Monday afternoon had turned to dusk before Marti remembered the load of tablecloths and kitchen towels in the laundromat across the street. She and Nick had been pleased when Squeaky took over a vacant store next to the dry cleaners and added five washers and four huge dryers. But, they didn’t like to leave dry linens in the tumbling drum. Too many wrinkles and a temptation for any light-fingered laundry doer.
She took off her apron and turned to Nick, where he sat at the counter with his afternoon ham sandwich. “I’ll probably be over there for ten minutes. I want to fluff up the tablecloths so they aren’t so wrinkled.” She pushed a button on the cash register to open the drawer and remove a quarter.
“No problem. It’s our quiet five minutes before the six-o’clock rush.” He downed a huge gulp of the sandwich in one bite.
Marti grabbed her ski jacket from the hooks across from the entry door. She waved at Gene as she crossed the street toward the laundromat. After a day of cold, any unshoveled snow had ice underneath. In front of Man Up Tattoos, even owner Gene, with his broad shoulders, seemed to have a hard time chipping at the layer below the white stuff.
The laundromat’s warmth felt good to Marti. She strode to the commercial dryer where she had placed the diner’s tablecloths several hours ago and inserted the quarter.
The thumping sound made her wonder whether the lint catcher had fallen into the spinning drum. She peered into the round window in the dryer door in time to see the surprised-looking face of Louella Belle Simpson cycle by.
Keeping Characters on Task
I love creating new characters. I can’t control my cats, and my husband doesn’t appreciate stage directions – but those folks in my books do what I ask. Mostly.
Logland, Illinois, featured in Final Cycle, are exceptions. They weren’t supposed to make it to the second book in the series, because the first book (Tip a hat to Murder) was planned as a single title rather than a series. So much for being able to control characters. I simply could not let them go.
I like to develop people who have a sense of humor, but for them to be fully appreciated a book needs a couple of sourpusses. In Final Cycle, Police Chief Elizabeth Friedman’s dry humor is on display more.
She can take town grouch Louella Belle Simpson in stride. Others try to do the same, but a toddler may have expressed his thoughts best. Louella Belle advises his parents to give him less diner food and more organic vegetables. He responds by opening his mouth wide to show her the chocolate milk and peas he has crammed under his tongue.
Diner owners Nick and Marti encourage Louella Belle to leave other customers alone. Nick wishes they could build a moat. Louella Belle’s murder is unexpected, but her habit of providing unwelcome advice on townspeople’s food choices and weight means the potential list of suspects is complicated.
People have reasons for acting as they do, and I like to reveal them slowly. Medical Examiner Skelly wants to be more than friends with the chief, but Elizabeth has learned not to mix work and personal life. In Final Cycle, we get some clues as to why. Readers also learn enough about Louella Belle to understand her peculiarities – not excuse her boorishness, but understand it.
I’m learning more about many of Logland’s residents. As I work on Final Operation, I’m trying to tame them enough to follow my instructions. It sometimes works.
Elaine L. Orr writes three mystery series. The Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series, set at the Jersey shore, includes “Behind the Walls,” which was a finalist for the 2014 Chanticleer Mystery and Mayhem Awards. In the River’s Edge mystery series, Iowa nice meets murder. “From Newsprint to Footprints,” was followed by “Demise of a Devious Neighbor.” The latter was a 2017 Chanticleer finalist. “Tip a Hat to Murder,” the first in the Logland mystery series, was followed by “Final Cycle.” A police procedural with a cozy feel
Elaine also writes plays and novellas, including the one-act, “Common Ground,” published in 2015. Her novella, “Biding Time,” was one of five finalists in the National Press Club’s first fiction contest, in 1993. “Falling into Place” is a novella about family strength as a World War II veteran rises to the toughest occasion. “In the Shadow of Light” brings the tragedies of the U.S. Mexico border to life through the eyes of children and their parents.
Elaine conducts presentations on electronic publishing and other writing-related topics. Nonfiction includes “Words to Write By: Getting Your Thoughts on Paper” and “Writing When Time is Scarce and Getting the Work Published.”
A member of Sisters in Crime, Elaine grew up in Maryland and moved to the Midwest in 1994. She graduated from the University of Dayton with a BA in Political Science and from the American University with an MA in Government. She worked for GAO and the National Academy of Public Administration for many years, and for two Iowa members of the U.S. House of Representatives — one Republican and one Democrat.
Elaine did some journalism course work at the University of Maryland and has taken fiction courses from The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD, the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival, and Georgetown University’s Continuing Education Program. She is a regular attendee at the Magna Cum Murder in Indianapolis and the Book Bums Workshop in West Liberty, Iowa. She has served as a preliminary judge for the Raleigh Fine Arts high school literary awards (2016-19).