Several years ago, I had a friend who introduced me to the world of film noir. She loved the battle between good and evil that was never really resolved, the gray areas that the anti-hero would play in, the dames with their legs up to here, the down-on-his-luck detective who would try to make things right. She made me fall for it, too.
So when another friend expressed a wish for a chinchilla shifter story, I knew I had to dip back into that genre. However, I couldn’t imagine doing a super serious book about such a fluffy, adorable creature. So August Mendez came to be. He’s overweight, under-motivated, stuck at a dead end job and he loves anything to do with old school detective stories. Oh, yeah, and he can shift into a chinchilla.
For Gumption & Gumshoes, I pulled from the film noir inspiration, but I very much wanted to develop the story into something lighthearted. August’s journey is towards becoming comfortable in his own skin, whatever that skin should be. He is given an opportunity to pursue his daydream of becoming a private eye; within that, though, he has to remove the fantasy and realize that worthwhile things don’t come as easily as the movies.
Sam Ewing is August’s love interest in the book, and I have to admit, I fell in love with writing him. He’s gruff, bitter, divorced, fifteen years August’s senior, and very much a softie under all that grumbling. Throughout the story, he helps August’s confidence while August helps him realize that he can let go of the pain of his failed marriage. They’re a great partnership.
It doesn’t start out great, though. This excerpt is from the first time the reader sees the two interact:
Most days, Sam found, it wasn’t worth getting out of bed. Just flat-out was not worth the time or bother. And really, what was so great about the outside world? People were dicks, by and large, and dealing with them only put him in an increasingly foul temper.
All of this held doubly true on rent day.
Rent day was like a holiday designed by a masochist. Owning a building had sounded like a great idea before he’d actually, well, owned the damn building. Before, it’d just been a job where he would be his own boss, set his own rules, where he could insulate himself from the dickbags of the world. Do some repairs when they were called for, change light bulbs, paint once a year—the whole thing had been perfect. But that was before he’d known about rent day.
Sam slammed his fist on the door, barking out three quick beats. “Mrs. Pritchett, it’s Sam Ewing. It’s the sixth, Mrs. Pritchett, I’m sorry, but I need to collect the rent. Lights don’t go on by themselves, you know?” Yeah, this was exactly what he wanted his life to be. Harassing little old ladies for the rent to their offices. At least it wasn’t apartments. If he had to throw someone out of their home he was pretty sure he’d just give up completely.
Mrs. Pritchett owned a little hair-and-nail salon on the first floor. It was good for business, nice storefront, drove foot traffic. People liked to rent in a building that had all that shit. Four floors, seventeen tenants, and him living in the walk-out basement he’d converted. It wasn’t a bad gig, really. Except for today. Today he had to be up at seven to try to catch people before they opened for business, knock on doors, and be the bad guy.
He wasn’t the fucking bad guy. He was just the guy who wanted to get paid.
Sighing, he fished out one of the Rent Due notices from his pocket and stuck it to the door. Someone was bound to see it when they came to open up, and if he didn’t hear from Mrs. Pritchett by noon he’d have to come back. Silently, Sam begged her to call. He hated coming back in front of customers; it was just… awkward.
Next stop was the fourth floor. Room 403 was the smallest office space he had; he almost hadn’t bothered renting it at all. It was barely big enough for a desk, some bookshelves, and a coffee maker. But every so often a fledgling business liked to get a cheap storefront to start, and it wasn’t hard to keep up with the maintenance on it. So Sam rented it for a song, made the lease six months instead of twelve, and kept it pretty well occupied. He hadn’t had much cause to come up there, really, rent day or no.
At least, not until five months ago.
Five months ago he’d gone against his gut and signed a lease with some chubby, wide-eyed kid in a damn fedora. Something told him that he’d be trouble, but Sam was a sucker for brown eyes, and he’d been cute, in a roly-poly kind of way. Aw, hell, in any way, though Sam was trying real hard to not think about it. At first, it’d been fine. Rent had been paid on time, guy had been quiet, no worries. For the first month.
“Mr. Mendez, it’s Sam Ewing.” Sam frowned at the door, repressing the urge to sigh heavily. He could hear the squeak of a chair, the distinct noise of someone stumbling, a muffled curse. “Mr. Mendez, it’s the sixth.”
There was another curse and a heavy crash. The brass sign on the door proclaiming August Mendez, Private Detective reflected Sam’s face back to him, the eye roll of disbelief echoed there. Finally, though, cautious footsteps approached the door and August opened it, peering through. Sam was struck again by how attractive the guy was, dusky skin and dark, wavy hair framing a round face that seemed to broadcast every emotion. Not that he was there to flirt. Not that Sam flirted anymore.
“Uh. Hey, Sam,” August said, giving Sam his best innocent smile.
“Mr. Mendez,” Sam sighed.
He was interrupted by, “I told you, you can call me August. Or Auggie, whichever. You probably wouldn’t be the Auggie type, though, you know? Not that there’s a type. Or that that’s a bad thing! Just, you’re all stern and you’d probably look weird calling me by the nickname I got as a baby when you’re just, you know.” August trailed off, smile faltering, a miserable expression taking its place.
“Not a baby?” Sam suggested, expression still firm even as the corners of his lips twitched slightly.
“Exactly.” August nodded before he seemed to hear what Sam had said. Horrified, he quickly amended, “No! I mean yes, you are definitely a man. An old man. Not that you’re old!” Letting out an explosive breath, August sagged against the doorframe in surrender. “I’ll have the cash for you this afternoon?”
“Thank you, August.” Sam turned, hiding his smile and heading toward the elevator. Well, that had been slightly better than expected.
I always love being here at TNA. Thank you again for allowing me to share about Gumption & Gumshoes.
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED