Sunday, February 28, 2010


Been to Chuck E. Cheese lately? We hadn’t, not for about 25 years, when the place first opened in San Ramon and we had young kids. Back then it was Kids’ Birthday Central. That part hasn’t changed, although there are more options today, what with Super Franks, Boomers, The Jungle, Party Palooza, and dozens of other packaged party places in the area.

The original Cheese House is long gone, but there’s a new and improved one in Dublin that’s brighter, safer, and louder than ever. I know because I had to spend two hours there attending my two grandkids’ combined birthday party. Bradley was turning five and Stephanie was celebrating her first birthday, so my son and daughter-in-law decided to keep it simple this year and opt for a dual party package at the Big Cheese.

When we entered the place, we were met by a security staff member who stamped the kids to make sure each one went home with the right adult. Once we were cleared, we headed over to the party room, filled with nearly a dozen tables, all decorated with festive party ware. Immediately we played a game called “Search for Right Table” and nearly joined the wrong party until my son found us.

My husband and I were each given a grandchild to watch. Tom got the one-year-old, I got the fiver. We were also handed some Cheese Chump Change to use on the various kid-level games located in adjoining rooms. Little Stephanie played a mean game of “Whack a Mole” with her bare hands, while Big Brother Bradley nailed berserk dinosaurs, drove high-speed race cars, and wildly tossed basketballs. When he’d won enough tickets to exchange for a ten-cent rubber spider, he ran off and disappeared into the giant “hamster trail” overhead. I didn’t see him again until it was time for pizza.

After seemingly hours of play time, one of the Cheese Hosts announced the commencement of the party pizza. Hoards of kids ran to their respective tables for a slice of cheese pizza and some lemonade. During the meal, Chuck E. and his band played popular songs at ear-piercing decibels, and the Mouse Himself presented each of the guests of honor with inflated crowns filled with game tokens.

Bradley beamed at the attention from the Cheesemeister and wore his crown with pride for the next five minutes. Meanwhile Stephanie, clueless to the festivities, grabbed handfuls of the chocolate cake sitting in front of her and smeared it over her face as if it were foundation makeup. I don’t know how much went up her nose, but she seemed to enjoy finger painting with the stuff, and I wasn’t about to interrupt her birthday fun.

Leaving half-eaten pizza slices and frosting-licked cake behind, the kids took off again for more games, more tokens, and more rubber spiders. At that point, having forgotten to wear ear plugs, take Tylenol, and dress in chocolate-colored clothes, and Tom and I decided to sneak out.

The party was a success, the parents were pleased, the kids were delighted, and the price was right. For a quick and easy party, these package places are the way to go. I’m thinking of hosting my husband’s next birthday there. He loves pizza and Whack a Mole.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


While I write primarily murder mysteries, I always include a love interest in my stories. All murder and no sex makes mysteries a dull read, don’t you think?

As for me, I prefer “sexual tension” to on-the-page sex, mainly because I find the “game of love” a more compelling page-turner than reading about a comfortable relationship between a couple. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s what I’ve had with my husband of 40 years.

Still, fantasy romance is fun. In my first series, my deaf protagonist, Connor Westphal, meets attractive Dan Smith in DEAD BODY LANGUAGE. Connor publishes her own weekly newspaper in the town of Flat Skunk, located in the California Gold country. Her office neighbor is a mysterious guy, newly arrived in town, looking for his private investigator brother. When bro turns up dead after following a case, Dan takes over his job, using his former police officer background to help Connor solve the mystery.

But it’s their first meeting that was the most fun to write.

“Who the hell are you?” asks Connor when she discovers the man with arms of steel in the office next door. When he tries to flirt with her by saying, “With that accent, you don’t sound like you’re from around here. Where’d you get it?” But the attempt falls flat when Connor responds, “Meningitis.”

Right off the bat, the reader knows this will be a cat-and-mouse game of love between the two very different personalities. Through the series Connor takes the romance slowly, having been burned by an old boyfriend who cheated on her. But by book three, Connor finds herself in bed with Dan. Instead of writing the details of their “body language,” I turn the sex into sex play—and have fun with it.

For example, when Dan is awakened in Connor’s bed by fairly violent shaking, he fears it’s an earthquake—common in the area—and jumps up, stark naked, to brace himself under a door jamb. Meanwhile, Connor enjoys the view of Dan’s naked body, then pushes a button on the side of her bed. There’s been no earthquake. Connor, being deaf and unable to use a standard alarm clock, has a “Shake-Awake” alarm attached to her bed, which causes it to tremble in the morning, waking her for the day ahead. Mortified, Dan returns to bed, but his embarrassment quickly disappears when he realizes Connor’s bed has other uses in the romance department….

So you see, I like to have fun with it. That way if my mother reads it, she may blush but she won’t die of a heart attack.

Now that I’m starting a new series, HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY, I’ve got a new protagonist, Presley Parker, event planner who lives and works on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay Area. She meets Brad Matthews, an attractive Crime Scene Cleaner, who joins her in her pursuit of truth, justice, and the solving of mysteries.

When they first meet, Presley calls Brad a “lunatic,” and he tries to check her breath for alcohol. Not an auspicious beginning—but just the kind I like. And between murders, the two characters enjoy some back-and-forth repartee, often laced with sexual innuendoes.

Brad reached over to accept Pandora’s box. As he did, his shirt rose, revealing a glimpse of his tan, tight waist. That wasn’t all. There was a definite bulge in his pants. As flattering as it would have been, Brad Matthews wasn’t necessarily happy to see me.

That was a gun in his pocket.

So while I’m not quite ready to write a full-on sex scene for the page, I’m looking forward to doing a lot more research on the topic….:0

Friday, February 19, 2010


Like most readers of Janet Rudolph’s Dying for Chocolate Blog—aw let’s face it, like most women on the planet—I’m a Choc-addict. That’s like being a crack addict but more fattening.

Currently my drug of choice has me in trouble with my daughter. I just introduced the out-of-control substance to my two-year-old grandson—I gave him a Hersey’s Kiss—and now all he talks about is getting more “shock-lit.” He’s already a Choc-addict like his grandmother.

Naturally both protagonists in my two mystery series have my disorder. Connor Westphal (DEAD BODY LANGUAGE) keeps chocolates hidden in her desk, while Presley Parker (HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY) deals them to unsuspecting crowds at her parties. But when she’s not sharing them, she uses chocolates for medicinal purposes. She has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and the caffeine in chocolate and coffee are similar to drugs like Ritalin and Adderall, which calm her down instead of revving her up.

So she self-medicates. Often.

Unfortunately for Presley, her chocolates are sometimes lethal. As a party planner, she always includes some form of chocolate on the party menu. But after hiring local TV chef Rocco Ghirenghelli to create chocolate Maltese Falcons for Mayor Davin Green’s Alcatraz Wedding Party, she soon realizes a couple of the brown birds have been injected with cyanide. She discover this when the bride-to-be is found floating in the San Francisco Bay, a victim of poisoning. And dead guests of honor aren’t really good for the party business.

So how did Presley get herself into this chocolate mess? That’s the way I wrote her. After all, it’s a murder mystery. And while I haven’t had much experience injecting chocolates with cyanide (see the Internet for instructions), I have had a lot of experience with chocolate, as well as party planning, writing party books for kids and adults, and creating mysteries. Since “they” often say, “Write what you know,” I decided to make my new sleuth a party planner (she prefers “event planner”), put her on Treasure Island where she lives and works, and have her solve mysteries all around the San Francisco Bay Area.

Presley, recently downsized from her teaching job at San Francisco State University, agrees to the career change after being encouraged by her mother, once a popular party girl and member of the City’s café society. But after developing early stage Alzheimer’s, Mother has retired to a care facility, leaving Presley to fill her party slippers.

After that it’s just one party foul after another…

Although the book doesn’t include recipes, HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY is like having three books in one. 1. It’s a mystery, 2. there’s a complete party plan at the end of the book, and 3. Presley offers party tips throughout the mystery. Tips like:

Party Planning Tip #2: "Like MacGyver, a good event planner can fix any party mishap with a toothpick, duct tape, or crepe paper.”

Party Planning Tip # 3: “Don’t drink while hosting an event. Especially when the police want to question you about a murder.”

Party Planning Tip #13: “Choose your event caterer carefully. Nothing ruins a party faster than a bunch of toilet-hugging guests who’ve been poisoned by bad sushi or tampered chocolates.”

I’ll leave you with one last Presley Parker tip that’s guaranteed to make your party a success: “When your dessert soufflé falls flat, dump the disaster into the disposal and bring out your backup stash of gourmet chocolates. One bite of a Christopher Norman, Marie Belle or Lake Champlain chocolate and your guests will be eating out of your hands.”

Monday, February 15, 2010

Romance vs. Revenge on Valentine's Day

WHEN I WAS a kid, I loved Valentine's Day, mainly because my teacher had us decorate shoeboxes with pink and red hearts, bring in Valentine cards featuring our favorite cartoon characters (mine was Little Lulu), and then collect as many cards as we could from our classmates. Plus we got chocolate.

When I first fell in love with my husband, I went to a lot of trouble picking out the perfect Valentine gifts—chocolate-covered strawberries, heart-printed boxer shorts, and homemade "I Heart You" cards. And he'd always give me dyed pink daisies from the grocery store and a heart-shaped box of drugstore chocolates.

Eventually we started showering our kids with Valentine goodies. My husband would sneak into their bedrooms early in the morning and sprinkle princess- and Star Wars-themed valentines all over the kids' beds and floor, while I made pink heart-shaped pancakes, pink scrambled eggs, and pink milk.

Now that I've got so many Valentine recipients in my family, I've decided to keep it simple and just pass out chocolate roses wrapped in pink foil, along with a humorous card from the stationery store.

When I mentioned Valentine's Day to a friend of mine who recently got dumped by her husband, I realized not everyone loves Valentine's Day like I do (mainly because of the chocolates). So I quickly created a party for my "Valentine's Day Sucks" friend to help her get through this mushy time. If you prefer to celebrate "Valentine's Day Sucks" too, here are some suggestions:

# Begin with invitations. Create your own, using the "Roses are red" formula. First cut a valentine card in half using a zigzag pattern so it looks like a broken heart. Then write a poem to invite your guests, such as, "Roses are red, Violets are blue, Butch is a pig, So let's kiss him 'Adieu!' " or "Roses are dead, Love is a lie, Bozo's a jerk, So let's roast the guy!"

# Suggest what to wear. Instead of dressing up in fancy or sexy outfits, have the guests come as slobs and be comfortable. Better yet, have T-shirts made with Bozo's face, circle it with red permanent marker and run a line through it, then pass the shirts out to guests.

# Time to decorate. Have guests create their own banners to hang on the walls, such as "Valentine's Day Sucks," "Men are Pigs," or "Love Hurts." Play lady-killer music, such as Shania Twain's "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?" Place a chocolate rose at each place setting.

# Get your game on. Play some killer games to keep from actually murdering the guy, such as "Venus vs. Mars." Write down some question prompts about men, such as, "Why don't men like to shop?" "Why do men have only three bathroom products?" "Why don't men like cats?" "Why do men act like children?" "Why don't men put the toilet seat down?"

# Have the players write down funny answers and read them aloud. Then watch a marathon of chick flicks featuring strong women, such as "Thelma and Louise."

# Time to eat and drink. Serve junk food, decadent chocolate desserts, and wash it all down with champagne!

#When the party's over, send the girls home with gourmet chocolates, a poster of Tiger Woods, and a good murder mystery — in which the boyfriend gets it.