Don Travis on his characters, the series and new release ‘The Lovely Pines (A BJ Vinson Mystery #4)’ (author guest blog)

Standard

The Lovely Pines (A BJ Vinson Mystery #4) by Don Travis

DSP Publications
Cover Art: Maria Fanning

Sales LInks:  DSP Publications | Amazon

More links below

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Don Travis here today, talking about characters, the evolution of his  BJ Vinson Mystery Series and the latest story, The Lovely Pines.  Welcome, Don.

 

 

 

 

Winery Worker Gunned Down in Middle of the Night

Police Investigating Whether Murder is Connected to a Prior Break-in

This was likely the Albuquerque Journal headline in my fourth novel in the BJ Vinson Mystery Series, The Lovely Pines. The killing follows what seemed a harmless act of simple vandalism, a break-in at the Lovely Pines Winery and Vineyard. With this, the story is off and running. Readers meet old friends and are introduced to new ones. BJ’s there with his significant other, Paul Barton, his business partners in Vinson and Weeks Confidential Investigations, Hazel and Charlie Weeks, old Mrs. Wardlaw, the across-the-street widow who’s a retired DEA hand. And, of course, there’s Lieutenant Gene Enriquez, BJ’s old riding partner from his days as an Albuquerque Police Department detective.

As an author, it’s amazing to me how new stories play off old ones. BJ’s involvement in The Bisti Business is what sent the winery’s new owner, Ariel Gonda, to him for help. I’ll swear, I had no inkling that Ariel would reappear down the line when I named him the Swiss national treasurer of Alfano Vineyards in Napa Valley. In fact, we never met Ariel in Bisti. He was just a name. But he stuck with me and muscled his way into my book. And most people figure authors create characters. Often, the truth is that characters in our heads create authors.

The book’s blurb gives you the flavor of the novel:

 

When Ariel Gonda’s winery, the Lovely Pines, suffers a break-in, the police write the incident off as a prank since nothing was taken. But Ariel knows something is wrong—small clues are beginning to add up—and he turns to private investigator BJ Vinson for help.

BJ soon discovers the incident is anything but harmless. When a vineyard worker—who is also more than he seems—is killed, there are plenty of suspects to go around. But are the two crimes even related? As BJ and his significant other, Paul Barton, follow the trail from the central New Mexico wine country south to Las Cruces and Carlsbad, they discover a tangled web involving members of the US military, a mistaken identity, a family fortune in dispute, and even a secret baby. The body count is rising, and a child may be in danger. BJ will need all his skills to survive because, between a deadly sniper and sabotage, someone is determined to make sure this case goes unsolved.

Now let me give you a short scene that comes at the beginning of the fifth chapter of the book, which will explain the imagined headlines above:

*****

The phone rang at five thirty the next morning. Paul groaned and turned over. I swore for the thousandth time to delist my home number from the directory.

“Vinson,” I mumbled into the pesky instrument.

“BJ, this is Ray Yardley.”

I sat up, suddenly wide-awake. “Why is the state police calling me at this ungodly hour?”

Ray and I met back when we were both APD cops. We’d worked together on a couple of cases before I got shot and he went over to the state boys. He was a good man. Must be. He was a lieutenant now.

“Your client insisted I call you.”

“Bless my client. Which one should I thank?”

“Fellow by the name of Gonda out at the Lovely Pines Winery. There’s been a homicide involving one of his employees, and he said you were working on something that could tie in.”

“Who got killed?”

“A fellow by the name of Zuniga. Bascomb Zuniga. Know him?”

“Talked to him yesterday for the first time. He seemed like a decent kid. When did it happen?”

“Sometime last night. Fill me in on your involvement, will you?”

I took Ray through the situation and asked if I could walk the scene of the crime.

“Not right now. The crime scene boys still have it. Hell, I don’t even have access yet.”

“Who has jurisdiction?”

“When the call came to central dispatch, it was routed to us. We’ll probably retain control, but Sandoval County has a deputy out here. An officer named Roma Muñoz. Know her?”

“No. She have any experience?”

“Been a member of the department for ten years now. I’ve worked with her before. Prickly but competent. I’ll put in a good word for you. Why don’t you drive on up and wait for us at the house? Your client’s pretty broken up. We had to physically remove him from the crime scene and forbid him to return. And we could use some help making sense of things. His English deserts him, and he shifts into a foreign language now and then. Sometimes it sounds like French and sometimes it sounds like German.”

“He’s a naturalized citizen from Switzerland, so it’s probably a little of both. It’ll take me better than an hour to clean up and get up there. Will you still be around?”

“Oh yeah. I’ll meet you at the Lovely Pines. That’s a hell of a name, isn’t it?”

“But appropriate. It’s a pretty place.”

I hung up and found Paul staring at me through sleep-filled brown eyes. “What’s up?”

“I am, I guess. One of Ariel Gonda’s people got himself killed last night. You catch some more z’s. I’ll try to be quiet.”

“Naw, I’ve got to get moving anyway. I’ll fix breakfast while you shower.”

*****

Now they say I have to tell you something about myself. Sometimes I think that I write stories because my own life is so boring. There’s not really much to tell. I grew up in southeastern Oklahoma as a tubercular child, a mama’s boy who lived in libraries. Believing I could not physically participate in sports, I developed absolutely no interest in them, thereby putting miles between me and my peers. College sent me to Texas; the US Army, to Germany. That is when I found out I could do anything anyone else could do… sort of late in life to learn that. I painted still-lifes for a while but gave up painting to return to writing. I wrote and sold sixty or so short stories under a pseudonym, published seven novels under that same name, but wanted to write mysteries under Don Travis. So I did. And here we are. Hey, I warned you it was boring.

What am I up to now? Abaddon’s Locusts, my fifth BJ Vinson book has been put to bed by DSP Publications and scheduled for release January 22, 2019. Once again, I reached back to Bisti for some of the characters and set a lot of the action on the Navajo Nation reservations in New Mexico. The sixth, The Voxlightner Scandal, is abirthing in my computer as we speak.

Many thanks to Stella and Melanie at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for allowing me to guest post this blog. This is not the first time they’ve been so kind, and it’s sort of hard to let them know how much I appreciate it.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

I encourage personal contact by readers. They don’t know it, but I draw on them like some old vampire for literary sustaining energy. My personal links follow:

Blog: dontravis.com

Email: dontravis21@gmail.com

Facebook: dontravis

Twitter: @dontravis3

And some buy links for The Lovely Pines:

DSPP ebook: https://www.dsppublications.com/books/the-lovely-pines-by-don-travis-457-b

DSPP paperback: https://www.dsppublications.com/books/the-lovely-pines-by-don-travis-468-b

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lovely-Pines-BJ-Vinson-Mystery/dp/1640805052

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-lovely-pines-don-travis/1127915422

Again, thanks to Stella and Melanie, and a shout-out to DSP Publications—without which there would be nothing to read.

In Our Contemporary Spotlight: Don Travis on The Bisti Business (guest excerpt)

Standard

The Bisti Business (A BJ Vinson Mystery #2) by Don Travis
D
SP Publications
Release Date: March 21, 2017

Available for Purchase at

amazon square borderB&N borderApple border

Also available for purchase in paperback at DSP Publications

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Don Travis today.  He’s brought an excerpt from his latest BJ Vinson mystery, The Bisti Business. Welcome, Don.

Excerpt from The Bisti Business

BJ Vinson Hosts Lt. Eugene Enriquez for Brunch at Eulelia’s in Historic La Posada Hotel

BJ’s not above asking his old partner at the Albuquerque Police Department for help when he needs it.

BJ knows his new client is trouble right off the bat. In Don Travis’s The Bisti Business, the confidential investigator accepts the assignment to locate the missing gay son of a homophobic multi-millionaire Napa Valley Wine mogul because as a gay detective, he has sympathy for the college kid and his traveling companion. So he sets off to find two young men traveling New Mexico in a bright orange Porsche Boxter. The first thing he does is turn to his old partner at APD for some help. How? By feeding him brunch, that’s how. The following scene comes toward the end of Chapter 2 of the book:

Gene Enriquez, my old partner at APD, had recently made lieutenant, and he sometimes chaffed at the rein the promotion put on his fieldwork. When I called he indulged in some bellyaching about being swamped but agreed to meet for a cup of coffee at Eulalia’s in the La Posada on Second and Copper, a short walk for each of us.

The central core of my building opened onto an atrium soaring through all five levels. As the elevator doors parted on the ground floor, my eyes automatically swept the waxed tiles. A year ago, a man had died on those hard clay squares when he went over the railing after attacking me on the landing outside of my office on the third floor. Sometimes I still saw smears of blood on the floor, but it was an illusion. The blue-black terra-cotta was scrubbed spotless and polished to a high shine.

I exited the building and headed east on Copper, pausing to say hello to the Sidewalk Society, nine life-sized bronzes by the Santa Fe based sculptor, Glenna Goodacre, that were grouped on the corner sidewalk outside the Hyatt Regency. After greeting the cast figures almost daily for the past few years, I had reached a few conclusions about them. The young woman with a briefcase was said to be an up-and-coming CEO, but I’m convinced she was a 1950s lawyer. The construction worker and his foreman, who sported a battered, old-style broad-brimmed hat, represented the thirties or forties. It had taken me some time to tumble to the fact the statues reflected different time periods in Albuquerque’s more recent history.

Gene yelled for me to wait for him as he strode briskly across Civic Plaza. “You always talk to statues?” He was a little breathless after running to beat the light change at the intersection. A stocky Hispanic with regular, pleasant features that seem vaguely Polynesian, Gene always appeared slightly frazzled; a consequence of dealing with the Albuquerque Police Department, a wife, and five kids on a daily basis.

I accepted both his hand and his ribbing. “Every time. Get some of my best answers from them.”

“I keep expecting one of the rookies to arrest the kid.” He motioned to the bronze of a teenager with a skateboard.

We entered the La Posada by the north entrance and stepped into another world. The interior was done in Spanish Territorial with aged wood copings, corbels highlighted in scarlet and turquoise, and heavily carved lintels. Nichos, small shelves in the white plastered walls, held carved wooden santos and ornate Mexican tinwork. This hotel had once been part of the Hilton chain—Conrad’s first in New Mexico, as a matter of fact—but had been recently sold, yet again, and was scheduled for a makeover in the near future.

Gene and I selected a heavy oak table stained ebony by the passage of time, and claimed a pair of sturdy straight-backed chairs padded in green and gold. We spent a few minutes bringing one another up to date on our lives.

After making a brunch of the restaurant’s éclairs and a wedge of superb lemon meringue pie dribbled with chocolate, Gene was through chitchatting. “Okay, so what do you want?”

“What makes you think I want something? Can’t I call a pal without having an ulterior motive?”

“No.”

I pretended to think for a moment. “Okay then, I’ve got a client looking for his missing son and the kid’s traveling companion.” In less than two minutes, I’d briefed him on the situation.

“So they’re like that, huh?” He wiggled his hand back and forth, a gesture that was supposed to convey something. Gene knew me too well to be sensitive about my sexual orientation.

“You mean are they gay? Yeah, I’d say so.”

“And you want to get in their hotel room.”

“Seems a logical place to start since one of their fathers hired me to represent the family.”

“These two, they’re emancipated, right? Adults.”

“Both are twenty-one, according to Alfano.”

“Hmm. Alfano gonna file a missing person’s report?”

“He will if you think it’ll help.”

“Naw. We’ve got enough to do without looking for a couple of kids who’ve run off to play hanky-panky. But if they strayed across the border into Arizona, they might be cooling their heels in some county sheriff’s jail as we speak. They take that shit seriously over there.”

“Possible, but not likely. They could be in real trouble, Gene. Alfano keeps a tight rein on his boy, and the fact he’s looking for him is troubling.”

“Maybe the colt got out of the family pasture and is feeling his oats. But okay, have the old man file a report, and I’ll see if I can get us inside the hotel room. Unofficially.”

I picked up the tab to see what kind of damage Gene had done to my pocketbook. Anthony P. Alfano’s pocketbook, actually.

Gene caught me peeking at the check. “Come on, you can afford it.”

“Maybe so, but it’s not my expense, it’s my client’s, and I don’t know how picky he is.”

Gene Enriquez is a good detective and a smooth talker, at least smooth enough to get us access to the room occupied by—or held in the names of—Orlando Alfano and Dana Norville. There was little to see. The pair had taken their traveling bags with them, leaving behind nothing personal except for two bundles of clothing destined for the laundry, the only sign they intended to return. One set of duds was expensive Abercrombie & Fitch, the other bundle was GAP. It wasn’t hard to figure which clothes belonged to what dude.

The breast pocket of one shirt held a carefully folded Chamber of Commerce brochure extolling the virtues of El Moro’s Inscription Rock and the Ice Caves near Grants. A rumpled pair of trousers—the expensive ones—gave up a not-so-neatly folded tourist road map of the state.

The bell captain remembered the two men asking his advice about the Enchanted Circle in the Taos area. They had specifically asked about white water rafting along the Taos Box.

The clerk in the gift shop remembered the pair because, she blushingly admitted, they were both so handsome. Shortly after checking in, they had picked up several pamphlets from her, expressing interest in the Turquoise Trail, a fifty-mile National Scenic Byway up Route 14 to Santa Fe studded with quaint, historic villages. Orlando and Dana had been especially curious about Valles Caldera, the thirteen-mile wide crater of an extinct volcano south of Los Alamos, the Atomic City. Unfortunately, they also asked about Lincoln County and Carlsbad Caverns to the south and east, as well as Mesa Verde and the Bisti Badlands in the northwest corner of the state.

As we drove back downtown, Gene agreed to put out a bulletin on Orlando Alfano’s Porsche, an orange 2008 model Boxter S, California vanity plate LANDO 06. The kid probably got his undergraduate degree that year.

“A buggy like that’s bound to have a navigational system with a GPS satellite signal,” Gene said.

“A 750 Plus Magellan. The old man has his attorney contacting the company to get the present coordinates. They’re touchy about giving out such information, and Alfano is bound to have more clout than I do. The way I read this guy, he’ll have everyone from the governor on up calling the company if he can’t buy the data from them.”

“You do attract a certain type of client, don’t you?”

*****

About The Bisti Business

Although repulsed by his client, an overbearing, homophobic California wine mogul, confidential investigator B. J. Vinson agrees to search for Anthony Alfano’s missing son, Lando, and his traveling companion—strictly for the benefit of the young men. As BJ chases an orange Porsche Boxster all over New Mexico, he soon becomes aware he is not the only one looking for the distinctive car. Every time BJ finds a clue, someone has been there before him. He arrives in Taos just in time to see the car plunge into the 650-foot-deep Rio Grande Gorge. Has he failed in his mission?

Lando’s brother, Aggie, arrives to help with BJ’s investigation, but BJ isn’t sure he trusts Aggie’s motives. He seems to hold power in his father’s business and has a personal stake in his brother’s fate that goes beyond familial bonds. Together they follow the clues scattered across the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness area and learn the bloodshed didn’t end with the car crash. As they get closer to solving the mystery, BJ must decide whether finding Lando will rescue the young man or place him directly in the path of those who want to harm him.

About the Author

According to custom, I’m supposed to tell you something about me. That won’t take long. Born an Okie, I took a roundabout journey to my adopted home in New Mexico… which shows up in all her glory in all my stories. Texas Christian University gave me my education, the US Army contributed foreign travel (Germany) to my experience, Colorado gave me my first permanent job before transferring me to Albuquerque. When earning a living monopolized my time, I turned to painting to satisfy a creative urge. Did okay at it, but that craft didn’t scratch the itch I was feeling. Penning short stories seemed to do that. After selling around sixty of them under a pseudonym, I turned to writing novels. Zozobra is the first to see the light of publication, and Bisti is the second. A third BJ Vinson novel, The City of Rocks, is scheduled for release on July 18, 2017. The first draft of a fourth in the series, The Lovely Pines, now rests on my OneDrive.

I do a weekly blog about my writing and recounting some of my personal peccadillos on dontravis.com. I am a member of SouthWest Writers and give back to the community by teaching a free writing class at Albuquerque’s North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center.

Here are some links to me and my writing:

Blog: dontravis.com

Email: dontravis21gmail.com

Facebook: dontravis

Twitter: @dontravis3

Many thanks to Stella and Melanie at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for permitting this guest post. And a tip of the hat to DSP Publications for bringing out the book.