Sunday, November 26, 2017

Decking the Halls

Decking the Halls

If you look closely, you can still see Thanksgiving in the rear view mirror. Time has a habit of flashing by for me. I’m still trying to figure out what happened to August and the heat of summer while December is just peeking around the corner. One of these days, I’ll figure out how to slow things down. 

Meanwhile, I’m doing my part to get things ready for the holidays. It’s easier to take it in stages, with the Christmas tree, lights and decorations. No sense rushing around trying to do everything at once. 

Before you know it, the radio stations will be playing Christmas carols around the clock and the networks will be dusting off the Hollywood holiday movies from the shelves. Of course, Hallmark started showing Christmas movies in October.  I’m still waiting for “Die Hard” and “Scrooged” to appear, right along with “Jingle All The Way”.

So between segments of decorating, I’ve been working on a new Jamie story.  This may not turn out to be a full novel. Maybe a short story or a novella. I’ll have to wait and see what Jamie has in mind.

Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt from “Devious” to put you in the holiday mood. In this scene, Jamie has found a new place to live and wants to get it ready for the holidays.

I really wanted to spend Christmas in my new place. Part of the magic would be to spring it on Malone as a holiday surprise. Disappointment was closing in. I knew it was a last minute decision, but I had to go through with it. Inspiration saved me.

I didn't have to move completely, just enough stuff to get through a few nights. Kitchen gear for cooking, clothes to wear, gifts for the tree. A tree!  Not some polyester conglomeration of wires and bristles. I wanted an honest to God Scotch pine with needles and a thirst, tinsel and popcorn and ornaments and lights.  It was time to get moving.
     He sat there patiently while I drove to the house. It was only a few miles away and traffic was nonexistent. A light dusting of snow had fallen earlier, making everything sparkle. I parked by the curb and helped him from the car. He held my arm gingerly and followed me up the walk and the two short steps to the front entrance. Inside I made him stand by the door and wait.
  "What's going on?" Malone blinked as his eyes swept the room.
  "Welcome home." I patted the sleeping bag beside me. I was sprawled on top of another one, clutching my long, wool winter coat around me. A queen-sized air mattress was beneath them, giving the nest a bed-like quality.
  "It's my new place. I rented it last week."
  "Room for two, Malone, if you're interested."

   He stood there by the door, staring. I couldn't read his reaction from here and started getting nervous.
  "Aren't you going to come in?" I pleaded. "Take the chill off, get cozy."
  In front of the picture window was our tree, five feet of Blue Spruce, trimmed with little lights, ornaments and strings of popcorn. Outside I'd wrapped the railing in tinfoil and red ribbons. The fire was burning strongly, throwing heat toward the sleeping bag nest.  Beneath the tree were a dozen packages for Malone

Timing is everything. As I’m writing this, thinking about favorite old movies, this classic from the Rolling Stones came up on Pandora. How appropriate.

Sunday, November 19, 2017


You just never know when or where inspiration will strike. There are times when I’m just going about my business and I’ll overhear a snippet of conversation, or witness the interaction between others and it’s like a firecracker busting loose on the Fourth of July.  On rare occasions I’ve been known to mutter ‘holy shit’ or words to that effect.  The idea may not have anything of substance to do with what I just saw, it’s merely the way my neurons connected it. 

I’ve had people ask me where I get my ideas for stories from. Usually I’ll just give them a sage nod and say, ‘yes’, which just adds to their confusion. There really is no way to explain it.

So this week I was looking for a little inspiration.  A few writing friends passed along the link below about a flash fiction contest.  This was a chance to win up to   $ 20,000 for 100 words.  While I’m a fan of brevity, putting together a story in so few words isn’t something I’ve ever tried before. But for that kind of dough, it was worth a shot.

Of course, after submitting my entry, I realized this was the foundation for a much longer tale. Not sure when I’m going to get the chance to elaborate on it, but at least the inspiration is there, quietly percolating.

Here’s an excerpt from “Devious” that fits in with the inspiration. In this scene Jamie and Malone have started dating, but they’re still getting to know each other.

It was after ten when we went out for breakfast. My cupboards were barren. I promised Malone I'd go grocery shopping today. Over waffles and bacon, he caught me staring at him. I was having grapefruit and coffee. I was willing to control one appetite while the other was being satiated.
"What's on your mind, Jamie?"
"I don't know where to start."
"Make believe it's a book. Try the beginning."
I laughed. "I never start at the beginning. I usually work from the middle, then write the ending and work backwards."
"Okay, start in the middle." I noticed the twinkle had returned to his eyes when he smiled.
"Let's start with you. Do you realize, it's been two weeks since we’ve been seeing each other, and I know more about my dry cleaner than I do about you?" I swiped a piece of bacon from his plate, hoping he wouldn't notice.
"What do you want to know?" He motioned the waitress over to refill our coffees.
"Everything, Malone, I don't even know your first name."
"What’s in a name?” His eyes were turning me on, making it difficult to sit still. “Does it really matter?”
"I guess not."
He chuckled. "How about if I give you a profile? I'm forty-two, divorced, no kids, like skiing, sailing, baseball and football. I've been a state trooper for seventeen years and never wanted to be anything else. I like classical music but not opera, jazz but not reggae. Don't even mention rap. I prefer to sleep in the raw.  I drink coffee black, without any fruity flavors in it. Good enough?"
Some profile. My character sketches are more detailed than that. "For now. But you still didn't tell me your name."
"I only use Malone. Your turn."
"For what?"
"Your profile. Pretend it's for a famous magazine ad." He held his coffee cup in both hands as he sipped, letting the steam rise before his eyes.
"Okay. I'm thirty-one, never been married, seven kids by seven different men, I like opera and reggae and some rap. I like almost all sports. I have a degree in journalism. All I’ve ever wanted to do is be a writer. I don’t even know where my diploma is. I’m a packrat, but when the seasons change, I make it a point to throw stuff out, like old boyfriends, and get organized.”
The look on his face was a cross between disgust and humor. "Rap music?”
"Some of it’s good.”

Here's an oldie that was just playing on Pandora. While it's been covered by many artists, but this version by the Mamas and Papas is still my favorite.

Sunday, November 5, 2017


I’ve lived in Michigan most of my life.  As such, I get to experience the four different seasons and the changes they bring. 

Fall has always been my favorite. Depending on your location, you might see vibrant greens, golds and reds as October arrives, shifting the colors of the many trees that dot the landscape.  Or you can feel the chill in the air, the crispness that greats you when you walk out the door early in the morning. 

It’s Mother Nature’s reminder that the orchards are brimming with apples and cider, and if you look over your shoulder, you might see hints of winter approaching.

This column should have been done a month ago. But like so much in life, things kept getting in the way.  Other ideas kept jumping up, too good to ignore. So as the good nuns in Catholic school used to say, ‘Better late than never’. 

To go with that theme, here’s an excerpt from “Devious” where Jamie and Malone are going out for brunch on their second date.

Malone wouldn’t say where we were going. He drove west, headed toward Ann Arbor. We passed the city and kept going. An hour later, we were outside of Jackson. He turned off the highway and began zigging and zagging through two lane roads. We ended up at a country inn. A small lake was in the background. A string quartet was playing softly. Buffet tables laden with everything from fresh fruit to venison lined one wall. At the end was a chef in the traditional whites with a Red Wings baseball cap on his gray head. He was making omelets big enough to feed a family of four.
“Hungry?” Malone asked quietly as I stood there surveying the bounty before me. I noticed the dining room was packed and many people were waiting in the lobby.
“Suddenly, I’m starved.”
He steered me back to the hostess stand. There was a frazzled young woman standing at the podium. She smiled valiantly as we approached.
“Happy Sunday. Do you have reservations for the buffet?”  Her voice was as squeaky as a cartoon character.
I was shaking my head no when Malone indicated that we did. She scrolled down the list, made a checkmark against his name and led us to a table overlooking the lake.
We started with coffee, giving the crowd at the buffet line a chance to thin out.
“That’s pretty impressive that you made reservations and got me here on time, Malone.”
His eyes twinkled over the rim of his coffee cup. “A very wise man once said, timing is everything.”
“I’m betting you didn’t make the reservations this morning,” I said.
“Nope, I made them yesterday.”
“You’re pretty sure of yourself, Sergeant.”
“It goes with the territory.”
Brunch was a long, leisurely meal that seemed to last three hours. We went slowly through the buffet line, sampling the delicacies. There was smoked salmon, pate, venison tenderloin with mushrooms and capers in a brandy cream sauce, deviled eggs, roasted potatoes with garlic and chives. And that was just on the first plate.
After brunch we walked along the lake, enjoying the crisp autumn air. It wouldn’t be much longer before the snow began to fly. Already, the days were noticeably shorter.
On the drive home, Malone stayed on the state roads, rather than hit the freeway. It was almost as if he didn’t want the day to end. I know I certainly didn’t. Somewhere along the drive back, he’d taken my hand and held it gently. For stretches at a time, we were silent. Then a song on the stereo would trigger a comment, and we’d chatter away like old friends.
We walked slowly up the stairs to my apartment. I bumped my nose on the door. It was locked. Malone had to remind me to secure the place when we left. He was laughing softly as he took the keys from my hand and unlocked the door.
“You still live close enough to the big city that you should always lock up.”
“Yes sir,” I said, rubbing my nose. I walked several steps inside before I realized he wasn’t behind me.
“Hey, Malone.”
“Been a long day, Jamie.”
I came back to the door. “And a lovely, relaxing one at that, but it’s not that late. Come in.”
He hesitated. “I don’t want to rush things, Jamie.”
I don’t know if he could hear it, but my heart was thumping so loudly it could have stopped traffic on I-275. And that’s three miles away. “C’mon, Malone. Stay for a while.”
He hesitated again. My mind raced through all of the things I had done in the past to scare guys away. Being pushy or too easy was one of them. Attacking them in the hallway was probably another. But I really wanted him to stay. I couldn’t tell if he’d made up his mind or not, so I jumped right in.
“Look, Malone. I’m not a kid. Neither are you. I’m not some cop-groupie. We’re both adults. We’ve met half a dozen times or more. We’ve talked, gotten to know each other a little. We’ve just spent a lot of time together over the last two days. We’ve got a lot…”
Somewhere in the middle of this speech, he stepped into the room, pulled me close and kicked the door shut behind him.  Then his fingers were caressing my face as he leaned in close for a kiss.
“Jamie,” his voice was a soft, sexy whisper.
“…in common.”
“Jamie,” he repeated, gently kissing my mouth.
His lips traveled down my neck. “Sometimes…”
He was working his way back toward my ear. “You talk too much.”

Today's music is an old favorite from The Police.  Hope you like it.