Sunday, April 13, 2014

Earl Staggs Writes . . . Romance?!

Me?  Write Romance?  Maybe.

I write Mystery and Thriller stories, not Romance, but there’s no law saying the kind of stories I write can’t include elements of romance. Would I be capable of blending a love story into a Mystery/Thriller novel?  Well, I was put to the test in my last novel, JUSTIFIED ACTION. 

The novel features Tall Chambers, a man who spent twenty years in Army Special Forces.  After leaving the Army. he is invited by General Cyrus Brock to join a secretive agency which tracks terrorists and puts them out of business before innocent people are killed. During his meeting with the General, Tall sees a photograph of the old man’s daughter, Victoria.  Tall is quite taken by the beautiful young woman in the picture and can’t take his eyes off her.  When he asks his best friend Stephen about her, he is told she is off limits to him.  She is way out of his league.  Even so, he can’t get her out of his mind.

He doesn’t get a chance to see her in person until she is taken hostage by a gang of bad guys and he is called upon to rescue her.  He does, but there’s no opportunity to talk to her.  Once the ordeal is over, they go their separate ways.  Tall resigns himself to the fact that he will  never see her again.

But, as they say, love will find a way.  Here’s what happens next.

* * *
A week later, Tall switched off his TV when his doorbell chimed. When he looked through the peephole, he’d never been so surprised in his life. His hand shook when he opened the door.

Victoria stood there in a yellow dress, looking even more beautiful than he remembered.

With a teasing twinkle in her eyes and a playful grin on her lips, she says. “I came by to thank you for rescuing me.” She brought her hand around from behind her back and extended a bottle toward him. “I thought we might have a glass of wine and then go out to dinner.”

Tall stood in the doorway staring at the woman he fell in love with when he saw her picture on a shelf in her father’s house. He knew he should say something and opened his mouth.

“Uh. . .,” came out.

She grinned and cocked her head to one side. “May I come in?”

“Uh. . .,” he repeated.

She brushed by him and he saw she was holding back a giggle.

“Where do you keep your glasses?” she asked. If we don’t open this bottle of wine soon, it may spoil.”

He followed her into his dining room area where she stopped, turned back to him, and held out the wine. “Or we could drink it right out of the bottle. I don’t mind if you don’t.”

Tall knew he was blushing a bright red. He lowered his head and chuckled. “I’m sorry. I was. . .uh. . . not expecting company.”

She pursed her lips. “Now don’t tell me this is the first time a crazy woman has shown up at your door carrying a bottle of wine.”

Tall laughed. She was not only the most beautiful human being he’d ever seen in his life, but she had a sense of humor, too. Damn.

He took the bottle from her hand and nodded over her shoulder. “Glasses are in the cabinet behind you, second shelf. I’ll open this.”

He went into his kitchen remembering what Stephen said when he asked about her.

Don’t even think about it. You wouldn’t just be shooting yourself in the foot, you’d be shooting your balls off.

Too late. Shots fired.

After a glass of wine, they went to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Over their meal, they discussed books. They both liked John Grisham. When they moved on to movies, they both were big fans of Clint Eastwood. Her favorite of his films was Bridges of Madison County while his was Dirty Harry. By the time they’d finished eating, Tall felt he’d known her all his life.

When they were ready to leave the restaurant, he suggested they take the long way back to his apartment where her car was parked. She said it would be a good idea to walk off some of the huge dinner she’d had. His idea was to keep her with him as long as possible.

It was twenty past nine when they stepped outside the restaurant. A full moon in a clear sky added a silver tint to the street and sidewalks. A gentle breeze had cleared the air of exhaust fumes from the day’s traffic along the busy street. The few cars passing by now seemed to be moving in slow motion so as not to disturb the quiet stillness of the evening. A perfect evening, Tall thought. A perfect evening for a perfect date with a perfect girl. A date! How long had it been since he’d been on an actual date? Years. It saddened him to think it would be over soon. He slowed his pace as if that would stretch it out longer.

When they reached the first corner, he reached down for her hand and guided her across the street. He thought her small delicate hand folded neatly in his. A perfect fit.

Once across the street, they entered a park filled with medium height trees and winding walkways lined with rose and azalea bushes. The path brought them out of the park directly across from Tall’s apartment building. Traffic was light and after they negotiated their way across the street, they sat quietly on the steps for a few minutes.

“So do you like being a lawyer?” Tall asked. During dinner, he’d learned she worked for a large legal firm specializing in international law and finance.

She shrugged. “Mostly, I do research and analysis for the senior partners. It’s not very exciting, but my dad says it’s a good place to begin.”

They were sitting side by side, so close Tall felt her body stiffen the slightest bit.

“Begin what?” he asked.

“There are several opportunities it could lead to.”

Even her voice had changed. She spoke in a clipped monotone, as if repeating something she’d heard. It sounded almost scripted.

“My dad says the experience I get with this firm could lead to something in London, Madrid, maybe even Geneva. Or, he thinks it could lead to a position with an embassy or a political appointment someday.”

He hesitated, then asked, “Is that what you want?”

“What do you mean?” She stared at the park across the street.

“I mean, you told me what your dad said and what he thinks. I was just wondering if politics is something you want for yourself.”

She cleared her throat. “Of course. Who wouldn’t? You have a problem with women in politics, big boy? Don’t you think it’s about time we had a woman in the White House?”

In a serious tone, Tall said, “As I understand it, there were a lot of women in the White House during the Kennedy years. They were slipped in and out through a side door.”

She gave him a poke in the ribs. “That’s not what I meant. Men!”

“Well, when you get elected to the White House, I want a key to that side door.”

She grinned. “We’ll have to see about that.” She stood up and stretched. “I really need to be going, I guess. Long day tomorrow.”

“Me, too,” he lied. He had nothing scheduled for the next day and was sorry she was leaving. He pushed himself to his feet and looked around. “Where’s your car?”

He held her car door open while she settled herself behind the wheel. “I really enjoyed this,” he said. “Maybe we can do it again some time.”

“I’d like that.”

“Good. I’ll call you. Can I get your number?”

She looked up at him with a sly grin. “You already have it.”

“I do? Uh. . .where? How?”

“In your jacket pocket. I slipped my card in there when we were sitting on the steps back there. Goodnight, Tall.”

“Uh. . . .” He fished in his pockets as she drove away, pulled out her card and grinned as he looked at it. Damn. She wouldn’t have given him her card if she weren’t interested in seeing him again. He turned toward his apartment building and thought about what her father would say if he knew they were spending time together. By the time he reached the door, he decided he didn’t care.

He called her two days later. They went to dinner and a movie. Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino.” She cried at the end. He fought not to. The following evening, Wednesday, they went to a play. When he dropped her off at her apartment, she invited him to a home-cooked dinner at her apartment on Friday and suggested he bring a toothbrush. He did, along with a change of clothes, and stayed until Monday morning.

* * *
            And there you have it.  My attempt to incorporate Romance into a Mystery/Thriller story.   As I said, I don’t write Romance.  There’s no huggy-kissy business, but I hope there was enough interactive attraction between them to make it believable that they will eventually marry.  Which they do.
         What do you think?  Should I give up any thoughts of writing anything involving Romance and stick to pure Mystery and Thriller stories?

Bio:  Earl Staggs earned a long list of Five Star reviews for his novels MEMORY OF A MURDER and JUSTIFIED ACTION and has twice received a Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year.  He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine, as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society and is a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars.  


M.M. Gornell said...

Always love hearing from Earl! And Tall and romance--perfect. "...and stayed until Monday morning." Who would have thought...(smile) Great writing, great character.


Jan Christensen said...

You're a great writer, Earl, so just go ahead and write whatever you feel like writing! I thought this excerpt was terrific. How's the newest book coming along? Everyone wants to read it!

lil Gluckstern said...

Very nice. Now I'll need to read the rest of it!

Kathleen Kaska said...

Adding an element of romance in a myster works for me. Go for it!

Paula Gail Benson said...

Well done, Earl. It's nice to have a romance from a male point of view. Looking forward to reading more.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Well done, Earl. It's nice to read a romance from a male point of view. Looking forward to reading more!

Morgan Mandel said...

Adding a romantic element can broaden your market, even if it's not a romance per se. A good many mysteries these days have some kind of romance included.

Marja said...

You have to write what the story needs, and you seem to do that quite well. I liked the excerpt. : )
Marja McGraw

Jacqueline Seewald said...

All of my Kim Reynolds mystery novels have an element of romance. I think it adds to character development for main characters to be well-rounded individuals just like people in read life. However, some writers are not comfortable including romance, others are.

Lynn Cahoon said...

I love a little romance with my murder. :) Great excerpt!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful, Earl!!!!!!!!!!!!! You could win a Rita at the RWA if you wanted! Thelma in Manhattan

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Romantic enough, Earl! Good one.

Pat Browning said...

Two of my favorite people, Kaye Barley and Earl Staggs, together again. Love it!

Earl, you rascal, I have your JUSTIFIED ACTION in my Kindle for PC file and just moved it closer to the top of the list.

Love the excerpt. Can you write romance? As Kaye so eloquently said, "Hell, yeah." 8--))
Hugs to you both.

Bobbi A. Chukran, Author said...

You sly dawg! LOL. Good job of mixing the mystery and romance. Suspenseful enough, too, to make me wonder what happens in their relationship (and in the story).

Anonymous said...

Woweeee! All these positive comments makes me wonder if I should stop writing about chasing and shooting bad guys and write The Great American Romance Novel.

Naaahhh. Relax, Nora Roberts. I'll stick to Mystery. For now.

Thanks to everyone who visited and left comments. You guys are the best!

Cindy Sample said...

Terrific excerpt, Earl, and I love the way you combined humor with the build of the romance. My books have romance involved but it's far easier for me to write romantic conflict than it is to bring them together. But we're getting close and one of these days my detective may have to carry his toothbrush with him. What a great line!