Saturday, February 18, 2017

Remembering A Legend

Before I ever seriously thought about writing, I was an avid reader, mostly of mysteries. I still am. As a kid I enjoyed the creative genius of John D. MacDonald, particularly his Travis McGee series.  In my teens I discovered the talents of Elmore Leonard and Robert B. Parker.  As time rolls on, these great writers have passed away. But their stories remain, to intrigue and entertain you. Growing older lead me to expand my horizons on the type of stories that caught my attention.

          When I lived in the Detroit area, we were close enough to Canada to pick up broadcasts from their radio and television networks. So it was one Saturday morning about fifteen years while running errands that I stumbled upon a treasure. The Vinyl Café, hosted by Stuart McLean.  This radio show, traveled across Canada, and featured many local musicians.  

But the highlight of the show was when McLean would read a story about some of his characters. He brought these people to life. All of their quirks, their habits, their dilemmas, were spelled out in fifteen or twenty minute segments.  At one moment, Stuart could have you laughing out loud, shaking your head in dismay at the antics being portrayed. The next, you could feel your eyes growing misty as he tugged at your heart. Listening to his program became a regular part of my Saturday mornings. When I discovered he’d published a collection of his tales, it was quickly purchased.  Along the years, I added a few more.  One year I dragged the whole family across the river to Canada to see a live holiday performance. We laughed for hours.

Once during an interview, McLean revealed his secret to creating such great stories. He stated the important thing was to really know your characters, to spend some time with them. Understand the way they thought, the way they would act and react.  And if you ever read or heard one of his tales, you’d get to know them in the blink of an eye.

Sadly, Stuart passed away this week.  A gentle man with a great talent to weave entertaining stories.  McLean was a bestselling author in Canada and in recent years had even brought his concert tours to some US cities close to the border. But like so many great storytellers, his tales will live on.

Rest in peace, Stuart. 

Here’s a link to one of my favorite Vinyl Café bits, “The Waterslide”. I hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Valentine's Day

Yes, it’s that time of year. Cupid is dusting off his bow, loading his quiver with an ample supply of love-inducing arrows. The chocolatiers are displaying their wares and the card shops are overflowing with what they hope will be the perfect way to express your feelings to your true love. Or something like.

I know what you’re thinking. “C’mon, man, your last name is Love. That’s gotta mean something. And you have written some steamy passages in several novels. So despite the grumpy exterior, you must possess the soul of a romantic.”   Well, maybe so. 

Having been in a relationship for a long time, I have a different take on it. Love isn’t reserved just for one day.  You see it in the little things as well as the big gestures. It’s in catching her eye across the room in a crowd of people and sharing a look and a wink. It’s leaving a note on your way to work while she’s still sleeping, knowing she’ll see it in an hour or two. It’s preparing a nice meal. Talking a quiet walk together.  Sharing a laugh. Watching a favorite old movie that you’ve both seen a dozen times before. It’s coming home from a grueling day at work to a hug and a kiss and a great dinner. It’s all of that and so much more. 

So I won’t be buying more jewelry, boxes of candy or bouquets of roses to celebrate the day.  I’ll get a few little things. And that will be just fine.

As to the steamy scenes I’ve written, here’s an excerpt from “Vanishing Act” that might fit the bill.  In this scene, Jamie’s best friend Linda is revealing her feelings for the new guy in her life. Someone Jamie fixed her up with. 

It was a Thursday, a couple of weeks after we first started working out. Linda suggested we stop for a coffee and a pastry on our way home. I was looking forward to a Creole dish Malone made, but I knew she wanted to talk about something. During our class I noticed that her smile was even brighter than normal. Apparently something had been going on.
So we pulled into a coffee shop that she likes to frequent. I got a slice of iced lemon loaf and a cup of tea. Linda got a vanilla coffee and a raspberry muffin. I waited until we were seated at a little table far from the doorway or anyone else.
“So are you going to tell me what’s going on? You’ve been beaming a thousand watt smile since you picked me up.”
I saw the color radiate on her cheeks. She lowered her eyes and took a sip of her coffee. I waited. Finally, she drew a deep breath and raised her face.
“I think I’m in love,” she said quietly.
I sat back in amazement. This was the same woman, who, not three weeks ago, had sworn that they were just getting to know each other, just going to take it slow. Suddenly she was talking love. Before I could respond, she waved a hand at me.
“Just be quiet and listen, Jamie. I know that’s difficult for you, but please just hear me out.”
I tore a corner off the pastry and popped it into my mouth, then closed my eyes to savor the lemony sweetness and let it dissolve on my tongue. I imagined this was how a sunbeam would taste. When it was gone, I opened my eyes and gazed at her. I extended my right hand and just looked at her.
“Vince came over last night. I wanted to cook for him, so I made shrimp with angel hair pasta. You know the way I do it, with mushrooms, red peppers and fresh parmesan cheese.”
    My stomach growled. It’s one of her signature dishes. I started to comment but Linda waved me quiet.
    “So we had some good Italian wine, a white one that really went well with the pasta. The stereo was on, something soft like Diana Krall and Van Morrison. After dinner, we moved to the sofa. The fire was lit and one light was on low. I had been in a bit of rush to get dinner ready when I came home from work, so I hadn’t bother to change.”
    She paused to sip her coffee. I couldn’t keep quiet. “What were you wearing?”
    “You know that turquoise sweater with the cowl neck?”
    I nodded. It does magical things for her eyes.
    “That and a black wool skirt, some stockings and those black leather boots that come up to mid-calf.”
    Linda loves boots. She has several pairs and usually likes the ones with a two-inch heel. I knew exactly the outfit she was describing. It could stop traffic any time of the day or night. Like she couldn’t do that already! I waited for her to continue. She took another taste of her coffee and then started talking quietly again.
    “So we’re on the sofa, sitting there, just listening to the music. He had an arm draped over my shoulders. And I mentioned that I had to get out of my boots. My feet were starting to cramp. That’s when things got…different.”
    I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear this, but there was no stopping her now. “What do you mean, different?” I asked.
    “Vince told me to move to the other end of the sofa. Then he slowly unzipped my boots and pulled them off me. My legs were in his lap. He started to massage my feet, chasing away the aches and pains. Then he moved up to my ankles. And the whole time, he just kept talking, keeping his voice very low and soft.”
    “What did he say?”
    Linda shuddered with the memory. “He told me all of the things he was going to do to me, all the ways he wanted to please me.”
    I pulled back the sleeve of her jacket. Her arm was covered in goose bumps. “Do you really want to tell me this, Linda?”
    “I’ve got to tell you, because I still can’t believe it happened. It was like I was hypnotized. He was in total control of me. I couldn’t even move.”
    Somehow no words found their way out of my mouth. I just stared at her so she kept talking.
    “I swear he touched on every fantasy, no matter how dark, I have ever considered. And the whole time, he just kept talking softly, massaging my legs. I thought I was melting from his charms on New Year’s Eve. That was nothing compared to last night. By the time he finally undressed me, I was so far over the edge, I didn’t think I’d ever make it back.”
    I would have never believed my good and kindly doctor would be capable of fulfilling all her fantasies. And even if I had, I could never have imagined how dark these fantasies would turn out to be.

Sounds promising, doesn't it?  Well, I couldn't resist to add this little musical piece that's perfect for my take on the big day.  Enjoy!

Sunday, February 5, 2017


Sometimes you’ll have a character who is so good, you want to keep them around for brief appearances in other stories.  Readers might recognize the character from the original story.  Or it might lead readers to go back and discover those characters again.

You see this on television shows a lot.  A successful series like NCIS has spawned two other shows, the LA version and the New Orleans one.  Occasionally characters from the original make an appearance in one of the other shows. There’s instant recognition for the audience.

I used a cameo with “Vanishing Act”.  It was the perfect opportunity to introduce Jefferson Chene, another sergeant with the Michigan State Police who leads a major crime unit of detectives.  Chene became a key player in the story.  

At the same time, I was working on “Why 319?” so I knew the character well.   Currently I’m writing the sequel to that novel and decided it was a perfect opportunity for Jamie to return the favor and make a guest appearance.  We’ll have to see how that works out.

Here’s an excerpt from “Vanishing Act” with Chene’s entrance.  In this scene Jamie has stopped by the State Police post to talk with Malone.

Malone was leaning against a desk, quietly talking with two other people. I hesitated in the background until I caught his eye. He smiled and waved me over and introduced me.
“Jamie, this is Sergeant Jefferson Chene and Detective Megan McDonald. They work with the multi-jurisdictional investigative squad.”
Chene gave me a thin smile and shook my hand. “We prefer Squad Six. It’s a lot less glorified, but it gets the job done.” His voice was low and deep.
“I’ve heard about you,” Megan McDonald said. “You’re the one who cracked the Kleinschmidt shooting. That was good work.”
I smiled at the compliment. “According to Malone, it was just a stubborn redhead with an active imagination. Hope I’m not interrupting anything.”
Chene easily shook his head. “No, we were just on our way across town from Ann Arbor. Thought I’d stop by and pick up the fifty bucks Malone owes me from the Patriots and Broncos game.”
“I told him not to bet against New England, but he wouldn’t listen,” I said.
Malone shrugged. “Hey, I’m a Denver fan. What can I say?”
While the cops bantered, I took a moment to study them. Chene was a light skinned black man, close to six feet in height, with a solid build. His black hair was clipped short. He was clean-shaven, with piercing, dark eyes. He had a short, jagged scar on his left cheek. McDonald was almost looked too pretty to be a cop. She had shoulder length blonde hair and hazel eyes. She was about my height. Her frame was muscular, but she still looked feminine. I had no doubt she could hold her own with the male officers.
“So what does a multi-jurisdictional investigative squad do?” I asked.
Megan gave me a wink. “We catch the bad guys. We can’t leave all the work to the civilians.”
“Most of our cases span different communities,” Chene said. “Sometimes they are in the same county, other times, it can involve several counties.”
“Do you collaborate with the different communities in your investigations?” I asked.
“Well, in some cases we do,” Megan said, “but usually they turn to us to take over the case. Sometimes it’s a matter of manpower or experience. Our boss kind of likes it when we’re left to work on our own.”
“Without the help of any nosy civilians,” I said.
“That goes without saying,” Chene said with another thin smile.
 I looked at him closely. He reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t make the connection. “Your name is Jefferson Chene. Isn’t that an intersection in Detroit?”
Chene nodded once. “Yes, that’s right.”
I waited for him to elaborate, but there was nothing else coming.
Malone paid his debt. Chene made a show of holding the bill up to the light, as if to make certain it wasn’t counterfeit. Then he and McDonald headed out. When we were alone, Malone pulled me close for a hug. After a while we separated and I boosted myself up on the desk, letting my legs dangle.

Here's a shot of actress Hilarie Burton, who could easily play Jamie.