Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sharing an Office and a Bathtub by Denise Dietz/Mary Ellen Dennis

Denise Dietz, who also does Community Theatre, is the author of the Ellie Bernstein/Lt. Peter Miller “diet club” series, Footprints in the Butter - an Ingrid Beaumont Mystery costarring Hitchcock the Dog, and Eye of Newt. Her alter ego, Mary Ellen Dennis, is the author of The Landlord’s Black-Eyed Daughter (inspired by the Alfred Noyes poem “The Highwayman”), Stars of Fire, and Heaven’s Thunder – A Colorado Saga (May, 2011). Although Deni’s mysteries take place in Colorado, she and Mary Ellen live in a heritage cottage on Vancouver Island. They are both owned by a chocolate Labrador retriever named Magic, who likes to play Wimbledon ball-dog on the nearby tennis courts.  Visit or for book covers, more Chien panels, and (candid) photos.

by Deni Dietz

I think writing should be fun, so the items in my office tend to make me smile. First and foremost, one’s gaze is drawn to a rubber statue of Edgar Allen Poe, looming over a red Staples “That was easy” button.

I have two personas. Denise Dietz writes mysteries that have no socially redeeming values whatsoever, and Mary Ellen Dennis writes historical fiction that is ageless. Deni’s mysteries and Mary Ellen’s “history-mystery-romances” usually include romantic elements, inspired by their mutual best friend, novelist Gordon Aalborg. Gordon’s office is upstairs, in the loft, and he often sends Deni and/or Mary Ellen emails suggesting they meet for coffee in the kitchen. Meanwhile, his photo graces Deni’s desk, along with Cat Tracks, Deni’s favorite “Gordon book.”

Deni has a wonderful photo of her actress sister, Eileen Dietz – – who played the possession scenes (and The Demon) in “The Exorcist” and inspired Deni to write Fifty Cents For Your Soul, which Publishers Weekly called “Hollywood noir.”

Deni likes to listen to show music. On her desk she has a stack of CDs that include Les Mis, Candide, Once Upon a Mattress, Phantom of the Opera, and a dozen other Broadway shows. She also has the Dixie Chicks, Harry Chapin, and Barbra Streisand. Mary Ellen prefers Celtic music and drove Deni crazy by listening non-stop to Loreena McKenna’s “The Highwayman” while writing The Landlord’s Black-Eyed Daughter.

Mary Ellen has a huge framed poster of Daniel Day Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans. Deni, who once sang professionally and had a reviewer compare her to Judy Garland, has…Judy Garland memorabilia. Deni also draws cartoons, starring a dog named “Chien.” Like Snoopy, Chien is trying to write a novel (and find a publisher). 

Deni and Mary Ellen share the same bathtub, where they think up their plots. They also share the same desk. Aside from their individual piles of research books, photos, notebooks and scrap paper, aside from their computer screen, keyboard, modem, phone and printer, they share a stuffed “deadline vulture” that perches on top of the modem. Deni named it Michael Seidman after her first editor. Deni and Mary Ellen share a heavy rock, ostensibly a paperweight, that has CREATE chiseled on its surface. They also share a small ceramic tortoise; it reminds them that if you only write one page a day, by the end of the year you’ll have written a book. Both write more than one page a day. Deni likes the stress of deadlines, Mary Ellen prefers to finish her manuscripts before she sends them to her publisher. Deni owns a small ceramic frog in a witch hat, seated behind a crystal ball. The frog inspires her to write Toe of Frog (AKA “The Da Vinci Toad”), her sequel to Eye of Newt. In that book readers will meet a reincarnated Rottweiler who is afraid of doorbells and songs from the 1970s. Leaning against the wall is Deni’s Lamb Chop hand puppet, given to her by a fan who read Chain a Lamb Chop to the Bed, the third Ellie Bernstein “diet club” mystery.

Mary Ellen collects angels. Her favorite angel holds a piece of paper with a Luciano de Crescenzo quote: “We are each of us angels with only one wing and we can only fly by embracing each other.”


Patricia Stoltey said...

What a great post! Loved hearing from Deni (and that bit about the "deadline vulture" named after her first editor). I'm going to remember that one, Deni.

Thanks, Kaye, for giving us a peek into Deni/Mary Ellen's dual personality. :)

Vicki Lane said...

Funny post! Thanks, Deni and Mary Ellen!

Carolyn J. Rose said...

OMG. DDLewis and Last of the Mohicans. The opening sequence where he runs through the forest is one of my cures for a hard day on the front lines as a substitute teacher. Works every time! What does the picture do for you (you two?)?

Deni/Mary Ellen said...

Carolyn, DD lewis is the hero of all my Mary Ellen Dennis books -*g*. On my bulletin board I have smaller pics of Montgomery Clift and James Dean, heroes of my Dietz mysteries.

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Deni/Mary Ellen - it is ALWAYS so much fun having you here.
And I'm totally smitten with Chien!

And thanks to all of you for stopping by!!