Friday, April 21, 2017

Tall Timbers Falling

Last month I was hiking with friends at Vasquez Rocks and I slipped and fell. Ungracefully and painfully. It seemed like the only damage was a badly sprained right ankle, but it looks like I might have done a bit more harm than I realized.

Anyway, for the past two weeks...well, I guess three weeks since it coincided with the arrival of Marlowe the Mutt, and he's been dogging (ha!) my footsteps for nearly a month now...I've been suffering from sciatica. Which is really, seriously unpleasant because it hurts to sit (which makes typing difficult) and hurts even worse to lie down (which makes sleep largely impossible for more than a couple of hours at a time). So it's been hellish, although I realize as health issues go, it's minor.

Cutting straight to the chase, I've had to push back The Monet Murders again -- for the final time, I assure you -- which I am very sorry about. Not least because my finances rely on sticking to deadlines. But there are some things that just can't be bulldozed through, and it turns out that this is one of them. I don't want to crank out a book when I'm sleep-deprived and unable to fully concentrate--even if it was physically possible, which at this point, it isn't.

So that's that. The book will now be out May 25th.

In other news, Marlowe the Mutt continues to thrive and grow. Well, he's not growing much, but he is thriving, and he's pretty darned adorable, if I do say so. When I first scooped him out of that canine hell, my sciatica was at maximum misery level, and I can't deny that I did think I'd probably made a mistake but too late to turn back now. Not a joyous thought, to be honest. It turns out I was wrong because we love the little monster dearly, and if you're going to be in pain anyway, you might as well have something to distract you.

I've had to rearrange my schedule considerably. Mornings are now spent taking MtM outside and then feeding and playing with him (he is partial to chasing his squeaky stuffed raccoon toy up and down the staircase at top speed) ..and from there coffee on the patio seems a fairly natural move (and so much more pleasant than diving into email, though, frankly, that mental adjustment took some doing). I've been trying to swim a bit although it's a bit chilly right now. Supposedly the best thing is to keep moving, gentle stretches, etc.

Patience. A hard word to live by.

So that's where we are. The day before yesterday I bought some roses and tea lights and odds and ends for the garden. Yesterday I started catching up on email. Last night I actually slept through the entire night, so maybe the tide has turned. It's possible life is getting back to normal. Fingers crossed.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Happy Easter!

Yes, it's a bit early -- and not everyone celebrates Easter -- but it's a holiday I enjoy. It's not one of the big dates in the family pantheon of holidays, but in a way that's what makes it relaxing. We'll have the traditional ham dinner (I'm bringing a giant green salad with sprouts and nuts and seeds -- a meal in itself) and we'll have a few drinks and there will be a lot of talking and laughing.

What are you celebrating this weekend? Passover? Spring? A long weekend? A lost weekend?

Friday, March 31, 2017


By request: Marlowe the Mutt
Regular viewers will know that I've been talking about getting a dog for a few years, but am constantly coming up with excellent reasons as to why the perfect moment never arrives. And as a matter of fact, the perfect moment has still not arrived, but I somehow ended up with a puppy anyway. It's a long story and he's more of a rescue operation than an actual reasoned purchase of the proper puppy...but we've had him for just about four days now and I kinda sorta can't help loving the little cheese mite.

His name is Marlowe and he is most definitely a nut. Er...mutt. Also a nut.

Also he is a huge distraction. Be that as it may, I did manage to get a little short story out this month. It's just a very simple best-friends-to-lovers bit of sweetness called "Plenty of Fish".

Finn loves Blair. Blair loves Finn too, but he’s not in love with him. How can you be in love with someone you’ve known your entire life? Shouldn’t in love feel…different? Newer. Bigger. More…exciting?

Sure, maybe Blair is too romantic—but wasn’t Finn the one who always said there were plenty of fish in the sea?

“I think I’ve met someone,” Blair said.

He was sitting on the wooden tool chest in Finn’s workshop, drinking a can of hydrogen  water, watching Finn sand the top of a rosewood William IV dining table.

“Yeah?” Finn continued to rub at a pale watermark with a piece of very fine oiled steel wool. He didn’t have to look up to know Blair’s eyes would be shining and soft and a little dreamy. Blair was in love with the idea of being in love.

Finn was also in love. With Blair.

Which maybe Blair knew and maybe he didn’t. There had been that one time last year, when Finn had kissed Blair and whispered, “I love you, Blair. Why don’t we give it a try?”

Blair had laughed, then looked confused and finally embarrassed when he saw Finn was serious. Finn had—not quite in the nick of time—managed to laugh too and pretend it was a joke. Blair’s eyes had lit with relief, though his quick smile had been a little uncertain.

Things had been strained between them for a couple of weeks but eventually had gone back to normal.

In fairness, Finn’s timing had been crap. As usual. Blair had just found out Logan was cheating on him, so even if he had been receptive to the idea of Finn eventually stepping into Logan’s shoes, it was not the time to bring it up. It was just that by then Finn had sort of reached his breaking point.
It hadn’t helped when he’d suddenly remembered how in junior high, Blair had kissed him behind the handball courts at Ernie Howlett Park, and he’d wiped his mouth and told Blair sternly to knock it off.


It had only taken him twelve years to figure out being kissed by Blair was actually something he’d really, really like. That it was, in fact, near the top of the Ten Things He’d Like Most to Happen in the Near Future list. Right below Sleep with Blair and right above Discover a Goddard and Townsend family cabinet—or other piece of valuable anything—the next time he was dumb enough to bid on an abandoned storage unit.


“Plenty of Fish?” Finn asked. He didn’t bother to hide his skepticism. Dating sites were for the desperate, in his opinion. Not including Blair, of course.

Blair said defensively, “People do meet people there.”


“Carlos and I had fun.”

Finn sanded harder. The watermark had nearly penetrated all the way through the polish. “Yep,” he muttered. “Nothing more fun than a broken wrist.”

Carlos had been into mountain biking, which Finn had tried to tell Blair was different from regular biking. As usual, Blair had to find out the hard way.

Blair shrugged. “Louis was nice.”

“He sure was. I can’t think of anybody nicer than Louis.”

Louis had been into rock climbing, and Blair had discovered belatedly that he had a little problem with extreme heights. Their first and only date had been spent with Louis coaxing and cajoling Blair off the cliffside where he’d been frozen, paralyzed with acrophobia, for hours. Hours.

Louis had been a very nice guy, and Finn was grateful to him for not leaving Blair up there on “Touch and Go Face” in Joshua Tree National Park.

Blair said wistfully, “I liked Alec a lot.”

To which Finn had no reply. He stopped scrubbing the stained wood. Alec had been way too close for comfort. Blair had been on the verge of falling in love with Alec, and Alec had been on the verge of falling in love with Blair. The thing that saved them—or rather, saved Finn—was when Alec had been transferred to his company’s home office in Indiana. Blair’s mom had been going through chemo, so there was no way Blair would have considered leaving Palos Verdes.

Blair wasn’t saying anything. Finn studied him, and his heart seemed to crowd his rib cage. It had seemed to come out of nowhere, this…crazy development in his feelings for Blair.

And hopefully it would eventually return to nowhere.


You can buy "Plenty of Fish" through Kobo, B&N, Smashwords and Amazon. Hopefully it will be up at iBooks soon too! 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The VERY BIG 1/2 Price Novel Sale

I've never done this before -- and I don't know whether I'll regret it or not. ;-)  But I'm putting all the digital novels through my JustJoshin Publishing, Inc. imprint on sale at half price for one week only.

Starting tomorrow (actually, I think the prices are already changed on Smashwords) all my novel-length stories are $3.99. That includes Stranger Things Have Happened and Man Oh Man: Writing Quality M/M Fiction.


The books included in this are:

The Hell You Say
Death of a Pirate King
The Dark Tide
Stranger Things Have Happened
Man Oh Man: Writing Quality M/M Fiction
Murder in Pastel
The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks
Winter Kill
The Mermaid Murders
The Curse of the Blue Scarab
Somebody Killed His Editor
All She Wrote
The Boy with the Painful Tattoo
Come Unto These Yellow Sands

That's...a lot of books! 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

As someone of what the old folks used to call "Scotch-Irish" descent, St. Paddy's has always been a big deal in my family. For years it was a grueling marathon of a day -- gig after gig after gig (usually in pubs that grew more and more rowdy as the day wore on) -- but these days it's more likely to be relatively quiet, spent with family or close friends. The SO will cook corned beef and colcannon, maybe fix up a couple of Irish Mists...we'll listen to our favorite Irish bands and perhaps watch an Irish film (anything from The Commitments -- if you've ever been in a band, that is the film for you -- or something as nutty as The Quiet Man).

Not everyone makes a big deal of cultural heritage and ancestry--and that's absolutely all right (why focus on the past when you're headed toward the future?) but in my family, we don't forget. ANYTHING. EVER. You remember those stories about the Scots dumping Campbell soup into the sea during World War 2 relief efforts? Yeah. Where I come from, that was considered the right move. :-D

Anyway, is there a holiday that is special to you or your family? How do you celebrate your family ancestry or cultural heritage?

OR do you?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

New Release - FAIR CHANCE

Fair Chance, the final installment in the All's Fair trilogy is out today in print, ebook and audio.

The Blurb:
Elliot Mills comes face-to-face with evil in this follow-up to Fair Game and Fair Chance from bestselling author Josh Lanyon

One final game of cat and mouse...

Ex-FBI agent Elliot Mills thought he was done with the most brutal case of his career. The Sculptor, the serial killer he spent years hunting, is finally in jail. But Elliot's hope dies when he learns the murderer wasn't acting alone. Now everyone is at risk once again--from a madman determined to finish his partner's gruesome mission.

The Excerpt:
“Excellent choices, gentlemen.” The petite brunette waitress dropped her ticket pad in the pocket of her teeny tiny black skirt and bestowed a dazzling and impartial smile on both of them. “I’ll be right back with your cocktails.”
They were seated at Stanley & Seafort’s Steak, Chop & Fish House, one of their favorite places in town to dine on the evenings they weren’t in a hurry to get back to Goose Island. The food was fine. The bar was excellent. But more to the point, it gave them a chance to talk about the case on neutral ground. When Elliot had finally acceded to SAC Montgomery’s request that he visit Corian, one of Tucker’s stipulations had been that they not take the case home with them. From the point they boarded the ferry at Steilacoom, the topic of the Sculptor was officially shelved.
That was the goal anyway.
Tonight there was more to talk about than could be covered in the drive to the ferry.
Tucker sighed, loosened his tie and leaned back in the sofa-sized booth. Elliot gazed out the picture window at the stunning view of Tacoma and the blue waters of Commencement Bay Harbor beyond. He massaged his knee, which had started to ache.
Tucker glanced at Elliot. “If I seemed…harsh back there,” he began gruffly.
Elliot brushed the apology aside. “It’s all right. I get it.” He didn’t expect—or need—Tucker to pull his punches when they were working.
“You’re my priority. That doesn’t change. I genuinely believe your involvement is not critical, but even if I did think we needed your help, I wouldn’t be happy with this because I don’t think this is good for you. Or us.”
Well, hell. That was Tucker for you. No beating around the bush. And an unnerving ability to say aloud the things most guys, including Elliot, were not comfortable saying outside the privacy of their own bedroom.
“I know, Tucker. Like I said, I get it.” This ground was so well trod it was practically mud beneath Tucker’s handmade Italian shoes. “But just once I’d like to discuss the case without a preface from you on how much you didn’t—and don’t—want me involved.”
Tucker grimaced. Nodded.

They were silent for a few minutes. That was mostly weariness, though a small amount of irritation factored in. They were both too opinionated and strong-willed not to bump heads now and again. They’d learned over the past months that simply taking a deep breath and a step back usually took care of things.
The waitress appeared with their drinks. Whisky and soda for Tucker and a glass of California merlot for Elliot. He needed a drink after the day he’d had, but he would be taking pain meds that night for sure. He must have twisted his knee when he’d raced across Corian’s property to see who had opened fire.
Tucker’s expression was somber as he sipped his whisky.
Watching him, Elliot asked, “Do you want me to share my thoughts on my visit to Corian’s place?”
“If you think it’s relevant.”
Elliot let his head fall back, summoning patience.
“Sorry,” Tucker muttered. “It’s not pleasant watching a psychopath threaten your partner.” He threw the rest of his drink back.
Fair enough. Elliot would be struggling with that too, were the shoe on the other foot. There was nothing he could say to comfort Tucker, so he related his trip to Black Diamond and his encounter with Corian’s former neighbor.
Tucker mulled it over. “Do you think Corian was working with an accomplice?”
“I don’t know. My first instinct was no. Except…I’m not sure that was instinct so much as rejection of something I didn’t want to hear.”
“I watched the interview twice. I still can’t make up my mind.”
Tucker was looking at his empty glass like he didn’t know what had happened to his drink. He caught the waitress’s eye and she nodded. He turned back to Elliot. “What I am sure of is there’s nothing he won’t do to wreck you.”
“Of course,” Elliot said. “We already knew that.”
Tucker’s expression drew a faint smile from him. “Come on, Tucker. We already know I’m the bad guy in Corian’s movie. He didn’t invite me over there because he thinks I’m the one person who can appreciate his artistic genius or have a civilized conversation with him, whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. He wants me there so that he can dump his horror stories all over me and hopefully cause maximum mental distress.”
“That’s right,” Tucker said grimly. “He’ll try to get to you any way he can. Including physically, so don’t ever turn your back on him.”
“Is that literally or figuratively? Do you want me to shuffle backwards out of the room at the end of each visit?”
“I’m not joking about this.”
“I know. He’ll continue to be handcuffed and wear ankle restraints during our interviews. I’m not about to forget what he’s capable of.”

The Launch Party -- and you're invited! 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Epic Fail

I was reading an article the other day about how writing "short" will maximize profits--this was right after I'd watched a webinar on writing to market, which was right after I'd watched another webinar on understanding Amazon's algorithms.

Now I do enjoy writing short stories. They're excellent for exploring theme or a particular character dynamic--and I'm good at them! So I had no objection to that article. I thought it was interesting. And I think in this publishing environment, authors do need to think in practical, i.e., businesslike terms. There's nothing wrong with identifying and analyzing your target audience. Nor is there anything wrong with understanding Amazon's algorithms.

But yet I still felt a little depressed after an afternoon of...authorial self-improvement.

Which is probably illogical because writing is a business, and I'm the first one to get impatient with people who don't conduct themselves like professionals. But writing is also an art, and lately everything seems to be about the business of fiction writing and very little, if anything, about the art.

Even the rare posts that are ostensibly about writing, are usually thinly disguised promotion.

And I get it. This is an insanely competitive market. And by "this" I mean any genre you can think of.  There is no sub-genre of commercial fiction that it isn't swamped with new books and new authors, so it's only natural that we're all looking for an edge. It's like the Olympics. Now days winning is determined by a fraction of a fraction of a second. Your sunscreen can make a difference.

It makes perfect sense that we're all studying formulas and algorithms and trends like we're searching for a cure for cancer. I don't care how good you are, when the market gets this crowded and this competitive, you have to run a lot faster just to stay in one place.

But writing is also still an art.

I don't care how many of these marketing courses tell you it's not about writing, it's about productivity...if you consider yourself to be a real writer, if you take pride in the idea of being a writer, then you need to care about the work. You need to care about the words.

And that means you need to have the courage to experiment. To, yes, fail. Because it's through trial and error that you get better. That you get to the goal--at least, I think it should be a goal--of excellence. Excellence doesn't happen through copying what everyone else is doing. It doesn't happen through homogenization.

I mean, think for a moment about the numbing sameness of what's being published in this genre alone. The same covers, the same blurbs, the same promo tactics--and yes, even the characters and plots all sound the same. For. The. Love. Of. God.

Last year I wanted to experiment. I wanted to try something new. I was eager to push myself to try something new. So I put out two books that had some readers scratching their heads. Murder Between the Pages was a semi-satirical take on classic locked room mysteries. Some readers got it -- but a disconcerting number of readers did not get it. Were actively hostile to the very idea of it. HATED it.

It was one of my least successful titles -- joining the ranks of other not terribly successful experiments like Blood-Red Butterfly.

The other experiment was a monster mash-up. The Curse of the Blue Scarab. An Edwardian murder mystery with supernatural overtones. Some readers got it -- some did not. It too was not as successful as my contemporary crime thrillers. Several one or two star reviews. Genuine grievance at the idea that I would turn out something like that.


:-D :-D :-D

(It's okay, by the way. I don't expect everything to be a huge hit with every single reader. Hell, even the most enormously successful of my books have a few people screaming they can't understand why anyone ever reads me.)

The point of writing is not to never get a bad review. The point of writing is not for every story to be a huge financial--or even critical--success.

What is the point of writing?

This is not rhetorical.

Why do you write? If you don't know the answer, ask yourself: why do you read?

What is the point, the purpose of all this literary exercise?

 If the answer make a lot of money fast...well, okay. Whatever. This is not the post for you. But if you actually care about the work, care about what it means to be a writer--versus just another author--you can't be afraid to experiment, to try new things, to push yourself a little further. You must not be afraid to fail. 

Don't sacrifice art for the algorithms.

Friday, March 3, 2017

And Then My Puppy Ate My Homework

I'm not exactly sure what happened to February.

Well, true, the first part of the month I did have a couple of days of vacation. The annual island retreat with my sibs--I LIVE for those sisterly retreats.

And of course, February IS a short month (and every day counts in this biz).

That said, the month started out really well. Very productive, lots of writing -- particularly on The Monet Murders and the surprise, secret project Writing Killer M/M Suspense and Mystery. (Nice cover, eh? He seems very relaxed about the possibility of having to shoot someone.)

But I'm not just an author. (Is anybody "just an author" these days?) I also run my own publishing empire, so there were also contracts to read and sign (specifically two Thai and one German publisher), print collections to arrange (trying to do a holiday collection...waiting to hear from Carina Press on a couple of titles there) translations to arrange (Italian -- the good news is So This is Christmas will be released by Triskell Edizioni in December and The Monet Murders will be published through my own imprint in the summer), audio to arrange (and then files to listen to because I Trust No One).

Oh, and then Samhain announced that, Oopsie! Yes, they were actually closing as previously announced at the same time last year. Which meant scrambling to prepare those 6 titles for re-release: cover art, formatting for print and ebooks... Although, given Samhain's vagueness on when the titles will actually officially revert, I'm wondering if we really did need to scramble. But the point is...TIME. Precious time being gobbled up in chunks of minutes.

So...all those Samhain titles are pretty much ready to go, we're just waiting on the word. I will give readers a heads up: I'm not re-releasing The Dickens With Love until the holiday season--and I might not release Mummy Dearest until I have Bite Club ready to go. But all the other titles will be immediately available, once Samhain releases them to me.

Tick. Tock.

Big, big time suck there.

And there is this First Ever Mini Writer's Retreat, which also took up some time. If that should turn out to be a fun and productive thing, we might even do it again. Every couple of years. Maybe you would want to come?

Oh, and then of course I have a book release this month. Fair Chance, the final book in the All's Fair trilogy, is being released on March 13th.

And there is a blog tour! For which I had to write a LOT of posts. :-D

Here's the line-up:
Tour Schedule: 

Monday, March 6th - Tome Tender - Guest Posts
Tuesday, March 7th - Alpha Book Club - Guest Posts
Wednesday, March 8th - Books,Dreams,Life - Interview (Author or Character)
Thursday, March 9th - Rainy Days and Pajamas - Guest Posts
Friday, March 10th - Gay Book Reviews - Guest Posts
- -
Monday, March 13th - Joyfully Jay -
Tuesday, March 13th - The Silver Dagger Scriptorium - Guest Posts
Wednesday, March 15th - Bayou Book Junkie - Guest Post
Thursday, March 16th - - Interview (Author or Character)
Friday, March 17th - Bewitched Bookworms - Guest Post

I won't be live and in person at any of these blogs because--as I mentioned--I'll be at my first ever writer's retreat. (Meaning first ever that I was "responsible" for--usually I am privileged to be the person asking everybody where my hotel is.) But I did write posts and offer a few giveaways. That said, most of the giveaways will be occurring at the Launch Party on my own Fan Page.  I don't want people just showing up to win stuff, but I have to admit, my mods give some seriously cool gifties away. So if you are a fan or do genuinely like to read M/M, you are very welcome to the party. Come! You'll have fun.

I'm hoping that you're seeing a pattern here, and that pattern is...there were a lot of interruptions to the writing. And then came the biggest interruption of laptop died. know, I still have a desktop, so I'm not sure why this felt like the end of the line (aside from the fact that I lost all the initial chapters of the writing book--and maybe some other files too) but the truth is I don't "create" at my desktop. I create on a laptop while sitting in a giant, comfy chair in front of a fireplace in my bedroom. :-D My desktop is on a desk in my downstairs office and I have to sit on a yoga ball and be sensible. That is really not what writing fiction is about.

When we come back from the writing retreat, we will have house-guests (beloved house-guests) for a couple of days, and then I have a concert (coz that's a thing in my life) and then, then, THEN I will finally be able to get back to writing The Monet Murders.

You see what I'm getting at.

I had promised to deliver The Monet Murders ahead of schedule--because at one point that looked very doable--and even Blind Side ahead of schedule. But that is not looking realistic now.

Now it looks like I will need to put out a short story in the interim. Plenty of Fish. Because I love short stories, short stories take me about a week to write and I need money.

Yes! I admit freely that as a professional writer, money is the fuel that keeps the engine cranking.

I read the funniest comment in a review a while back. Something to the effect that Josh Lanyon put this book out simply to earn money.


Uh...why yes. You are correct, little person. I put all my books out to earn money. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. I publish to earn money. I can write for my own pleasure. I need not involve anyone else in that alarming process. To make the hassle and stress of publishing worth it, I need to earn money. That's how I earn my living.

This is not a comment on people who choose to live in their mom's basement. Just saying I have to earn a living. Or why the hell would I go to the exhausting and stressful extreme of publishing my work?! Nobody publishes who doesn't hope to earn money. End of story.


But I digress.

This is a very long explanation of why I'm having to recalibrate my previously stated plans. I'm genuinely disappointed at having to delay The Monet Murders and Blind Side.

The Monet Murders is being shoved back to its original April release date. Blind Side...should come out about six weeks later. But. Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans.

So I hope no one is too disappointed. Or at least no more disappointed than me. The books are coming. And I do genuinely believe that it's better they come a little bit late than that I try to shove them through at top speed. I think you would rather I take my time and deliver the best possible product, right?

Friday, February 24, 2017

The 7 Habits of Highly UNsuccessful Writers

I discovered a new writing biz tool last week and FOR ONCE it's actually worth every penny. It's called Amazon Book Report and you can discover more about it here. It's perfect for writers like me who have a pretty good idea of the math, but rarely sit down and actually DO it.

Anyway, I was inspired to then go and do the math on my audio backlist, and that's a different story. A sad story if you love audio books--and my audio books in particular.

But I'll save that post for another day. In the meantime, I can't help noticing that my FB feed (and Twitter) is full of people handing out writing and/or marketing advice OR people in despair over their writing careers. Okay, and also people gloating about their writing careers, but there are fewer of them and they haven't been at it long enough to know how seriously to take that gloating.

I've been around a while and I'm reasonably successful, so I thought I would share some of my observations with those who feel they are not getting the success they deserve.


1 - You never submit anything because you're convinced it's "not good enough yet." You started what you believe will be your greatest work five years ago, and so far you have written the finest three chapters known to man. But they do need a little more work before you move on to Chapter Four...

2 - You submit everything -- or you self-publish and you don't have time or money for editing, cover art, formatting or even another re-read. You are terrified that the gold rush will be over before you can partake of the shiny. You firmly believe that "good enough" is all it takes these days to be successful -- especially when combined with aggressive advertising and marketing.

3 - Instead of analyzing your target audience, you spend hours writing ranty posts in which you attempt to redefine genre or sub-genre and offer guidelines as to who should be allowed to play in the sandbox. You are sure that if you just keep ranting, you will ultimately part the waves and convince readers they don't like what they do.

4 - You write hostile reviews of other writers under a sooper-sekret name on Amazon and elsewhere. Don't worry, you're not going to be found out. The danger lies not in being unmasked. The danger lies in the fact you've let your jealousy and insecurity get the better of you. Instead of focusing on YOUR career, you're busy worrying about someone else's. This is not a winning mindset. Or a sign of mental health.

5 - You believe everything you hear about writing not mattering-- that's it's all about social
networking, your mailing list numbers, marketing and advertising. Here's a tip. The "writing" may not matter, but the "storytelling" sure as heck does. You need to write stories that a lot of people can't wait to read.

6 - You believe your reviews. The good ones, anyway.

7 - You think because you've had some success, you now know all there is to know and you don't have to keep trying new things, pushing yourself, reading, honing your don't have to pay attention to the market or your readers (you don't even know who your core readership is) or what's happening in the world around you. You believe that success is a stable thing and once you've reached it, you're set.

Agree? Disagree? Pretty basic stuff, right? Feel free to offer your thoughts below!  

Friday, February 17, 2017

Author! Editor! Author! Nicole Kimberling

This week I'm interviewing the madly multitalented Nicole Kimberling who happens to be the Editor in Chief of Blind Eye Books in addition to being one of my favorite writers. That's not a combination you stumble across every day. (Or at least I don't.)

In addition to being an excellent writer, Nicole has the gift of talking both knowledgably and accessibly about writing. She's witty, wise and can cook. Which is pretty much all one can ask for in both an editor and a friend.

So without further adieu, Nicole Kimberling.

JL - Tell us--at the risk of getting slammed with submissions--about Blind Eye Book's mysterious new imprint One Block Empire.

NK - So our original line, Blind Eye Books is all about science-fiction and fantasy.

One Block Empire is devoted to mystery and other kinds of contemporary stories. Basically, I decided it would be neat to expand our brand into stories set in the real world.

The first book in the line is Dal Maclean’s Bitter Legacy, a police procedural set in London’s Metropolitan Police Service (which the author assures me is a real place.)


JL - As you know, I'm a big, big fan of your Bellingham Mystery series. What attracts you to the mystery genre -- this is not the rhetorical question some might imagine because you started out in spec fiction. In fact, didn't Turnskin win a Lambda? So what drew you to these mean streets?

NK - Aw… how sweet you are.
What I love about mystery—especially the classic cozy mystery—is that it is an absolutely perfect vehicle for observational humor. You have the sleuth, who is basically a nosy outsider, going into these different subcultures as a newcomer and reporting on what he or she sees.
So you can write a mystery set at, oh, let’s say Pizza Expo in Las Vegas. And you’ve got this incredibly serious thing—decapitation—happening in a place where the witnessess are showgirls dressed in bikinis that look like they’re made of 3 slices of pizza. And you can make the murder weapon a huge scimitar-shaped mezza luna knife that looks like its from the middle ages.
And the juxtaposition of these images—between the horrifying and the absurd—creates this awesome cognitive dissonance that drives the sleuth (and by extension the reader) to keep trying to solve the mystery. I feel like the best mysteries take the sleuth to a place of true discomfort. Then when the sleuth restores order to the chaos there is this sense of massive relief.
JL - Pentimento Blues is the sixth and final novella in the Bellingham Mysteries series. What did it feel like writing that final chapter? Was it a relief? Bittersweet? Where are Peter and Nick twenty years from now?

NK - Yeah, I did feel a little melancholy. Peter was such fun to write and the city of Bellingham still has so many quirky people and places… But I felt like I’d covered most of the big areas of conflict between Peter and Nick and didn’t want to be that writer who starts inserting the “crisis of the week” just to keep the series going.
I did actually think about where Peter and Nick would be a couple of decades down the road. I feel like they probably acquire some children somehow. Like Peter would agree to watch his itinerant crack-head cousin’s kids for the weekend and then she might never come back. Something like that. Nothing planned or premeditated. Just Peter’s impulsiveness combined with Nick’s deep-down kindness leading to accidental parenthood.
Or instead of children they could accidentally acquire a bunch of alpacas. That’s also possible.

JL - You're Blind Eye Books' Editor in Chef. (HA! Little cooking joke there -- bet you never heard that one before) How do you balance your own creative needs -- heck, how do you even find time to write? -- with the needs of your authors and your publishing house? Do you find it difficult to switch back and forth?

NK - Yes, the transition can be rocky. For me writing fiction requires entering a relaxed, associative, expansive state. And that’s exactly the opposite of the critical, winnowing attitude required of an editor. And both of those are different from the strategic “We’re gonna take that hill, then go to sleep get up and take the next one,” mind-frame necessary to performing the duties of a publisher.
So I try to pick one job every week and just do that, reserving longer blocks of 2-3 weeks to make progress on a piece of my own fiction or to do my final edit another author’s novel.
JL  - What do you like best about editing?
NK I truly love helping authors develop their style and work their manuscripts up to their full capacity. Because one person writing alone can do a good book, but probably not an excellent one. Novel-length prose just has too many moving parts for one person to keep track of them all.

JL - If you had to pick, perhaps for the purposes of a blog interview, what would you say was the one thing lacking in the majority of manuscripts you end up rejecting?
NK - Originality. Do you remember that famous meme from The Player? “It’s like Goodnight, Moon meets Lord of the Flies!” Most of the manuscripts I get are more like, “It’s like X only gay!”
Except “X” is usually just some TV show like Charmed,*  or whatever movie was popular that summer. Even if the writing and voice are both good, a derivative story is always boring to me.

JL -  What do you like best about writing?

NK - I really enjoy immortalizing the unique people and quirky situations that pop up in everyday life—or at least in my everyday life. For the sake of fiction—and certain friendships—I disguise them. But most of the characters in my books, and even some conversations, were inspired by real people.
JL - What do you have planned for us in the way of more mystery or suspense? I know you're partial to decapitations--and they're admittedly infrequent in the cozy subgenre--but I think you're a natural for a cozy series with edgy, even black humor. Plus you like cats. So.
NK - Actually I tried to get a decapitation into Pentimento Blues but my writer’s group told me it was unnecessary, cartoonish and detracted from the story’s main crisis. So I took it out.
But in terms of a new mystery: I’m very slowly slogging away at a new book featuring a chef solving a murder that occurs in the cellar of the restaurant where he works. I have no idea when I will finish it but I figure as long as I keep going I will probably manage to get to the last page before I drop dead.
But I’m nearing the end of writing the third Special Agent Keith Curry novella, which is a crossover fantasy/mystery.

 JL - Name three favorite mystery tropes that may or may not be found in your stories past, present or future.

NK - The Intrepid Reporter
The Red Herring
The Evidence Dungeon
JL  - I know you don't have the time, but do you think you would make a good sleuth?

NK - Well, I am exceptionally nosy but I don’t exactly have the attention span for surveillance. I feel like I’d have all the good intentions of solving the murder but get distracted by some other, lesser curiosity (“What ARE the neighbors remodeling anyway?”) and miss some major clues allowing the murderer to slip past me. But I’d absolutely know what color of bathroom tile just went into the house next door.
Plus it’s hard for me to pay attention to anyone telling a boring story, which I think must be pretty common in RL detecting. So, on the whole it’s probably best if I leave actual sleuthing to others. J


*Full disclosure: Charmed is my least-favorite TV show, by far.

You can learn more about Nicole and her work on her website. Or follow her on Facebook and/or Twitter.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Cover Reveal" Blind Side (Dangerous Ground 6)

Or, in other words, I totally forgot it was Friday and I needed a blog post.

But that's okay. Stuff is happening and lots is going on and we both know you'd rather I was making books anyway. ;-)  So here is the official cover reveal for Blind Side, which is currently -- though tentatively -- scheduled for April of this year.

Blind Side was originally going to happen toward the end of the year, but the DG fans have been progressively hostile vocal in their requests for the next book. Frankly, that means zero to me. In fact, pushiness typically has the reverse effect (I'm not a good candidate for blackmail). What resonated was the reminder that I had promised--as in you promised!!!!--this book before, really, any of my other promised sequels. Ouch. It turns out I am a good candidate for guiltifying.

So okay. To the head of the queue it goes -- right after The Monet Murders, which is already in progress.

What is the book about?

Thank you for asking. ;-D

With resources already overstretched, the last thing Will and Taylor need is another client.  

And the last thing Will needs is for that client to turn out to be an old boyfriend of Taylor’s. 

But Ashe Dekker believes someone is trying to kill him, and Taylor is determined to help--whatever the cost.

That's right, Will. Let's see how YOU like it for a change.

I've been looking forward to writing this one for a good, long while. Part of the delay was that I wasn't sure--couldn't decide--if it would be the final book or not, so one of the subplots has been a question mark in my mind. And I honestly don't have the answer yet. I probably won't know until I'm writing this installment.

We shall see what we shall see.

Friday, February 3, 2017

SNEAK PEEK - The Monet Murders

I should be on Catalina Island right about now, kicking back with the sibs and enjoying our annual beach get-away. So I thought today's blog might as well be a snippet from the current work in progress THE MONET MURDERS.

I'm hoping to have the book out at the end of February, but that's a bit tricky for a number of reasons. On the other hand, postponing until March is a bit tricky too because that's when FAIR CHANCE comes out.

So we'll work out the details later. Here's the very (very) unedited rough draft of the first chapter. It may or may not already be listed for preorders on Amazon. It's certainly listed everywhere else.

And yes, it's a full-length novel. 68Kish.

Chapter One



“Emerson Harley understood that the threat was not simply to the greatest cultural and artistic achievements of all time, the fascist forces of World War Two threatened civilization itself.”

The speeches had started when his cell phone began to vibrate.

Jason had arrived late and was standing near the back of the sizeable audience crowding into the wide entrance hall of the California History Museum of Beverly Hills, but even so he felt the disapproval radiating from that chunk of prime real estate at the front of the room, the holdings currently occupied by the West family--his family. How the hell they could possibly know he was even present, let alone failing to live up to famille expectation was a mystery, but after thirty-three years he was used to it.

Surreptitiously, he pulled his cell out for a quick look at the caller, and felt a leap of pleasure. Sam.

Even so, he nearly shelved the call. Not that he didn’t look forward to talking to Sam--God knows, it was a rare enough occurrence these days--but the dedication of a museum wing to your grandfather did kind of take precedence. Should, anyway.

Some instinct made him click accept. He smiled in apology, edging his way through the crowd of black ties and evening dresses, stepping into the Ancient Americas room with its collection of pre-Columbian art and ceramics.

“Hey.” Jason kept his voice down. Even so that “hey” seemed to whisper up and down the row of stony Olmec faces. It would be hard, maybe impossible, to put a collection together like this now days. Not only were artifacts of enormous cultural significance disappearing into private collections at a breathtaking rate, Native American activists often--and maybe rightly--blocked the excavation and analysis of human remains and artifacts as desecration of sacred space.

“Hey,” Sam said crisply. “You’re about to get called out to a crime scene. Homicide.”

“Okay.” This was a little weird. How would Sam Kennedy, chief of one of the Behavioral Analysis Units at Quantico, know that? And why would he bother to inform Jason?

 “I can’t talk.” Sam was still brusque, still speaking quietly, as though afraid of being overheard. That in itself was interesting. Not like Sam had ever given a damn about what anyone thought about anything. “I just wanted you to have a head’s up. I’m on scene as well.”

Jason’s heart gave another of those disconcerting jumps. Finally. Same corner of the crime fighting universe at the same time. It had been…what? Massachusetts had been June and it was now February. Eight months. Almost a year. It felt like a year.

“Got it.” Jason was equally curt. Because he did get it. Sam was in a different league now. When they’d met, Sam had been under a cloud, his career on the line. Now his reputation was restored and his standing was pretty much unassailable. Jason, by contrast, was a lowly field agent with the Art Crimes Team. And though the Bureau did not have an official non-frat policy, discretion was part of the job description. Right there with Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity.

His phone alerted him to another incoming call, but Sam spoke before he could.

“See you here.” Sam disconnected.

Jason automatically clicked the incoming call. “West.”

A cool, cultured voice said, “Agent West, this is ADC Ritchie.”

After an astonished beat, he said politely, “Ma’am?” Like a phone call from the Assistant Director in Charge was a usual thing.

“I’m sorry to call you out on this very special evening, but we have a situation that could benefit from your particular expertise. ”

Jason said blankly, “Of course.”

This kind of call--not that he had so many of this kind of call--typically came from Special Agent in Charge George Potts, his immediate boss at the very large and very powerful Los Angeles field office.

“We have a dead foreign national on--or, more exactly, under--Santa Monica pier. It turns out he’s a buyer for the Nacht Galerie in Berlin. Gil Hickok at LAPD is requesting our support. Also…” ADC Ritchie’s tone changed indefinably. “BAU Chief Sam Kennedy seems to feel your participation in this investigation would be particularly helpful.”

Translation: the ADC was as bewildered as Jason. Why the hell would the BAU be involved in the investigation into the homicide of a German national--let alone requisition manpower from the local field office’s Art Crimes Team?

Except…Detective Gil Hickok didn’t just head LAPD’s Art Theft Detail. He was basically the art cop for most of Southern California and had been for the last twenty years. Smaller forces like Santa Monica PD didn’t keep their own art experts on the payroll, they relied on LAPD’s resources. LAPD’s two man Art Theft Detail was the only such full-time municipal law enforcement unit in the United States. If Gil was requesting Jason’s assistance there was a good reason--beyond the fact that a murdered buyer from one of Germany’s leading art galleries would naturally be of interest to Jason.

Jason’s interest was now fully engaged and he was eager to get on site--and that had zero to do with the fact that Sam would be there.

He impatiently heard out Ritchie, who really had little to add beyond the initial information, and said, “I’m on my way.”

Clicking off, he stepped into the arched doorway, scanning the crowd. All eyes were fastened on the short, stout man behind the lectern positioned at the front of the new hall, trying to cope with the piercing bursts of mic feedback punctuating his speech.

“In March 1945 Harley was named Deputy Chief of the MFAA Section under British Monuments Man Lt. Col. Geoffrey Webb. Stationed at SHAEF headquarters at Versailles and later in Frankfurt, Harley and Webb coordinated the operations of Monuments Men in the field as well as managing submitted field reports and planning future MFAA operations. Harley traveled extensively and at great personal peril across the American Zone of Occupation in pursuit of looted works of art and cultural objects.”

Correction. Not all eyes were fastened on museum curator Edward Howie. Jason’s sister Sophie was watching for him.

Sophie, tall, dark and elegant in a dark green Vera Wang halter gown, was married to Republican Congressman Clark Vincent, also in attendance. Clark tried to be in attendance anywhere the press might be. Sophie was the middle kid, but if she suffered from middle child syndrome it had manifested itself in rigorous overachievement and a general bossiness of anyone in her realm. She had seven years on Jason and considered him her pet project.  

Jason held his phone up and shook his head, his expression that blend of apology and resolve all LEO perfected for such occasions. There were always a lot of such occasions. That was another part of the job description.

Sophie, who moonlighted as the family enforcer, expressed her displeasure through her eyebrows. She paid a lot of money for those brows and they served her well. Right now they were looking Joan Crawfordish.

Jason tried to work a little more abject into his silent apology--he was, in fact, sincerely sorry to miss the dedication, but if anyone would have understood it was Grandpa Harley--and Sophie shook her head in disapproval and disappointment. But there was also resignation, and Jason took that as permission for take off.

He jetted.  

* * * * *

It took a fucking forever to find a place to park.

That was something they didn’t ever show on TV or the movies: the detective having to park a mile away and hike to his crime scene. But that happened.

Especially when you were last man on the scene.

Santa Monica on a Saturday night--even in February--was a busy place. The 100 year old landmark pier was bustling with fun seekers, street vendors and performance artists--even a few fishermen. As Jason reached the bottom of Colorado Avenue he could see the glittering multi-colored Ferris wheel churning leisurely through the heavy purple and pewter clouds. Little cars whizzed up and down the twinkling yellow loops of the rollercoaster.

The Pier deck was filled and the lower lots barricaded by black and whites, their blue and red LED lights flashing in the night like sinister amusement park rides. Jason had to park south of the pier and hike back along the mostly empty beach. Up ahead he could see uniformed officers and crime scene technicians moving around beneath the crooked black silhouette of the pier. Small clutches of people stood short distances from each other, watching.

He reached the crime scene tape fluttering in the breeze, flashed his tin and got a few surprised looks from the unis, but that probably had more to do with his formal dress--he hadn’t had a chance to do more than grab his backup piece and replace his tux with his vest--than the Bureau being on the scene.

“The party’s over there,” an officer informed him, holding up the yellow and black ribbon.

“Can’t wait for the buffet,” Jason muttered, ducking under the tape. His shoes sunk into the soft, pale sand.

The neon lights of the pier and the glittering solar panels of the Ferris wheel lit the way across the beach. From the arcade overhead drifted the sound of shouts--happy shouts--music and games. He could hear the jaunty tunes of the carousel and the screams of people riding the rollercoaster. And beneath the pier he could see the flicker of flashlight beams and the flash of cameras.

This time of year the tide would be surging back in around eleven thirty, so the forensics team would have to move fast.

As he drew nearer he became self-consciously aware of a tall blond figure in a blue windbreak with gold FBI letters across his wide back.

And he somehow knew--though Sam was not looking his way, had his back to Jason--that Sam was aware he was on approach.

How did that work? Extrasexually perception?

Anyway, it made a nice distraction from what was coming. Not that Jason was squeamish, but no one liked homicide scenes. It was the part that came after--the puzzle, the challenge, the race to stop the unsub from striking again--that he liked. Even welcomed.

He reached the small circle silently observing the forensic specialists at work. Gil Hickok acknowledged him first.

He said, “Here’s West,” and Sam turned.

Even in the dark where he was more shadow than flesh and bone, Sam Kennedy made an imposing figure. It was something that went beyond his height or the width of his shoulders or that imperious, not-quite-handsome profile. Sheer force of personality. That was probably a lot of it.

“Agent West.” It was strange to hear Sam in person again after all those months of phone calls. His voice was deep and held a suggestion of his Wyoming boyhood. His expression was unreadable in the flickering light, but then Sam’s expression was usually unreadable, day or night.

Jason nodded hello. They might have been meeting for the first time. Well, no, because the first time they’d met, they’d disliked each other at first sight. So compared to that, this was downright cozy.

Hickok took in his black tie and patent leather kicks, drawling, “You didn’t have to dress up. It’s a casual wear homicide.”

He was in his late fifties. Portly, genial, and perpetually grizzled. He wore a rumpled raincoat, rain or shine, smelled like pipe tobacco, and collected corny jokes, which he delighted in sharing with bewildered suspects during interrogations. They’d worked together several times over the past year. Jason liked him.

“You can never be overdressed or overeducated,” he quoted.

“Says the overdressed, overeducated guy.” Hickok chuckled and shook hands with him.

Sam did not shake hands. Jason met his eyes, but again it was too dark to interpret that gleam. Hopefully there was nothing in his own expression either. He prided himself on his professionalism, and there was no greater test of professionalism than being able to keep your love life out of your work life.

Not that he and Sam were in love. It was hard to define what they were--and getting harder by the minute.

Hickok pointed out the homicide detectives who had caught the case. Diaz and Norquiss were already busy interviewing the clusters of potential witnesses, so Jason really was last to arrive.

“What have we got?” he asked. The real question was what am I doing here? But presumably that would be explained. His gaze went automatically to the victim. The combination of harsh lamp light and deep shade created a chiaroscuro effect around the sprawled figure.

He was about forty. Caucasian. A large man. Not fat, but soft. Doughy. His hair was blond and chin length, his eyes blue and protuberant. His mouth was slack with surprise. The combination of dramatic lighting and that particular expression were reminiscent of some of Goya’s works. People in Goya’s paintings so often wore that same look of shock as horrific events overtook them.

He wore jeans, tennis shoes and a sweatshirt that read I Heart Santa Monica.

There was a darker shadow beneath the victim’s head, but it wasn’t a lot of blood. He bore no obvious signs of having been shot or stabbed or strangled or bludgeoned.

But then if it was a simple case of homicide, Sam wouldn’t be here. Even though he traveled more than typical BAU chiefs--or agents--even he didn’t turn up at common crime scenes.

“Do you know him?” Sam asked.

“Me?” Jason glanced at him. “No.”

“You’ve never dealt with him in a professional context?”

“I’ve never dealt with him in any context. Who is he?”

Hickok said, “Donald Kerk. According to his passport he has dual American-German citizenship. He was the art buyer for Nacht Galerie in Berlin.”

The Nacht Galerie was known for its collection of street culture: paintings by hip young artists on the cusp of real fame, and avant garde photography. They specialized in light installation and graphic design. Not Jason’s area of expertise. Or interest.

“He still has his passport?”

“And his wallet, containing his hotel room key, so robbery doesn’t appear to have been a motive. Mr. Kerk wound up his visit to our fair city with what looks like an ice pick to the base of his skull.”


“That’s not going to do much for tourism.” Jason was looking at Sam. Waiting for Sam to explain what made this a matter for FBI involvement, let alone for the ACT.

Sam started to speak, but paused as they were joined by Detectives Diaz and Norquiss.

Norquiss was a statuesque redhead. Her partner was big and burly with an impressive scar down the left side of his face.

“Oh goody. More feebs.” Norquiss looked Jason up and down. “To what do we owe this honor?”

Diaz said, “You could have waited till the wedding was over, Agent.”

Jason sighed. Hickok chuckled. “Now, now, kiddies. I invited the Bureau in.”

Why?” Norquiss demanded. “This is nothing that we’re not fully equipped to handle.”

Sam said, “There are indications Kerk’s homicide is connected to a case already under BAU investigation.”

“Oh for--!” Diaz cut the rest of it short. He exchanged looks with Norquiss who folded her arms in a not-too-subtle display of resistance. In most cases local law enforcement had to invite the Bureau into an investigation, but there were exceptions to the rule. This appeared to be one of them.

“Connected how?” Jason asked.

 It was Hickok who answered. “I want to get your opinion of something.”

The something turned out to be a 6x8 inch oil painting on canvas board.

“It was propped against the right side of the body,” Hickok informed him.

“Like a museum exhibit label?” Jason reached for his gloves. Of course, he wasn’t wearing gloves. Hadn’t expected to be called out to a crime scene that night.

“Use mine.” Sam peeled off his own latex gloves and handed them to Jason.

Jason pulled on the still warm plastic--an act which felt strangely intimate--and took the canvas board from Hickok, who flicked on his flashlight to better illume the painted surface.

He recognized the creative intent at once. How could he miss it? Those distinct brushstrokes and careful and strongly horizontal representation of the sky and sea so typical of the artist’s early efforts? The ocean and a shoreline that was probably supposed to be Sainte-Adresse, although it might as easily have been Catalina. Wherever it was supposed to be--and despite the distinctive signature in the lower right hand corner--it was a lousy effort and a lousy forgery.

Not even taking into account the macabre and incongruous central figure of the corpse floating in the surf. He felt a prickling at the nape of his neck at the image of that small, bloody form.

“It’s sure as hell not Monet,” Jason said.

“It’s his style,” Norquiss said.

“I think Monet would beg to differ.”

“Maybe it’s an early work,” Diaz suggested.

“No. It’s not even a good imitation,” Jason said. “This is not genius in the making. It’s fully formed ineptitude.”

Hickok laughed. “What did I tell you?” he asked Sam.

“You can’t know for sure without running tests. I don’t think it’s so terrible,” Norquiss said. She sounded defensive. Maybe she was a regular at garage sales. Had she really thought they’d discovered a genuine Monet at the crime scene?

Jason said, “For the sake of argument, why would Kerk be wandering around the beach carrying a priceless painting? And if this was a robbery gone bad, why would the unsub have then left a priceless painting at the scene?”

“Maybe robbery wasn’t the motive. Maybe the perp had no idea this was a priceless painting.”

 “That still doesn’t explain why Kerk would be casually carrying around a valuable piece of art.”

Norquiss retorted, “What makes no sense is that the perp would bother to stage the scene when this whole area is going to be underwater in about an hour.”

She had a point. The tide was already starting to swirl around the pilings.

“Maybe your perp isn’t familiar with the tides--”

“All right, never mind all that,” Sam cut in impatiently. “You don’t believe that Kerk purchased this work?” The question for Jason was clearly rhetorical. Sam already knew the answer.

“No way.” Jason glanced at Hickok.

“Hell no,” Hickok said. “That’s not a mistake even a rookie buyer would make. Sorry, guys,” he added to Norquiss and Diaz. “However this piece figures in, there’s no way an experienced art dealer purchased a forgery of this quality. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Kerk did not introduce the painting to the crime scene.”

It wasn’t really much of a limb if the painting had been propped next to the body, but having been shut up once, Jason kept the thought to himself.

Norquiss and Diaz exchanged frustrated looks. “Then what do we have here?” Norquiss asked. “What are we looking at?”

Sam said, “Best guess? The calling card of a serial killer.”