Wendy Lyn Watson writes delicious mysteries with a dollop of romance. Her first cozy, I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM: A MYSTERY A LA MODE, will be released on October 6. To pay the bills, Wendy teaches constitutional law to college kids. She’s also an avid fan of 80s music, horror films, and (of course) ice cream. You can find her on the web at http://www.wendylynwatson.com/
When I first contacted the Stiletto Gang, this whole blog thing sounded like a good idea. I mean, everyone’s doing it, right? How hard can it be?
Let’s face it, y’all are strangers. You don’t know me from Adam. This is my chance to make a first impression, and I better make it good. So what to say? About 93 different topics came to mind, and they all sounded totally stupid. Or brilliant. But probably stupid. I was paralyzed with indecision.
So I asked the universe to send me a sign, and it did.
With a leisurely Labor day afternoon ahead of us, Mr. Wendy and I headed to the 380 Greenbelt, a rather utilitarian Texas park that meanders along a trickle of water that one might call a river (if one had never seen a real river before). We parked the Family Truckster; schlepped across the tarmac like the boring middle-aged couple we are, Mr. Wendy toting a folding chair in each hand and me clutching a plastic grocery bag with some almonds, a couple of diet sodas, and our paperbacks; and set up camp in a little plot of shade right at the edge of the sad tributary and away from the other park-goers.
We had just gotten settled in, Mr. Wendy dozing in his chair, me munching on the almonds, when I heard a rustling in the underbrush behind me. I looked around, expecting a squirrel, or perhaps an armadillo. Imagine my surprise ...
I asked the universe for a sign, and it sent me a chicken.
But not just any chicken. This was one of those fancy chickens with an absurd explosion of feathers sprouting from the top of his head and a cascade of snowy plumage springing from his backside. This was a Vegas show-chicken.
A feral Vegas show-chicken.
I couldn’t help wondering, “What’s his story?” Was he lost? Had he escaped some chicken gulag? Why did he limp? Did he have chicken friends in the park? Or was he flying solo, one chicken against the world? Was he scared of the people who wandered past him, carrying kayaks and blaring boom-boxes? Or did he hope that one of those people would scoop him up and tote him back to civilization, give him a nice shady coop where he wouldn’t have to worry about coyotes or his next meal? And what would become of him? Could such a fancy chicken possibly survive in the wild?
Some writers--indeed, some of my favorite writers--write about exotic people in exotic places doing exotic things. I, however, am drawn to ordinary folks living ordinary lives in Everytown, America. Like the heroine of I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM. Tally Jones is a small town divorcee, struggling to keep her ice cream parlor afloat and her rag-tag family out of bankruptcy. On the surface, her life is perfectly normal, but unbeknownst to her the people she’s known her whole life are harboring secrets. Those ordinary people are capable of both heroism and treachery, and Tally has to learn that bad guys don’t always look like bad guys.
That nice elderly man who fed his wife rat poison? That high school tennis coach who gave a kidney to one of his players? That soccer mom who made a million bucks by stripping in front of a webcam? Those are the stories that really affect us, because they come out of the blue. They sneak up on us, ambush us, and force us to question our assumptions about the world we live in.
So here’s my advice to you: keep your eyes open. You never know when you’ll stumble across a moment of mythic drama right smack in the middle of your grocery store’s produce aisle. Or a brilliant bit of poetry on a bathroom wall. Or perhaps a Vegas show-chicken rooting around in the underbrush.
Wendy Lyn Watson