Summer, Football, and Dreams of a Day or Two Off

So a friend says, “Summer is winding down.”

I scowl at her, and she doesn’t understand. She prefers fall. I like to hold onto summer with both hands, digging my feet in and begging it not to leave. I adore the heat on my back as I sit on my porch, typing on my old, battered laptop. Some of the keys on it stopped working–e, l, n, r–important letters, and so I spent $9 on eBay for a wireless keyboard. I can still use my old, battered laptop, and the keyboard makes my operation much more flexible.

I scowl mightily. Summer is my back porch, three fans going when it warms up so me doggies don’t get too hot. And on those days when it is too hot, I usher them inside, and they sit at the door, watching me and licking the windows. Summer is tennis ball tossing sessions after every thousand words I write. There’s a big kiddie pool on the patio, and summer is for watching me doggies splash. (But not Wrinkles; he detests getting wet.) This is the previous pool … which got popped by Labrador teeth. The current pool is twice as big and a pain in the patoot to clean (but that’s okay because Fable and Missy love it).

Summer is AWESOME, and were I rich I think I’d chase summer. I met an elderly couple at the Champaign County Fair who sell trinkets out of a trailer. Nice to talk to, retired teachers, they travel the country hitting little fairs. “Chasing summer,” they said.

I still have some summer days left. And if the world is kind I’ll be able to write on my back porch into October.

I suppose I get a little less work done in the summer … all those tennis ball tossing sessions, you know. And a handful of breaks here and there to sit on my bench and ogle my butterfly bush. Counted about fifty butterflies dancing around it one late afternoon. But I try to compensate by working earlier and later … the bonus being more time on my back porch.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh summer.

My friend who likes fall doesn’t recognize the BEST things about fall. For her it is cooler temperatures. For me it is football and Honeycrisp apples. I am a football junkie, have four fantasy football teams (two won this past weekend), and a marvelous pick ’em league that is much fun even if I suck at it.

But, back to summer. I picked up some extra work this summer, which kept me from my intended project: finishing The Dead of Summer. I’ll get back to that at summer’s end. Seems appropriate, eh? And hopefully release it before the end of the year. I’m halfway through it. Have a cover … got the cover when I was having the ones redone for The Dead of Winter and The Dead of Night. It’s a nifty cover.

Before I dig into to that next Piper adventure, I’m gonna take a day or two off. Seriously. Two days, I think. Away from a computer or anything electronic. Disconnect from the world, go out on my back porch, play with me doggies, take myself to a movie, and read. I have a big stack of to-be-read books. And I can probably get through the Michael Connelly I’ve been saving to savor.

I hope he put some summer in the book.

 

It Blows Up Real Good

I’ve read all of Donald J. Bingle’s novels, and a great many of his short stories. He keeps getting better … and the explosions and threats get bigger.

Wet Work grabbed me from the first page. Contemporary, and exciting. And Dick Thornby intrigues me. I know a lot about Don, we’ve been friends for a couple of decades. But Dick? I’d like to get to know him a little better. So he obliged me and agreed to a Q&A.

You’re an Everyman, the good neighbor, the father, the husband with a sometimes-rocky marriage … the international spy. I’ve read about your exploits in Net Impact and Wet Work, and so I’ve some questions for you.
Of all the careers you could have chosen, why the spy-biz? What about it lured you? And what about it has caused you to stay with it rather than pursue a normal 9-5 that would give you more family time?
There are 9 to 5 jobs? Not that I can tell. Teachers bring tests home to grade, workers are on call around the clock, real estate brokers always have to answer the phone, everyone from salesmen to executives is constantly responding to  texts and emails. Let’s face it. All jobs suck, so you might as well do something you’re good at that makes a difference in the world. None of my jobs have been 9 to 5. Army, Chicago Police Department, Catalyst Crisis Consultant (spy for the Subsidiary). This last job is better than the first couple–more freedom to do what needs to be done and less politics.
Bombs. Pyrotechnics. You seem to be an expert, or at least a fan. What’s the appeal? What are your go-to explosive devices and why? What’s the biggest thing you’ve blown up? And what movie would you recommend that “blows up real good?” 
Are you trying to get me in trouble with my boss, Dee Tamany? She was pissed off about my use of explosives before my last couple of missions, so asking me questions about favorite explosives like I’m some kind of pyromaniacal firebug doesn’t do my career prospects any favors. Let’s just say it’s always good to have a few flares in the truck–good warning devices if you break down and they burn hot enough you can light anything that needs lighting in a hurry, even during a storm. Don’t watch many movies, but Mad Max: Fury Road was nifty on the big screen. That gal can drive and shoot.
The Subsidiary. Tell us a secret about it. Something not revealed in either of your novels. 
Not sure I really feel comfortable about this question. Talking about your employer is not something spies do. But Pyotr Nerevsky said to cooperate with this interview and he can be … irksome … when crossed, so here goes. The word is that, sure, the various countries behind the Subsidiary kick in funds to help finance it, but not the kind of money that lets it have the operational freedom and scope it does. There’s an individual behind it with more money than anybody should have. I’m not going to name names, not without some bamboo shoots under my fingernails, but you’d know the name and you’d agree he has money to burn. Glad to see he’s burning it for a good cause.
Globe-hopping—you do it a lot. Of all the places you’ve been, do you have a favorite? And why? 
Home sweet home. Traveling is a drag, especially undercover. The better part of being a spy is waiting around for something to happen. If you’ve seen one seedy warehouse district in one third-world country, you’ve seen ’em all.
Given the current political climate … regarding the world, the White House, and the intelligence community … how has the spy-game changed? 
The Subsidiary was created to keep politics and national rivalries from hindering the missions that need to occur for the good of mankind. When I start a mission, I do what needs to be done and I don’t stop until I accomplish my mission no matter what. 
Where are you going next? I heard that your next appearance will be in a novel called Flash Drive. Give us a hint where you’re going and what your adventure might entail … nothing to spoil the story, just something to pique our curiosity. 
You know that Australia has almost nothing in the center of the continent–everybody and everything is clustered around the coast. Well, a lot … a lot … can happen in the middle of a great big bunch of nothing. Stuff that would scare you to death, if the critters out back don’t get you first. Some danger is even stranger than the bizarre stuff you can find on the internet.
Thanks for chatting, Mr. Thornby. I wish you well in your future incendiary adventures.

HERE is the link to Wet Work.

HERE is the link to Net Impact, the first Dick Thornby tale.

HERE is the link to Donald J. Bingle’s Amazon page.

HERE is Donald J. Bingle’s website.

 

I Measure My Life in Dog Years

I really do … count my life in dog years. The number of years I share with dogs.

I only briefly did not have a dog, and that was when I graduated college and moved to Quincy, Illinois, and rented a wholly dumpy apartment (which I could barely afford) that said “no pets.” I paid my rent for a few months and then asked the landlord if I could get a dog. He said he’d mull it over, and I said I’d be looking for another place.

He said “yes” in the next sentence. I guess I was a good tenant. And I did not grow pot … like the two girls upstairs did, and who attracted the attention of the police.

Said dog, a mutt named Purple, lived to be two months shy of making the legal voting age. Purple was dealt a great hand of cards.

Wrinkles, my beloved pug … he’s not destined for such a lofty number of dog years.

He’s heading toward twelve, a good age for a pug … though I’ve seen pictures of pugs on Facebook purported to be sixteen and seventeen years old. And no matter how much I spend on dog food (buying Exclusive, a top brand, in Savoy) and supplements, I can’t stave off the maladies of the years. Dogs, like people, are dealt different cards regarding aging.

I’m writing this post about Wrinks because several friends have asked about him, and I thought I’d cover it just once, here.

He’s been “fecal incontinent” for the past eight months. I’m not gonna go into that. You can look it up. I carry paper towels and little bags in my pocket, and so I deal with it. He’s happy. I have laminate floors and an unlimited supply of patience. Life is good. He has breathing issues (about two years ago he had surgery to remove an inch and a quarter of his palate to help). And he has this big cyst (big for a little pug) dangling from the inside of his leg. My husband calls it Wrinks’ second penis. It’s ugly and sometimes oozes. As I said, I have paper towels, and my patience cannot be exhausted … with dogs.

Don’t think I haven’t been to the vet’s. Wrinks goes more often than he needs to because the vet is close here in my tiny town and I am a caring “dog mom.” The vet says his heart is good. (I know. He’s a very good dog, my Wrinks.) It’s just some other things that aren’t in as top-notch order. We’re watching the cyst–it isn’t cancer–and hoping we can avoid surgery. The vet drained it once, but it came back. Said vet doesn’t think surgery is the best option given Wrinks’ age and breathing issues. So … paper towels and we’re doing well.

I love dogs. I love Wrinkles endlessly. And I will baby him and pick him up so he can sit on the couch or lay at the foot of the bed. I sneak him green beans, chicken, and pieces of cheese when my husband isn’t looking. Well, maybe Bruce looks sometimes, but has the good sense not to say anything. I take him for very short walks, to the end of the driveway and back, as he has arthritis and huffs if we go farther. When I had a patio poured last summer, I had them make little steps … three and a half inches high … to accommodate my pug.

I had pugs when I was a kid. They are among my very best childhood recollections … and the worst memories when they left me. I wanted another pug when I was out on my own, but couldn’t afford one. Purple, the mutt I mentioned earlier, was a $30 dog. She’s what I could afford when I graduated NIU and got my first newspaper job–which didn’t pay much.

Bruce knew I loved pugs, and so when we moved to Wisconsin, we’d stop at the pet shop that often had them … just so I could look. Bruce was fond of going there because he liked to see me happy. But he said he would not allow a pug or any other “smooshy faced” dog in the house. (That was a mistake: don’t tell me what I can’t have or can’t do. That only makes me more determined.) He said he loved dogs with proper snouts. In fact, we had two dogs in Wisconsin, both with “proper snouts.” And I treasured them dearly. But I still wanted a pug, maybe to recapture something of my youth. More, I think, just because I adored the breed.

Anyway, enter Jean Rozinski. She was a marvelous dog groomer who lived in Kenosha and who happened to come across a missive on the internet about a woman needing to “re-home” her pug. She forwarded the message to me.

I acted on it IMMEDIATELY. I reached out to Juliana, an incredible woman who at the time was in the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. (I dedicated my mystery, The Dead of Winter to Juliana, because indeed she is incredible.)

I was keeping this all secret, of course, intending for Wrinkles to arrive during the week when Bruce was at work. My office was in our house, which would make this convenient–I’d be home and Bruce wouldn’t. Juliana and I connected, and she was going to bring Wrinks over for a meet-and-greet.

In the meantime, we went out for pizza with a gathering that included Jean Rozinski. She leaned down the table and asked me: “Are you going to get that pug?”

I swore Bruce’s eyes popped out of his head. It was the most horrified startled expression I’d seen.

“I hope so,” I answered. “She’s coming by this week.”

“What pug?” Bruce was still shell-shocked.

“We’ll talk about it later,” I said.

The discussion wasn’t pleasant in the car.

But I was determined. I was not going to back down.

Juliana arrived with Wrinks, and we all hit it off right away. I told her to consider it a foster, and that if she ever needed her little dog back, I would hand him over. And in all the eight years since I was worried she would take me up on that.

He is my shadow, stretched across my feet this very moment. He is my heart. He has to know where I am, and insists on joining me. He sleeps with his head on my foot, probably so that if I move he will wake and can follow me.

I don’t know how much time I have left with him. I hope a long while. He played yesterday. Played! And that is a marvelous sign.

Bruce says maybe he will reach sixteen or seventeen like one of those pugs on Facebook. It’d be glorious, eh? But I’ve a bad feeling that won’t be the case.

By the way … through the years I’ve caught Bruce on many occasions kissing the top of Wrinkles’ head and giving him a taste of ice cream. Bruce apparently decided eight summers ago that smooshy faced dogs were fine.

I put Wrinks in my Piper Blackwell mystery books. He’s in The Dead of Summer, which I’m working on now. In fact, I’m going to close this column and take my laptop on the back porch. It’s a glorious day, and Wrinks can lay at my feet in front of the fan. And when he hears a train … ’cause his hearing still works a little … he’ll jog outside to the back of the fence and bark quite sternly.

He’s been keeping the trains out of my backyard ever since we moved here.

Good dog, Wrinkles. Very good dog.

 

Fantastic Fantasy with an Urban Flair

Witchbane reads fast, the story moves, and the writing is smooth. A master of urban fantasy, Gail Z. Martin and her other-persona Morgan Brice stopped by on the Witchbane blog tour for a Q&A.

Here’s the quick recap for Witchbane: Seth Tanner and his brother Jesse’s fun evening debunking local urban legends ends with Jesse’s gruesome murder. Seth vows revenge on Jesse’s killer–too bad the murderer has been dead for a hundred years. Seth uncovers a cycle of ritual killings that feeds the power of a dark warlock’s immortal witch-disciples, and he’s hell bent on stopping Jackson Malone from becoming the next victim. He’s used to risking his neck. He never intended to risk his heart.

Real Real Estate

You use real-world places in your paranormal tale. Of all the spots in the book, what building or site was your favorite? Tell us why.

Hollywood Cemetery. It’s a beautiful, historic cemetery with a lot of cool statuary and monuments, and that’s like catnip to me! I LOVE gorgeous cemeteries!

Belly up to the bar

One of your main characters is a bartender. Tell us what drinks he most often makes for his customers.

In a bar like Treddy’s, Sonny mixes a lot of martinis. It’s that kind of place.

While I’m sure Sonny can mix up anything, I think he prefers it simple. Like a Black Russian straight up. Equal parts Kailua and good Vodka in a chilled martini glass. Good for what ails you!

Researching the setting

It’s obvious you really know the landscape your characters traipse across, did some research. But not all research finds its way into the fiction. What interesting tidbits did you learn about something or someplace in your book that didn’t end up in the story?

We lived in Richmond for two years, so that was a big advantage! There were so many really wonderful places I would have loved to include, but the story didn’t need them. Agecroft and Virginia House are two beautiful old mansions dating back several centuries. Maymont has an amazing garden and another, newer mansion. Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens is breathtaking and features such a wide range of plants and settings. The azaleas on Monument Avenue are huge and blindingly colorful. So many pretty things!

Give us a hint

Are there more books planned with your dashing duo? What locales are you considering … since they have a home on wheels? Can you give us the first few lines of the next novel?

Yes, at least six and maybe more. The next novel, Dark Rivers, takes place in Pittsburgh, chasing down another of Gremory’s witch-disciples and trying to save the intended victim. Seth and Evan are new in their relationship and they’re still finding their footing with each other and with hunting. They’re going to have to face down old betrayals and stick together, or they are certain to die separately!

Also, look for a novella, Burn, that takes place between Witchbane and Dark Rivers and provides some insight into Evan’s education as a hunter!

Of course, Badlands, the first book in another new urban fantasy MM paranormal romance, will be the next book out, set in Myrtle Beach. Release date: May.

Badlands is set in Myrtle Beach, on the glittering and tawdry Grand Strand. Simon Kincaide was a professor of folklore at USC until a board member got him fired for his ‘obsession’ with the occult. Now Simon has a shop on the boardwalk where he runs ghost tours, sells occult merchandise and does seances and private psychic readings. His talent as a medium and clairvoyant is real, and all he wants is to be left alone to rebuild his life. But when jaded cop Vic D’Amato asks for his help on a case that’s costing lives and souls, Simon can’t say no, even if it costs him his life and his heart.

Urban fantasy

You are entrenched in this supernatural genre. What intrigues you about this type of fiction?

I’ve always loved ghosts, magic, spooky stuff, haunted houses, creepy mysteries, supernatural creatures, from the time I was a little kid. That’s never changed. If I have a choice between reading a story set in the real world, and one with paranormal elements, I’ll pick the spooky one every time.

Book stack

What urban fantasy novels are in your to-be-read pile? Which genre authors do you like to read?

For non-romance urban fantasy, I love Jim Butcher, John Hartness, Simon R. Green, and Charlaine Harris, among many others.

For urban fantasy MM romance, my go-to authors are Jordan L. Hawk (love both her SPECTRE and Whyborne and Griffin series), KJ Charles, Jordan Castillo Price, Pandora Pine, LC Davis, CS Poe, Charlie Cochet (THIRDS series) and Rhys Ford.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Morgan Brice is the romance pen name of bestselling author Gail Z. Martin. Morgan writes urban fantasy male/male paranormal romance, with plenty of action, adventure and supernatural thrills to go with the happily ever after. Gail writes epic fantasy and urban fantasy, and together with co-author hubby Larry N. Martin, steampunk and comedic horror, all of which have less romance, more explosions.

On the rare occasions Morgan isn’t writing, she’s either reading, cooking, or spoiling two very pampered dogs.

Watch for additional new series from Morgan Brice, and more books in the Witchbane universe coming soon!

Amazon Kindle Link 

Amazon Book Link 

Blog site 

  • Print Length:244 pages
  • Publisher:Darkwind Press (February 19, 2018)
  • Publication Date:February 19, 2018
  • ISBN-10:1939704685
  • ISBN-13:978-1939704689

GIVEAWAY!

The tour giveaway is for a 25.00 gift certificate

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY HERE

 

Join the Worlds of Morgan Brice Facebook page here 

Gail’s webpage

Gail’s Facebook page

 

Sister Mary Can Handle Racy Books

I received a copy of the Dominican Sisters of Racine, WI, newsletter today. It made me think of Sister Mary…she’s probably the one who put me on the mailing list for it. She’s a 92-year-old Dominican nun who I met at funeral of a buddy’s father many years ago. Sister Mary handled part of the service. The departed gentleman, his daughter, myself … not Catholic, but Sister Mary is someone who transcends the labels of religious branches.

Sister Mary is COOL. My buddy had met her swimming and became quick friends.

Gene Wolfe with Sister Mary … two of my great friends.

Sister Mary and I hit it off right away at the funeral; she’s a retired English professor, and we chatted about books and writing. She wrote a book many years ago. We share a like of James Patterson novels. I pointed out to her once that some of his books are racy. Her reply: “I’m a nun, I’m not dead.” Sister Mary enjoys racy books.

Sister Mary is AWESOME.

She’s read quite a few of my novels, and wrote me a letter recently about falling in love with Piper Blackwell, the main character in my books The Dead of Winter and The Dead of Night. (Both of those books are on a deep sale now from Imajin Books.) She said the stories helped get her through a stay in the hospital and rehab in the nursing home … she’d fallen recently. Now she’s back with the Dominicans, but she’s in a wheelchair. Sister Mary stays close to her room anymore, rarely joins her fellow sisters in the big dining hall, and is self-conscious about her hearing loss. I feel sorry about her current state. But …

Sister Mary is STILL AWESOME.

I sent her a copy of The Bone Shroud, my novel that released March 30. I included a note that said I almost didn’t send her the book … because it has a nun character, and I worried that she might not approve of that character, and so would think poorly of me. But I realized after a moment that Sister Mary would indeed approve. She’s open-minded and young-at-heart, enjoys mysteries and doesn’t shy away from pyrotechnics and chase scenes. She relishes a fine glass of wine … as does my nun character.

My buddy and I used to buy a case of wine for Sister Mary at Christmas. We had to get her a case so she could share (and hence no doubt why I’m on the mailing list for the Dominican newsletter). Sister Mary has to share everything with her fellow sisters. I suspect I know no one as generous as her. This year for Christmas I sent her four long wintry scarves. One for her and three to share. In turn, she shares with me dog pictures and articles and calendars (she knows my passion is dogs); she shares her wisdom; and above that she shares her friendship.

I’m going to have a glass of wine tonight to toast the release of The Bone Shroud and to toast Sister Mary. I hope she likes my book … I suspect she’ll send me a glowing letter about it, regardless of whether she actually enjoys it.

Sister Mary is ALWAYS AWESOME.

I hope you all have such an amazing soul in your life.

 

 

My Guest Writes of Metatron!

I turn my blog over to Laurence St. John today. He has a nifty novel coming out the middle of the month, and you should hear about it.

Terror on the East Coast – Two Million Dead!

            TOLEDO, OHIO, March 15, 2018 – Yesterday, more than two million people were killed, including the President of the United States.

            The death toll is the worst in the history of America and the world.

            This tragic day will be known forevermore as “The Day of Annihilation.”

            The CIA has the sole person responsible for the killing of millions and millions of innocent people in custody.

            His name is Tyler Thompson –  a moral person turned evil. The question foremost on everyone’s mind is, why did he orchestrate this horrific act of terror and how did he pull it off?

This headline is fake news – or is it?

In his new release, METATRON: DAGGER OF MORTALITY, science fiction/fantasy author Laurence St. John creates an uplifting and inspiring fiction novel that “sustains constant action as 15-year-old Tyler struggles to stop the relentless animosity of a demonic figure and his accomplice! Sometimes you need to go backwards to move forward,” said   Piers Anthony, New York Times bestselling fantasy Author of the Xanth series.

St. John, who hails from just south of Toledo, Ohio, quickly grabs the reader’s attention then poses the ultimate question: Can superheroes really be killed?

Who is this Black Shadow character and who does he want to get revenge from?

Tyler must execute the most grueling choice of his life – save himself, save his beloved girlfriend Kendall or save millions of helpless people and hinder Kelltie’s plan.

In this, his highly anticipated third action-adventure, St. John keeps readers turning the pages up to the last adrenaline-filled moment when Tyler’s fate is determined.

The story is set in New York, Nevada, and Massachusetts, where the action-packed adventure opens your mind’s eye, conveying the sensation that you’re watching a movie.

            Metatron: Dagger of Mortality is a novel made for the silver screen ― action-packed, emotional and a gripping story that will leave you wanting more.

From the back cover:

Tyler believes a Superhero’s responsibility is to make the right decision then follow it through to the end. But, what if the outcome results in his death?

Fourteen-year-old Tyler Thompson has been in isolation for eight months so he could focus on completing his superhero training. Not even one day after his completion, Master Pat Tanaka urgently summoned Tyler. Pat desperately needs his help, but for what?

Kelltie is threatening Tyler’s destiny of being a superhero by framing him for what will be the largest mass killings in American history and there’s nothing he can do to stop it. She also teams up with Black Shadow, a ruthless demonic figure with his own agenda — to use the Dagger of Mortality and kill Metatron.

Tyler feeling vulnerable gets inspiration one last time from Master Tanaka’s instructor Master Dogmai. Nevertheless, with the Dagger of Mortality in hand, it’s time for Black Shadow to get his revenge. Tyler must render the most arduous choice of his life. He’ll save himself, save his beloved girlfriend Kendall or save millions of helpless people and hinder Kelltie’s plan.

Can superheroes really die? What choice does Tyler make?

Reviews:

“Metatron – Dagger of Mortality, by Laurence St. John sustains constant action as 15-year-old Tyler struggles to stop the relentless animosity of a demonic figure and his accomplice! Sometimes you need to go backwards to move forward…”

Piers Anthony – New York Times bestselling fantasy Author of the Xanth Series

“Laurence St. John turns up the heat with Metatron – Dagger of Mortality. This book continues the story of Tyler Thompson and his journey of discover as he masters his powers in preparation of a new evil threat. A can’t miss read for middle-grade readers and young adults!”

Braxton A. Cosby – Author of the award-winning Star-Crossed Saga Series

“Dagger of Mortality’ packs a wallop! St. John blends equal parts superhero and X-Files into a high energy yarn sure to inspire.”

Jason Born – Author of The Norseman Chronicles Series

“Teens and adults alike will identify with Tyler and his all too human angst as he executes superhero feats in a way only St. John’s hero can accomplish, with many twists and surprising turns of events in this young adult thriller.”

Kenna McKinnon – Author of Short Circuit: And Other Geek Stories, Blood Sister, and Den of Dark Angels

 

* * * *

 

Metatron: Dagger of Mortality was published by Ogopogo Book an Imprint of Imajin Books and is available in eBook edition at Amazon, Google Play and Kobo. Order your copy today.

It is also available in trade paperback edition at Amazon, Books-A-Million, and Barnes & Noble, as well as other retailers.

View the paperback and eBook links at the bottom of this page.

* * * *

Laurence St. John is currently working on book four and five in the Metatron Series.

Laurence is also available for interviews/guest appearances.

For book sign dates please see his Facebook page.

For more information please visit:

http://www.laurencestjohn.com or http://getbook.at/DaggerofMortality

Follow Laurence on Twitter: http://twitter.com/laurencestjohn

“Friend Request” Laurence on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/laurenceastjohn

Imajin Books: http://www.imajinbooks.com

Laurence is a 1983 graduate of Genoa High School, a 1988 Black Belt recipient in Tae Kwon Do and a 2004 graduate of Owens State Community College.

Amazon – http://getbook.at/DaggerofMortality

The Bone Shroud and a New Beanie Baby

I do the Snoopy Dance when I have a new book coming out. Always have. There’s something exciting about it, the culmination of a lot of effort. And it gives me the opportunity to put a new Beanie Baby on display in my office. Yeah, silly, I know. I have a dog Beanie Baby on a bookshelf representing each of my published books. I have a friend in Chicagoland that has a glass paperweight for each book she has published. Another author has a bottle of wine … she keeps the empty bottles. Trophies, maybe? I dunno. I like dog Beanie Babies and this gives me an excuse. I sent my buddy Steven Paul Leiva a red dog Beanie Baby for Christmas ’cause he had a new book — Made on the Moon. Here’s the link to that fine piece o’ fiction. I didn’t tell him the significance … book, Beanie. Anyway, I can’t put a link up yet for The Bone Shroud … it’ll come out the end of March.

I really like the cover.

So … what’s it about? It’s a suspense-mystery yarn set in and under Rome, with a side trip to another part of Italy. My protagonist is from Chicago, an archivist at the Field Museum. I like the Field Museum, been there a bunch o’ times. And I like the building; it has a good feel to it. Ah, but said museum doesn’t show up in this book. If people like The Bone Shroud, I think I’ll take my hero on an adventure in Chicago. A good character shouldn’t be limited to one book, ya know.

I hope my mystery is a little unsettling. It has food, wine, and death in it. The advance reviews are so good that I did another Snoopy Dance. I’ll share:

“Intrigue, romance and danger amid the relics of Rome’s storied past, with compelling characters and building tension that will keep you turning pages!”  Gail Z. Martin, author of Vendetta
“Strong characters, shady dealings, ruthless villains, a beautiful setting, an ancient mystery–The Bone Shroud has ’em all. Don’t miss it!”  Richard Baker, author of Valiant Dust

See, Snoopy Dance time.

 

Fighting the Tug

Writing is mental, and so when your mind is tugged between various concerns, working on that novel becomes difficult.

My 90-year-old father-in-law has a serious case of the flu … birthed, he claims, because he got cold when he rode the bus to Champaign to spend Christmas week with us. Never mind that he arrived in a windbreaker and refused to accept the loan of a winter jacket for the bus ride back. The flu’s a bad thing for a 90-year-old.

My friend badly broke her arm and had surgery today.

My old Dawn Patrol buddy, Al, died. Al was a very good guy. I liked playing at his table.

And so I think about all these things which make crafting fiction onerous. My fellow writers dwell on their own “tugs” and do battle at the keyboard too.

We all try to relegate our sad concerns to a corner of our mind so we can write. Can’t let the tugs win, you know.

It’s difficult. But you can’t ever let the tugs win. You can let them give you a headache, and for me I’ll take some aspirin and an extra tennis-ball tossing session this afternoon to fight them off.

I managed to set my tugs aside long enough to finish Chapter 5 in my next Piper Blackwell book. Just now. And I will finish Chapter 6 before I consider calling my W-I-P done for the day. Then the tugs can take over and I’ll sit in front of my fireplace with a bottle of ice water and maybe watch George Peppard in The Blue Max in honor of Al.

My greatest tug these past many weeks has been Jake, the bottomless gullet that filled up the hollow spot under my writing desk, crawled into my lap during football games, and ruined my new Birkenstock sandals. Well … to be fair, he only ruined the left one. He broke my favorite teapot in an effort to reach something edible on the counter. And he broke my heart when he died.

Right now I’m drinking tea out of a BIG ceramic mug that has a similar capacity to that teapot.

That’s how I’m besting the tug today. Tea. Started with Irish Breakfast, moved to PG Tips, and right now I’m having hot cinnamon spice. Fuels my fingers. Keeps the tug at bay. Tastes good.

I put a bottle of cherry wine in the refrigerator. I think I’ll have some of that tonight instead of ice water. A toast to absent friends.

Al.

Jake.

Then onto Chapter 7.

A Flame to Light Up the Bookshelf

I fell in love with Faith Hunter’s words when I discovered my first Jane Yellowrock. Then I bought the next one and the next …
I hadn’t considered myself a fan of urban fantasy. Ha! I’d written plenty of fantasy novels, and even penned an urban horror-fantasy, but in my to-be-read stack the real world and fantasy didn’t mix.

But there was Faith and Jane.

When I was invited to contribute to a Faith Hunter anthology I didn’t hesitate to say YES. Learning that it was not for a Jane Yellowrock, I was a tad worried. I wasn’t familiar with her Rogue Mage world, but I wasn’t gonna let that stopped me. I connected to Amazon and ordered Host, Bloodring, and Seraphs. And was wowed. Faith demonstrates how amazing it is to play with the real world, to twist it and shape it into something wonderful and frightening.

She has the “what ifs.” Andre Norton was a dear friend of mine, and when we’d chat on the phone the conversation invariably drifted to the “what ifs.” We’d talk about something going on in the world, often about archaeological discoveries, and she’d say “what if…” What if the bones unearthed weren’t wholly human, but only looked that way on initial inspection? What if the latest skirmish in Yemen wasn’t a grab for territory or in the name of religion, but was merely a distraction because something or someone from another time needed to go undiscovered? What if? And what if? And what if?

Faith has mastered the “what ifs” and created worlds around the concept.

It was easy to slip into her Rogue Mage world with my own tale because Faith left open enough windows and doors to expand her setting… let other writers take a brief walk without ruining anything she’d already set down.

I picked the Amazon basin because the area fascinates me. I have a thick book detailing the history of explorations along the river and tributaries, a perfect springboard for fiction. So I was able to meld the real with the unreal… Faith’s Rogue Mage world with the dark parts of the basin, throwing in a dash of archaeology and poetry. That story became part of the Rogue Mage e-book anthologies, Trials and Tribulations, and the trade paperback omnibus, Triumphant. So while I’m writing the Piper Blackwell mystery series now, my first love was fantasy.

 

About FLAME IN THE DARK:
Nell Ingram has always known she was different. Since she was a child, she’s been able to feel and channel ancient powers from deep within the earth. When she met Jane Yellowrock, her entire life changed, and she was recruited into PsyLED—the Homeland Security division that polices paranormals. But now her newly formed unit is about to take on its toughest case yet.

A powerful senator barely survives an assassination attempt that leaves many others dead—and the house he was visiting burns to the ground. Invisible to security cameras, the assassin literally disappears, and Nell’s team is called in. As they track a killer they know is more—or less—than human, they unravel a web of dark intrigue and malevolent motives that tests them to their limits and beyond.


FLAME IN THE DARK (Soulwood #3)
Author: Faith Hunter
Publisher: Ace/Roc
December 5, 2017
Mass Market Paperback $7.99
352 pages
ISBN: 978-0451473332

Excerpts FLAME IN THE DARK – Part Fifteen

One of the paramedics in the street got back in the EMS unit and it moved again, this time turning at a sharper angle to the Carhart Building. Yummy landed on all fours beside me, like a praying mantis. I squelched a squeal and Yummy laughed. She was enjoying this.

Without even thinking, I reached out, grabbed her shirt, and yanked her to me. Her face was two inches from mine. All vamped out. Fangs down, eyes blood red with huge black pupils. “That cop got injured,” I said.,“Protecting this city and your’n boss. How ’bout you’un get in there give her some blood instead of playing games?”

“Take your hand off me, little female.”

“No.”

Yummy’s eyes went even wider. Surprised. She tilted her head in one of those creepy inhuman moves they do and looked at the EMS unit. The driver was scrunched down in his seat, making a small target; the other two responders were loading the wounded officer into the back of the glorified ambulance. “JoJo,” I said, “tell EMS that a vampire is about to join,” —I stretched my own head to see the number stenciled on the van, —“unit two-fourteen, to offer her services as blood donor.”

“Copy that,” JoJo said.

“I’ll pick you up at UTMC,” I said to the vampire.

“I’ll be thirsty,” Yummy snarled.

“I think the appropriate response is ‘Cry me a river.’” I let go of Yummy’s shirt. “Move.”

FLAME IN THE DARK ON AMAZON

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

When The Dead of Night was getting ready to release, I wrote some guest blogs for various sites. One was a Q&A session, and it never ran. BUT, since I took the time to answer all the questions, I figured it should run somewhere, right? So here it is. Hope you enjoy and don’t find me too overly … odd.

Please tell us about growing up. Siblings? Locale?

I grew up in Ottawa, IL, a small river town with lots of parks. I was a tomboy. It was “back in the day” when it was okay to go outside alone and come back when it got dark. I had forts and treehouses, knew where the creeks in the fields were.

I was never shy, but I am a loner. My husband is a water chemist… FINALLY he’s starting to read my mystery novels. He likes historical fantasy. I have bunches of friends who read my mysteries. Many of them offer up names for characters and such. One of those buddies is a retired sheriff, and he helps keep my fictional sheriff on the right track; Piper would be a lesser character without him. I love role playing games, and my game master is a district attorney…I turn to him for legal questions. Another of my gaming buddies is a computer-genius, another is an archaeologist…I am sooooo fortunate to have friends I can rely on for great information.

I don’t have children, but I have four dogs and a parrot. Wrinkles, my favorite, is an elderly pug who is ALWAYS by my side. Missy is a rescue Boston Terrier who loves to howl at the bird and run circles around anything…except on NFL Sundays…then she’s on my lap. There are two YOUNG Labrador retrievers. They require lots of food, lots of brushing, and lots and lots and lots of tennis ball tossing sessions. Dogs are a great excuse to take writing breaks. In fact, when I’m done answering these questions, I’m going to take my pug for a little walk.

Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?

I have lots of favorite authors and favorite genres that I love reading…but I’ll list some.
• Gene Wolfe, science fiction, his words are butter that melt off the page, a master stylist. He’s a good friend…how fortunate I am.
• Christine Verstraete, zombies. Chris writes awesome zombies, and throws in historical twists. She’s a good friend…how fortunate I am.
• Joe Haldeman, science fiction…geeze, he’s good.
• Donald J. Bingle, thrillers. He’s a good friend…how fortunate I am.
• Michael Connelly…mysteries…Harry Bosch…who does not love Harry Bosch? My fictional sheriff reads Harry Bosch.
• Elizabeth Vaughan, fantasy-romance…the smoochy stuff. She’s a good friend…how fortunate I am.
• Faith Hunter, urban fantasy…TOP NOTCH urban fantasy. How fortunate I am that we correspond.
• Margaret Weis, fantasy…dragons are her specialty. She’s a long-time friend from back in my TSR, Inc. days…how fortunate I am to know her.
• Robert Crais, mysteries…Elvis Cole and Joe Pike and Maggie.
• Steven Paul Leiva, contemporary. He, too, is one of those master stylists and an awesome friend…how fortunate I am.
• Preston & Child, mystery-thrillers.
I could keep going, but that’s a good list.

When you’re not writing, what’s your favorite way to relax and recharge? Hobbies?

I’m a workaholic. I try to write every day, even on NFL Sundays. But…I have hobbies. I love to fuse glass. I have a little kiln and I make fused glass necklaces. I also love to visit museums…I get lots of story ideas in museums. I love football. I play in five fantasy football leagues; my main team is the Pugnacious Pugilists, and they’re not having an awesome season. Sigh.

And I like to read. A lot. A lot. A lot. I have stacks of books everywhere…more books than I’ll be able to read in whatever time is left to me. And I’ll buy more books to add to the stacks. I spend my money on dog toys and books.

And I like to play with my dogs. My old pug doesn’t play much, but the other three make up for that. The biggest Lab is indefatigable.

How long have you been writing?

I started writing in the first grade. Really. I first got published when I was in sixth grade. Then I started entering writing contests and winning odds and ends, like a fancy desk lamp, BIG dictionary and thesaurus set.

I studied journalism at Northern Illinois University and ended up writing for: The Northern Star, The Rockford Register Star, The Quincy Herald-Whig, and then I ran a news bureau for The Evansville Press. THEN I finally had enough violence (I covered some really awful things…and plane crashes). I went to work for TSR, Inc. in Lake Geneva, WI. They made the Dungeons & Dragons game. I started writing game material, and then game tie-in novels. Fictional violence suited me better.

So…I started writing when I was six.

Where do you prefer to write? Do you need quiet, music, solitude? PC or laptop?

I will never have quiet. Not with a parrot and four dogs. Often I have music playing. Alexa is my friend. Instrumentals; I don’t want words to clog the words dancing in my head. I write on a PC in my office…where my parrot perches. I write on a laptop when the weather is sooooooo fine I can be on my back porch. My amazing, ugly, wonderful, perfect back porch. It has a dog door so me doggies can go in and out to the fenced backyard as they please.

I live in a tiny town surrounded by train tracks. And on a dead end street. Trains. Dogs. Parrot. Alexa. Not quiet.

But there is blessed solitude.

Are you a plotter or a pantzer?

A meticulous plotter. I’ve written two of my 38 novels without plotting each chapter. Took me three times as long to write. I won’t do another novel without plotting. BUT…sometimes I outline as I go along. Outline a half-dozen chapters, start writing. In the evenings in front of the TV, dogs at my feet, I’ll work on more outline.

Do you do your research before you begin a new project, or as you go along?

I like to do my research upfront, as that helps me plot. Sure, I have to stop now and then and do a little more research. But basically I knock that out first.

Tell us about your writing schedule. Do you set goals? Do you write daily?

I used to set goals, as in 2,500 words a day or 3,000 words a day, or a chapter a day. Now I just write and see where I end up at the end of a day. I don’t miss deadlines, even the self-imposed ones. I have never missed a deadline. I try to write every day…except when I go out of town for business or fun. I think a writer has to write every day.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise readers.

Hmmmmmmmm. That’s a hard one ‘cause I’m a pretty open person. Hmmmmmmmmm. Okay, here’s a few:

1. I hold grudges. I shouldn’t, but I do. I hold them tightly.
2. I hate onions. Detest them. Avoid them. Fresh onions. Hate fresh onions. Dried onions, like in soup mixes are just ducky.
3. I dislike computer games, passionately dislike them. I’ve seen what happens when people become addicted to them.
4. I regret moving from Wisconsin. Sure, it was colder there, and I didn’t have a screened-in back porch, but I had the best buddies.

What do you hope your writing brings to readers?

A good time. That’s it. I just want people to enjoy the story and have a good time reading my books. There are so few jobs in the world where you can legally give people a good time, and where you can leave something behind … books on a shelf. I am so very lucky to have such a job. I work very hard to make my books good.

What advice would you give to unpublished authors?

To grow a rhino-thick skin and be persistent. More than one million books are published a year. You have to compete with that. You can’t compete unless you’re persistent as all get-out. Handle rejection, criticism, and never stop. Persist.

Tell us about your latest release.

The Dead of Night is set in Spencer County, IN. A small county, with a young female sheriff. This tale centers on a cold case, which let me research forensics and call coroners to discuss remains. I very much enjoyed writing it.

Here’s a long excerpt:

Dr. Ulysses Abernathy wore frameless oval glasses tinted blue-gray. Oren guessed he was five-eight or five-nine and was a little on the pudgy side. His ash brown hair was shaved on the sides and had a styled curly mound on top that likely had been doused with a liberal amount of hairspray or mousse; Oren swore he could smell it. His cheeks were dotted with freckles, standing out because his skin was so light. A dime-sized gold skull and crossbones hung from his pierced left ear, and his clothes were casual—jeans and an orange pocketless, oversized polo.

Young, Oren thought, and then corrected himself when he noticed the crinkles at the edges of Abernathy’s eyes and lips. Young-looking, but probably late thirties, maybe even a touch over the forty-year mark. A little more scrutiny, and he spotted some gray in the buzzed sides. That made Oren feel a little better.

“Dr. Neufeld,” Abernathy said with a nod. “Good to meet you.”

“And I’m happy to meet—”

Abernathy took a position by the table and plowed ahead, interrupting Annie’s pleasantries. “Interesting,” he said. “See the dent on the right side of the skull here? Forceps were used during delivery. The bone was deformed. As a person grows, the bones thicken. The skull is normal on the inside. But the dent on the outside. Forceps. No lower teeth and jaw available for inspection. Would make it a little more challenging for a facial reconstruction. But the upper teeth on cursory examination suggest that your remains are that of an eight- to ten-year-old. The teeth are not permanent, they are deciduous—milk teeth, some call them.” His voice was low-pitched and strong. Oren figured he would do well in front of a classroom.

“Because permanent teeth are in by age twelve,” Annie said.

Abernathy hummed. He pulled a pair of gloves from his pocket, put them on, and picked up pieces of vertebrae. “T1 and T2, broken. Yet to determine if post mortem, but not likely.” He looked up at Oren. “These are the first and second vertebra in the thoracic spine.”

Replacing them, he slid farther down the table and picked up the femur. “Note the diaphysis.” He pointed with his free hand. “And the epiphyses at each end? There is no fusion there, definitely a child. Look here.” Abernathy replaced the bone and indicated the arm. “Not joined, no fusion, under the age of twelve.” He made a clicking noise. “It’s the ribs. Fortunately we have the desirable third, fourth, and fifth ribs. You were lucky with these bones, Dr. Neufeld. Count your stars providential. But I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t know. I understand you were a pediatrician for many years. For the sheriff here—”

Oren did not correct him with chief deputy sheriff, though he noted Annie’s raised eyebrow.

“—the ends of these ribs are rounded, and they’d be smooth to the touch. As a man ages the ribs display pitting, and the edges here and here—they’d be sharper. I want an MRI done. X-rays are good, but not sufficient. An MRI will give us the calcium density, and that’s useful in a final determination of age. I suspect they’ll reveal that your boy was eight or nine years old. The ribs tell me that, not the ten I first mentioned as a possibility. I’m very good at this. Eight or nine. Probably nine. I’ll want to pull DNA, too, though it might not help because—” He looked to Annie.

“You mentioned these remains might be forty to sixty years old.”

“They found some coins.”

“Sixty,” Oren said. “I’m leaning toward sixty.”

“That old, might be hard to trace to relatives. But you never know. MRI, DNA. Might not need to bother with facial recognition if there are dental records to compare with missing children reports. We’ll see.” Abernathy shifted his weight. “No evidence of carnivore scavenging on these bones, no rat bite marks. But the lack of some bones might indicate animals removed pieces. They’ve been subjected to repeated freezing and thawing cycles, and those reduced some of your finger and toe bones to fragments. Some evidence here and here of plant abrasion—roots growing across the body, probably into the flesh before it dissolved. Can’t tell if these bones were moved. You didn’t call me to the scene. You packed them up and brought them here.” He paused and frowned. “Then you called me. You should have called me to the scene.”

Abernathy stood a little taller and Oren figured the forensic anthropologist was thoroughly “full of himself.” Nevertheless, Oren was impressed.

“Eight or nine, eh?” Oren said.

“Probably nine.” Abernathy made the clicking sound again. “I’m always right to within a year to a year and a half. Always. But like I said, I want the MRI before I write a report. I see some evidence of nutritional deficiencies, but a further analysis will confirm that.” He made a circle of the table, picked up the skull, turned it over in his hands and replaced it. Picked up a few vertebrae to study, and then put them back down. “This arm bone is thicker than the other. See? That was the boy’s dominant side. So he was right handed. The right femur would be thicker than the left, dominant side. But we don’t have a right femur. The radius of this arm bone, and the skull—it has a more distinct ridge here—say ‘boy.’ The pelvis is not, in my opinion, strong enough evidence given the young age. Still, it all suggests ‘boy.’ Caucasian. Right handed. Nine, eight on the outside. I think—”


How can readers learn more about you?

USA Today Bestselling author Jean Rabe has written 37 fantasy, urban fantasy, and science fiction novels. The Dead of Night, her 38th, is her second Piper Blackwell mystery. She has roughly 100 short stories in print, has edited a couple dozen anthologies, and has edited more magazines than she cares to tally. When she isn’t writing or editing, she tosses tennis balls to her cadre of dogs, visits museums, and tries to find gamers who will play Axis & Allies with her.

The Dead of Night
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The Dead of Winter
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