Sunday, September 29, 2019

Story Ideas and Chainsaws!

Yesterday I attended an author’s event in a suburb of Detroit.  While talking with a reader who was very interested in the Chene series, she asked that popular question. “Where do you get the ideas for your stories?”

Politely I explained that they can come from anywhere. It may be something I observe, a conversation I overhear or just a snippet from the news. She didn’t seem satisfied with that answer so I gave her an example.

Checking my phone as I was leaving the house, I discovered a text message from my darling wife. It was sent at 3:57 a.m. and it was about buying a chainsaw. Since she was now sleeping, I left her a note indicating that it was rather creepy to learn she was shopping for chainsaws in the middle of the night.  Around noon she sent me another text, stating she was looking at the electric versions, because they were 33% quieter than the gas ones and I wouldn’t even hear it coming for me. 

She is such a considerate wife.

When I told the shopper that such a segment might become part of a story, she rolled her eyes, picked up a copy of “Why 319?” and said, “Now you’re talking!”

No other comment was necessary!


Another person and I got to talking about subplots and how they can move the story along and may even give you some incite to your main characters. That got me thinking about Ian, the teen-age boy who is Malone’s unofficial little brother. While he’s introduced in the second book of the series, he plays a larger role in “Fleeing Beauty”.

Here’s an excerpt from the book. In this scene, Jamie gets Ian to tell Brittany, the young girl from the neighborhood he’s been seeing, about his artistic talents.

A few days later Ian was at the house with Brittany. I was just finishing up some work on the computer when I remembered the sketchpad. Taking it from the bookshelf, I walked out into the backyard. Brittany and Ian were at the picnic table with glasses of lemonade. Her dog, Lucy, was lounging in the shade. The kids were sitting close together. As I set the sketchpad on the table Ian’s eyes widened in disbelief.

“We bumped into Krip the other night at the studio. He happened to see these and encouraged me to bring them home.”

Ian started to reach for the pad, but Brittany was faster. She snagged it and flipped it open, His sketches of her were right on top. She carefully studied the first one, then moved it aside to look at the next. Soon all three were spread out on the table before her.

“I can explain,” Ian said. His voice was soft and meek.

Brittany raised a hand to silence him. She kept staring at the drawings. 
Ian turned his gaze to me with a pleading look on his face. I shrugged. There was nothing I could say to diffuse the situation. We waited. A minute later Brittany turned to Ian and placed her hands on his shoulders.

“Did you draw these from pictures?”

He slowly shook his head. “No.”

“So this is how I look in your head?”

“Don’t be mad. I know you’re even prettier in person, it’s just that Malone challenged me and I…”
He never got another word out. Brittany raised her hands to his face and drew him to her. She planted a deep kiss on his lips that left both of them blushing. The fact that this happened less than three feet from me may have occurred to them only after they separated.

“That is the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me,” Brittany said. “You think I’m pretty?”

Ian shook his head. “No, I think you’re beautiful.  Pretty was all I could do from memory.”

Was Malone coaching this kid in more than just baseball? The thought brought a smile to my face.

“So you think you could do even a better job if I was right in front of you?”  

 “Brittany, I don’t know, but I’d like to try.”

She pushed the sketchpad toward him. “Well, let’s try.”

Ian scrambled into the house for pencils. Brittany looked at me as if suddenly remembering that I’d been there all along. She glanced at the sketches spread out before her.

“He really did these?”

I nodded. “Yes. And Mr. Krippendore thinks he’s very talented. Krip is a painter. He wants to talk with Ian the next time we’re at the studio.”

“Would it be okay if I went to the studio sometime?  Ian’s told me all about it, but I’d like to see it firsthand.”

“Sure, we can go next week.”

Ian returned with several pencils and a big gum eraser.  Brittany moved to the grass and pulled the dog with her. She knelt down and coaxed the dog to sit beside.

“Okay, Rembrandt, let’s see what you’ve got.”

Ian picked up the pad and started to draw.

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Music this week was perfect for my road trip to Motown. Here’s Sammy Hagar.

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