Monday, January 2, 2012

“Bridge over troubled agendas”

Once again I’m here at the receiver of all works, my old XP, and wondering what kernel of wisdom I can impart to my writing friends. I look over at my desk, my table really, heaped with supplies. This Green Stamp purchased table has been with our family since 1956. It has held the laughter of card players and the wheels of a friend’s chair while I pushed her over the makeshift ramp into my living room from the garage through the kitchen. But first and foremost it was called the bridge table. And I think, darn, it’s been a long time since I played bridge; I love it. What happened?

Writing happened. Writing is a fulltime job regardless of the monetary returns for spent time. It takes as long to promote a book—or seven—as it does to write one.

Bridge takes three hours, plus driving time, or if you are a certified ACBL (American Contract Bridge League) director as I was for many years, it takes all day once or twice a month. There is set up and clean up, organization, watching, monitoring the rules, score tallying, and sometimes playing. As it is for my main character, Penny, in Kill Fee, it is an avocation.

Penny runs the ACBL game for her uncle because she wants him to have it to come to and play with old friends, most of whom live upstairs in the assisted living quarters. She believes it shouldn’t dissolve in his presence. He had taught her to play; her parents had played socially, so although Penny is not the generation that played serious bridge, she grew up with the game.

I’m reminded of my youngest daughter who came home from school and stopped off at the game to report in. She was six, and stood behind Maybelle McMullen, a delightful Irish lady well into her eighties who was playing with her best friend Marge. (If the names sound familiar they should, I have transplanted these ladies, offered them new last names and slightly different lives so they can have roles in my book. They’d appreciate the immortality, having been gone from this world for 25 years.)

Daughter Lynne stood behind Maybelle’s hand then walked around the table and watched Marge. She didn’t speak. When the hand was being put back in the board, an aluminum tray where the hands are kept intact, Lynne said, “Do you open four card majors?”

“No,” Marge and Maybelle answered in unison.

A satisfied look crossed Lynne’s face. “Neither do we.”

I was thrilled. She said it as if it were a family rule, like no jumping on the beds. My husband and I were so “into” Bridge that we talked about it all the time, washing dishes, eating dinner, in the car, anywhere we were together. The children grew tired of it and began teasing us with “System. Uh-oh, I said it.”

That gives you an idea of the dedication bridge players have. My Kill Fee seniors are equally dedicated. They take their cards seriously, some cheat, and some write nasty letters to the ACBL when they don’t like the results of a ruling Penny must make.

The entire bridge atmosphere is background for the opening scene in Kill Fee. Everything changes when Penny’s uncle dies at the table.

Is it murder? You betcha. I wouldn’t have it any other way. And that’s only the beginning.

Julie Eberhart Painter is the Champagne Books author of Mortal Coil, Tangled Web, and Kill Fee. See Julie’s Web site at


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Is this thing on? Tapping on the mike, or Big Mike.

Doesn't anyone remeber bridge?