Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Warning & The Video

One of the things I enjoy about doing the different book festivals is the opportunity to meet with readers and talk about writing, my novels, characters and crazy ideas. 

Along with the display of my books and a jar of sour gummy worms or “Bookworms” I also keep a stack of bookmarks on the table.  The front has the cover art for my four mysteries. But it’s the back side that almost always gets a laugh or two.

When I first started writing the Jamie Richmond stories, I had a couple of friends who were willing to read early drafts and give me some feedback. I didn’t realize it at first, but turns out both of these young ladies were redheads. So you can see where this is going.  While they enjoyed the story and had some great insights, each one basically said the same thing. 

“You based this character on me.”

“What makes you think that?” I asked, knowing all of my characters are a compilation of physical descriptions and traits that I’ve either observed or made up out of thin air.

“Because she’s a stubborn redhead.”

I hesitated for a nanosecond. “Every redhead I’ve ever met is stubborn.”

Despite my protests, they continued to argue their case. Reluctantly I gave up. Somewhere along the line I muttered “whatever gets you through the night.”

Flash forward a couple of years and this situation continued to repeat itself with other people I know.  I’d even gone so far as to point to the disclaimer inside the books, which basically confirms these as works of fiction and any resemblance to actual people living or dead is strictly coincidental.  Yeah, that didn’t help much.   

Frustrated with these attempts to claim their influence on my creativity, I drafted the following message and began printing it on the back of the bookmarks.

·        You are in the presence of an author. Anything you say or do may end up in a published story or novel.
·        These interactions may be altered to fit the character and ultimately may not be flattering to you.
·        Your physical appearance, wardrobe, behavior and demeanor may be adjusted. Any body art, piercings, hair extensions and surgical enhancements may be exaggerated or eliminated.
·        All characters created are the result of the author’s imagination. Any similarities to any person living or dead is strictly coincidental. Yes, really.
·        You will not receive compensation or acknowledgment for your contributions to the story.

I make it a point to share this with people at the festivals. Because you never know when someone you see might inspire a new character.  So you’ve been warned. If our paths cross, you just might end up in a story.

Recalling the events that lead to the warning reminded me of the perfect song to go with it.

Also, last week I learned that the video interview I did with the local public library is now available. So if you want to hear my pitch for the latest book, check it out.

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.