Fiction Friday: Dead Ball

Dead BallI’m going to tell you a secret. One of the very best parts of being a writer is being with other writers. More often than not we’re together online, not in person, but there are always conferences, booksignings and brainstorming sessions where we meet and share stories into the wee hours of morning.

In the meantime I talk to friends online. One of them is Judith Arnold, and I featured her wonderful novel The April Tree back in November.  The April Tree is women’s fiction, a look at friendship and loyalty, one of the book’s of Judith’s heart. But when I heard that she’s just begun her first mystery series? How could I not want to feature that here, as well. It’s nice to see the range of an author’s talent, right?

So enjoy more from my buddy Judith Arnold, and I’ll race you to the bookstore to buy Dead Ball. Just read this excerpt and you’ll see why.

Here’s what Judith has to say to introduce herself, and I swear I didn’t prompt her to say nice things about my books while she was at it:

I’m thrilled to be back at Emilie’s Fiction Friday blog, celebrating the relase of Dead Ball, my very first mystery. After all, it’s partly her fault that I wrote this book. Although she’s justifiably well known for her wonderful women’s fiction and romance novels, she’s also written a delightful mystery series called “Ministry is Murder.” These mysteries are smart, clever and funny, and I devoured each installment the instant it was released. I thought, hey, I want to have that kind of fun, too! So I decided to try my hand at writing a mystery. 

Now, don’t you want to know more about the series?  Here it is:

I did have a great deal of fun writing Dead Ball, the first book in the Lainie Lovett Still Kicking Mystery series. (The original title for Dead Ball was Still Kicking, but my publisher decided that would be the perfect name for the series.) In the series, Lainie Lovett is a spunky, widowed teacher whose passions are her two nearly-grown children, her fourth-grade students, and the Colonielles, the women’s soccer team run by the rec department in Rockford, a cozy Boston suburb with severe colonial pretentions. Lainie’s best friends are her Colonielle teammates, Angie and Sheila.

The excerpt below takes place after a soccer practice, when Lainie, Angie and Sheila retire for drinks at Rockford’s Mexican restaurant, Olde Towne Olé. While there, they spot Arthur Cavanagh, the husband of another Colonielle teammate, having a drink with a buxom young blonde. The next day, Arthur will turn up dead, shot in the head with a nail gun at a subdivision of McMansions his construction company is building. Lainie will have to figure out who murdered him to protect her teammate, to redeem a potential love interest, and ultimately to save her own neck. 

Boy, she sure got my attention.  Here’s the excerpt.


Lainie tilted back her bottle and took a drink. As she lowered the bottle, she spotted a familiar figure across the restaurant. “Uh-oh,” she whispered.

“What?” Angie asked as she and Sheila twisted in their chairs to see what Lainie was looking at.

“Don’t stare,” Lainie ordered them. They turned back to her and huddled over the table. “It’s Patty Cavanagh’s husband—with someone who isn’t Patty.”

Patty was a Colonielle. Lainie had met Patty’s husband at an open house at school a few years ago, when their son Sean had been in Lainie’s class. Arthur Cavanagh didn’t attend his wife’s soccer games. He was a busy man.

Right now, he was busy with a woman with platinum hair and breasts as big as soccer balls. Lainie searched for a benign explanation. “Maybe she’s his sister.”

“She’s young enough to be his daughter,” Sheila argued.

“Patty’s young enough to be his daughter, too,” Angie pointed out.

“She is?”

“Do the math,” Angie said.

Lainie did, and sighed. “All right, then. That woman could be a business associate.”

“His business is construction,” Sheila reminded her. “Does she look like a construction worker to you?”

Lainie peered across the room and noticed the blond woman brushing Arthur Cavanagh’s arm with her boobs. Arthur smiled. He was a handsome man with a full head of silver hair and the map of Ireland in his face, as her mother would put it. His business seemed to be doing well, if the carat weight of the eternity ring Patty insisted on wearing all the time, even at practices, was anything to judge by.

Lainie watched as Arthur stood, offered his hand to his companion, and helped her down from her stool. Her bosom heaved against his arm again as she edged out from between their stools. When they wove through the lounge, Lainie, Angie, and Sheila reflexively bowed their heads so he wouldn’t spot them.

After staring at the bowl of tortilla chips long enough to have counted all the broken pieces, Lainie lifted her gaze. He was gone.

“Are we going to tell Patty about this?” Angie asked.

“No,” Lainie said.

“Of course,” Sheila answered simultaneously.

“How can we tell her?” Lainie argued. “It’ll hurt her feelings.”

“We wouldn’t be hurting her feelings,” Sheila said. “We’d be doing her a favor, alerting her to the fact that her husband is a dickhead.”

“She may already know he’s a dickhead,” Angie pointed out. “The kind of money he pulls down, he can afford to be a dickhead. She probably knew that going in. Patty Cavanagh may be a lot of things, but she isn’t stupid.”

Actually, Lainie thought Patty was pretty stupid for wearing that dazzling diamond ring to soccer practice. “Here’s why I think we shouldn’t tell her,” she said. “If we confront her with the news that her husband was out with another woman, she’s got only two choices. Either she puts up a brave front and lies her head off to save face, or she falls apart and nevers talk to us again because we know her husband is a putz. And that option would be no good because we’re teammates. She’s got to talk to us if we’re going to play together.”

“In other words,” Sheila said, “you think that for the sake of the team we should keep the truth from her.”

“We won’t tell Patty,” Lainie said firmly, “because we’re her friends and her teammates, and we don’t want to be the bearers of bad news.”

“Just for the record,” Sheila said, “if my husband was cuddling up to a bimbo at Olde Towne Olé, I’d want to know.”

“Just for the record,” Angie countered, “I wouldn’t.”

“Just for the record,” Lainie said, “remember last summer, after the game against Dedham, when the whole team went to that awful bar on Rte. 9 with all those sleazy drunks ogling us?”

“I remember,” Angie said.

“What sticks in my mind,” Lainie said, “was that we had a discussion about husbands, and Patty was in the group that said they’d kill their husbands if they ever caught them having an affair.”

“I was in that group, too,” Sheila recalled.

“So let’s not tell Patty,” Lainie said.

“Yeah,” Angie agreed. “If she kills Arthur, we’ll lose her for the season.”


One of my favorite last lines of a Fiction Friday excerpt!

You’ll find Dead Ball in paperback at your favorite local bookstore as well as  Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books-a-Million,.  The ebook is also available (at a bargain price) in all the usual places.


  1. Vickie King on February 21, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Great questions and answers. Judith, I love how the girls were talking at the table. It’s that don’t hold back, real life talk between friends. It made me smile.

Leave a Comment