Sunday, March 22, 2020

Something Different


We all are susceptible to falling into routines.  Whether its work or school related, even downtime can become a pattern that may be difficult to break. As a writer, I am always in pursuit of the next great story idea, the next great character, either hero or villain.  Yet there are times, I need a little nudge to move me in a new direction. To take a chance. To try something different.

Back in the fall, Melissa from Inkspell Publishing sent out a note to the team of talented authors in her house that she was interested in another short story collection. A couple of years ago, I wrote “Stealing Haven” which was included in the vacation collection called “Once Upon a Summer”.   But the idea of coming up with another Jamie Richmond tale didn’t immediately take shape.  Then one of the crew mentioned the idea for a paranormal story.

My sarcastic brain kicked back “Paranormal?  Hell, I’m abnormal.”

And just like that, something with a twist kicked in.  Primarily I write mysteries and some mystery/romance, but I’d never tried a paranormal story.   About this same time, I’d been trading emails with Elle Nina Castle, an author in Australia who read “Why 319?” and thoroughly enjoyed it.   If I was going to embark on a new area of fiction, perhaps some assistance would be in order. I pitched the idea of collaboration on the story. 

Her first response was “Me?  You want to write this with me?”

“Why not?” I said. “No guarantees, but it might be fun.”

So we bounced a tale back and forth, a twist on a classic children’s story, and then as Jackie Gleason used to say “Away We Go!”





We each would write a scene, then share it for feedback.  Gradually we plotted out what was missing and figured out who would write specific sections.  Several months later, we hit the target of 26,000 words.  Both of us reviewed the manuscript, made a few edits and additions here and there.  Then it was the moment of truth.  I submitted it to Melissa last Sunday night.

Monday evening Melissa responded with a contract. 

24 hours!

This kind of reaction doesn’t happen to me.  Maybe to guys like Stephen King, James Rollins and Greg Iles get responses so quickly. Of course, they’re probably under a multiple book contracts for years.

But not me.

Elle is probably still floating two feet off the ground. 

I’m in a state of amazement and wonder.  Did we really do this? Two people who have never met, let alone even talked on the phone, have written a story that is slated to be published in July.  Thanks to the wonders of technology, this is actually going to happen.  As Chuck Berry would say, “You never can tell”.

Who am I to argue with the father of rock and roll?





Thursday this week saw the first issue of my newsletter.  It’s got details about writing, an interview with a great new author, bits about music and movies and the chance to win an e-book copy of one of my novels.  Check it out.  And if you’re interested in getting a monthly copy right in your email box, drop me a note at motownmysteries@gmail.com


Since I mentioned Jamie above, it seems only fitting to include an excerpt from the short story “Stealing Haven”.

The passage begins with Jamie and her best friend, Linda, on vacation in South Haven, which is a lovely resort town on the shores of Lake Michigan.



I didn’t want to move.

Moving might convince me that I was no longer asleep, that the cool breeze caressing my bare skin was not the touch of some mysterious lover who appeared when the lights went out. That despite the presence of others he was treating me like a princess, understanding how the slight nuzzle behind my knee was having a very unladylike effect on me, how with just tiny encouragements the little bits that I was wearing would disappear in a heartbeat. How…

          “Jamie! We have to get moving,” a sultry voice said. “You’re going to sleep away the day. We could have stayed home and done that.”

          I waved a hand to push her away. Maybe the guy who’d been caressing my knee was still there. He was. I could tell by the wet tongue that stroked my leg. I jerked awake and rolled over.  Instantly I was greeted by a mass of fur and several sloppy kisses. Satisfied, the dog moved away in pursuit of someone else to bother.

          “Linda, can’t you control Logan?”

          She flopped down beside me. “Of course I can. He was simply following orders. There are miles of soft sandy beach out there, just waiting for us. Blue skies and enough wind to fill a sail. Who knows how many handsome men may be pining for us at this very moment?”

          I pried open both eyes to see if she was serious. She was. Then I took a good look at her. Part of me wanted to smack her, just because. She’d gotten the same four hours of sleep I had. Yet Linda could have stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine. Her luxurious dark curly hair was pulled back with a headband, the waves sweeping across her shoulders like gentle wings. Two weeks into June and she was already sporting a bronzed tan that I could never achieve. Her curvaceous body and shapely legs have caused even somber men to stumble. But it’s her angelic face that always closes the deal. She rarely wore makeup. She didn’t need it. Giving my head a shake to chase away the remnants of my dream, I realized she was already dressed for the beach in a modest red bikini with a white lacy blouse as a cover up. Like that would reduce the attention she’d draw.

          “Come on. We’re wasting sunshine.”

          “How long have you been awake?” I mumbled.

          “Fifteen minutes. The coffee should be ready.” There was no disguising the enthusiasm in her voice. “Get ready, or I’m tempted to leave you behind.”

          “I need more than coffee.”

          “There’s an adorable little bakery between here and the beach. I’ll buy you a muffin.”

          “What the hell.” I slid off the bed, trudging to the bathroom.

God, she can be so annoying. She’s as gorgeous as a Hollywood icon and able to bounce out of bed ready to face the world with minimal effort. I could hear her talking with the dog as I splashed cold water on my face and raked a comb through my red locks. Shedding the camisole and panties I’d worn to bed, I stepped into a bright green bikini.  From my bag in the room I dug out a threadbare man’s dress shirt and slipped it on as a cover. Exiting the bedroom, Linda handed me a cardboard cup of coffee. Over one shoulder was a large straw bag filled with a beach towel, sunscreen, a floppy hat and a book. I had one just like it sitting beside the door. I grabbed mine as we walked outside.

Logan was sprawled in the shade. Sitting on a camp stool was a short, stocky man with a weathered face. Thin wisps of grey hair danced in the breeze from the lake. In front of him was an easel with a tattered canvas. He turned slightly as we approached.

“Do you mind watching the dog while we’re at the beach, Uncle Jake?” Linda asked.

He pointed the end of the paint brush at her. “Nah, the dog’s better company than you two. I’ve trained him to fetch me a beer.”

“You can’t be serious,” I said.

Jake winked a pale brown eye at me. “About which part?”

“The beer. You love our company.”

“Shows what you know.” He twisted toward Logan and made a clicking noise with his false teeth. The dog jumped up and trotted to the corner of the house. He stuck his nose into an old galvanized tub then pulled back with a can of beer clutched in his mouth. Logan came over and stood beside Jake. Chuckling with delight, Jake eased it from the dog’s mouth. From a pocket of his paint splattered shirt, he withdrew a dog biscuit. Logan took the treat and returned to his spot beneath the tree.  With a grin, Jake opened the beer and took a healthy slug.

“It’s eight-thirty in the morning and you’re drinking beer. You’re corrupting my baby,” Linda said. It was obviously a struggle to keep her tone serious.

“The dog’s a Golden Retriever. It’s in his blood to fetch.”

“Don’t give him any beer,” Linda admonished.

Jake fluttered a hand at her.  “Go on. Have fun. And don’t be bringing any lecherous boys back here with you.  Dinner’s at six.”

Linda winked at me. She leaned in on Jake’s right side. I leaned in on the left. Simultaneously we kissed him on the respective cheek. I noticed the sparkle in his eye as we headed out.


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Music this week comes from Chuck Berry. 





Thursday, March 19, 2020

News@ 319



Welcome to the inaugural issue.  After more than 200 blog posts, I felt it was time for something new. So here’s a chance to get a peek into my world when it comes to so many topics related to my efforts.   There will be interviews with other authors, details about characters, movies that inspire and even music, since it’s so important to life. There may even be a glimpse into a current project or a ‘soon-to-be-released’ effort.  With that in mind, away we go!

So What’s the Big Deal about 319?




Some people place special significance on March 15, as it relates to the Ides of March and the times of Julius Caesar.  Others look fondly at March 17 as St. Patrick’s Day is a good reason to celebrate.  For me, I’ll take March 19.  Because if you are just using 3/15, 3/17 or 3/19, that refers to my mystery novel “Why 319?”  Over the years, I have learned that it’s better to have a distinctive title for your work. And what is more distinctive than the message a killer leaves on a motel mirror than a clue that taunts the cops?  So what better date to launch a newsletter than 319?



Writing:
In the past, I facilitated a twice-monthly writer’s workshop. Each session we would briefly discuss one component of writing, such as character development, dialogue, setting or conflict. Many in the group were amazed to learn that I don’t use an outline for my stories. I find it too restrictive.  To explain, I share this tale.

I attended a Catholic elementary school. One of the sisters teaching English gave us an assignment.  Write an outline tonight.  Then tomorrow night, write the story based on the outline. I tried to talk my way out of it. Even as a kid, I found that idea repulsive. But the nun wouldn’t budge. Frustrated, I went home and wrote the story, following the parameters that were set.  When it was completed, I wrote the outline.  After both assignments were handed in on schedule, the good sister gave me a smile and said, “See, I knew you could do it.”  I told her she was right, of course, while scanning the skies for lightning bolts.



To this day, I still don’t use an outline.

I’ll start with the main idea for a story, like a murder investigation, pick out a couple of key players from my cast of characters, and let them go.  With this style, I also don’t write chronologically. The idea for a scene will hit me and I’ll work that around a bit. Then it sticks in my head until it’s written.  Then it’s off to the next one.   Eventually I’ll figure out the timing of the scenes and what is missing to tie them all together.  As one of the nuns once said ‘Crude, but effective.”

Hey, whatever works, right?



Author Interview:  Destiny Eve


Welcome to the News. Where are you from? 
A small town in Northwest Minnesota.
What’s your ‘someday’ or dream vacation spot and why?
I have so many but probably one of the highest on my list is to take my three children to Disney World.
What’s your favorite thing to do for relaxation?
To relax, I enjoy watching TV and movies. I also like to color mandalas.
Any favorite hobbies?
I have several hobbies aside from writing. I enjoy photography, graphic design, crafting, interior design, and home remodeling. Basically I like anything creative that challenges my mind and utilizes my skills.
How long have you been writing?
I began writing when I was in elementary school. I was an avid reader as a child and it eventually led me to think I could create stories too. It started out small with picture books that I would draw and write. Then it advanced into novel writing in my teens. Ask anyone I went to high school with and they’ll tell you I always had a pen in my hand or my nose in a book.

Are you able to write full time or do you also have a job/career?
Right now my writing is at the hobby level, having yet to make a single dime off it. I do hope to change that in the very near future. Writing is something I squeeze in after my busy schedule lets up for the day. My “career” is being a mom, as well as working as an accounting clerk and secretary.

Is there a particular genre that you write?  Or more than one?  What led you to there?
This is an interesting story for me. When I became more serious about writing, I started out to write thrillers like my favorite author of all time, Stephen King. With my debut novel, Her Heart in Chains, I was surprised by how much romance I wanted to put into the story. Soon I realized I was nothing like King, and I’m completely okay with that. I write romantic thrillers. I incorporate elements from both of my favorite genres to create stories that will give you the feels and make you cringe.

Do you use friends or family as characters in your work?
I don’t use family or friends as characters in my work, specifically. I do however, pull elements from people I know and incorporate them into my characters. But it’s a hodgepodge rather than being able to pin it down to one specific person.

What authors had an impact on you growing up and as an adult? 
As a kid I fell in love with the Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine. I was always excited to check out the Scholastic Book Fair to scoop up the latest one. As I got a little older, I advanced to R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series, which was more appropriate for teenagers, even though I was much younger than his intended audience. By my early teens I picked up my first Stephen King novel, Christine, and I’ve been devouring his books ever since. Stine and King have been staples in my life and have shaped me as a writer.

Has anyone in your life influenced you or encouraged you to pursue your interests of writing? (teacher, family member, friend)
I have had several people throughout my life encourage my interest in writing but probably my biggest supporter is my sister. She is also a writer and it’s a passion we shared growing up together and one we continue to share into adulthood.

What is your favorite aspect of writing? Your least favorite? 
My favorite aspect of writing is the creativity. Building plots, inventing characters, and flying by the seat of my pants as the words flow from my brain to page. My least favorite aspect of writing is editing my work. I’m my own worst critic and I often nitpick myself to death.

What aspect of writing would you most like to improve on? 
I’ve been working a lot on my showing vs telling, and it’s something that is still a work in progress. From where Her Heart in Chains started to where it is now, it’s night and day, but I need to improve even more on it for future works.

Do you have any “must haves” with you while you’re writing?  (Food, drink, silence, noise, location, scented candles)
The most important thing for me to be able to write is tranquility. My days are chaotic and I need some peace and quiet to get my creativity flowing. I wait until the chores are done and the kids are in bed. My drinks and snacks vary widely depending on the day. I will almost always have white noise of some kind, and on rare occasions I listen to a little music.

Is there a common theme or item that appears in each of your works?  
I like to incorporate controversial topics in my fiction. As an example, in Her Heart in Chains you’ll find a long laundry list of hot-button topics such as suicide, self-harm, drug addiction, teen sex, underage drinking, domestic assault, infidelity, and homicidal violence, to name a few.

What have you learned the most from being in the writing business?
The most important thing I have learned is to write your story, your way. There are so many “rules” out there that it’s easy to get lost in the mix. I’m not saying you should disregard the important aspects of writing, but use what works for your story, regardless of what popular opinion is.

Tell us about your latest work:
Her Heart in Chains by Destiny Eve



Sweet Janelle Dixon falls for the mysterious Ian Edwards despite already having the perfect boyfriend. Soon she learns that love can have unexpected and deadly consequences.

How did you decide on your story plot?  
A pivotal scene in the novel stemmed from a dream I had, and it’s how the story was born. From there I fleshed out the major details and let the rest come through in the writing process.

Describe how this method works best for you. Outline or ‘seat of the pants’? 
I’m in between the two. I do a small, skeletal outline that really only hits the major points of the novel. The rest is written in seat-of-the-pants style.

Do you have a favorite scene you’ve written? What makes it special? 
I absolutely love the scene where Janelle and Ian run off to make out in a supply closet. Writing the sexual tension between the two characters leading up to the scene and the passion between them during it was invigorating. This scene also lays a very important foundation for everything that happens after.

Book Genre: Dark Romantic Thriller

Her Heart in Chains will be released Summer 2020. To keep up on the latest from me, check out my website at https://www.destinyeve.com/  and be sure to follow me on Twitter @museofdestiny.
Movies:
I’m an old movie buff.  It’s not uncommon for me to watch a movie more than once, often picking up details with a later viewing that shot right by me the first time. Some of the old masters are delightful to watch how they used the effects of light and shadows to set the scene, long before CGI was ever thought of.

Since we’re in March and so close to St. Patrick’s Day, it seems only appropriate to dig out “The Quiet Man”. This 1952 comedy-drama was directed by John Ford and starred John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara and Barry Fitzgerald. Wayne plays a retired boxer who moves to the little village in Ireland to live a quiet life. When he meets O’Hara the sparks fly in more ways than one, as he tries to win the girl and get acclimated with the culture of Ireland.  Ford drew upon the talents of this crew and a host of relatives to fill in supporting roles when they shot the exteriors in Ireland. The movie won 2 Academy Awards, including best director.




Music:
I can’t work in silence, so there is always music in the background. Sometimes the genre fits with what I’m writing. Other times, it’s just chance. My tastes run from old classics with Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin and others to blues, jazz, Motown and rock.  One of my favorite artists is the late Marvin Gaye.  Here are the top five of his best from the Motown style.   Let’s Get it On:  Sexual Healing:  Heard it Through the Grapevine:  Got to Give it Up:  What’s Goin’ On



Giveaway

I have 2 novels in the Jefferson Chene mystery series (“Why 319?” and “Your Turn to Die”) with The Wild Rose Press and 3 novels in the Jamie Richmond romance/mystery series (“Devious”, “Vanishing Act” and “Fleeing Beauty”) with Inkspell Publishing.  I’ve also been fortunate to have two of my recent short stories included in anthologies. “Stealing Haven” is part of Inkspell’s  “Once Upon A Summer”  and “Goody Twoshoes” is part of the “Australia Burns” collection to raise funds for the relief efforts down under.

As part of this new venture, I’m offering up a free e-book version of one of my novels.  All you have to do is click on the my blog or my Amazon author’s page. Check out the details on the books and send me an email, indicating which one is the most appealing and why.  That’s it!


Sunday, February 23, 2020

Where's Jamie?


Last week I got a message from a friend who enjoys reading about the antics of my characters.  Along with a few other comments, she had one question. “Where’s Jamie?  It’s been a while since you’ve written about her.”

Well, that’s not entirely true.  Jamie had an integral role in the second Jefferson Chene mystery “Your Turn to Die”.  This seemed only fitting since Chene made his first appearance in print in “Vanishing Act” which is the second novel in the Jamie Richmond romance/mystery series.  In addition to the three individual books, Jamie also was the protagonist in “Stealing Haven” a short story about her summer vacation, set in South Haven, Michigan.

So it’s not like I’ve forgotten my stubborn redhead. She’s been reluctantly taking a backseat while I’m working on another project. It’s easy for me to picture her standing there, hands on her hips, impatiently tapping a foot with an indignant smirk on her face. When the current story is finished and I start working on her adventures, she will be muttering ‘about time’ in my ear.

As a writer, I strive to create memorable characters. I want them to be realistic, to share some of the challenges everyday people face. That makes them more believable. So when I have someone asking about her, as if she’s going to turn a corner and bump into Jamie, it makes me smile.

She must be real, right?




(Could this be Jamie?)
 
With the focus of today’s feature on Jamie, it seemed logical to start with her first appearance. Here’s an excerpt from “Devious”.

In this scene, Jamie has been riding along with Kleinschmidt, also known as Smitty, a state trooper on patrol. The intent was to do some research for a character in an upcoming book. At the beginning of the shift, she met Sergeant Malone.



We patrolled some of the surface streets for a while, delaying our return to the interstate. Kleinschmidt seemed restless. Maybe dinner hadn't agreed with him. If I devoured my meal that fast, my stomach would certainly revolt. We turned toward the approach ramp for the freeway and a pickup truck zoomed out of the dark, narrowly missing our front fender.

"What the hell was that?" Smitty snapped on the lights and the siren. The pickup was bathed in the red twirling light. The truck's color was a faded white, dotted along the fenders. Gradually it veered across the bridge for the interstate and eased over to the shoulder.

"Drunk driver?" I asked.

"It could be. Wait here." He glanced at me as he started to get out of the vehicle.  "And I mean it this time."

"Okay, okay."

 Smitty radioed in his location and climbed out of the patrol car. The spotlight mounted on his door was trained on the truck. Shadows filled the cab.

Kleinschmidt headed straight for the truck as the driver’s door swung open. There was no one else on the road. No traffic of any kind. This section of the city didn’t even have streetlights burning. This wasn’t a residential area. It was more commercial, with little factories, probably the type that supported the auto industry. Around metropolitan Detroit, a majority of the businesses relate to the automotive industry in one form or another.  Casually, I let my eyes drift over to the right, where the outline of a warehouse could just be seen beyond the cruiser’s spotlight. I was wondering if Smitty would give this person a warning or if his indigestion would result in a ticket.

 Suddenly, I saw a flash of light and heard a muffled bang. Smitty pitched onto his back, his right hand clawing feebly at his holster as a loud roar reached my ears. The door of the truck was still open, a brown arm extended beyond the edge of the spotlight. A gun was clutched in the gloved hand. I watched in horror as the trigger was pulled back for another shot.

Everything that happened next must have been instinct. Or maybe it was merely a reaction. Or dumb luck. Or the Force. Yeah, maybe it was the Force. I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure.

I reached across and pounded on the horn with one hand, flipping the buttons Smitty had used to activate the siren with the other. The sudden noise startled the driver.  His arm jerked back into the cab and the door slammed. Spraying stones and dust behind, the truck lurched onto the road and raced away.

Fumbling the microphone off the dash, I thumbed the button. "Kleinschmidt has been shot! Send an ambulance!" I dropped the microphone and managed to get my door open. The frame around the window clipped my forehead and knocked me back a step. 

I'd forgotten to turn off the siren and its wail was splitting my eardrums. “Idiot,” I muttered, “stay calm.”  This was easier to say than it ever was to do.

Reaching back inside, I switched the siren off then rushed around to the front of the car.  Smitty was lying on his back on the edge of the road. Blood soaked the gravel beneath him. His eyes were closed, but I could see his chest moving.

I dropped to my knees beside him. "You're going to be okay, Smitty. I called for help."

"Shot by a dog," he whispered. Kleinschmidt opened his eyes weakly. "First aid kit in the trunk. Stop the bleeding." His voice was fading so fast I had to press my ear above his mouth. I got a whiff of grilled onions. 

What if the truck came back?  What if they were waiting right now, just beyond the reach of the spotlight, waiting for me to get close so they could kill Smitty?  And kill the witness too? I cringed. They wouldn’t need to shoot us, just drive right over us with that truck. My imagination was running away with possibilities.

With a shake of my head, I chased such thoughts away. I ran back to the car. I dropped the keys three times after getting them out of the ignition before finally jamming the right one into the trunk lock. There was a white metal box with a red cross on it.  I lugged it back to Smitty and knelt beside him. Where the hell was that ambulance?

There were latex gloves inside the kit on top of all the equipment. I pulled them on and rummaged through the contents. I found some large sterile gauze pads and some medical tape. Somehow I managed to crudely tape the gauze to each side of his shoulder. The bullet had entered through a small hole just beneath the collarbone on his right side. The exit wound looked bigger than a golf ball. 

"You're going to be all right, Smitty." I don't know if I said this for his benefit or mine. 

He groaned and closed his eyes again.

I didn’t know what else to do. I’d called for help. I’d patched him up. There was no way I could move him. But I didn’t think I was supposed to anyway. I thought he was still breathing, but I wasn’t sure.  Closed eyes meant death. I was sure of it.

I rocked forward and slapped his cheek. Hard. "Don't you die on me!" I screamed.

His eyes fluttered open.

My limited medical knowledge flashed through my mind—coma, shock, heart attack, trauma, tonsillitis. I had no idea what else to do for him. Where were the professionals? They should have been here already!

My eyes kept flicking from Smitty’s face, to his wound, to the direction the truck had taken. Suddenly I heard the sound of a siren. Then another joined in. I swiveled my head, trying to find them. Another groan escaped Smitty’s lips. My eyes searched his body for signs of life. I thought it was too late.

The siren sounded close now. I glanced up as the ambulance and another patrol car arrived.

"What the hell took you guys so long?" I shouted as they rushed to us. The paramedics rudely pushed me aside and bent over Smitty. I was about to kick one guy squarely in the ass when someone grabbed me from behind and lifted me off the ground. I was carried back to Smitty's car, struggling all the way. Finally, they sat me down on the hood.  My eyes focused and I recognized Sergeant Malone.

"Relax, Jamie. Let the paramedics do their job."

I was exasperated. How could he be so calm when one of his own men lay there wounded?  "He could be dead by now, Malone. He's been lying there bleeding for over an hour."     

"It hasn't been an hour. It's only been three minutes." Malone tried to smile but it never reached his eyes.

"Three minutes?"

"Three minutes. Your call came in two minutes after Smitty radioed in his position. His report was logged in at ten-fourteen. Your call was at ten-sixteen. It's now ten-nineteen."

"Three minutes?" I repeated.

"That's all, Jamie." Malone pointed over my shoulder to the ambulance. They were already loading Smitty into the back of the wagon. One of the medics waved at Malone, flashing a thumbs up signal.  Malone returned the gesture.

"He's okay?" 

"He's not going to die. Kleinschmidt's damn lucky you were riding with him tonight. Help might not have gotten here so quickly if it weren't for you." We watched the ambulance race away, sirens wailing. The hospital was two miles up the road.

"It all happened so fast."


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Music this week comes from Willie Nelson.