A Wicked Welcome to Delia Pitts! **plus a giveaway!**

by Julie, summering in Somerville

I first saw Delia Pitts on a Sisters in Crime webinar about being an indie author, and then met her in an online committee meeting. In subsequent conversations about writing and her series, one thing is clear–she loves them both. Her Ross Agency series centers on Shelba Rook, a PI who works in Harlem for the Ross Agency. When I reached out and asked her to write a post for the Wickeds, she agreed to blog about relaxation.


Relaxation

by Delia Pitts

At ease. Chill out. Cool it.

I’ve always wondered, can you really relax on command? By doctor’s prescription? By boss’s order? Will a friend’s recommendation of a favorite beach resort or a colleague’s suggestion of a yoga class actually result in the longed-for letting go?

I’m not the kind who easily relaxes. I go on vacation only when absolutely required. Usually in small increments, a day or a weekend at a time. Prone is not my desired position: lying on the sand or stretched in an Adirondack chair won’t send me to Shangri-La. Even with a rum-laced umbrella drink on hand. There’s always something more to do, something to ponder, something to plan, something to revise or expand or invent.

Since I’m the keyed-up one in the family, I asked my son how he defined relaxation. Quite a smart man, Nick said, relaxation is enjoying yourself without pressure. So, I thought of those things in my everyday life that check both boxes: enjoyment minus pressure. I write, I walk, I weed, I shop, I read, I talk. I even do laundry. Fun? Often. Necessary? Sure. Relaxing? Not quite. Why didn’t these efforts fit the bill? Perhaps because they involve doing something. Achieving a goal; striving for an outcome, collecting a prize. Even if it’s only a clean basket of laundry. I decided submission to the Tyranny of Doing was not my path to relaxation.

But the inventory of a week’s worth of my activities did yield two sure-fire winners: watching a live baseball game and watching a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie. No waiting to exhale. I didn’t zone out, but I did let go. By the end of the game or the film I was relaxed. I wondered why these spectator occupations worked as relaxants. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Outcome is unpredictable
  • Or entirely predictable
  • Movement as ritual
  • Talent beyond my ken
  • Emotions intensely engaged
  • But I have no impact on the ending

Baseball, like any other live sporting event, is unpredictable. That’s what makes it such fun to watch, no one knows how it will turn out. (Unless the match is fixed. As a South Sider, the residual guilt of the Chicago Black Sox scandal looms large in my consciousness more than one hundred years on.) With the ending unpredictable, my attention is engaged, my imagination flies with each swing of the bat. Every pitch is fresh, every catch unscripted. Anything can happen. Elegant execution marks each pitch, catch, or slide. But errors are just as thrilling. They testify to human frailty behind the consummate skill. I am drawn out of myself because I have a front row seat on the unexpected. Relaxation is the enjoyable result of giving myself to the whims of the baseball gods.

In contrast, every move of a Fred-and-Ginger routine is painstakingly scripted. Pleasure comes from knowing each dance of seduction will end exactly as it did the previous thirty times I watched Top Hat or The Gay Divorcee: as he starts the dance, Fred is consumed with longing, his eyes and limbs strained with desire. Ginger begins with her supple waist stiffened by reluctance, her face clenched for the contest. Their dance dialogue is meticulous, each step precise, each arm curve, finger extension, head tilt, or change of eye level planned. The upshot is utterly predictable. Yearning persuades resistance. Every time. Knowing the results in advance, I relax into the sweep of the music and the folds of Ginger’s sequined gowns. The outcome is foretold and it’s deeply pleasurable to experience it again. And again. One more time with feeling.

So, that’s my formula for relaxation. Nine innings of baseball, indolent and sweaty, laced with black-and-white glamour in fox trot. Or swing-time. Even a waltz. As long as it’s tuxedoed and bedazzled.

What does the trick for you? Do you find relaxation arises from letting go or taking hold? From diving in or retreating? Leave a comment and I’ll pick someone to receive a paperback of Murder My Past.


Bio:

Author photo of Delia Pitts

Delia C. Pitts is the author of the Ross Agency mysteries, a contemporary noir private eye series featuring Harlem detective SJ Rook. Murder My Past, published in February 2021, is the fifth novel in the series. Her short story, “The Killer,” was selected for inclusion in Best American Mystery and Suspense 2021. Her short story, “Midnight Confidential,” will be published in the crime anthology, Midnight Hour. Delia is a former university administrator and US diplomat. After working as a journalist, she earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago. She lives with her husband in central New Jersey. She is an active member of Crime Writers of Color and Sisters in Crime. The next novel in the series, Murder Take Two, will be published in 2022. Learn more at her website, www.deliapitts.com.

About Murder My Past:

Alluring lost wives. Vengeful academic superstars.

A memory-plagued widow. A detective on the edge.

Harlem private eye SJ Rook wants to forget his past. Ex-soldier, ex-drunk, ex-tramp are titles he’s eager to bury. He’s building a new life at a neighborhood detective agency. And he’s working on a solid relationship with his crime-fighting partner, Sabrina Ross. But without warning, Rook’s past returns with a vengeance in the enticing form of his ex-wife. Visiting New York for a convention, Annie Perry is a self-made millionaire with more than business on her mind. She’s confident, alluring, and ready to rekindle feelings Rook thought he’d left far behind.

When Annie is murdered shortly after their reunion, her death sends Rook over the edge. To find her killer, he must delve into her past, even if it hurts. There’s the oily vice president and the angelic business associate, plus the three thousand people who attended the conference. But Rook’s suspicions focus on a clutch of university professors who buzzed around his ex-wife. Driven by grief and distracted by jealousy, Rook digs into fraught campus politics and buried scholarly history in his search for the truth. Violence and betrayal dog his investigation. Rook learns that envy, greed, and fraud are not merely academic.

As he hunts Annie’s killer, Rook’s relentless quest uncovers clues to another mystery from the past, a case that strikes even closer to home. His boss’s wife was talented, volatile, and troubled. She vanished without a trace twenty-five years ago. Her disappearance stunned veteran detective Norment Ross and devastated their daughter Sabrina. If Rook solves this ice-cold missing person case, can he restore peace to Norment and closure to Sabrina? Rook wants the truth, for his boss and for his lover. But the only clues to this strange puzzle are hidden in the addled mind of a lonely widow. As the old woman’s memory blurs, Rook is running out of time to solve the case of the detective’s lost wife.

Faced with old grudges and buried lies, unsettled desires and secret promises, Rook races to untangle the threads of these twisted cases. Can he bring the killers to justice before the past fades forever?

45 Thoughts

  1. I can really let go when I go on a cruise. Visiting different beaches and on the ship there is so much to do and having a frozen cocktail or 2 with my husband on the deck or our balcony is nice too. When I’m home sitting out by the pool with an iced coffee and a good book helps a lot. Thank you for this chance at your giveaway. pgenest57 at aol dot com

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    1. I agree! Isn’t iced coffee such a simple but delightful pleasure! And of course a porch or deck can’t be beat.

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  2. Welcome to the blog, Delia! How you describe yourself sounds all too familiar to me. I live with someone who is a little too good at relaxing, and I’m just…not. That said, sitting on my deck with a good book and a glass of wine on a summer evening really takes me out of my busy life. I’ll have to try a Fred and Ginger movie next!

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    1. Hi Edith, thank you for the welcome! With wine in hand and a good book open, the evening closes out so beautifully, doesn’t it?

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  3. Hi Delia, I love watching horror and/or sci-fi movies and yelling at the people to not do what they are going to do. This relaxes me.

    Don’t enter me as I’ve already read and love this book.

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    1. Hi Dru! Yelling at movies is a novel relaxation trick indeed! Thank you for your kind note about the book. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

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  4. Hi Delia! This was an interesting topic today. I’m not quite sure I know how to relax anymore. I try to live as stress-free as possible but with everything going on in life, I’m not sure I always hit the mark. There’s just so much I have to get done to keep my life going that relaxing is kind of a thing that occurs when I’m finally at home for the day and can zone out watching TV, listen to music or read a book.

    Or simply when I am asleep. (Minus the wacky or horrific dreams, of course).

    But then I wake up and it is time to start mentally making a list of everything I’ve got to get done to make it through another day.

    So any kind of relaxation seems more of a happenstance than any kind of planned down time.

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    1. I agree, Jay, the intrusions of the world do take a toll. List-making seems like a good way to corral the day of doing.

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    1. Thank you for the welcome, Sherry! Yes, Nick is a thoughtful guy. He and his twin, Adam, are the joys of my life!

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  5. I don’t think you can force relaxation, but you can certainly plan it. Plan to do something really enjoyable, like being in a big old comfy chair, cup of tea at hand, reading or taking a long walk, or watching a fun movie. I love old movies, too – I’ve watched “Bringing Up Baby” with Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant a bazillion times!

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  6. Delia, you sound like my husband. It takes him three days to really unwind when he’s on vacation. Often, he relaxes just in time to pack up and head home. And even when he’s relaxed, he needs to be doing something.

    My favorite way to unwind would be to go away to a little cabin in the woods where it’s just me, my writing, a book, and a bottle of wine. Sadly, I haven’t gotten to do that in years.

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  7. Welcome and congratulations on your book! My way of relaxing is a good book sitting on my patio listening to the birds sing, with a huge glass of iced water with lemon!
    Thanks for the chance!

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    1. Thank you! Listening to a chorus of birds is such a joy! And ice water with lemon slices is my favorite too.

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  8. Hi Delia, wonderful to meet you and I’m looking forward to getting to know Rook.

    I’ve heard of relaxation, but I’m not sure it exists. The closest I’ve come is during a run when your mind leaves your control, reaches out in front of you, and takes flight. It’s also my most creative space.

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  9. For me, relaxation is photography. It can be in some new, far off place or sitting on our front porch in the Ozark Mountains.

    Love to see all of our daily critter visitors that may range on any day from hummers to bobcats. To me it’s fun and relaxing to study the animals, to learn their habits and patterns, from internet searches as well as visually learning, and to try to get that perfect capture. It’s not frustrating to miss a shot, but a chance to learn another hint on how to catch it the next time. The result may end in the perfect shot, but the striving never ends because there’s always an idea for the next perfect shot be it of the same subject or a completely different one.

    Traveling is not only fun, but it gives ones a whole new palette to work with. It’s a chance to see animals not in or familiar surrounds and in landscapes that often are as gorgeous as the critter is unique.

    To me, it’s fun to learn my camera. I have two and don’t think I will ever learn all the settings and the combinations of them. It’s exciting to find a new way to use natural lighting but change the look entirely by just a simple twist of a knob or moving one setting up or down a few marks. You change the lens and you change how you must look at your subject. It’s a challenge that can be very rewarding and lots of fun in the process. To me that’s relaxation!

    Thank you for the fabulous opportunity to win a copy of “Murder My Past”. Shared and hoping to be the fortunate one selected.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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    1. Your description of the intricacies of photography is terrific. You capture so well that combination of mental effort and emotional input which makes photography so entrancing. Thank you for sharing these insights with us.

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  10. Delia, I don’t remember you as relaxed at all–you were always on the go, with a lot of energy! I think I’m most relaxed at my desk, perhaps reading a book on the computer (not the little iPad!). What does not relax me: relaxation exercises or meditation. Makes me edgy! So nice to see you becoming so prominent in the mystery community.

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    1. Hi Judy! Reading, even on a big ole screen, is a great way to relax! Wonderful to catch up with you here! The mystery world is so big, and at the same time, so small!

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  11. Knitting is my relaxing place…unless I make a mistake & have to rip! Whether alone or with a group, I can feel the stress drop when I get in the zone.

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    1. Hi Julie, thank you so much for inviting me to join your lively Wickeds community! Fred & Ginger are ideal names for cats, aren’t they?

      Liked by 1 person

  12. My “relaxation” is often things I’ve turned into tasks, like reading (must get X more pages read today) or even watching movies, since I review them, too. I often find when I am on vacation there is one day where I stare off into space and do nothing. After that, I’m much more engaged, but I need some true do nothing time.

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  13. Hi your book sounds like a great read! I am a pretty calm person, working in my garden is relaxing to me, especially seeing it full of flowers. I also relax by watching some movies, maybe because i feel relaxed and the movie characters are doing all the work. I love listening to beautiful music also and what is really relaxing is just sitting and listening to some books on CD not doing anything but listening and imagining . May you have a Great and relaxing weekend.

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  14. I’m relaxed at home with my cats and a good book. I also really relax when I’m visiting at my Sister’s in Michigan. I guess Michigan will always be home. I can feel a real difference and total feeling of relaxation there.

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  15. I am working on learning that relaxation comes from letting go. I always held on to everything thinking I had to “fix” everything. As I am getting older, I am finding that is not the case. Thank you for sharing.

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  16. I am 72. Yes, I am low income and on assistance. And, you know what? I’m OK with that. I raised a child, kept a family afloat while my late husband frittered, and did one heck of a lot of volunteering. I review books and try to keep up with the (currently) 9,937 unread emails. There are a LOT of chores I should do, but, they really DON’T matter. Relaxation is partly just paying attention to one’s body and being able to admit that there is only so much time and energy in a day and one might as well spend it enjoyably.

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