Friday, February 29, 2008


Fictional broker Austin Carr (that's me) is switching his assets in the hot tip account, selling the rotten lousy pig stock OEGY, and buying our hot new darling, DISK (Scroll down a bit and see previous posts and charts) on a down opening this morning. At the market. Bailing on The Dog Open Energy.

BIG MONEY, Chapter 31

I scramble for the bedroom window again when I hear Creeper’s weight stretch the porch boards. Through dusty glass, I watch Creeper shuffle down the front steps, the big man’s arms and hips maintaining a bouncy rhythm all the way to the Lincoln Town Car. Looks like he might be whistling.

Gee, how nice Creeper’s in such a happy mood. Maybe Bluefish wants him to strangle somebody.

Creeper opens the Lincoln’s trunk. I have a good angle because of where he parked, and I can see directly...whoa...there’s a man inside, apparently dead, or at least dead drunk. Looks like it might be Gianni or Thomas. Whichever, Mama Bones’s sidekick lifts his head, jerks his eyes open while he’s bouncing on Creeper’s shoulders.

Glad he’s not dead. But this means I have to do something. Doesn’t it? Mama Bones and those two men--Mr. Trim and Mr. Fit--pulled my ass out of a nasty spot a few hours ago. I can’t run away from their trouble.

Can I?

Well, I could. A lot of stock jockeys I know would duck for an exit. And like I said before I jumped on Rags over a week ago, I’m no hero. I have no desire to test myself against Creeper. Are you kidding? It’s just that...well, if Creeper has captured Gianni or Thomas, whichever, what does that say about the present physical condition of lovely Gina Farascio and my charge, Mama Bones?

In particular, I keep thinking about Gina.

Although, maybe right now isn’t the best time. My breath comes in short shallow gasps. My heart’s clunking like a broken electric fan.

I unzip Gianni’s bug-out bag, a camouflage-painted canvas carryall of the size soccer-goalies bring to games. Inside there’s a red climbing rope with clips and fittings and hooks, a pair of new blue jeans, a wool shirt, a green down jacket, a cell phone, sixty bucks cash, dry matches, a compass, eight protein bars, a waterproof tarp, a twelve-inch K-Bar hunting knife, water bottles, and...oh, my...a snub-nose Smith & Wesson thirty-eight.

Fully loaded.

With an extra box of bullets.

I’m tiptoeing down the lodge’s basement steps when someone--I assume Gianni or Thomas--screams. The sound pokes my gut like one of Umberto’s rare-but-deadly over-spiced burritos.

The narrow, dank stairway feels like a mine shaft, the rock smooth and gray. I travel down to the basement one careful step at a time, the Smith & Wesson held in front of me like an airline vomit bag.

There was nothing in my Series Seven stockbroker’s study guide to indicate the correct grip for revolvers, but I do my best at the bottom of the steps. I imagine Detective Sipowitz, deploy the two-handed, eye-level position.

I read in the newspaper once that real cops think Sipowitz is right-on aces.

What I see in Bluefish’s cement basement rattles my already less-than-Sipowitzian courage, however. Hell, who am I kidding. I damn near pee my pants. Creeper has Gianni--I recognize the hairline now--hoisted in the air, Gianni’s bare feet stuck inside some kind of oven. At the bottom of the huge aluminum appliance, directly beneath Gianni’s tootsies, an electric element glows red hot.

“Get him out of there,” I say.

Creeper gazes at my revolver like it’s a fish taco. That is, strange.

Gianni screams.

I fire at Creeper’s knees.

The noise of the gunshot slams my brain. The explosion seems to bounce around the cement room like a foul ball in empty seats, finally rolling to a stop. My vision blurs, and my sinuses vibrate like a church bell.

Creeper doesn’t blink at the noise. His gaze slowly drops toward his feet, then focuses at the new white chip in the basement’s cement floor.

Can’t believe I missed. Creeper’s knees are as big as steamer trunks.

Gianni’s screams again reach my battered eardrums. I step closer and raise the weapon to target Creeper’s nose. Don’t remember seeing Sipowitz do this, but it feels right. My finger pressures the trigger. Funny, but I don’t think killing this man would bother me much. Creeper’s the kind of monster who could have killed my children the other night without a qualm.

The big man must read my mind because he pulls Gianni’s feet from the oven thingy. It doesn’t look like an oven, really. I resist an urge to shoot anyway. Creeper’s going to kill you if you don’t kill him, a voice whispers. Think of it in terms of Beth and Ryan’s future.

Instead, I use the Smith & Wesson to wave Creeper away from the aluminum appliance. What would I do without TV and the movies? First the two-handed grip, now the gun as casual directional aide. Who needs firearm lessons?

When Creeper’s tucked away where he can’t reach me, I tell him to put Gianni down and walk backward toward the big cooking machine.

“Is smoker,” Creeper says. Grinning at me with ugly teeth. Still holding Gianni across his shoulders like a recently bagged wild animal.

“I don’t care if it’s a tanning lamp,” I say. “Put him down--carefully--and walk over beside the smoker. Snuggle up. This thirty-eight won’t blow your head off, but you won’t hear the shot either.”

Creeper lets Gianni’s slide off his shoulders and lays him out gently on the bare cement floor. Silence hasn’t returned to the basement air just yet. My first gunshot still plays like the last chord of a rock anthem.

When Creeper slides over by the smoker, I use Gianni’s hunting knife from the bug-out bag to cut the duct tape binding his wrists and knees.

“You okay?” I say.

Gianni groans, says two or three words I can’t make out. His bare feet are black on the bottom, with white blisters bubbling like bacon on the scarlet insteps. My stomach tells me to forget about breakfast.

From behind and above, a voice says, “Put down the gun, Austin.”

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Woulda, Shoulda Part Two

Yesterday's action in Image Entertainment (DISK) proves that, whatever you do in the stock market, it turns out wrong. Every investor should keep a shadow account where they do exactly the opposite of what they do in their real account.

Only--my tip--put the real money in the shadow account.

We didn't buy DISK when Mr. C told us to at $1.20. We didn't buy when it went to $1.80. Or $2.03. I figure, I will finally pull the trigger on this puppy when it tops out at $3.50.

Buy high, sell low, that's our motto here at Carr Securities.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda

My securities firm's bullpen, or sales floor, is a lot like the betting room of a horse racing track. For one thing, it's full of guys with hot tips. For another, some jerk is always complaining about just missing out on a fortune. The stock doubled the day after I sold it, I think is pretty much the same thing as, I lost by a nose, right?

At my firm, and I suspect in those smoke-filled back rooms at the track, this kind of whining about lost winnings is dealt with harshly. In my experience, the offender is typically shouted down by a chorus of, "Woulda, shoulda, coulda, pal. Woulda, shoulda, coulda."

As explanation to those of you who do not instinctually understand this phrase, I offer the following facts: One, yesterday (Pigs in a Blanket) I said I was hot to buy DISK on the Nasdaq because it rose 36 cents to $1.80. Fact two: Today DISK rose another 23 cents, to $2.03, on double the 10-day average volume. Third and final fact: I did not buy it for our portfolio.

If I WOULDA trusted my instincts, I SHOULDA bought DISK at the opening yesterday, and then I COULDA made money for us.

That's the hallmark of any woulda, shoulda, coulda deal. The sentence always starts with IF.

Forget IF, my friends. We must accept the past and move on. I called Mr. C to ask if we should jump in so late in the game.

"What's the scoop?' I said.

"Look at the chart. The story's right there. DISK had a merger deal for about $4 a share, but the deal fell apart at the end of January. The stock crashed. Now some people are thinking, hey, this company was looking to sell out before. They signed a deal. Sure it fell through, but maybe they've got another deal in the wings."

Just for laughs, I wondered what Image Entertainment does for a living. Here's what the company says:

Image Entertainment, Inc. is a vertically integrated independent home entertainment content supplier engaged in the acquisition, production and worldwide distribution of content for release on a range of formats and platforms. The Company is primarily engaged in the domestic acquisition and wholesale distribution of content for release on digital versatile disc (DVD).

I don't know about you, but I still don't know what they heck they do. At least not from that. I asked Mr. C, and he said, basically, DISK owns the rights to some old TV series. Reruns.

Exciting, huh?

If we buy it at $2 and it gets bought anytime this year for $3, it's 50% on our money. That's pretty exciting.

But also a gamble. DISK recently reported another multi-million-dollar loss. Business is not exactly robust.

It woulda been nice to buy it yesterday at $1.80. I guess I shoulda. But I don't think I coulda now.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Three Pigs in a Blanket

When The Famous Author was a kid, once in a while his family would go out for breakfast. TFA always ordered sausage and pancakes, and at the joint where they went, each sausage came wrapped in its own pancake. Three pigs in a blanket. TFA was talking about this the other day, and I just couldn't help pointing out the similarity to our stock portfolio.

"We have one pig," I said. "OEGY. And it's wrapped in a shroud. Done. Dead. Buried."

Other things must be bothering TFA because he exploded on me. He said if I was sick of OEGY, I should go ahead and sell it. If I wanted to run the portfolio, I should feel free. At that point, TFA stormed from the office.

Wow. I had no idea he was so touchy about picking losers. You'd think with all his experience, he'd know how to take it like a man. So anyway, now that I'm in charge of the investments around here, I've been looking at a couple of other pigs for our consideration.

Leave a comment if you want to have a say in what this fictional stockbroker buys for his semi-fictional portfolio. (I think TFA actually buys these shares at the stated price.)

Okay, first up is Open Energy Corp. (OEGY). TFA says it's building new bases with each of the last two legs up. We should hold on, he thinks, and hopefully get most of our money back.

Mr. C., who all last year correctly told us the worst of the subprime fiasco was still in the pipeline, thinks we should pick Middlebrook Pharmaceutical (MBRK), which just won Federal go-ahead on a new drug delivery system, and hired Morgan Stanley to increase shareholder value.

Mr. C is thinking merger, a deal that could net us $6 a share.

Mr. C makes MBRK sound very tempting. But I'm kind of hot for Image Entertainment Inc. (DISK). Mr. B gave us this one last week at $1.25 and man did it jump yesterday. Up 36 cents to $1.80.

Mr. B., well known for giving TFA the famous treasure stock (OMEX), thinks DISK could go right back to that $3.50 level.

I want to sell all of our OEGY pig and buy one of these last two oinkers. But which one?

Anybody want to chime in?

Thanks to E-Trade.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Riding With The Mafia

The new issue of MYSTERY SCENE MAGAZINE out this week has a story inside by The Famous Author. Big deal. He's always promoting something or other. I only mention it because TFA's story is about the guy on the left here, TFA's father-in-law. Dom was a great guy, a loved, respected, and very successful man. I knew him as a another character in TFA's brain, only in Dom's case, the real man needed little or no embellishment. Dom was already bigger than life.

Here's TFA's story, although I hope you buy MYSTERY SCENE anyway. I'm quoted on the back cover.


The gangster’s black limousine pulled to the curb in front of my father-in-law’s contracting office. Three very large men came inside and made my wife’s father go for a ride.

I didn’t see this happen to my father-in-law. I just read about it on the front page of the newspaper. On the same day I met him.

In August of 1979, I traveled back to New Jersey from my home in Los Angeles to meet my future in-laws and attend the wedding of my wife’s brother. The last thing I expected was for my few family to provide the spark for my second Austin Carr novel, BIG MONEY.

But my new novel--about a small New Jersey businessman hustled by the mob--practically got dumped in my lap at the breakfast table that day twenty-eight years ago. My fiancee and I had arrived from California very late the night before, and the first time I met my future father-in-law was over bacon and eggs the next morning.

He said hello, how are you, and we shook hands. But my wife’s father seemed preoccupied with the newspaper that day, and not long after finishing his breakfast, my father-in-law rose from the table and went to play golf.

That’s when I saw his name on the front page of the paper and read about his encounter with local mobsters.

Incredibly, much of the conversation inside that black limousine was tape recorded. It seems the driver had already been turned into witness by Federal prosecutors and was wearing a wire. An investigation of the gang had been underway for years.

In the back seat of the limousine that day, a gangster asked my father-in-law for a regular monthly payment, a fee for protection. My father-in-law said no. The men cursed and said they’d kill him. My father-in-law said go ahead. The men cursed even more and said they’d kill his wife and children. My father-in-law said go ahead, and something like, “They hate me anyway.”

I remember the newspaper quotes were full of blank spots where four-letter words fit well. And frankly, my father-in-law sounded tougher than the mobsters.

That’s exactly what I decided I wanted in my novel--a character who was as tough or tougher than the gangsters trying to muscle him. And while the first version written twenty years ago included a protagonist who qualified--ex Navy SEAL who took no guff--my latest version was written for a much milder protag, stockbroker Austin Carr. I managed to keep that limo ride, however.

The account of the limousine ride was old news that day back in 1979. Although it would always symbolize the whole story for me, the limo scene was buried in a longer account of the trial of the local mobster who employed those men in the limo. At the previous day’s court session, guess who’d been a star witness?

That’s right. My father-in-law.

Before calling him to testify, the prosecutor played hours of tape recordings, including much of the conversation between my father-in-law and the gangsters in that limo. At one point, a juror raised his hand and asked, “Which one is the bad guy?”

And despite his rage at being hustled by gangsters during that limo ride, the threats made against himself and his family, my future wife’s father refused to identify the men who had taken him for a ride that day.

On the witness stand, he said, “I can’t be sure.”

My father-in-law was tough, not stupid.

Jack Getze is a former reporter and stockbroker and the author of BIG MONEY (Hilliard and Harris, $28.95,M 2008).

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Must Book for Crime Writers

Sure, it's Just My Humble Opinion, but I think crime writers (especially new ones like The Famous Author) should be forced to read Carolyn Wheat's incredibly excellent book on craft, HOW TO WRITE KILLER FICTION.

Are you writing mystery or suspense, people?

From Booklist's Starred Review: "Here, for writers itching to get started (but not quite sure how), is one of the most useful recent guides to crafting words into stories. The author, whose mystery fiction has won a handful of awards, customizes her guide for writers of detective fiction and suspense (although her discussions of plotting and character creation will be valuable to all would-be scribblers, regardless of their chosen genre).

"Wheat begins with an insightful discussion of the distinction between mystery and suspense--each plays to a different part of the reader's imagination and expectations--and then devotes a section to each genre. She offers up plenty of useful tips, such as how to dispense vital information in subtle ways and how to plant clues without being too obvious about it. Where the book really scores, however, is in Wheat's demonstration of how to construct a novel as a series of arcs, each designed to take the reader gracefully to a certain point in the story.

"While covering similar territory, the sections on mystery and suspense approach the material from slightly different angles. The final section, on the writing process, provides a nuts-and-bolts discussion of such fundamentals as outlining, revising, and finding the right voice for your story. There are almost as many writer's guides on the market as there are struggling writers, but this one is indispensable.
David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Thanks to Ms. Wheat, Perseverance Press (March 2003), the American Library Assn. and Amazon.

Friday, February 22, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 30

Soon as he sees the complicated electronic controls--so many dials, switches, and gauges--Max wishes he made Jerry come with him. Only thing Max knows about electronics is on/off switches. Plus, English is most hardest language for Max to read. What if he misses an important warning, an instruction? What if, in trying to use this smoker, Max burns down Bluefish’s hunting lodge?

Screw it. Like Jerry always says. All Max have to do is make heat, not cook the meat. Ha-ha.

Max locates what he hopes is the main on/off switch, and then the digital control with a read-out for recommended temperatures. His thick forefinger finds and pokes the up-arrow on a control switch, and presto, a red number appears. Two-hundred degrees should be plenty. Today’s mark is already half-dead.

Bluefish’s meat smoker is big enough to hold two whole deer, one on each rack. But clearly Max’s job will be easier if he makes the space as large as possible. The mark may come to life when he sees where Max wants to put him.

Max slides out the chrome rack and sets the table-sized grill on the floor, leaning it against the basement wall. The clink of metal hitting cold cement echoes in the nearly barren room. He leaves the smoker door open when he goes outside to get the mark.

Max shuffles through the lodge’s big living room, across the porch, and then down the front steps to the Lincoln Town Car. A pink sky shows where the east wind lives. The air smells of coming rain and lightning.

God is about to get pissy.

From the Lincoln’s trunk, Max lifts the mark off the spare tire and onto his shoulders. Though limp now, the young man fought hard earlier. A tough and loyal soldier, this man didn’t make a sound or give up one piece of information when Jerry cut him.

But this mark not so tough and loyal Bluefish’s smoker won’t make him talk. Fire and heat make strong people speak for thousands and thousands of years.

Even lions make noise when fire come. Cry like babies.

BIG MONEY is due March 1. From Hilliard & Harris.
1-59133-238-9 Hardcover
1-59133-239-7 Trade Paper
(C) Jack Getze

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Small Victories

Sometimes, in the midst of disaster and forboding, a bright shaft of sunlight sparkles through the clouds. Once again, one of our favorite book stores--Mystery Lovers in Oakmont, PA --sold a few copies of BIG NUMBERS last month.

Oh, life is good for The Famous Author.

MLB's Best Seller List for January 2008

Trade Paperback Best Sellers

1. I'm Proud of You by Tim Madigan
Author's tale of his friendship with Mr. Rogers

2. The Sultan's Seal by Jenny Whtie
Mystery set in 19th century Istanbul with magistrate Kamil Pasha

3. Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance by Gyles Brandreth
author as sleuth

4. A Poisoned Season by Tasha Alexander
Victorian widow Lady Emily Ashton

5. Death in the Garden by Elizabeth Ironside
woman investigates death 60 years in the past

6. Extraordinary People by Peter May
Scottish forensic scientist Enzo MacLeod, retired to France

7. Big Numbers by Jack Getze
down on his luck stockbroker recalls events that led to his dire predicament

8. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
star-crossed lovers in the circus world circa 1932

9. Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn
Victorian sleuth Lady Jane Grey

10. Taken by Kathleen George

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Future Stars

"Kimberly Frost, previously known as Kim C around WRW circles, is the next big thing in urban fantasy."

So says The Famous Author, once again touting his St. Pete Beach team of writers that gathered last month in South Florida. TFA, remember, claims his Fiesta de Fiction will go down in literary history like Paris in the 1920s. How did all those great writers end up in the same place at the same time? Previous Future Stars were Melissa and Brenda.

Kim's debut movel, WOULD-BE WITCH, is due in January, 2009 from Berkeley Crime. She sold the series while working on something else, a seemingly common occurance from writers of Kentucky's Camp Erlanger.

Why the personal name change? Seems Kimberly with a C-name is also the stage moniker of a very famous porn star.

Oh, my.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Redhead of the Week

This lady's name is Melissa. She tends bar at Chili's inside the Fort Lauderdale, FL airport, and she does it with charm, flare, and self-assurance. Pretty much like redheads do everything, in my experience.

Our flight delayed, The Famous Author was hang-dogging it on a barstool, unaware of his surroundings. He let me out of the computer case after the first Jim Beam, however, and I quickly got things loosened up. Melissa had her hair tied in a bun, but it didn't take me long to get it down. All I had to do was mention my blog.

Turns out Melissa's dad is a major reader of crime and mystery novels, too, so TFA got his book out, signed one for Ray, and the party got started.

We almost missed our flight.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

He Doesn't Like Bugs Bunny?

Maybe his name should be Elmer Fudd.

French Poodle Investments

The Barking Dog stock of all recent Austin Carr portfolios is Open Energy Corp. (OTCBB: OEGY). We are down so bad, we can't get out. We committed The Big No-No (Not a bad title, eh?) for stock traders. Never stick with a loser. Get out, take your losses. You don't want to EVER get plastered like The Crimes of Austin Carr's own Hot-Tip portfolio has been plastered with Open Energy. I call this puppy Open Your Wallet.

In case anyone cares, OEGY's business is solar technologies, including PV tiles, roofing membranes, custom architectural glass panels, as well as integrated inverters and web-based monitoring systems.

Inverters sound good. How about it, Mr. S? Can we invert the stock a little more?

Actually, as you can more closely see in this three-month chart, The Barking Dog has been has been acting better lately, in part due to Mr. S's planned appearance at a key conference for small cap technology firms.

Here's the headline and summary I pulled off E-Trade along with the charts. (Thanks, guys.)

"Open Energy announced today that David Saltman, the Company's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, will participate in the Piper Jaffray Third Annual Clean Technology and Renewables Conference to be held on Wednesday, February 20, 2008, at The New York Palace, New York, NY."

Let's hope Mr. S has something positive to say about our company's future. The market seems hopeful.

Also helping the stock last week were some kind words from a penny stock newsletter.

Although it's nice to see the stock back at 43 cents, our account is still deeply in red, and we should have sold months ago when we realized our hunch about the double-top at 72 cents might be accurate. The limit should have been set and followed. But, no. We had to hang on, following a pattern many amateur traders follow. We kept thinking our decision would turn out right. All we had to do was be patient.

In fact, I still think I'm right. Solar energy is hot. OEGY has been getting a few contracts. I'm sticking and riding this puppy higher off these lows.

How about it, Mr. S. Can you bail us out of a mishandled trade?

(Thanks again to ETrade)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Anything for Publicity, Even Work

You know him, The Famous Author is struttin' proud of his Guest Editorship at SPINETINGLER MAGAZINE'S Winter Issue. I, of course, know how he REALLY got the job. In fact, SPINETINGLER'S boss lady Sandra Ruttan let me tell the readers right in that Winter Issue. Thought I'd give you guys the straight scoop as well by reprinting my scalding expose' below.

(There's a link to the Contents page of that Winter Issue--click on SPINETINGLER--under TFA's favorites on the right. May I also recommend you read the first published fiction of Gene Sittenfeld, LAST WRITER STANDING. It's a hoot and a thrill, my favorite.)


Profile: Jack Getze - Who is he and how did he land this guest editor gig?


How did Jack Getze this gig? That’s what I’d like to know.

If you ask him, this issue’s special guest editorship came by way of Jack’s keen reader’s eye, his experience choosing scholarship winners for a well-known writers study program, and the strength of his debut novel, BIG NUMBERS.

Horse shit. He’s been kissing up to Sandra since last February, at Left Coast Crime in Seattle. Plus, everybody knows poor Ms. S. is swamped with work these days, and that she’s always so worried about everybody’s feelings, she didn’t want to ask any of her better known friends.

She must have figured Getze would jump at the chance. Just for the publicity.

Gosh, Ms. S is smart.

Sandra asked me to talk about a typical day. On my blog, and around his house and the office, we call Jack Getze The Famous Author, or TFA for short. Not because he’s famous, of course. But exactly because he’s not. Anyway, TFA’s day is pretty boring, but here goes:

Coffee is a very big part of my boss’s life. He owns a collection of beans from twelve countries and three continents, and first thing every morning--two, three, four o’clock in the darkness--TFA carefully decides which he will grind and cook into high octane coffee. Depends on his mood.

Let’s face it, coffee is the drug of last resort for those aging children of the sixties. Caffeine is the only chemical left they can safely abuse. And TFA is definitely a child of the sixties. The only reason he didn’t run off to the north shore of Oahu in 1968 and live in a tree house was devotion to his rock and roll garage band.

So TFA drinks coffee and writes fiction for several hours seven days a week. I do most of the heavy idea work, but I let him think he’s The Man. When he’s done writing fiction--there’s no time limit, or clock-watching, he says, just a feeling, a sense of completion--then I take a nap and TFA works on business and marketing stuff. Hopefully, there’s time for him to take a nap, too.

With me and TFA, the writing comes first, but we spend more man-hours every week taking care of business. The boss doesn’t always like to admit this. He says he is an artist, that the work must always be number one.

Okay. Whatever. In the past twelve months, though, we’ve made nine trips out of state to appear at conventions, libraries or bookstores. Since TFA hired a new publicist this summer, there are radio interviews or signings almost every week, and we’ll be doing this most of 2008, too, because of our new book.

The way we look at the business end, publishing a novel is only half the battle. With over one hundred new mysteries published each month, a new author (especially with a small publisher) has to work hard to get readers. I mean, how are we ever going to know if the thing is any good or not if no one reads it?

Anyway, that's about it. Write. Market. Sleep. Like I said. Boring, boring, boring.

Friday, February 15, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 29

I am so pissed at Mr. Vick, I can’t sleep. That son-of-a-bitch con man might as well have stenciled bulls eyes on my children’s backs.

Plus, I have to question my choice of business partners. First Walter, now Mr. Vick. And that’s not even mentioning wacky Rags. I couldn’t have done any worse choosing business associates if I’d used the Seaside County criminal detention center as a source pool.

Hard to believe my golfing-jerk-buddy boss, Vick Bonacelli, would do this. Except, thinking semi-objectively for unbroken hours, enough moonlight to see only gray through Bluefish’s second-story window, I figure putting my family up as a target must have been the only way Mr. Vick could think of to protect his children.

Not that I forgive the dick-wad.

My body heaves and pitches, my molars grind all night, imagining what I’m going to do next time I see him. Scream in his face? Punch his classic Roman nose? Use a Barry Bonds, thirty-four-ounce baseball bat to adjust the worst golf swing in Seaside County?

Just before dawn, I’m glad for the Vick-hating insomnia. As the north eastern New Jersey sky finally lightens to blue-steel in the bedroom window, the crunch of automobile tires on dirt announces someone’s arrival.

The approaching tire-sounds roll me off Bluefish’s California king. I know Branchtown’s Godfather Wannabe sleeps here because, on a plaque above this swimming pool-size feather-soft bed, a twenty-three pound specimen of his namesake fish smiles back at me.

I slept--no--rested on top of the blue satin bedcovers because I didn’t want to worry how clean his sheets were, what dried body fluids or particulate remnants I might be touching. Yuk. I can’t believe I even thought of that.

Two long strides put me at the window. This is the only bedroom with a view of the driveway and front-door parking area.

Crows squawk somewhere close as I carefully slide back the curtain. A Lincoln Town Car skids to a soil-pushing stop. The driver-door pops open. Creeper squeezes out like toothpaste.

Oh, joy. The sight of him kicks my heart rate. My legs want to flee down the stairs, race out the back, run through the forest till I’m safe and hidden.

Instead, I remain frozen by the window while Creeper thunders up the steps and rattles keys unlocking the split-log front door. Doesn’t he have to huff and puff or something? Blow my house down?

Creeper’s sure making a lot of noise, though. Maybe that means he doesn’t know I’m here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Free Books, Free T-Shirts

The Famous Author says I have to run a story about his new contest, so okay, I have to do what the boss says. Here's what TFA put up on his website:

A TOUGH NEW CONTEST: A First Edition, signed hardcover copy of BIG MONEY, and a “Big Money World Tour, Official Staff” T-Shirt, to the ten best entries. Answer the following:

In my debut novel, BIG NUMBERS, what is the thing Austin first finds for Luis, and Luis later gives to Austin? Symbolically, what do you think the thing represents? Why?

Okay, too tough? How about multiple choice. The thing is one of the following, (and it represents):

1. A revolver (violence)

2. A key (wisdom)

3. A lucky rock (faith)

4. A knife (manhood)

5. A bar of soap (soul cleansing)

Deadline for this contest will be April 31, 2008, and all decisions of the judge--Jack Getze--are final.
Send your entries to:

Jack’s Tip: Don’t forget to answer why.
Austin's tip: Guess #4 and make up something about Austin's need to grow up.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Redheaded Booksellers

What the heck is going on? Everywhere The Famous Author and I travel, we keep meeting redheads who like my book. Is this some kind of karma thing?

Last Saturday, TFA and I visited the Moonstone Mystery Book Store in Flemington, NJ. Very nice people, and a wonderful store. TFA brought cannolis from Caputo's and a somewhat disheveled grin. Seems like TFA and I are always on the road. Anyway, we were greeted by Marilyn (the redhead) and Lisa, both of whom liked BIG NUMBERS and are currently reading advance reader copies of BIG MONEY.

Marilyn is a big fan. "You're a funny man," she told TFA.

That's what all the girls say, believe me. Laughs go a long way. Even sold TFA some books that day.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Meet Iris, Bookseller of the Year

The Famous Author wanted to write this story about Iris of the Rediscovered Bookshop in Boise, Idaho, but I couldn't let him. He's too emotional. It wouldn't be an objective account. Frankly, the words LOVE and ADORATION just don't seem to cover all of TFA's feelings for this woman.

See, Iris met TFA last June on our Big Numbers World Tour. When she read his book later, she not only liked it (me in particular), darn if she didn't make BIG NUMBERS one of her monthly picks. She wrote about us for the bookstore's newsletter, ran TFA's picture, and hand-sold quite a few copies of our debut mystery.

But for TFA, Cupid's arrow reached all the way to his heart last week when Iris wrote to say she liked BIG MONEY even more than BIG NUMBERS, and that she'd submitted a rave review of our second mystery to a national group of independent bookstores. I tried to tell TFA it was me, Austin Carr, she liked, not him, but TFA is beside himself.

I'm pretty excited about Iris, too, but at least I can speak unemotionally about this incredibly smart, attractive, articulate, regal, and big-hearted woman.

Iris works for Bruce and Laura Delaney there in Boise. The Rediscovered Bookshop features very personal help, a huge children's section, and a nice supply of mysteries thanks to Laura and Iris. Bruce digs sci-fi, if I remember right.

At the time, TFA was still hiding me in his computer case.

One thing we've learned this past year, entering the gladiator pit of publishing, if big New York publishers and big chain bookstores had their way, readers would be offered about a dozen writers. That's where the revenues are. That's where the profits are. Big names, big books.

All readers and writers who cherish a wider choice should support independent bookstores. Find out what's new and different and good from the people who know and love books.

In particular, Rediscovered Bookshop is a great place to buy books. In person, or online at

My life depends on readers finding me, and people like Iris, Laura, and Bruce make that happen. Thank you!

Friday, February 8, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 28

Mama Bones keys the entrance. The scrub-pine forest grows within twenty feet of the roofed, plank-board porch that encircles the two-story hunting lodge we’re about to enter. Behind us, a dirt clearing offers space for three dump trucks, two school buses, and a Boeing 747 beside the white Escalade.

An owl hoots. The Jersey night air smells of dry pine needles and a distant charcoal campfire. I hope Thomas or Gianni brought marshmallows.

Inside, Mama Bones flips a light switch. Whoa. A forty-by-forty-foot hotel lobby greets my eyes--a dozen leather lounge chairs, overstuffed sofas, green felt card tables, brass lamps, and two televisions. Pine floors. Pine walls. With animal heads.

“Some joint,” I say.

“Don’t get comfortable,” Mama Bones says. “You only safe here a day or two.”

“Then what?”

She shrugs. “Is up to you. I bring you here, make you safe for a while because you with Gina. Rest of your life is up to you.”

Nice. Mama Bones would make a great stockbroker. Better yet, a bond trader. “You’re leaving me here all alone?”

Mama Bones shakes her head. “Gianni give you his bug-out bag.”

“Oh boy. Whatever the hell that is. What about Gina?”

“I take her somewhere else.”

I sigh. Mama Bones has that conversation-over tone in her voice, not to mention the upper hand. Gina’s her family. Guess I’m lucky to be alive, actually. But I’ll have to be even luckier to stay above ground. Every time I think my situation can’t get worse, it does. At least Ryan and Beth are safe.

“Bedroom upstairs,” Mama Bones says.

I glance toward the stairway. The hand-carved log railing and banister is a sculpture. Twisted tree branches, bull horns, cowboys, and horse heads grow from the wood like living images of the wild west.

“Who owns this place?”

“Bluefish,” Mama Bones says. “Me and Thomas figure it’s last place he look.”

Gina steps out of the Escalade to hug me. It’s a halfhearted embrace, the dark-haired widow dabbing back tears with a tissue.

Over my shoulder, she says, “Did you tell him everything, Mama Bones?”

“He knows plenty,” Mama Bones says.

“Mama? We discussed this,” Gina says. “Austin needs to know the story on Anne Marie. To save Shore Securities...for himself, yes, but also for your son and your granddaughter Carmela.”

Mama Bones shifts her gaze to mine. Like she’s trying to decide if she wants to turn me into a frog. Whoa. Why did I think that, for crissakes? Who put that in my mind? Think happy thoughts, Austin. Happy thoughts.

“If you don’t, I will,” Gina says.

Mama Bones grunts. “Anne Marie Talbot is notta just any accountant for the A.A.S.D.. She do favors all the time for Bluefish and others before him. This time, she is working for Bluefish. She is supposed to put squeeze on you, help Bluefish take over Shore Securities.”

The owl hoots again. A gust of night air hisses at me through pine needles. There’s more. There has to be.

“And...,” Gina says.

“And that’s why my son Vittorio go to Italy, leave you in charge of Shore,” Mama Bones says. “He knows Rags can’t pay, that Bluefish come after him because he introduce Rags, vouch for him. Plus my little Vittorio figures this A.A.S.D. investigation is rigged against him.”

My jaw drops. “Mr. Vick left me to take the heat? He was willing to risk my family’s lives, not his?”

Mama Bones shrugs.

That son-of-a-bitch. I’m going to drive a full set of Wilson irons up his spaghetti-eating ass. Plus the bag and cart.

But below the anger, another more logical jewel of thought shines to the top. “Do you know who killed Anne Marie?” I say.

Mama Bones glances at Gina. Mrs. Farascio nods permission.

“Brooklyn believe Tony did it for the hundred-thousand,” Mama Bones says. “That’s what Bluefish tell them, anyway. He say he had video recording, then lost DVD to cops. Brooklyn guys believe him, say okay to hit Tony.”

“Nunzio’s been jealous of Tony for years,” Gina says.

“Where did Bluefish get a video of Talbot’s murder?” I say.

“I don’t know,” Mama Bones says. “Is only rumor I hear.”

“But you don’t think Tony really did it?”

She looks at Gina. “No.”

Why do I feel her answer might be different if Tony’s wife wasn’t here? Wasn’t it Mama Bones who told me Tony was “abada-bada man?”

Thursday, February 7, 2008

My Series So Far

I like that The Famous Author's name keeps getting bigger, but Austin Carr, me, the freaking STAR, is nowhere in sight.

Maybe I could organize a characters' strike.

No Lover Like a Cover

Here's the package for my next adventure, due March 1 from Hilliard & Harris. Another chapter of BIG MONEY runs here tomorrow, and every Friday.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Future Star AND Redhead!

"Brenda writes women's fiction of a literary bent, and it is quite possible her current project will make her a star."

So says The Famous Author, once again touting his St. Pete Beach team of writers that gathered last month in South Florida. TFA, remember, claims his Fiesta de Fiction will go down in literary history like Paris in the 1920s. How did all those great writers end up in the same place at the same time?

Last night over a double expresso, we asked TFA about Brenda's hot new project.

"I can't discuss it," TFA said. "It's too current, too much a headline grabber. But let me tell you, every mother in this country will be interested."

Hmm. If 70-80% of all book-buyers are women, TFA might be right. Brenda--BonBon some friends call her--could be holding a bestselling tale by the tail.

Go get'em, b!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Sneak Peak at OUR New Ad

You're looking at Mystery Scene Magazine's next back cover. If you can't read the copy, click on this site's upper, right-column link where it says "BIG MONEY is Due March 1" and you can read the same boiled down piece of prologue TFA read aloud in manuscript form at Writer's Retreat Workshop two years ago. Ms. Shotgun wearing only athletic socks.

A very nice lady named Kate designed this ad. Notice the sudden prominence of MY NAME in the marketing. Guess who's the star, huh? Is it really TFA? I don't think so.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Do Not Wager Against The Fed

It is an old saw on Wall Street that shorting stocks while the Federal Reserve lowers interest rates is likely to cost you money. Don't bet against the Fed. And historically, the axiom proves true. You can play with the statistics, starting and stopping the trade when you want, extending or shortening the time period, but by an obvious margin--a clear majority of the time--stocks push higher when rates come down.

So this chart ...what do you think? Is this recent rally a Dead Cat Bounce, the result of traders who believe in this axiom, grasping at straws before the next big leg down? I can see that in this chart, can't you? There have been several of these bounce-backs on the way toward the abyss. Or, has the market bottomed? Have the Fed's actions prevented a recession and a housing disaster? Sent a shock wave of stimulus to nip our economic problems before they snowball?

The future is unknown, my fellow investors. But I say,

Don' Bet Against The Fed

(Thanks to ETrade for charting this S&P 500 Index fund, symbol: SPY. You can buy and sell this basket of America's 500 biggest and best companies just like a stock. A monthly purchase of SPY shares makes an easy and diversified retirement vehicle. AC)

Friday, February 1, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 27

Travel directly to Manhattan after your flight into Newark-Liberty International Airport and the New Jersey you’ll remember involves refineries, garbage, and rust. Very American, of course. But decidedly unappealing.

To snap another shot of Jersey, drive south on the Turnpike, then down the Garden State Parkway half an hour, watch the scenery transform into forests of maple, pine, and oak. Rivers and salt-water sloughs; farms with horses and barns. Central New Jersey’s rural suburbs best anything in Connecticut or Massachusetts.

Of course, another thirty minutes south on the Parkway and you’re in New Jersey’s pine barrens, a desert-like, endless brush of stunted, twisted, yellowed evergreen scrub that makes the night drive from L.A. to Las Vegas look scenic.

“Where are we going?” I say.

“Somewhere Bluefish no look for you.”

Besides the accent, Mama Bones’s language and tone also carry a certain confidence I wish I could share. When Gina saw Tony was dead, and went off like a hotel smoke detector, it was Mama Bones who brought Gina back with a small smack and a quickly mumbled shaman’s spell. The old woman’s bag of tricks definitely carries mojo. But I just witnessed a murder, and I can identify at least three of the four murderers. If I’m Bluefish, I not only look under every rock for Austin Carr, I station a man there.

Gianni’s driving the Escalade. Thomas rides shotgun. Mama Bones, a nonverbal Gina, and yours truly stack the next row. Tony’s still in the back. Hard to believe the guy with German Shepherd eyes wound up dead searching for a good plate of baked mac.

“If Bluefish’s people wanted Gina dead, why didn’t they kill her tonight?” I say.

“Their orders were to kill just Tony,” Mama Bones says. “Gina was supposed to get a phone call and be out of restaurant. No witness. But now, when Bluefish find out you and Gina were there to see his men kill Tony, he will sure try to kill both of you.”

Gina leans against me, her body loose from exhaustion. Despite all that’s happened, my shock over Tony’s murder, Gina’s weight warms me in places I shouldn’t be getting warm. Unbelievable. It’s rare, I admit, but sometimes even Austin Carr can show cooth.

“How do you know all this, Mama Bones?” I say.

Mama Bones leans forward to touch Gianni’s shoulder. “Is next exit.”

It’s not an easy movement to pick up, the dark-haired, black-shirted young man presenting only minimum outlines, but Gianni nods.

“How you think I know, smarty pants?” Mama Bones says. “Maybe me and Bluefish in the same business, you think? Maybe I work for Bluefish?”

“And he told you they were planning to kill--”

“Bluefish tell me nothing,” she says.

Gianni guides the Escalade off the Parkway. We roll through a stop sign at the end of the short off ramp, turn right onto a ribbon of blacktop running into the pine forest. A full-grown deer bounds into the SUV’s headlights, and then is gone. Planets stare and stars blink at us from a narrow strip of sky between the trees.

“But you heard what was going to happen,” I say, “and tried to help Vick’s friend Tony?”

The SUV’s tires hum against my feet through the floorboard. Another deer watches us from the tree line, this one’s eyes glowing neon yellow. Or do these night-vision lenses belong to some other kind of animal? A night hunter, perhaps. Sharp beaks, or a mouth with fangs.

“I mean, I know you didn’t come to save me,” I say.

Mama, Gianni, and Thomas laugh on cue like a warmed-up TV taping audience. Johnny Carson never had a crowd so well prepped. Maybe I’m funnier than Groucho Marx, but I don’t think so.

Gina’s fingers touch my arm. “Mama Bones came for me,” she says. “She’s my aunt. My mother’s sister. I’m named after her.”

Angelina. Right. I knew that.