Revisiting an Old Friend

This week, I had the pleasure of speaking at a Women’s Spring Event–meeting new people and catching up with old friends. I had so much fun, I started thinking we should revisit some of my old characters here and find out what they’re up to these days.  

Since my recent visit to an art auction aboard a cruise ship had me reminiscing about the art crime in Perilous Waters, released four years ago this month,

it seems appropriate to start with FBI agent, Sam Steele.

(BTW, Serena Jones fans . . . Sam knows her and has an inside scoop)

He’s the star of this Love Inspired Suspense: 

Cover of Perilous Waters

Not to be confused with the 1948 movie of the same name: 

And as an added bonus, for those who haven’t read the book, it’s only 99cents on both Amazon.com and Amazon.ca  at the moment.

Would you believe that even though I dreamed up every one of my characters and they spent months and months traipsing around my head as I wrote their stories, I often forget more about them than I remember? 

So . . . before we get into the “what are you up to now” questions, we’ll have a few get to know you questions, for those who’ve never met Sam and for the rest of us who have probably long since forgotten him. 

Sandra: Tell us a little about yourself, Sam, and how you came to be in the midst of a thief hunt on an Alaskan cruise.

Sam: I’m an FBI agent, with our art crime team. Art crime is overlooked by a lot of police departments. Yet, it’s a seventy-billion-dollar-a-year crime with criminals using paintings as collateral to finance everything from arms, drugs and money-laundering deals. So when we got a tip that a stolen Native American painting was being sold out of Skagway, Alaska, to the Robbins’ Gallery, I did some digging.

When I learned Jennifer and Cassandra Robbins, who are the heiresses to the gallery, currently being managed by their guardian, booked a cruise to Alaska, I knew I didn’t have time to set up a sting by my usual methods. So I decided to book my parents, widowed brother, my nephew and myself on the same cruise, under the pretense of celebrating our parents’ 40th wedding anniversary.

Sandra: Ooh, sounds as if it could be risky, exposing family to criminal types. What did you hope to actually accomplish? 

Sam: Not to put my family at risk, for sure! In fact, they had no idea of my true motives and I’d hoped to keep it that way. My goal was merely to befriend the women in order to gather the evidence against them that I needed.

Sandra: That doesn’t sound like something a nice guy would do. And I can’t believe I’d make the hero of one of my stories not be a nice guy!

Sam: It’s the job. Sometimes I’ve even had to pose as a criminal to recover stolen art and bring bad guys to justice. More than once I’ve posed as an unscrupulous private collector willing to overlook a masterpiece’s provenance for the opportunity to own it. 

 

Sandra: I guess sometimes the ends justify the means. But there must be some things you’d never do. 

Sam: Yeah, I’d never again lie to the woman I love. 

Sandra: Ooh, I think that’s a bit of a spoiler for those who haven’t read you’re story. Why don’t you tell us about the women you are investigating. What was your first impression? When did you know you had feelings for Jennifer?

Jennifer Robbins and her twin sister Cassandra were raised in a small rural Washington State community, where their mother taught art and her father managed a store. After her mother’s art was “discovered,”  the family moved to Seattle where they opened what quickly became a lucrative art gallery.

Sadly at seventeen, the girls lost their parents and became wards of the gallery’s curator. Cassandra now works at the gallery and seems to love the glamorous parties and publicity that goes along with it, while Jennifer works for a charitable foundation and seems to embrace a quiet and humble lifestyle. Of course, as an agent, I can’t take anything at face value. I’ve been duped before by a beautiful woman that almost cost me a case. But from the first time I met Jennifer, I felt an undeniable attraction to her beauty inside and out. My family adored her, too, especially my nephew who she helped win a game of dominoes against our family aboard ship. Spending time with her and my family felt like the idyllic life I’d once dreamed about having.

Sandra: Is there anything that scares you?

Sure, the thought of making a wrong call, a mistake that could cost someone his or her life.

 

Sandra: What do you hope people will learn from your story?

Sam: Love is worth the risk. 

 

Sandra: So true. Now it’s been four years since your story took place. What have you been up to since? 

Sam: Well, those who’ve read my brother Jake’s story in Identity Withheld and my cousin’s story Emergency Reunion know that I left the FBI to become a sheriff deputy and married Jennifer. And I’m thrilled to say we’re expecting our first child.

Sandra: Congratulations! I imagine your parents are thrilled.

Sam: Over the moon, but you know all about the joy of grand parenting I hear.  😉   

Sandra: Oh, yes, I’m eagerly anticipating the arrival of grandchild #6.  😀 One last question from our Serena Jones fans who are eager to know what she’s up to these days. You both worked on the FBI art crime team. Have you heard from Serena recently? 

Sam: It’s interesting you should ask, because yes, she reached out to me when a situation arose on her honeymoon on one of the Greek Isles. But that’s a whole other story.  😆 

 

Your Turn: Any questions for Sam?

 

P.S. Serena Jones fans please refrain from posting spoilers in your comments here. We can continue the discussion of Sam’s conversation with Serena over on the private Facebook group open to anyone who has finished reading Over Maya Dead Body (and can prove it by answering the admission questions) at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1680399125601702/ 

In the Mood for more Art Crime? Book Sale

Hey, everyone. Sorry I’ve been quiet here for so long. The past six weeks have been a blur. I had a fabulous time at my first Bouchercon Mystery Conference. It was especially fun to meet Maureen Jennings, the author of the original Murdoch Mysteries, and to hear how they evolved into a popular TV series. 

Then my grandson had another surgery on his whole leg to straighten it, so I’ve been spending a lot more time with him and his siblings, helping out, since they also have a new little baby in the family, and it will be a few more weeks yet, before he’s mobile again. He is progressing fabulously, though, and we so appreciate the prayers of the many who have been remembering him. 

Now . . . to the book sale news. 

If you’ve only recently discovered my novels, you may not realize that before Serena Jones and the Port Aster Secrets series, I wrote several romantic suspense novels. 

One of them, Perilous Waters, is about another member of the FBI Art Crime Team, Sam Steele, and he’s chasing down the bad guys aboard an Alaskan cruise.  

Cover for Perilous Waters

May I just inject here how much fun I had researching this novel!  😉 

The great news is that right now, Perilous Waters is on sale for 99¢ on all the Ebook platforms. 

Sooo, if you’ve enjoyed following Serena Jones’s cases, now is a great time to pick up Perilous Water, because I’m not sure how long the sale will last. 

Click on the book’s cover above to go to the book’s page on my site, where you’ll find links to iBooks, Kobo, kindle etc. through the “buying options” button. And after you read the book, check out it’s bonus features here

Evolution of a Novel – Part 3 – The Crime & A Giveaway

I have a both a shoebox and computer folder full of potential crime ideas for future novels. The idea of investigating Art Crime was sparked by a newspaper article about Alain Lacoursière, a Montreal police detective who sought to combine his passion for art with fighting crime. He enrolled in an art history course and began collecting catalogs from art auctions, as well as reports of stolen art.

His first “buy” was an antique tapestry stolen from NY, which he “bought” at auction for $195,000. Of course, the money never exchanged hands. He reported the find to the FBI who recovered the tapestry and in return wrote a letter to the detective’s boss telling him how valuable his work is.

Art 7

And so began one of the top art-theft units in the world. The FBI estimates that the international black market in art is worth about $6-billion a year, while Interpol ranks art theft as the fourth largest criminal enterprise after drugs, money laundering and weapons.

It sounded to me like a great springboard for a story. And when I boarded our Alaskan Cruise and saw the art gallery and information about the on-board auctions, I knew my cruise story was the one I wanted to work it into.

Art 5

Recovery rates of stolen art are pathetically low, which makes it a wonderful niche in which my hero detective can shine.

Through my research, I also discovered the biography of the founder of the FBI’s Art Crime Team, Robert K. Wittman. I devoured the descriptions of his exploits going undercover to rescue stolen treasures around the world and gleaned more ideas than I could possibly use in a short romantic suspense.

The book also gave a fabulous glimpse into the potential psyche of my hero.

So…while aboard the cruise, I visited my first ever art auction.

On Board Auction

Only a couple of pieces of the many displayed actually sold, and so began my musing of how my unscrupulous gallery owners might use such a venue to smuggle something more valuable or “pay” for something else. I literally had dozens of ideas of how I might integrate it into the story.

Of course, you’ll have to read Perilous Waters if you want to find out which idea I incorporated.

While many art thefts are crimes of opportunity, after which the thief waits for the crime to be reported and then either attempts to claim the reward or sells it on the black market, others are well-planned and the art may be used as collateral to fund other criminal enterprises such as drug and arms deals of organized crime.

And the art might be stolen from anywhere from a museum to a private collector to an archeological dig.

Or from a cruise ship. Maybe. 😉

All of the photos in this blog were taken during my cruise. Art was displayed throughout the ship.  

Art 3 Art 2

 The pieces pictured below are of the variety I envisioned my heroine most appreciating of her mother’s former work, heart-warming depictions of carefree childhood…what she once enjoyed, before her mother became famous and Jennifer’s idyllic world turned upside down.

Art 6

 Your Turn:  What is your favorite style of art or artist and why?  Think about what you might put on a wall or shelf in your home or office if money were no object.  😎 (Scroll down past giveaway & tags to find the comment box)

 

To celebrate the release of Perilous Waters (available now from Harlequin.com and coming in April to stores everywhere), I’m hosting a

Giveaway For All,

even if you’ve already received Perilous Waters through the Love Inspired Suspense subscription service:

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interested in writing romantic suspense? Join me Tuesday at Seekerville for my how-to post.

I’m also delighted to be interviewed at an Australian blog this week–booklovers1