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October 02, 2011

Tinkering with meals, music and murder, guest blog by Joelle Charbonneau

HANK:  So you know book conventions, right. Panels of authors talking about new ideas and new books and writing and reading and..stuff like: voice. But at Bouchercon in St. Louis a week or so ago, something very strange happened on one of the panels. "Voice" took on a whole new context.

The panelists...wait for it...SANG. SANG!  Would you have the moxie to sing your answers?  Joelle Charbonneau was a star performer..and singing isn't her only talent. She's hilarious, and  multi-talented--and a wonderful new voice in mystery world. Her books are original and wonderful--even reading her unusual and wide-raining bio
 is a treat. (Check it out.)

And we're so happy she's here today...


Author photo I have a major personality flaw.  (Okay, technically I have dozens of astonishingly large personality flaws.  However, for the purpose of this blog post and to keep my therapy and chocolate bill down to a minimum, I’m going to just pretend I have just the one.)  I like to tinker.  Okay – now you’re probably rolling your eyes at me.  Lots of people like to tinker, right?  But, for me, tinkering is a major problem.  I feel the need to tinker with everything.


If I’m making Cambell’s soup out of a can, I add garlic, pepper or sometimes even cream to it.  And if I make dinner from scratch (which more often is the case) I never make a recipe the same way twice.  I have to add a bit of this and a bit of that to see how it tastes. (This drives everyone who knows me nuts because I never have a recipe to hand them if they like what I make.  I can make a good guess, but I’m never totally sure I remember exactly what tinkering I did.)


I’m also a tinkerer around the house.  If my husband cleans the house (kind of a big “if” but it does happen), I always have to go around and fix what didn’t get cleaned exactly right.  Books in bookshelves get rearranged frequently.  Knickknacks and picture frames are moved from place to place.  I’m no the best housekeeper in the world, but when I get into the spirit, I find myself fiddling with just about everything.


And don’t get my students talking about the tinkering I do in voice lessons.  I’m a huge perfectionist with their tone and their dynamics.  During a lesson, I might stop them a dozen times during the course of just one musical phrase adjusting this and that until it sounds just the way I think it should.  And then I do the same thing with the next phrase.  And once the music sounds great I start to fiddle with their acting choices.  There are days I think my students are ready to deck me.  Thankfully, they haven’t succumbed to the temptation – yet.


Yes.  When it comes to tinkering I am an “A” type personality.  Which is probably why it comes as no surprise that I tinker A LOT when I write.  There is always a word (or hundreds) that I can change and adjust and make better no matter what stage of the process I’m in.  This means I tend to fret and worry when a new book comes out that I didn’t do enough tinkering.  Yes, I need professional help.


And I guess it is even less surprising that my characters can’t help but tinker when murder and crime come to their towns.  I mean, who does that?  What person looks at a dead body and says, “I should find the guy who did this?”  Well, Rebecca Robbins did in SKATING AROUND THE LAW.  And now she’s fiddling again in SKATING OVER THE LINE.  This time there are cars exploding around town and a band of scary dudes appearing on darkened street corners.  No matter how hard she tries to stay out of the mix, Rebecca gets sucked into the mystery.  She just can’t help it.  I guess she comes by it honest because neither can I. 


Joelle Charbonneau has performed in a variety of operas and musical theatre productions across the Chicagoland area.  She now teaches private voice lessons and uses her stage experience to create compelling characters in her books.  The first of the Rebecca Robbins mysteries, SKATING AROUND THE LAW (Minotaur Books) was called “Sexy and funny” by Kirkus Reviews.  The second book in the series, SKATING OVER THE LINE, will hit shelves on Sept. 27th, 2011.  The first of her newest series, MURDER FOR CHOIR, will be published by Berkley in July, 2012.



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Welcome to the TLC blog. I just downloaded Skating Around the Law and look forward to a new Voice. One of my favorite things about this blog is exposure to authors who are new to me (not good for my pocketbook though).

I attended my first Bouchercon this year and hope it won't be my last. So many authors so little time... It was great fun to meet Hank and Harley and see Elaine again.

PS I like to tinker too.

Well hello Joelle! I guess everyone is in church singing but me.
My brother borrowed the family chariot so I've no way to get there except on my Schwinn Breeze bike, (Don't ask.)
So I like the fact that you sing! That is so cool! AND now you write. Cooleeski! AND AND you tinker with your voice students! Super Mario Cool Beans!
How did you possibly arrive at the skating thing theme? I simply must go out and discover your work!
Singing the answers? Brilliant!

I'm so happy to read you're writing a musical murder series. Skating's okay, but opera, or choirs, that's perfect for you. There are protagonists in series who listen to opera -- Margaret Coel's Father O'Malley jumps to mind -- but I don't know of any who sing. You are the perfect author to create her. Or is it him?

From Hank:
Hey, Joelle! Thanks so.much for being here! I'm in the New Orleans airport on an iPad..which won't let me comment without assistance from the helpful Holly! But about your choir book-so timely with Glee and The Sing-off--is it challenging to write about singing?

Welcome, Joelle! Why is it our blog can't produce audio so we can have the soundtrack to this blog? I would die to hear you sing it.

I too am a tinkerer. My biggest challenge is to not tinker (visibly) with my kids' work. When they bake, cook, "clean up," decorate their rooms, wrap presents . . . I leave their math and science homework alone easily but when they ask for help with writing projects? Agony.

Um, yup. Guilty as charged, sharing a cell with you in tinkering prison, Joelle.

If someone shows me a photo of themselves, I do look first at the person in the photo, but my eyes do also stray to the crooked picture frame on the wall behind them, or to the bookshelf that 'I' would reorganize if it weren't rude to interfere . . . .

Joelle, as one speaking to another, I can sum up all of those quirks of yours in five words: It's because you're a redhead.

Redheads are special, just in case you blonds and brunettes hadn't figured that out.

Also, a bit of fresh or even dried basil in some canned tomato soup? The bomb!

As for recipes, I've always considered them, like speed limit signs, to be mere suggestions.

Hi Joelle,

Great to see you here! And I love your books' cover art . . . all so innocent looking.

I've been known to make spaghetti sauce out of Campbell's tomato soup. Does that count as tinkering? Or is it just plain obnoxious, as my Auntie Colachico (who used to be French but became Italian at the Polish church in Salem, Massachusetts when she said "I do,") would say?

Hi Joelle,

I'm a tinker, especially with recipes or when I'm assembly furniture. Always wanted to know if I needed that piece.

Welcome Joelle.
This could be a blog for Tinkering Anonymous!
I love to fix things and tinker around with stuff until it is just right. Living alone means I can do this as much as I want with no interference.
I love to adjust recipes, did you know that a little cayenne is amazing in peanut butter cookies and if that works how about cayenne and chipotle morita powder as well . . . Spicy peanut butter cookies, awesome.
I recently started making red lentil soup and haven't made it the same way twice.
I won't be tinkering in any blown up cars or murders, maybe some scrap booking!

Welcome, Joelle:

I love to tinker with recipes. It does make things difficult if someone asks for the recipe, and I can't exactly remember how I made it. If it happens to be fresh in my mind, I will write out the original recipe, with notes in brackets alongside the parts that I tinkered with.

Laraine, I was thinking that I'd better not ever invite you to my home - and then I decided that you need to come, and you can do whatever you want if you can get to all those things that my spine problems prevent me from doing properly! (So when can you come?)

Deb, pretty funny, but really, I have very good restraint (sadly, sometimes even at home) when it comes to following through on the impulse to tinker around with the way things are arranged!

Years ago, some friends invited me over for dinner, and then they were out in the afternoon and just barely got home before I did: imagine my relieved joy when I realized that their gorgeous home isn't always picture perfect! There was mail piled on the dining table, soccer jerseys tossed on the kitchen counter--I can't tell you what a pleasure it was to know that I'm not the only one who occasionally fails to place the mail in the mail tray, or to clear out the accumulation of 'stuff' on my desk!!

Anyway, I echo the recipe tinkerers here, and Dru, the part you needed for that whatever you were building?? It's probably under my kitchen sink in a ziplock bag with a few other 'did this really fit somewhere on this bed/tv stand/bookshelf I just assembled?' items.

Oh, Laraine, I keep all those mysterious spare parts also. Somewhere I have a very cute bird a man in a junk yard made of nuts and bolts and wires and gave me when I went in to buy a window handle for my Pinto. Maybe we should do an art project.

A friend told me about chili powder and mayonnaise on corn on the cob . . . Yum!

MAry, that sounds delish..we just got back from New Orleans, where Food is king. (Also alcohol, kind of depressing,...) But we forgot to have beignets! Gotta go back...

Just be careful -- flying home from NOLA one year, I was told by a couple on the plane that their city has the highest numbers for heart attacks and strokes, which they attributed to the diet . . . so enjoy, but moderate . . .
That couple no longer lived there; they moved to Europe to raise their children where there are fewer guns.

I love revisions. I tinker endlessly. Sometimes my editor jokes about tearing it from my cold dead hands.

Oh, I want a video of that singing panel!

Hi everyone! Thanks for being so wonderful and welcoming. I was up in Upper Michigan staying with my aunt and uncle and they lost all internet connection so I wasn't able to see anything yesterday.

Harley - we need to get together at Bouchercon. I'll be happy to sing for you:) I find it easier to sing that talk about my writing which is probaby why I was happy to sing on my panel this year.

Hank - hello! The new music series is lots of fun to write because I know singing and performance so well. They always say to write what you know. I guess that is why I started writing MURDER FOR CHOIR. And I am very fortunate that Glee and the Sing-Off are so popular. There is show choir and a cappella singing in the book as well as some opera and music theater....all the music that I love!

Gaylin- yay for Tinkerers Anonymous. We can all force each other to write down what we do while cooking and maybe someone will find a use for Dru's spare furniture parts. As a matter of fact, I might have a few of those lurking around my house! EEK!

Laraine - I am happy to share a cell with you. It will be the snazziest cell on the block.

And Nancy - the panel doesn't have a video as evidence, but I hear there is an audio CD of it floating around. Now everyone can hear me sing Tits and Ass!

Doc - I *knew* that red hair would come in handy for an excuse. YAY! I just thought it made me the world's tallest litte orphan Annie!

Diana - thanks so much for stopping by. I really hope you enjoy Rebecca's tinkering! Please let me know what you think:)

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