Friday, September 29, 2017

Experiment with Kindle Unlimited Take 2

I had kind of a long, involved post about why I'm experimenting with Kindle Unlimited again, especially since the last time I tried it, I basically frustrated readers who don't buy from Amazon--while only earning pretty much exactly the same I always earn with historical.

Well, in a way that's why I thought maybe I should give KU another try. A wacky historical mystery--satire, in fact--was probably not the best choice for experiment.

My goal is visibility with readers who maybe aren't familiar with my work because it's harder and harder to stay on the bestseller lists for any length of time when you're not in KU. The KU-or-bust reader is not so much my target as the readers (like myself) who use KU as a means of testing new authors. If I like the authors I sample, I go on to buy their backlist for real. If I'm not impressed, no harm, no foul. Those are the people I'm after. In other words, I'm using KU to advertise to a readership that is increasingly hard for me to reach. At least as far as my backlist is concerned.

And backlist is the only thing going into KU. I'm putting together a selection of older titles—titles that I have already done many, many sales and giveaways on and that have been available across all vendors for years. Nothing new is going into KU. No one is getting a bargain that you, my longtime readers, haven’t already been offered multiple times.


(Includes The Dark Horse, A Vintage Affair, Blood Red Butterfly, Don’t Look Back, Lovers and Other Strangers, Cards on the Table)

This box set has been available for a while--and across all vendors--but it was priced at $9.99, which is still a really good deal, but... So it's retail price is temporarily slashed to $3.99 and the collection is currently enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.


Metaphors and Murder: The Poetic Death series. 

Readers frequently ask about my mainstream pen name and titles, so for those of you who wondered or would like to sample some of my mainstream work, this collection is for you.

The Poetic Death series was originally published through Pocket Books. The books did well--they were ABA bestsellers, most of them were Romantic Times Top Picks, and the first book--High Rhymes and Misdemeanors--was a Mystery Guild Alternate. Nice, eh?

The books are fun. They're a quirky hybrid blend of cozy mystery and old-fashioned romantic suspense.  

Then we have Partners in Crime: 3 Classic Gay Mystery Novels.

Because the point of this exercise is to introduce my work to readers who might be unfamiliar with more than the latest release, I tried to pick three very different types of mystery, finally settling on a thriller, a cozy and a comic who-dunnit. The novels I selected were Winter Kill, Murder in Pastel, Somebody Killed His Editor.

Again, the box set is listed at $3.99 and the set is available in Kindle Unlimited for 90 days. 


And then finally, I've put together the first three Spanish translations of the Adrien English series into a box set called Los misterios de Adrien English. Again, $3.99 and available in Kindle Unlimited. (This one might actually remain at that price point because I do want to encourage and support the evolving market for Spanish translations of M/M Romance and Mystery.)

So there you have it. I apologize for any inconvenience to those readers who don't purchase through Amazon, but to reiterate, there is nothing new here and nothing that hasn't been available (though granted not at these prices) for a long time at all vendors.

In 90 days I’ll let you know what the results were and whether I think this second experiment with Kindle Unlimited was a success or a mistake.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Happy Autumn! Five Things to Love

It's been a while since I've done one of these posts, but I like them because, although they're simple, they give everyone reading the blog an opportunity to join in. I enjoy when a blog post turns into a conversation.

So anyway, here are five things I love about autumn. And if you'd care to share five things YOU love in the comment section below, I'll randomly choose someone to receive a print copy of the Japanese translation of Fair Play.

Now perhaps you don't speak Japanese.

That's okay. I don't speak Japanese either. You will still enjoy this book because ILLUSTRATIONS, PEOPLE.

So.

Five Things to Love About Autumn.

1 - Idyllic temperatures. Fall in Southern California means cool, breezy nights and mild sunny days. The light is gorgeous. Luminous. The mornings smell of fresh-brewed coffee and a hint of something like damp earth and warm stone. It smells like the start of a new year, even though it's technically the wind-down of the old year. We use the fire pit in the backyard mostly in autumn. And those final, just-on-the-verge-of-too-chilly swims of the season are some of the very best.

2 - Sweaters. I love super-soft, warm and roomy sweaters. My cashmere coat sweater. The gray, green and purple pullover I bought on Orkney. The gray lambswool cardigan I wore the first night I went to dinner with the SO.

3 - The spooky vibe. I guess I partly mean Halloween, although I'm not really that much of a fan of Halloween. What I do like about it are the costumes and masks and spooky movies and spooky stories and spooky walks late at night when every skitter of leaves on pavement has you looking over your shoulder. There's something dark and mysterious about autumn, and that's what I love more than the candy...although I hasten to add there is nothing wrong with the candy.

4 - Baking. Serious baking starts in the fall. Pumpkin breads and pecan pies and bread right out of the oven, slathered in butter. All sorts of cookies and pastries and delicious flaky goodness. Yum.

5 - Going to bed early and sleeping late--and the snuggling that takes place in between. I sleep better in the autumn. I sleep better when I'm cold (not too cold of course--not so cold I wake up and start searching for socks). I read more in the autumn too, because there are few things cozier than climbing into a giant nest of pillows and blankets with a good book. Or even a bad book, if it's so bad it's funny.

Okay, what about you? What five things do you love about Autumn?

Friday, September 15, 2017

Author! Author! MEG PERRY

This morning we have another installment of Author! Author! with talented mystery maven Meg Perry, author of the long-running Jamie Brodie series. I've known Meg online for several years, but finally got to meet her last spring on Catalina Island. Watch out for the quiet ones. Just sayin. Meg has a brand new book out this week, which you can learn about right  here.

She's also on Facebook here.


Welcome, Meg! I'm so happy to have you here on the blog at long last. Is it true you're currently working on the fifteenth book in the Jamie Brodie series? What can you tell us about Published to Death? Any idea how long the series will run?

MP - I’m thrilled to be here! And yes, it’s true! Published to Death, Jamie Brodie Mystery #15, is nearly finished, and should be out in November. In short, there’s a conference of self-published authors being held on UCLA’s campus, and the keynote speaker (read: eventual victim) is one Mercedes Moran, who has made several million dollars selling 99 cent romance novels on Amazon etc., and who has made plenty of enemies (read: eventual suspects) in the self-publishing community because she is a terrible, horrible, no-good person. There’s also a cop who only speaks in clich├ęs. As for the series, it will wrap up at #20, in 2020, as Jamie turns 40. I’ve known for a couple of years now how it’s going to end.


Hahahahaha. It's tempting to ask who Mercedes is based on. However...do you listen to music while you write?

MP - No. I’ve tried, but I start listening to the music and get distracted. But I do construct a soundtrack for each book, tying key scenes to songs that fit the situation. (I publish the soundtracks on my Facebook page.) In the process I’ve discovered a lot of great music that I wouldn’t have
otherwise.


Sountracks, playlists, I love them! I'll have to check yours out. Were you Team Nancy (Drew) or Team Hardy (Boys) growing up? Or none of the above? What set you off on your own life of crime? 

MP -Team Nancy, until I grew up and got a look at Parker Stevenson.

Parker. Stevenson. Enough said. 

MP - Mmm hmm. I have to blame my life of crime on my grandmother, though, who introduced me to Agatha Christie. (Not personally. Only in the literary sense.)

That's so interesting. My grandmother was also a huge mystery fan. Everything from Christie to The Destroyer novels. :-D And what a nice little segue to the topic of ghosts. Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever had a ghostly encounter? How about extraterrestrials? You work as an academic librarian on a college campus, correct? So surely you MUST have met extraterrestrials?

MP - Oh, yes. Community colleges are full of sketchy characters, and I don’t mean just the students. Some of them must be ETs - it’s the only logical explanation. I haven’t had a ghostly encounter, but I’m open to the idea of their existence. There’s a lot of weird stuff in the world, and not just on college campuses.


Or publishing communities. Ba-dum-bump. ;-D  So, as previously observed, you're writing one of the longest running gay mystery series in gay mysterydom -- do you also prefer reading series, or do you enjoy standalones? Support your answer. 

MP -After lengthy scientific research (i.e., counting the series vs. standalones on my shelves and Kindle), I can unequivocally state that, as a reader, I prefer series. I’d rather get to know characters over time, feel as if I know them, watch them deal with their personal lives along with the crimes.


What do you love most about writing? What do you like least?

MP -I love the surprises that characters spring on me. For instance, in Hoarded to Death, when Jon Eckhoff first walked up to the reference desk, I had NO idea that sparks would fly between him and Liz Nguyen. But bam! There they were, flirting madly with each other. It’s as if stuff just falls out of my fingers onto the keyboard sometimes. That’s so much fun. What’s tiresome is going back through each manuscript, looking for all the places I’ve used “very” and “good” and replacing them with more sophisticated vocabulary. And I HATE writing blurbs. Ugh.

Does anyone LIKE writing blurbs? And will she come and work for us? What are the elements that make a Meg Perry book unique? What do you consider your strengths as a writer?

MP - My initial reaction was that my strength is Jamie himself! But in a way that’s true. I think the thing I’ve done best is to create a cast of characters that remain interesting over time, that continue to grow and learn and adapt, and that people care about. My characters also behave and talk like real people - which isn’t always the case in mystery novels. One of the best things about only writing one series is not having to remember who has what color eyes, or who’s allergic to cats. I have the luxury of knowing Jamie and his family as well as I know my own. I don’t know how you do it, frankly, keeping all the different couples in your series separate! Yikes!


Copyeditors mostly! :-D What's next for you? What can readers look forward to?

MP - I’ve been writing Jamie Brodie short stories for a while now, to fill in things that needed to happen in the guys’ lives but wouldn’t work in a book for various reasons. Some have appeared on my blog, some have appeared at the end of books. In late August I’m going to publish them all, plus a bunch of new ones, in an anthology. It’ll be called Dirty Laundry: The Jamie Brodie Short Stories. Then Published to Death will be out in November, and next spring will come Cloistered to Death, Jamie Brodie Mystery #16. Informally known as “Clinton’s Book.”


Oh! I love the idea of collected series shorts. How ruthless are you as a writer? What makes you decide to kill a character off? Have you ever regretted killing a character off?

I only kill characters when it’s absolutely necessary. I kinda felt bad about killing Matt Bendel, Elliott Conklin’s boyfriend, back in Psyched to Death, because Matt was a sweet kid. But he was so wrong for Elliott, and I needed a victim, so bye-bye, Matt. (That sounds pretty ruthless, doesn’t it?)


Yes, says the woman who ruthlessly killed off Taylor MacAllister's temporary partner in Old Poison. ;-D  If you could give aspiring mystery writers one tip on How to Build a Better Mystery, what would it be?

MP - Oh, there are so many… But here’s one I haven’t run across in any of the “how to write a mystery” books. Unless your mystery takes place in a small Southern town, don’t write stupid cops.

That's a good one for oh-so-many reasons! 

MP - Big-city homicide detectives are the cream of the crop, and they’re anything but stupid. I’ve read mysteries where the detectives are bumbling idiots compared to the amateur sleuth/star of the show. No, no, no. Have respect for your detectives. If you don’t think you should, read Ghettoside by Jill Leovy or Homicide Special by Miles Corwin. (Actually, if you’re going to write about homicide detectives at all, you should read those two books.)


I can rec Homicide Special, for sure. And speaking of homicide, do you think poison is a woman's weapon? What's your weapon of choice? 

MP - I haven’t poisoned anyone yet. YET. Let’s see...what have I used so far? Potassium injection, gun, hanging, a bust of Shakespeare, hot air balloon disaster, knife, strangulation, a Stone Age farming implement, knife, gun, strangulation, drowning, gun, gun, ice pick. Looks like guns win. (But my favorite of those is the Stone Age farming implement. Not a weapon you see every day.)


Er, no. And speaking of secret weapons, fashion magazines always ask this question: What is the one cosmetic or grooming tool you cannot live without? And do you have any idea why all these fashion models are always pretending the one tool they can't live without is their EYEBROW GROOMER?  

MP - Are they pretending? Maybe they all had eyebrows like Leonid Brezhnev before. As for me, give me a good old pair of tweezers any day. Not only are they essential for dispatching the stray unwanted hair, but they also serve as precisely the tool required to remove paper jams from document shredders. Which is extremely important when one has to shred a bunch of documents tout de suite. Er… I mean IF. IF one ever would have to shred documents… Hahaha! Forget I said anything.


Ha. We never forget ANYTHING on this blog. So. IS revenge best served cold or do you prefer room temperature? 

MP - NEVER argue with a Klingon. They tend to be testy. Cold it is. Cold, colder, coldest.


Is there any genre you'd like to tackle but you're kinda sorta afraid? 

MP - Postapocalyptic mysteries. Is that even a genre?


Probably. You would not believe what kids these days are writing. ;-D Okay. Tell us something surprising. Anything. Go on. Surprise us! 

I may be the only human in the Western world who has not read a word or watched a minute of anything Harry Potter.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Another Update Wherein I Offer Excuses

It's not like I want to miss deadlines and make readers sad. But stuff keeps happening and I keep missing the ball. It's uncomfortable. It's awkward. It's...not like me. Or at least not the old me. The new me...not sure.


It's been a weird year. I can't pretend otherwise. In fact, I'm flabbergasted to realize it's already September.  Half of October goes to Montreal and Bouchercon and meeting the SO's famille. Not a lot of writing will happen until I get home. I'm currently in the midst of edits for Murder Takes the High Road (non-negotiable because this one is due at the publisher's) and cooking up a quickie short story to keep the cauldron boiling.

Anyway, everything is completely off track, but still mostly doable before the end of the year. And even if something runs into next year, it will get done. That was the point of dedicating a year to catching stuff up (oh, the irony -- I need a catch-up year for my catch-up year).

So here's what I'm still planning on for 2017:

"Halloween is Murder" (a short story)
Murder Takes the High Road (although it doesn't come out until next spring)
Blind Side
The Italian translation of The Monet Murders
The Ghost Had an Early Check-Out (sequel to The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks)
In Other Words...Murder (the fourth Holmes & Moriarity)
So This is Christmas audio book (narrated by Kale Williams)
If Only in My Dreams - print collection of all my Christmas novellas

There is also stuff coming from publishers -- French, Japanese and Italian translations -- but I don't control that. Right now I'm just focusing on what I control. In theory.

I'm also starting to plan out next year. Again, the focus is going to be on catching up some of these long-promised stories like Ill Met by Moonlight (the sequel to This Rough Magic) and Haunted Heart 2 (Spring). There should be a good bit of audio too.  And there will be some surprises. No doubt for me as much as anyone. ;-)

Anyway, that's pretty much where we are as of now.






Friday, August 25, 2017

Author! Author! FELICE STEVENS

Welcome, Dear Readers, to another edition of AUTHOR! AUTHOR! Wherein I introduce you to some of my favorite writing friends...like today's guest, the delightful Felice Stevens.

Now, it's true that Felice does not write mystery or crime, but look. Nobody's perfect. What she does write is charming and heartwarming male/male romance. Her books are hugely popular--and with good reason. But more to the point, Felice is one of the nicest, most generous -- and genuine -- people you'll meet in this biz.

So without further adieu...Felice Stevens.

 Readers may not know that your day official day job title is Legal Eagle. I find it interesting that a lot of authors have a legal background. Why do you think that is? Do you think that some of the skills that make for a good lawyer make for a good writer?

FS - Well I could say because we are incredibly organized types, but I’d die laughing, because I’m the least organized person I know. I think, at least for me, that case law is like a story—the facts, the consequences of the facts and the ending. Plus we write SO DAMN MUCH. It was one of the reasons I became a lawyer and not a doctor. I can’t do math to save my life and I was a good essay writer.

 Do you eat breakfast? Did you know it's the most important meal of the day? What's your favorite breakfast food?

FS - Yes, mother. LOL I do eat breakfast. I love plain Greek yogurt with lots of fresh fruit. In the winter, I eat oatmeal with fruit.

 I have to eat more oatmeal! So we've established that you rock the contemporary male/male romance genre. Is there another genre or sub-genre you'd kinda, sorta like to try but haven't quite worked up the nerve yet? 

FS - Well, I do have a shifter story in the back of my mind. And I also have 3 full length and one half written MF Regency romances in my computer, sitting waiting for me to retire so I can go back and cringe at what I wrote in 2013. ;)  That should be interesting.

  Name three of your all-time favorite childhood books. Do you think those stories influenced your own writing? How so?

FS - I grew up on the Nancy Drew mysteries and moved on to Alfred Hitchcock anthologies. I always wanted to write a good mystery story. <grin> But that’s not happening. 

Note from Josh -- Well, it could! 

FS Continued: As for single books, I loved the Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland (I had to learn that "Jabberwocky" poem by heart and recite it for 5th grade English) and the original Wizard of Oz. As a teenager I fell in love with the Mary Stewart romantic suspense books. My love of reading is all thanks to my father. He was a prolific reader.

 What is with so many teachers insisting their pupils memorize "Jabberwocky"? It's not like is going to prove eventually useful in an argument. I know. I've tried to use it. As for the rest, the original Oz series is crazy imaginative--and probably not very PC, come to think of certain installments, but I remember being enthralled as a kid. And Mary Stewart! I love your taste in reading. Anywhoooo... Congratulations on being the first M/M author to be invited to take part in Amazon Kindle Worlds. Did you want to tell the at-home viewers a little bit about that? 

FS - Sure! Kindle Worlds are an Amazon only imprint that use already published series as a basis for creating new stories in that world. So, it’s basically fan fiction that you can now get paid for writing. Amazon took my Memories series and The Breakfast Club series since there is some cross-over and authors and readers who want to write a story about one of my characters, or create their own to live in my “world” can now do so and get paid. Unfortunately right now it is US only, but they are working to make it international.
  
That's excellent. Good for you, Missy! It couldn't happen to a nicer person or more deserving author. Next question. I've met your Mister and he's a hoot. How did you two meet?

FS - That’s one word for him! Haha. We met on a blind date. J We had a nice Japanese dinner where I broke date rule number one and had Udon. Totally messy but I guess it worked!  Although I have a funny story because he mentioned on our first date he didn’t like spicy food and I love it so my whole way home all I could think of was “How am I supposed to date a man who doesn’t like Mexican food?” P.S. He now loves Mexican food lol.

 :-D :-D :-D  Yeah, because anything else truly is unacceptable in one's life partner. AGREED. What do you love most about writing? What do you like least?

FS - I love the feeling when a character reveals their story. I love when the words flow and you’re typing away and before you look up you’ve typed a thousand or two thousand words without stopping. Unfortunately that doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, it’s exhilarating.

I dislike the way some think it’s a me vs. you environment. That if you do well, it means I can’t. I don’t like the thought of people coming into this genre simply for the money. I hate the thought of so much pulling us apart. For a genre that’s all about love we need to practice more of what we write about. I also dislike the uncertainty of publishing. You might think that’s funny for someone who isn’t the most well organized person, but I don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen one month to the next. Probably why I don’t like going to court.

Well said, and I second all of that. This is a business that makes people crazy. But then you have to be inclined that way to want to write in the first place. 

Anyway, moving on. Fashion magazines always ask this critical question: What is the one cosmetic or grooming tool you cannot live without? And do you have any idea why all these fashion models are always pretending the one tool they can't live without is their EYEBROW GROOMER? 

FS - I have NEVER touched my eyebrows. Ouch. It even looks painful. I love Carmex. Lol I have to have it or my lips gets very dry. That and sunscreen because I’m pale and burn and have already had two bouts with basal cell on my face. Yuck.

 You sexy thang, you! :-D Readers of this blog love funny food allergy stories. Can you share any amusing near death experiences brought on by a food allergy?

FS - Oh what a fun question! Not. LOL I don’t have any food allergies but I once took chewable Claritin for my seasonal allegories and it swelled up my lips so much I could barely talk. My kids loved that. Haha.


 What do you think is the most important thing to remember when creating fully realized main characters?

FS - That they need to be imperfect. I know people have often said that they get frustrated by my guys because they make stupid decisions or they go back and forth. But to me that’s realistic. If everyone made the right choice the first time, we’d never learn from mistakes and I think that makes us more interesting. Plus it makes our characters more human. I’d rather have a person fumble and fall down and learn to pick himself up than be superhuman perfect from the start.

Uh, yes. And plus if everyone made the right choice to start with, there would be no plot.

 Do you consider yourself to be religious -- or even just spiritual? It's always a balance, but do you feel your work reflects your own feelings about faith and belief?


FS - I am to a point. I believe there is something out there. I do love watching those mediums, and wonder if they are all fake or if my parents are there watching me….Sorry, Mom and Dad. J And I also believe that if a hundred people make that illegal U-turn and don’t get a ticket, if I do it, I’ll be the one to get that ticket. So there’s that. Karma maybe? Yeah I believe in that.

 Ha! What are you working on now? What's out next?

FS - Oh there’s lots in the hopper. I have Under the Boardwalk which is part of Kade Boehme’s and my Landmarks series, based on different NYC landmarks. Under the Boardwalk is the story of Alexi, a Russian American man who’s never left Brooklyn and works on the Coney Island Boardwalk and Cam, the former opera singer turned teacher who sings on the boardwalk during the summer. They may be my sweetest couple yet.

 Then I have All or Nothing, which is the story of Rico, the closeted Cuban –American caterer from Learning to Love and Adam Barton, the fire fighter from Beyond the Surface who’s fighting some pretty big demons from his past.

There are also audiobooks a comin’. Kale Williams narrated the second book in the Through Hell and Back series, After the Fire and is working on the third and last book. Derrick McClain is right at his heels with Learning to Love. Seth Clayton is working on One Call Away and Nick Russo is hard at it with The Shape of You.

Just a few things as you can see. J

 Yeah, one or two. Ha! Favorite cocktail? 

FS - Margarita!

 I KNEW THAT. You've managed to build a pretty respectable backlist in record time. What's your secret? Do you have one particular book you're most proud of or pleased with?

FS - I don’t overthink things. I just do it. You might not think so but I’m not always on line yakking away. I wake up early and write. I write at lunch. I write when I come home before I have dinner. I don’t set word counts. I prefer to think in terms of chapters and strive for a chapter a day, but if I don’t and choose to play around on Facebook or if I am very busy at work, I don’t beat myself up over it.  I have almost a mile walk to and from work every day so it not only gives me time to prepare for my day, I think about my characters. When I get in front of the computer I have something loosely formulated to start with. I take those thoughts and run with it.

My book I’m most proud of? One Call Away. I love the characters and I wanted to show the Jewish religion in a positive framework. Too many books follow the theme of the forbidding religious father and that’s not always the case. Judaism is such a family oriented religion. I wanted my book to reflect that. I guess I’m tired of stereotypes. I wrote the book I wanted to read. Plus it took me a year to write and that’s crazy for me.

That's great. I love that. Now tell us something surprising. Anything. Go on. Surprise us!


FS - Despite all the traveling I do, I hate to fly. Makes me nervous as hell. Plus, I think we’ve discussed this before and you all called me an alien, I have never had a cheeseburger. Or eaten bacon. But I swear I’m human. J

(You do seem pretty in touch with the human heart, so I'll give you that one. ;-) )

Friday, August 18, 2017

Sneak Peek - MURDER TAKES THE HIGH ROAD

You will be amazed to hear I've had to do a bit of reshuffling my schedule once again. It's just that kind of year. We've got family visiting, I've got the usual big summer music gig at the end of the month, and a looming deadline for Carina Press. So I've jumped from Blind Side to Murder Takes the High Road in order to hit that deadline.

Blind Side is still going to happen, never fear. It's just being postponed a few more weeks. In the meantime, I'm enjoying reliving memories of my trip to Scotland a couple of years back. I'm using our tour itinerary, though changing names of hotels and so forth so as to not get sued by people with no sense of humor about murder occurring under their roof.

The unofficial blurb:
Vacationing librarian Carter Matheson must solve the murder of fellow tourists when someone begins picking off members of a mystery-themed bus tour traveling through the scenic highlands and islands of Scotland.


It's pretty much a classic cozy mystery with a generous dollop of romance and sex.

Here's an unedited excerpt:

 A gust of windy rain hit the small window in the corner. It sounded—and felt—like someone had thrown ice tacks at the glass. I opened my suitcase and dug around for the least wrinkled shirt I could find, and ended up selecting a black soft-wash long sleeve crew T-shirt. I remembered enough from my country dance days to know a ceilidh was not a formal event.

The door rattled noisily in its frame as someone banged on it.

“At this point the handyman's just going to be in the way,” I grumbled.

John leaned out of the bathroom and opened the door.

Trevor stood on the landing wearing a ferocious scowl and the blue cashmere sweater I’d bought him for his thirty-ninth birthday.

 “It’s for you,” John told me.

I gave him the look that speaks volumes, as we say in the librarian biz.

Trevor, too, was giving him a look. “Do you mind?” he said.


“Yep. I do,” John replied. “I’ve got thirteen minutes left to get ready for dinner and you’re about to take up way too many of them.” He withdrew into the bathroom once more, though the door remained open.
“Fine. Whatever.” Trevor swung back to me and realigned his glare. “How dare you go around telling everybody that Vance tried to shove you in front of a car?”

There wasn’t time to stop and argue. I hastily kicked out of the blue jeans I’d been wearing all day and pulled on a clean pair of black jeans. “I never said that.”

“Bullshit, Carter. Everyone on the bus was whispering about it.”

“I can’t help what people saw.” Okay, yes, I probably could have phrased that more tactfully. Trevor’s face got redder. I said quickly, “What they think they saw.”

“You sure didn’t try to correct them.”

I pawed through my suitcase for a clean pair of socks. It wasn’t that I didn’t have plenty of clean clothes, but from the state of my suitcase, you’d think Hamish had thrown our suitcases down a cliffside before stowing them in the bus’s luggage compartment. I threw a harassed look over my shoulder. “How do you know what I did or didn’t do?”

“I know you, Carter. I know how you operate. You’re doing everything you can to ruin this trip for me.”

That got my attention. I stopped digging through my suitcase, and straightened up so fast I’m surprised I didn’t throw my back out. “Explain how I’m ruining this trip for you?”

“Every time I turn around, there you are again with that accusing stare.”

Really?” John said from the bathroom. I think both Trevor and I had forgotten he was still in there.  I certainly hadn’t thought he could hear us over the sound of running water. We both stared at him, framed in the bathroom doorway, slowly, deliberately drawing the razor across his square jaw. He scraped away another snowy drift of shaving cream and said to Trevor, “Because you’re the one who keeps showing up at our door.”

 “Our?” Trevor looked even more taken aback. “How does this involve you?”

“It’s my room. Half my room.”

I think it genuinely threw Trevor. In any event it was a second or two before he turned back to me. “Do you really want to do this here?” he asked in a tone I knew only too well.

“I don’t want to do it at all. Look, I’m not accusing Vance of anything. I don’t think he deliberately pushed me into the road. If you’d shut up about it, people would lose interest in the subject.”

“He’s right,” John said.

“Nobody asked you,” Trevor snapped.

“If you’re going to have this conversation in my room, then I have a right to express my opinion.”

It probably wasn’t funny, but somehow at that moment, it seemed funny.

Trevor opened his mouth but I cut him off.  “Okay, time out. In fact, game over. Trevor, I don’t know what to tell you. I’m not leaving the tour. And if that’s going to ruin it for you, sorry. I have every much right to be here as you do.”

“This is just more of your passive-aggressive—”

“Uh, no,” John said, rinsing off his razor. “That’s aggressive-aggressive.”

Will you keep out of it?” Trevor shouted. “This isn’t any of your business.”

The lights flickered and went out. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Farewell, my Lovelies


Angel's Flight
A couple of weeks ago, the SO and I went on a tour of Old Los Angeles. Well, Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles, not OLD (as in Spanish) LA. Anyway, I haven't been downtown--really downtown--in decades, although I do write about the area in stories like Snowball in Hell.

We rode the train down to Union Station and then walked from Union Station to a little oasis in the heart of Hell, known as Daily Dose Cafe where we had breakfast and waited for the tour group to arrive.

The tour was organized by a company known as Esotouric, and they describe themselves as Bus Adventures into the Secret Heart of Los Angeles. They're a bit informal, a little...on the zany side (I don't see that as a bad thing), and they definitely know their stuff. I'd like to have switched out the stop at Larry Edmunds Bookshop (the loose inspiration for Geiger's Bookstore in The Big Sleep) near Musso & Frank's for the Bradbury Building, but other than that I really enjoyed every single stop.

Probably the coolest moment for me was a completely personal (and a little weird) intersection of worlds. We were headed back from Hollywood and I suddenly started thinking that the streets looked familiar. Really familiar. I began looking for landmarks, and we suddenly passed through the intersection of a street called Bonnie Brae. Bonnie Brae is where my grandparents lived--it's where my mom lived when my dad started dating her. Later my aunt and uncle lived there and I was often there playing with my cousins. Which isn't all that remarkable, except that the last time I was there I was about four. Four years old. It actually gave me chills when I saw that street sign flash by.



Anyway.

A lot of Chandler's Los Angeles is gone, of course, but it's wonderful to see that many old, genuinely gorgeous buildings remain. Especially given that, unlike in Europe, the American thing is to raze old buildings and then build new ones on their graves. So much more money to be made that way! A lot of the remaining historic buildings are being purchased by foreign investors who typically don't have great reverence for the American past either, so if you write about old Los Angeles or you love architecture or you're curious about the way things use to be, I'd recommend getting yourself down there while there's still so much to see.