Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year

Like any other year, 2017 was filled with challenges. As a writer, an ongoing struggle is to find the time to write, to continue to develop my characters, to weave enough misdirection and subplots into the stories to keep the readers engaged. It was gratifying to complete the second book in the Chene series and ship that off to the publisher for consideration.  If all goes well, that could be released in the summer.  Here’s hoping.

2017 gave me the opportunity to participate in a number of book events, from Ann Arbor to Muskegon to Port Huron and Kalamazoo. While some were better than others, I always enjoy meeting readers and other authors.This was also the year that my first audio book was released. That was a goal I'd been looking forward to achieving for a long time.

So on this final day of the year, I’ll spend a little time with my characters. Jamie has a short story in the works that’s quickly grown to 7,000 words. Chene and Pappy are in the background, curious about what’s next for them. Time will tell.

So from me, Jamie, Malone, Chene and Pappy, we say farewell to 2017. Here’s hoping that 2018 will be filled with good times. May the New Year bring everyone health and happiness, a chance to build on existing relationships and to start new ones.  Peace.  


Here’s an excerpt from “Vanishing Act” that happens on New Year’s Eve.  In this scene, Jamie and Linda are preparing for an evening of dining and dancing. Jamie has set up her friend with the perfect partner for the evening, but won’t tell Linda who it is.

At seven-thirty on New Year’s Eve, the limousine picked us up. Malone informed Terrence, our driver, that we would be making two additional stops before heading to the Westin. The driver beamed a smile, touched his cap, and set off down the road.
  It’s not my nature to keep secrets, but I wanted to surprise Linda tonight. I had been on guard the last three days, expecting her to trip me up. She’d tried, but I somehow kept my mouth shut—even earlier today, when we’d been at the spa.
 Malone had sprung that on us yesterday. He’d arranged for mid-afternoon appointments so we could get manicures, pedicures, facials, and have our hair styled. If there was a gold medal given for pampering, he would have won it hands down. Linda had taken advantage of our time together to quiz me about her date.
“So what is he like, Jay Kay? Does he have a job, live with his mother, is he kind to animals? How come he was available on such short notice?”
 I took a minute to phrase my response. “He does have a job, lives alone in his own house, and I think he’s very good with animals. I also have it on good authority that he’s an excellent dancer, enjoys the finer things in life, and can be quite charming.”
 “Oh, great,” Linda said with a roll of her eyes, “he’s gay.”
 I almost sprayed Diet Coke out my nose on that one. “No, he is definitely not gay.”
“So he looks like a troll,” Linda said.
I shook my head in feigned disgust. “Would I set you up with a troll?”
“Maybe you would.”
“If I thought he was a troll, would I have bought you a red, satin thong to go with that gorgeous red dress?”
“Hey, even trolls need to get laid once in a while.”
 It had taken some effort, but I had managed to steer the subject away from her date.

Now, hours later, I snuggled down in the back of the limo with Malone. Outside, snow danced across the windshield as a light swirl of flakes descended from the clouds.
The limo made our next stop and picked up her date. He looked splendid in his tuxedo, almost as good as Malone. They greeted each other warmly. I got a kiss on the cheek. His aftershave was subdued, but sexy. We chatted quietly until the limo arrived at Linda’s house. He stepped out and moved quickly to her door. She opened it just as he reached the porch. Malone had put the window down so we could see her reaction and hear their conversation.
Linda, you become more beautiful each time I see you.”
There was a moment of hesitation in her eyes before her face broke into a wide smile. “Vince. You are the perfect date.”
As I wrote this, a great old tune from George Michael turned up in the shuffle on Pandora.  Here it is.

Sunday, December 24, 2017


We all have favorites. Whether it’s recipes, movies, books, music, restaurants or sports teams, based on our experiences and interactions, we pick ones that are enjoyable. Maybe they trigger memories of a previous visit.  

Of course, favorites can change with the seasons. This time of year my darling wife dusts off the cookbooks and proceeds to turn the kitchen into something resembling the Keebler elves factory, where a variety of cookies are created. The challenge for me is to stay out of the way and await the occasional duds. Then when everything is said and done, I get to enjoy these treats.

The holiday season is crammed with specials and movies. While we’ll probably watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, I opt for those with more humor.  Tim Allen’s ‘Santa Clause’, Bill Murray’s ‘Scrooged’ and the ultimate guy’s holiday movie ‘Die Hard’.  Hey, it takes place on Christmas Eve. Deal with it.

So with that in mind, here’s an excerpt from “Devious” that takes place on Christmas morning. 

It was late morning when I woke up. The fire was still burning brightly, jolly yellow flames jumping across the wood. Malone must have rebuilt it when he got up. The stack of birch logs in the brass stand I'd bought last week was down by half. I found my robe and padded into the kitchen, expecting him there. The place was empty. Coffee had been brewed and there was a dirty skillet in the sink. I found a plate in the fridge with my half of breakfast. Malone was gone.
    "You did it again, Jamie. You drove another good man away faster than the Black Plague. Maybe you could set a world record for the most disastrous romances." I was so stunned I didn’t realize I’d spoken the words out loud.
    His presents were unopened beneath the tree. His clothes from last night were gone. I went into the shower as the tears began to fall. If they mixed with the spray, I could always claim I hadn't really cried. The house must have been too much for him. Words like freedom and independence and space flickered through my mind. At least he could have said good-bye. If nothing else, I deserved a good-bye.
    I didn't get out until the water ran cold and my skin was beginning to wrinkle. All my plans for the day had revolved around Malone. I'd been hoping he would cook dinner. Cornish hens were in the fridge, along with the fixings for salads and dessert. I was going to try my luck at baking an apple pie. I dried off and went into the suite. Most of my clothes were hanging in the closet. Nothing appealed to me. I found the baggiest jeans I own, remnants from a time I was fifteen pounds heavier. A worn Miami Dolphins jersey topped it off. I didn't even bother drying my hair. I felt like screaming. So I did.
"Damn you, Malone! Why the hell couldn't you have stayed the night?"
    "I had to take care of something."
    I jumped when I heard his voice and ran down the hall to the living room. He was sitting with his back against the wall, watching the fire. Only now did I realize there was music on the stereo. I recognized the strains of “All I Want for Christmas is you.” How appropriate.
    "Malone." I threw myself on top of him and kissed his mouth, his cheeks, his eyes, and his nose.
    "Hey, Jay," he said softly.
    I drew back and raked my wet hair out of my face. Then I hit him, as hard as I could, with a fist on the chest. "You son of a bitch. Don't you ever leave like that again! How could you..."
    "Whoa. Take it easy." His arms squeezed me tightly against his chest, forcing away my anger. "Didn't you read my note?"
    "What note?"
    "That note." He jerked a thumb at the tree. Hanging from a string of lights was a square piece of paper. I pulled away from him and crawled over to it.
    Back soon have to help Santa with his delivery.
    "Oh shit." I felt like an idiot. The base of the tree was now filled with brightly wrapped packages I hadn't put there.
    "I had all your presents in the back of the Jeep. You were still sleeping, so I took your car back to the apartment to pick them up." Malone stroked my hair behind my ears. Will my emotions ever stop being on a roller coaster?
Looking out my window, it’s snowing steadily. So here’s a picture of a possible Jamie enjoying the snow.

Since it’s mentioned in the excerpt, here’s a version of that perfect holiday song from Mariah Carey.  May you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, making new memories, filled with laughter and love.


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Chance Encounters

You never know how those brief encounters we have with someone can impact them. Maybe it’s just a smile at someone in the grocery store as you let a person proceed in front of you. Maybe it’s a glance as you keep bumping into each other as you move through the aisles.  Sometimes one interaction can return to you months or years later.

Yesterday was a perfect example. While out running errands, I stopped at the bank to take care of some deposits. Cassandra, the young lady behind the counter, smiled brightly as she greeted me. She looked vaguely familiar. It’s rare that I actually go into the bank, instead of using the ATM or online banking. But standing there, she commented that we’d met before. 

In addition to my full time job, I also teach business classes at the local college. Turns out that Cassandra was one of my former students from a class several years ago. We chatted for a few minutes.  She updated me on her studies and her thoughts about continuing her education. Cassandra stated how much she enjoyed my class and that she’d learned a lot.  It was nice to hear I’d had a positive impact on her life.

With my writing, I don’t plot everything out in advance with an outline. I just start with an idea and a character or two and never know where that might lead. Sometimes an interaction between a couple of characters can have minor action in the story. Other times, they can play a significant role in the outcome. Hey, it’s not up to me. The characters are the ones that make it happen.

Here’s an excerpt from “Vanishing Act” that illustrates the greater impact.  In this scene, Jamie and Linda are struggling to escape the kidnapper when help arrives from an unexpected corner.

Our clothes were getting waterlogged. I didn’t know how much longer adrenaline would keep us going. I pressed my back to wall, knowing full well that when she stepped up, I might be submerged in the freezing water. That didn’t matter. I had to get her out.

I laced my fingers together. She leaned close and kissed my cheek. Then she whispered in my ear, “I will always love you, Jamie.”

“I will always love you. Now get your cute little ass out of this water so we can go home.”

She put her right foot into my hands. Together we counted to three. Linda reached up with her good arm for the top of the seawall as I lifted my arms with everything I had. As I expected, the force of her weight and the sodden clothes drove me under. Suddenly, it was as if she was light as a feather. Her weight was gone. Yet I was sinking deeper into the cold, dark water.

Strong hands grabbed the shoulders of my ski jacket and plucked me out of the water like a puppy from a washtub.

“You picked a hell of a time to go swimming, Jamie. This ain’t exactly beach bikini weather.”

    I shook the water out of my eyes and looked at him. He was sprawled on the ground, his arms hanging out over the edge of the seawall, holding my upper body out of the water. It took a second before I recognized him.

    “You gonna pull me in, Chene, or leave me dangling like a marlin?”

    “I’ve got to get a better grip, Jamie. It’s nothing personal.” He slid one hand down to my armpit then the other one.

    “You get me out of here, Chene and I’m going to kiss you.”

    A flicker of a smile crossed his face. “Don’t think Malone would be too keen on that. Brace your feet on the wall. Then when I straighten up, just walk up.”

    He must have thought I was one of the Flying Wallendas or part of a circus act. I did as he said and the next thing I knew I was on the ground. I lay there, relishing the feel of the frozen ground against my cheek. Turning my head, I saw a black Pontiac sedan in the driveway. It was running and all the lights were on. A door slammed and someone appeared above me.

    “You keep this up, Jamie and you’ll start giving civilians the idea they don’t really need cops to protect them.”

    I rolled over and sat up. Megan McDonald, the other detective I met recently with Chene, squatted beside me and wrapped a heavy wool blanket around my shoulders.

Here's a shot of what a soggy Jamie might look like. 

While writing this, the great Canadian guitarist Jesse Cook was on the stereo. Here's one of my favorites, called "Mario Takes a Walk."  Enjoy!