Does art imitate life? When Nancy Tesler, a biofeedback practitioner, found herself suddenly single and with an overwhelming urge to commit murder, she did so on paper, creating the Other Deadly Things mystery series. Her first romantic suspense, Ablaze is due to be published after the holidays. To learn more about Nancy and her books, visit her website.
The coming holidays are a time of celebration for many, but for some all that good cheer and fa-la-la-ing shoots their stress level into the stratosphere. It’s a well-known fact that stress can kill you. It can lead to a multitude of unpleasant conditions, just a few of which are high blood pressure, ulcers, heart attack and stroke, any one of which, if untreated, will kill you. Left unmentioned on the above list, however, is another possible result of high stress…
In Pink Balloons and Other Deadly Things, Book One of my five-book series, Carrie Carlin, biofeedback practitioner extraordinaire, tries to make her clients healthier and happier by teaching them how to control their internal “fight-or-flight” response to pain and stress through a variety of relaxation techniques, a kind of “heal thyself” alternative when conventional medicine isn’t working. Hanging on Carrie’s office door is a sign with a Deepak Chopra quote, “In order to change the printout of the body, you must learn to rewrite the software of the mind.”
Carrie is intuitive, and she is empathetic. She can reduce a cooperative client’s blood pressure with thirty minutes of deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation exercises. She can often warm a migraine sufferer’s hands with guided imagery exercises thereby reducing pain by decreasing blood flow to the head. She can reduce a teenager’s anxiety by teaching her to visualize a bully sailing away in a boat out of her life forever. And she helps her overeaters deal with their addiction through brain wave training.
But when on Christmas eve, the day after her fortieth birthday, her husband of eighteen years takes off with his young, drop-dead gorgeous marketing director, all of Carrie’s training deserts her. She can’t eat. She can’t sleep. And when the bimbo ends up conked over the head and tossed into the family’s half-filled swimming pool on the very afternoon Carrie has been spying on her, Carrie’s own fight-or-flight response goes into orbit as she finds herself topping Detective Ted Brodsky’s suspect list. Her personal mantra—“I’m ca-a-lm, I’m ca-alm, this is not a life-threatening situation,” doesn’t work. Diaphragmatic breathing doesn’t work, self-hypnosis doesn’t work, positive affirmations, self-talk, envisioning Brodsky on a boat sailing out of her life forever, nothing works. And what is she to do with those feelings of guilt for having wished the vixen dead too many times to count? Maybe find the real murderer herself?
As a former biofeedback practitioner and divorcée, I can empathize with Carrie. Like her, I admit to having had homicidal thoughts about sirens and their songs but there the similarity ends. I’m squeamish. When I was five, I ran screaming from the theater when the witch in Snow White poisoned the apple. I would never, as Carrie does, walk into situations where even a cop would fear to tread without backup as she does in the chase scene on the Tappan Zee bridge in Shooting Stars and Other Deadly Things, or let myself be used as bait in a sting operation as she does in Book Five, Slippery Slopes and Other Deadly Things. Like Thurber’s Walter Mitty, however, I enjoy a rich fantasy life. Thus the series, the first of which was unquestionably inspired by my own experience.
Is Carrie me then, I’ve been asked? No. Carrie is younger, much braver and far more daring than I am. I plunge her into predicaments from which I would run like hell. But this is fiction and while I try to keep my characters and the circumstances in which I place them as realistic as possible, I do take dramatic license. Without that stretch there would be no story. As one very perceptive (in my humble opinion) reviewer put it, “Quite rightly, Nancy has included a few of those clichés that almost define the female detective genre - exotically named cats, a friendly dog, and love interest involving a cop. But into the familiar format she injects powerfully felt emotion and characters who are true to life.”
So what we have in Carrie is a stress therapist so stressed out she can barely practice what she preaches. In my case, true to life indeed until I followed Chopra’s advice and “rewrote the software of my mind.” Not so for our Carrie. My job as an author is to keep her anything but “ca-alm” as I put her in one life-threatening situation after another.
Pink Balloons and Other Deadly Things
Carrie Carlin is trying to juggle single life in the suburbs, two pre-teen-age children and a career as a biofeedback practitioner. Through it all she has to keep her cool while her estranged husband flaunts his gorgeous, twentyish fiancée all over town. When the bimbo turns up dead, murdered, Carrie, the jealous wife becomes the prime suspect. Now the suburban mom/turned sleuth is finding out shocking secrets about her ex, her friends, and even her clients, as a killer visualizes her…