Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy Fest’

Posted on December 9, 2015 - by

Killer Takeout–Coming this Spring!


You’ve probably heard me say on Facebook that I was working on KILLER TAKEOUT, the seventh Key West food critic mystery, coming out April 5, 2016. This book takes place during Fantasy Fest, a giant, crazy costume party running over the week leading up to Halloween.

I’ve just turned the copyedits into my brand new editor, now comes the nail-biting wait for publication. (Here’s my other editor, Yoda. He says: You’re going to make this pile of notes into a book?)

Jennifer paints John’s base coat

While I was doing the research for this, John and I participated in one of my favorite Key West events, the zombie bike ride. And where I go, of course, Hayley goes. We went to get our faces painted by a professional face painter—Hayley does too.

This is a very crazy scene—10,000 people on bikes, most of them dressed up and made up like zombies. I made the decision early in the draft that the crime should occur during the bike ride. I had no problem setting this up. The questions came later, when I was trying to figure out what kind of murderer would attempt such a thing in an enormous crowd—and how! And why?

You might think it ridiculous that someone would begin writing without those answers, but I assure you that I do it every time. And interesting to me that Nathan Bransford (former literary agent, now novelist, and yes, the namesake for Hayley’s detective heartthrob) addressed this very question in his recent blog. His advice (which thank goodness I was already stumbling through) is first to identify what you’re trying to solve, and then create some structure around it. What needs to happen before you can reach that solution? Break it all down into manageable steps and it starts to feel possible.

zombies have brains too

And here’s a bit from that scene in KILLER TAKEOUT:

We got onto our bikes and began to pedal. The crowd pressed in on either side. I dodged a wobbly elder zombie on a three-wheel bike to my left and three tricycles loaded with the Andrews sisters zombies on my right. A radio in one of their baskets played a tinny version of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. I snapped photos to the left and the right, and held my phone up to take a short video of the crowd following behind me. Two very drunk zombie girls in black dresses whose hems fluttered dangerously close to their bike spokes approached from either side of me ringing their warning bells. 

“Zombie on the left!” cried one.

“Zombie on the right!” said the other.

“Zombie down!” came another call from behind. 

Scary zombies!

“These people are having too much fun. They have to learn to pace themselves over the week,” I muttered to Connie. “You go on ahead, I think it’s safer to ride single file.” Not that I hadn’t done my share of partying back in the day, but I’d learned my lesson. There was a good reason that one of the liquor stores in town was called The Lost Weekend.

I spurted ahead of the others, staying to the right of the pack, concentrating on not getting run into the curb.

“Zombie down!” echoed a call through the crowd.

This time, the “zombie down” was not a cry of wolf. I stopped riding and spun around to see what was wrong. A zombie was splayed out on the pavement. The two tipsy girls swerved past, barely missing the figure in the road.

“Zombie down!” the shouts grew louder and more shrill as the costumed revelers passed their call up the slow-moving bicycle cavalcade to the front of the parade, like a twisted version of telephone. 

As none of the zombies around me were stopping to help, I got off my bike and crouched beside the person on the ground. Her face was painted mostly white, with patches of black and red almost the opposite of my pattern. She was dressed in a flowing white gown that made the most of her buxom figure, streaked with the requisite blood stains and red glitter. Her headdress, which looked like a Cinderella tiara, zombie-style, had been knocked off her head and scattered a foot away. I snatched up the crown so it wouldn’t get trampled and shouted over the noise around us.

“Are you all right?” I asked. “Can you get up, or should I call for help?”

She answered with a low groan. My gaze flicked over her body, her arms splayed out, her legs akimbo. So much fake blood had been painted on the costume that it was hard to tell if she was really in trouble. I took her hand, which was cool, bordering on icy. Her pulse was racing.

And then I noticed a froth of red in the corner of her mouth. This problem was no fake. 

Killer Takeout will be out on April 5, 2016, but you can pre-order it now!

Posted on May 6, 2015 - by

What I’m Writing @LucyBurdette


LUCY BURDETTE: You wouldn’t believe the things I do in the name of research. Last fall, we arrived in Key West earlier than usual–October–so I could observe the wildest festival of the year–Fantasy Fest. Even after the week was over, I couldn’t pretend to understand the grand appeal of walking up and down Duval Street basically naked except for creative body paint. But hey, it makes for a fabulous backdrop–though sorting through what can go into a cozy mystery from this week of events was a bit challenging.

But John and I promptly signed up to train as Fantasy Fest parade ambassadors, and I ordered tutus in several colors (the men got camo tutus, including Tonka,) and made appointments for face-painting for the Zombie bike ride.

So that’s the book I’m writing now! Without further ado, here’s the opening for KILLER TAKEOUT, coming to bookshelves next April:


Resident islanders couldn’t remember a hotter Key West summer. Not only hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk, they agreed, but hot enough to crisp bacon, too. So far, the advent of fall was bringing no relief. Today’s temperature registered 93° and climbing–fierce-hot for October, with the humidity dense like steam from my grandmother’s kettle. And the local news anchor promised it would get hotter as the week continued, along with the party on Duval Street.


Me? I’d rather eat canned sardines from China then march down Key West’s Duval Street wearing not much more than body paint. But 100,000 out-of-town revelers didn’t agree. They were arriving on the island this week to do just that—or watch it happen—during Fantasy Fest, the celebration taking place during the ten days leading up to Halloween, including a slew of adult-themed costume parties culminating in a massive and rowdy parade.


Worse of all, the Weather Channel was tracking the path of a tropical storm in the Eastern Caribbean. They had already begun to mutter semi-hysterical recommendations: Visitors should prepare to head up the Keys to the mainland and take refuge in a safer area. But based on the crowds I’d seen, no one was listening. These hordes weren’t leaving until the event was over. Besides, with a four-hour drive to Miami on a good traffic day, getting all those people out would be like trying to squeeze ketchup back into a bottle. Might as well party.
Since no right-minded local resident would attempt to get near a restaurant this week, I had fewer food critic duties at my workplace, the style magazine, Key Zest. I was looking forward to covering some of the tamer Fantasy Fest events for the magazine, including the Zombie bike ride, the locals’ parade, and a pet masquerade contest. And since restaurants are my beat, I’d promised my bosses an article on reliable takeout food too. If that didn’t keep me busy enough, my own mother, Janet Snow, and Sam, her fiance, were arriving for the week to visit with my dear friend Connie’s new baby, and then get themselves hitched on the beach.


In a weak moment, I’d allowed Miss Gloria, my geriatric houseboat-mate, to talk me into being trained as a Fantasy Fest parade ambassador. Our job would be to help patrol the sidewalks, which would be lined with costumed and tipsy revelers scrambling for the colored glass bead necklaces thrown off the floats.


“If we aren’t going to go to the foam party, or the Adam and Eve bash, or the Tighty Whitey party, we should at least attend the parade,” Miss Gloria said.


I closed my eyes to ward off the image of my elderly friend at any of those events.


“And if we’re working as ambassadors, we’ll be stationed inside the crowd control barricades. We’ll have the best seat in the house. Get it? Seat.” She broke into helpless giggles.

            At the time, the idea seemed palatable. Barely.

Meanwhile, FATAL RESERVATIONS will be on bookshelves July 7. But you can pre-order it now!