Sunday, January 27, 2019


Sometimes I have to take a moment, step back and acknowledge the fact that I’ve actually achieved one of my life’s goals by getting a novel published. In about ten days, my latest mystery novel will be released.  It’s difficult to describe the pleasure an author gets from holding a printed copy of the finished product for the first time. That’s a kick that I’ll never grow tired of.

Last week I was in touch with the marketing team at Wild Rose Press.  Since “Why 319?” was also available as an audio book, I wanted to have that same option for the sequel.  The paperwork was completed and the book was offered up to narrators who might be interested.

But I forgot about the auditions.

Turns out that whenever a candidate likes the book, they do a reading, based on a sample provided, and send it along for consideration.  The listing was only up one day and it already sparked interest.  Now I get to listen to the audition recordings and decide if this is the voice for Chene.

My characters all have distinctive voices, at least that’s the way I imagine them. Pappy Cantrell’s southern drawl sounds raspy and coarse, no doubt the result of countless cigarettes and whisky. Chene’s is subtle. Most people say mid-westerns don’t have an accent. We’ll have to see how it goes.

There are a number of new characters introduced in the new book.  The names for a few of these were borrowed from friends.  But their actual descriptions, occupations and behaviors are all figments of my imagination. Maybe in some ways, they were auditioning for a part in the book, even though they didn't know it!

Here’s a scene where Chene calls upon the assistance of Olivia, a reporter at one of the local television stations for some background information.

I met Olivia a few years ago when she was first starting out as a reporter. She was very intelligent, with a sharp sense of humor. Our paths cross periodically. I’ve been an unnamed source on more than a few crime related stories. It dawned on me that she could qualify as a friend, which would crack Ted’s idiotic statement of ‘name six’. 

“Let’s stick to business.”

“Oh, I sense a human interest feature. The romantic life of a dedicated homicide cop. The conflicts. The drama. The intensity.”

She had me grinning. “Shut up.”

Laughter bubbled from the phone. “Come on down to the station, tough guy. I’ll have everything ready by the time you get here. And you know my price is going to be a lot more than a mani-pedi.”
  * * *

 “Start talking, Chene. I know you’re working the Morrissey homicide. What does this place have to do with it?” 

“Maybe nothing. Maybe everything.”

Laughter rose from her throat. “Oh, I love it when you’re being cryptic.”

After getting her assurance that nothing would be used until we cracked the case, I explained our theory about the money. Olivia jotted notes on a pad using some form of shorthand that probably only she understood. Most of the time she kept her eyes on me. Occasionally she’d glance at Donna for verification. 

Liv smiled and tapped a narrow forefinger on the table. “I can have one of the interns do a little digging. She lives for research. A story that has its roots a hundred years ago will have her lit up like a pinball machine.”

I mentioned our efforts with the local historical society and Jamie’s attempts to reach the remaining family. There was no need to duplicate efforts.

“Whatever we find, Chene, I will send it along.”

“You gonna bill me for that manicure?”

“Baby, if you’re on the right track with this story, it could be worth a local Emmy award. A manicure would be nice, but I’m thinking a day at the spa would be appropriate.” Olivia ran that forefinger across the back of my hand. “Or you could tell me about this new girlfriend.”

“Seems to me your husband might be a little curious about someone else paying for your spa time.”

“Charlie’s a very understanding guy. Besides, if he reaps the benefits and it comes out of your wallet, he’ll appreciate the results even more.”

I bit back a grin. “Get to work.”

This week's musical treat comes from Al Green.  

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Taking Turns

This week I had the pleasure of speaking with Paul Reeves for an upcoming interview on his radio show “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk”.  Primarily we were discussing the release of the second Jefferson Chene mystery “Your Turn to Die”.  

During the conversation, Paul asked if there’s another story in the works. I explained that my next project will be a third Chene book, possibly involving some characters with a history in organized crime.  That’s when he asked about Jamie Richmond, my stubborn redhead who stars in three novels of her own.

“Are you done writing about Jamie?” he asked.

“Not at all. She is a great character. And she’s not one to sit on the sidelines for long. Last summer there was a short story with her titled ‘Stealing Haven’ which appeared in a collection called ‘Once Upon a Summer.’   Jamie also plays a supporting role in the new Chene book as well.”

“So there is a chance for another story?” he asked

“Sure. But there’s only so much room at the bar.  And Chene has broader shoulders!  Jamie may appear in his third novel too.”

We moved on to other topics.

But it got me thinking afterwards about these two primary characters.  After finishing the first draft for “Your Turn to Die” I started writing Jamie’s short story.  When that was done, my attention returned to Chene. So maybe they are taking turns.  We’ll have to wait and see who commands more of my attention.  Chene is subtle.  Jamie can be more insistent, pestering me with a tug on the earlobe or an elbow to the ribs.  

Time will tell.

Here’s an excerpt from “Your Turn to Die” where Chene and Jamie are interacting.   Several years ago, Jamie had interviewed Kyle Morrissey, whose murder Chene and his team are investigating.

Early Thursday morning I decided to recruit some help. Someone who was comfortable with research, who was used to digging deeper, who had a fresh set of eyes and a different perspective. So I made the call.

“Malone.” His voice was thick with sleep.

“It’s Chene. I’ve got a few more questions for Jamie. Is she around?”

There was a deep chuckle. “Yes, but she’s not coherent. You have any idea how early it is?”

“Sun’s been up for a couple of hours.”

“She’ll call you.” The phone went silent.

I remembered now that Malone worked afternoons, finishing his shift around midnight. No wonder I woke him up.

It was an hour before Jamie called back.

“Sorry, Chene, but I’m adjusted to Malone’s schedule. Neither one of us is functioning before nine. And even then it requires massive doses of caffeine.”

“No problem. I wanted to thank you again for your notes on Morrissey.”

“I hope they were helpful.”

“Indeed. But that leads me to a question. Do you know how he put together the money to buy the Shores Madrid?”

Dead silence followed for so long I thought the connection broke. I was about to check and see if there was still a signal when Jamie cursed.

“I don’t know. But that’s something I should have looked into when researching him. Damn it! How did I miss it?”

“You’re not the only one. Everything I can find seems to look like he just appeared on the scene at a city council meeting, with a proposal to buy the property for the amount of taxes due. Somewhere along the way, the theater had been foreclosed and the city ended up with it. They must have carried the previous owner’s debt in the hopes that they’d be able to bring it back.”

“But that doesn’t explain where he got the money.” There was a flicker of excitement in her voice. “I never saw anything about investors, silent or otherwise. There was nothing on the corporate records at the time beyond his wife and a couple of key people in management. I looked!”

“So you have any ideas about the money?”

“None.” She paused, as if weighing the options. “But I can look into it. I still have a lot of contacts. I’ll pull court records, public information, talk to a few friends and see what I can learn. This is important, isn’t it?”

“It could be.” I hesitated, weighing my options. “I can’t ask you to do this, Jamie. I’ll put one of the detectives on it.”

There was another pause, followed by a loud, raucous laugh. “Bullshit, Chene. You called me hoping I’d jump in.”

“No, I called you to ask about the money, not to draw you into part of an active police investigation.” I managed to sound sincere.

“You’re full of shit, Chene. And I’ll let you know when I have some answers.” Jamie was still laughing as she ended the call.

A tip of the hat this week to the late Stevie Ray Vaughan with this rock and roll tune.