LOVE IS IN THE AIR! Valentine’s Day got me to thinking about not just Logan’s love life, but of the many faces of love that have popped up over the years in the Logan McKenna Mystery series. I always dish up at least one murder in each book, but Logan and friends have layered lives, which include loves lost, gained, and longed for—some of them happy, some of them not—many of them unconventional.

Take Iona Slatterly of the neon geranium lips and platinum beehive hairdo with an ever-present cigarette either dangling from the side of her mouth or balancing precariously on a can of diet Coke within easy reach.

One of my favorite characters, Iona is head of security at the Otter Arts Festival in the coastal town of Jasper, CA, Logan’s home town in Shattered, Book 1. Somewhere along the line (I won’t tell you which book) Logan spots Iona with a much younger man (We’ve met a time or two, but I won’t tell you who, either, but she’s got at least 20 years on him). Everyone assumes the pairing must be a one-time thing, but their relationship is genuine. Story to be continued. . .

Tava’e’s, the local coffee shop in Jasper, holds two other seemingly odd love matches. Epiphany, the multiply tattooed and pierced barista at Tava’e’s coffee shop and a sweet, mentally challenged but talented young man. Their love story almost didn’t happen when one of them is accused of murder. Jean, a French baker who never emerges from the kitchen, but creates the gigantic cinnamon rolls Logan is addicted to, is married to Tava’e, the magnificent Samoan chess queen who runs the front of the shop and mothers everyone in need of mothering within fifty miles. In the series, we only hear them bark at each other through the swinging doors that lead to the bakery in the back, but they have been happily married for years.

I write a full backstory for most of my characters, even though most of this detail never makes it into the books. This makes them real to me—then all I have to do is place them in a scene and they create their own dialogue and behavior.

Tava’e, for example, was born in Samoa, named after a graceful, small sea bird. Treasured by her father after her mother’s death, Tava’e grew up with a rocksolid sense of self and the strong desire to care for others. She also learned to play chess from the sailors who came into port. One of the ships’ cooks was a tall, slender French baker named Jean.

Although he could have worked anywhere in Paris, Jean had a burning itch to travel, so signed onto a ship set to travel to Polynesia as soon as he was old enough. He took his first step off the ship, spotted Tava’e beating the pants off one of his crew mates, and fell immediately  in love. Wooing her with baked goods, he never got back on the ship.

Logan’s love life has been the most challenging to write.

When we meet her in Shattered, Logan had been in a horrible car crash a year or so before, that took her husband’s life and nearly killed her. Slowly and painfully, she recovers from her physical injuries—and her emotional ones—her husband had been unfaithful, it turns out, and probably many times.

Logan meets Ben, her love interest, early on in the first book, but is gun shy. She’s not ready to start a relationship. First of all, she does not trust herself to know what is real and what is not. Is she just horny? Is Ben the nice guy he seems to be? She just established her own independent life. She’s okay on her own, now. She doesn’t need a relationship. She already has a wonderful, grown daughter, Amy, so what does she need a man for? Why start something up? Particularly with a neighbor.

Although my personal experience with love is nothing like Logan’s, I’ve had a bad marriage, a good marriage, and single years in between, so I know something about the angst, the pluses and minuses of being alone or with someone, and what a healthy relationship looks like—what it takes to make it work and how easy and joyful it can be to live alone.

Logan stumbles along, but she’s figuring it out. And luckily, Ben is a patient man. Bless his big heart. We all need a Ben in our lives. I met mine 15 years ago.

Looking over the series, I realized how many love stories I wove through the main plots. Rita Wolfe and her wife, Nicole, Logan’s best friend, Bonnie and her firefighter husband, Mike. Bonnie credits their happy marriage to his four days on/three days off schedule.

On the opposite end, office manager Carla boots her lazy, mean husband to the curb. He is not missed. Carla’s exuberant, capable personality continues to grow and blossom. In Vanishing Day, a young mother is put in the ICU by a violently abusive husband, the only witness her three-year-old daughter, Shannon. In the mother’s backstory, she comes from a wealthy family and was a competent horse woman before her marriage and her husband’s slow strangulation of her independence and self-confidence.

Littered among the solid love stories are hookups and users—forming needy immature relationships that last about as long as it takes to mention them. I could create two characters that have an ongoing, horrible relationship, but I don’t think I could stomach writing about them and certainly wouldn’t want to inflict them on my readers!

Speaking of real, I always keep in mind that life is not neat. Not all true love is romantic or results in marriage or long-term relationships. Some love blooms in the cracks between the platonic and the passionate, but although not sexual, can be as strong and fulfilling.

In Forest Park, I introduced the tender, loving, but definitely platonic, relationship between a Vietnam vet and a younger woman who has experienced war in her own time. It doesn’t have to ‘go’ anywhere—it’s already there. I enjoy exploring the often unvisited or uncategorized types of human relationships.

Which brings me to my current project, Logan Book 9 (as yet unnamed). I’m writing the backstory for the characters now, and boy, do we have some doozies! You’re really going to hate Roxy! Maybe. . .

For now, I’m leaving the ends of all the connecting character strings loose—even I haven’t decided which of them will actually commit the murder, although several excellent suspects are already emerging. . .one thing’s for sure, the motive for murder usually grows out of love in one form or another.

What have your experiences with love been?