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.