I’m so thrilled to have a guest post by Elaine Viets on the blog today. I love the Dead-End Jobs Mystery series, and BOARD STIFF will be out in paperback tomorrow, as well as the newest book, CATNAPPED (Book 13). We’ve also got a giveaway of of BOARD STIFF (Book 12) to go along with Elaine’s post, so be sure to check out the details!
Scared Stiff for “Board Stiff”
By Elaine Viets
How about in nine feet of water?
For “Board Stiff,” my Dead-End Job Mystery, I learned to paddleboard in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I paddled for 45 minutes on the wide, flat board without falling down, the greatest athletic feat of my life.
Paddleboard ads show women in bikinis. Not me. I wore a T-shirt that went down to my knees. I would have worn an 1890s bathing suit, if I had one.
In “Board Stiff,” Sunny Jim Sundusky, who owns a beachside paddleboard concession, hires married PIs Helen Hawthorne and Phil Sagemont to find out who’s trying to drive him out of business. The scare tactics turn murderous, and Helen and Phil have to hunt for a killer.
Helen’s paddleboard lesson was like mine:
The water “was a polished silver disc under a tender pink sky. Tree branches dipped gracefully into the silvery water. Helen could hear the rustling of pelicans settling in for the night. She followed Sunny Jim to the white sand crescent of beach at the foot of the trailer. A castaway’s beach, complete with broken shells and a coconut. Yellow boards floated in the shallow water near the shore, each with an orange life vest on its nose.
Jim took two black plastic paddles off the rack, and stood them up next to Helen. “The paddle should be about eight inches taller than you.”
Helen followed him into the lake. The sun-warmed water felt good on Helen’s bare legs and the white sandy lake bottom was toe-friendly.
“See this handle in the middle of the board?” Jim asked. “That’s the center. You get on there with your paddle, in a kneeling position.”
He gracefully kneeled on his board. It rocked slightly, like a well-filled waterbed.
“Then you stand up, holding your paddle. You need to keep your feet eight inches apart. It’s a misconception that if you have a nice wide stance you’ll be stable.”
He rose up gracefully as a sea god, paddle in both hands, then made wide, smooth strokes, moving slightly away from the shore. “Come on,” he said. “Try it. The secret is don’t look down. Look forward or you’ll lose your balance.”
Helen climbed awkwardly onto her board. The long, wide board had shrunk to a skinny, unstable strip. It shifted under her weight, but she was kneeling on it. Helen felt so relieved, she wanted to sit down.
Helen stood up gingerly and the board shifted like a seesaw. But she was standing and still holding her paddle.
“Great!” he said. “You did it. Now relax your hips, knees and ankles.” Jim did a little dance on his shifting board. “You should be so loose you can do the merengue,” he said.
Why is it when peoples say “relax,” my body goes as rigid as this board? Helen wondered. She stuck her paddle awkwardly into the water and took a few tentative strokes.
“Wider, Helen,” Jim said. “Flex your knees. Reach forward and pull your board through the water, not your paddle. Keep your arms straight, like this.”
He looked like a praying mantis with a paddle as he skimmed across the surface. “You want to cover eleven or twelve feet per stroke.”
Helen took a few longer strokes with her paddle and moved away from the beach toward Jim. She relaxed a bit and felt her body shift. The panic must have showed in her face. Jim’s voice became soothing. “Don’t look down. Paddle away from that pipe sticking into the water. It’s covered with rocks and barnacles.”
And green mold, she thought, eying the pipe uneasily. She rowed away from the corrugated metal drainage pipe studded with sharp and slimy disaster.
“Good. Row!” Jim cried.
The tense muscles in Helen’s arms ached. She found it easier to paddleboard while she talked to Jim. “You must have a natural sense of balance,” she said.
Jim shrugged. “You’d be amazed what you can do on a paddleboard. Fishing. Yoga.”
“People do yoga on these boards?” Helen asked.
“Sure,” he said. “Fall off and it’s an instant cool down.”
Helen and Jim paddled quietly past nesting birds, long, low homes with hurricane shutters on the windows, and a pink condo with a pool jutting over the water.
“Well, what do you think of stand up paddleboarding?” Jim asked.
“I like it,” Helen said. “I like how I paddled right up to that bird. Paddleboarding really lets you get close to nature.”
“Certainly does,” said Jim, studying a bikinied redhead by the condo pool.
A speeding blue Jet Ski whipped into view, leaving wide waves in its wake. One. Two. Three.
Helen toppled into the water when the fourth wave slapped her board.
She felt a shock when her head went under water. She thrashed around and surfaced sputtering. Helen bobbed in the water, pulled her long wet brown hair out of her eyes and swam toward her paddle. Her yellow board floated just beyond it.
“You fell very gracefully,” Jim said.
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About Elaine Viets:
Elaine Viets writes two national bestselling mystery series. Her Dead-End Job series is a satiric look at a serious subject – the minimum-wage world. Her character, Helen Hawthorne, works a different low-paying job each book, from telemarketer to hotel maid. Publishers Weekly called her hardcover debut “wry social commentary.” Catnapped! is the thirteenth Dead-End Job novel.
Elaine’s second series features St. Louis mystery shopper Josie Marcus. Fixing to Die is her ninth adventure. The debut, Dying in Style, tied with Stephen King on the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association bestseller list. Elaine won the Agatha, Anthony and Lefty Awards.
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