Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Little Conversation with...Julie Hyzy

The first time I met Julie Hyzy, she gave me orders.
Of course, at the time, I was a server at Joe's Crab Shack in Merrillville, Indiana and she, her husband, Curt and a couple of friends of theirs came in for lunch. I mentioned that I was writing a book and she told me about the White House Chef Mystery series. I've since read the first two and am working on Eggsecutive orders, the third book in the series. (Buffalo West Wing and Affairs of Steak are currently available online and in bookstores, like Books-A-Million and Barnes and Noble)
Julie also took time out to read an excerpt of a short story I was working on, which will end up on the blog in due time.
The one thing I can definitely say about Julie is that she is very pesronable, friendly and has none of the self-absorbed, standoffish affectations that some famous authors have. She's refreshingly down to earth and am very fortunate to call her a friend.
Julie's a busy woman, but she made some time to answer a few questions and for this I am very grateful. But enough about me, let's hear what she has to say...

FOC: I love the White House Chef Mystery Series. How did you come up with the idea of using the White House as a backdrop for a mystery series, let alone a protagonist who is a chef employed by the White House?

Julie Hyzy: Actually, a gentleman by the name of Marty Greenberg (he's no longer with us) came up with the concept after Laura Bush named Cristeta Comerford the first female in the role of White House executive chef. Marty contacted me and asked me if I'd be willing to write the series. I jumped at the opportunity, of course. What I didn't realize at the time was that there were other authors vying for the job. I'm very fortunate that they liked my characters, plots, and ideas for future books enough to give me the job.

FOC: The recipies in the back of each book are a nice touch. Are you, like, an undercover Rachel Ray who makes up her own recipies or do you just enjoy cooking?

Julie Hyzy: Neither! I'll eat out whenever I get the chance. Although I enjoy cooking now and then, and I really have fun trying out new ideas, all the recipes in the back of the WHChef books are provided by a professional. You've heard of ghost writers? I have a ghost chef! 

FOC: Your original work background is in Finance, but you left that career to pursue being a writer amidst a lot of dissenting opinions. How did you find the courage to go against the tide and follow your dream all the way to the Bestsellers' List?

Julie Hyzy: The truth is that I looked at my life, and even though I was proud of everything I'd accomplished (including raising kids), I'd never made writing a priority in my life. It always came in second, or third, or fifty-seventh in line after other things that were more important. I came to the realization that someday I might be a hundred years old and looking back on my life. I knew I would be terribly disappointed in myself if I hadn't actually tried to pursue my dream. I needed to give it my all, no matter what. Even though I knew I might fail, pushing my dreams aside because I was fearful was completely unacceptable. I had to do my best so that I would know I'd done my best. And so I gave it everything I had, and I continue to do so every day.

FOC: The Manor House Mysteries are a recent addition to your body of work. Tell us a little bit about this series.

Julie Hyzy: I'm thoroughly enjoying writing this series. Grace has a lot more in common with me than my WHChef series does. Grace works at Marshfield Manor (named for my beloved Marshall Field's) in North Carolina. Marshfield is an immense tourist attraction/museum/home and Grace is its curator and manager. She works directly for the elderly owner, Bennett Marshfield, and finds history and mystery in every nook and cranny. This is a fun series, with a cast of characters I truly love. The third in the series, Grace Among Thieves, comes out June 5th and I just signed a contract for three additional books. Very excited!

FOC: Which writers influenced your work and made you want to write in the first place? Which writers inspire you to sit down and pound out a page or two after you've read them?

Julie Hyzy: I wanted to write from the time I could manage a pencil, but writers who influenced me were Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew books), Ray Bradbury (I absolutely adore him!), and Sue Grafton. Have to admit, I enjoy Diana Gabaldon, too. I go back and re-read Bradbury and Grafton often, just to admire their words, their characters, their stories. I strive to be a better writer every day because of them. They're wonderful authors whose works truly speak to me.

click to see a larger version

                     Julie Hyzy

Affairs of Steak (A White House Chef Mystery)

       The latest White House Chef Title

Grace Among Thieves (A Manor House Mystery)

The forthcoming Manor House Mystery (out June 5th)

UPDATE: Julie has two new books out-A White House Chef Mystery titled Home of the Braised and Grace Takes Off, a new entry in the Manor House Mystery Series. Both are available on Kindle and regular mainstream bookstores now.

Friday, April 6, 2012

An Excerpt from Facets: Bullet The Blue Sky

Evening all.
I meant to post this last night, but with a baby due any day now, stuff kinda gets thrown off. Anyhew, this is another excerpt from my book, Facets: Stories of the Mundane and the Weird, and falls into the mundane starting to stray into the weird. I mean, seriously, who kills people for money? Well, Valeria Mason does. Who is Valeria Mason? Read on...

Facets is available on the Kindle Market!

My name is Valeria Mason or Val for short. If you looked at the driver’s license I carried, you’d be taking to Lucinda Skye-Diamond. I’m a professional killer, self-employed for the past five years and previously employed by Shadow Operations, a covert ops unit run by the NSA. No one has ever heard of it, because, technically, it didn’t exist and if any one of us were caught, the government could plausibly deny any kind of connection to my organization. It was a good deal for the government anyway.
I was something of a prodigy because at 22, I was the youngest section chief in SO’s history and female to boot. I was considered a bit of an oddity, a female section chief in a male dominated agency, and, somehow, inferior, but no one could argue with the results of my crew, the Gang of Four.
It was me, Alana, Keiko Murashiri and Shekinah Banks. We were the only all-female work group in SO and everybody just assumed we’d fail or unable to do the job. Instead, we took on assignments that older, more experienced agents said couldn’t be done and pulled them off. To quote Shekinah, we had skills.
I was very proud of my accomplishments. Okay, so killing political targets and making them look like accidents isn’t exactly something to brag about (not that I could anyway, all that info was classified), but I was able to buy my Mom a house, go places I’d only heard or read about and work out all of that latent hostility I had.
What exactly was I hostile about? Well, my mom, Colette, and I lived in a trailer park in Calumet City, Illinois, where I was born and raised. While I was in school, I kept where I lived a secret. Eventually, someone found out and that’s when the teasing and name calling started. It didn’t matter that my Mom and I didn’t drive a pick-up truck, were familiar with our dentist and we spoke proper English without a hint of a Kentucky backwoods accent. To the brain dead, we were no-good, redneck, trailer trash and unfit to be in the same school, hell, the same city as those stuck-up, bourgeois, yuppie assholes. That’s why some of them wound up with black eyes, broken noses and various injuries for saying those things to me directly.
As a result, I wasn’t very popular in high school.
The only person who didn’t share that general opinion of me was Joel Petrucha.
He lived in a nicer part of Cal City, but he didn’t have the same hang-ups about class as most of our classmates did. We used to hang out, help each other with homework and were more than just a little attracted to one another. It really hurt my heart when his parents moved out to Country Club Hills when Senior Year rolled around. We kept in contact, but after graduation, I went into the military and then into SO and we lost touch. I still thought about Joel from time to time, especially when a job got really hairy. Did I mention that the house I bought for my Mom is in Country Club Hills?
Anyway, I was a superstar in SO and pretty much had the run of the place. The higher-ups knew that I was able to plan an op and get it done with a minimum of cost to the agency in equipment and man hours. Unfortunately, politics tended to dictate what SO did as an entity. I hate politics. I know they’re a necessary part of the job and are, in fact, the reason for the job, but they get in the way of doing what, or who, needed to be done.
The breaking point came when Alana asked me to back her up on taking down Victor Ortega, a Colombian drug lord who’d murdered her parents because they wouldn’t let Alana be one of his mistresses. She’d made a vow to one day kill the man who’d killed her parents and finally she’d found her chance.
Since this was a personal vendetta and Ortega wasn’t officially a target in Uncle Sam’s War on Drugs, there was no way SO was gonna foot the bill. They didn’t have to, though. I knew the right people to go to outside of the agency and had enough favors to call in to get us what we needed. At first, it was just gonna be me and Alana, but when Shekinah and Keiko got wind of our little job, they dealt themselves in. Alana was against it at first, but the rest of us knew that to take down Ortega, she was gonna need all the help she could get.
So, we went to Medellin, did the deed and got out. Ortega’s death caused all kinds of ripples that got back to the States, because he was a major player and we’d just stepped on the DEA and ATF’s toes. When all the shit came down, I kept Alana, Shekinah and Keiko out of it and squarely put all of the responsibility for the rogue op on me. Alana didn’t like it, but I assured her that I was ready to leave SO far behind. When they asked me to step down, I gladly left and Alana went with me. They didn’t know that we took a fairly large chunk of Victor Ortega’s money with us.
After about a month, I got bored. I didn’t miss the red tape, but I missed doing the work. I approached Alana with the idea of going into business as professional killers. She didn’t like the idea at first, because she didn’t want to kill anybody anymore.
I came up with an idea: Alana’s great with computers, while I’d do the actual jobs, she could help with booking clients, research, and run a legitimate computer consulting business that’d provide a safe front for my little operation. ‘Lana took to the idea like a flower to sunlight.
My reputation as a former government spook helped get the ball rolling and soon I was getting more offers than I could handle. Alana reluctantly took on some of the work and, no pun intended, we made a killing.
It’s been cool, but I’m starting to not like the work now. It isn’t fun anymore. The money’s great, but all the anger that used to fuel me is gone and I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t in The Life. I felt isolated from normal people. Telling the person in front of me in the checkout line at the grocery store that I’d once killed an African dictator, by giving him a Colombian Necktie wasn’t an option.
My phone rang. It must be Lana wanting me to bring some pastries from Junior’s home with me.
“You know those cheese dainishes are gonna go straight to your thighs, chica.” I joked.
            “I have no interest in confections, Miss Mason,” a deep, gravelly voice said.
            “Who the hell is this?” As soon as I asked, the identity of my surprise caller clicked into place. You should recognize the person who’s signing your paycheck.
“Never mind, I know who you are now.” I said. “I’m busy with the job you gave to me, in case you were wondering.”
“Good. I have a change for you to implement immediately.”
“What’s that?” He told me and hung up. My shock and disbelief lingered long afterwards. I took a quick glance at the trail, saw that my mark had arrived and this job was going straight to hell.

Click here to buy your copy of Facets