Thursday, June 28, 2012

Maui Widow Waltz by JoAnn Bassett: Interview & Excerpt

Maui Widow Waltz, An Islands of Aloha Mystery

Even "death us do part" couldn't spoil her wedding day plans...
Wedding planner Pali Moon is thrilled when a would-be bride shows up at "Let's Get Maui'd" inquiring about a lavish beach wedding. That is, until she learns it must be on Valentine's Day--just nine days away. Oh yeah, and one other little hitch--the groom disappeared at sea a week earlier. But the bride's convinced he'll be found safe and sound, so she's got a plan--and a man--to do a proxy ceremony if necessary. The day before the big nuptials a man's body washes ashore on a South Maui beach. Has the groom finally shown up? If so, what's it going to be--a wedding...or a funeral?

This is the first book in the series.

People marry for two reasons: love or money. So it was pretty clear what was at stake when she showed up wanting to marry a dead man. I normally run a pretty straight shop—no mai tai infused “quickies” or Elvis-on-the-beach impersonators—but my standards had slipped. In late December a line of squalls had parked over Maui dumping thirteen inches of rain in two weeks. The daily downpours continued through January, sending visitors fleeing back to the mainland like snorkelers spotting a dorsal fin. By early February business all over the island had ground to a halt. My mortgage was in arrears, my day planner was blank, and the credit card people had revoked my Visa. In other words, desperation was the new black.  
On Tuesday morning I laid out my bills, solitaire-style, on my battered Balinese desk. There were supposed to be three piles—those I could pay right away; those I’d pay by the end of February; and those that would never get paid unless I won the lottery. Too bad Hawaii doesn’t have a lottery. Pile number three stood an inch high. The other piles were bare, with only a Post-it note—a freebie from the real estate office across the street—marking the spot.
The door to my shop creaked open and a pale female face peeked around the jamb. In the space above her head I saw the shimmer of wind-whipped rain.
 “Can I help you?” I said looking up not expecting much.
“Are you the wedding planner?” she said in a whisper I associate with people inquiring about illicit drugs.
“I am.” I sprang from behind the desk and gestured for her to come in. She stepped inside and I pushed the door closed against the stiff breeze.
I figured her for early-twenties. She was a pale imitation of me at that age. Shoulder length blunt-cut blond hair, pale topaz blue eyes, and skin the color of haupia—coconut pudding. I had about ten years on her, and since I live in Hawaii my skin’s perpetually tanned. My hair’s a few shades darker, and my eyes more hazel than blue. But in silhouette we shared the same five foot six height, same small build.
“Wow. What a gorgeous ring,” I said zeroing in on her left hand. “I’m Pali Moon, the owner here.”
“Polly? Like the parrot?”
“Well, it’s pronounced the same, but the Hawaiian spelling is P-A-L-I.”
If I’d been more truthful, I’d have explained that Pali isn’t my legal name, but it’s the one I use in everyday commerce to avoid dealing with snorts and chuckles.
Her swift glance around the small room tipped me off this probably wasn’t what she’d imagined when she saw my yellow pages ad. I had no mannequins dressed in wedding gowns costing as much as a small car, no displays of Swarovski crystal-encrusted headpieces, no glossy posters of demure brides and cocky grooms. Just a fifteen by thirty room, split by a plywood wall with a doorframe hung with a bead curtain. Behind the bead curtain I had a small dressing room with a carpeted step-up backed by a three-sided mirror.
“This is ‘Let’s Get Maui’d,’ right?”
“Sure is. And please don’t be put off by the simple digs. We keep overhead low so your costs aren’t high. We focus on making each bride’s special day totally unique—completely original. You bring the dream, we bring the team.” I’d spent the past few weeks brainstorming business slogans and took the opportunity to try a few out on her.
She lifted a nostril as if detecting an obnoxious odor, but managed to twist her lips into a thin smile.
I offered her a seat in the rattan chair across from my desk and she moved toward it, the scent of tuberoses trailing in her wake. I slipped behind the desk, dumping my bills into the pencil drawer as I took my seat.
Something about the tug at the sides of her eyes and her pinched facial expression seemed out of place for a blushing bride, but I chalked it up to the lousy weather.
“Can you put together a fabulous wedding by Valentine’s Day?” she said in the same low murmur as before.
“Of course,” I said, my voice too loud in contrast. “Are you thinking inside or out?”
“Outside. On the beach.”
“No problem. We’ll rent a rain canopy if we need to. How many guests are you inviting?”
“Only a few friends and family.”
“Good. The smaller the better in such a short timeframe.”
“It has to be perfect.”
“We specialize in perfect.” I smiled, but it wasn’t returned.
“No, I mean it. Everything has to be fabulous because my fianc√© might not be there. He may have to watch it later on the video.”
“Oh. And he won’t be there because...” I let it trail off—hoping she’d fill in the blank. It’s a common speech pattern with wedding coordinators.
“Because he’s been missing since last Thursday.”
Starting a blog


Today I'm so happy to welcome JoAnn Bassett as my guest.  Thanks for dropping by, JoAnn, and taking time out to talk with me so we can find out a little more about you and your new book.  So, to begin why don't you tell us about your current series.

I’m working on the “Islands of Aloha Mystery Series.” The main character, Pali Moon, is a Maui wedding planner with a resum√© that includes a black belt in martial arts and working as an air marshal for Homeland Security. As she says, “It all comes in handy. A wedding planner is just one tea rose away from a drill sergeant.” She’s not a visitor or a transplant to the islands, she’s what they call kama’aina, born and raised in Hawaii. She lives in upcountry Maui and, like most local people, she spends a lot of her time just trying to make ends meet. Each of the stories in the series takes place on one of the major Hawaiian Islands. The first two books—“Maui Widow Waltz” and “Livin’ Lahaina Loca” take place on Maui, where I lived for a number of years. And then starting with the third book the stories will take readers to the other islands—Lana’i, Kauai, O’ahu and finally the Big Island of Hawaii. I don’t have plans for a Moloka’i book yet, but who knows?

Tell us about your next release.

The book I’m currently working on is titled, “Lana’i of the Tiger” and (as you probably guessed) it takes place on the tiny island of Lana’i. Lots of people (both locals and visitors alike) have never been to Lana’i so I thought it’d be fun to feature it as a setting. After all, with the entire world to pick from, Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates chose to get married on Lana’i. My job is to figure out why.

Where do you do research for your books?

Ha! you got me there. I live on the mainland now, so I do a lot of my secondary research on the Internet. But before any book makes it into readers’ hands I actually go to all of the places mentioned in the story. Sometimes my memory is wrong, sometimes things change. I can’t guarantee that everything is exactly as I write it (after all, I make some stuff up) but I’m a big fan of exotic settings and “armchair travel” so I like to make the reader see, feel, smell, hear, and taste the beauty of our fiftieth state while getting engrossed in what I hope is a satisfying mystery.

How do you describe your writing style?

I’d call it “breezy.” I write in first-person, and the main character is a local gal so she’s got a laid-back Hawaiian style of talking and thinking. I try to throw in as much humor as I can get away with while telling a story of murder. As you will see from the excerpt above, Pali’s pretty serious about her work, but the bridal business is rife with opportunities for humor and craziness, so I go with that as much as possible.

 Do you listen to music while writing? If so, what?

Well, I’d be crazy not to. Hawaiian music is fantastic. The wide range—from slack-key guitar, to chant, to island rap—means there’s always something appropriate to whatever mood I’m in. My favorites are the old stand-bys:  Israel Kamakawiwo’ole or “Iz” (the big guy—gone too soon—who did that wonderful rendition of “Over the Rainbow” with ukulele), Jack Johnson, the Brothers Cazimero, and—my all-time favorite—Keali’i Reichel. But sometimes when I’m writing I’ll turn on a local Hawaiian radio station on my computer (KPOA-FM, Maui is a good one) and listen to the radio while I’m writing. It’s great to listen to not only the music but also the sing-song cadence of the DJ’s voices.

What book are you reading now?

I’m one of three authors in ‘misterio press’—a co-op of independently published mystery writers. The other two writers are Kassandra Lamb and Shannon Esposito. Right now I’m reading Kassandra’s newly released romantic suspense, “Family Fallacies” about a therapist/counselor who finds herself in the crosshairs of a group of “false memory” fanatics who claim the therapist has deceitfully convinced her client she was a victim of childhood sexual abuse.  It’s a psychological mystery along with a tender love story—great stuff!

What are your favorite TV shows?

Well, of course Hawaii Five-O is right up there. I love the great camera work, the fast banter between the characters and the music. Sometimes the plot lines are a bit over-the-top but that’s okay because as long as Alex O’Loughlin’s on camera—I’m loving it. I also like The Mentalist and Modern Family. I think the humor in Modern Family is some of the best TV writing (and acting) ever done (short of Seinfeld).

Tell us about the absolute BEST fan letter you’ve received.

That’s hard. Can I have two? My first was a review on Amazon where the reviewer said she’s lived on Maui for a long time and she got my book so she could pick it apart. She said almost everyone who writes books that take place in Hawaii get it all wrong. She titled her review, “Pleasantly Surprised” and went on to say she enjoyed the book a lot. My second was from a fan who went to my website and asked when the next book in the series would be out. I told her it would be mid-September and she wrote back and said, “I can’t wait until September!” Nothing like having readers chomping at the bit to get me to sit down and get ‘er done. 
Thanks (Mahalo) Laurie, for this opportunity to talk with your blog readers. It’s been fun. And remember, there are three free paperback (or Kindle, if you prefer) copies of the first book in the “Islands of Aloha” mystery series up for grabs so just enter using the rafflecopter form below and be sure to leave a comment on the blog post for a bonus entry.

JoAnn grew up in Seattle, but always preferred palm trees to pine trees. She wrote training programs for firefighters for almost twenty years, but always hoped to make a day at the beach an everyday event. In 1996, she bought an oceanfront home on Maui--best day ever. She loved every day she spent there, but now lives mostly in Southern Arizona (her husband wasn't the island rat she was...). She travels to the islands throughout the year, and enjoys writing about life on "the most idyllic islands in the Pacific."

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Enter to win a signed print copy of Maui Widow Waltz
or a Kindle formated digital file, if preferred.
Three Lucky Winners May Win depending upon total unique entries.
Less than 10 entries - ONE winner will be chosen.  10 to 15 entries TWO winners.
15+ unique entries will ensure THREE winners. This giveaway is open to US only.

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Kassandra Lamb said...

Great interview, ladies! Don't you just love those 'when's the next book coming out' e-mails. I got one yesterday, and you're right, JoAnn... it got me out of bed bright and early and at my computer.

Mahalo (I hope I spelled that right) for your kind words about my book.

Kass Lamb

shannon esposito said...

Great interview. This really was a fun read! And I loved the insight into life on Maui. Looking forward to Pali's next adventure in paradise!

ps. The Mentalist is one of my favorite shows, too.

Tom Haberer said...

Hi Laurie,
I’m just letting you know I’ve read “Maui Widow Waltz” and liked it—and I’m a guy. Hawaii is one of my favorite places, so I guess I enjoyed the stuff about Hawaii the most.

murf said...

I really, really liked the mystery...I am a investigator type of a person who likes to try to find the ending. With this book I found too many leads and was surprised by the ending. I also liked returning to Maui, and the great memories from my trips to the island. Thank you.

NoraA said...

Okay, this bride is my kind of lady. LOL Win or lose she's gonna have a wedding. LOL

Anonymous said...

Thanks JoAnn and Laurie for the great blog post. JoAnn I've snapped up both books and will buy the others as they come out.
(No contest since I already own the books :-)


JoAnn said...

Hi to all who've comennted so far...I recently moved and I've been hanging drapes for the past couple of hours. But thanks again Laurie, for having me visit today, and thanks to Laurie's fans who have signed up for the giveaway or have left a comment. Mahalo! (and yes, Kass, you spelled it right).

Laurie said...

You're most welcome, JoAnn. I must say I had a lot of fun putting this post together. The Blurb and the excerpt got me! This book sounds like such a entertaining read and I can't wait to get a chance to read it.

Don't envy you unpacking and hanging drapes........hope you get settled in soon!

Rachelle Ayala said...

Hi JoAnn, the blurb is great. Makes me want to find out what this lady has up her sleeve. I hope the mystery isn't too easy to solve. I love Agatha Christie and stories with lots of twists.

Sounds like you have a winning series there! And Laurie, another great interview. :)

JoAnn said...

Hi Rachelle,
Oh, I hope you don't find the mystery too easy to solve! But if you're an avid mystery reader you've probably read just about every possible way to solve a mystery so you may be a tough reader to stump. Hope you win a copy and if so, hope you find it a fun read.

Cindy said...

These are the BEST novels I've read yet that are based in my much loved Hawaii! There are so many funny lines that I found myself constantly reading them aloud to my husband as we kindled our different "books." We will both eagerly await new books in the series. Please, though, JoAnn....put off the drapes and decorating and run back to the computer and make your many fans happy! Thanks so much for all the entertainment and happy times!

Darlene said...

This sounds like a great mystery. Thanks for the giveaway!

wwe11 said...

sounds like a great book.

Marjorie/cenya2 said...

Thanks for the review, another great storyline. Love to read it.

Daniel M said...

thanks for the giveaway! - regnod(at)yahoo(d0t)com

Gale Nelson said...

thanks for the great review! Look forward to reading this book. Gale

ronnkelly3 said...

Thank you for the review and interview...

JoAnn Bassett said...

Thanks to all who commented and entered the contest! I can't wait to see who won! And thank you again, Laurie, for hosting me on your great site. It was great fun!

Angel Jennifer said...

thanks for the great post and giveaway!