Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Interview with Jordan Nimsby of Decaf & Drones

Below is an interview with my main character, Jordan Nimsby, of my debut mystery Decaf & Drones. Get to know the character and her quirks!

Name? Jordy Nimsby, Jordan if you’re trying to be all official-like or stalk me or something.

Favorite food? Coffee! Coffee counts as a food, right? In my mind, it has its very own square in the food pyramid.

Describe your reaction to returning to Northern Wisconsin. Eh, that’s bittersweet. For anyone who doesn't know, I’ve recently returned to my hometown of Eagle River after living in the bustling city of Chicago. It’s a bit of a culture shock to be back "Up North". Specifically, I live in my parents’ old cabin. They sold it to me because my father says that I’m “more than capable” of buying my own place at my age. I’m not certain how someone can be “more than capable”; quite frankly it seems to defy the laws of physics. Or nature. Regardless, the move has been growing on me; in many ways, it's good to be home. Plus, I've had a chance to join a mystery investigation and reunite with my best bud from middle school- Samantha Orwitz. 

Can you tell us a little about your career? [Laughs.] Hmm, career-career or job-like quasi-career that I’m doing to pay the bills? Well, my barista gig keeps my lights on, but my dream is to be a modern-day Nancy Drew. Except, you know, maybe I’d get knocked out less often, that’d be super peachy…

How about hobbies? Does drinking coffee count as a hobby? Maybe cooking, you know, easy cooking, not the stuff that requires thorough attention and skill. Researching to get to the bottom of a freaky mystery- not boring research, though, more like interviewing suspects and creeping on a perp's blog to see what he's up to. I do also like lazing around on a lake- you know, swimming, canoeing, boating, relaxing. And watching sexy green-and-gold clad linebackers. [Winks.] Oh, and sometimes I do watch football, too.

Have any strange quirks? None that I can think of. Oh! I do like to use odd old-school colloquialisms. Samantha always makes fun of me for that. And I have been known to drink enough caffeine to actually cause my eyeballs to twitch sporadically. Oh! And I listen to very eclectic music from time to time, like my random action film soundtrack in my Taurus. And I occasionally get distracted and ramble, but, for those of you who know me, that’s a pretty rare occurrence, right..?

Tell us about Keith Leparth. [Rolls eyes.] Did Samantha put you up to this? [Sigh.] He's sexy and he plays the bass guitar. Do I really need to say more?

Why do you want to solve mysteries? Well, one of my role models, like I mentioned earlier, is Nancy Drew. She kicks ass. I also watched way too many scary movies as a kid, so you might think that would turn me off from solving mysteries, right? I mean, why bring myself into the terrifying world of real life crime and crazies? I guess I just never like seeing the underdog get hurt. That's always bugged me, even when I was a kid. In high school, I remember seeing the bully types bossing everyone else around, and it always sorta pissed me off. Then, in college, seeing the same damn thing, it made me realize that bullies always exist, but they just become professionals as they age. I kinda wanted to see if I could bring down some of the stupider bullies, the ones who go so far as to break the law, and it's been pretty sweet so far.

Any final thoughts? Yikes, that sounds, well...final. Okay, how about this? I wish you peace, freedom from the bad guys, and many cups of coffee.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Decaf & Drones excerpt

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 2 of Decaf & Drones

I tapped my knee impatiently. It was too early for bed and likely too late for another helping of coffee. Well, for a sane person, anyway. I stepped over to the coffee maker, grabbing some beans from the cupboard. I’d missed the 6pm news. At that time they were probably still trying to piece their story together, but they’d doubtless mentioned something about the explosion. I wondered if I shouldn’t call my mother and reassure her I wasn’t dead or something.
            As if summoned by the thought, there was a sudden violent pounding on the screen door. I jumped from my spot beside Mr. Coffee, showering coffee grinds over my socks. My heart practically hammered a hole in my chest before I realized it was my mother and not a sociopathic serial killer banging on the door like, well, an overly caffeinated sociopathic serial killer. 
            I brushed coffee grounds from my clothing and traipsed over to the door. I pried it open, bracing myself for a battalion of frenzied cries. 
            “Are you alright?! I saw the news! I tried to call, but your phone was turned off!”
            “Oh?” That’s right. I had turned it off at the coffee shop like a good little worker bee. Sure enough, a quick check of the screen informed me my mother had left me a voicemail earlier. And approximately ten missed calls. “Sorry.” 
            She wrapped me in a hug. Mrs. Nimsby cuts a very motherly image: bushy short blonde curls cover her head, thick glasses sit atop her nose, and her 5’ 5” figure is rather pear-shaped and always clad in mom jeans and cardigans. Currently, she was squeezing me so tightly I was likely to die…or at the very least pee my pants. 
            “Mom, I’m fine!” I exclaimed with a slight shove. 
            “Oh, my God, what kind of world do we live in?” She moaned with her arms thrown over her head. Her eyes filled with tears as she shuddered in concern and horror. 
            “One where strip malls in the middle of nowhere burst into smithereens apparently...” 
            “Oh, Jordy, you were at work when it happened, weren’t you? Right next door? Are you sure you’re okay? Was everybody okay?”
            “Yes, Mom, I’m fine. I mean, we heard it from the coffee shop, of course, but our building is totally fine. I talked to some witnesses—er, some people outside the coffee shop, and they seemed alright…” I crossed my fingers behind my back, hoping she hadn’t noticed my slip. My mother wasn’t exactly thrilled when I told her I wanted to be a private investigator. In fact, she was positive death and destruction lurked around every corner of my life. Like Martha, she probably watched too many crime dramas. 
            “Witnesses?” Oops. “Jordan Prudence Nimsby, tell me you are not investigating this explosion! Whoever did this is crazy!” She thrust her flailing hands at me, pointing accusingly. She was also pacing, which made me dizzy. Or maybe it was the undercooked chicken again…
            “Exactly! He, or she, is crazy!” I said. “I’ve already reached that conclusion.”
            “Now there you go again with your private-eye talk!”
            “What? You mean ‘conclusion’? How do you know I’m not becoming an essayist?”
            “What?” The blonde curls fraying about her face made her look frazzled as she came to an abrupt stop with both hands on her hips. 
            “Essayist? You know, they write essays. ‘In conclusion’, like at the end of an essay…okay, never mind, it sounded funnier in my head…”
            My mother shook her head and resumed her pacing. “Jordan, this sounds dangerous! Can’t you just let the local cops handle it?” 
            “Yeah, guys who, on an average day, don’t deal with anything worse than a car versus deer accident or a lost dog.” I really had nothing against the resident fuzz, but my mother always managed to bring out the best in me (commence sarcasm). 
            “Jordan. You know it’s their job.”
            “Yeah, and it was supposed to be mine, too.” I hadn’t meant for things to get too serious, but the sting of her last comment brought tears to my eyes. I guess I did miss my old job, my dream job. “Maybe coming up here was a mistake.” I slipped into the comfy armchair, wiping at my eyes with a sweatshirt sleeve.
            My mother’s voice softened, and she hurriedly wrapped her arms around me. “Aw, honey, you know I think you’re a wonderful investigator. I just don’t want you to get hurt.” 
            “Am I, though? Mr. Klienderstern never seemed to think so.”
            “Well, Mr. Klienderstern is a horse’s ass.” The phrase “horse’s ass” coming out of my mother’s voice was so unexpected a snort burst out of me. 
            “Well, he is!” She stepped back and threw her arms about for emphasis. “If he didn’t realize what an excellent investigator you are, then that’s what he is.” My mother sighed. “Fine. I give my blessing.”
            “Wh-what?” I was still giggling over the “ass” comment. 
            “You can take the case. Figure this whole bombing thing out. You have my blessing. Just…be careful.”
            “You do know I was going to do what I wanted regardless of any blessings. As per usual.” 
            “Jordan.” Her voice now carried that warning tone it nearly wore out during my high school years. “Take the freaking blessing and be glad for it.”
            “Yes, Mother dear. I love you.” I stood up and wrapped her in a hug, hoping she would leave before she got any ideas about retracting her blessing. 
            “You are okay, right? I mean, with everything you’ve been through this year?”
            “I’m fine, I’m fine.” Don’t want to talk about it, Ma…
            She gave a slight intake of breath, as though suddenly recalling something important. “You do know your old friend Samantha is a cop here in town? I think she’s a detective, actually…”   
            “Really? Samantha Orwitz? Wow, I never saw that coming...” Of all the ironic career paths after high school, this one took the cake. Samantha had been breaking laws since middle school.
            “Yeah, why don’t you get a hold of her? Maybe you could work together or something..?”
            “You know what, Mom? That’s actually a brilliant idea.”
            “Well, where did you think you got your smarts? Your father?” She giggled as she made her way out the door. “Goodnight now, hon.”
            “Wow, Mom, you’re really hitting the zingers today.”
            “I know. It’s weird! I think it’s this new beer your father brewed…it’s a bit stronger than I’m used to…”

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Inspiration for Jordan "Jordy" Nimsby, My Main Character

With Decaf & Drones barreling towards its epic release date, I've been asked the following question: where does the inspiration for your characters come from? This is occasionally tied to the follow-up: Are they based on people you know, or on yourself, or on strangers you creepily watch from a distance while enjoying a cup of coffee on your porch? Indeed, it's probably a combination of all of these, though there aren't many strangers to watch from the porch seeing as how we live in Northern Michigan. I'd probably wave first, then secretly use them for inspiration. 


So...where did the original inspiration for Jordan Nimsby come from?

 Last year I heard a report on the news that as many as 30% of Millennials return home to live with their parents after graduating from college. News sources were making this out to be a huge catastrophe*, and I knew from personal examples that many people could commiserate with the news’ over-dramatization. Still, I saw very few characters in fiction dealing with this issue. Where were the twenty-somethings whose goals were crushed by the economy, life choices or simple bad luck? What would they do upon returning home? How would they persevere and what were their dreams? 

These thoughts (admittedly more existential and political than my usual train of thought) gave birth to Jordan Nimsby, a twenty-something whose dream of becoming a private investigator in the big bad city of Chicago is crushed when an unfortunate series of events leads her to lose her entry-level detective job. Bouncing back into the field proves not to be an option in the current economy and, despite working odd jobs and living with her aunt, Jordan needs to return home to Northern Wisconsin. She is a bit negative about the situation at first, but, being an upbeat person, remains focused on her goals and doesn’t let the tough stuff faze her. Like many resourceful young people nowadays, she begins to realize her dream, albeit in a very different hue than she’d originally imagined. 


From there, I naturally threw together awesome personality traits from friends and strangers alike to create a person I thought would be not only relate-able but also quirky, fun, honest, and, well, a little dorky (I mean, part of the inspiration had to come from my own personality, right? ;) ). So, there you have it. That's Jordan Nimsby, and I hope you grow to love her as the strong and goofy best friend you never knew you were missing.

*It really isn't, but our culture is obsessed with independence. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Building Mysteries with Help from Nancy Drew

With my debut novel nearing publication, I'm getting all excited to share my story with the world! 


Yep. That's basically me. Of course, since I'm writing mysteries here, I should probably tone it down a bit.

That's better.

Anyway, to get to the crux of the matter here, I'm going to talk a little bit about my inspiration for Decaf & Drones, the first book of my Northwoods Barista Mystery series, to be released next month with Three Worlds Press.

I grew up reading Nancy Drew. At one point, my childhood bookcase contained nearly  every book in the series, from The Secret of the Old Clock up through the 80’s and 90’s spin-offs. Most of those are still sitting in my childhood home (sorry, Mom!), but I love to return to the series- they’re like a comfort food, but in book version. 

Modern mystery novelists always pull me in with their unique storylines and compelling characters, but I have to say my earliest mystery manuscripts always bore an uncanny resemblance to the Nancy Drew series. When I began seriously writing mysteries, I knew that I wanted to bring back elements from this beloved series in my own unique way: an amateur-detective you can cheer for, her dependable best friends, unique small-town settings and seemingly-impossible-to-escape final scenes. 

Though my main character, Jordan Nimsby, isn't much like Nancy (think more of an overly caffeinated version of myself mixed with a non-sociopathic Sherlock Holmes and hearty dashes of Stephanie Plum and Phoebe Buffet), she is a spunky chick who likes to solve mysteries, drink coffee and kick butt. I hope you enjoy reading about her wild adventures! 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

When Life Is Crazy

Some people have told me I'm too busy. They make a great point. I am currently working part time as a virtual English teacher, attending graduate school full time, and caring for my 13-month-old son when not in the classroom. Add to that list the fact that I'm in the process of having my debut novel published, as well as doing additional writing on the side, and, yes, I suppose life is a bit hectic. I admit I do sometimes feel like this:


But then I take charge, like so:


I am quick to dismiss the idea that I have taken too much onto the heaped buffet platter that is my life this autumn. In fact, I thrive on a fast-paced, crazy schedule. Chalk it up to growing up with three sisters and the drama of fighting over clothing and bathroom privileges. Or it could be a trait I picked up during college, where I secured myself 2-3 unique jobs at all times. For the most part, however, I think it is an ingrained part of my personality. I like to tackle multiple problems at once, and I feel most productive when faced with a full schedule.

Even within the writing realm, I prefer having multiple works in progress floating around. That way I can dabble here and there where I please for a few minutes before running off to tackle the next "to do" on my busy schedule. Honestly, I don't know how else to write. If you have advice, let me know. It has always been this way for me, writing a bit in a first person science fiction piece in the morning, revising a different novel for a few minutes mid-day, then jotting off two pages of a third person short story before bed.

Now, I don't know that I recommend being constantly on the go. It certainly leads to a scattered brain, as I often find myself misplacing various items related to my different responsibilities or racing from one place to another with about two-point-five seconds to spare. It does help to have wonderful family and friends to lean on for support (and for the occasional hour or two of freedom from commitment). Still, it is one of many ways to function, and...so far, so good.