Sunday, December 10, 2017


One of the biggest challenges for a writer is creating the relationships between characters. Depending on your story, your players may be polar opposites, more inclined to beat the snot out of each other than collaborate or agree on anything. Or there could be that ever present tension that you just know is going to come to a head at some point. And when it does, there could be fireworks of the romantic persuasion. Or fisticuffs.  You never can tell.

Over the years I’ve honed the habit of observation. Watching how people interact, how they handle difficult situations can be very telling. Do they downplay it with humor? Do they assume that because they are having a good day or a bad one, that everyone else will be in the same mode? Do they get angry, stomp their feet, throw things or walk away sulking?  

It can all add up to interesting characters. I want mine to have flaws, just like real people. No one is perfect. We may all do some things well. But no one is a master of everything. That’s unrealistic.  Showing how these characters interact, how they play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses, takes a lot of patience. And those same traits can significantly impact how they get along with others in their relationships. It’s always a challenge. But one I look forward to. 

Here’s an example of a relationship from “Why 319?”  In this scene, Jefferson Chene, who narrates the story, is surprised by a change of tactics from Captain Pappy Cantrell as to how the investigation into the three homicides should be handled.

Cantrell tucked the cigarette into the corner of his mouth and snapped a flame with his lighter. 

I waited until everyone else filed out of the room. Cantrell let his eyes close as if he were meditating. With the smoke curling up around his head, he looked like something out of a Tennessee monastery. The Art of Zen, courtesy of Jack Daniels.

“Well?” he muttered without opening his eyes.

“When were you going to clue me in on this plan, Pappy?”

“Y’all weren’t ready.”

I didn’t try to keep the anger from my voice. “Bullshit. I’ve been the lead on ninety percent of the investigations we’ve handled for the last three years. You know it. I know it. The whole freaking squad knows it.”

He took a long drag and pulled the cigarette from his lips. “But not everybody likes it.

I didn’t even have to think about it. “You mean Barksdale. The guy’s a dinosaur.”

“Would that be a triceratops?”

I was surprised he was able to name one, but then, Cantrell could be full of surprises. Like this new plan. “So how do you see this?”

“We split into three teams, just like Ah said. We put Koz with the new girl, Laura. Give them the oldest case, the Wayne County. You and Megan take the Macomb one. Bloomfield will want their girlie working their crime. We stick her with Barksdale.”

“So why didn’t you tell me before?”

“You all right, Chene, but you ain’t no actor. Ah wanted everyone to know this was a surprise, even you. It made your reaction real. You gettin’ pissy ’cause Ah didn’t tell you about it first.”

I considered it for a moment. The old bastard had it down cold. Barksdale would have pitched a holy fit if I’d made the decision to split the team by case and assign him the outsider. He and Megan could barely stand each other. Laura was too new to stick with him. That left the Bloomfield detective. Since the orders were coming down from Cantrell, there was no way he’d argue it. Especially when it appeared that Cantrell did not trust me to make the call. It was a stroke of genius, pure logistical genius. I told him as much.

“’Tweren’t nothin. You might have figured it out in a couple of days.”

“Don’t be so modest, Pappy. You know how to manipulate him.”

“Uh huh.”

It took me a moment to admit the rest. “And me too.”

He nodded slowly. “Hell, Chene, if Ah can’t ever manipulate ya, y’all ain’t no good to me.”

Here's a shot of what Pappy Cantrell might look like.

Of course, there's gotta be a little music.  Here's an old favorite from Aretha.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Now on Audio!!!

People today have so many demands on their time that the idea of 'multi-tasking' should be automatically assumed. We're all pulled in many directions simultaneously. Balancing the issues of work, family and friends is no easy deal.

Yet it's good to have goals. Sometimes they are very similar to dreams.  While I can't speak for all authors, it's always been a goal/dream to see one of my novels turned into a movie. While that hasn't happened yet, I'd like to think that possibility is one step closer.

That's why today is such a blast for me. It's the achievement of another goal.  Writing a novel and getting it published takes a lot of dedication and hard work. You're constantly reviewing and editing, trying to make sure each paragraph, each sentence is as close to perfect as you can get.  Because you want to engage the audience, draw them in, make them care about your characters and the challenges they are facing.  But that can be hard to do when they're running from work to soccer practice to the grocery store, to PTA meetings, to dinner with the relatives and so much more.

Today marks the day that the first Jefferson Chene novel, "Why 319?" is available as an audio book. That's right. It's now live on Amazon, narrated by Keith McCarthy, who did a fantastic job, putting voices to my players.  So if you prefer to listen to a story while you're on the run, or watching that soccer practice from the sidelines, here it is.  And you can even get it for free.  Just check out the details on the Amazon page.

Many thanks to Keith for his talent and hard work bringing my characters to life. And to the good people at Wild Rose Press, who took a chance on my story.

Of course, there's got to be music. While the context may not be exactly what you'd expect, the title is the first thing that came to mind.  Enjoy!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Decking the Halls

Decking the Halls

If you look closely, you can still see Thanksgiving in the rear view mirror. Time has a habit of flashing by for me. I’m still trying to figure out what happened to August and the heat of summer while December is just peeking around the corner. One of these days, I’ll figure out how to slow things down. 

Meanwhile, I’m doing my part to get things ready for the holidays. It’s easier to take it in stages, with the Christmas tree, lights and decorations. No sense rushing around trying to do everything at once. 

Before you know it, the radio stations will be playing Christmas carols around the clock and the networks will be dusting off the Hollywood holiday movies from the shelves. Of course, Hallmark started showing Christmas movies in October.  I’m still waiting for “Die Hard” and “Scrooged” to appear, right along with “Jingle All The Way”.

So between segments of decorating, I’ve been working on a new Jamie story.  This may not turn out to be a full novel. Maybe a short story or a novella. I’ll have to wait and see what Jamie has in mind.

Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt from “Devious” to put you in the holiday mood. In this scene, Jamie has found a new place to live and wants to get it ready for the holidays.

I really wanted to spend Christmas in my new place. Part of the magic would be to spring it on Malone as a holiday surprise. Disappointment was closing in. I knew it was a last minute decision, but I had to go through with it. Inspiration saved me.

I didn't have to move completely, just enough stuff to get through a few nights. Kitchen gear for cooking, clothes to wear, gifts for the tree. A tree!  Not some polyester conglomeration of wires and bristles. I wanted an honest to God Scotch pine with needles and a thirst, tinsel and popcorn and ornaments and lights.  It was time to get moving.
     He sat there patiently while I drove to the house. It was only a few miles away and traffic was nonexistent. A light dusting of snow had fallen earlier, making everything sparkle. I parked by the curb and helped him from the car. He held my arm gingerly and followed me up the walk and the two short steps to the front entrance. Inside I made him stand by the door and wait.
  "What's going on?" Malone blinked as his eyes swept the room.
  "Welcome home." I patted the sleeping bag beside me. I was sprawled on top of another one, clutching my long, wool winter coat around me. A queen-sized air mattress was beneath them, giving the nest a bed-like quality.
  "It's my new place. I rented it last week."
  "Room for two, Malone, if you're interested."

   He stood there by the door, staring. I couldn't read his reaction from here and started getting nervous.
  "Aren't you going to come in?" I pleaded. "Take the chill off, get cozy."
  In front of the picture window was our tree, five feet of Blue Spruce, trimmed with little lights, ornaments and strings of popcorn. Outside I'd wrapped the railing in tinfoil and red ribbons. The fire was burning strongly, throwing heat toward the sleeping bag nest.  Beneath the tree were a dozen packages for Malone

Timing is everything. As I’m writing this, thinking about favorite old movies, this classic from the Rolling Stones came up on Pandora. How appropriate.