Meet My Friend Brett Battles

Every now and then you run into the new writer who pisses you off. Here you’ve been churning out reliable thrillers on a reliable schedule, and this kid shows up who has it all: great characters, great plot, great pacing. He’s the punk who wanders into town with a pea shooter on his hip who can out-shoot every gunslinger in town.

I’ve only met a few of these wunderkinds in my time, and Brett Battles is one of them. We first ran into each other at the inaugural ThrillerFest in Scottsdale, Arizona. His reputation preceded him, and in spite of my heartfelt desire to hate him, he even turned out to be a nice guy. Dammit. He’s had his ups and downs in the blender that is the publishing industry, but he’s never lost his sense of humor, and he’s never lost his sense of who he is. In my book, praise doesn’t come higher than that. The fact that he’s as good a writer as he is continues to piss me off, but that’s just my curmudgeonly side talking. In reality, folks don’t come much better than Brett. I’m honored to dedicate my space in the Blogosphere to him today.  By the way, Brett periodically posts on his blog The Independent Writer.  For a limited time, Brett has put the Kindle and Nook versions of his novel LITTLE GIRL GONE on sale for only 99¢.

By Brett Battles

The picture is of two people. The man in the center looks tall, maybe six feet. But the photograph cuts him off at the waist, so there’s no way to tell for sure. He’s smiling in a way that you know he’s not just putting it on for the camera. He Caucasian face looks even whiter than it probably is because of his dark hair and matching goatee. You can’t really tell what he’s wearing. A dark sweater that zips up in the front, perhaps, but the background is black, so his clothes quickly fade into it.

Standing next to him with an arm thrown loosely over his shoulder is a woman. She is impossibly beautiful. Not runway model beautiful, she is real and she is stunning. The smile on her face isn’t so much a smile as a knowing smirk. Her eyes, half closed, match her mischievous grin. She is of African descent, her skin darker than some, and lighter than others. Above the right corner of her lip is a dark mole Marilyn herself would have killed for. Her hair is straight, though it, too, blends into the background and gets lost. The only parts you can see are where it passes over her ear, and the strands that drape down her neck and onto her partially bare shoulder.

It’s a party, or a night at a club, or someplace similar. Wherever it is, it’s easy to see they are enjoying themselves. The rest of the photo is merely shadows on shadows in the background. Could be people, could be things, or could be stains that accumulated on the photo before I found it.

I don’t know these people. I’ve never seen them in my life. And yet, the photography—a Polaroid—hangs on my wall, protected now in a zip lock bag that’s held in place by a piece of tape.

I found the photo at least a year ago when I was out for one of my frequent walks. It was lying on the ground, half hidden by a few leaves at the edge of the sidewalk. I almost passed it by before I realized what it was.

How long it had been there? I don’t know. But Polaroids fade in the sun, and this one still had most of its color intact. Still, it’s life, post whoever had dropped it, hadn’t been an easy one. Some of the white on the frame in the upper left corner had flake off, revealing the silver backing below. The rest of the frame was smudged and dirty, like it had been kicked around for a while.

I stopped where I’d found it, and stared at the image while cars drove by on the street a dozen feet away. I didn’t care about the traffic, though, or the couple of people who walked passed. I only cared about the two people in the photo, the man and the woman.

There was a story there. A story I needed to tell. What I didn’t know yet was what that story was. So I carried the photo home, and I put it in that bag, and I taped it to my wall.

A few times every week I look at it. I study the faces. I try to listen in case they have something they want to say. There is a story here. A story I do need to tell. I don’t know what it is yet, but it will come.

It always comes.

Inspiration is out there for all of us, doesn’t matter if you’re a writer or not. So where have you found unexpected inspiration?