimes more than others. Don’t even ask me about sitting on a panel with Louise Penny at last year’s Malice Domestic! Sheer. Terror. But I did it. I drew from those moments as an awkward teen in 4-H.
Fair Game is partly set at the county fair and pays homage to my 4-H friends and leaders who encouraged me to come out of my shell and who continue to support me all these years later at local book talks.
And, yes, I still sometimes have to remind myself that while I stuttered and babbled a bit, in the end, no one has died. Except for a few characters in the book. It is a murder mystery after all.
Paramedic Zoe Chambers hoped a week at the Monongahela County Fair, showing her horse and manning the ambulance, would provide a much-needed diversion from recent events that continue to haunt her. An old friend, a bossy nemesis, and a teenage crush from her 4-H days fail to offer the distraction she had in mind. But ever the caregiver, she soon bonds with a troubled teen and a grieving father.
Back in Vance Township, a missing woman turns up dead, leading Police Chief Pete Adams into a journey through her mysterious final hours. With each new clue, the tragic circumstances of her death grow increasingly muddied.
A cryptic phone call leads Pete to join Zoe for an evening at the fairgrounds where the annual school bus demolition derby concludes with a gruesome discovery and a new case that may or may not be connected to the first. Pete’s quest for the motive behind two homicides—and Zoe’s stubborn determination to reunite a family—thrust them both onto a collision course with a violent and desperate felon.
Annette Dashofy is the USA Today best-selling author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. A lifelong resident of Washington County (PA), Annette has garnered four Agatha Award nominations including Best Contemporary Novel of 2018 for Cry Wolf. She’s a member of International Thriller Writers, the Pittsburgh Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and is on the board of directors of Pennwriters. Fair Game (May 2019) is the eighth in her series.