June 2nd, 2009

In Over Her Head

I had the great fun to talk to Judi Fennell about her new book, In Over Her Head.

About the book
When Erica Peck, one terrified-of-the-ocean marina owner, finds herself at the bottom of the sea conversing with a Mer man named Reel, she thinks she's died and gone to her own version of Hell. When the Oceanic Council demands she and Reel retrieve a lost cache of diamonds from the resident sea monster in return for their lives, she knows she's died and gone to Hell.

When they escape the monster and end up on a deserted island, she amends her opinion - she's died and gone to Heaven.

But when Reel sacrifices himself to allow her to return to her world, she realizes that, Heaven or Hell, with Reel, she's In Over Her Head.

I asked, Judi answered
A. What's the scariest thing that's ever happened to you? Bonus question: have you used it, in any way, in a book?
J. The scariest thing that's ever happened to me was when I was 10 and had to run to a neighbor's house to get something for my mom before school. We lived in a nice suburban neighborhood. All the neighbors watched out for everyone's kids. There were a zillion kids. It was a great place to show up.

Until that morning.

I had just crossed the street and a car stopped. A guy asked me how to get to a local motel (remember, I was 10...). When I said no, he said he had a map and did I want to see it. I looked in his car.

That was no map.

I was lucky he had both hands, er, occupied, or I might have ended up in that car with him. I stepped back, almost tripped over the curb and ran to the neighbor's.

It was scary then, and as a parent, I understand how truly horrifying it was.

Would I put it in a book. No. I don't like to explore avenues that dark. I lived it. It sticks with me. I don't need to relive it.

A. Mystery writers often give their characters an unreasoning fear - and then make them face it. Do you have any phobias, like fear of spiders or enclosed spaces?
J. Ding, ding, ding! This is the REASON In Over Her Head was written. Well, one of them. I wanted to twist The Little Mermaid and the easiest way to do that was to make him the Mer. So, who would be the absolute worst heroine for him? One who was terrified of the ocean.

I saw JAWS at an impressionable age. It left a mark. Before that movie, I used to love swimming in the ocean - or floating on a raft and reading a book. I'd float about thirty blocks on my raft beyond where the waves break (in Ocean City, NJ) then walk back up the beach and do the whole thing all over again. Saw that movie, however, and that was the end of that.

To this day, I have a running dialogue with myself whenever I'm in the water. Hawaii, Mexico, Bahamas, the Mediterranean... doesn't matter. I'm always on the lookout for sharks, even though I know there's no great white out there twiddling his pectoral fins just waiting for me to go in the water. It's a totally irrational fear, and I know it, but it's there.

A. Do you have a favorite mystery book, author, or movie?
J. Of course. April Henry. :)

A. At its heart, every story is a mystery. It asks why someone acts the way they did - or maybe what will happen next. What question does your book ask?
J. Will they make it out alive and if they do, where are they going to live?

A. Is there a mystery in life that you are still trying to figure out?
J. How to have 45 hours in a day. These days I need it. If only I didn't need to sleep!

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Bookswim? Any one with an opinion?

A blog commenter recently asked me what I thought of Bookswim. All I know about Bookswim is what School Library Journal 18 months ago. Think Netflix, only for books.

Read more here.

I think I’ll stick to the library and the bookstore. How about you? Have you used Bookswim? What do you think?

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I don't want to do this again

Teen had a small rash on her knee yesterday. At first we thought it was mosquito bites. Then spider bites. It spread so we began to think heat rash. I did a lot of Googling and gave her an antihistamine before bed.

This morning it was more widespread. I left a message for the advice nurse and then went to Pilates. Ten minutes later, Teen called to ask where the antihistamines were, and only casually mentioned that her lips were swelling. I knew that was one sign that we could be heading toward anaphylactic shock.

I don't remember driving back. I barely remember driving to urgent care. Part of me was wondering whether I should have called an ambulance. Part of me thought I was overreacting. Part of me was wondering if I could perform a tracheotomy with a pen, the way they always are on TV.

We ended up with prednisone, antihistamines, and no real answer as to what caused this. Just that it is likely to happen several more times before we figure out the trigger. And that - gulp! - we need to drive her straight to the ER if she begins to clear her throat or have trouble breathing.

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