Sunday, March 30, 2014

Finding Myself in Literature

I don't just lose myself in the writing process, but I also find myself. Sometimes, this is a surprise. Once while completing Becoming Beauty, I cried all the way home from work because I had unintentionally written one of my biggest life challenges into Bella's storyline.  However, in Sam James, the similarities between me and Sam are more than a coincidence. Prim secretary Samantha James, who is a writer and closet shoe/handbag aficionado, is forced to step out of the shadows and embrace life. With her wry sense of humor and need to document life through writing, stepping into Sam's super sexy Manolos and Louboutins and wondering, What if...? was a pleasure.

Without any further ado, I present:

In a nondescript suit, sensible shoes, dark-rimmed glasses, and her mousy hair in a bun, Samantha James’ was nothing but reserved and unremarkable.  Few noticed her long enough to catch the intelligence lurking behind the heavy frames, or the look of amusement as she tapped away at her keyboard day after day.  Today, tucked behind her desk supposedly completing requisition forms, she composed the following:
Today, as my computer was misbehaving atrociously, I was forced to call on the IT Department. In no time at all, a “techie” dressed in a plaid button-up shirt and flamboyantly bright tie depicting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (clearly meant to demonstrate his high level of professionalism) was dispatched.  While resolving my computer issues—albeit adeptly—he regaled me with facts about flamenco dancing, a topic on which he seemed frighteningly knowledgeable.  As he prattled on, my mind filled with images of him in a festively ruffled costume and fantastically large sombrero, a’ la Jim Carrey in The Mask, shaking his can-can for the lady folk.
                Sam, poised to spice up her commentary on flamenco-dancing tech support, was distracted as the door flung open, banging loudly as it collided with the wall.  In strode an impossibly tall blonde with a harried look on her brow.  Accustomed to this type of dramatic entrance, Sam did no more than glanced up.  However, in that split second, she sensed something out of the ordinary.  Hazarding a longer look, Sam noted her boss’s over-teased blonde hair (big enough to put Miss Alabama to shame) standing in frizzled disarray about her head, and the make-up Sam was certain required a trowel for application noticeably absent from the splotchy face.  Somewhat worried by this, but making a mental note to jot it down later, Sam inquired, “Miss Sumers, are you alright?”
Gigantic tears welled up in the woman’s eyes, and without any further ado, she began to sob loudly.  Sam, well-versed in office dramatics, calmly grabbed a box a tissues and stood to one side while Vanessa Sumers pulled one after another from the box.  Sam allowed her five minutes of unchecked blubbering before asking, “Mr. Compton?”
The blonde head bobbed up and down in confirmation, the wailing growing louder at mention of the name.   Sam, sighing inwardly, waited until the weeping subsided before asking, “What happened this time, Vanessa?”
Vanessa sucked in a shaky breath, released it, and blew her nose loudly.  “There was… (sniffle) …another woman.  He promised he’d stopped… (loud nose blowing) …seeing her when he proposed to me.  (Wiping of tears. Snuffle, snuffle) But he hadn’t!  That coward… (more sniffling and mopping at streaming eyes) …never ended the relationship! He’s been stringing both of us along the whole time…”  Her voice broke on the last word.  Burying her face in her hands, the howling beginning anew.
Sam considered the situation while the woman before her continued wallowing noisily in her own grief.  Where was the carefully coifed and emotionally cool business woman Vanessa Sumers had been before she’d met Derick Compton?  Sam remembered what she had once written about her boss:
I have the distinct privilege of working for Malibu Barbie.  The woman—incredibly tall to begin with—perches the weight of a healthy bust, an enormous blonde head, and an equally large ego on two of the skinniest legs known to man.  Furthermore, she toddles about in miniscule skirts (perhaps they are actually belts?) and the highest stilettos possible.  Her character, equal parts Marilyn Monroe and Adolf Hitler lends its own charms to the mix as she rules the office like a 6 foot tall peroxide-tinted dictator.

 “And we were so happy!”  Vanessa sobbed out.  “We had such beautiful plans!  A simple wedding on the beach in Southern California, and honeymooning on a Caribbean cruise. Now it’s all over!”  She attempted to say more, but the words were drowned in a fresh downpour of tears and vociferous nose blowing.

(Excerpt from Sam James, all rights reserved by the author)

Little Did He Know...

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, authors write themselves into their stories.  Often, it's only an author's core beliefs or past demons that surface in their writing. But sometimes something magical occurs and the author loses--or rather finds--himself in the stories he writes.  Writers appearing as characters in their own stories is an intriguing notion.  

I mean, we're already characters on the stage of life, why not on paper?

The movie that first brought this idea to mind was Saving Mr. Banks.  A tight-laced children's author copes with the problem today's authors would give their left leg for--a movie contract with Disney. Through Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers shares the tragically beautiful story of her childhood, exorcises the demons of her past, and lends hope and magic to future generations.
My second example of authors finding themselves in their own stories is Finding Neverland. J.M. Barrie's beloved tale of Peter Pan finds a home in the theater while the author works out some of his own family problems (a strained relationship with his wife).  Neverland becomes his escape from the day-to-day drama and Peter Pan, with his "never grow up" philiosophy, is at least in part J.M. Barrie himself.
My last example is possibly the strongest.  In Stranger Than Fiction, Karen Eiffel comes face-to-face with a writer's daydream and worst nightmare.  She meets the real-life incarnation of her character, Harold Crick, whom she plans to kill off at the end of her current project.  For the first time, she is forced to consider how many murders she has already committed and if she is willing to add another to the number.
All of these stories are extremely imaginative.  Taking on more than the role of narrator or puppeteer, the author becomes swallowed up in his own story and plays out drama, passion, romance, and slays any number of monsters on the path to self-discovery.  

In one of my own stories, I put myself in the main character's cute shoes and faced some of my own fears (i.e. clumsiness, downright stupidity around boys, etc.).  Stay tuned for a first glimpse of the introduction from Sam James and discover how I (somewhat unintentionally) wrote myself into my own story.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Arguing With Myself

Working with quirky characters can be a challenge.  You never know who's going to bully you into writing an extra scene, or sending the storyline in an entirely different direction to accommodate their antics. Imagine trying to do this with a dozen sisters, a pair of smitten gardeners, various self-important noblemen, and a bevy of opinionated servants, and you'll get a picture of the conundrum I face every time I sit down to tap out a new scene.

I think I've finally gotten my willful characters under control.  The girls--all twelve of them--have been informed that they will each get their moment to shine, if they will kindly refrain from talking at the same time. They've agreed to these terms.  However, they insist on being introduced, at least as a group.  Jonas, the elder of the aforementioned deep-in-smit gardeners, will do the honors.

Imagine a scene along the lines of the following...without the entire cast of Downton arranged around Highclere Castle, of course.
* * * * *
               Scratching at the day’s growth of beard I hadn’t had time to shave, I attacked a particularly determined root with the shovel.  It was a puny thing, no thicker than a twig, but twisted into the soil as it was, it cost me a good five minutes.  Pausing to swab the sweat from my brow, I leaned on the handle of the spade and glanced around at the other men hard at work.  The grounds, a grand expanse of trimmed lawn interspersed with flowering beds, artfully shaped shrubbery, and a curving cobbled path, stretched from the big house all the way to the edge of the forest.  Most of the men were bent over their tasks, industrious as always.  The only exception was the fellow nearby with the wide-eyed expression of a trout.  Muttering incoherently, he was engaged in uselessly stabbed the ground with a hoe.  I rolled my eyes.   I’d lost track of the number of times I’d lectured him on the proper use of gardening tools.  With Lumis, once was never enough, or in this case, a score of times wasn’t enough.  I asked myself, not for the first time, why it must be my responsibility to look after him. 
                A strange hush fell over the men, even Lumis’ mumbled curses ceased as he glanced toward the house.  Guessing what it was before I looked up, my breath caught in my throat the way it always did.  My chest felt tight when I lifted my gaze. 
                In all the colors of the rainbow, they poured out of the main building, as graceful as butterflies drifting over the manicured lawns and blossoming beds.  The flowers, even in full bloom, paled beside their beauty. With delicate fingers they lifted their skirts and skimmed over the grounds, their tinkling voices and gentle laughter as musical as their footsteps were light.  Every one of the twelve—from the youngest, in her early teens, to the eldest, in her late twenties—kept her eyes averted from the workers.  They were adept at this, as we too should have been.  After all, it was the cardinal rule of the household, the one that even the lowliest stable boy knew by heart: Thou shalt not meddle with the Master’s daughters.  On pain of death.  
                 Or was it dismemberment?  Either way, it was serious. 
                Yet, like the other men, I could never resist looking up, just in case I caught her eye.  Amidst so many beautiful women, she should have been difficult to pick out, but I always located her in the first second. I heard her, even as I saw her, arm in arm with her favorite sister, their heads together as if confiding the deepest of secrets. Her voice was low and amber-hued, rich and captivating.
                The handle of a rake smashed into my ribs and I bit back a cry, treating the individual beside me to a venomous look.  Gregor, holding the rake in question and not looking at all remorseful, hissed out, “Do you have a death wish, Jonas?  Close your mouth and get back to work!” 
* * * * *  
(Excerpt from Twelve, by Sarah E. Boucher, all rights reserved.)

There Are Weirdos For Everyone

They say there's strength in numbers. All I know is your personal brand of crazy is camouflaged in a group of like-minded individuals.

The story began like this:
My friend mentioned that she and another author were beginning a writing group and she wanted me to be a part of it. I had no clue what that meant, but my friend was insistent.  Being supportive, I agreed. (Actually, I said: I'll come this time, but I'm not promising anything, but that's neither here nor there.)

Some of the concerns that kept me from sharing with others before the writing group:
After pouring my soul into this, they're going to tear it apart until its no longer recognizable.
They're going to think it's crap...and tell me the 300 hundred ways that it sucks and 300 sucky ways to fix it.
What if they steal my ideas? Or publish something I've shared?

Honestly, these concerns are shared by 99.9% of novice writers, but sharing with those who are curious about what you're doing and do no more than praise your work will only take you so far. Prior to our first meeting, I had come to the conclusion that I would never get any better at my craft if I didn't receive honest feedback from someone who with more experience. One session of swapping pieces, snacks, and literary ambitions with a group of real writers was sufficient.  After thirty years of being a "closet writer," the time to share my scribblings had arrived. The benefits of sharing outweighed the drawbacks.

Here's a glimpse of things I've learned from being part of a forgiving and very funny writing group:
Blocking: Sarah, where did that wall come from?  It just popped out of nowhere!  Maybe you should work on that...
Word Use: Ummm...did you mean for his eyes to roll over the ground? Because literally, it sounds like his eyeballs are ROLLING across the floor.
Act Out Your Action: Did you try that Amy?  Because I tried it, and it looks more like the Chicken Dance than flirting.
Watch for Trends: used the word perhaps again. For perhaps the tenth time and each time was with a different character. Perhaps you should should reconsider your word choice.
More, Please:  This is really good!  I love it!  More [insert: character development, thought processes, emotion, action, romance, etc.] please! 

In the end, sharing with other writers helped refine my skills as a writer and editor. It's something I love doing today, and I will forever be grateful to the girls who started me on the path that led to a publishing contract.
I still have doubts.  I always wonder, What if they do rip it to shreds and tell you it's crap? Then I remind myself, "You'll learn from it!" My advice is to find kind, helpful people who will become the voices in your head directing you through the writing process.  

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Meet-Cute

Now that you've selected the perfect yin to your character's yang, it's time to have them get acquainted. The first time I heard the phrase meet-cute was in the romantic comedy The Holiday.  Arthur's explanation is similar to what I found on Wikipedia:

A meet-cute is a scene in film, television, etc, in which a future romantic couple meets for the first time in a way that is considered adorable, entertaining, or amusing.
The Holiday itself is packed with meet-cutes.  For example, Cameron Diaz and Jude Law's characters have a fantastic meet-cute where Law shows up dead drunk on his sister's porch only to encounter the pajama-clad Diaz instead.
The first meeting of characters, on screen or in print, is as important as any first impression.  It sets the stage for everything that happens afterward.  Here are my tips, gleaned from years of picking apart romantic comedies:
  1. Make it memorable:  One or both of the parties--as well as the audience--should be left thinking about what has just happened.  A negative first impression, like Mr. Darcy makes on Elizabeth, can be as effective as a positive first impression.
  2. Make it emotional: Emotions can run hot or cold at this point, but if your characters or audience are unaffected by the meet-cute, they will have no motivation to continue. 
  3. Make it sensory: This is the perfect time to involve the senses in the story. The more senses you can activate, the more readers will connect with the scene. 
Following my own guidelines, I beefed up the meet-cute from Sam James (unpublished):

Considering the early hour, Samantha felt amazingly chipper. Perhaps it was because every time she'd fallen asleep her dreams had revolved around a certain ballroom dancer with a strong, confident look in his eyes and a manly set to his mouth. She reflected on his many attractions as she swung open the gym door. The air-conditioning wafted over her as the elevator music--something from the 80s--assailed her ears.  At the door, she selected a gossipy magazine from the amply supplied rack and placed it in front of her on a stationary bicycle.  Setting the bike on the highest setting, she chose a particularly racy article and began her workout. 
She was thoroughly engrossed in both magazine and cycling when someone mounted the bike next to hers.  Inattentive to the sounds of the gym filling before, now that her attention had been drawn from the magazine, she began to feel a little self-conscious.  Sweat pooled across her shirt, stringy bits of hair were pasted to her neck and forehead, and some sort of gym-sock-like aroma hung about her. Sam wrinkled her nose. She glanced at the gym’s other occupants to see if anyone else had noticed.  
Unfortunately, she seemed to have fallen in with the non-sweating, attractively dressed, calmly chatting with each other while glaring in her general direction set.  She was about to slink discreetly out when her gaze fell on the person beside her.  The face from her dreams smiled disarmingly back at her, and added a cheery, “Good morning.”
Sam tried to respond, but her throat had gone dry, probably because her mouth was gaping open.  She must look like some kind of mentally incapacitated guppy. 
Amusement twinkled in his eyes.  “Do you need some water or something?  You must be parched.” Without waiting for a response he tossed her a bottle, saying, “Fresh from the vending machine.”
Catching it, she blinked uncomprehendingly down at it for a moment. Where were all the glib comments and clever retorts?  She popped the lid off and lifted the bottle to her mouth.
He watched, his eyes growing bigger as she downed the entire bottle in a matter of seconds.  “Impressive.”
Embarrassed and still incapable of forming complete sentences. she wiped the droplets from her chin and passed him the empty bottle.  
He smiled again, a somewhat lopsided grin and said, “Better?”
“Uh, yeah.  Thanks,” she said, resigned to the fact that his first impression of her would be as a sweaty, stinky, sloppy, mouth breather.  She turned, poised to beat the speedy retreat he’d frustrated earlier.  
“Have a good day,” he said, smiling his cockeyed grin at her retreating figure.

* * * * *

Hot or Not: Classic Disney Heroes

Classic heroes. We adore them, right? And these days, with the Tom Hiddlestons of the world, we've become a little enamored with the villians as well. But today's character study is not about the baddies, so wipe the drool off your chin and let's move on.
If we confine ourselves to solely classic fairytale heroes, the fare would be rather bland (see A Beastly Beauty). Thankfully, the creative geniuses at Disney have done a masterful job of breathing life into nameless, flat characters. (I mean, think about it, she was always Cinderella, but who was he? That's right, The Prince. Stunningly unimaginagive.)

So, for the purposes of research (i.e creating new characters, arranging new meet-cutes, or fashioning the perfect hero for your heroine to ping off of) I present:

Sarah's Guide to Classic Disney Princes 
(sorry BuzzFeed, Tom Hiddleston didn't  make the list, though we do consider him perfectly princely.)

Snow White's Prince (a.k.a. Prince Florian): The first of the Disney line-up, he left the gates with little more than a pretty face. (Seriously, who even knew his name was Florian?) He represents the Romantic Dreamer and is as caught up in the land of fairytale love as the bashful Snow. Loyal and true to his first love, he will do whatever is necessary to win her hand.  No huge fireworks or dragon-battling are required, just true love's kiss from a devoted prince. His is the story of Lasting Love.

Prince Charming (a.k.a Henry): He is the cream of the crop and literally so dreamy women line the streets to catch a glimpse of him. However, when he finds the girl of his dreams, he will allow nothing to come between them.  Evil stepmothers and stepsisters combined with all the stinky feet in the land can not deter him.  He is the passionate RockStar embroiled in the Love at First Sight scenario.

Prince Phillip: Philip is the funny, handsome, Adventurer who keeps you laughing and falling more in love each second. Even though he's betrothed to a princess, when he meets a beautiful stranger in the forest, he longs to throw convention aside and wed her instead. Little does he realize she is his betrothed or that he will have to battle unforeseen odds (this is where the dragons and fireworks come in) to free her from an awful curse and secure his Happily Ever After. Philip's is the story of Love Against All Odds.

Prince Eric: If there was ever a Love Gone Wrong tale, it's Eric's. Smitten by Ariel's voice, he vows to find and marry her, only to be tricked into wooing another.  In the meantime, he has begun to appreciate the virtues of the now-mute Ariel.  When the truth is revealed, he does all in his power to ensure her safety and win a place at her side.  He is the Fighter.

The Beast...I guess his name is actually Adam:  The Beast is the Fixer-Upper. Along the path of life, his way has become...well, muddled.  He requires the love and understanding of a good woman to help him put the demons of his past behind him and emerge from the cocoon of beastliness as a new man.  He is the type of person who is initially off-putting, but on closer acquaintance becomes endearing. His is the Love Grows out of Dislike storyline.

Aladdin: As Jafar expressed so succinctly, Aladdin is the Diamond in the Rough. He is charming, witty, and possesses the ambitions of one born on the wrong side of the tracks.  All of this is enough to catch the notice of a princess, who is drawn to him not because of his wealth or power, but because he truly befriended her.  Theirs is the tale of Friendship Blossoming into Love.

Hopefully, the above list (a healthy mix of human weakness and macho, macho manness) has gotten your creative juices flowing.  I'd love to know who is your favorite hero and how these classic characters have affected your choices in reading and writing.  Please leave me a comment!
Note: Prince whosiswhatsit from The Frog Princess, Flynn Rider, the gaggle of weirdos from Brave, and the gentlemen from Frozen have been omitted for reasons of my own.  To learn about these more modern heroes, please visit The DisneyWiki, home of the above image. (However, even they omit the weirdos from Brave, probably because they are indeed weirdos.)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Southern Belles: Words of Wisdom & Other Shenanigans

A writer should first be a reader.

There is nothing that makes my eye twitch more than someone claiming to be penning an epic, world-altering, cutting-edge series that's sure to fly off the shelves as soon as it's released, who says, "But, I really don't like reading."
The kindergarten teacher emerges as strongly as the writer in these instances. The poor oaf--who is after all only trying to share something original with humanity--is completely unaware that he's just committed the ultimate blunder. Until I fix him with the Teacher Look, that is.  
I've been informed by five-year-old that I have "scary eyes" (let's set aside the fact that these are the naughty, fidgety, and overly Chatty Patty type of kindergartners).  Perhaps you recall it from your days in grade school.  It's the combination of a raised eyebrow, the ever-so-slight squinting of the eyes, and the barest hint of a scowl. The whole expression reads, Really?

With adults, I do my best to stow away the Teacher Look (also known as the Mother, Father, or Evil Stepmother Look) as quickly as possible.  However, there are times when my ten+ years in education take over and transform the dimpled smile of politeness and good humor into something genuinely alarming.

Instead of unduly freaking out my fellow writers, the next time one of them claims membership in the Non-Reader League, I'm going to respond:

How do you know what people will want to read?
and furthermore:
What will be your inspiration?

No matter what, there will still be those blessed souls who pour their hearts into crafting stories they expect others to pick up, while refusing to lift someone else's off the shelf.  But I, for one, refuse to be numbered in their ranks.  My writing suffers when I don't engage with other's creative works and it becomes better, stronger, and clearer when I do so regularly.  

Luckily, in today's world of recorded books, actual reading isn't required.  That's exactly how I first became acquainted with the Sweet Potato Queens.  A sassy bunch of mid-lifers from the South, the Queens bring a whole new definition to the phrase Southern Belle.  Buried between side-splitters like: 

If you have that many cats, I don't know how you found a groom.  And if he knows about 'em and he's marrying you anyway, he has got to be gay.

Let's just say that's a rule from now on: Guys in necklaces and/or wife-beaters or tank tops do not get any.

are genuine Words of Wisdom.  Consider the gem at the beginning of this post.  Is there any situation in which is isn't applicable?  From men to microwave dinners, if it's a dud, there's another one on the market.  No need to deal with soggy personalities or Salisbury Steak, simply dispose of the unsatisfactory product and make a new selection.

I thank the Sweet Potato Queens for making me laugh, think, and aspire to be a better writer.  I leave you with The Best Advice Ever Given in the History of the Whole World:
Warning!  The Sweet Potato Queens are a wise, witty, and spirited bunch.  Jill Conner Browne's books are full of things your mother, my mother, and probably hers would blush over.  Proceed with caution and don't say I didn't warn you. Find out more about Jill, her books, and all the Tammies at

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Woman: the Most Dangerous Plaything

A couple of posts ago, I declared the importance of Finding Your Funny. Since that post was already lengthy, I resisted adding some excepts from the vault (i.e. laptop nether-reaches).  

You see, it wasn't that long ago that I began injecting my writing with snark and sarcasm. I'm a funny person, but I'm on-the-spot funny, and writing requires rehearsal in the jokes department, which goes against my canned-humor-is-evil frame of mind.  

However, after reading some particularly funny YA books, I abandoned the princesses, sparkling tiaras, and gowns dripping with froufrou and tackled the modern tale of a closet fashionista--cleverly disguised as a frumpy secretary--who finally has her day.  Today, I'm leaking a chunk from my second attempt at humorous writing: Sylvi Lockhart.  

Character Sketch through Clothing:
Originally, I created the main characters of Sylvi Lockhart by conceptualizing their clothing (this is when you realize that the aforementioned Sam James is based quite firmly on Sarah E. Boucher and her burgeoning closet).
Our heroine, Sylvi Lockhart:
Sylvi's a professional writer whose figurative chickens are all in a row: fantastic/successful boyfriend, second novel in the works, and a generous inheritance from her grandfather to support her writing career.

Then there's this hooligan.
Jesse James:

He's a private investigator.  Not exactly what you'd call run-of-the-mill, he survives mainly on fast food (fishy patties are preferred), lives in the camper shell attached to his rust mobile of a truck, and has a collection of rather snarky tee-shirts.

The quote from Nietzsche featured at the beginning of this post sums up the relationship between sassy Sylvi and donkey-on-the-edge Jesse.

Excerpt from Sylvi Lockhart

            I plucked my nails from the dashboard, noting the half-moon indentations left behind.  Sometime in my girlhood, my teenage brother had vowed, “This ride will put hair on your chest!” And as we had barreled over a bridge, the truck defying gravity and sailing into the air, I thought, Do I want hair on my chest?
Nervously, I glanced down my blouse to be sure this ride wasn't having similar results.  Catching a glimpse of hair-free chest encased in lacy push-up bra, I let out a breath of relief.
The feeling was far too short-lived.
                “Hold on!” the man beside me warned, yanking the wheel to the left and sending the truck skidding around the corner.  My fingernails once again dug into the dash as I tried to avoid slamming into the door. 
                How did I get myself into this mess?  I glanced at the 30-something man beside me, burly and somewhat craggy-faced, his biceps flexing as he gripped the steering wheel tightly with a wicked glint in his green eyes.  He wasn’t unpleasant looking.  In fact, if I hadn’t already been in a committed relationship, I would have appreciated the way his jeans hugged his thighs, or how his t-shirt—bearing the phrase Without ME it’s just AWESO—clung to his rather well-muscled torso. 
Okay, maybe I appreciated it anyway, but that was beside the point. 
Here’s the point: I’d known this man less than an hour, and I was already riding shotgun on a high speed chase with him.  I tried to put the details in order that had led to this strange turn of events.
It had begun with the idea for my latest book.  Kevin (my publicist/extremely good-looking boyfriend) had insisted the mystery genre was all the rage and pressured me to pen a spy novel.  Not one to be bullied into anything, I decided to take the gumshoe route instead.  The only real hang-up was that I knew next to nothing about real detective work.  Being a stickler for first-hand research, I decided to interview an working P.I. to get the inside scoop. 
After making a few calls, I decided to contact Jesse James.  Regardless of his vigilante namesake, a number of acquaintances had identified him as an extremely professional and efficient investigator.  Assuming I’d hear back from him within the week, I left him the requisite message and hoped for the best. 
Exactly three minutes later, a text buzzed through:  Meet me on 9th & Claybourne.  Bring sandwiches.  It was Jesse’s number all right, but I was puzzled by the cryptic message.  Having never dealt with an actual detective, I wasn’t sure if this was the norm, but figured I’d give it a shot anyway.  After all, what could happen?
After parking as close to the corner of Claybourne and 9th as possible, I added a fresh layer of lip gloss--it couldn’t hurt--and grabbing my handbag and the still warm sack containing two extra meaty subs, I locked the car and walked to the intersection.  
I wondered what a real P.I. might look like.  Would he sport a full mustache, short shorts, and a clear predilection for Hawaiian shirts? Or would he have a full head of hair stiff with too much product, a snarky sense of humor, and spend all his time trying to convince everyone of his supernatural abilities?  When I didn't see anyone who fit my preconceived notions, feeling somewhat disappointed, I turned back to my car.  A sharp whistle drew my attention.  Across the street sat an orange truck with a dilapidated camper shell and a hand beaconing out the window.  Glancing both ways to avoid getting run over, I hurried toward it.
The truck was not something any type of professional should be driving. It was obviously some type of classic something or other, with the boxy shape of a Ford from the late 60’s.  At the very least, based on the prominent rust spots scattered over the sides and hood and the tell-tale chugging of the engine, it had seen better days.  The driver, concealed in the shadowy cab, leaned into the light and asked, “Are you Silvia?”  I looked him over, taking in his rumpled blondish hair, short but on the shaggy side, his bright green eyes, and his square stubble-covered jaw.  He wasn’t technically handsome, but he had that quality that makes girls say, “I wouldn’t throw him out of bed for eating crackers.” Girls who didn’t have respectable, well-groomed boyfriends, that is.
“It’s Sylvi,” I corrected him.  “Sylvi Lockhart.”
“You bring the sandwiches?” he asked, eying the bag in my hand.
“Yes…” I said slowly, holding them up.  “I meant to ask about that—“
“Great,” he interrupted, snatching the bag from me.  “Get in.”
* * * * *
Note: clothing selections for Sylvi and Jesse can be found on 
my Fashion board on Pinterest and