Hey, everybody! Look who's here....the one and only Brad Parks! Welcome back, Brad!
Last year when you came to visit with us you gave us some fabulous insight into what it would be like to be Mister Romance.
I see that the year's been good to you, with some major awards for that debut book you barely mentioned in all the Mister Romance furor - in fact, Faces of the Gone, won the Nero Award for Best American Mystery and the Shamus Award for Best First Mystery. I hear you were the first author in the combined 60-year history of the Nero and the Shamus to win both awards for the same book. That's pretty awesome!
Of course, we're all about awesome around here, so you fit right in. Grins. As you can see, in this picture with Donna, he's WELL acquainted with that rascally rooster, so yeah, awesome. (Aww, he's blushing.)
Brad: Now, Jeanne, you're putting me on the spot. I swear, I had nothing to do with that rooster. Really. Ahem. Okay, so I know it’s local custom here in the lair to end a post with a question. And I know I’m supposed to be flogging my new book – I’ll get to that, I promise.
Jeanne: Flogging? Really? You flog your books? Snork. I know, I know figure of speech, but remember, we've got some erotica writers and readers 'round here, so....yeah. Let's not go there. What were you saying?
Brad: I was saying I was going to break all the rules by starting with a question.
Jeanne: Oooh, rule-breaking! Sign us up! (Mug shots optional!)
Brad: (Brad shakes his head, laughing) Okay, seriously. A question, FIRST. What, oh Banditas, Buddies, staff and cabana boys, is your Rain Man Quality?
Jeanne: Our WHAT???
Brad: Maybe you’re not familiar with what a Rain Man Quality is. It’s a concept introduced to me by a friend, who swears everyone has one if they think about it hard enough. A Rain Man Quality is some kind of bizarre skill, talent or ability that, while not being especially marketable or useful, is nevertheless cool in a Rain Man-ish way. Even if it’s just a parlor trick.
Jeanne: Oh, like Stupid Human Tricks. Grins.
Brad: Exactly! Rain Man Qualities can be savant-like, such as the ability to memorize the phonebook, as the Dustin Hoffman character does in the movie of the same name. But, more often, they are possessed by ordinary people, doing ordinary things in a perhaps-extraordinary way.
My friend’s Rain Man Quality? She can pick the perfect size Tupperware for any leftovers. I have witnessed this: She eyes the (whatever) in the pot, goes to her cabinet, selects a container, then fills it just to the top – but not beyond – without anything remaining in the pot.
Me? I can catch grapes in my mouth. Even when thrown from a great distance. I learned this one day in college, when a friend got a bag of grapes from the supermarket and happened to toss one at me. I caught in my mouth. Then he took a step back and threw another one. I caught it again.
By the time I finally got out of his grape-throwing range, we were on opposite sides of the Grand Union parking lot.
Granted, it’s not counting cards in six-deck Blackjack, but it’s all I’ve got, okay?
Then there’s one of the main characters in my mystery series, Tina Thompson – see, I told you I’d get around to flogging my book eventually. She has one of the greatest Rain Man Qualities of all: She always knows when Carter Ross, the series’ protagonist and her sort-of love interest, is lying.
Carter is an investigative newspaper reporter and something of a charmer – to everyone else but Tina, who sees through him every time, including in excerpt below.
Before I get to the scene with Carter and Tina, I’ll begin with a quick exchange between Carter and Lauren “Sweet Thang” MacMillan, the paper’s newest intern, a honey-haired 22-year-old Vanderbilt graduate. Carter has been assigned to work on a story with Sweet Thang, who has a bit of a crush on Carter, and has just complimented him on his writing as this excerpt begins…
… So I gave my standard writing advice: “Writing is like a muscle,” I said. “The harder you work it, the stronger it gets.” I immediately regretted the metaphor.
"I bet you’ve got the biggest muscle of anyone I’ve ever met,” she gushed.
I coughed uncomfortably. “Well, I’m going to file this thing now,” I said, glancing at the clock. It was 5:45, which was getting to be the time of night when the acid in Szanto’s stomach compelled him to start demanding copy.
“Oh, definitely,” she said. “And thanks for giving me the lead byline. You totally didn’t have to do that.”
“You earned it. Without that interview, we wouldn’t have had a story.”
“That’s so sweet of you,” she said, then added in what was intended to sound like an afterthought: “By the way, some of the interns are getting together at McGovern’s after work for a quick drink or two. You want to join?”
“Sure,” I said too quickly. Then, in the second it took me to consider the implications, I added, “I’ll try to stop by.”
“Cool,” she said, giving me a little wave as she departed. “See ya.”
Sweet Thang wasn’t gone from my desk for more than fifteen seconds before Tina Thompson roared into the same spot. Tina is our city editor. At most newspapers, the city editor is some frumpy bearded guy named Bruno. At our paper, it’s Tina, a too-hot-for-her-age thirty-eight-year-old with curly brown hair, a penchant for short skirts, and abs you could play checkers on.
Her hobbies include yoga, jogging and keeping me in a permanent state of confusion. We were clearly… something. I liked her intelligence, her wit, her sarcasm. And did I mention her abs? We always enjoyed our time together. She obviously cared about me. She even saved my life once – long story.
But I couldn’t accurately say Tina and I were an item, because it had never been consummated by the appropriate adult gymnastics. It was difficult to speculate whose fault that was. There were times when I had been clearly been invited to show her my floor routine but stumbled on the way to the mat. Other times, I participated in the warm-ups then withdrew my name from consideration before the competition began. It all made for a relationship that had never gotten past the preliminaries.
It was just complicated. What Tina wanted out of me was not companionship, commitment or even recreational sex. She wanted insemination. Having spent most her life as a career-driven Alpha Female, Tina had recently decided she was going to try motherhood. And she was sufficiently Type-A in personality that she didn’t feel like wasting time with the whole dating-cohabiting-marrying paradigm. She didn’t want to fiddle around with anonymous sperm donors, either. As she explained it, she wanted her baby’s daddy to be smart, above 6-foot tall and have light-colored eyes – but didn’t want it to be some lanky, green-eyed homeless guy who managed to convince a fertility clinic he went to Stanford. That left her with 6-foot-1, blue-eyed, Amherst-educated me.
She promised it was a no-strings-attached deal. She even offered naming rights. But I was still unsure about it. On the one hand, I had what Mr. Darwin would describe as the male imperative to spread my seed. On the other hand, I was a little conflicted about someday having to explain to Carter Jr. that his mother had been primarily interested in me for the fifty-fifty chance I’d pass on my bone structure.
Like I said, it was confusing. As was the fiercely territorial look she had on her face as she approached.
“Just stop it,” she hissed.
“Stop what?” I said, trying to summon my best innocent face.
“Oh, Carter,” she mocked Sweet Thang’s voice in a violent whisper. “You’re so wonderful. I want to write just like you.”
“What did I do?” I said, perhaps too defensively.
“Oh Carter,” she continued in the voice, “you’re such a great writer. Why don’t you have drinks with me and then come over to my place and write for me all night long?”
“Oh, come on.”
“Writing is like a muscle, Carter? And which muscle is she supposed to think you’re bragging about? Your trapezius? Why don’t you just pull her into the supply closet and ask her to play Seven Minutes in Heaven?”
“Now you’re just being silly.”
“Am I? Or did I just see her give you the little wave?”
“That? That was not the little wave. That was just. . . a wave.”
She closed in and clamped her hand on my chin, lifting my face for closer inspection.
“I thought so,” she said, the whisper getting even angrier. “You have glitter on your cheek.”
“So?” I said, wiping both cheeks quickly.
“So Sweet Thang was wearing make-up with glitter in it. Is that just a coincidence?”
“Glitter has been known to become airborne,” I pointed out.
Tina stuck her fists into her side, glared at me for a moment, then stomped off. Three strides into her stomping, she turned around and jerked her head, like I should have known I was supposed to follow her. I trailed after her. It was either that or get scolded in front of the entire newsroom. She went into the (thankfully empty) break room and was ready for me with an ambush when I entered.
“She’s hitting on you,” Tina hissed.
“And you’re flirting back!”
“I heard her saying you gave her the first byline on that story. You want to tell me if she was dump truck ugly with an ass she couldn’t fit through an elevator door you would have done that?”
“She earned that byline…”
“And besides, if her ass was that big she never would have fit in the booth at the restaurant and we never would have gotten the interview.”
“Don’t change the subject.”
“I’m not sure I know what the subject is.”
“The subject is that every male under the age of ninety in this newsroom has been following that girl around with drool pouring out their mouths for the last month and you, of all people, are not going to join them. It’s improper, it’s unseemly and it’s gross. She’s a child.”
I raised my right hand like I was taking the Presidential oath of office and said, “I have absolutely nothing but the purest of intentions toward that young woman. And I have no indication her feelings for me are anything besides professional admiration.”
“You are and always have been a dreadful liar Carter Ross. You’ve been screwing her with your eyes ever since she got here.”
“I don’t even think I said hello to her until this morning.”
“And let me guess, you let her tag along with you all day long because, what, you’re deeply concerned about the quality of instruction she receives during her internship?”
“Szanto told me to work with her,” I said, still sounding far more defensive than I intended.
“Oh, sure. Did Szanto also tell you to jump in her lap the moment she asked you out for a beer after work?”
Couldn’t exactly dispute that one. Tina sighed and waived her arms in the air.
“Look at you! You can’t even defend yourself! Of course you want to have sex with her. She’s twenty-two. She’s got helium balloons for tits. I should probably be worried if you didn’t want to have sex with her, because it would mean you were dead from the waist down, which would mean you’re absolutely no use to me. All I’m saying is, if you sleep with her, don’t even think about sleeping with me. I’ll find some other guy with good breeding potential to get me knocked up.”
With that, Tina stormed off.
I looked at my only friend in the room, the Coke machine. “Did you get all that?” I asked it.
The machine hummed back at me.
“Just to review,” I said. “A woman who has expressed exactly zero interest in a conventional monogamous relationship just berated me for flirting with an intern. Can you figure out what to make of it?”
The machine hummed some more.
“Yeah,” I said. “Me neither.”
Brad: So that’s Tina Rain Main Quality, much to Carter’s distress. (I mean, can you imagine, not being able to lie to your quasi-significant other?).
But now, finally, we get back around to the question at hand. And I’m sure it’s one that’ll get a good conversation going here in the lair:
What’s your Rain Man Quality?
One randomly selected commenter gets a free signed and personalized copy of EYES OF THE INNOCENT!
Jeanne: And there you have it! Brad's book, EYES OF THE INNOCENT, is just released from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books. Library Journal gave it a starred review, calling it “as good if not better (than) his acclaimed debut.” For more Brad, sign up for his newsletter (http://www.bradparksbooks.com/fan-club.php), follow him on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/brad_parks) or became a fan of Brad Parks Books on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/#/pages/Brad-Parks-Books/137190195628?ref=ts).
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Another winner today will get a GO RED FOR WOMEN pin and a copy of Deadly Little Secrets from me!