Skyler and his friends go to Palm Springs for the annual White Party and find murder!
Out and proud high school English teacher Skyler Foxe and his posse of friends go to the annual Palm Springs White Party for a weekend of fun, frivolity, and luscious men. But there are boy troubles of all kinds ahead. Skyler’s boyfriend and high school coach Keith Fletcher has to endure an embarrassing number of Skyler’s former hook-ups, one of the SFC might be going solo, Skyler encounters unexpected and unwelcome participants at the party, and there’s a murder on the dance floor, literally at Skyler’s feet! Both Skyler and Keith are drawn into investigating more than murder when the FBI asks Skyler to do the unthinkable.
So I said book 4 was my favorite of the series so far, but now that I’ve read this one, book 5, THIS one is my favorite. This book was so good. I loved how Skyler’s friends were important parts of helping this time. They weren’t reluctantly led in by Skyler like before. They came in to help at logical times when their assistance was warranted. It was interesting to see into their heads some and their thought processes. I loved that we saw them get closer with their significant others and be closer to their own happily ever afters. Keith was wonderful in this book. He was protective of Skyler but he also got to see first hand how he reasons through problems when he’s doing his “Scooby Doo” thing. I’m interested how Keith’s stamp of approval for Skyler to investigate the future will go. But if he’s not rushing headlong into trouble without thinking first, and being smart with training like Keith wants him to be, then it’s going to be amazing.
Molly: Haley Walsh, tell us about the Skyler Foxe Mystery series. Where did the idea for the series come from?
Haley: It came from several directions. Sometime in 2005 I stumbled upon M/M romance/erotica and wondered where the hell THAT had been all my life. Though some of it wasn’t very good. I was thus challenged by my gay friends to do better. At the same time I was working with a lot of kids in my part time job, including high school kids. My own kid was in high school at that time as well, so I had plenty of research opportunity right in my face. AND there was some unbelievable and illegal shenanigans going on at my son’s high school that made the papers. All of these factors combined for me to develop the first Skyler Foxe book which I initially felt might be only a trilogy.
I wrote the first book, FOXE TAIL, offered it to my agent, and he declined to represent it. Mostly because the market for GLBT books had fallen off precipitously. Imprints from the Big Five publishers had closed their doors. Gay bookstores were closing because the emerging market of digital books were taking over. And after fourteen years of rejections for my historical novels, he had finally sold my new medieval mystery series to one of the Big Five New York publishers and he wanted me to concentrate on that. So I set Skyler aside and wrote medieval (you can see that series, still going strong, here).
Fast forward to 2010. I wasn’t breaking any records with my medieval mysteries and frankly, I was looking for more revenue streams. Since my agent wasn’t going to hawk the Skyler book I decided to find small publishers myself who would take submissions without an agent. I had been friends with author Neil Plakcy for years after I started reading his Mahu series and for years asked his advice about selling and marketing GLBT mysteries. I also wanted him to give me a blurb for the book so I would have one when I went out there to pitch it to publishers. By the time I finally sent it to him in 2010 for that blurb, he came back to me to tell me he was now doing freelance editing work for MLR Press and instead of giving me a blurb, he wanted to be the editor for the book. I was shocked! Basically, all I did from there was email the publisher with my query and the next day I was emailed a contract. After my other fourteen year struggle to get published, this was an incredibly pleasant surprise.
By then I had decided that I was going to write more than three books, but I would style the first three books like a pilot for a TV series. Each book would have its own mystery to solve, but there would be another overarching mystery spanning the first three books, very much as I had observed watching the Veronica Mars series. That concept was new in those days, to have a story continue throughout the season but have each episode also have its own story. So I stole the idea. I took those shenanigans going on at my son’s high school and made that the background mystery, while giving my amateur sleuth something to detect in each book and in each subsequent book thereafter.
Molly: Tell us about the amateur sleuth aspect. It can get dicey.
Haley: It certainly can. A certain suspension of disbelief has to happen for the reader to swallow that load (heh) because if it happened to you or me, we’d discover the body, scream, call 911, and that would be the end of it. There has to be a logical and compelling reason for an ordinary untrained person to investigate a murder and possibly get themselves into peril each time. The victim or the one accused of the crime have to be someone the sleuth knows or has a vested interest in. And if the series goes on a long time, you fall into the “Jessica Fletcher Syndrome.” Jessica Fletcher, you will recall, is the Angela Lansbury character in the TV show Murder She Wrote, where a mystery writer solves real crimes (let me tell you, mystery writers are NOT capable of solving crimes. We have months to write books and at least that much time to come up with not only the clues but the way to discover those clues. Plop me in the middle of a cruise ship where people are being murdered left and right and you will get no help here). Anyway, the Jessica Fletcher Syndrome is everyone in that small town being murdered just so she can solve the crimes. Even when she goes out of town. After a while, you begin to suspect her.
I also like to fill the book with all sorts of other things besides mysteries: the characters’ lives, their problems, the problems with their students, a little erotica, all sorts of other distractions for those clever readers who figured out the mystery early on.
Molly: Tell us about the character of Skyler Foxe.
Haley: Skyler Foxe has a lot of me in him. He’s a little bit of a know-it-all but with a playful spirit. He’s a reader, loves literature, and that is where we part company, because I’m not overly excited about hanging out with kids. Don’t get me wrong. I love my son, loved all the stages of his life growing up, and I liked his friends because they were always interesting and talented people just as he is (he is a writer now, too, working on a screenwriting career!) but I generally don’t like other people’s kids (“get off my lawn!”) So Skyler’s love of teaching is strictly his own.
I like to give my character quirks and likes opposite my own, just so I can really think about why they like those things. For instance, Skyler loves Motown music. I can take it or leave it. He loves Hawaiian pizza. I think it’s an abomination. Stuff like that.
I made him very blond, short, and very cute. Because why not? I like adding little details that readers don’t necessarily notice but that gives a character realism that he really is in the world we know. His circle of friends is called the Skyler Fuck Club or SFC because they started off as hook-ups, but whenever they began becoming friends, he wouldn’t sleep with them anymore. So his close-knit group acts as his surrogate family, his dance buddies when he goes out clubbing, and his Scooby gang when he investigates murder. They each have their own quirks and personalities and he relies on each of them for different kinds of moral support, just as one does with one’s own friends. He also has a different face for the different aspects of his life. He’s the perfect twink in the clubs, the respectful son to his divorced mom, the confident teacher/authority figure to his students, and unsure stumbler when it comes to his first real relationship. I made him a player, someone who never experienced a serious relationship, so that the one he gets in the series will have a bigger impact on him.
Molly: The books are funny.
Haley: Lord yes! Not that we don’t deal with some serious issues—murder, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, coming out, homophobia—but there is enough serious GLBT literature out there. I wanted these to read like a sitcom, something relatively angst-free, something someone can sit on the beach with and read and laugh out loud and really feel good about. There is always a happily ever after in the Skyler books. No one smokes, does drugs, or gets HIV. I COULD deal with those issues, but I also don’t want them to become an “issue book.” There are other books who deal with those things rather effectively. This is for pure fun, to take you away from your troubles, to entertain.
Molly: I’m told the audiobooks are really outstanding.
Haley: They so are! It took a while to find the right narrator but is Joel Leslie ever fantastic! The funny thing is, he called me a few times when we were starting on the series so we could hash out some initial questions he had. I told my husband that I was doing an audiobook but no other details. So Joel called me one day, hubby answered the phone, and without any prompting he said, “I think Skyler is on the phone for you.” Yes, he’s THAT perfect. I call it a “movie for your ears.” Even if you’ve already read them, listening to it is the next best thing to seeing it as a TV show. And boy, would I love that!
Molly: Where can readers find you?
Haley: They can go to my website, though it will soon be redesigned, which might even have happened by the time this is posted. And they can always definitely friend me on facebook at SkylerFoxe.Mysteries. Sometimes Skyler and his boyfriend Keith have amusing conversations there, so be on the lookout for that. And before we conclude, I want to say a big thank you to all my readers. You keep me going! Thanks for reading and reviewing.
Taquito Grill was crowded for a Sunday night. Jamie and Dave had arrived not long after Skyler and Keith. Jamie, hair spiked and a fire engine red in honor of his firefighter boyfriend, clung to Dave’s arm and bounced in his seat. “We’re so excited about Palm Springs,” he squealed. Dave grinned at him fondly. “It’s going to be so much fun with Dave there.” He patted the large bicep. “And we both agreed that we can dance with other people. Isn’t that cool?” Dave nodded. “Just as long as we keep our hands above the waist.” Jamie demonstrated with jazz hands in the air.
Skyler glanced hopefully at Keith, but the man was scowling into his bottle of Dos Equis. With a defeated sigh, Skyler sat back against the bench seat. Part of the fun of the White Party was dancing with a bunch of different partners. But, he had to admit, the other part of the fun was hooking up with them, too. Under the table, he rubbed conciliatory circles on the man’s hard thigh.
Keith’s tensed muscles seemed to relax under Skyler’s ministrations and he flicked a glance at Skyler with a sheepish smile before putting the beer bottle to his lips.
“Oh, and Dave,” Jamie rambled on, “we are staying at a huge hotel. It’s fantastic. Humongous pool. And some of the activities will be there.”
“Activities?” said Keith for the first time since ordering his drink.
Jamie leaned across the bench seat toward him. “Well! One of the activities is the Splash Pool Party, with live music. It’s all day. Nothing but beautiful shirtless men in tiny white swim trunks.”
Skyler wondered if Keith’s brows could furrow any deeper.
“White? So you have to wear white?”
“It’s a ‘white party,’ Keith,” said Skyler. “Hence the name. We wear white. And you’d look fabulous in white, with your dark skin tones.” He squeezed Keith’s thigh under the table.
Keith seemed to be thinking his own thoughts about that as he studied Skyler. “You’d be in white, too. I love you in white.”
Skyler blinked. “You do?” He melted against Keith. He couldn’t help it when the man looked at him with those sultry eyes.
“Save it for the White Party,” said Jamie.
Dave turned his head toward the door. “Philip and Rodolfo. Finally! …Uh oh.”
They were in mid argument and hadn’t taken their narrowed eyes off each other as they made their way to the table. Rodolfo sat hard and crossed his arms over his magenta shirt. Philip settled on his chair and pointedly looked away from his Ecuadorian boyfriend.
Skyler instantly went on alert. “What’s the matter with you two?”
“Nothing this pene doesn’t know about,” said Rodolfo, waving his hand. His wrist clanked from his bracelets.
“Don’t start with the name-calling,” said Philip, rounding on him and pushing up his black-rimmed glasses. “Can we just stow it for now?”
“Stow it? Stow it? Fine. I can ‘stow it.’”
“Then please do,” muttered Philip, menu in front of his clenched mouth.
Rodolfo slapped his menu to the table and jerked toward Philip. “Do you know what is wrong with you, Philip?”
Clutching his menu, Philip closed his eyes and sighed. “No, but I’m sure you’re going to tell me in florid detail.”
“You have no sense of fun or adventure. Now take amante here,” and he gestured toward Skyler.
Skyler grabbed for his margarita. “Leave me out of it.”
“Skyler has a keen sense of adventure. And look. There is Keith. He is more than willing to go to the White Party with his lover.”
“I don’t know about more than willing,” muttered Keith.
“But not you. You with your timetables and schedules and graphs and bullet points.”
“I’m just mapping out our weekend. Is that so horrible? There’s a lot to do! Things to see! Men…to avoid.”
“AHA! That’s it, isn’t it? It all comes down to this.”
Jamie stuck his long arm between the two. “Hey! You guys! You’re not supposed to argue anymore. Not since you started fucking.”
“Jamie,” said Skyler out of the corner of his mouth, eyes searching the busy restaurant. “Keep your voice down. Family place.”
He scrunched up his face at Skyler—as close to a sneer as he got—and leaned into the arguing couple again. “The fact is that you guys are supposed to get along now.”
“I’m getting along just fine!” said Rodolfo too loudly. “It’s him that isn’t getting along with me!”
Philip slumped back in his seat. “Oh, for the love of God, give it a rest already.”
“Give it a rest? Yes, that’s exactly what I should be doing.” Rodolfo threw down the menu and lurched to his feet. “I’m suddenly not hungry.”
Philip clenched his menu so tightly it bent at the edges. “Well I am.”
“Fine! Stay here. Eat. I’m leaving.”
“Bye! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out… Much.”
Rodolfo threw his glare at each in turn before pivoting and stalking toward the entrance. He pushed open one heavy wooden door and let it swish shut. There was a pause as the restaurant patrons fell silent and stared at the double doors a split second before they were thrown open again and Rodolfo stomped toward the table. He stood over Philip with his foot tapping.
“I don’t have the keys to the car.”
Haley Walsh tried acting, but decided the actor’s life was not for her. Instead, she became a successful graphic designer and art director in Los Angeles, her hometown. After fifteen years of burning money in the ’80s and early ’90s, she retired from the graphics industry and turned her interests toward writing. She became a freelance newspaper reporter, wrote articles for quirky magazines, published award-winning short stories, and now writes a critically acclaimed GLBT mystery series, the Skyler Foxe Mysteries. She’s lived all her life in southern California, sampling wines and chomping chocolate. Oh, and she also writes a multi-award nominated medieval mystery series under another name. Yeah, it’s a living.
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/skylerfoxe.mysteries
Where To Buy:
MLR Press: http://www.mlrbooks.com/ShowBook.php?book=HWDSRTFX
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