Sunday, July 23, 2017

Favorite Characters

Writers pay attention to details. It’s part of our DNA.  We need to notice the little things and make sure they are included in our stories. Because if we don’t, chances are somebody else will and ask why it’s missing. And there’s no excuse for it, whether you call it laziness or sloppiness, it doesn’t matter. Ain’t no excusing it.

So yesterday while out driving, I glanced down at the car in front of me and started to laugh. Here in Michigan, like many other states, there are vanity license plates, where for a certain fee, you can have a special message on your vehicle. Of course there are some parameters that you have to adhere to, such as no vulgarities or derogatory statements. I’m sure the Secretary of State’s office here has a censor whose job is to review every application for a vanity plate.  Just in case someone tries to slip one by.

The plate that caught my eye yesterday left no room for misinterpretation. The maximum combination of seven letters or numbers were utilized.  There could be no mistake. The plate read: LJGIBBS.  Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

For those of you who may not follow television dramas, that’s the name of Mark Harmon’s character on the hit series NCIS. Gibbs is a tough investigator, a Marine sniper who grudgingly accepts the modern day talents of his team in their efforts to solve each episode’s mystery. He’s gruff on the outside, more prone to a slap up the back of the head than a fatherly embrace, but his crew knows he’s got their back. And they have his. 

What a great character. The whole series if filled with memorable characters. And that’s one of my goals as a writer. To create memorable characters that people can connect with.  Who know, maybe someday I’ll see a license plate bearing the name of one of my team. 

Here's a little old rock and roll that fits the bill.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Stubborn Redheads

So last weekend I had a very enjoyable time at the Lakeshore Arts Festival in Muskegon, surrounded by a number of other authors and a steady flow of potential readers.  One young lady who stopped by late Friday afternoon was very memorable.  She expressed interest in the Jamie Richmond character.
I gave her a quick summary of Jamie and her activities in all three books. 

The young lady winked at me, smiled and said. “Stubborn redheads.”

Recognizing that she was also a redhead, I merely nodded. “Smart too.”

Her smile widened and reached all the way up to an amazing pair of pale blue eyes. “That goes without saying.”

When I described Jamie’s interactions with Malone and police investigations, she picked up a copy of “Fleeing Beauty” and scanned the back cover.  “This reminds me a bit of that TV series, “Castle”, except she’s the writer helping the cops solve the crimes.”

I hadn’t consciously made that connection before, but saw the similarities, particularly since Beckett was a redhead. I explained that I'd started working on the first book in the series long before "Castle" was ever broadcast.  We talked for a few more minutes and she decided to buy a copy of the book.   

But her comments stayed with me. I kept thinking about Jamie and her combination of intelligence and stubbornness.  So here’s a bit out of “Fleeing Beauty” that ties into that line of though.

In this scene, Jamie is trying to figure out how someone was able to break into her late father’s studio and steal part of the collection.  She refuses to sit back and let the police work the investigation without her.

When I was working as a reporter, I’d made it a practice to keep the details on any of the people I interacted with on a regular basis. I’d broken it down into folders with different professions. There were attorneys, judges, cops, business people, contractors, editors, and other reporters.  Flipping through the lists, I started making calls. It was interesting how quickly I fell back into reporter mode. I was chasing an idea, just a glimmer of a thought.
Two calls later, I had a new lead. Three more calls and I found someone in the know. Not only that, but they were willing to make an introduction.  Now it was time to hurry up and wait. I spent the time online, doing more research. It took an hour before my phone rang.
“I would like to speak with Miss Jamie Richmond,” a deep, cultured voice said when I snatched up the phone.
“This is Jamie Richmond.”
“A mutual friend suggested it would be our best interest to meet. Are you familiar with the Townsend Hotel?”
I bit back a smartass reply. Everybody in Motown knew that swanky spot in downtown Birmingham. “Yes, I’ve been there before.”
“Tomorrow evening at six-thirty you will find me in the Rugby Grille. I will have an associate present. You may have one hour.”
“How will I know you?”
There was a pause and a dry chuckle. “That will not be necessary, Miss Richmond. I will know you. Will you be alone?”
I couldn’t help but mimic his tone. “I will also have an associate present.”
“Very well, I will see you tomorrow evening.”

So it's just a little sample, but you can see a bit of that stubbornness.  And since I've always music playing, here's what's on as I write this blog. Appropriate?  You tell me.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

You Never Know

I just completed a two-day book festival in the lovely town of Muskegon, Michigan that was part of the annual Lakeshore Arts Festival. There was a steady stream of people wandering through our venue on both days, many of whom wanted to hear all about the authors and our stories. 

This was a great opportunity to get in front of potential readers and draw them into my mysteries.  For example, there were two young ladies who stopped by on Friday as the day was drawing to a close. They both professed a love of mysteries and we talked for quite a while. 

I was pleasantly surprised on Saturday when they returned and headed straight to my table.  Cheyenne wasted no time buying a copy of “Why 319?”.  While autographing her book, I mentioned that it’s my practice to always be on the lookout for distinctive names that would make for memorable characters.   

Not ten minutes later, her friend came back to purchase her own copy of ‘319’.  Her name? Mikahla.  I have no doubt both of these will appear as characters in the sequel I’m working on.

I did have a chance to grab a couple of photos between customers. While I saw a number of redheaded women during the day, this one certainly reminded me of Jamie Richmond.  What do you think?

Some of the props on my table display included a newspaper clip from when Jimmy Hoffa disappeared more than forty years ago, along with an official FBI cap a friend gave me. As Saturday was winding down, I met a delightful couple who quizzed me about police investigations, the work of the FBI and ongoing mysteries in the Detroit area. They asked questions about ‘319’ and Per, who was from Denmark said, ‘this would make a great movie.’

My response: “I always thought so. Got any connections with a producer or a studio?”

His reply, with a knowing wink. “Maybe. You never know.”

So now the book has found an international audience. And like he said, ‘you never know.’ Wouldn’t that be something. I wonder who’d they would cast to play Jefferson Chene?

On a side note, the organizers periodically would award a shopper with a 'golden ticket' that would allow them to pick one free book from the hundreds being offered by the various authors and the organizers would pick up the tab.  Three different times during the weekend, those winners chose one of my books.  That was a nice surprise.  I'm already looking forward to next year's festival.

Since I always have music, here’s a little Motown classic that seemed to follow me along the road Saturday. Hope you enjoy it.