“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”
The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.
“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”
As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “Winnie Kepler, creation of author D.J. Lutz, describes herself thus:
I’m a 23-year-old female born and raised in Washington DC, recent college graduate (degree in business marketing and sociology!) currently employed in my grandmother’s diner located in a town so small there aren’t any stoplights until you get out to the highway. I may or may not have a boyfriend, a rookie police officer named Parker. It’s really up to him, I guess, but if I keep pushing him I think he will see things my way. He’s a good looking guy, just kinda oblivious at times. D.J. might be described the same way.
When I’m not baking cookies or slinging coffee at The Cat & Fiddle Café, I keep finding myself solving murders. For a small town, Seaview, Virginia has more than its fair share of people dropping dead. Probably not good for tourism.
Anyhow, Parker does what he can, but the police department always seems to need some extra help. That’s where I come in.
“Welcome, Winnie!” Will greets the young woman now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – this sorta-kinda-boyfriend of yours: He’s not better-looking than me, right? Like, scale of 1 to10, where would you place him? And what do you suppose it’ll take to get him to realize that you two are a thing?”
“Can any man be better looking than Will Scarlet?”
Will’s flushed smile says, “Well, not easily, no.”
“And you have the pseudo-bad boy outlaw thing going for you – a deadly combination, if you ask me. But, Parker has the guy-in-uniform thing going for him, plus he’s probably an 8 out of 10. Which is good since I think guys who are 10s know they are 10s and as such become unbelievably dorky, obsessive, and narcissistic. Frankly, I have enough drama in my life.”
A delicate cough off-camera sends Will whirling around in his chair. “Nobody asked your opinion on my obsessively dorky narcissism, Allyn!” He turns back to Winnie. “Pardon. You were saying about your 8 of a man…?”
“Parker is the best my small town has to offer, and he treats me well. Intimidated by me is the same thing, right? Anyway, he knows we are an item; he just needs a little help with how he is supposed to act around me. I like to be in charge, but there are, ahem, times I want him to be ‘the man’. Do I have to tell him I like flowers and chocolates? And sometimes a bad guy just needs a punch in the nose. I mean, really, I can’t be expected to do everything around here. Did I mention he has nice eyes? And I purposely washed his uniform shirt in hot water so it would shrink a little bit. Got muscles, might as well show them off, right? Oops, TMI?”
Will grins. “No such thing as TMI, ‘round here. Now, I hear your book, the first in a planned trilogy, is called ‘The Apple Pie Alibi’. Lord, that title’s got me drooling. And you say you bake cookies. Just how big a role do desserts play in your life story, and is it too much to hope that you’ve brought a sampling of sweets with you today?”
“Dessert first, I say! Yes, this first book involves my grandma entering a cooking contest much akin to Food Network’s Chopped series. So D.J. put all of the recipes from those competitors, plus a few from the Cat & Fiddle Café, at the end of the book. Except for one competitor’s idea to have Mexican flan shot from a small hose attached to a miniature train, the desserts are awesome! It gets worse, I mean better, with the second book D.J. is outlining as we speak – The Milk Chocolate Murders. After the trilogy maybe he should write a diet book?”
“If the diet book’s titled ‘Dessert First’, I’m sold!”
“Oh, and I brought some cinnamon-apple crisp cookies, but I gave them to Allyn-a-Dale. Didn’t he mention it?”
Will whips back around. “ALLYN.”
“No one wants to watch you give an interview with your mouth full,” Allyn tosses back.
“Grr, fine. But I’d better not see any crumbs on your pretty face before the end of this. So, Winnie – as far as I know, most diners don’t require their employees to have much of a business marketing and sociology education. What sort of career plans did you have in mind when you went for your degree, and how did you end up in your position at your grandma’s diner, The Cat & Fiddle Café?”
“My parents are private investigators in Washington DC. I grew up watching them work all hours of the day and night, on call every day and all day. I just wanted a nice little office in a nice little (or big) office building. A place I could walk in from the elevator, say hi to Marge the receptionist and then pick up a cup of coffee on my way to my desk. I’d crunch some numbers, design a new product, check sales, all that office sort of thing. Then go home for the day, hit the gym and maybe plan my next vacation. BUT – apparently getting a job is not as easy as I had thought it would be. My dad said something about a wake-up call? Well, long story short, I ran out of cash so my only options were to move back home (yikes) or move in with my grandmother (double yikes!). It helped, though, that she lives above the diner she owns and operates. Free room and board in exchange for keeping the farmers in fresh coffee and ham biscuits while I search for a job. Pssst – don’t tell my parents, but I kinda like it here.”
“Lord help me, this interview’s got me famished. Let’s change the subject. The amateur detective thing. That’s awesome. I would love to get into that, if only I had any real observational skills to speak of. How do you go about solving murders?”
“Well, there’s the usual way: who has the motive and opportunity? The trick is that some people work really hard to hide the motive. So when dealing with a crime – and in little Seaview, Virginia, it always seems to be murder for some strange reason – I don’t trust anyone to be telling me the truth at first. Then it’s all about making the connections. Who is in cahoots with the mailman? Is the mayor really the father of three kids by the wife of the judge? And sometimes you just have to bluff. My dad calls it the ‘poke and hope’ method. You poke a hole in their story and hope the truth comes out.”
“Nice! Of course, my last question for you is no mystery. Tell me, what is your author D.J.’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He wiggles his brows. “Or would you rather kiss me?”
“I’d go for the kiss, but what if my grandma read this? She’d call me a two-timing hussy and throw me out on the street. Okay, maybe not, but why take chances? So that leaves us with one of D.J.’s deep, dark secrets. Hmmm. There was the time he…dang, here he comes. I’ll talk later about how he passed sixth grade algebra class by writing Monty Python skits the teacher enjoyed. Nice chatting. Gotta run!”
“Great talking to you, Winnie!” Will calls after her. “Now, Allyn, how ‘bout a quick word from our sponsor? …And those cookies, dammit?”
“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, passing the cookies along to the hangry host, “was brought to you by D.J. Lutz’s ‘The Apple Pie Alibi’. Quoth one Winnie Kepler:
D.J. has sent off his manuscript to several agents, many of whom wish him the best in his endeavors. Always the optimist, he takes those replies as a good sign. If one of the agents actually does take him on for representation, I hope I am the first to know. In the meantime, I have seen D.J. plotting the second novel in the trilogy in hopes of publishing both next summer through Penguin’s Book Country online writer’s community.
“Thank you, Allyn,” Will pauses inhaling cookies to say. “And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided in this post, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”