Meet CJ

Today I introduce you to Caroline Jane Daniels—CJ. I must preface this character by telling you that CJ is an anomaly unto herself. She is a free-spirited, middle-aged woman who goes through life like an unfettered twenty-something, without a care for the advice or opinions of others. And, because she has no filter, whatever is in her head generally comes out of her mouth. Never married and with no children, to CJ life is a never-ending adventure to be lived to the fullest. So hang onto your hats, as well as your scruples, as you read a bit about Mt. Ouisco’s wild child.

CJ Daniels slid her bare feet into Birkenstocks and padded over to the juice bar for her usual post yoga smoothie. As the fifth person in line she had plenty of time to decide between the ginger-peach and the blueberry-pear smoothie. She rolled her head around on her neck to work out the kinks as she read the nutritional postings on the wall and stopped when she noticed Maxine Stone at the counter.

“Shoot!” CJ thought to slink out of line and leave just as Maxine headed straight toward her. Instinctively, CJ took a knee to tie her shoe until she realized that she had no laces. So she fussed with the buckles on her sandals and kept her head down, praying Maxine wouldn’t notice her bright pink hair.

“CJ. Yoo-hoo, CJ!”

Crap! There was no way to get out of the small lobby without racing out like some spazoid, which in her case she probably could have gotten away with. Too late. She looked up and greeted Maxine with something she hoped resembled a smile. “Hello, Max.”

Maxine waddled over with a cup of hot tea in her hands. “CJ Daniels, as I live and breathe! I didn’t know you did yoga here. Did you just start?”


“Oh. When do you usually come then?”

“After work.”

“Oooh.” Maxine winked, knowingly, as she did a bobble-head nod. It was her way of letting CJ know that she understood that the change in schedule meant she must have been on a surveillance mission with Randi last night.

CJ changed the subject before Max could start any kind of third degree. “I didn’t know you did yoga at all.” CJ was surprised there weren’t restrictions to keep people like Max from participating in yoga. The busy body woman not only had a piquant personality that grated on the nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard, but she had the body type of a minion. CJ couldn’t imagine anyone reaching a Zen state on a mat near Max. She could easily roll head long from down dog and bowl people over like pins in an alley. Or worse, one moment of imbalance as she attempted standing tree pose could take a life.

“Twice a week. It keeps me flexible.” Max beamed.

CJ looked the woman over head to toe, taking in her thick middle and squat legs. She was sure Max meant time wise and not body wise.

“What’s the deal with you and Otto anyway?” Maxine asked.

It was the dreaded question CJ had hoped to avoid. Otto was Maxine’s brother and someone she’d gone out with twice. A taller, divorced version of minion, Otto would not have normally made the cut into CJ’s social calendar. CJ chose men based on the fit of their jeans. If they looked good in a tight pair of Levi’s then she crossed her fingers and hoped for a glimmer of intelligence to go with it, although it wasn’t mandatory. Otto was a loose fit jeans kind of guy who held an assessor position in the county—so not stupid, but also not sculpted.

But, if CJ spent one too many Friday nights home alone she sometimes loosened her standards. Such was the case of date number one with Otto. She would never have agreed to a second date had it not been for two things. One, Otto had taken her to Martinelli’s for Italian that first night—bonus points for feeding her well. And two, she’d heard an intriguing rumor about the man recently. Otto was no hunk. He was tube-like and bald, sans the yellow skin. CJ assumed because he’d been married and divorced four times that the man must have something stimulating to offer a woman, at least in the beginning. The gossip she’d heard around town could certainly be described as that—arousing—was the word that kept popping into CJ mind.

It was chatted about that Otto made regular appointments down at the day spa for body waxing. Greta, the wax queen, was known for hooking most female residents over the age of sixteen into her Brazilian (a.k.a. bush-wax) service. When CJ heard that Otto was there monthly she assumed he must get the sack-n-crack service. After that, no matter how much she tried, she simply couldn’t get the man (or the imagined smooth skin of his nether regions) out of her mind. Maxine’s whiny voice brought CJ back to the moment.

“So what? You just lead my brother into your bed and then push him aside when you’re done with him?”

One of CJ’s eyebrows perked up. “Does Otto typically discuss the details of his dates with you?”

Max hesitated. “Of course. He had to talk to someone after you broke his heart!” She accused.

“Well, somebody is lying and I don’t think it’s Otto,” said CJ, as she steered the woman to the other side of the lobby, away from the curious onlookers. She addressed her in a hushed tone. “Not that I owe anyone an explanation, but I wasn’t the one who ‘broke off’ anything.”

Max snorted.

“Look, it’s not like I wasn’t willing to give Otto a ride. But he couldn’t stop talking about ex-wife number four long enough for me to get him out of his clothes. That’s on him, not me. I wanted to play naked games with the man and he should have been thrilled that I was willing to take on extensively pre-owned goods, I might add. But honestly I don’t have the patience it would take to steal him away from his past.”

Minion Max’s lower lip pushed out. “But he needs someone to take his mind off of mistake number four. You’ve got that free-for-all spirit he needs to experience.”

CJ didn’t know whether to be flattered by that or not.

“That woman tied him into knots when they were married and even though she’s moved to another state she keeps an iron clad grasp on poor Otto. CJ, that witch has him by the balls and refuses to let anyone else steal his heart away.”

“I have stamina Max, so I’m confident I can get a man’s attention and hold it. The problem is I don’t want to invest the time it would take to pry Otto’s attention away from Four. I get bored easily. And…I’m just not girlfriend material. Honey, I am not for Otto. But let me see if I can help you.”

CJ put a supportive hand on Max’s shoulder and looked around the yoga studio, like a hunter in search of the right prey. She spotted Kate Linley in the corner tugging yoga pant spandex out of her butt crack. She classified Kate as plain, plump, and cute. Doable if a guy wasn’t looking for perfection. A spinster in the making, Kate had all but given up on dating and might have the motivation and endurance needed for such a mission. Perhaps Kate could steal Otto’s attention from Wife Four. “Hey Kate!” CJ shouted across the space. “I’ve got an opportunity for you.”

“Yeah, what’s that?”

CJ looked down at Max. “Well…what do you think?”

Max tilted her head as she studied Kate. “Desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess. Carry on.” She authorized the mission with a wave of her hand, like the queen bidding her to get on with it.

“I need you to take on a little project, Kate. Um,…let’s call it grand theft—Otto.”

Kate’s eyes got wide with interest as she made her way over to the women.

Catching up

Publishing: More about the process… First let me apologize for my recent absence and lack of blogging material lately. I’d like to think I have a pretty great excuse, as I have been actively working on Still Life as it is prepared for publishing. A few weeks ago my editor, Noah JD Chinn, and the publisher’s art team helped me come up with a game plan for the cover art of the book. I have seen what I believe is the final mock-up and am thrilled with the result. It is a concept that captures the quirky contrast between romance and murder within the pages of Still Life. And, seeing my name in print ain’t bad either. When the final design is released I will share it here immediately. Right now I am knee deep into editing the manuscript. What a phenomenal learning experience—way better than I ever thought it would be. That said, the first run could only be described as a rollercoaster ride of emotions beginning with painful and humbling (nothing a few tears and beers couldn’t fix) and then thankfully, moving on to rewarding. It is thrilling to see my story cleared of clutter and transformed into a clean, fast paced read. I have read plenty of books where the author acknowledges their editor with glowing accolades to the point where you’d swear they’re about to swoon. Now I know why. Simply put, Noah—you rock! I can only imagine what it must be like as a book editor to work with the various personalities and egos of writers. In the most basic of terms, the job is to point out the good, the bad, and the ugly of the writer’s work. Then, after talking them in off the ledge, bolster their confidence back up so they can complete the work and finish the book. Thank God my editor has a wicked sense of humor. * wink *   Over the next week or so I will be focused on catching up with home projects, a second pass at the book edit, and on to the task of writing book two in the Randi Lassiter Series.