Thursday, January 31, 2008

Future Stars

I told The Famous Author we were all sick of hearing about Dennis what's-his-name.

What about those writers he retreated with on the beach in St. Petersburg while the college literary workshop was going on? Lorin, Kim, Brenda, Melissa, Jason? Wasn't TFA bragging like heck about them on the flight home, telling the young stewardess that his just-concluded, sandy swaree' included many future publishing stars; that one day, like Paris in the 1920s, St. Pete Beach would be famous for this single, amazing gathering of writing talent.

"That's actually when they cut off my liquor," TFA said last night. "But that has no reflections on my expectations for this group."

"Gee, boss, are you still drinking?"

"Do you mind? I'm starting back on tour again tomorrow. This has been a mini-vacation."

"Sort of like tropical drinks on the beach without the beach?"

"Exactly," TFA said.

"So who's our first Future Star? Who's kicking off this new feature you're making me post?"


"Melissa who?

"I'm not sure she'd want to be associated with you, Austin. Sorry. Maybe she'll sign in with a comment."

"Or maybe not," I said. "Okay, so what's up with Melissa? Is that her, up on top? The pretty blond?"

"That's Melissa. She writes all kinds of wonderful things, but right now, she's giving her beautiful, gripping, and magic novel an agent-guided final polish before it hits New York."

"Have you read any?"

"As a matter of fact, I have," TFA said. "Prior to a critique group a few years ago, I was handed the first five pages of this novel. The synopsis told me Melissa's story involved faeries and monsters, and I started shaking my head. I really don't like this kind of fantasy. I can't even read Harry Potter."

"Harry Potter is maybe the biggest hit series ever. Are you KIDDING me?"

"But when I read Melissa's opening line, I smiled, and I don't even remember turning or handling the pages. Suddenly I was just at the end, flipping each page over to see if maybe there was more written on the back. It was magic the way she made me believe and trust everything about her new world."

"Hey! Hey, TFA. Wake up, dude. You're getting glassy-eyed."

"Melissa is a future star. You wait."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Redhead of the Week

How have we missed Isla Fisher in our search for redheads?

For starters, Isla starred with Vince Vaughn in the hit movie Wedding Crashers, and you know Vince is TFA's Number One pick for the movie version of any Austin Carr adventure. And then, these interesting stats: Born in 1976. The lady's been around a while, has some experience. Also, she appeared in Australian TV commercials at age nine, so you know she's a looker, on camera and off. But here's the clincher. I mean, where has she been hiding? Isla Fisher has published two best-selling Australian novels, SEDUCED BY FAME and BEWITCHED.

The woman is a writer, too.

Some redheads can be too much of a challenge.

Thanks for the tip, Jason

Monday, January 28, 2008

Casablanca: Plot & Theme

When the movie CASABLANCA opens and engages us, Humphrey Bogart (Richard Blane) wants the girl from his past, one, and second, to keep himself out of World War II. Rick's hiding. He doesn't like Nazis, but he doesn't want to actively fight anymore.

So when the movie ends, when Humphrey and the police captain stroll into the airport fog, does Rick have what he wanted? Oh, hell no, you genre writers! He GAVE UP the freaking girl. She wanted him. He could have taken her back. The love of his freaking life. But no. It was better for the Nazi-fighters if she stayed with her husband. And that's the second part, isn't it? He wanted to stay out of the war, but now, he's not only sacrificing love and happiness, he's marching off to physically fight Nazis again, too.

He's changed. He's become a better man. He's placed the whole world above his own little one. (TFA says in the newspaper business, editors used to call this kind of reporter a Crusader Rabbit. After Watergate, they called them boss.)

My point? Honestly, troops, I'm not one-hundred percent sure. I'm just a little nervous. Because frankly, when Rick gave up that babe (Ingrid, was it?) to go hold a machine-gun, I had to wonder about his sensibilities. Maybe his manhood. Theme maybe isn't what grabs me.

This Casablanca example of theme was the biggest thing TFA says he learned from his writers workshop with Dennis Lehane this past week. Plot is about what your protagonist WANTS. Theme should be woven into what he really NEEDS.

Mr. L or his fantastic assistant, Tom Bernardo, mentioned this Casablanca example during class, and it thumped TFA over the head. It's why he risked taking me to a literary writing conference. TFA said he might want to make the Austin Carr Mystery Series grow a bit. I didn't worry much before we went. I figured TFA was full of it. But this Casablanca thing scares me, dudes. I don't want to fight Nazis. You know what I mean. I want to stay single, chase redheads, outwit the bad guys, charm my way out of tight situations. Fun and thrills, right?

And now, TFA says he really loves this idea of theme, maybe writing stories so that I, Austin Carr, get what I really need.

This is a very frightening thought.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Lehane's New Novel

Our new pal, Dennis Lehane, author of MYSTIC RIVER, SHUTTER ISLAND, and other novels, gave us a scoop yesterday. He showed the writing class (including The Famous Author) the cover of his new novel, A GIVEN DAY, which he said would be published this coming September.

Dennis called it an "historical novel" based on the Boston Police strike of 1919. He said he'd been interested in that day since he was a little boy. The novel has been in the works for four and one half years.

Other tidbits: Dennis says he is done writing and reading mysteries. "I've been Oz, the man behind the curtain, and mysteries just don't interest me anymore." For Patrick and Angie fans, however (the stars of his PI series), Dennis did have one piece of encouraging news. He said a short story featuring his two sleuths would be forthcoming "soon."

Yikes! I guess BIG MONEY won't be on Dennis's TBR pile this year.

TFA and I are coming home to New Jersey tomorrow and--oh boy--TFA says he has a new redhead for our weekly feature. Can't wait to see what he scrounged up last night at that stupid tiki bar.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dennis Lehane Says...

The author of MYSTIC RIVER, SHUTTER ISLAND, GONE BABY GONE, and other great novels told The Famous Author yesterday that TFA has "a strong, mordant wit" and "a terrific narrative voice." Of course those two lines bookended some serious criticism of our work in progress, BIG MOJO, but his ideas were cogent and thought-provoking, at least for TFA. I mean, I could care less. I just go where TFA tells me.

In other news, it's cold as heck here in Florida. Better than New Jersey, I suppose, but not exactly warm. Brrrr.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Will This Man Rip Us Up?

Oh, man, is The Famous Author nervous. Thursday afternoon, a real famous author named Dennis Lehane will critique my third adventure, BIG MOJO, in front of 12 other fiction students at Writers in Paradise. TFA is certain that Mr. Lehane will tell him the novel sucks, that he can't write a lick, and he should go back to whatever he was doing before.

I think TFA might be obsessing because he's such a fan of Lehane's. Me, I figure the author of MYSTIC RIVER, GONE BABY GONE, and other great novels will fall in love with me like everybody else. I mean, what's not to like? I'm cute. I'm funny. I'm smart, and I'm very modest.

So if Lehane doesn't like me, let him drink Drano.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Working With Lehane & Lippman

The program is called Writers in Paradise. It's in its fourth year. Fiction writers like our own The Famous Author travel to Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL to study craft with Dennis Lehane, Laura Lippman, Sterling Watson, and others. Hopefully, TFA's writing skills will get a bump and a boost.

And last night, TFA said I can come, too! Oh, boy. Am I ready to get out of New Jersey. It's 20 degrees this morning, and the weather people say the temperature won't get above freezing for the next week.

Florida sunshine, here we come.

Oh, yeah. For you TCOAC readers, the next week could be a spotty one for blogs. These writer conferences are full of choice, young, sensitive women. Austin Carr will be busy.

Friday, January 18, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 26

“Come on, get uppa.”

The familiar, thickly accented voice cancels a nightmare about having my head crushed. Is that Mama Bones? What is she doing here? Or, more to the point, where the hell am I?

My head’s full of blood and mucous, ready to split like an overripe olive. My nose feels like a wad of prosciutto. Oh, yeah. Now I remember. I’m at the best little Italian restaurant in Little Italy. The joint right off Mulberry Street where, as a prize, three humans and The Creeper beat up one unlucky table of guests every night before pasta’s served. Keeps the other customers in line.

I roll to my hands and knees, let Mama Bones’s sturdy two-handed grip tow me onto my feet. Whoa. Mr. Vick’s mother owns major grasping and pulling forearms. Like Caterpillar back-hoes. Mama Bones must fill out a lot of phony bingo cards.

Two young men I remember from Mr. Vick’s sailing-away party in Atlantic Highlands stand watchfully behind Mama Bones. Dark-haired, dark-eyed. Wearing black chinos, black Nikes, and black T-shirts. Mr. Trim and Mr. Fit.

What’s up with them?

“No time to answer questions,” Mama Bones says. “This is Thomas, this one Gianni.”

Wonder if there’s anything to Mr. Vick’s claim his mother actually reads minds? Nah. It’s obvious I would have a question, right?

Mama Bones squats her ample butt down beside Gina and touches the younger woman’s shoulder. Her hand rubs Gina’s back. It’s a side of Mr. Vick’s mother I’ve never witnessed before. Almost warm. Like five-minute-old toast.

“We gotta go, honey,” Mama Bones says.

Gina’s hands and gaze won’t leave Tony’s face, the dark-haired beauty no longer Queen of Anything, just a shocked and frightened woman. Kind of the way I felt when Creeper hauled me and Ryan about the Locust Tree Inn dining room, Creeper with one arm around each of us, like we were broken lamps.

“Tony’s hurt,” Gina says. “We have to get help.”

Mama Bones leans across Gina and touches Tony’s neck. Her fingers don’t stay in contact more than three or four seconds. “We take him to hospital,” Mama says. She waves for Thomas and Gianni to lift him.

“Come on. Get up,” she says to Gina.

“I hear a siren,” Gina says. “I should stay and tell the police.”

Mama shakes her head. “At’sa no good idea, Angelina. This Brooklyn. If cops keep you overnight, Tony’s people have you killed in jail.”

“Tony’s people? Why would they hurt me?”

Just what I was going to ask. We have a lot in common, Gina and me.

“Who you think ordered this, huh?” Mama Bones says. “You think Bluefish send Jersey people to Brooklyn without permission?”

Gina’s crying. Between sniffs, she says, “Nunzio?”

Mama Bones leads our hurried, shuffling troop through a suddenly empty kitchen. Gee, where did the staff go? The chefs and chefettes are hiding.

Or maybe it’s that over-blended, caustic smell of roasting lamb shanks, grilled liver, sautéed fish, and burned broccoli that drove them away. I know I could use some fresh air.

Outside, in an alley busy with delivery vans and trucks, Gina first tumbles in behind the driver’s seat of a very clean white Cadillac Escalade. But when Gianni and Thomas stretch Tony out in the extended trunk, Gina changes her mind, wants to ride in back with her husband.

Gina screams when she crawls up close beside him. Uh, oh.

Mama Bones grips my arm. “Her husband is dead,” she says. “That animal Max break Tony’s neck.”

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Good Conspiracy?

Marco Conelli is a veteran NYPD detective whose love of fictional detectives led him to the creation of Matthew Livingston, a teen sleuth with real friends--Dennis Sommers, and Sandra Small--and real-life issues faced by teens.

We met author Marco and his character Matthew a few months ago in Buffalo, and were happy to renew our acquaintence at last week's librarian hunt in Philadelphia (the American Library Assn. Midwinter confab). Marco was a big hit with the library ladies, at least while we were there. They liked Marco's book and his young good looks. He hardly seems old enough to be a policeman, let alone a veteran detective.

We asked Marco if he planned more Matthew Livingston books after this one, MATTHEW LIVINGSTON AND THE PRISON OF SOULS.

"The second Matthew Livingston book is about 85% complete and may I say some of the situations in this book have caused even me to sweat. After all there are sticky situations and there are sweaty situations, but all and all the mystery is there, the drama is there, and most importantly you will learn more about these three characters."

Looking for info on Marco, we discovered he's also a talented musician. His band plays in clubs around the New York area, and has an album for sale.

Wonder if he paints, too?

But here's the real scoop (conspiracy?) we picked up in Philadelphia: All the other Mystery Writers of America authors are secretly promoting Marco's book. We figure let's get the young people hooked on mysteries early, then we got'em for life!

Wicked, huh?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Dark Shape Bumped Us...

The Famous Author and I arrived at the Pennsylvania Convention Center a tad late for our Mystery Writers of America booth signing Sunday, and while we were hurrying to unpack our books (I hand them out of the computer case to TFA), a dark shape kept bumping into us and whispering stuff.

Eventually, we discovered the phantom was in fact Rosemary Harris, author of PUSHING UP DAISIES, due Feb. 5 from St. Martin's Minotaur. Ro, as she signs her emails, has long dark hair and Sunday was dressed in black. She's not big, but she moves around fast and you don't want to get in her way. She acts with purpose. Even the old timers said this MWA booth was one of the best run ever, thanks in large part to Rosemary.

Oh, ya. The book. Here's St. Martin's promo copy:

Meet Paula Holliday, a transplanted media exec who trades her stilettos for garden clogs when she makes the move from the big city to the suburbs to start a gardening business. Paula can handle deer, slugs, and the occasional human pest---but she’s not prepared for the mummified body she finds while restoring the gardens at Halcyon, a local landmark.

(Oooo, oooo, I'm a sucker for mummies.)

Casual snooping turns serious when another body is impaled on a garden tool and one of Paula’s friends is arrested for the crime. Aided by the still-hot aging rocker who owns the neighborhood greasy spoon, a wise-cracking former colleague, and a sexy Mexican laborer with a few secrets of his own, Paula digs for the truth and unearths more dirty business the town has kept buried for years.

I made TFA pre-order this one. After listening to Rosemary whip TFA and those other men into shape at the author's booth, I have to meet her character, Paula. If she's half as much fun as Ro, the new series has to be a winner.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

24-Year-Old Redhead of the Week

From Houston, Texas, Rebecca Renee Olstead (born June 18, 1989) had parents who encouraged her talents. She loved to sing along to the radio, especially Celine Dion.

Renee has been onstage singing since she was 5, and cut a self-titled album at 15. At 10, she scored some supporting roles in television series and made-for-TV movies, among them Streets of Laredo (1995), Out There (1997), Touched by an Angel (1998), and Providence (1999).

Renee's first Hollywood role came in The Insider (1999), in which she played Russell Crowe's daughter. Another minor part followed alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in End of Days (2000). That same year, she appeared with four famous geezers in Space Cowboys (2000).

In 2002 she was cast as Lauren, the precocious teenager of a Chicago blue-collar family in the CBS sitcom Still Standing.

Thanks to Renee and her website. I bet her new album's a knock-out.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Shameless Plug

The Famous Author met this author yesterday at the American Library Assn. convention in Philly, and TFA demanded I put up this cover and a promo piece today. Okay, he's the boss. Here's the promotion part:

Fresh out of med school and new to Philadelphia, Madison Cross is as green as they come. But she gets a chance to make her mark in the Crime Scene Unit when everyone-including the police-is quick to write off the deaths of two college girls as drug overdoses. For Madison, the evidence at the crime scene just doesn't add up.

Relying on her instincts, Madison embarks on an investigation that takes her from a pristine Ivy League campus to the seediest parts of town. And she must listen to what the bodies tell her-because unlike the living, the dead never lie.

Ooooo. Actually, this sounds pretty good. I wonder if D. H. Dublin gave TFA a copy? Also, I wonder if D.H. is a man or a woman.

"D. H. Dublin is actually a young guy named Jonathan McGoran," TFA said. "And no, he didn't give me a copy. They were too popular yesterday. But the third book in the series, FREEZER BURN, is due in September 2008."

"You sound like his PR man."

"Jon, Rosemary, and Marco were a lot of fun."

"Who are Rosemary and Marco?"

"Tell you later."

Sunday, January 13, 2008

What is This Woman Saying?

This photo reminds me of a story, about the Great White Hunter who was working the African bush one day when he ran across a single, attractive woman. He asked her if she'd have dinner with him, but when she replied, "I'm game," he shot her.

When he snapped this photo, The Famous Author hoped that's what this lady was saying, too. I'm game. But I bet his wife was telling him to take a hike.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Bestsellers of 2007

According to Nielsen BookScan, here are the top books of 2007 and the number of copies sold. Fiction and nonfiction all lumped, it still looks like a James Patterson world, although you have to work your way down at bit.

1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows J.K. Rowling 7,740,000

2 The Secret Rhonda Byrne 2,947,000

3 Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert 2,015,000

4 A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled Hosseini 1,377,000

5 The Dangerous Book for Boys Conn and Hal Iggulden 963,000

6 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini 960,000

7 Water for Elephants Sara Gruen 913,000

8 The Memory Keeper's Daughter Kim Edwards 866,000

9 The Road Cormac McCarthy 736,000

10 You: On a Diet M. Oz & M. Roizen 689,000

11 You: Staying Young M. Oz & M. Roizen 680,000

12 The Glass Castle Jeannette Walls 678,000

13 Deceptively Delicious Jessica Seinfeld 581,000

14 I Am America (and So Can You) Stephen Colbert 576,000

15 Eclipse Stephenie Meyer 572,000

16 The Measure of a Man Sidney Poitier 558,000

17 Playing for Pizza John Grisham 532,000

18 The Best Life Diet Bob Greene 519,000

19 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince J.K. Rowling 510,000

20 Twilight Stephenie Meyer 495,000

30 Double Cross James Patterson 418,000

31 The Quickie James Patterson 413,000

34 The 6th Target James Patterson 411,000

37 Step on a Crack James Patterson 393,000

48 Beach Road James Patterson 338,000

50 Cross James Patterson 329,000
Source: Nielsen BookScan

Friday, January 11, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 25

Tony saying to me, “What’re you lookin at?”


Not a lie actually because Anthony Farascio’s question should have been, what’s looking at us. Gina in particular. Not that I’m about to tell Tony that two other very rough-looking gentlemen are ogling his wife. This joint being the Farascio’s turf, I figure Gina’s husband would exhibit few qualms initiating combat over her honor. I’m afraid on Mulberry Street this means we could all die in a haze of armor-piercing bullets.

Personally, I’d rather sample the baked macaroni, get back to Jersey.

“Don’t brush me off,” Tony says. “Somebody checking us out?”

Damn. Here it is again, that special Austin Carr moment when I know what I am about to say will produce inevitable and disastrous repercussions. Nevertheless, I will make my little speech because I’m a blabbermouth who craves the sound of his own voice.

“Two guys came in a minute ago, sat behind you,” I say. “Seems like they might know you...and Gina.”

Boy, I wish I’d kept my mouth shut. When am I going to learn? This Gift of Gab is becoming a major and serious handicap. Wonder if I could get one of those special license plates with the embossed wheelchair?

Tony spins to check out the new customers.

Gina’s gaze has been avoiding mine all night. Now her dark eyes fix on me, a hard angry glare. She tosses a chunk of bread at my chest. She was about to dip it into a dish of green olive oil.

Guess she thinks I’m a blabbermouth, too.

Tony’s German Shepherd eyes drift back to me and Gina. “Wise guys,” he says. “The one with the shrimp lips is named Jimmy something. I know the other one, too.” He focuses on Gina. “They’re both part of Nunzio’s crew.”

Gina frowns. “What are they doing here?”

“I don’t know,” Tony says. “Think I have to ask’em.”

Over Tony’s shoulder, movement draws my gaze. “You don’t have to,” I say. “They’re coming over.”

Sinatra is singing “New York, New York” now, his big studio orchestra filling cracks in the little restaurant’s stucco walls like slick grout. Wine bottles rattle. The smell of tomato sauce hovers like fog.

Tony stares at my nose, then over my shoulder. “Which one you want?”

“They don’t look like they’re going to start anything,” I say. “Seems like they just want to say hello.”

“I’m not talking about the two guys behind me,” Tony says. “I’m talking about the two behind you.”

My head snaps. The Creeper and his friend with a diamond earring are headed our way.

Gina saying, “This would be a great time to show these people your gun, Tony.”

“I left it in the Town Car,” he says.

“Perfect,” I say. “In case we need it later.”

The one Tony calls Shrimp Lips stops closest to Gina. His lips really do look like boiled crustacean. Pink with blistered white stripes. Bet he’s a lousy kisser. He says to Gina, “Hiya, Sugar. Want to dance?”

Gina makes a show of her unsuccessful search for a dance floor. “Where?” she says. “On the table?”

Shrimp Lips focuses on Gina’s cleavage. Slow and deliberate, leering and insulting. “Honey, with that set of tits, I’d be happy if we just wiggled around right here.”

My jaw falls off.

Tony’s right fist leads his shoulder and hips out of his seat. His knuckles flash against Shrimp Lips’s gooey mouth. The sound of breaking teeth cracks the air like a whip.

Gina’s molester tumbles into the neighboring table. Men yell. Women scream. Plates, glasses, and silverware crash and break.

Shrimp Lips grabs a tablecloth on the way down. More dishes and glasses bust on the floor.

Gina and two other women scream.

It’s like watching one of Sam Peckinpaw’s slow-motion fight scenes. Everyone in the restaurant was watching. Now they’re fighting. Every single face distorts with anger and frustration. Their grunts and groans erupt around the room like a series of steam jets.

A thick arm encircles my neck, choking off my air. Sinatra is voice soars to a big finish.

New York, New York, my ass.

Might have blacked out for a second there. I guess it’s Shrimp Lips’s partner choking me. Don’t know for certain because I can’t see behind me, and even if I could, I probably couldn’t because my eyes are bulging halfway out of their sockets.

If that makes any sense. Maybe the lack of oxygen is affecting my cognitive abilities. I wish somebody would turn off Sinatra before he starts “My Way.”

A fist hits me in the mouth. Whoa. The python around my neck rips over my ears as I fall against and onto a exceptionally sturdy wooden chair. Before my feet find solid ground, a giant wild beast compresses my chest into wallboard.

Must be a moose. Or a grizzly bear pushing against me. Destroying my urban illusion of being in control of nature.

No. Wait. It’s human. Almost.

The Creeper.

Notice I said “destroying” urban illusions, not “decimating?” TV newscasters and movie scriptwriters think the words are interchangeable, and they eventually will be, of course, thanks to never-ending misuse.

But for now, and the last 2000 years anyway, decimate means to reduce by ten percent. It’s the only thing I learned in high school Latin class. It’s what Caesar used to do to his troops when food ran low. Centurions would count off every tenth man and kill him. A scene of slaughter, oh yeah, but hardly the same as destroy. Ninety percent survived a decimation.

A shrieking lizard-brain alarm goes off when I realize what I’ve been thinking about. I’m definitely running short of air. Playing Jeopardy while my oxygen depletes. Caesar and his Centurions.

I twist my face right, gasp a mouthful of air, then throw my shoulders to the left. I successfully almost break my neck.

Fists punch my face. My head gets smacked against the floor. I hear a voice in my head begin to hum. Gina’s screams become a distant wailing.

The buzz in my head grows louder and louder until it’s a spinning circle of smoky black sleep. The dark tornado sucks me inside.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Is This Man Me?

Thanks to this blog, I hear from characters all over the world these days, and one them--Hey, Ramdar!--sent me this photo of the man being seriously considered to play Austin Carr (that's me) in a planned, independent foreign movie production of BIG NUMBERS. The Famous Author says it's more like a black market adult film project, that the producers' deposit check will never clear, even if they send it, which TFA doubts. What my mole Ramdar hears, all these guys need is to lock up this actor and sign a hotshot director, and then we get our deposit check.

Minor details, right? I think the fact that TFA met these two guys in the Puerto Vallarta jail has made him overly suspicious.

Anyway, who is this actor? Does he look like Austin Carr to you? Reminds me of a young Omar Sherif without the mustache. Might be too handsome, actually. I mean, if I looked THIS good, would I have to sell stocks and bonds for a living? Hell no. I'd be an actor!

I'd mention his name but my mole forgot to write it on the fax. Maybe next time.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Blurb! A Blurb! His Kingdom for a Blurb!

The Famous Author looked like this last night after going through his empty email folder. Not one famous mystery writer is offering to blurb our new adventure, BIG MONEY, due March 1. In fact, no un-famous mystery writer offered either. The book cover is coming. TFA's working on ad copy for the next Mystery Scene magazine. And TFA can't get a blurb.

You have to have a blurb, right?

TFA asked me not to list the rich and famous bastards who don't have time to read our book. He says they are swamped with blurb requests, and they don't know us from Adam.

Excuses, excuses.

Last year, of course, Edgar-winning author T.J. MacGregor gave us a great blurb for BIG NUMBERS. Something about, ahem, "engaging protagonists." But we can't ask T.J. to cough up another blurb for book two. Back to back endorsements could let the public know Trish and TFA are writing-conference pals.

Oops. Let that cat out of the bag...

Anyway, Robert, James, Ken, Linda, Laura, and Khaled, maybe next time, huh?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Proper Perspective & Self-Deception

Yesterday's financial summit on OEGY began with a toast to old friendships and the new year. It ended in a free-for-all wrestling match, Captain JB eventually taking the upper hand and returning calm to Clooney's wall-of-windows bar area. Nothing was decided, but Beej, Corkface, and Baha did make some interesting points.

First, the problem. We have a big loss. We started buying Open Energy Corp. (OTCBB) at 72 cents a share. Average cost, just over 66 cents. It's now worth about half that, 35 or 36 cents.

As you can see by the top chart, things have been straight downhill lately. But things look even worse if you check out THIS chart of OEGY's past 12 months:

See that second tallest peak? That's the day we made our first purchase.

Nice tip. I didn't check his timing, but the chairman's been selling some shares. "Open Energy Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive David Saltman today addressed shareholder questions concerning his recent sales of securities. Mr. Saltman noted that quarterly stock grants awarded to him under his original employment contract with the Company created a significant...."

Blah, blah, blah. He sold some of his shares to pay income taxes on the gain he made from earlier stock options. Uncle Sam wants his share of those gains. I'm not blaming Mr. S.

But here's the chart that still gave our unnamed tipster hope. It goes back five years:

The Tipster says OEGY is going to be a $2.00 stock again. Certain stockholders sold out recently because they needed tax-losses. That is, gains in other investments made 2007 yearend a wonderful time to clean their portfolio of dogs. OEGY should start coming back this month.

CONFERENCE RESULT: I can't believe it, but this tipster conned me again. We're holding on for another week or two, see if OEGY actually begins to move back up from yearend tax-loss selling.

A WORD OF EXTREME WARNING: Penny stocks are no place to put your money. Go to the horsetrack. Better odds. And while OEGY is a real company, Austin Carr (that's me!) is not a real stockbroker. He's not even a real person! I'm a character in a series of mystery novels, and anyone who would take my advice on stock purchases should have his entire estate confiscated for felony ignorance! How's that for a disclaimer?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Quiet Dawn on an Undisclosed Beach

Enjoy a peaceful and gentle day of rest, humans. On the morrow, vacation ends.

Photo credit to The Famous Author. He's the one who got up early, grabbed our camera, and hit the beach this morning. He said he took this shot, not really expecting there to be enough light, and without noticing the translucent spray of first direct sunlight soaring above the horizon like a Japanese flag.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Can't Wait for the New Book Cover!

My second mystery novel, BIG MONEY, is due from Hilliard & Harris March 1, and any day now, H&H's chief executive and resident artist Stephanie Reilly is going to email The Famous Author our new cover art. Both TFA and I are VERY excited to see what Stephanie will come up with this time.

Last year, for our debut BIG NUMBERS, Stephanie knocked me out with this representation of the camper that both begins and ends the story.

We'd been expecting something with a million-dollar yacht, hot redheads, and a fat, green stack of C-notes. But Ms. Reilly ignored the obvious flash and grabbed at the story's center, a symbol of my struggle to win back Beth and Ryan.

So like I said, TFA and I are dying to see what Stephanie comes up with for BIG MONEY.

We've always wanted to know what that story's about.


Friday, January 4, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 24

I’m slowly adapting to my new environment: Black Ford Motor Company leather. Buffed silver and polished walnut trim. Riding with the King and Queen of the Brooklyn mafia’s spring prom.

Last time I saw Gina she wanted to shoot her husband with some kind of bazooka-size handgun. Now the two of them are all kissy-kissy, Tony’s knockout wife looking extra sexy in a silky black dress.

“Hungry?” Gina says.

Like she can’t tell. “I’ll let you know when my stomach grows back.”

“Did we scare you?” she says.

“Not more than Boris Karloff when I was six.”

Tony laughs. Not Gina. She hasn’t smiled at me since I climbed in behind them. I’m in the back seat of the Farascio’s Lincoln. The air tastes of leather and perfume, or maybe it’s Tony’s after-shave. On the radio, Frank Sinatra sings “Summer Wind.”

“We were having a little fun, sunshine,” Tony says to me. “Don’t worry about your car. I’ll take care of the towing...everything.”

“What the hell happened at the hotel, Tony?”

“You got forty-five minutes to work up an appetite,” he says. “Maybe longer if the tunnel’s choked up. You’re eating at the best Italian restaurant in Little Italy.”

Oh, boy. Comfort food. “Instead of dinner, how about discussing you disappearing with Bluefish’s hundred grand? Maybe a line or two about Talbot turning up dead? What the hell happened?”

The Farascios trade glances.

“Wait ‘til you taste the baked mac,” Gina says.

Hanging twine-covered wine bottles camouflage three short walls of the narrow, one-room restaurant. A single glass window faces Mulberry Street. A tiny bar and fourteen white-linen tables fill the boxcar like space. Me and the Farascios take up two, Tony needing a table all by himself.

Green bell pepper-shaped wall lamps provide the only inside light. Sinatra is playing in here. too. Some Doris Day love song from the early sixties I don’t even want to remember the name of. Truth is, I’m a bit dizzy. Can’t shake this time-warp feel. It’s either a Sinatra overload, or maybe it’s because Tony just told me to “forget about” Bluefish and the money, “not to worry ‘bout nuttin’.”

“Bluefish will back off me and Luis just because you tell him to?” I say.

“Ab-so-fucking-lutely,” Tony says. “And he’ll eat the one-hundred gees I took from him, too. The war’s over. It’s already been explained to Bluefish.”

I’m far from expert on mob organizational matters, but I suppose it’s logical that a New York mafia family would hold sway over a bookie from Branchtown, New Jersey. Maybe Tony can have Bluefish and the Creeper called off. Mr. Vick certainly gave me Tony’s number for a reason.

I hope Mr. Vick didn’t know about this mob trouble before he left for Tuscany. I’d have to kill him when he gets back.

“But what about Talbot?” I say. “Did you go to her room? Did you see her?”

“Sure,” Tony says. “She’s an old friend. I gave her a taste of Bluefish’s cash, explained about me and Vick, and now everything’s cool. No more co-mingling. She was okay when I left her.”

Gina’s fist goes for her husband’s face like a firecracker. But Tony’s quicker. He catches her wrist, Gina’s white knuckles six inches from contact.


“Not here,” he says. “Please.”

Gina screaming, “You gave her a taste, all right, didn’t you, asshole? A taste of your prick.”

Tony’s fingers turn white around Gina’s wrist. She winces from the pain. Her eyes flash submission. Her lips press together in forced silence.

Gosh I’m glad I came to dinner with the Farascios.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

International Summit Underway

Great business minds from all over the world gather in Branchtown, NJ today, not to solve hunger, rid the world of disease, or halt poverty, but to find a new home for Austin Carr's hot tip money. We are sick of OEGY, barking dog that she is. We are losing our shirts. The tip sucked. Down by half!

Egads, it chokes me to discuss the subject. But something has to be done. We can't go on pretending the old hot tip account doesn't exist.

Anyway, I've called in the best. The Beej, The Corkster, Captain JB, tipster has been left out.

Plus, we've invited The Famous Author who can actually read those stock tables in The Wall Street Journal. We will eat, drink, discuss the weather, and finally get down to my investment account. We need a winner, fast!

What we really need is some inside information. Any CEOs out there who want to risk their careers, jail time, and the wrath of TV commentators by giving me the scoop on an upcoming merger?


(Above chart showing Open Energy Corp. courtesy of E-TRADE)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Angelina Trumpets in 2008

Who better to herald in the new year than Miss Angelina here, a young lady born a few hours before dawn on Christmas Day, 2004, and whose surprise arrival--she came, she saw, she conquered--changed every member of The Famous Author's family with her unconditional love and extra sunny nature.

May you all give more love in the new year. Seems like a good way to find it as well.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Redhead of the Week

Why did this woman never marry?

Queen Elizabeth I is one of the most admired rulers of all time, a legend in her own lifetime, famed for kicking some serious Spanish butt when Spain tried to invade England. But Elizabeth is also an enigma.

Why did she never marry?

The daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth was born on September 7, 1533 at Greenwich Palace. Her birth was possibly the greatest disappointment of her father's life. He had wanted a son and heir to succeed him as he already had a daughter, Mary, by his first wife, Katherine of Aragon.

Since Elizabeth's mother failed to provide the King with a son, Anne Boleyn was executed on charges of incest and adultery in 1536. (It took Henry a few years to work up the courage.) Anne's marriage to the King was declared null and void, and Elizabeth, like her half-sister, Mary, was declared illegitimate and deprived of succession.

How she eventually won the crown is another story, but illustrative of redheads. You don't want to cross'em.

Theories on why Elizabeth never married: Lots of women died in childbirth back then, including one of her stepmothers. If you don't want children, why get married? Some historians say the right sort of partner never showed, a worthy match. Others point out that her father executed half a dozen wives. Would you want to be a wife?

I have another theory. I think maybe Liz and I met in another lifetime somewhere, we fell in love, and she could never bring herself to marry anyone but Austin Carr. I wonder if The Famous Author would go for this as the story line in book four or five--Time Traveling Austin Carr Seduces Famous Queen.

Maybe I'll get him to throw in a vampire cat, too.

Thanks to the monarchy and