Friends accuse Gail Oust of flunking retirement. While working as a nurse/vascular technologist, Gail penned nine historical romances under the pseudonym of Elizabeth Turner. It wasn’t until after she and her husband retired to South Carolina that inspiration struck for a mystery. Hearing the words “maybe it’s a dead body” while golfing with friends fired her imagination for the Bunco Babe Mystery series published by NAL. Gail is currently writing the Spice Shop Mysteries published by Minotaur/St. Martin’s Press. Kill ‘em with Cayenne, the second in the series, was released December 2014. Her interests include reading, travel, golf, and spending time with friends and family.
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Cue the Jackhammer
I used to be able to write anywhere and everywhere. Any time. I’d jot notes on paper towels or napkins. I’d scribble dialog while waiting in line at a drive-thru. I’d take a tablet (the old fashion paper kind) along to my son’s Little League games. The need for peace and quiet never seemed to be an issue.
Times have changed. I’ve become older. I’m eligible for senior citizen discounts. I’m a member of AARP. I realize aging brings changes. Things sag, creak, and ache. Hair turns gray. Vision dims. Bones turn brittle. We don’t just fall; we break. But nothing I read on aging, however, warned me that I’d lose the ability to concentrate. These days when I sit down to write I need peace and quiet. No loud music. No distractions. I do my best work surrounded by an organized state of chaos in the small room I call my office.
Let me tell you about my recent dilemma. We have a timeshare on Marco Island, Florida. Have had it for years. This year, as the first week in October approached, my hubby started making plans for our annual trek. Trouble was, I was in the midst of revisions for Cinnamon Toasted, the third book in the Spice Shop Mysteries. I yearned to huddle over my computer and get down to business.. I longed to become a hermit and immerse myself in writing. But as anyone who’s ever been married knows, marriage is all about compromise. Bottom line: I packed my bathing suit along with laptop and off we went. My plan was to work each morning and “vacation” in the afternoon. Easy peasy, right?
The Monday morning of our week’s stay, the property manager informed everyone updates were being done on all the units. Work, in fact, was scheduled to commence on our building that very week. Lucky me. (Can you detect my sarcasm?) Seems the walkways and lanais were due to be replaced and refreshed. I tried to convince myself workers might not even get to our end of the building and advised myself not to worry. Brimming with optimism, I set laptop on the dining room table, plugged in my earbuds--I like to listen to downtempo New Age music-- and greeted my notes like long lost pals. Truth be told, revisions for me are the least favorite part of the writing process. Changing a single plot point tends to create a domino effect throughout the manuscript. It’s a challenge to keep all the threads taut. But I digress.
There I sat, primed and poised to dive head first into those darned revisions. I took one last glance at the Gulf of Mexico through the sliding glass doors. Instead of pelicans skimming over sun-kissed waters, I saw a hydraulic scaffold rise from the ground to the lanai carrying two workers in hard hats. If the men caught me staring at them in dismay, they ignored me. I decided to adopt the same tactic and ignore them.
Time to get to work. Ideas were starting to percolate. My fingers danced over the keyboard. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, came the ear-splitting, brain rattling, rat-a-tat-tat of a jackhammer. I practically levitated off my chair, but I turned up the volume of my iPod and forged ahead. All I got for my valiant attempt was a headache.
Finally admitting defeat, I stuffed my computer and notes into my laptop case and headed off on a quest for peace and quiet. Usually the club house is deserted at this time of day since people are either congregated around the pool or enjoying other pursuits. Once again, I set up and plugged in. I was beginning to make progress until I was interrupted by the throaty roar of a vacuum. With a jackhammer in front, a vacuum cleaner behind, I did what any sensible person would do. I traded my laptop in for a bathing suit.
Yes, dear readers, eventually I did get my revisions finished although it meant having to work doubly hard once we got home. The vacation episode reminded me once again that life is complicated. Unexpected things—big and little-- occur over which we have little or no control. There will always be obstacles, jackhammers and vacuum cleaners, interfering with the goals we set. Jackhammers come in a variety of guises such as illness, accidents, and family emergencies. It’s how we deal with them that defines whether or not we reach our goals. Sometimes we need to tune out, other times power through, and still others to step back and regroup, all the while never losing sight of the prize. This insight (along with a pocket full of seashells) is what I brought back with me from Marco.
May all your jackhammers be little ones.
Kill 'Em with Cayenne, a brand new finger-lickin’ good mystery from Gail Oust, featuring small-town Georgia spice shop owner Piper Prescott, a smart and spunky amateur sleuth.
Spices are flying off the shelves of Spice It Up!, and Piper Prescott couldn’t be happier. It’s that time of year again—time for the annual Brandywine Creek Barbecue Festival. Soon contestants and BBQ aficionados from all over the Southeast will converge on the town. Many of Brandywine Creek’s citizens plan to participate in the week-long festivities and are busily concocting savory rubs and sassy sauces. Among the locals vying for the grand prize are Becca Dapkins and Maybelle Humphries. The women have been arch enemies ever since Buzz Oliver dumped Maybelle after a thirteen-year courtship and started seeing Becca.
When Becca’s body is found near one of the festival booths, bludgeoned by a brisket, Maybelle becomes one of Chief Wyatt McBride’s top suspects. Determined to help clear her friend’s name, Piper begins her own investigation, much to McBride’s consternation. As the festival draws closer, will Piper and Reba Mae be able to find the real killer and clear Maybelle’s name? Will Piper make it to the annual shag contest with Doug Winters, the mild-mannered vet she’s been seeing? And, who will win the BBQ cook-off?
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