Hearts N Wined – Romance WA Style

Juanita Kees Books

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First Encounters Of The Detective Mark Kind

page1Have you ever fallen in love with a fictional character? I have, with Juanita Kees’ character, Detective Mark Johnson from her Tag Raiders series. Detective Mark is a secondary character in Juanita’s first two books, Fly Away Peta and Under The Hood, but he gets his own story in the final Tag Raiders installment, Under Cover Of Dark, which was recently accepted by Escape Publishing.

About a year ago, when Juanita was drafting UCOD, she wrote something on Facebook about “Lily and Detective Mark”… it might go to show my frame of mind around Detective Mark and his impressive ‘guns’, that my attention was grabbed, and I had this instant thought that the ‘Lily’ Juanita referred to on Facebook was in fact, me! A few other writer friends who saw Juanita’s post, also commented that they thought ‘Lily’ was a reference to little old moi.

Ba-dooooiinnng!!! Juanita soon set me straight, pointing out ‘Lily’ is Lily Bennetti, not Lily Malone. (Sigh) Alas, Detective Mark’s romantic inclinations are for another… a sleek, glamorous blonde ‘Lily’  who wouldn’t wear a pink beanie in a purple fit.

At the time I joked with Juanita on Facebook that I’d write a scene with myself as ‘Lily’ and Detective Mark, just for fun… and so I did, and for your reading pleasure, you can find it below. Please enjoy it for what it’s worth… it was always just meant to be a night’s writing for fun a year ago. That said, writing this little scene got me writing in first person POV for the first time and within weeks, I was deep into drafting Fairway To Heaven which is a first person POV book. So I owe ‘Lily’ and Detective Mark for helping me find my voice for Fairway. Thanks Juanita for writing such a wonderful character. I know you meant him especially for me! xx


Lily, Lily, and Detective Mark

Do you ever get sick of being called ‘Lovely’?

I tell you. If you hang out with a bunch of writers long enough and your name is ‘Lily’… sure as shit everyone wants to call you the “lovely Lily Malone,” cos writers love that alliteration stuff. It’s why you get books called, Gone Girl; Dixie Divas; Billionaire Bachelors… give an author a common letter to play with and they give out the kind of ear-splitting squee that would split six sausages.

I’m not lovely. I’m not even nice. I have a mean streak, and it’s a mile long. A green mile.

I’m jealous of another Lily, because she has everything I want. She has Detective Mark Johnson’s complete, utter, undivided, attention.

But I’ve got ahead of myself. Let me explain.

You see, I’ve been watching Detective Mark Johnson for a while. Ever since he was the big kahuna policeman in the little West Australian town of Williams. You should have seen the girls fall over him there. Girls in the club. Girls on the street. But Detective Mark never had time for any of them. He was too busy saving his sister, Peta, from her psycho ex.

And there I was, masquerading behind the counter of the drive-thru at the Williams pub, making truly great recommendations about which wine went best with what. “You’re cooking steak tonight, sir? You need a big, gutsy red.”

Most men, if I look them square in the eye and mouth “big, gutsy red” … well, they melt like a Tim Tam in a two-year-old’s fist.

Not Detective Mark. He was all business. Oh don’t get me wrong, he was never rude. But he looked through me, I don’t think he ever properly saw me. He was a man on a mission, and that mission was never me.

Williams didn’t have enough to hold Detective Mark. Not once his sister found the man of her dreams and the psycho ex got his just desserts. Detective Mark headed for Perth HQ and got himself promoted. Got himself a shiny new blue and white car and a shirt with more stripes.

I didn’t stay after Detective Mark left. There’s only so many times you can tell someone: “white with seafood”, “red with meat”… “sparkling anytime”… “Lambrusco… never.” And something about Williams without Detective Mark smothered my words. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t breathe.

So I quit.

I found a flat near Cottesloe Beach where I can hear the surf and the seagulls. I walk on the beach here and get sand in my toes. I’m writing again. The words aren’t flowing; they come in splatters and dabs. But it’s progress. It’s more than I had.

I waitress nights at the Perth Convention Centre. Tonight there’s a big Awards ceremony, Apprentice Of The Year, but the Awards have been run and won already, speeches have been spoken. Me? I ducked outside for a smoke when the DJ struck up the Macarena. That song makes my head hurt, it’s too damn happy.

And that’s when I see him, talking into his phone. Detective Mark. He still has that same way of standing, like he’s already moving, legs slightly spread, right hip cocked, as if he’s about to hurdle a fence and catch the bad guy. It’s his Daniel Craig thing.

I suck in an extra chunk of oxygen with my smoke. It makes the cigarette flare orange, and he sees me. He screws up his eyes and steps closer to where I hog the shadows.

“Lily?” He takes the phone from his ear, “Lily Marlene?”

“Malone,” I sigh on the inside. “Lily Malone.”

He hits his forehead with the palm of his hand, which is the first time I notice the gun. “Lily Malone. Shit. I’m sorry. I remember the hat. How are you?”

I can’t help the way my stomach does its own Macarena at the knowledge he’s remembered me. Well, he’s remembered my hat.

Trust me, I rock my work uniform—short black skirt, buttoned-up white shirt, and I grabbed my trademark pink beanie before I snuck outside—but already, Mark has his phone to his ear and his other hand comes out to me, like he’s telling me to be quiet. Does he know he’s just waved his big ugly gun in my face.

The writer in me gasps at the same time as she takes a mental snapshot. What am I thinking? What is he thinking? Who’s the protagonist here? What do I smell? What can I hear. God, this plastered brick scrapes my shoulders…gonna snag my shirt.

That’s when I see the woman running through the shadows at the edge of the walkway around the Convention Centre.

I know her. How can I not know her? We share the same name. Lily Bennetti and her lawyer husband, Gino, hold the deed to every social page in every newspaper in this city.

A shiver sneaks down my spine. Gino Bennetti makes a better mafioso, than a mafioso. A better Squizzy, than Squizzy.

“Detective?” She’s out of breath, scared. Silver-blonde hair has broken out of what probably started the night as classic bun. Somewhere in her flight, she’s broken a heel because her knees aren’t working right, she’s running all stooped over, and yet when she reaches him, she manages to make his name sound like a purr. “Detective Johnson?”

Mark steadies her with a strong hand on her elbow. “Mrs Bennetti. It’s okay. I’ve got you.”

What does it say about me that as I watch his fingers curl about her arm, I wish she’d snap the other heel? She’s wearing shoes that cost more than I’ve made from selling my books in a year. I bet Lily Bennetti played Rapunzel in the school play. When she was born, Tinkerbell must have been right there sprinkling fairy dust on the crib.

Then someone opens a door on the balcony above us and there’s a splash of light. In it, I see her bruises. I see her tears. I see pain etched in a face so beautiful, it makes my throat hurt.

Detective Mark has forgotten me. Lily Bennetti doesn’t know I exist. They’re caught in a moment I don’t want to watch, and yet I can’t tear my eyes away. I’m such a sucker like that.

And that’s when I see the car beyond Mark’s broad shoulder. It’s long, and black and sleek, and it’s cruising silent as a shark.

“Um. Detective?” I mumble, pushing off the wall.

He tilts his head without looking at me, his eyes are locked on Lily’s milky skin.

I try again. “Detective. I know that car.”

My namesake turns, her knees give and she stumbles, just enough to make Detective Mark pull her close.

I’ve seen enough. If they want to mess with Squizzy, they’re on their own. The night air has calmed the ache in my head, and inside they’ve killed the Macarena. Someone’s playing Bruce Springsteen, Born To Run. 

That’s enough of a message for me. I’m outta here.

####

p.s.: If you see this, Jenn J Mcleod: Lily Marlene is for you. 😉

It’s Good News Week

A shout out to my wonderful Beta reading and writing friends, Jennie Jones and Juanita Kees, both of whom have had wonderful book-related news this week.

girls
Jennie Jones, Juanita Kees & Lily Malone, before Christmas 2013.

Jennie, Juanita and I met on Facebook last year, and then in person at the RWA Conference in Fremantle. We are all Escape Artists (published by Escape Publishing), and we’re living in West Australia, although I’m a fair way south of these two. This, by the way, is a good thing. I’m sure if we lived closer, we’d talk books and drink wine and very little writing would get done! After Fremantle we chatted loosely about joining forces with joint promotions or other bookish things… and this eventuated in the gem of an idea, that we form a Beta reading team.

So far, I’m proud to say, our record is exemplary! We started with Under The Cover Of Dark, Juanita’s follow-up story to Under The Hood in her Tag Raider series, staring the hunky Detective Mark and the lovely (but scarred) widow, Lily Bennetti. How could I not fall in love with Detective Mark when every line I’m reading has ‘Lily’ swooning over his cop charms? (And cop arms, and those big guns, – please, somebody stop me.) We had a giggle on Facebook mid-way through last year when Juanita posted a line about the sexy things Lily had been doing with Detective Mark, and someone (I think it was Susanne Bellamy from memory – thought it was ME!) So I wrote a little story about me, Lily & Mark which I hope to post here one day when Juanita says it’s okay.

Anyhoo… while we waved goodbye to Under Cover Of Dark and wished it well on its journey through the submission straits, I think next cab off the rank was my book, Fairway To Heaven, closely followed by Jennie Jones’ next book in her Swallow’s Fall series. This is ‘The House At The Bottom Of The Hill’ (the follow-up to Jennie’s blockbuster, ball-busting Escape’s biggest-selling wonder-book: The House On Burra Burra Lane). Yes, I am trying VERY hard to get Jennie to cull her book titles… but she does love telling a story on her front cover! Me, Jennie & Juanita call it THATBOTH… it’s much easier!

I like to think of Jennie as writing ‘Chardonnay Country’. You don’t find wheat fields, red dusty outback roads, sheep or cattle stations in Swallow’s Fall, instead it’s in the Snowy Mountains, all green and wildflower-filled, and the community and characters Jennie Jones has developed there never fail to make me giggle. I love visiting Swallow’s Fall, pet pigs and all.

page1Juanita’s writing is different. Her Tag Raiders series is romantic suspense… tackling all the tough issues like teenage gang culture, drugs, street kids, homelessness and the wonderful people who assist in the rehabilitation of these teens.

Is it any surprise that after the emotion she spent on the page writing Tag Raiders, she threw us a curve ball? Juanita needed a holiday. So off to a Greek beach she went, while we all chewed our nails waiting on news about Under The Cover Of Dark… and phwoar, have we enjoyed watching her Greek Gods in their speedos on Mykonos… my little heart be still.

Then Jennie, in the space of a few months, wrote my favourite story of everything she’s done so far: 12 Days At Silver Bells House. This is a Christmas novella set in Swallow’s Fall, and it is absolutely delightful. Talking about ‘Chardonnay Country’ I loved how her heroine crashes her car in a paddock near Swallow’s Fall and awaits her rescue more worried about how she’s going to get the box of wine out of the boot (trunk), than how she is going to get out of the aforesaid mud patch in her designer heels. This novella is magic!

And the huge news that’s had us all dancing: Under The Cover Of Dark has been accepted for publication by Escape Publishing this week! And Jennie Jones has news too… although I’ll let her tell it!

So huge congratulations to Jennie and Juanita. They are two of the most generous people you could meet in the Australian writing fraternity.

And while I’m dishing out the love: It’s also been a big week (month) for two other buddies, Jenn J McLeod and Kylie Kaden, both of whom have new books (Simmering Season for Jenn, and Losing Kate for Kylie) in print and e-book that have captured readers’ attention in Australia and beyond.

It sure has been a good news week! #girlwritersrock #australianwritersrock

Quote me, won’t you?

So something very cool happened this afternoon: I got quoted! Or – part of my Amazon review of Greg Barron’s 99 cent short story, Voodoo Dawn, got quoted.

lily's quote

It gave me a huge buzz to see my words used like this! I showed my hubby when Greg posted this on Facebook and hubby said: “well it’s an awesome pic of the ship.” (Sigh)

Voodoo Dawn is an action-packed novella starring Marika Hartmann—the butt-kicking heroine of Greg’s novels Rotten Gods, and Savage Tide. Voodoo Dawn is a quick draw-breath-and-you’ll-miss-it read and I’m sure we’ll find that something about this novella leads into Greg’s next full-length Marika book, coming out later this year.

If you have a dollar to spare and you like your books to be more Jason Bourne than Jane Eyre, I’m very happy to recommend this one to you.

Meanwhile, I’m off to look at my quote some more, and those lovely words beside my name: “Australian Author”.

Gotta love it!