Sunday, November 19, 2017

Inspiration



You just never know when or where inspiration will strike. There are times when I’m just going about my business and I’ll overhear a snippet of conversation, or witness the interaction between others and it’s like a firecracker busting loose on the Fourth of July.  On rare occasions I’ve been known to mutter ‘holy shit’ or words to that effect.  The idea may not have anything of substance to do with what I just saw, it’s merely the way my neurons connected it. 

I’ve had people ask me where I get my ideas for stories from. Usually I’ll just give them a sage nod and say, ‘yes’, which just adds to their confusion. There really is no way to explain it.

So this week I was looking for a little inspiration.  A few writing friends passed along the link below about a flash fiction contest.  This was a chance to win up to   $ 20,000 for 100 words.  While I’m a fan of brevity, putting together a story in so few words isn’t something I’ve ever tried before. But for that kind of dough, it was worth a shot.

Of course, after submitting my entry, I realized this was the foundation for a much longer tale. Not sure when I’m going to get the chance to elaborate on it, but at least the inspiration is there, quietly percolating.





Here’s an excerpt from “Devious” that fits in with the inspiration. In this scene Jamie and Malone have started dating, but they’re still getting to know each other.

It was after ten when we went out for breakfast. My cupboards were barren. I promised Malone I'd go grocery shopping today. Over waffles and bacon, he caught me staring at him. I was having grapefruit and coffee. I was willing to control one appetite while the other was being satiated.
"What's on your mind, Jamie?"
"I don't know where to start."
"Make believe it's a book. Try the beginning."
I laughed. "I never start at the beginning. I usually work from the middle, then write the ending and work backwards."
"Okay, start in the middle." I noticed the twinkle had returned to his eyes when he smiled.
"Let's start with you. Do you realize, it's been two weeks since we’ve been seeing each other, and I know more about my dry cleaner than I do about you?" I swiped a piece of bacon from his plate, hoping he wouldn't notice.
"What do you want to know?" He motioned the waitress over to refill our coffees.
"Everything, Malone, I don't even know your first name."
"What’s in a name?” His eyes were turning me on, making it difficult to sit still. “Does it really matter?”
"I guess not."
He chuckled. "How about if I give you a profile? I'm forty-two, divorced, no kids, like skiing, sailing, baseball and football. I've been a state trooper for seventeen years and never wanted to be anything else. I like classical music but not opera, jazz but not reggae. Don't even mention rap. I prefer to sleep in the raw.  I drink coffee black, without any fruity flavors in it. Good enough?"
Some profile. My character sketches are more detailed than that. "For now. But you still didn't tell me your name."
"I only use Malone. Your turn."
"For what?"
"Your profile. Pretend it's for a famous magazine ad." He held his coffee cup in both hands as he sipped, letting the steam rise before his eyes.
"Okay. I'm thirty-one, never been married, seven kids by seven different men, I like opera and reggae and some rap. I like almost all sports. I have a degree in journalism. All I’ve ever wanted to do is be a writer. I don’t even know where my diploma is. I’m a packrat, but when the seasons change, I make it a point to throw stuff out, like old boyfriends, and get organized.”
The look on his face was a cross between disgust and humor. "Rap music?”
"Some of it’s good.”


Here's an oldie that was just playing on Pandora. While it's been covered by many artists, but this version by the Mamas and Papas is still my favorite.



Sunday, November 5, 2017

Seasons



I’ve lived in Michigan most of my life.  As such, I get to experience the four different seasons and the changes they bring. 

Fall has always been my favorite. Depending on your location, you might see vibrant greens, golds and reds as October arrives, shifting the colors of the many trees that dot the landscape.  Or you can feel the chill in the air, the crispness that greats you when you walk out the door early in the morning. 

It’s Mother Nature’s reminder that the orchards are brimming with apples and cider, and if you look over your shoulder, you might see hints of winter approaching.

This column should have been done a month ago. But like so much in life, things kept getting in the way.  Other ideas kept jumping up, too good to ignore. So as the good nuns in Catholic school used to say, ‘Better late than never’. 

To go with that theme, here’s an excerpt from “Devious” where Jamie and Malone are going out for brunch on their second date.




Malone wouldn’t say where we were going. He drove west, headed toward Ann Arbor. We passed the city and kept going. An hour later, we were outside of Jackson. He turned off the highway and began zigging and zagging through two lane roads. We ended up at a country inn. A small lake was in the background. A string quartet was playing softly. Buffet tables laden with everything from fresh fruit to venison lined one wall. At the end was a chef in the traditional whites with a Red Wings baseball cap on his gray head. He was making omelets big enough to feed a family of four.
“Hungry?” Malone asked quietly as I stood there surveying the bounty before me. I noticed the dining room was packed and many people were waiting in the lobby.
“Suddenly, I’m starved.”
He steered me back to the hostess stand. There was a frazzled young woman standing at the podium. She smiled valiantly as we approached.
“Happy Sunday. Do you have reservations for the buffet?”  Her voice was as squeaky as a cartoon character.
I was shaking my head no when Malone indicated that we did. She scrolled down the list, made a checkmark against his name and led us to a table overlooking the lake.
We started with coffee, giving the crowd at the buffet line a chance to thin out.
“That’s pretty impressive that you made reservations and got me here on time, Malone.”
His eyes twinkled over the rim of his coffee cup. “A very wise man once said, timing is everything.”
“I’m betting you didn’t make the reservations this morning,” I said.
“Nope, I made them yesterday.”
“You’re pretty sure of yourself, Sergeant.”
“It goes with the territory.”
Brunch was a long, leisurely meal that seemed to last three hours. We went slowly through the buffet line, sampling the delicacies. There was smoked salmon, pate, venison tenderloin with mushrooms and capers in a brandy cream sauce, deviled eggs, roasted potatoes with garlic and chives. And that was just on the first plate.
After brunch we walked along the lake, enjoying the crisp autumn air. It wouldn’t be much longer before the snow began to fly. Already, the days were noticeably shorter.
On the drive home, Malone stayed on the state roads, rather than hit the freeway. It was almost as if he didn’t want the day to end. I know I certainly didn’t. Somewhere along the drive back, he’d taken my hand and held it gently. For stretches at a time, we were silent. Then a song on the stereo would trigger a comment, and we’d chatter away like old friends.
We walked slowly up the stairs to my apartment. I bumped my nose on the door. It was locked. Malone had to remind me to secure the place when we left. He was laughing softly as he took the keys from my hand and unlocked the door.
“You still live close enough to the big city that you should always lock up.”
“Yes sir,” I said, rubbing my nose. I walked several steps inside before I realized he wasn’t behind me.
“Hey, Malone.”
“Been a long day, Jamie.”
I came back to the door. “And a lovely, relaxing one at that, but it’s not that late. Come in.”
He hesitated. “I don’t want to rush things, Jamie.”
I don’t know if he could hear it, but my heart was thumping so loudly it could have stopped traffic on I-275. And that’s three miles away. “C’mon, Malone. Stay for a while.”
He hesitated again. My mind raced through all of the things I had done in the past to scare guys away. Being pushy or too easy was one of them. Attacking them in the hallway was probably another. But I really wanted him to stay. I couldn’t tell if he’d made up his mind or not, so I jumped right in.
“Look, Malone. I’m not a kid. Neither are you. I’m not some cop-groupie. We’re both adults. We’ve met half a dozen times or more. We’ve talked, gotten to know each other a little. We’ve just spent a lot of time together over the last two days. We’ve got a lot…”
Somewhere in the middle of this speech, he stepped into the room, pulled me close and kicked the door shut behind him.  Then his fingers were caressing my face as he leaned in close for a kiss.
“Jamie,” his voice was a soft, sexy whisper.
“…in common.”
“Jamie,” he repeated, gently kissing my mouth.
“Hmm.”
His lips traveled down my neck. “Sometimes…”
“Hmm.”
He was working his way back toward my ear. “You talk too much.”


Today's music is an old favorite from The Police.  Hope you like it. 


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Familiar Faces



This week I participated in a local book festival. It’s always a great opportunity to meet with readers and talk about your novels. Many people will stop by just to check things out and see what’s new.
These festivals are also a chance to meet other authors. We share a few laughs, maybe a tip or two and compare notes.   

One such author in attendance was the delightful Stacey Rourke. Stacey’s table was set up across the room from the one I shared with Don Levin, (hey, mystery writers stick together!)  

During the course of the event, a young lady remarked about the covers of my books, particularly “Fleeing Beauty” which features Jamie, my inquisitive redhead. The young lady pointed across the room toward Stacey and asked ‘is she the model?’

I smiled and shrugged, since Stacey is also a redhead. ‘Could be.’ Later, when there was a lull in customers, I relayed the conversation to Stacey.  She flashed a smile, laughed and shook her head. Going forward, she might claim to be the inspiration for the character.

Here are links to Don’s and Stacey’s sites.  And here’s a picture of Stacey and the Fleeing Beauty cover. You decide if they’re one and the same.

 








  










 
 It seems only fitting to share a scene from one of Jamie’s novels.  Here’s an excerpt from “Fleeing Beauty”.  In this scene, Jamie, Malone and her step-father, Bert are meeting with attorney Lincoln Banning and Helen Gaines. They are inspecting a hidden storeroom that is filled with artwork created by Jamie’s late father, Peter.

I don’t know what anyone else was expecting, but I was stunned by what I saw. There was no haphazard jumble here. What welcomed me was row upon row of wooden crates. Some were so big I couldn’t see over them and I was wearing two inch heels. Others were small cubes, about two feet in every direction. Some were stacked on top of others while some were standing alone. There were five rows here. Each crate was identified with some kind of code. And each one was coated in a thick layer of dust that would have made an archeologist giddy with delight.
     “Holy crap,” I whispered. Malone was standing close by. I felt his hand squeeze mine. It took me a minute to realize I was shaking.
     “Peter was always creating,” Banning said quietly. “We spoke often about his work. He would have multiple projects going simultaneously. Some were pieces he’d designed and was commissioned to create. Others were something that struck his fancy. He suffered from insomnia, as so many creative types do. I think that just allowed him more time to work.”
     We walked around the rows of crates. Absently I trailed a finger along the wood. I realized everyone else was quietly following my lead. Bert stopped beneath the windows, arms folded across his massive chest. I followed his gaze. The ceiling was probably twenty feet up. Across the beams were a row of lights, large bulbs inside metallic shades. They easily threw a large circle of light down on the crates.  The back wall, which faced north, was solid cement for the first fifteen feet. The last section, five or six feet tall, were heavy windows reinforced with metal in the glass.
     “This will be no easy task,” Banning said as he moved back to the entrance in the wall.
     “It’s safe to assume these crates have been untouched for more than twenty years,” Malone said, brushing the dust off his palms.
     Gathering around one of the work tables, Helen brought out a copy of the list. “I’ve taken the liberty of making a few calls. There are not many firms that specialize in artwork. So far I’ve been unable to find one that would be willing to do the inventory. But I intend to keep trying.”
     “What about some college students? Maybe we could line some up while they are off during the summer,” Bert suggested.
     “This is going to be an interesting project,” Banning said. “Perhaps we could find an art history professor who would oversee the efforts. The curator at the Detroit Institute of Arts may be able to recommend someone.”
     Somehow Malone was standing across the table from me. His eyes were on mine and I watched the beginnings of a low voltage smile touch the corners of his mouth.  I was no longer listening to Bert and Lincoln Banning discussing options. Malone’s eyes burned into mine. He nodded once. His lips silently formed two words.
     “No,” I said. “We’re not doing it that way.”
     Banning seemed startled by my comment. “But, Jamie, we will need an expert’s opinion on these works in order to determine their value.”
     “Yes, we will. But I’m not having a bunch of strangers going through this. These could be priceless works of art that no one has seen in twenty-five years.”
     “What do you propose?” Helen asked.
     “I’m not proposing anything. I’m going to do it.”
     I glanced around the table. A wide smile split Bert’s face. The two attorneys looked like I was suddenly speaking an alien language. Malone winked at me.
     “Here’s my plan. I will bring in the equipment to make a video of each crate as we open it. I’ll take still photos as well, from every angle. Each one of those crates has a code or unique number on it. We’ll document everything. I’ll use the same codes and create a catalog with detailed descriptions. We can measure the pieces. Then when we have everything ready, you can arrange for an expert to come in and set the value.”
     Bert raised two fingers. “Two experts. Or maybe three would be better. That’s a good plan, Jamie.”
     “There is ample money in the estate to pay someone to do this work,” Banning said.
     “That’s good to know. I’ll have to buy the video and camera equipment, along with some tools and other equipment for the project. I’ll keep a register and all the receipts.”
     “Surely you’re not planning on doing this alone,” Helen Gaines said.
     “No, I’m going to have some help.”
     Malone’s smile grew. “I think I know who you have in mind.”

Pandora was spinning some golden oldies this morning. Here's Sinatra.