Friday, August 18, 2017

Sneak Peek - MURDER TAKES THE HIGH ROAD

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

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

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


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

Here's an unedited excerpt:

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

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

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

John leaned out of the bathroom and opened the door.

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

 “It’s for you,” John told me.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s my room. Half my room.”

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

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

“He’s right,” John said.

“Nobody asked you,” Trevor snapped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lights flickered and went out. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Farewell, my Lovelies


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

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

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

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



Anyway.

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

Friday, August 4, 2017

Killing It (A New Monthly Column for M/M Mystery Writers)

This morning's blog is basically just a signpost to a new monthly column I'm writing for Larissa over at BookWinked.

It's a long time since I've been interested in doing a monthly column, but a column on what's happening in the world of mystery writing and publishing -- specifically writing and publishing Male/Male and Gay Mystery -- seems to perfectly dovetail with my work on Writing Killer M/M Suspense and Mystery due out Winter/Spring 2018.

In the interests of finding any potentially-under-served* audience, a lot of male/male authors have turned to writing "mysteries." In what has become a brutally competitive market, writers are desperate to find any foothold (in fact, let's face it, that's how a lot of them came to be writing M/M in the first place). And that's okay. Since the first poet starved to death in his garret, authors have always scrabbled for a foothold in the publishing market.  What is NOT okay is putting out any kind of schmaltzy, vaguely suspense-ish crap and calling it a Gay or M/M Mystery. Mystery readers are a bit more difficult -- let's call it discerning -- than some other audience segments. They really do expect a decent mystery to be served with their romance.

And with so many aspiring (perspiring?) authors relying almost solely on output, advertising and promo to get the results they need, the author who comes along and knows her genre and can actually write will have a huge advantage. I'm not exaggerating when I say that consistently writing well is soon going to be the new secret weapon in the author arsenal.

To that end--and because I've pretty much devoted my life to the mystery genre, in particular the gay mystery genre--I want to help both writers and readers get the best books possible. I want Male/Male Mystery to be where you find the best books and the best authors.

Anyway, the column is called KILLING IT - WRITING THE M/M MYSTERY, and it's running August through December. Stop by and leave a comment as to what you'd like to read about and discuss over the coming months!


Friday, July 28, 2017

Five Entertaining Crime Documentaries You're Sure to Enjoy

1 - Sour Grapes - How a geeky twenty-something conned the world of wine collecting (and ended up as the first person convicted of wine fraud in the US). If you love wine, but hate the pretentious nonsense that so often supersedes genuine passion for the grape, you'll enjoy this one a lot. The real hero here is the unassuming but determined third generation proprietor of Domaine Ponsot, who travels to the US, determined to unravel the mystery of who is counterfeiting his wines.

Stream-able on Netflix

2 - The Jinx - Frankly chilling miniseries based on the life and crimes of Robert Durst (maybe you've seen the Ryan Gosling film All Good Things?). I was convinced of Durst's guilt long before the final episode. Even so, I felt a genuine sense of shock when I heard Durst's off camera comments. While it's true, his mumbles could be interpreted another way, I think this is one of those times you go with your gut reaction.

Available on HBO and Amazon

3 - Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery -  A really fascinating insight into the art world--and the art underworld. I've seen a lot of films (both fiction and non-fiction) on art forgery, but I don't think I've ever seen one as informative and entertaining as this. Up until this documentary I think I dismissed the idea that forgery could be, well, an art in its own right. And while I don't applaud what this master forger did, holy moly he's an engaging guy.

Streamable on Netflix

4 - The Keepers - Given that I turned my back on Catholicism at age thirteen when I dramatically refused to make my Confirmation (and learned that if you're going to cancel a party, don't wait until the day of the party to do it), I'm not sure why I have residual defensiveness about the Catholic church. All those jokes about pregnant nuns and pedophile priests? Not funny IMHO. Be that as it may, this is the heartbreaking and horrifying story of the (officially) "unsolved" murder of a young nun in 1969 -- and the determined effort of some of her students to find justice for her.


This miniseries might be exclusive to Netflix? Not sure.



5 - Soaked in Bleach - If you wonder why Curt Cobain killed himself...maybe he didn't. In fact, after seeing this documentary, I'm convinced he didn't. Ex-cop now PI Tom Grant makes a very credible witness, and builds, I think, a pretty impressive circumstantial case.

Streamable on Netflix


And one bonus offering. I've mentioned The Imposter before. Nearly four years after he disappears from his home in Texas, Nicholas Barclay turns up safely in Spain claiming he was kidnapped. HEA? Keep watching. It's sad and creepy--and a cautionary tale about how vulnerable guilt and grief can make anyone.

Available on Amazon and elsewhere.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Author! Author! CARROLL S. POE

Hello again and welcome to another edition of Author! Author! wherein I introduce you to some of my writer pals. Not all my pals are mystery or crime authors, but I'm always thrilled when someone is because, despite the sudden flood of people trying to break into the mystery genre, it's not as easy as I make it look. AM I RIGHT OR AM I RIGHT? ;-)

C. S. Poe doesn't only write mystery and suspense, but that's where she's really making a name for herself. I first met Carroll...well, honestly, I'm not sure. IT'S A MYSTERY. No, seriously, we interacted for a couple of years online and then I finally met her in person on Catalina Island a few months ago. WHAT HAPPENS IN CATALINA STAYS IN CATALINA. That is all.

Without further adieu, Meet my criminous little pal, Miz Poe.

Do you have a favorite cocktail? Can you share the recipe?

CSP - Not really. I usually stick with Whiskey Ginger or just whiskey neat.

Uh huh. We'll let that pass. What happens in Catalina stays in Catalina. So...why mysteries? What attracted you to a life of crime?

CSP - There's a thrill obtained from the uncertainty of a mystery that is unique. Who did it? Why? How does it end? Will the protagonist survive? The questions we, or at least myself, ask with a good mystery, build up a sort of adrenaline. We get to piece together clues, uncover an enigma and settle our innate curiosity to know more, all while building a sort of one-on-one relationship with the hero.
On more of a writer's level, I love how a hunt and the unknown propel a plot forward. Plus, I have a tendency to toss a lot of history into my books (great random facts for small talk at a party, try them sometime!) and when a mystery deals with murderous crimes, stolen items, etc., it's just begging for some sort of historical oddity to be inserted for good measure.

Standalone versus series. What do you prefer as a writer? How about as a reader?

CSP - As a writer, I like series more. But, but, but! I can admit when a book doesn't NEED to be a series and is quite capable of standing on its own. As a reader, I love a series that follows the same characters.

Yeah, they both have their pros and cons. Speaking of pros -- and cons -- is it true that your day job is bouncer for a night club? Why not? You look so young and innocent you'd be able to get the drop on drunks before they ever saw you coming. 

CSP - I can never get work as a bouncer because the clubs just keep carding me! Remember when the waiter on Catalina carded me? Everyone laughed. LAUGHED! But I'd be a great bouncer. Tiny but fierce.

I agree, Mighty Mouse. And also the money is better in bouncing, from what I understand. What do you think is the most important thing to remember when creating fully-realized main characters?

CSP - Rhys Ford said it perfectly, in that, 'sometimes people do things.' It's critical to remember--romance book or not-- that characters should have limitations and flaws. They are human and should act as such, and sometimes that means a character has to make the wrong choice in order to find themselves, learn a lesson, or win the guy in the end. Sometimes people do things.


Fun fact. Rhys was my first Author! Author! interview. Or maybe that was ZAM? Because she completed her homework first? But anyway, Rhys was one of the first, if not the first. So anyway, fashion magazines always ask this critical question: What is the one cosmetic or grooming tool you cannot live without? And do you have any idea why all these fashion models are always pretending the one tool they can't live without is their EYEBROW GROOMER?

CSP - In the magazine's defense, every time I see someone with wacky, out of control eyebrows that are attempting to crawl up their forehead, I kind of want to comb them.

How do you deal with the criticism that is part and parcel of any job in the arts?

CSP - Art is meant to move an individual. Whether I moved a reader to five star or one star, I did my job as an author. I touched them deeply enough that they were encouraged to say something. So as long as the science of my writing is firm (that being grammar, structure, the understanding and ability to build a cohesive plot) there is nothing for me to get upset about. Not every piece of art moves us in the same way.

So. True. And speaking of reviews and reviewers, have you ever broken a bone? Have you ever broken anyone else's bones? You must have because your day job is bouncer. Have any of your victims sued you?

CSP - My left wrist. I didn't keep it straight when I cold-cocked an ornery dancer being tossed from the club! What can I say, rookie mistake. ;)

Haha. I knew it! As I said to S.C. Wynne when we were watching you knock back those Whiskey Gingers, I bet she's broken that wrist cold-cocking customers! Ahem. Is there any genre you'd like to tackle but you're kinda sorta afraid?

CSP - I don't think so. I'm partial to mystery, contemporary romance, and paranormal (including Steampunk), so I write those. I am a selective reader of fantasy and sci-fi, but could never write those genres, especially sci-fi. My brain isn't wired for that, so I applaud authors who excel in those genres specifically.

One thing readers of this blog just can't get enough of are funny stories about food allergies. Can you share any amusing near death experiences brought on by a food allergy?

CSP - Mrs. White did it in the kitchen with the poison!

LOL. EXACTLY. So. What are the elements that make a C. S. Poe book unique? What do you consider your strengths as a writer?

CSP - Dry humor, witty dialogue, useless facts, and dead bodies often found in unfortunate circumstances. What? It's true. Has anyone read The Mystery of the Curiosities? I put bodies everywhere in that book. Like it was some kind of competition! In all seriousness, I think as a writer I am adept at snappy dialogue and weaving more than one genre together successfully, in most cases that being mysteries and romances.

 How many cats do you currently own? Are you in danger of becoming a cat lady? What about becoming Cat Woman? Crime may not pay, but it pays better than writing. Agree or disagree? Show your math.

CSP - Let's see... 3 cats, divided by my current age, plus the number of cats I wish I owned, equals the value of Faberge's long lost third Imperial Egg from 1887. That'd make me a millionaire if I took to a life of crime and cat-napped it. So I agree.

:-D :-D :-D What are you working on right now? What's coming out next?

CSP - I'm wrapping up edits on Southernmost Murder and writing Snow & Winter 3, but the next release is actually a holiday, contemporary romance called Color of You.

Are you religious? Would you be religious if you were falling off a cliff? What if you were pushed? 

CSP - *slowly backs away from cliff and gives Josh a wide berth.* I've got my eye on you, lady.

*Looks innocent while whistling aimlessly.* Tell us something surprising. Anything. Go on. Surprise us!

CSP - One time I crashed my bike while I was parked.

:-D :-D :-D There you have it, folks. The REAL C. S. Poe. You can find out more about Carroll and her work on her website and her Facebook page -- Oh! AND she's doing this really cool thing right here.  I think you might even want to kick in.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Blind Side playlist

Next up on the writing schedule is Blind Side, Book six in the Dangerous Ground series. It's been a while since I've written  anything about former DSS agents William Brandt and Taylor MacAllister, but I'm currently listening to Point Blank, which is the entire series collected in audio and narrated by Derrick McClain, and it's proving a very helpful refresher.

Since the series was already in audio (narrated by the wonderfully talented Adrian Bisson), you might be wondering why I decided to re-record it, and I suppose it's like remaking a favorite movie. Just because you have a great version, doesn't mean that you wouldn't enjoy another director's take or seeing another actor play the part of some beloved character. I like Derrick's work a lot and I thought it would be interesting to see what he brought to the series. I'm really enjoying listening, and I think you will too.

Meanwhile, here's the blurb for Blind Side.

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.



Safe to say there will be some heartbreak this time around, but Will kind of brought it on himself. ;-)


And here's the playlist...

BLIND SIDE PLAY LIST 


Hello, Hurricane - Switchfoot

No, I Won't Back Down - Tom Petty

It is What it Is - Lifehouse

Scar that Never Heals - Jeremy Fisher

Run Down a Dream - Petty

Runaway Train - Soul Asylum

Trying Not to Love You - Nickelback

Where I Come From - Lifehouse

History - One Direction

Hurricane - Lifehouse

Something I Need - OneRepublic


Meanwhile, I don't have a firm release date for Point Blank in audio or even Blind Side, to be honest. After the fiasco of The Monet Murders release I'm a little skittish about preorders. But I'll keep you posted! 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Fourth of July!

Every year the SO and I host a Fourth of July swim party and BBQ. Some years we've gotten pretty fancy with the menu -- one year it was slabs and slabs of ribs, one year lobster tails -- but this year we're opting for good old-fashioned hot dogs and hamburgers with all the trimmings. That way we can enjoy the fun too and not spend the whole time cooking and serving.

We always serve root beer floats for dessert because that's what my parents did when we were kids. :-)  Tradition is nice, so long as you're not strangled by it.

Anyway, if you're in the States, here's to a happy and safe Fourth of July!