Friday, May 30, 2014


Connor loves teaching. He loves working with kids, he loves feeling like he's making a difference. And the kids -- and parents -- seem to love him. Until the afternoon he makes a small error in judgment, and an angry father's thoughtless comments start the kind of rumor that destroys careers. And lives.


Now everything Connor thought he knew about himself and his world is in doubt. But sometimes help comes from the most unexpected direction.





After a few rounds of hugs—during which he couldn’t help noticing that Callahan was on his feet and paying his own tab—Con exited the bar. He headed for the parking lot, but he was aware of the front entrance opening and closing behind him, of footsteps following his own.

His heart sped up in a confusing mix of excitement and anxiety. He kept his pace brisk though his spine felt fused with tension.

“Myers,” Callahan called.

Con stopped. He turned warily.

“Could I have a word?” Callahan sounded…not diffident, but maybe not as commanding as usual.

“Sure.” Con knew he sounded stiff, but he couldn’t help it.

Callahan walked up to him, looking capable and very attractive in a no bullshit kind of way. He was wearing fragrance, which he generally didn’t—something masculine and sporty—and his hair was more neatly combed than usual. That was pretty much all the effort he’d made. A shower, clean clothes and aftershave. Even so, not a man who needed to go home alone, unless it was his choice.

His expression was serious, his dark gaze direct. “I owe you an apology.”

Inexplicably, Con’s throat closed. He nodded.

“I’m sure Miss Lopez told you what happened in the play yard today?”

For a second Con couldn’t think who Miss Lopez was. Oh right. Pip. Perdita Lopez in grown-up life. “Yes.” One terse word was all he could manage.

“Look, I’m not afraid to admit when I’m wrong. I was wrong. I made a mistake. Even if I hadn’t seen for myself what it’s like out there, Liz told me you weren’t anywhere near her when she fell.”

“No, I wasn’t. And even if I had been, sometimes—”

“I know.” Callahan grimaced. “I got to see it for myself today. Even before the one kid popped the other, it was an eye-opener.”

Con nodded again. He was actually surprised to get even this apology. It was his experience that most adults were not good at apologizing to anyone, especially anyone who wasn’t family or a close friend. Especially not hot shot macho boss types like Callahan. He couldn’t bring himself to say thank you. Callahan had cost him a job he loved, and in such a way that it was going to be hard to find another one. But he did appreciate the effort.

“I spoke to Bea on your behalf. I told her that I had reacted out of anger and that I didn’t intend or want her to let you go, but…”

“She’s not going to change her mind,” Con said.

Callahan looked regretful. “She did say there were other performance issues. That the decision wasn’t based on that one incident alone.”

“And that is a lie,” Con said.

“I’m just telling you wh—”

“Never. Not once was I ever told there was a performance issue. I received a Super Star on every single one of my performance evaluations. A Super Star.”


“The most I ever heard was I needed to make sure the kids were doing crafts in the evening and not just—anyway, it doesn’t matter. I don’t know why I’m even talking to you about it.”

Con started to turn away, but Callahan’s hand closed on his upper arm. He said quietly, “Because I’m to blame for you losing your job. And we both know it.”



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Friday, May 23, 2014

I Can Get it For You Wholesale

I was trying to figure out the pricing for Everything I Know last week.


Mindful of my duty to keep up with trends and directions in my industry, I considered starting at a lower price point. It’s 28K novella and usually I would price that at $4.99, but I’ve been reading a lot about the magical $3.99 price point, so I thought…okay. Maybe. I’m dubious, but I’ll give it a try.


My personal experience has been that dropping my stories a dollar or two makes ZERO difference in sales. And I’ve had a lot of time and a lot of books with which to experiment and compare. Basically when I charge less, I make less. It’s that simple. It probably has to do with the fact that M/M is still -- you may or may not struggle with this concept -- a niche sub-genre of romance. So the hundreds of thousands of sales that a mainstream writer of romantic fiction might -- might -- get lucky and generate, won’t happen here. I dropped the first two Adrien books in price last month and they are selling EXACTLY what they sold before. I’m just earning less. I dropped some of my earlier titles last year. Same deal. They sell no better and they sell no worse. I am simply earning less. I plan to raise the price on all of them at the start of next month.


But I don’t like to go only by my own experiences. I do sincerely want to keep up with what’s happening in the rest of the publishing world. So I did some browsing around various romance reading sites and skimmed the usual debates. Although all the sales data indicates lower pricing isn’t working like it did, the people who comment on these sites are almost always the I WON’T PAY MORE THAN X $$$ AS A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE!!


Which…sure. Call it principle -- although I’ve yet to hear a coherent explanation of what that principle actually is. We’re all working within our budgets. I don’t want to gouge readers, but I feel I should be fairly recompensed for my work. Can any of us can claim a moral high ground based on a dollar value?


I tend to price my short stories a bit higher than a lot of writers. $2.99 is my starting point. A lot of writers give short stories away. This has created the notion that short fiction is a throwaway. And, in all honesty, a lot of short fiction IS throwaway. A lot of what writers now call “a short story” is actually flash fiction or vignettes or codas. Not really a short story at all. A short story actually demands quite a bit of skill and discipline. I'm not saying I'm O. Henry, I'm just saying I know what a short story is -- and that's what I try to write.


But just as we’re dealing with writers who don’t know what a short story is, we’re also dealing with readers who don’t know -- and don’t care -- what a short story is. Fair enough. We all like what we like.

The idea of charging based simply on word count -- stories by the pound! -- is an odd one for a number of reasons. But I’m not going to get into that. I can’t imagine by now we haven’t all heard these tiresome arguments. My feeling is…buy my book or don’t buy my book. I don’t think you should feel guilty for paying what you think the work is worth, and I don’t think I should feel guilty for charging what I think the work is worth. Fair?


But here’s why I charge what some consider a premium price for a short story. Those first five to ten thousand words are probably the hardest work an author puts into any story. All the characterization, all the setting, the conflict, the interpersonal dynamics…it all happens in those first few thousand words. However long the story may end up being, the first few thousand words generally determine whether it succeeds or not. This is why publishers and agents evaluate manuscripts based on the first few thousand words. The first few thousand words are the test of skill, of craft, of experience.


If you understand anything about the process of writing fiction, you understand this.


Now plenty of readers just prefer a longer, more complex story. A lot of readers don’t like short stories. Who doesn’t understand that? I certainly do. But that’s a different argument than trying to pretend it is a “matter of principle” to never pay more than a dollar per ten thousand words or whatever the equation is supposed to be.


From my perspective it makes a lot more sense to charge less for a larger work than to discount how much effort goes into those first few pages. I don’t dash off ten thousand words and then settle down to write the real story. The first ten thousand words are probably the most reworked and rewritten in the manuscript. And if the manuscript is only about ten thousand words, it’s all the more difficult because I've got to condense and cut and yet somehow tell a complete story in miniature.


See, a writer’s goal is actually to tell the story effectively in the fewest words possible. It isn’t the number of words that determines the value of a literary work. Any more than the number of brushstrokes determines the value of a painting.

 Anyway, Everything I Know will be $3.99 for the first week, but then, unless some amazing insight convinces me otherwise, I plan to kick it up to the normal $4.99 price point.

Oh! Lest that seems not nearly enough time to get around to buying a book, you can preorder through All Romance Ebooks or Smashwords.



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Author! Author! LANGLEY HYDE

This morning we have a surprise in the form of the delightful Langley Hyde, the newest and shiniest little star in the Blind Eye firmament. Langley has written a really wonderful Steampunk M/M adventure-romance-mystery by the title of Highfell Grimoires. I got a pre-release peek at it, and it really is something special. (as also noted by Publisher's Weekly, which gave it a starred review)!

1 - So. What's the last thing you stole? KIDDING. I'M A KIDDER. Tell us, young Langley, about this wonderful book of yours, Highfell Grimoires. What's it *really* about? What do you love best about this story? Why this story and not one of lots of other tempting story ideas?

In Highfell Grimoires, the beggared and orphaned Lord Neil Franklin agrees to work in his uncle’s charity school, high among the clouds above the city of Herrow. But there’s more going on in that charity school than mere book learning. And the rough and enigmatic Leofa holds the key that will unlock the mystery—as well as Neil’s own desires.

That’s sort of what the back of the book says anyway. J

It’s a gay steampunk romance full of magic and machinery and secrets and dastardly plans. Plus also a hot, shirtless guy who lacks book learning but is wicked smart…and maybe even just little wicked. Really there’s a lot I love about this story. For one thing: Top hats and goggles. Floating universities. Libraries with books that spit sparks.

By the end of writing it what became most important to me was exploring an aspect of love. I think many people associate love with a strong feeling, one that’s wrapped up in submission, passion, and possession. But I think that what a person decides to do after that, when holding so much power, is more important. And that’s when love really happens.

2 - Lanyon's Haberdashery, Cupcakes and Tiny Hats. I want to open that shop and I believe you'll be one of my first customers. Tell me about the tiny hat you will buy. Seed pearls. Yes or no? I bet you wield a wicked hat pin. True?

I would totally buy a tiny hat from you. I wouldn’t just be one of your first customers. I would be your best customer. I like seed pearls. I would like to buy something with a teensy veil on it. Do you have anything in white satin? Maybe with a mechanical bug on it?

Unfortunately my legendary hat-pin dueling capabilities have been overstated. My klutziness has not been. Probably I would be able to slay myself with a hat pin by falling on it accidentally. Every time I take a hat pin into hand I am risking my own life.

3 - How reliable are your narrators? How reliable are YOU?

I am incredibly reliable. Sadly. I know it ruins an author’s mystique, but I always pay my bills on time, almost never procrastinate, and I feed my kitty at half past six every day. That’s probably why I write characters who are unreliable. I like writing characters who can do things I can’t. Like lying. Or casting spells.

4 - What's your writing schedule like? Do you write full-time?

When I wrote Highfell, I’d just moved. I had mostly freelance work, so I wrote whenever I wanted.

But now I, like many writers, have a full-time day job in addition to my other freelance work. I used to try to write after work but everything I produced after work sucked. Bad. So I had to start getting up before work to do my writing then. This seems to be working.

The catch: My shift starts at five o’clock in the morning. So I get up at two-thirty in the morning to write.  As the novel I’m working on progresses, I may have to start getting up earlier to get more time in before work.

It’s kind of serene. In a hellish way.

5 - Is it true writing erotic romance is kind of a family tradition?

Yes. Completely true. On both sides of the family. But my husband’s grandfather wrote pornography during and after World War II to support his wife and his daughters. He also wrote science fiction, but the softcore was what earned him the money. Who would’ve guessed that soldiers like porn?

He had tons of sex manuals to do research and help him get ideas in his office and he wrote all the stories out by hand, in this tiny cramped script, to conserve paper. Then he marked it all up with these crabbed corrections. Once he was done it was almost incomprehensible. He paid one of his teenage daughters—my mother-in-law, actually—to type it all out for him on his big old typewriter. She’d earn about four hundred marks a book, which was a lot then, so I think he did earn fairly well from writing erotica.

So when I talk to my in-laws about what I do, it’s hardly shocking. Instead my mother-in-law gives me a little philosophical shrug while my father-in-law glances at his wife with this sly grin, like, “I got myself a girl who was really informed.”

6 - If you were a Disney character -- any character you want -- who would you be? Why?

At first when you said that I wanted to be Aladdin. But then I realized I could never be Aladdin because I’m horrible at lying. If I were Aladdin, I would just run up to Jasmine and be like, “Guess what? I’m totally pretending to be a prince! Ha! And I have an all-powerful genie.”

My husband says he’s not worried about me cheating on him. Because if I did, I’d come home and be like, “Honey! Guess what I did today! Bet you couldn’t guess.”

I’m not very interested in being a Disney princess, although Belle does have an awesome library. Maybe I could just nick her library?

So I guess I would be Stitch. I am more like Stitch anyway. You know. An intergalactic terrorist trying to be a house pet. Cute but deadly. Big googly eyes. Grumpy when hungry, and like Stitch, I tend to express this with biting and laser cannons.  But I am trying really hard to be domesticated.


7 - It's clear your research on HG was painstaking and intensive. Are you a research-ahead-of-timer, a research-as-you-goer, or a research-after-the-facter?

Can’t I be all three? Usually I go through phases of intense obsession over a subject. I research it exhaustively. I read book after book. Then I stop. And maybe about three years later I can write about it. I try not to write about anything I’ve read too freshly, because I’m afraid of splurging on facts.

When I’m writing, certain things come up. How does a dark lantern actually open, for example? Then I spend time on museum websites, taking a look at artifacts. Do they actually have lace parasols at this time? So I look that up. I spend always a lot of time looking at contemporary housekeeping books, which can tell me a lot about meals, manners, and sensibilities—how people thought things ought to have been, and therefore by inference what they were actually like and what people did about it.

So probably the least amount of research I end up doing is after the book is written and I’m checking out the copyeditor’s remarks. I’ll usually go with the copyeditor, unless I can find primary source material to back up my instincts.

8 – Do you own a grimoire?

Sadly not. I own very few books, actually, which I always find very embarrassing when people come over. Other people apologize for the mess. I’m like, “I’m so sorry! I don’t have very many books!”

Because my husband is from Europe, I’ve moved back and forth between the continent and North America several times. Weight restrictions on transatlantic flights have done my personal bibliotheca in. So mostly I stock up on public library books. I put them on my shelves and pretend they are mine until the library sends me to collections. So the only thing I’m reliably late at is returning books.

 Also, although this doesn’t exactly qualify as stealing since I do eventually give in and give the books back, this might answer your first question. The last thing I borrowed for so long as to be construed as stealing was a copy of Packing for Mars by Mary Roach and I still feel guilty.

Whenever I’m thinking about buying a book my husband gives me this sad look, like he’s saying, “Will I have to carry this for you in the future? In a box with other books? Up four flights of stairs?” But on the upside, whenever he tells me to go ahead and buy one, I know what he’s really saying is, “I’ll carry this for you. But only because I love you.”

9 - What is the single sexiest thing about the Age of Steam?

Oh my! Do I have to chose one?

But the most fascinating aspect to me is the element of a society in an immense moment of change. In the late 1800s, we went from cooking by fire and carting our water from pumps and throwing our waste out the windows to electricity, automobiles, telephones, and the most wondrous invention of all: indoor plumbing.

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

Humor. I want to be able to write books with a lot of jokes in them. But I’m a little afraid of writing a book that relies heavily on humor. What if my jokes fall flat? How embarrassing would that be?

Maybe not as embarrassing as receiving the proofreading remarks on a sex scene – granted.
(Ha! Just wait till you have to listen to the sex scenes in first your audio book!)

After that, I think I would be most intimidated by thrillers. I like the breakneck pacing of thrillers, but I think that kind of writing is hard for me.

That said, the only way I’d ever consider writing in one of those genres is if the book had a fantastical element. I get bored writing contemporary novels. For some reason any novel without magic seems incredibly unrealistic to me.

11 - What do you love most about writing? What do you find most challenging?

I love the act of writing. Once I start writing, it feels like my brain is functioning correctly and the rest of my life has been a dream. It’s like running and playing a new song all at once. When I’m running, I sometimes get to a point of timelessness, when the world around me seems ordered yet imbued with meaning. I used to play clarinet and violin—I don’t anymore—but writing a rough draft is also like playing an unfamiliar melody, like that moment when I’d play and I’d hear the song for the first time. It fell into place. It was something that had always been there and I was just discovering it.

It’s the rest that’s hard for me. Plotting and editing. Really the parts that make a book a book. I would basically rather go to the dentist than do those things. And that’s saying a lot because anesthesia doesn’t work on me very well.

12 - What are you working on next?

It’s a secret. It’s about spies, and mercury, and magic, and impersonation, and has romance and adventures and scheming. But I can’t tell you anything more because I haven’t finished it and I’m superstitious. But I promise to send it to you when I’m done.

I also want to say what a pleasure it’s been to be invited over onto your blog, Josh! Thank you so much for having me over.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Sneak Peek - SLAY RIDE

This has been an exhausting week, and I topped it off with catching a little bit of a summer cold, so I thought today's blog would be an excerpt. This is from Slay Ride, which will be coming out later this summer.

Cover art by Catherine Dair.


Maybe Tom Finney’s phone call was a blessing in disguise.

Robert was having dinner with Sheriff Dooley’s widow. Dooley had been shot and killed three months earlier, and it was a godawful Christmas for Mabel and the three little girls.

But then, with the war on and so many families missing loved ones, it was a godawful Christmas for everyone. Joey, Robert’s kid brother, had been killed in the Pacific the previous spring. The Pacific was where Robert had nearly lost his right leg the year before that. There wasn’t a family in Butte that hadn’t been touched by the war. In fact, there probably wasn’t a family in the whole of the United States that hadn’t been touched by the war.

So Robert was doing his best to bring a little holiday cheer to the proceedings. Mabel was swell. He’d been to school with her, had even thought about asking her to marry him at one time. But somehow he’d never got around to it -- whereas Clinton Dooley had. Now Clinton was dead, shot one night on a country back road by a nameless assailant, and Mabel was making a brave effort not to cry into the mashed potatoes.

When he was done failing to comfort the Dooley girls, Robert was supposed to head over to his mother’s house where his kith and kin would make their own brave effort not to notice the empty place at the table.

So, yes, in a funny way, Officer Finney’s phone call was a relief.

“Chief, I just got a call from Eugene Boswell, the assistant manager of the Safeway over on Harrison Avenue.  He claims there’s some bird holed up at the Knight’s Arms waving a roscoe around and squawking about bumping off his girl friend.”

“Knight’s Arms. That’s the place on Main Street?” Robert asked. And then, suspiciously, “How would Eugene Boswell know what’s going on in the Knight’s Arms?” Finney had a fondness for practical jokes, and was known to celebrate the holidays -- every holiday known to man, including some that hadn’t been thought of yet -- with a nip or two.

But Finney sounded cold sober when he replied, “Boswell was over there having dinner at his mother-in-law’s when a gal burst in followed by this Harold Braun.  Braun said he had three bullets, two for the dame and one for himself. While the women were trying to reason with him, Boswell scrammed across the street to the Scandia bar and called us. He said Braun’s not fooling.”

“I’m on my way. “I’ll meet you in front of the Knight’s Arms.” Robert hung up and turned to find Mabel standing in the doorway holding his hat and coat. Her pretty face was pale. She was a tall, thin blonde with a spatter of golden freckles across her pert nose. In the old days, she had always laughed a lot.

“Trouble?” she asked.

Robert nodded. “Sounds that way. I’m sorry about dinner.”

Mabel brushed aside mention of the meal on which she had used up so many of her ration coupons and worked so hard to prepare. “Be careful, Robert.”

“Sure,” Robert said easily. “I’m not the heroic type.”

“Not you,” Mabel agreed. “Not being heroic is how you got shot in the Philippines.”

“Everybody got shot, so that doesn’t count,” Robert shrugged into his coat, took his hat, and limped toward the front door. “Anyway, it was my leg that got shot, not my Philippines. My Philippines still work fine.”

Mabel laughed shakily. “If you can come back later, do. I’ll save you a slice of mince pie.”

“I can’t promise, but if I can, I will.”

She was still standing in the doorway, famed in cozy lamplight and hugging herself against the cold, when he climbed into his car and pulled away from the curb.

* * * * *

A handful of snowflakes drifted down as Robert parked behind the Scandia. He got his pistol out of the glove box, and climbed out of the car. His leg ached in the damp winter air. But then, his leg always ached now.

The Christmas lights strung across the windows of the bar cast watery blue and red and green smears on the black, shining street as he hurried across to where Finney and O’Hara were pacing in front of the brick apartment building. There was a third man with them, young, sandy and balding, plump as a pigeon, in a dark overcoat. That would be Boswell, the grocery store assistant manager, and Robert automatically wondered why he wasn’t in the army or some other branch of the service.

“Chief, we were just about to go in,” Finney said as Robert reached them. He was in his forties, short, wiry, hair prematurely white. He always reminded Robert of a smooth-haired fox terrier. Now he was almost quivering, like a dog tugging at a leash.

O’Hara was older than Finney. He was big -- tall and broad -- with a head of curly and startlingly dark hair. He hooked a thumb back at the trio of men hovering just out of earshot, and said, “The newshounds say they heard a shot right before we arrived.”

Newshounds? Robert swore inwardly. It had taken him less than five minutes from receiving Finney’s phone call to get over to Main Street, and he had been relieved to see there wasn’t much of a crowd gathered yet. But now that he took a closer look, he saw the three men lurking a few feet away near scraggly shrubbery were not casual bystanders. One of them, a kid with a shock of white blond hair, held a camera. The second -- Robert recognized Earl Arthur from the Montana Standard and the third -- his heart jumped at the sight of that tall, lanky figure with the untidy chestnut hair -- Jamie.

Jamie -- James Jameson -- worked for the Butte Daily Standard. Robert hadn’t seen him since Joey’s funeral. And he wished he wasn’t seeing him now.

Jamie gazed back at him, eager and alert, hazel eyes shining like Santa had brought him a brand new bicycle that very morning, and Robert groaned inwardly.

He turned his back on Jamie and the other newshounds. Another snowflake drifted down and melted as it brushed his skin.

“He’s crazy,” Boswell was saying between chattering teeth. “He’s going to kill that woman. My wife’s still up there.”

Finney and O’Hara were only waiting for his word. Robert pulled his pistol from his belt. “Which apartment?”

“Top floor. First one on the left. I can show you.”

Robert nodded. “Good man.”

Finney sprang for the front door. The reporters moved to follow. Robert turned back to them. “Not a chance. You boys wait here.”

Jamie, predictably, burst into protest. Arthur, older, harder, or just lazier waved them on. Robert ignored them both, following his men and Boswell up the wooden steps and through a pair of white doors with oval panes of etched glass. Inside the building it was warm and smelled of a dozen cooking Christmas dinners. Delicious and comfortable scents of roasting turkey and baking pies. Bing Crosby’s voice floated from beneath one closed door. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” sang Bing. But a few million people would not be home for Christmas. Would not be home ever.

Boswell rushed up the staircase, footsteps pounding, and Robert followed. His leg twinged in painful protest. Behind him, Finney and O’Hara made enough noise for a herd of elephants as they crashed up the steps after him.

As they reached the top floor, the sound of a woman sobbing reached their ears. All else was eerily silent.

“Anne!” gasped Boswell, starting forward.

“Wait.” Robert grabbed Boswell’s arm. “Stay here.” He went past the other man, moving quietly, cautiously down the hall. The line of doors stayed closed, all but for the last door. That one stood ajar, and through the opening he could hear voices. Women’s voices. 

A floorboard squeaked beneath his foot. Robert paused. O’Hara was breathing heavily down the back of his neck.

No one rushed out of the apartment at them.

 Robert reached the half open door and pushed it wide.

He could see his reflection -- Finney and O’Hara hovering behind him -- in a long mirror hanging over a flowered sofa. A string of Christmas cards hung across a doorway leading into another room. A small Christmas tree sat on three-tiered table.

There were four women in the room. One woman slumped in a chair while two others worked over her bloodied form. A fourth woman in a red dress sat on the sofa weeping into her hands. There was no sign of anyone else.

“Where is he?” demanded Robert, and the weeping woman looked up and screamed.

Boswell charged past Robert, nearly knocking him over. “Anne!”

“Oh, Gene!” The woman in the red dress jumped up and threw herself in her husband’s arms. “Mrs. Mileur’s been shot. She was struggling with that maniac for the gun, and the gun went off. He shot her!”

“I’m all right.” the blood-stained woman, Mrs. Mileur, suddenly sat up. “The bullet just nicked me.”

She was about forty with brown hair and blue eyes. Blood soaked the white lacy collar of her dress, but she seemed alert enough.

A younger, dark-haired woman said, “The bullet grazed your throat, Alice. He nearly killed you. And all because of me.”

“What do you mean because of you?” Robert asked. “Who are you?”

 “I’m Mabel McDuffy. Alice’s sister. I was…well, I used to go with Braun. He was angry with me. That’s what this was about.”

Finney said, “Why was he angry with you?”

“Because I wouldn’t take his dirty gifts bought with his dirty blood money.”

“You’re not blame for anything he does!” Alice said.

“You warned me he was no good. I guess I thought --”

“Never mind that now. Where is Braun?” Robert tried to cut through the din of everyone talking at once. “Where did he go?”

The fourth woman, white-haired and older than the others, answered. “He ran downstairs. I think he thought he’d killed Mrs. Mileur.”

“He meant to kill Mabel, and no thanks to him, he didn’t. He lives in an apartment in the rear of the building,” Alice Mileur said. “I should have thrown him out weeks ago. He’s a chicken thief and a hophead.”

“It’s my fault,” the dark-haired woman said again. “This is all my fault.”

“Be quiet, Mabel. The only thing you’re to blame for is having lousy taste in men.”

Robert turned back to O’Hara and Finney. “Come on. Downstairs.”

A chicken thief and a hophead. Well, it could be worse. It nearly had been. A lot worse.

He pounded back down the staircase, Finney and O’Hara in pursuit.

Braun’s apartment was in the back of the building. Robert and his men made their way down a narrow hall, past the door to the cellar. They lined up outside the door. Robert nodded at Finney. Finney pounded the door with his fist.

“Police! Open up!”

The door did not open. There was only silence.

Robert touched the round doorknob. The door swung silently open.

“Careful, boys,” Robert whispered.

Cautiously, pistols at ready, the three men entered the apartment. The blinds were drawn and the room was in darkness.

“He’s gone,” Finney said. “He must have lit out.”

Robert felt through the gloom for a lamp.

“There’s another room here.” O’Hara’s voice floated through the blackout.

There was a squeak of hinges, the gloom wavered as a door opened, and too late Robert saw white muzzle flash and heard the blast of Braun’s revolver.

O’Hara cried out. The lamp flared on just as there was another flash and another loud bang. Robert caught a nightmare glimpse of Finney crashing into the wall, firing at the open bedroom door.

Robert didn’t remember turning the lamp out again, but the room fell back into blackness as he dived for the floor.

Braun was still shooting and Robert returned his fire. He could hear Finney groaning and swearing, and for one crazy, confused moment he thought he was back on Guadalcanal under fire from the Japs. He had fallen badly on his leg and it was throbbing like he’d been shot all over again, but that was the least of his problems.

Swift footsteps approached, someone was running toward Braun’s apartment, and to Robert’s horror a voice he would have known anywhere called, “Robert? Chief Garrett?”

Jamie, stay the hell out of here,” he yelled.

Braun had stopped firing.

Had he managed to hit him in the dark? Robert didn’t think so. More likely Braun was trying to slip into the front room and pop him. He kept his gaze trained on the slit of faded light between the dark living room and the bedroom.

Jamie was hovering outside the doorway. Robert knew it, could feel it in his bones, but he didn’t dare call out, didn’t dare draw Braun’s attention to him. Finney was still groaning.

“O’Hara?” Robert tried.

There was no answer. That deadly stillness from the spot O’Hara had fallen was the answer.

“How bad are you hit, Tom?” Robert called.

Finney stopped moaning. He choked out, “The sonofabitch chicken thief got me in the right shoulder. And my left arm.”

 “Did he get you, Rob?” Jamie asked from the other side of the front door frame. He sounded startlingly calm.

“No. I’m okay,” Robert said. “Stay out of here. Understand? Stay clear of the door.”

“Got it.”

A gust of cold December air blew in from the bedroom, and Robert tasted snow. “Goddamn it,” he said. “He’s gone out the back.”

He scrambled up, levering himself on the small table with the lamp, knocking both over. He stayed close to the wall, moving quickly around the square of the room. Keeping to the side, he threw open the door. O’Hara was sprawled in front of him. Blood pooled beneath him, soaking the floorboards.

“Goddamn it,” Robert said.

The bedroom was empty. Brown curtains bobbed lightly on the breeze blowing through the open window next to the bed.

Robert swore again, bitterly, turned and ran past Finney who was slumped and bloody against the wall. “Hold on, Tom,” he told him.

Finney didn’t answer.

There was no sign of Jamie in the hall. That showed unexpected good sense and Robert was relieved as he limped hurriedly down the narrow passage and back to the front of the building.

Arthur from the Montana Standard was fairly dancing with excitement on the pavement in front of the house. “By God, what a story! What’s the name of this gunmen?”

“Never mind that. Where’d he go?”

“Thataway.” Arthur pointed down the street where a black sedan had all but disappeared into the now heavily falling snow. “There were two women in that car he grabbed.”

God almighty. It just kept getting worse and worse.

Robert looked around. There was a crowd gathering on the sidewalk behind them. Well, that was bound to happen. He scanned the ring of bystanders, but did not see the one face he was looking for.

His heart sank still lower. “Where’s the kid?” he demanded.


“The Jamieson kid. Where did he go?”

“Oh. You mean those two from Butte Daily Standard.” Arthur pointed down the street, now empty of all but snow flurries. “They took off after your bird.”

Friday, May 9, 2014

You Must Remember This

I don't believe in coincidence. I do believe in luck. And I'm not sure about Fate. I don't like the idea of Fate, I don't like the idea of the lack of free will and all things being pre-determined, but who knows? Of course if there's Fate, there's no such thing as luck.

But anyway, the older I get, the less I believe in coincidence. I think more and more what we believe to be coincidence is just the machinations of our subconscious. Of memory -- or whatever the after-effects of experience are after memory fades.

The epigraph in Death of a Pirate King is by Hineu: Coincidence, if traced far enough back, becomes inevitable.

And I think this is true. Further, I think so much of who we are and the choices we make are driven by memory. Not necessarily conscious memory. In fact, probably NOT conscious memory if we ultimate think coincidence brought us to a certain place in time.

I've been thinking and writing about this a lot lately. It's obviously a powerful theme in Stranger on the Shore.

Memory is not a new development in humans. Memory is how we learn. What has changed in modern times, though, is having a pictorial record of memories. Family albums. News reels. Documentaries. Instagram. The visual reminders aren't just cues to recollection. They become an editing tool of recollection. This moment versus that moment is captured and preserved. Looking at video of a mostly forgotten family holiday, I am struck by nostalgia, by sentiment. And suddenly I remember so much more. And so the original memory is altered.

Photos and their role in our individual and collective memory fascinate me. And I've seen two films in the past week that really drove this point home. One was The Adventures of Walter Mitty, which turned out to be much smarter and more touching than I expected. In this version of Walter Mitty, Mitty is a "negative asset manager" at a still active Life magazine. So there is a lot to consider about observing life versus taking part in it...but it's not quite that simple. It also has to do with what a camera reveals. And also how we interpret what we see. Because even what we think we see is not necessarily what we see. The very act of taking the picture changes the moment.

There is a made up Life magazine motto that runs through the film, but I actually like it a lot. I think it is the relevant to both photography and the experience of living.

“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”

The other film was a riveting documentary called The Mexican Suitcase. On the surface it's about the recovery of three lost boxes (4500 negatives) which disappeared right before World War II. But it's also about the Spanish Civil War (something I knew shockingly little of, it turns out) and the three photojournalists and friends most associated with covering it.

In this case, some of these photos are the only window into historical period shrouded in mystery and obscured by propaganda -- but they also serve as the only tangible reminders of the individual humans swept up and lost in the chaos of war.

We are our memories. And yet our memories are in flux and often -- maybe mostly -- inaccurate.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Stranger on the Shore - Coming Monday May 5th!

This should reassure those of you who fear I’m not ever going to deliver the stories I’ve promised. It was probably about two years ago we listed Stranger on the Shore on my website, and on Monday the book will be released through Carina Press. WHY, IT FEELS LIKE ONLY YESTERDAY.


Actually, it feels like two years ago, but the point is, the book is here now -- okay, true, it won’t be here until Monday -- whatever! I’m pretty sure you’re going to enjoy it.



Twenty years ago, little Brian Arlington was kidnapped from his family's Long Island estate and was never seen again. The trail went cold, but investigative journalist Griff Hadley has always thought there was more to the story—much more. When the Arlingtons’ patriarch invites him to stay at their estate to research his true crime book, Griff can't say no. It’s the story of a lifetime.


But not everyone is happy about Griff’s presence. Relatives and staff alike regard him coldly, including Pierce Mather, the Arlingtons’ attractive lawyer, who is more than a little wary of Griff’s motives.


When a stranger shows up claiming to be the long-lost Brian, Griff and Pierce are united in their suspicions. Startled to have found an ally in the buttoned-up lawyer, Griff soon realizes it's hard to keep a professional distance. Even in the midst of a groundbreaking investigation, even in the face of a shocking family secret…




Instead of the usual excerpt, I’m going to share my brand new, professionally made, totally gorgeous book trailer. ‘Coz a picture is worth a thousand words and this trailer has at least twelve pictures, so that’s a whole novelette’s worth of persuasion.