Friday, February 19, 2010

The Mystery of Romance

Today's guest --with the last word on romance-- is, appropriately enough, Penny Warner, author of the newly published HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY.

I was forced to offer Penny a guest spot on Pensfatales in exchange for a highly coveted invitation to her release party at the Peasant and the Pear in Danville...and a suitably killer party it was, too. Live music, an auction, tips on party planning, chocolate roses, more cool homemade party schwag than you could shake your free wine at...this woman's got it all.

Oh, she's also an incredibly accomplished writer of both fiction and non-fiction, as well as being wicked funny. Thanks, Penny, for agreeing to post!

P.S. I was kidding about having to buy my way into her party -- it was open to all, and jam-packed with her rabid fans, friends, and family! Nonetheless, I managed to score three chocolate roses...

Thanks, Julie and the Pens Fatales, for letting me share some space on your wonderful blog! I love the current topic—romance! And 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

Penny Warner has published over 50 books, both fiction and non-fiction, for adults and children, including over a dozen party books. Her latest book, HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY, is the first in a new mystery series. Her books have won national awards, garnered excellent reviews, and have been printed in 14 countries. Her first mystery, DEAD BODY LANGUAGE, in her Connor Westphal series featuring a deaf reporter in the California Gold Country, won a Macavity Award for Best First Mystery and was nominated for an Agatha Award. Her non-fiction book, THE OFFICIAL NANCY DREW HANDBOOK, was nominated for an Agatha Award. Warner writes for party sites such as,,, and, and with her husband Tom creates interactive murder mystery fundraisers for libraries across the country. She can be reached at


Gigi Pandian said...

I can't believe I missed such a cool party! At least I have the Connor Westphal books to console me ;). I'm looking forward to checking out Presley Parker's adventures!

And I'm with you, Penny--subtle sexual tension is the most fun to read and write.

Juliet Blackwell said...

I love that you still write sex scenes with your mother's opinion in mind -- amazing how that stays with us, isn't it? Whenever I read truly graphic, gory stuff I always wonder what the parents think. Hmmm, maybe I need therapy?

Thanks for visiting with the Pens!

Sophie Littlefield said...

I was lucky enough to be at that party too. It was amazing, it seemed like all of Danville was there! I can't believe you've been married 40 years - you must have been betrothed as a baby. Penny, I love the way you describe the relationship between your two characters - they sound like they have so much fun together.

Penny said...

Hi Gigi,
Wish you had been there!
You'll have to come to the next one when HOW TO CRASH A KILLER BASH comes out in August...

Penny said...

You're so right, Julie. And I always wear clean underwear in case I'm in a car accident....

Penny said...

Hi Sophie,
Thanks for coming to the party! It was great to see so many Sisters in Crime there.
And thanks for bringing your writing group!
What a great gang!

Rachael said...

Ha! Is that a gun in your pocket or... I love the sound of your new series -- I've always had a thing for the idea of crime scene cleaners. Fascinating, gory line of work. :)

Terri Thayer said...

Sorry to have such a killer party, Penny. Looking forward to seeing you at some event soon and reading your new book. Congrats!

Penny said...

Terri, We missed you.
I'll bet you have some wild quilting parties, eh? Looking forward to reading more of both of your series!

Martha Flynn said...

Ha! Meningitis - love it.

(And can we add "blackmail" to our list of topics and invite Penny back?)

camille minichino said...

It's great to be on panels with Penny and her new protag!
Looking foward to a road trip LA to SD next month.

Penny said...

Hi Camille,
Can't wait for your new series too!
See you at Left Coast Crime!

Penny said...

Hi Martha,
You don't have to "blackmail" me to have me back -- I love this blog site! What a great group!
Thanks for letting me share space with you!

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