Thank you for visiting with me as I’m touring with one of my Alex Wolfe Mysteries, Credo’s Hope. I’m traveling across the country as I write this, meeting wonderful people and enjoying the many different cultures and personalities found in each of the charming regions I’m traveling through. Have any of you ever noticed how incredibly friendly the people of the Midwest can be? A total stranger in Oklahoma spent almost an hour of her own time helping me find a pet friendly hotel while a young man in Missouri ran through a farmer’s field after my Chihuahua who’d decided she wanted to take her own tour of the Show Me state. As I drove through the southern states, people with wide smiles and heavy southern drawls were only too happy to repeat themselves as many times as necessary to make themselves understood by my uninitiated ears.
One side benefit to meeting such an eclectic group of people is the shear number of interesting personalities and quirks I can use for new characters in my novels. Take for example the waitress in a small town in northern Texas. We’d pulled into a Mom and Pop cafe on the main street of town. What made this town unique was there were no McDonalds, Subways or Taco Bells lining the main thoroughfare. We had the choice of this clean little place with sky-blue naugahyde booths, old-fashioned music players on each tabletop, and hand printed, laminated menus or a dirty little greasy spoon across the street. We chose the Mom and Pops.
The waitress who met us at the door wore blindingly white polyester pants and blouse with a sky-blue trim that matched the color of the booths. She had a pretty, round face and a sparkling gleam of mischief dancing just behind her greenish brown eyes. Our conversation went something like this:
I pointed to the menu and asked, “So, what do you recommend?”
The waitress smiled, and instead of answering my question, asked one of her own. “You’re not from around here, are you?” She didn’t have the typical small town Texas accent, and if I had to place her, I would have said Valley Girl from California.
“No, We’re from Arizona. Why?”
We were the only ones in the dining room, but she still glanced around to make sure we were alone. Looking back at me, she raised carefully plucked eyebrows, silently expecting me to get her meaning. I raised mine in return, telling her I didn’t have a clue what she was trying to say. Very slowly, and with exaggerated meaning, her eyes slid to the greasy spoon next door. I followed her gaze, and for the first time noticed their parking lot. It was filled with cars and trucks and people standing around both inside and out laughing and jostling each other.
Just about that time, the owner/chef of our clean little diner stepped into the room and all of us turned toward him. The portly man had the same round face as the waitress, except where hers was open and laughing, his was pinched with an angry scowl and lowered, glowering eyes. He didn’t say anything to the girl, just motioned with a little waving flick of his hand for her to hurry up.
“Be right there, Uncle Brett.” She turned back to us as he retreated into his kitchen. Standing there with her pen poised over her notepad, she smiled conspiratorially at me, pointed across the street with her chin and said sotto voiced, “So, that’s what I recommend.” Her eyes sparkled. “They’ve got a killer chicken fried steak and Ms. Porter makes the most wonderful gravy in the world.”
I looked across the street at their full parking lot, then glanced at our lone car sitting in the lot of the cafe looking like a lonely fourth cousin at a family reunion. My attention shifted back to our waitress. “Uncle?”
She looked over her shoulder toward the kitchen, then leaned in to whisper, “He takes all my tips and keeps them for himself. I’m only here for another two weeks then I’m outta here.”
I nodded, stood up thanked her quietly, then sauntered over to the crowded restaurant where I had the most mouth watering chicken fried steak and gravy I’d ever tasted.
And that my friends, is exactly where I get the kinds of characters for my books, such as Credo’s Hope, that have my readers writing to say they wish they could actually be friends with my main protagonist, Alexandra Wolfe and her friends who help turn Alex’s everyday life as a detective upside down.