« The things I cannot do | Main | The Results Are In! »

August 07, 2010

Saved by a Gardener

HANK: The secret to her success? Cheese. More on that in a minute. But she's always got a smile and a warm welcome. She's the hardest workin' woman in show biz. (She was one of my first pals in mystery world--we started out as new Guppies together. Know what that means? If not, and you're an aspiring mystery writer, let me know.) And she's a true friend of Lipstick. We are button-burstingly proud of new national best-seller Avery Aames.  Avery is an overnight success! It just took about...two decades of perseverance and guts and dedication--and, as she'll tell you: fearlessness. 

By Avery Aames


We recently moved to a hilly area, which is lush with trees, flowers, and unique bramble. The area is serene and a simply lovely place to get my thoughts in order. I’m very blessed. Every morning, I walk my dog Max. Rain or shine, we take a long, refreshing walk. Max is a thirteen-year-old Lab-Chow mix, and yet he acts like a puppy when it’s walk time. Downhill is a cinch. His age shows as we progress uphill.Dog

But my story isn’t about Max. It’s about danger. I’d been warned about coyotes in the neighborhood. I’d seen one on a previous walk, but the hunter already had breakfast in his mouth.

This morning, as Max and I trekked uphill, I heard the sound of a truck approaching. I turned to make sure the driver saw us, and what did I see?A coyote sprinting toward us at about 45 miles-per-hour.


 Okay, maybe it was more like 25 miles-per-hour, but yipes! My heart pounded. My mouth turned dry. The gardener in the truck I’d heard barreled toward the coyote. Without slowing its pace or losing eye contact with me, the coyote turned its head ever so slightly, saw its opponent, and then BAM… made a hard right turn and charged down a side road. As the coyote disappeared from sight, my pulse settled down a smidge. Seconds later, the gardener passed me, and I smiled my thanks, but who was I kidding? Something had shifted in my life. Alert to the fact that the coyote could return at any time, I found a sharp stick. I was armed and dangerous.

 As Max and I continued our journey, I thought about other times when I’d been scared to the point of heart-palpitating fear. Once when a man stalked me in a parking garage. [Let’s hear it for car horns.] Another time when a date wouldn’t take no for an answer and I had to deck him. [For a little person, I pack a mean knee-punch.] And another time when I was walking down Broadway, in New York, and a bum leaped out at me with a knife and demanded my money. [I ran.] Each time I had responded in a different way. Today, I grabbed a stick. I would be prepared. Or would I?

 Danger. It exists in our everyday lives. Not just in books. Not just in movies. It comes at us from the unlikeliest places, at the unlikeliest times. Will I be prepared? Will you?

Now let me carry that concept into my writing. Whether I’m penning a mystery or a thriller, danger needs to be ever-present. Danger can take the form of an explosive event or it can arrive quietly, insinuating its way into a peaceful walk. I’m sure you’ve either read Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park or seen the movie. Those Velociraptors didn’t make an appearance on every page, but they were there, waiting, breathing softly, watching. [By the way, I’m sure they exist, and I’m sure they made it off the island! CUE: SCARY MUSIC.]

Back to my work. I made a decision this morning. As I write, I will make sure that I keep danger ever-present. I want my readers to know that the gentle, serene life that opened the book is no more, that the protagonist’s life has changed forever because of the evil that has shattered her life. A murder, a kidnapping, an accident, a stalker, a robbery. Anything that alters her happiness changes her. As I write every paragraph of every book from this point on, I promise to keep my creative eye alert to a new twist, a surprise, something that will thrill not only me but my readers. Something that will make my protagonist react, and ultimately, act like a hero. I like to write with an outline, but after today, I’m not averse to allowing something NEW to reroute my protagonist and send her racing down another path.

Have you ever had a life-changing experience? One that made your heart thunder in your chest? Has that experience changed you forever?


Long_quicheCOVERAvery Aames is the author of The Long Quiche Goodbye, the first in A Cheese Shop Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. The Long Quiche Goodbye debuted July 6 and has already hit national bestseller mass market paperback lists -- #7 for Barnes and Noble and #13 for Bookscan. Avery likes to read, cook, garden, and do amateur photography.
She blogs at Mystery Lovers Kitchen, a blog for foodies who love mysteries, http://www.mysteryloverskitchen.com/
as well as at Killer Characters, a blog overtaken by cozy authors’ characters, http://www.killercharacters.com/



TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Saved by a Gardener :


Avery, you've got more endurance than I do, I think. I do not like to revisit the various dangers and injuries or potential injuries of my past--my heart beats entirely too hard and my mood goes anxious. But, having said that, I also know that I've usually got the courage for whatever I have to do, and that is a pretty good thing to know, I guess. Good luck in your writing intention: bet it brings out another excellent AA book.

I once foolishly allowed some friends to talk me into going swimming in water that was 65 degrees. I plunged in---and have never been so close to death. My heart contracted to the point that I wasn't sure I could swim my way out. Very scary! Now that you remind me, Avery, I remember exactly how my body felt.--And I should use that in my writing.

Thanks for being our guest today!

I've always wanted to live "dangerously", or be known as a "dangerous"woman. Would Tallulah Bankhead or Ava Gardner be considered dangerous? Maybe Wallace Simpson? That's the kind of danger I love: the danger of being outside society's norms. Something like the word "scandalous" comes to mind.
Only two problems: One, I have this thing with guilt--as much as I'd like to beat it down, it always wins, so anything "immoral" I would do would only leave me a cringing shell of a woman, burdened by guilt for the rest of my life. And two, in this "anything goes" age we live in, is there any such thing as "scandalous"?
Thanks for the post. That was fun!

When I was in my twenties, I went whitewater rafting with a group of friends, on the Russian River in California. Since most of us were newbies and/or klutzes, predictably we spilled at one section of rocky rapids.

We had all been told what to do in that event, and I dutifully follow directions: don't fight the river, point your feet downriver, aim for a bank diagonally. Obviously I'm still here, so all ended well.

But I clearly remember saying to myself, as I barreled down the river, "you know, people get killed doing this." Maybe it was the first time I felt mortal.

What wonderful stories from everyone! Scandalous? Yes, a little hard in this day and age, but people still do it. Lindsay Lohan. Not brave, just scandalous. And sad, so very sad. Guilt? I could probably trump you there. What is it with that? "Good girls," right, Hank? Whitewater rafting? Love it! Great story. And 65 degree water. Have you ever been swimming in Lake Tahoe, Nancy? That lake is about the same temperature. I spent all my summers as a girl there, so I got used to that temperature. I plunged, swam my mile, came home and "warmed up." (Ha, shivered for an hour, then warmed up.) But I haven't been in a long time. I don't know if I could do it. And yet I made one of my protagonists (as yet unpublished) have to flee bad guys by plunging into that icy cold.

Mortal...danger. I love these stories. It's what I love to read and write.

The closest to death I've ever been, that I can recall, is when my car was hit from behind on the expressway. It was a rainy night in November and I was going to pick up my oldest daughter at the bus station downtown. It was her 20th birthday, and I had her two little sisters (ages 3 and 6) in the backseat, both of whom were excited to get to see their adored big sis.

It was dark, and raining, and the road curved around to the right. I noticed people in the left lanes ahead of me tapping their brakes so I slowed down, fortunately, because as I rounded the bend I could see a cop car, then a cop, at the side of the road. The cop was shining a light on some debris in the road, a long piece of metal and wood that was in the left side of the far right lane. The cop was kind of foolishly standing just in the berm, forcing me--who couldn't tell what was coming up in the lanes to the left of me--to slow way down and sort of thread the needle, squeezing past at a much reduced speed.

We were almost through the squeeze when some kid behind me who did not slow down crashed into our back end. Because my car was in the right part of the lane he didn't hit us square and it cause my car to be slammed down the road, slewing us sideways. Back then I wore thick glasses (before LASIC surgery), and they flew off on impact, into the backseat with the kids, so I could not even tell what was happening until my 6-year old in back said "Mommy, why is our car going sideways?" At that point I'm pretty sure our guardian angels took over the car. I touched the brake, which righted the car, but we were still out of control, and when I touched the brake a second time it slewed the back end off the road to the berm, and stopped the car just before the berm ended in a 30-foot drop.

Now, this was a very busy road, and we didn't hit any other cars, nor did any other cars hit us. It was incredible, really. But I'll never forget that heart-pounding feeling of not knowing whether or not we would get out of that situation alive, with two little kids in the car. But all we got out of it, other than a new car, was whiplash for all three of us. Incredible, really.

Karen, isn't it fascinating how much detail you remember? I think the adrenaline of danger gives us such accuracy. Maybe that's why cops will ask witnesses what they remember and one will remember with such clarity, while another won't. What danger did that person "feel" during the event? So glad you and your family are alive today, though whiplash is a lasting injury that can punish for years.

Take care,


I have been blessed with a wonderful trait of my mother's. Great in a crisis: articulate, assertive, calm. Its hours after the horror that I freak, lol.

There are different types of fearing for your life. One is the things you did to cause the situation. Second, someone else is in control or does something. And third is the randmon situation.

When I was 18, I went with friends to a house on the Mississippi River. No life jackets...this was the 70s, we didn't need no stinking life jackets, lol. Swimming in the river and I got caught up in the current. I'm not that strong of a swimmer to begin with, and not a very smart one. I tried to swim back up to the dock, against the current. It didn't take long for me to get tired and went under a couple of times. I finally noticed the neighbor's dock and forced myself to relax and just float in that direction. I haven't gone swimming, much, since.

My best friend broke up with her boyfriend (part of the reason we weren't best friends for a long time) and he asked me out. We had known each other all through high school and I loved his family (don't ya love small towns?). He picked me up and we were supposed to go see a movie. Instead he drove me directly to his uncle's fencing company. Unlocked the gate of the storage yard, pulled in behind a building, and proceeded to attack me. We were taught to be good girls, we didn't want the boys to be "mad' at us. I managed to get out of the car and start walking to get home...or find a pay phone. He called to me, apologizing and said to get in...he'd take me home. I get back in the car and he had on no pants. Started to grab me again and I grabbed his, uh, dangling participle, pulling with all my life, and shouted, "Start this car & take me home or you will lose it." Held on the entire 5 miles to my house (with a farewell pull for good measure) and told him to never call me again. In that split second that he grabbed me, I really didn't know what was going to happen. All of those urban legends started running through me head.

The random thing is a little silly I suppose. We were sitting outside and a tree branch, about 8 inches in diameter) fell out of the tree and landed about 6 inches from my chair. Lots of jokes came from that one, but it drove home the point that life is short. You never know what could happen.

Hmmm. Maybe I'm not a real mystery reader. Yes, the tension has to build steadily, but if I'm not given occasional relief from that tension, I wind up with PTSD and I never pick up that author again.

Hi Avery,
Great to see you here and awesome to see you so successful. A Hunt seems a long time ago doesn't it?

Avery kept me writing when I was ready to throw in the towel. I couldn't be happier with her success if it were my own. Watch out for those coyotes and keep the danger high in your writing and low in your life.


Pam, three clear examples of fearing for your life. I laughed at the tree story. The others...wow.

Holly...tension doesn't have to be constant. There can be relief. Shakespeare was famous for creating that wonderful balance. But in a mystery (or thriller) the danger must be "out there" and we, as the reader, must know that it will come to bear upon our protagonist...in time.

KD - you and all my Sister in Crime Guppies have been a source of true inspiration for me. I could not have weathered the storm of rejection without you.

Hank...thank you for your lovely, kind words at the opening of this blog. You know I adore you.

Avery (aka Daryl to so many)

OH, Daryl/Avery, I do think i remember when we actually met..seems like a long time ago. Funny. And very sweet.

My work as a reporter can be scary from time to time--burning buildings and swat teams and stuff like that. And threats and yelling and uncomfortable situations. Many people don't love investigative reporters.

What truly scary though, I agree, are the near misses. When that car comes around the corner, and you feel the swish of the wind as it just just just misses you. And the car bllithely goes on. "Being normal" is such a thin thread.

Welcome, Avery!

I just got back from an 11-day road trip with the kids and I can't think of anything scarier than car accidents. I prayed every day. I am so grateful not to have had any problems with other drivers, or -- just as bad, and probably more prevalent -- deer or elk. Give me a coyote any day!

Speaking of which, I haven't actually researched it, but I'm guessing that human/coyote encounters that end in violence are very rare. Yes, they have a lot of attitude, and if you're a kitty cat or a small dog, then you should be afraid, but I've never heard of a coyote attacking a human. Same with wolves. Definitely more scared of you than you are of them, assuming you're more than 4 feet tall.

Pam, I'm impressed at the presence of mind that gave you the courage to grab--and hang onto--that appendage. That would never have occurred to me at that age. Boys' things were icky. lol

Reminds me of the older lady who was attacked in her home. She grabbed the guy's balls, and pulled him out onto her front porch and didn't let go of him until the cops came. I want to be that brave if such a thing should ever happen to me. Bet that guy was shocked that the tables were turned so abruptly!

Presence of mind...we read it in books and see it in movies all the time, but in the face of reality, it can require a whole other level of consciousness.

Re: coyote...they'll attack an older dog and my sweet Max is 13 and starting to walk very very slowly. He used to race up hills. He would be a prime target for a coyote, and speaking of grabbing the appendage, that is just where a coyote will attack first (so I hear).


Welcome Avery!

Great stories. I love hearing such stories and reading them, but I'll admit that the older I get the more I tend to discount them in my own life. "Coming close" doesn't have much meaning to me any more, whether it's coming close to death or coming close to getting a job, or coming close to getting published, or whatever. Things happen or they don't. I don't shudder over the "what if's."

BUT, may I repeat, I love suspenseful near misses in books!! And I like hearing other people's stories of them.

Frightening and awesome stories about your fearsome moments. I love the "presence of mind" that takes hold. (And the dangling participle). Also the near misses, almost like shifts in the universe. Stay well. Avery, your book is in my TBR bookcase as we speak. Will have to move it up on the pile.

Wait! I didn't know coyotes attacked people . . . I thought little kittens and puppies would be in danger, chickens and rabbits . . . but people? Yikes!

BTW, I've posted narrative and photos on my blog, and just corrected them again this morning. It was wonderful -- conference, mountains, palm trees -- and meeting Laraine!!

Nancy, an interesting and very sane perspective! If we could all be so sane. I have to admit I'm a terrible what-if'er.

Lil - hope you enjoy the read.

Storyteller Mary - no, I don't think coyotes attack people either. As Harley said, they're scared of humans, but they will attack kittens, puppies, and older or injured pets that are "easy prey." I wasn't worried for me as much as I was worried for my dog! Now I go out on walks and I'm on alert, looking and prepared to defend my dear sweet friend.

To all, a good afternoon. I'll be back after a book discussion at the local Burbank Library.


Fear for myself during a takeover bank robbery was somehow surreal. With a gun pointed at my back, my hands glued to the sides of my chair I complied with the robber's demands. "Take it. Take the money!."
He took the money and left and I slumped in my chair thankful for another day.

The mother in motion caused me to drive to the freeway to rescue my daughter when her car broke down in rush hour traffic. Even more scary than the the robbery.
Somehow when you are in adrenalin spiked situations everything is unreal and time stands still. After it is over you wonder how you coped. But somehow, you do.
Welcome, Avery..your novel looks exciting and I love the cover.
Welcome, Harley..glad you are safe.

Thanks, Marle. The thought of being faced with a gun sends shivers. I took a self-defense class to be prepared, but I'm not sure anyone is when reality hits. Adrenaline rush, anyone?

Marie! That's....well, you're very brave!

Welcome back, Harley! Hope we get to hear lots of vacation stories..

Avery, how'd it go at the library?

Hank, it went great. Burbank Library is terrific. There were three on the panel, Jeri Westerson, Lori Ham and myself, moderated by Jackie Vick. A wide variety of style, a wide variety of people in the audience. It was fun. I love sharing stories in person!


The "not knowing if self defense classes would kick in" reminds me of a Designing Women episode. Mary Jo was mugged and was too scared to go anywhere or do anything. Julia, Charlene, and Suzanne made her take a self defense class with them. She didn't think it would work but one night, in a dark parking garage she was approached by a man. It all kicked in and she managed to get away.

Just a shame it was a client she hadn't met yet, lol.

The comments to this entry are closed.

The Breast Cancer Site