Sunday, July 29, 2018

Little Steps

One of the many challenges authors face, beyond writing captivating and entertaining stories, is the book’s cover. It needs to be eye-catching, something that will make potential readers stop in their tracks and say, ‘Wow, check this out!’ or words to that effect.  As a reader, I know this has resulted in the purchase of many books over the years, often leading to the discovery of some very talented writers.

Sometimes what I have in mind for the cover doesn’t translate well for the artist or the publishing house.  There may be conflicts with models or stock photos or areas that I have absolutely no experience with.  One rendering for a Jamie Richmond mystery had a close-up of a redhead woman’s face, with a gun pressed to her temple and a hand clamped over her mouth. It was unsettling and did not correlate with any segment of the story line.  I vetoed that one in a heartbeat.

So I was pleased this week to get the final approval on the cover for “Your Turn to Die” the second Jefferson Chene mystery. We don’t have a release date yet, but this is a little step in the right direction. 

Here’s the blurb from the back cover:

It was supposed to be a friendly round of paintball. But blood, not paint, covers Kyle Morrissey’s body. Though admired by the public for his charity, the businessman was no choirboy. 

Could it be that more than one person want him dead? 

Sergeant Jefferson Chene and his detective squad catch the case. With two new faces on the team, he finds himself in the unfamiliar role as mentor. He is also cautiously beginning a relationship with Simone Bettencourt, the beautiful woman he met while pursuing a serial murderer. Complicating the case are two retired gangsters, a fortune in jewels, and Detroit’s history of organized crime. But the squad must utilize every resource available to catch a killer.


Here’s a little bit from the first Chene mystery.  In this scene, Chene and Pappy are meeting to discuss the latest homicide and their plans.

Captain Prescott “Pappy” Cantrell was in his office when I arrived. The fluorescent lights were off, but the brass floor lamp in the corner was lit. Behind him, a window was always cracked open, no matter what the weather. Despite the state law banning smoking in public buildings, Cantrell continued to light up whenever the mood struck. As a chain smoker, he was perpetually in that mood.

He was tipped back in his chair, gangly legs crossed at the ankle. The bottom drawer of his desk was open, allowing just enough space to prop his feet. In faded khakis and a blue checked shirt, Cantrell looked nothing like the stereotypical police captain. Maybe that was part of the reason he was so successful.

Taking a seat on the other side of the desk, I waited for him to start.

“Crime scene look the same?”

I nodded. “From the photos we viewed last week, it looks identical. No signs of a fight. No struggle. The victim was on her back. No splatters. No bruising. The girl was spread-eagled. It was like she’d been posed, as if she was waiting for her lover to arrive. For all intents, she could have been asleep.”

“Same message?” Cantrell worked a pen across the back of his knuckles. This was an old habit. He claimed it helped him concentrate.

“Yeah. Didn’t measure it, but I’m sure Fen will include that in his report. Lipstick will probably be the victim’s.”

“Y’all got a name?”

“Janet Calder. She drove a four-year-old Honda. We found it in the saloon parking lot next door. She checked in after six. Room had been reserved with her Visa card.”

“What else ya got?”

I checked my notebook. Koz called while I was on the way back with more details. We had yet to find her purse or wallet, but he’d pulled the information from the driver’s license when the Bloomfield cops brought the copies.

“She was twenty-five. License shows her at five foot three, with green eyes. She was tiny. Nails polished, some makeup, but not overdone. She fit the profile of the other victims.”


“None at the scene just like the other two. The killer strips them down to nothing. Think he keeps the wardrobe as mementos.”


I shook my head. “Her ears were pierced. She had two holes in the right lobe and three in the left. But she wasn’t wearing earrings. There were indentations on her right hand, fourth and fifth finger, that were probably rings. It looked like thin bands that would have been more evident in the summer time if she was tanned.”

“Family notified?”

“Not yet. Koz will call me when he’s leaving the motel. We’ll meet up at the address on the license. I think it’s an apartment building. The car registration has a different address. That could be her parents.”

Cantrell paused to light a fresh smoke. “Tell the giant to give y’all the details. Ah pulled Megan off the chop shop surveillance. Take her with ya.”

I hesitated, trying to follow the logic. “You got something against Koz?”

“You two can look about as copasetic and unnerstandin’ as two linemen going after a quarterback’s fumble in overtime. It won’t hurt to have a woman there.”

I chewed on that for a moment. “You’re pulling in the whole squad, Pappy?”

By tilting his head back, Cantrell was able to blow a plume of smoke directly at the opening of the window. Like an ancient signal, it drifted quickly through the screen. “Yep. We got the green light. It comes all the way from the capital.”

Our involvement in this case was a fluke. Normally, we only get a case when it crosses into multiple jurisdictions, at the invitation of a city when their own investigation has stalled, or when we get orders from the governor. Our cases tend to be complicated.

 “So Laura and Barksdale?”

“Ah put out the calls. They’ll join Kozlowski at the scene. Megan’s on her way. Y’all notify the family, then we’ll caucus.”

“You decide how we should handle the investigation?”

“Ah’m working on it. Y’all better clear your social calendar. Ah think we’re going to be very busy for the next few weeks.”

I slumped lower in my chair. “Or longer.”

On the jukebox today was a classic from the Rolling Stones.  Enjoy!

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