The Chicks are happy to have Heather Weidner on the blog sharing about her early influences. Take it away, Heather!
Early Influences That Led to My Addiction to the Mystery Life
Many thanks to Ellen and the Chicks for letting me visit and talk about the early influences that led to my life-long addiction to mysteries and true-crime and provided lots of background material for my stories.
When I was little, I wanted to be a teacher, Bat Girl, Nancy Drew, and an astronaut. I get dizzy on spinny rides and suffer horribly from motion sickness, so the last career choice was a no-go. The Bat Girl thing is still on my bucket list, but looking back, I realized I had some real-life Nancy Drew experiences. Being a C. K. (cop’s kid) fueled my life-long attraction to mysteries that started with Saturday morning cartoons and who-done-it novels. Scooby-Doo, Josie and the Pussycats, Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys became gateways to Agatha Christie, Alfred Hitchcock, Sherlock Holmes, and so many wonderful stories.
Growing up, I assumed everyone talked about murder and mayhem around the dinner table. We did at our house, and that was before true crime was such a hot topic. It wasn’t until I was older, that I learned this wasn’t always the best dinner conversation. People give you the side-eye in restaurants when you talk about crime scenes, cool poisons, and weird ways to dispose of bodies.
But the stories, investigative techniques, and tools of the trade were part of our everyday life. I knew most of the radio ten-codes before I was in the third grade. Before cell phones, that radio squawked constantly, and I wanted to know what they were talking about.
My sister and I used to play with his night-vision goggles and scope in the backyard. The greenish glow gave everything an other-worldly appearance. We were determined to use them to spot something nefarious in suburbia. Unfortunately, the only thing we found creeping around was the neighbor’s poodle.
The Mustard (Muster) room at his police station, was one cool hang-out for kids who were supposed to be quiet while their dad was working on the weekend. It looked like a classroom and had three walls with sliding chalkboards. My sister and I had a field day in there, and I’m sure the next shift of officers got a chuckle out of our mural-sized, chalk drawings.
One of my first jobs was to pick up the shell casings at the range after my dad practiced. Those suckers were hot, and you had to let them cool before you touched them. I used a metal Planter’s Peanuts can to hold my spent treasures. Years before paintball was popular, he and I melted down my old crayons to make dummy bullets for the SWAT team to practice with. My sister and I also loved the obstacle course next to the range. We played on the balance beams and climbing walls. I always loved that the balance beam there was low to the ground and just my size. It wasn’t until much later that I learned it was the K9 obstacle course and not a kids’ jungle gym.
I can’t count the number of times we went out that he got paged to report to work. We never evacuated during hurricanes because he was on duty. He worked a lot of crazy hours, but he always tried to make school plays and recitals, even if he showed up at school in his uniform.
One time, we were returning a rented video (when they actually had stores and not just vending machines), and a guy ran out of the A&P grocery with the manager and staff chasing him across the parking lot. My sister and I spent the afternoon waiting for my dad to do the booking paperwork for the shoplifter. On another summer evening, we were leaving a fireworks show at the beach, and a fight broke out among some sailors and tourists. My dad and a shore patrol agent were the only ones around, so my friends and I watched them bust up the fight, and we spent the evening in the police station’s breakroom while he booked them.
Self-defense maneuvers and gun-cleaning were routine tasks. Safety tips about never getting into a car with a stranger and situational awareness were harped on ad nauseum. Many times, especially in high school and college, I thought he was overly overprotective, but I now know the tragedies and sadness that he saw every day (and shielded us from). And I can’t tell you how many times I scraped egg off a police cruiser over the years.
My dad was always my superhero. He was the coolest dad according to my first grade class. On career day, he blasted the siren in his police cruiser, showed us how to arrest someone (the perp was our teacher), and let us talk on the police cruiser’s microphone. Then the police helicopter landed in the field next door to the school. It was way cooler than the insurance agent’s presentation.
Never watch a police procedural with law enforcement. He ruined “CHiPs” for me. He always critiqued their investigative techniques, the amount of time the investigation took, and the ways the detectives acted. (The only cop shows he liked were Hill Street Blues, Barney Miller, and NYPD Blue.)
When my sister and I were small, he took us to the empty lockup to see what “jail” looked like. I will never forget the sound of that iron door slamming with me behind it. Let’s just say I’m too high maintenance for those accommodations (a metal toilet and no TP). A life of crime was not for me.
And then there were the interesting gifts. Most girls get flowers. Not at my house. Through the years, I’ve received a DNA kit in case I ever disappeared and needed to be identified. One year, he gave us a folding ladder in case of a fire. I have lots of containers of heavy duty pepper spray and those little gadgets that will break your car window and cut your seatbelt if you drive off a bridge. And to this day, he still gives me bags of bullets that I can use on the range for practice.
I was so fortunate to have such a great childhood. My dad, the police officer, put in long hours over his forty-six year career, and it was scary when he was called out in the middle of the night for emergencies. There were many mornings that I went to school, and he hadn’t come home from the callout that was a hostage situation, a shooting, or a missing child. Many of our hand-me-downs went to kids who were in trouble, and stuffed animals always ended up in the trunk of his cruiser for a child who needed some comfort.
I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I learned some amazing life skills. How many kids do you know who can make dummy bullets, recite police radio 10-codes, or get out of Zip-ties?
What early influences did you have?
Through the years, Heather Weidner has been a cop’s kid, technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager. She writes the Delanie Fitzgerald mystery series, the Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries, and the Mermaid Bay Christmas Shoppe Mysteries (2023).
Her short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 Shades of Cabernet, Deadly Southern Charm, and Murder by the Glass, and her novellas appear in The Mutt Mysteries series.
Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather now lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.
Social media links:
Website and Blog: http://www.heatherweidner.com
There is nothing like finding a dead body, clad only in a red satin thong, on your property to jolt you from a quiet routine. Jules Keene, owner of the posh Fern Valley Camping Resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is thrust into the world of the Dark Web when one of her guests, Ira Perkins, is found murdered in the woods near her vintage trailers. Jules quickly discovers that the man who claimed to be on a writing retreat was not what he seemed, and someone will go to any length to find what he left at her resort. Jules, along with her Jack Russell Terrier sidekick Bijou, has to put the rest of the missing pieces of a blackmailing scheme together before her glamping business is ruined.
Jules’s resort, set in the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains near Charlottesville in the quaint town of Fern Valley, offers guests a unique vacation in refurbished and upcycled vintage trailers. Hoping to expand her offerings, she partners with her maintenance/security guy to create a village of tiny houses, the latest home DIY craze, but a second murder of a reporter interrupts Jules’s expansion plans. Curiosity gets the best of her, and she steps up her sleuthing to find out what Ira Perkins was really up to and what he was really hiding at her resort.
Buy link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09GGBFWT5