Genre: Literary Fiction, Humor & Satire
Date of Publication: May, 2014
Publisher: Butterfly Tree Press
With nothing to lose, exuberant Emma, flamboyant Kevin and her unruly dog move to Palm Beach. Emma lists a $27 million mansion and is drawn into a world of yachts and parties—and to her soulful married client. To derail a looming affair, Emma’s zany friend fixes her up with a sexy British yacht captain. Steamy scenes bond the two until a topless Russian interferes.
Kevin, an inept caterer who specializes in flammable, phallic-shaped foods —spends his free time spying on the suspicious neighbor, while dreaming of a handsome trust-funder. Emma is about to sell the mansion—then she finds a dead socialite. While the entire town rejoices at this news, the police are less amused, and accuse our cast of characters.
Now penniless murder suspects with everything to lose, Emma and Kevin lure the suspects out to sea. Naturally, things do not go as planned and more trouble ensues.
Tagline: An uncommon murder mystery with humor, and romance!
Palm Beach Busybodies is a fast and comedic read. The author Donna Drejza has developed a zany cast of characters who get themselves into hilarious predicaments. It is extremely entertaining with a side of mystery. The pug is among one of the most amusing characters in Palm Beach Busybodies. The book is also provocative, and is filled with steamy scenes. I recommend this book for anyone who likes murder mystery with an enormous dose of humor.
MORE REVIEWS ON “PALM BEACH BUSYBODIES”
“Amazingly funny and well written. Fast-paced story, easy and addictive to read. Uproarious cast of characters. Deliciously riotous… Move over, Miss Marple, Emma, Kevin and Ursula will take over… Every page made me want to read more. Very entertaining and much fun to read. I hope there will be more firecracker whodunits with this leading cast in hot pursuit. Including pug Ursula, of course. But for a pug, that’s a given…”
—Bea Amazon Review
“Move over Bridget Jones, time for Emma! The adventures of Emma, Kevin and Ursula are funny and witty. The book is a great read and made me smile the whole way through. I was reminded of the first time I read Helen Fielding.”
—Carine Amazon Review
“Very funny and witty! Emma Budnjk reminds me of Bridget Jones, but the wit is also very David Sedaris. I love the wacky characters: Irene; with her crossing Chihuahua, Dr. Phil and Kevin the caterer are hysterical. Good clean naughty fun to read poolside this summer.”
—D.C Dan Amazon Review
EXCERPT OF “PALM BEACH BUSYBODIES”
April 20, 2015
Just as I spy the topless Russian’s personnel file, curiosity gets the better of me. This does not fall into the category of snooping I think as I slide the manila folder to the edge of the desk. Then suddenly curiosity’s helper, gravity, talks the file off the ledge to the floor where it scatters—face side up.
I’m wondering about the blonde who has a rack for luring my men away. Rats! She’s only 33. Well, it’s just a matter of time before she turns 39, and resorts to snooping. I wouldn’t be surprised if her job description says, “Employee shall be tasked with lounging about in bikini bottom whilst swilling wine.” She “works” on the yacht captained by my boyfriend, Graham. He left me alone at the ball last night, and I can only conclude she had something to do with it. Oh well, maybe I can be her apprentice and learn some of her tricks.
As I sip the black syrup that was my lab experiment with the espresso machine, I am reminded of the coffee that Eva Gabor used to make on that 1960’s TV show. I loved the way she just threw the dirty dishes out the “vindow” and think that is what I should do now. My real estate clients are coming to view the place in a few hours and it’s still a mess from the party. Somehow, I never made it home last night, so here I am spraying Fantastic in a white evening gown and yellow rubber gloves. A lovely pairing for a Realtor at 9 a.m. When I find my phone, I come to a rude awakening: it’s 10:54. Oh No! The power went off during the party and the stove clock must be wrong. When will I learn that stove clocks are in another dimension of time.
Suddenly, there is a knock on the door. I look up to see an entire limb of the Aggarwal family tree cheerfully waving at me. I decide that cheerfulness and punctuality are overrated traits in the morning. There is no way to hide or change my clothes, as the house is an architecturally inspired fishbowl. Not that I want to hide—I really need this sale—so I let them in.
As I trail along, my assistant Ursula leads the gaggle-o-Aggarwals, from room to room. When she develops a keen interest in the ancient one’s sari she has to be demoted to her previous role as my dog. Taking over, I guide them through the estate with the precision of an aimless ant. Suddenly, the ancient one halts at the top of the stairs. I think she’s having some sort of stroke, then a smile cracks on her face and she gives a big thumb up. This is real estate code for: Yay! A $27 million sale! I love the Aggarwals—so swift and cheerful.
Not wanting to waste a precious minute, I suggest we take the sleek elevator to the main floor; I do a little happy dance as we wait, until I realize they can see my reflection in the chrome elevator. When the door opens, there is a chorus of screams and Aggar- wails—like they practiced on the way over. I look into the elevator and think this can’t be good. There is a dead body.
3 months earlier – Washington DC
As I wait for the ever tardy Kevin, I embark on one of my favorite pastimes: painting still lifes. I usually do cakes and naked men, but neither of them happen to be lying around, so I settle on painting a butterscotch Krimpet. To get in a painterly mood, I pour a glass of my beloved Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc and play a Phil Collins record. I find there is nothing more comforting than the timeless furry voice of Phil Collins, played on an old scratchy record player.
After a few burnt umber brush strokes, I notice my wine glass is empty again. Hmm. Must quit drinking, I vow as I venture for a new bottle. Right then, my pug steals a kiss with her aardvarkesque tongue—then she steals my wine. Right in front of me!
I have had dogs before—many without drinking problems—but Ursula is one of those bad pugs you read about. Indeed, the former owners declared her “The Worst Dog in the World.” Usually in these cases an owner “accidentally” leaves the front door open, or deposits the dog untethered outside the grocery store hoping some poor sap will wander by. As with all great plans, things can go awry. The major hitch of this plan: the dog can return—with a vengeance. Come to find out, the previous owners actually drove Ursula to the dog pound then smartly moved away. Of course, there was no disclosure of this by the dog pound people when I stumbled in that day. No, the hoodwinkers somehow left that out. They practically made me adopt her, offering to throw in a water dish if I took her right then and there. A purebred with a free water dish? I should have known it was all too good to be true.
Ursula now has tail cancer, a particularly difficult type to operate on notwithstanding the curliness of a pug tail. The worst part is that I have just enough money to pay my rent, but not enough for the operation.
My best friend Kevin is now here. He doesn’t knock like normal people. No, his entrance is more of an appearance on the scene through a sliding swerve. He’s wearing his signature royal blue bathrobe and because he had to pass through public to get here, he’s wearing pants. While my other gay friends are more subtle, Kevin saves onlookers the trouble of having to fire up their gaydar. He plays a caterer in the melodrama that is his life, but always gets fired because his creations are somehow phallic – or melt into phallic shapes.
When I tell him of my latest dilemma he says to simply borrow the money from my fiancé, Larry. “That way, you don’t have to pay it back.”
I hadn’t really thought of that, but it seems to me like a bad way to start a happy marriage.
Kevin unwittingly nibbles on the Krimpet as he makes painterly brush strokes to enhance the painting. “Kevin, you just bit my model!”
“So, that’s what that was,” he says innocently.
Right then the phone rings; it’s Larry. Kevin answers for me and after a few ‘ah ha’s’ informs me that Larry is cancelling our dinner tonight. This bit of information leads Kevin to conclude that Larry is cheating on me. While I process this thought, Kevin is busy planning a stake out. The next thing I know we are in the back of my previously owned Mercedes parked in front of Larry’s house. We are dressed as spies, or so I am told by Kevin, who is up on the latest in spywear. I’m wearing a trench coat over a night gown; Kevin has added a beret to his ensemble; Ursula has a stocking over her head like a Dr. Seuss character gone bad.
We have jelly donuts, which Kevin says are required for a proper stake out, but apparently a pug can’t eat with a stocking on. This explains why you don’t see pugs robbing banks very often.
Kevin pops up like a periscope, “Look, there’s a strawberry blonde going into his house.”
Kevin always puts everything in food terms; he describes me as a chocolate brunette. I say that could be his sister as he drags me out of the car. Now we are sitting on a stone retaining wall overlooking Larry’s pool with a good view into his living room window. He is pouring his sister a glass of champagne in the good crystal. Our spy pet has insisted on coming along, but may be pulled off mission due to her constant licking to get donut powder off her mossy face. Then she moves on to Kevin’s face, and he pushes her away, causing her to land in the pool. Thank goodness Larry has loud music playing to drown out our espionage-ineptitude.
Peering through the windows we see Larry full frontal, now French kissing the woman. I am starting to think that is probably not his sister. Either way, this is not good. Kevin points out that now Larry is unbuttoning her blouse. I can’t look anymore. Like a sports announcer, Kevin says, “now she’s taking off his pants.” I look up to see Larry wearing the David Beckham boxer briefs I bought him—only so I could keep the box. One glance and all can see that Larry has a full Beckham going. I take my coat off and jump into the pool to save my pollywog pug. I am quietly trying to catch Ursula but she must think it’s some sort of game and maintains an out of reach distance from me.
Kevin soon decides that this spectator sport requires a beer. He opens the pool fridge, which causes a chain reaction of tumbling beers, sore toes and screaming. Larry halts his kissing and disrobing and comes out—with the Beck safely retired. Shirley Bassey’s maroon velvet voice singing, “If you go away” escapes from the opened doors. Larry looks back to see if I noticed anything amiss, like a strawberry blonde pulling his pants down.
Yelling at him, I punctuate each syllable with a whack on the head with the only thing I can find: a styrofoam swim noodle. He says it’s not what it looks like. Oh yeah?
I grab my baby pug and make a run for the moving vehicle that is my car with Kevin as mad getaway driver. When I look back I realize I’ve left behind my rain coat, that and what I thought was my future.
First, I’m shocked— a whoa! moment. Then it’s like a slow deadness coming over me, like when a steamroller backs over a new birthday bicycle. There it lies, still shiny, but no longer so new and now very flat. Like my heart.
Donna Drejza lives in Palm Beach, Florida and Washington, DC– spending most of her time moving her stuff back and forth. She currently works as a writer, realtor, restaurant critic, artist, and a yoga teacher–none of which seem to pay on any regular basis.
Her books are comedic in nature and semi-autobiographical. She loves to write about food, wine, fancy places and dogs. Yes, some cats slip into the stories, because every book needs an antagonist here and there. Just kidding cat people! She has recently become a cat aunt to Esther and Mauricio, and except for the midnight soccer matches with her reading glasses, finds them to be fascinating characters.
She is about to launch the first of a micro-series called, Soul Mates and the 102. It’s about a single American woman who flies all the way to London for a blind date (Donna would do that) but the guy is a no-show. It’s very glamorous and sexy.
First I want to thank Donna Drejza for doing the interview with me. Read the interview below and found how comedic she can be.
1. What is your writing process? Chaotic. Scenes come into my head, like I’m watching a movie of my characters. Then I pass the microphone around and let them speak. I write it down as fast as I can. Then I end up with a big crazy party that needs lots of editing.
2. Who are your largest author influences? Vladimir Nabokov, Roald Dahl, John Irving, Helen Fielding.
3. What is your favorite book? Bridget Jones’ Diary. I remember I couldn’t stop reading it – well, only to refill my wine glass.
4. What is your latest news? I’ve just finished a British TV script called The Playboy, the Poet and the Spy. It’s about an American writer who flies to London to find her soul mate and gets in big trouble.
5. What are the five things people do not know about you? 1. Many are shocked to know I worked at the CIA; yes, they hired a blabber mouth like me! 2. I have a degree in Computer Science – yet have trouble changing a vacuum cleaner bag. 3. I have Synesthesia. This means I mix up my senses. Numbers have colors, voices have flavors. This is great for a writer. Would be bad for an accountant. Nabokov had it. 4. I’m 1/3 psychic. I get snapshots of the future. Trouble is there is no date on them, so I can’t tell if it’s a week away or 7 years away. 5. I’m part American Indian. Not enough to run a casino. I think you have to be ¼ for that.
6. What genre do you write? Funny Murder Mysteries. Is that a genre?
7. What is your most recent book Palm Beach Busybodies about? A hapless woman, (me) and her gay best friend and her tipsy pug move to Palm Beach to find love and luck and end up finding a dead socialite. It’s a comedy.
8. How do you come up with characters for Palm Beach Busybodies? Some are an amalgamation of friends (Kevin) some are fantasy men (Graham, the sexy British Yacht Captain); most just come to me – like Irene, who designs Pug hats and teaches water aerobics to poodles. I don’t know anyone like that.
9. Who are your favorite characters in Palm Beach Busybodies and Why? I love them all! The zany Irene; The fearless elder Esther Weinstein, The soulful Richard; I’ve enjoyed writing about Graham, especially the sex scenes. Had to have a cigarette afterwards, and I don’t even smoke.
10. Is there a message behind Palm Beach Busybodies? Eat, drink and be merry!
11. How many books do you read a year? I have 5 books on the night stand – unfinished. Whenever I start to write, I read a few lines of great writing to get in a writerly mood.
12. What is the last book you read? To Love a Stranger coming out soon, by John Michael Wilde. Excellent writing.
13. What is the hardest part in writing Palm Beach Busybodies? Having to sample all that food, drink all that champagne, imagine all that sex. Just kidding. It was the damned re-writes. Having to imagine all that sex all over again!
14. What did you enjoy about writing Palm Beach Busybodies? I love being with my characters. I can get them to do what ever I want. That’s difficult with real people.
15. How long did it take for you to Palm Beach Busybodies? The first draft took only 2 months. The next 30 drafts took 4 years.
16. Do you have any children or pets? If so, do they distract you, or assist you with writing? I have no children – that I know of. I used to have 2 pugs. Stella and Ursula. Ursula was of course a major inspiration for this book. No one could have made up a pug gone wrong like her.
17. Have you traveled for your book, if so where? I spent many winters in Palm Beach working on this book. I just returned from 4 months in Lugano, Switzerland where I worked on my upcoming novel – the basis for The Playboy, the Poet and the Spy.
18. What are your next writing projects? (see above)
19. How can fans reach you directly? The website: DonnaDrejza.com