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.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Road Trips

I live in West Michigan. Kind of halfway between Motown and Chicago, which can lead to all sorts of opportunities.  This week we headed west and went to visit our son in Chicago. Along the way we got caught up in steady downpour. While the weather didn’t cooperate, it didn’t dampen our spirits of the time we spent together.

I’m used to driving. Road trips are a great opportunity for me to work on a scene or dialogue when the conversation lapses. Most of the times on the road, I don’t even have music playing. The sounds of the highway are all the background noise I need. By now my wife has come to recognize the signs and understands that I’m conversing with my characters.

Yesterday was a perfect example. I’m nearly done with the first draft of the sequel for Why 319.  When she asked I explained a few details needed elaborating and a couple of minor plot points I wanted to clarify. After that, I’ll read the entire manuscript through. Then I’ll reach out to a some other authors to see if there is any interest in giving it a read. Often these people will spot a point in the story that needs greater attention.  Once that’s done, it will be ready to submit to the publisher. Then, it’s hurry up and wait. Or, more likely, on to the next story.

So road trips for me can be just another way to write. 

And here’s a perfect tune by the Doobie Brothers for a road trip.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

To Each His Own

We’re all different. Thank God for that.

We all have different backgrounds, different interests, different strengths, different weaknesses. Some people abhor doing manual labor. Others revel in it. Same can be said for paperwork, dental appointments, opera and more. There is probably nothing that everyone enjoys.

In addition to reading and writing fiction, I like to cook. I’m not a chef, but some recipes seem to draw me in. There was even a point in time when I operated a catering business. During one of those events, I had a brief conversation with a young couple that still kicks around in my memory.  Most of the evening’s food had been consumed and I was checking on the desserts when they approached. He was a big bear of guy, with a wide grin. She was a petite flower, clinging to a glass of wine.

“I want you to teach her how to cook,” he said. She began looking around for a place to hide.

“If she’s not interested in cooking, what makes you think I can teach her anything?” I asked. “Maybe you’re the one who needs to learn how to cook.”

“But cooking is women’s work.”

I pointed out that many of the world’s greatest chefs are male. Furthermore, I was the one who had prepared all the evening’s dishes that he enjoyed. Sheepishly the guy turned away. But his lady threw me a wink and smile. 

So you never know by looking at someone what their interests are. As we age, it’s not uncommon to develop new interests and experiences. It could be rock climbing, biking, skiing, board games or travel.  Different times of year may trigger different interests. Autumn means cooler temperatures, leaves changing colors, kids going back to school and football.  I gotta have football. There's always time for football.  Like this guy here.

Here’s an excerpt from “Vanishing Act” that ties in with different interests. In this scene, Jamie and her best friend Linda, are talking about last night’s New Year’s Eve festivities, where Linda’s blind date was Vincent Schulte, an old friend of Jamie’s.

       Maybe it was because I had known Vince for so long that the image of him being sexy never crossed my mind. Then I remembered how he had looked in his tuxedo last night.
 “I had no idea he could be so romantic,” Linda said quietly. “Dancing all night long was like a slow-motion seduction. And when he kissed me at midnight, I felt like my body was on fire.”
          It was easy to see the impact Vince had had. Linda’s face was flushed and her eyes grew wide at the memory. “I saw that kiss. I never expected that.”
          Linda nodded slowly. “Did you know he speaks Italian? While we were dancing last night, he would pull me close, caress my ear with his lips and whisper to me in Italian.”
          “What did he say?”
     “He would say it in Italian then translate for me. He said ‘Mi ha detto che ero la donna piĆ¹ bella del mondo’ that means that I am the most beautiful woman in the world. By the time I was in the limo, I was melting in his arms.”
          “This is incredible,” I whispered. “You remember the actual words he spoke, in Italian?”
          “Baby, he kept repeating them to me, teaching them to me, so later on he wouldn’t have to explain what they meant,” Linda said, her lashes fluttering with the memory.
          “This is incredible,” I repeated.
Linda squeezed both my hands in hers. “You have no idea. When we got home, there was never any doubt in my mind that we’d make love. I couldn’t wait. But Vince didn’t want to rush things. I think he took an hour to get me out of my dress.”
          “I don’t believe that!”
          Linda lowered her eyes demurely. “Well, maybe it was only five minutes. But he wouldn’t rush. He kept touching me lightly, his fingertips were everywhere.” Linda’s eyes were glazed over as she brought all this back to the forefront of her mind.
          “And you can remember this Italian expression?” I asked, trying to get the conversation back on solid ground.
          She blinked and brought herself back to the present. “Vince kept repeating the words to me, slowly, so I could recite them as well. I may not have them down exactly, but I’ll never forget. It was sexy enough just to hear him speak Italian, but when he told me what the sentence meant, I think it’s embedded into my mind. It was the most romantic night of my life, Jamie.”

This song popped up a couple of times this week. Considering everything that’s been happening lately, it seemed like a perfect track. Here’s the Eagles.