Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Guest Author Claire Applewhite
Debbie: So....Welcome everyone. Today we are joining Clair Applewhite in our Cyber bar to talk about her release Candy Cadillac
....Laura, just follow me and try not to embarrass yourself. I know this isn’t your usual scene.
Laura: Nope. Give me a Starbucks and I’m good. Where do I sit?
Debbie: Sigh...not the coffee again. Right there on the bar stool. It spins so try not to fall off
Laura: Whoops! Yeah, it does
Debbie: What did I say?
Laura: Well, stop laughing at me and help me up! Oh look! A bowl of nuts!
Debbie: *Big eye roll.* Takes one to know one.
Laura: What was that?
Debbie: I said, help yourself to some. *Turning away* Bartender, I’ll have a Bloody Mary and a Long Island Ice Tea for my friend here.
Laura: Ooo...tea sounds good! Thanks, Deb.
Debbie: You’re so welcome, Laura. (Shh....Don’t tell her there are about four shots in it. She thinks it’s a plain iced tea.) What time are the hubby’s expecting us back?
Laura: Whenever. Mmm, this tea is yummy.
Debbie: Isn’t it? Oh, here comes Claire.
LAURA: Hey, Claire! So glad you’re here to visit with us and share the details on your latest book.
DEBBIE: Hi, Claire. Would you like something to drink before we start?
CLAIRE: I’ve got to get back to the keyboard. Coffee it is.
Debbie: Well, all righty then. Let’s grab Claire her coffee and head over to a table, so we can talk.
Debbie: Nooo. You need another iced tea. *Grabs Laura’s arm and drags her toward table* Here you go, Claire. So, tell us, how did you get started writing?
CLAIRE: I have been writing since the second grade, when I wrote my first “novel.” It was really a short story gone haywire. I stayed up all night writing it because I wanted to know the ending. It was the first time I remember being really excited about homework. I was seven years old. That should have been my first clue about what I should do for an occupation, but it wasn’t. Sadly, I spent years in “practical” desk jobs, filling out paperwork, wondering why I felt so empty.
DEBBIE: Hmmm, I’m still stuck at that practical day job. Good for you!
LAURA: Oh, wow. I can relate to that. Sometimes we take the safe route before we take that leap. Glad you did. Candy Cadillac looks wonderful. So, what was your inspiration for this story?
CLAIRE: Again, as a senior in college, I wrote a short story a few months before I graduated. It concerned a medical student’s trepidation about his career choice and was entitled “On Call.” A faculty member at St. Louis University and several classmates encouraged me to expand it into a novel, but again, I didn’t do it. Twenty years later, while cleaning out my files, I found that story. I reread it and thought, “This story might help someone else.” I began to play around with the words, and the plot and the characters. That story became The Wrong Side of Memphis,” my first mystery novel, published in 2009.
DEBBIE: Wow, twenty years. That is so great that you found it and turned it into a success. Without giving away any spoilers, could you tell us a little bit about the story?
CLAIRE: It is the story of a Vietnam vet turned PI, who has lost everything. When his wife leaves him in the first chapter, he turns to his only friend, another ‘nam vet, his best friend’s widow, Di Redding, now living in St. Louis. He decides to stay with her for a while, but as soon as he arrives, a prominent businessman is murdered in her apartment building. He ends up staying and working a lot longer than he anticipated.
DEBBIE: Interesting premise. Oh, excuse me a second Claire. Laura? Is that your third iced tea, honey?
LAURA: Maybe. They’re very tasty.
DEBBIE: Maybe you should slow down on them a little? *Turns to Claire.* Is there a romance in this story?
CLAIRE: Yes, there is. Elvin Suggs still loves his soon to be ex wife, though she has treated him badly. Other romances in other characters’ lives fill the book as well. However, they are not presented in the tradition of a romance novel, I don’t believe. This book, as well as the others in the ‘nam noir series, is a mystery novel, but the characters very much want to love and be loved.
DEBBIE: I think that is something we all have in common, wanting to love and be loved.
LAURA: Actually, our heroine in Sins of the Mind felt exactly the same way. After years of therapy due to a brutal rape, she finally reaches the point where she wants to reconnect with the world, to take a chance on love. It was really tough writing about her emotions in regards to what happened to her. What was the most difficult part of writing this book for you, Claire?
CLAIRE: Dredging up the painful memories that comprise my plot and characters. Sometimes the things that come out of their mouths astonish me. Then I have to decide whether to leave it in or delete it. I usually leave it right where it is.
DEBBIE: LOL, I love when our characters surprise us. We have one in Sins of the Mind who’s a bit of a jerk. One of those guys you love to hate, so we decided to keep him in the next book in the series. Didn’t we, Laura? Laura?
LAURA: Right here. We ran out of nuts, so I got another bowl.
....So, Claire, how much life experience goes into your characters. Are they people you know or made up?
CLAIRE: Again, my books are almost entirely garnered from life experience—not necessarily mine, however. I like to advertise for anonymous stories in the classifieds, which I have no trouble collecting. I did this to write St. Louis Hustle, the story set at the Coral Court Motel, a local no-tell motel. As for characters, I take the strongest characteristics from 3-5 people I know and blend them into a new person. Usually results in quite a character.
DEBBIE: Where did you come up with the idea to post in the classifieds for people’s stories and how is that working for you.
CLAIRE: I have noticed this type of advertisement in the classified ads for other things, such as people wanting to meet people who survived a similar experience or suffered from a similar disease. I thought, why not experiment with Coral Courts' patrons? It was wildly successful, so much so that I have enough material for a series if I really wanted to pursue one. It works well because you can live the experience through the eyes of one who has.
DEBBIE: Advertising in the classifieds for plot lines. That is genius!
LAURA: Yes it is! And I bet you get lots of responses. I hear a lot of authors listen to music to help their creative flow…or maybe they listen to block out the chaos around them? lol What about you? Do you listen to music when you write, if so what type?
CLAIRE: No, I don’t listen to any music while I write. The characters are talking.
DEBBIE: I can certainly understand that.
LAURA: Yeah, some people—er, I mean characters yap so loud, even music can’t drown ‘em out. So, let’s switch gears to home life. Do you have any pets?
CLAIRE: Yes, I have two Airedale Terriers, “Hit the Road” Jack, and his half sister, Lola.
LAURA: Love those names! They sound like a playful pair.
DEBBIE: What do you do to relax?
CLAIRE: I play the piano—like to write music as well. I wrote the music and lyrics for the book trailer for Candy Cadillac.
DEBBIE: Oh, now that’s cool! I can’t wait to see it. Do you have any bad habits your willing to tell us about?
CLAIRE: I stay up way too late at night, usually writing, till about 2 a.m., and drink way too much caffeine. I’ve tried to write during the day, but the characters must be vampires because they just don’t talk until dark. As for the caffeine, I’m working on it—tomorrow.
LAURA: I’ve got that habit, too. I swear, the coffee calls to me…
DEBBIE: Okay, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but maybe right now coffee would be a good thing for you.
....Okay, Claire. Last question: Milkshake: Vanilla, chocolate or strawberry?
CLAIRE: Depends on the day!
DEBBIE: Ohhh, chocolate everyday!
LAURA: Milkshakes? Pft. I’ll take another ice tea!
DEBBIE: Oh shit! Her husband is going to be so mad at me. Claire, thanks for joining us it was a blast learning about you.
LAURA: Thank you so much for coming to talk with us, Claire. We wish you the very best in sales and please, come talk to us again about your next release.
DEBBIE: Yes, Claire, it was a pleasure talking to you about your new release. I've posted the blurb, excerpt and a link below.
Laura: Waiter! *Waves hand in the air.* Another round over here!
Debbie: Now, Laura!
....Mistaken identity or delicious deception? Sultry blonde Barbara Lacey saunters into the Night and Day, a St. Louis bar, where she waits hours to deliver a mysterious envelope to a man that never appears. She reluctantly entrusts it to bar owner Alfie Greenblatt, and steps into the alley. Moments later Alfie hears the crisp pop of a bullet. He calls Sergeant Reggie Combs to investigate.
....Was Barbara's death an accident, or murder? Helen Tattaglia approaches her neighbors Elvin Suggs and his partners Cobra Glynes and Dimond "Di" Redding of the Grapevine Detective Agency. She hires them to trail her "abusive" husband; she also suspects her in-laws, who live across the street, have arranged for her murder.
The detectives are skeptical but they accept the case. They soon discover Helen's sordid past, including another woman named Barbara Lacey. Frustrated with the case, Detective Reggie Combs turns to his friends at the Grapevine Detective Agency for help.
....The shady dealings of the Tattaglia family begin to unravel, while they reveal the secret in the envelope.
....The Grapevine Detective Agency Cobra lived for his past. He used to be a Marine sniper—one of the best. Was, and always would be. Now, stress and flashbacks haunted his present, and tonight—well, it nearly killed him. He stumbled into the tiny bedroom.
....Nestled in the center of the brick bungalow, it possessed the ambiance of a tomb. He snatched a prescription bottle from the nightstand drawer, and gulped two pills without water. There. For the fifty-seven year old vet, the silence felt golden. A date with Valerie Gains always sapped his strength, and what little money he had. He didn’t trust her, but for Cobra, trust was just a word, and a highly overrated one at that.
....His roommates, Elvin Suggs and Di Redding, advised him to look for “a lady with a future.” Not a bad plan in Cobra’s book, but if ’nam taught him one thing, it was this: plans could change, and usually did. All he knew was, when his plans met Valerie Gains, everything changed. According to Di, Valerie’s dope habit, together with the guys she saw on the side, made Val “unstable.” For once, Elvin agreed with her.
....Though Cobra didn’t want to admit it, they were probably right. Di was a mighty good nurse, and Elvin…well, after Cherie, he knew what “unstable” looked like, shore ’nuf. He fumbled beneath his bed and grabbed a half empty bottle of Jim Beam. A smudge tainted the only glass on the nightstand; a smashed ant might even be lying in the bottom.
....Right now, he didn’t care. His quarrel with Valerie nagged like a whining smoke alarm. Now, his friends at the Grapevine Detective Agency needed him. He settled into the double bed and closed his eyes. This job stood between this lonely room and his former life, living hand to mouth on the streets of St. Louis. Good thing they needed him. Truth was, he needed them even more.
....The shot crackled like an explosion, next to the tiny house. He slumped on the sagging mattress, and peeled the thin curtain from the paned window. The low hum of the furnace marked the seconds. What time was it? Condensation dripped from the glass onto the crackled paint on the sill.
....Cobra stared into the murky shadows and listened; and then listened some more. He definitely heard a gunshot. Rubbing his forehead, he tiptoed through the kitchen into the living room. He heard them all—angry voices of at least two men, arguments, and threats. Cobra sensed they were staying in the house next door; the one with the neighbors that never talked.
....He crept to the wide living room window and peered through the frosted glass, just in time to see the long black Cadillac speed from the curb. Driving rain flooded the narrow street. Tires squealed and the driver sped off into the night. Cobra ran his fingers across the stubble on his chin. Should he visit the house next door? He shook his head.
....What was he thinking? He didn’t know those people. Besides, they probably wouldn’t want his kind of help. His partner, Elvin, would pound on their thick front door and stick his nose right into their business. Shore nuf, he’d insist. But, he wasn’t Elvin, and he did care about making a fool of himself.
....The incident still bothered him. Where he came from, bullets weren’t acceptable sound effects. At the sound of the phone, his throat constricted. The tightness in his chest surged. He needed to relax. That old anxiety thing again, he told himself. When he picked up the receiver, no one answered. Alone in the darkness, Cobra heard shallow breathing.
....The line buzzed like a hornet. “If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and dial the operator,” the recording blurted through the static.
....Cobra hung up the receiver and poured another glass of whiskey. He’d call Jim Beam.
....Thursday, 11:45 p.m. The Night and Day Lounge One glance and Alfie’s heart sank. An hour ago, jokes and music filled the room. Now, the empty space reeked of stale smoke. Slick grease hung in the air. Alf could taste it—Ugh. Ashes and cigarette butts spilled from orange plastic ashtrays, and glasses, mostly empty, littered the tables. Crumpled napkins and bits of paper nested in soiled tablecloths. The drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet pounded a sink.
....The Night and Day Lounge needed Alfie Greenblatt, and Alfie needed a job. Nights like tonight he turned a few bucks into a week’s pay. Alf bet Ed Sullivan couldn’t do any better. The smallish man idolized Ed Sullivan. Even looked a bit like him, somewhere around the chins.
....Good thing the place made money, and lots of it. Jeez, would you look at this place? Time to close, get a drink. Wait a second. Who’s the blonde in the corner? Well, he guessed he could wait. He didn’t need to close just yet, not with this mess. Not with that blonde in the corner.
....He remembered her now—raspy voice, scarlet nails. “Old-fashioned. Extra cherries on the side, please?”
Would you look at this place? Tonight’s crowd left early; they must be tired. Tired of calling strange numbers that never picked up—or worse, talking to a recording that promised to call back, but never did. Alf considered the trash, the drunks, and the quick-talkers, ready to close up, same as him. He would this very minute, except for blonde in the corner.
....He watched her for a while, and still, he didn’t understand. She didn’t touch the drink, except to grip the tumbler, the condensation slipping between her fingers. She wasn’t a bad looking gal, even if she was a little on the chunky side. Nothing wrong with broad hips. He knew plenty of guys who liked that in a woman, same as those cheekbones—and don’t forget that blonde hair.
....That’s what grabbed ’em every time. Alfie noticed that. Alfie had to admit, he never heard a woman order a drink like this lady. What did she say her name was? “Barbara. Call me Barbara,” she’d said in a voice so soft he could barely hear it.
....She stared into his eyes with a steady gaze when she spoke, and her moist lips quivered. “I’d like an old-fashioned, extra cherries. Oh, and orange slices too, if you don’t mind.” She tossed a tense half-smile in his direction and just as quickly, looked away into the shadows.
....This Barbara was a hummingbird on a high wire. Nervous type, he guessed. This had been, oh, a couple of hours ago now. Guys packed the joint. Plenty stopped at her table. Yet, none stayed. None snagged her interest. Alfie noticed that, too. All night, her red fingertips gripped that tumbler.
....Condensation dribbled on the scratched tabletop. “Hey, Barbara!” he said. “You okay?”
....Alfie wiped his hands on a striped dishtowel. For a moment, he thought he spotted a tear on her cheek. With a slight glance over her broad shoulder, she rose. She snatched her purse, a dangling black leather piece she pressed to her body. Now, she turned to leave—the last one to go. Alfie shuffled to the deserted table. One faded old-fashioned, coming right up. The red stem from the scarlet cherry floated in the glass, ragged at the end from a careless bite. The droplets from the tumbler glistened beneath the dim lights.
....“Uh, mister?” Barbara stood at the front door. The red EXIT sign glowed above her head.
....“Yeah?” Alfie considered the blonde, her gloved hand poised on the grimy doorknob. “Look lady…uh, Barbara, is it? I’d like to go home sometime tonight, you know?”
....Alfie knew he sounded impatient. He didn’t mean to, but, jeez, the type of people he got through here these days… Barbara extended her hand. Her long fingers clutched an obscure treasure. What is this? Alfie began to sweat. What does she want from me?
....“I…I waited all night, but he never came,” she murmured.
....Alfie squinted into the shadows. “What did you say?”
....“If he comes, could you give him this?”
....The jaundiced light revealed a crinkled manila envelope, sealed with tape. “Look, lady…”
....The blonde checked her watch. “You seem like a nice man, mister. I tried to give it to him myself. But, I’ve got to go now. I should have been there half an hour ago.” Barbara thrust the envelope into Alfie’s calloused hands and pushed her way into the brisk night air.
....“Where you going, lady? Who’s the lucky guy, anyways?” Without a word, she trotted along the cracked sidewalk. Neon signs glistened in her platinum hair like jewels in a tiara.
....The glow of a winter moon peeked through the clouds of the night. The narrow street looked lonely. For a moment, Alfie stood in the frigid night air, and watched her vanish into the darkness. He retreated to the warm bar. His thick fingers clutched the envelope. What should he do with it? Well, whatever it was, it couldn’t be very important. A person didn’t trust a stranger with valuable stuff. He wouldn’t. Alfie strode to the cash register and opened the drawer.
....For a second, he wanted to open the envelope, but decided against it. What did he care anyway? He shoved it into the cold cash register and locked the drawer. He felt too exhausted to care. Its owner would either show up…or not. He snatched his coat from the cramped back room, and slammed the door behind him.
....Then he heard it—the crisp pop of a gunshot. If that wasn’t a bullet, he wasn’t Alfie Greenblatt. His heart pounded like a jackhammer. His pace quickened. Heaving, he strode in the opposite direction. He knew he should have brought the car tonight, but just yesterday, the doctor told him, “Alfie, you got to get more exercise.” The muscles in his legs cramped.
....His breath wafted in puffs, and the icy air forced him to cough. He reached the pitted door to his apartment, yeah, finally. His throat constricted. He tried to swallow, but he couldn't breathe. Was he choking, or getting sick again? Oh no, not again. He couldn’t afford that. No, he was just upset. Yeah, that was it. For some dumb reason, he felt nervous. Him, Alfie Greenblatt, nervous—over what? Alfie couldn’t put his finger on it. A silly note? Some weepy woman? A bullet? Yeah, most probably the bullet.
....He jammed the key into the old lock and turned. It was a good night to stay home