please tell us a little bit about your current projects?
My latest release is All For A Dead Man’s Leg, the first book in a five-book, humorous romantic suspense series featuring a young tour director, Harriet Ruby, and a mysterious spy.
I never intended to write a series, and the idea for the first book came years before I wrote it. On a tour of Spain, Morocco, and Portugal in 1994, when I asked our tour director what his worst tour guide experience had been, he told me on one of his first tours, a member of his tour group died in Morocco. He and his driver had to smuggle the body back to Spain to keep from delaying the tour with Moroccan red-tape.
At the time, I found that intriguing. The concept rolled around in my head for nearly ten years before I found the right characters. I tried to use the setup for a WWII story and half a dozen other plot ideas, but none of them took.
It wasn’t until I decided to experiment writing humor in the first person that I found the right character for the lead–Harriet Ruby. She went about her business and quickly Will Talbot, the spy, showed up. From there, the characters wrote the story for me.
Who gave you the one piece of writing advice that sticks with you to this day?
My Pacific Palisades critique group mentor, Sid Stebel. Finish the book! The other thing that sticks with me is “If it’s good later, it’s better now.” Which translates to feeding in information as the reader needs it to keep from pulling out of the story.
What are some of your favorite pastimes? Do you have any hobbies or collections?
My hobby is quilting. I used to ride motorcycles, then quads, in the desert and play classical piano…but I can’t do either anymore. Reading, writing and world travel are my passions.
Since college, I’ve been collecting owls (not live ones). I’ve got so many now that I have a couple of boxes of them in the garage because there’s no room for them in the house, and they’re a pain to dust.
When I travel I collect various things. I started out with plates, but they’re heavy. Now I collect unframed paintings and drawings and native or typical costume jewellery.
What has been your biggest adventure to date?
When it comes to traveling, it’s hard to pin point what the biggest adventure was. Each place is different, and the learning experience blows my mind each time I go somewhere.
I just got back from an awesome trip to Argentina and Antarctica. While my interest tends to be cultures, particularly ancient ones, I found the uninhabited continent fascinating. Just the idea on an ice sheet two miles thick, that never melts and is hard enough to use for foundations of buildings, is overwhelming.
In terms of things I’ve done, probably the most adventurous was on one of my research trips to Sicily. I rented a car and drove the route my heroine had to drive when escaping her Mafia husband. The members of my husband’s family (who live in Messina, Sicily) were appalled that he let me make this trip alone, to which I said, “Don’t be silly. I can take care of myself. No problem.”
Well, it was pretty darned remote. I burned out a gear on the rental car and still blithely drove hundreds of miles in deserted countryside on sparsely traveled roads and over mountains to see how long it would take to actually make this trip. I speak Italian, but if something had happened (and plenty could have happened but didn’t, fortunately) I would have been hard pressed to explain anything or get myself out of a jam.
At this point in my life, that trip has moved from “adventurous” to the category of “naïve/stupid.”
My husband didn’t bat an eye. He knew I would go whether he wanted me to, or not. As my father said after the fact, “Better luck than sense.”
If your fairy godmother waved her wand and whisked you away to the location of your choice, which place would you choose, and why?
That’s a tough question. I’ve been so many places I think I’d like to live, at least in more or less contemporary times, but those inclinations aren’t based on the realities of day to day living. You never really know until you live there. And so much of the “choosing” involves who I could be as well as when, where, and for how long.
In the here and now, I would love to live in Rome again or Florence. In my fantasies, I would like to be alive at the time and in the place when sentient life on another planet is discovered.
When it comes to food, are you the adventurous type who will try anything once, or do you prefer to stick to tried and true foods and recipes?
I used to be willing to try just about anything once. Now I save my taste buds and calories for things I know I like. Still, I’ve managed to eat some fairly strange and exotic foods, including Mopani worms in Africa. Sometimes it helps a lot to not know what I’m eating.
What is the one modern convenience that you cannot do without? Electricity. Everything we do depends on electricity, including our cell phones.
What is this romance writer’s idea of the “ideal romantic evening”?
A cool evening, sitting in front of a blazing fire and drinking wine with the love of my life. (And, of course, a little hanky panky.)
How do you describe yourself? Eeek!
How would your family and friends describe you? When I’ve asked they say “smart”. I don’t know where they got that idea.
What is your favorite comfort food? Unfortunately, it’s ice cream, with chocolate as a close second.
What is your favorite season? What do you love about it? San Diego doesn’t have much in the way of seasons, but I like spring the best. I love the new growth and the tree blossoms.
What project are you working on next?
In addition to the release of the next several books in the Tour Director Extraordinaire Series, I’m editing a completed amateur-sleuth murder mystery set in Los Angeles, and just beginning a murder mystery set at the research station at the South Pole. I’m also researching a historical about the incarceration of the Japanese-American during WWII. None of these fall into the romance genre—at least not yet.
Any place we can find you in person or on the net this month or next?
I love to hear from and talk to my readers. URL http://www.rannsiracusa.com FaceBook https://www.facebook.com/ann.siracusa?ref=ts Twitter https://twitter.com/AnnSiracusa Google Circles https://plus.google.com/105467292422978603982/posts Linked In http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=44524334&trk=tab_pro GoodReads http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2993012.R_Ann_Siracusa Pintrest http://pinterest.com/pin/265008759296224058/
A dead tourist, a prosthetic leg, and a gorgeous secret agent…just another day in the life of a Tour Director.
Meet Harriet Ruby, a well-balanced MIT graduate with a degree in languages, whose life has been good but ordinary and predictable. Wanting new experiences before she settles down to a career and family, she accepts a position as a tour director in Europe.
Meet Will Talbot, a handsome Europol spy and covert operative for the US government with a dark troubled past, major trust issues, and dissociative amnesia. Driven by guilt over something he believes he did, he has a penchant for rescuing innocent victims caught up in dangerous circumstances.
Harriet’s first solo stint as a tour director in Spain and Morocco is going well until they get lost in the medina in Tangier. There, one of her tourists becomes ill. Harriet needs to find a doctor, can’t speak Arabic, and doesn’t know how to get out of the walled city. A handsome and mysterious stranger, Will Talbot, examines the tourist, pronounces him dead, and offers to help her smuggle the body out of Morocco. At this moment, Harriet’s once-predictable life turns upside down. Little does she know that getting out of Morocco is only the beginning of an incredible adventure in pursuit of murders, smugglers, terrorists, and a meaningful relationship.
Book Excerpt – Chapter 1
Looking back on it, I could see everything would have worked out fine if Archie Philpot hadn’t chosen that particular time and place to die.
Not that he did it maliciously, mind you, nor did he exactly choose. But I’m sure if he’d thought about the welfare of the many—our tour group, to be specific—as opposed to the convenience of the one, he might have staved off the event for another ten or twelve hours. Then there would have been no problem.
Well, not exactly no problem.
But perhaps I should start when everything began to fall apart.
My name is Harriet Ruby, Tour Director Extraordinaire. Or so I’d thought. I had just begun to believe my first solo stint in Europe was a roaring success when we got lost in the medina—the ancient walled city—in Tangier.
“Let’s stop here for a moment,” I called to my tour group.
While they assembled, I glanced around at the souk, the market place within the city walls. It was a maze of tiny shops, tents, and winding passageways crowded with Moroccans.
“I’m never going to find my way out of here.” I pulled out my cell phone and punched in my driver’s number. Mario knew the route and spoke Arabic, but he had gone to fix a flat tire on our bus while I herded our fourteen tourists around the medina. That was two hours ago.
Harriet, this does not bode well for your goal of a long and successful career in the tour business.
With the back of my hand, I swiped at the perspiration popping out on my brow. “Please stay right here and don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back.”
All of them smiled and nodded. Grimacing, I hurried to one of the tea shops we had passed to look for someone who spoke English. No luck. I was only gone for two or three minutes, I swear—well, maybe it was five or six—but when I returned to the place where I had left my tourists, they were gone.
This was not starting out to be a good day.
“Mez Harri Boobies!” The shrill cry sliced through the confusion of sweating bodies crowding the market. An arm shot out of nowhere, and a brown hand clamped my wrist. I swallowed my shriek of surprise. Tangier was rife with hands that grabbed at foreigners.
“Mez Harri Boobies, you come queek,” the man whispered in my ear. “Mezter Pillpot no good, yes? You come.”
“It’s R-u-b-y, not Boobie.” I repeated my name for Mr. Takamura, one of the three almost-English-speaking Japanese tourists in the small group I was directing through Spain and Morocco. While my name was not destined to be in lights on Hollywood marquees, for the past twenty-four years, it had served me well enough. I had a sentimental attachment to it.
Without a reply, he released my arm. Insinuating his slight body into the crush of street peddlers, dirty children, and veiled ladies, he moved quickly out of sight. With a deep sigh, I tucked my Adventure Seekers sign under my arm and followed him, devastated by the foreboding that I would be nicknamed “Hairy Boobies” for the rest of my career as a tour director, which might not be very long after this little incident.
He penetrated farther into the ancient market through twisted, narrow passageways filled with malodorous bodies and a myriad of colors rippling in the heat—red, blue, amber, purple of clothing, goods for sale, food, tents. In pursuit, I skirted white-robed Moroccans bartering for goods, men sipping mint tea, and women painting the hands of girls with rich sienna-colored henna. The humid air, replete with an exotic mixture of scents—ginger, curry, rare perfumes, cigarette smoke, donkey dung—stirred my senses. The crowd babbled in many languages, counterpoint to the lilting melody of the seruani pipes.
“Wait!” How in the world had they gone this far in such a short time?
He hesitated for an instant, turned, and waved. Then he disappeared again. Finally, Mr. Takamura stopped in a small plaza with a colorful tiled fountain in the center, a calm refuge in the midst of chaos. In stray beams of sunlight, tiny motes of dust danced in the thick atmosphere. The Japanese gentleman waited for me to catch up, then smiled and bowed.
My gaze followed his nod. “Ohmigod!”
Archibald Philpot of London, the eldest and most distinguished of my tourists, knelt doubled over the lip of the fountain, hurling his guts. Oh, boy.
My tourists—three American and two Swedish couples and the other two Japanese—watched with helpless concern on their faces while a growing knot of Moroccans glared at us, mayhem glinting in their dark eyes.
The disbelief and thin-lipped anger on their faces indicated they were not pleased about the desecration of what was probably their water supply. I couldn’t blame them. This could get dicey. A drop of sweat dribbled into my eye.
Edith Johnson, a ditzy fiftyish blonde trying to look thirty, was the first to see me. She clapped her hand to her bosom and cried, “Thank goodness you’re here, Harriet. Do something.”
I dropped down beside Archie. His complexion was grayish-green, his rheumy eyes were glazed over, and by the stench, I guessed the poor man might have a case of diarrhea. My stomach heaved. Swallowing hard, I managed to maintain my tour director decorum. This was definitely not in my job description.
Ann Siracusa is a California girl who earned her Bachelor of Architecture degree from UC Berkeley, then went immediately to Rome, Italy. On her first day there, she met an Italian policeman at the Fountain of Love, and the rest is history. Instead of a degree from the University of Rome, she got a husband, and they’ve been married going on fifty years. In Rome, she worked for as an architect and planner for a land development company for several years until she and her husband moved to the US.
Now retired, she combines her passions—world travel and writing—into novels which transport readers to exotic settings, immerse them in romance, intrigue, and foreign cultures, and make them laugh.
Her first novel, a post WWII mafia thriller, was published in 2008. She now writes for Breathless Press which has published five books in the romantic suspense series, Tour Director Extraordinaire, one sci-fi romance, a time-travel romance, and three short stories.
She loves to hear from her readers and can be contacted through her website, Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus.