By Jeff Salter
This week is open for, among other things, promotion! My first published novel (though my seventh to complete), “The Overnighter’s Secrets”, was released May 24 last year by Astraea Press. I’ve been calling it romantic suspense; my editor said it’s suspense with romantic elements. Suffice it to say that my story has mystery, danger, murder, action … and romance. Call it what you want.
The inspiration for this story came from examining the varied contents of an antique suitcase — which my friend acquired (some 16 years ago) from dumpster divers in Calif.
We were able to connect a diary, a family photo album, numerous Vaudeville programs, and photos from silent movie sets … all to one person — Lizette Thorne. Internet research revealed that she was an actress in nearly four dozen silent movies and spent one year (1916) in the same studio as Charlie Chaplin. By the time I’d written some 77,000 words in my first draft, my earliest research finally put me in contact with the granddaughter of that actress!
So how did an actual silent movie actress (and her belongings) inspire the fictional plot and characters of a contemporary novel of romantic suspense? This excerpt and blurb will give you an idea, but you’ll need to invest $3 in an electronic copy to really appreciate it!
[From Chapter 28]
The smell of freshly baked pizza entering a small cottage makes your mouth water. Especially when the thoughtful individual added an order of succulent bread sticks, so warm that the steam was still rising.
Beth awkwardly hugged Shane as he clutched the boxes.
He put down the meal, then turned and embraced her properly. “I thought about you all day.”
It warmed her, but she couldn’t let down her guard. “I saw you less than two hours ago.”
“I forgot to tell you then.” He bit the end off a breadstick.
She eyed him narrowly. Something was different. Beth located disposable plates. When she opened the lid of the larger box, she nearly swooned. Anybody who wanted to seduce her needed only fresh, hot pizza. No anchovies.
Shane scooped up two slices and looked around. “Table or couch?”
“Couch. I mean, table.” She caught a string of hot cheese on her chin. “Doesn’t matter. You get comfortable and I’ll join you.”
With the breadstick clamped in his mouth like a fat cigar, Shane carried his plate in one hand and the half-full plastic cup in his other. He placed both on the coffee table and sat on the sofa.
Before she joined him, Beth watched from the kitchen as Shane sipped tea and took a large bite of pizza. It took a while for him to chew it down sufficiently and Beth continued to monitor as she ate her own delicious wedge.
He noticed. “What, Bethany?”
“Huh?” She took her seat on the couch.
“You’re staring. What’s up?”
“Oh, nothing.” She lied. “Well, yeah…noticing you’re different somehow.”
When Shane smiled, a morsel of crust fell onto his lap. He located it just below his buckle and plopped it back into his mouth. “Different…how?”
“Not sure.” Beth squinted. “The word that comes to mind is ‘calmer’…but that’s not exactly right.”
Shane chuckled. “Calmer?”
“Okay. Then maybe more mature…or something.”
“Well, I am a bit older than I was…”
“No, I don’t mean older.” Beth picked up another slice. “Never mind.” She bit off a sizeable chunk.
Shane studied her. In a moment, he reached way over, plucked a strand of errant cheese from the corner of her mouth and placed it on his own tongue.
Beth’s eyes widened. This was a new Shane. The old Shane would just point and grunt.
“Maybe I have matured a bit, Bethany. If that means it knocked me flat and sobered me up…when I lost you.” His eyes glistened.
Beth dabbed a pizza-stained paper napkin at her eyes. “I wasn’t lost, Shane. I had to move.”
“I know, Bethany, I know.” He moved his plate to the low table. “If I had a brother or sister who needed my help, I guess I would have gone away too. But I couldn’t see it back then. It hurt too….” He choked up.
Beth hurried to the bathroom sink to wash her face. She stared at the woman in the mirror and barely recognized the image. That person had aged six years in the past three…and another full year in the ten days since her break-in. The woman in that looking glass had left her lover, lost her confidence, buried her brother, and now stayed constantly frightened. Who was she and what had she done with Bethany Muse?
When Beth left suddenly, it broke two hearts … but she’d had no choice. Shane, a rugged, ex-Airborne biker, handled it badly … but so had she. Three years later and 2000 miles away, she desperately needs her ex-lover’s protection from a violent menace with ‘bad history’ who’ll do anything to reclaim a mysterious suitcase Beth possesses.
Long before Shane acquired that overnighter, a silent movie actress kept secrets there … and now several lives are in jeopardy. An ambitious female state senate candidate hires a ruthless investigator to eliminate potential campaign problems like her dark family secret — a bizarre 1889 murder.
Is Beth’s terrifying ordeal simply because she unwittingly possesses the overnighter’s secrets? Or is it due to the meth-fueled dumpster-diver’s unfinished business?
Shane will likely return to California after he resolves this Tennessee situation … so Beth struggles to resist her reawakened feelings. But before she can sort out their renewed relationship … Beth is kidnapped! To rescue her, Shane enters an obvious trap in a dilapidated hotel. Only with Beth’s help can both survive the violent struggle against her kidnappers.
Also available in paperback ($13.99):
Have you ever examined the belongings of someone else you’ve never heard of … and wondered what that person was like?