Writers are often told "write what you know" but we don't always take it seriously. However, today's guest, Alina Adams, has a unique background to write a mystery series set in the world of competitive figure skating. I'm so envious! I never had a really cool job like that.
I've started reading the first book in the series, Murder On Ice, and I can tell she knows what she's writing. I'm enjoying the insider view of the skating world as well as the sense of humor she brings to her books. But I'll let her tell you all about it in her own words.
Please join me in welcoming Alina Adams! (on the left with announcer Terry Gannon and skating legends Peggy Fleming and Dick Button)
Once upon a time (before I had children), I was a figure-skating researcher for ABC, ESPN, NBC and TNT. I traveled the world, from skating competition to skating competition, interviewing athletes, writing up their life stories for the announcers to talk about during the broadcast, and helping producers with those tear-jerking, up-close and personal pieces that air in between the actual skating.
It was awesome. I loved every minute of it. (Even the 18 hour flights and the jet lag and the sleepless nights… in retrospect.) However, the jet-setting lifestyle isn’t particularly conducive with parenting (my oldest made that point subtly clear when he was 18 months old and, after I returned from yet another trip, he refused to acknowledge my existence).
So I traded in the glamorous TV life for the (equally glamorous?) writing life. I wrote five figure skating murder mysteries, “Murder on Ice,” “On Thin Ice,” “Axel of Evil,” “Death Drop” and “Skate Crime” for Berkley Prime Crime.
Now, just in time for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, I’m excited to announce that they’ve finally been released as one, electronic volume. The Figure Skating Mystery series not only has all the text of the original, paperback releases, but also video by The Ice Theatre of NY to compliment the story! It’s something that’s never been done before in skating fiction (or any kind of skating book, for that matter), and I can’t wait to hear what readers think of it!
Thank you so much to Linda, my fellow skating fan, for the opportunity to introduce my series to her readers. Below is an excerpt from the first book, Murder on Ice.
At the World Championships, the gold medal in Ladies’ Figure Skating is awarded to Russia’s dour Ice Queen, Xenia Trubin, over America’s perky, teen-age sweetheart, Erin Simpson. The fans are outraged. Gil Cahill, the broadcast producer, is delighted. And our intrepid researcher, Bex Levy (they say write what you know…) is stuck in the middle…..
Erin Simpson's defeat, plus a fetching photo of her tearstained yet bravely smiling face, made the front page of every major American newspaper the next morning.
Her quotes, "I skated my very best. I'm happy with my performance. My job is to skate, and the judge's job is to judge. This silver medal is the silver lining on my cloud," made her seem simultaneously modest and plucky. Erin did five satellite interviews, seven cable talk shows (both news and sports), and called in to every national morning show to express her utter satisfaction with the decision.
Meanwhile, as Erin insisted how content she was and how she wouldn't trade her hard-won silver for a trunk of gold, her official Web site, "Erin Excitement!" launched a petition to strip Xenia of her gold medal and award it to Erin instead. By nine a.m. the morning after the long program, it had seven thousand signatures, including one poster who listed their address as Sierra Leone, Africa. Gee, and here Bex had assumed the people of Sierra Leone had bigger things to worry about—what with the machetes chopping off limbs and all—than the outcome of the World Figure Skating Championships.
Obviously, not all was sunshine and lollipops in the Simpson camp. Because, for every brave-trooper smile Erin offered the media, five minutes later there was her coach/mother, Patty, snarling. "Anyone with eyes could see that Erin won last night. She and Xenia landed the same number of jumps, but Erin had a triple-triple combination. And if you want to talk about the artistic mark, well, just listen to what Francis and Diana Howarth said on the air! And their judgment is beyond reproach. They were Olympic champions, for Pete's sake. They truly understand artistry. I'd like to know what the Italian judge was looking at. Actually, no. I'd rather know whom she was listening to!"
Xenia, for her part, was also besieged with interview requests. Her quotes, though, were less pithy. "I win gold medal. I am best."
Her coach, Sergei Alemazov, elaborated, "The judges decided that Xenia is the winner. Yes, the vote was very close. But, very often in the past, the vote was very close. Erin Simpson is a nice skater. But Xenia won on the artistic mark. Xenia is terribly artistic. Xenia is a grown woman. Erin Simpson is a child. And Erin Simpson skates like a child."
In fact, the only person not getting airtime was Silvana Potenza, the Italian judge.
Though that wasn't due to the media's lack of trying.
They'd practically camped outside the poor woman's hotel room door, screaming questions and flashing lights in her face whenever she stepped outside. But Silvana Potenza, a fifty-something woman who either was rather round or simply looked it due to perpetually being wrapped in a russet floor-length fox coat, refused to say a word.
Gil Cahill was in heaven.
"Is this terrific or what?" he raved at the production meeting Friday morning. This was a daily event when they were in the middle of a show. The entire cast, staff, and crew got together so Gil could explain to them why they were the most useless people on earth and how he "could pull a dozen, non-English speakers in off the street and they would do a better job in each and every position." The only lucky sons of guns exempt from the daily enlightenment were a rotating series of cameramen, who had to miss the fun because one cameraman was on duty at all times, shooting all the skaters' practices, lest something exciting happen while the rest of them were absent.
Gil went on, "You know, I thought we might get a little ratings bump with Worlds being in America this year, hometown crowd and all, people love that shit. And then, when we had two girls in the top three, I thought, yeah, that should pick up a couple of extra households. But, this! This is freaking, friggin', fucking fantastic. We're raking in free publicity from every newspaper, radio station, and TV station in the country. Everyone's talking about Erin Simpson. I've got a source telling me she's on the next cover of Time and friggin' Newsweek. Can you bums imagine what kind of numbers our exhibition show is going to get on Sunday? Everyone wants to see this kid and the Russian who stole her medal. We're going to go through the roof!"
"Uhm ..." Bex wanted to raise her hand, but Gil Cahill had a problem seeing anything outside his own ego. She settled for shouting. Or, as they called it at 24/7 production meetings, business as usual. "Gil! Gil! Gil, you know, I was thinking. Maybe during the Sunday show, we could do an element-by-element comparison of Xenia's and Erin's program, and show how they broke down and why some judges may have valued technical merit over artistic, and vice versa. I think it could be really informative."
Gil looked at Bex for a moment. Then he faked falling down on his chair and snoring.
"I take it that's a no?" Bex asked politely.
"You're new, Bex, so I'm going to share with you a little 24/7 rule, kiddo. We don't bite gift horses on the ass around here."
"I'll keep it mind."
Bex changed tacks, addressing Francis and Diana. "So let me get this straight. Just so I can put it down in the research notes for Sunday. You two claim that Erin lost last night because the panel was stacked against her."
"Well, actually the panel wasn't stacked against her. It was five to four, pro-West. She should have won, if only the Russians hadn't gotten to the Italian judge and made her change her vote," Diana patiently explained.
"So you're saying that if the Italian judge voted with the West like she was supposed to, Erin Simpson would have won, no matter how she skated?"
"Erin Simpson skated beautifully last night. No mistakes. No falls."
"But you're saying that it doesn't matter. That how the two women skated is irrelevant. You make it sound like all victory is dependent on the panel. That it's preordained."
"The results were certainly preordained last night. The Soviet bloc wanted Xenia to win, and win she did, even with that mediocre performance."
"But, doesn't that mean that all the times Erin beat Xenia at the Grand Prix this season, she only won because the panel was stacked in her favor?"
Diana and Francis looked at each other.
"Hmm," Francis said, "I never thought of it that way."
"And does that mean that when you two won your Olympic gold medal, it was only because the panel was stacked in your favor?"
"What an interesting point you've made, Bex," Diana said.
And stood up to leave.
With Francis by her side, she was barely to the door, when Mark, the lucky cameramen assigned to shoot the ladies' practice for the exhibition, burst into the room, breathing heavily. He'd run all the way from the arena to the hotel, lugging his heavy camera on his back, and now he could barely get the words out between his gasps.
"Did you hear?" he demanded. "Silvana Potenza! She's dead! Murdered!"
You can find Alina online at http://www.alinaadamsmedia.com/
Feel free to ask questions of Alina in the comments section or let us know who you think is going to win medals at Sochi.