Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mystery Writer Needs Bodies

Once in a while, as opposed to once upon a time, The Famous Author hijacks my blog. He says he's the boss, that if I don't run some story or feature he wants here, he'll kill me off in the next adventure and start a new series. And since I like to think I'm tough, but not stupid, I always go along.

Today is one of those times. First, I have to tell you about his stupid contest. Click on the headline, "Mystery Writer Needs Bodies," go to TFA's website. Under CURRENT NEWS, you will find the incredibly complex question you must answer to win a T-shirt and a signed hardback copy of BIG MONEY. The good news: TFA said he would give away prizes to ten winners, but so far only four people have entered, and the deadline's less than a month away. Send in a shopping list and you'll probably win a free shirt and book. Just write contest #3 on the A&P slip.

Second, TFA says I have to mention next weekend. We are appearing at the New York Mercantile Library Thursday night, April 3, as a member of the Mystery Writers of America, New York Chapter. The mystery writers are part of a month-long celebration of The Maltese Falcon by Dashiel Hammett. Friday night, April 4, TFA and I participate in small press authors night at the big Barnes & Noble Bronx store in the Bay Plaza Shopping Center. And on Saturday, April 5, we expect to record big sales during a 1-3 pm stint at Borders Express in our hometown Monmouth Mall.

TFA wanted me to list all the details--phone numbers, times, addresses--but screw him. If you need that stuff, click on the "Our Very Latest Travel Schedule" headline at the top of the right column.

Hope you're happy, boss. BSP sucks.

Friday, March 28, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 34

At first the growl feels like part of the storm, a base ingredient of the pounding thunder. Wind and rain against the pine needles; water drumming on the ground; even my heartbeats help mask the low-pitched rumble.

But as I work farther east, slipping stealthily from tree to bush and then back to tree again--think Elmer Fudd stumbling after Bugs Bunny--the rain gradually diminishes and a steady, background hum becomes loud and distinctively rhythmic.

It’s a familiar noise, one that quickly eases the tension in my neck and shoulders.

Car and bus tires race across cement.

I’ve found the Garden State Parkway.

Hiding under that tarp as long as I did--I look at it as more of a strategic retreat, really--I’m hoping Bluefish’s posse thinks their prey escaped. Or at least that I headed in another direction. If they play the percentages, they should have split into smaller hunting parties by now, shifted to multiple locations.

Besides NYPD Blue, I watch the cable channels a lot. Special Forces stories are my favorite, although I find Cooking with Emeril fulfilling as well. What this training tells me, if I’m full-boat Carr lucky, Bluefish’s Team of Terror has given up looking for me on this direct route to the Parkway.

Of course, luck hasn’t exactly been my long suit lately.

Good thing I’m not in any real danger.

Emotionally, these last fifty yards are going to be the toughest. Do I break for the fence or not? I’m torn between fear and greed. Kinda like being a day trader. I can see the Parkway traffic passing south, see the bordering fence has no barbed wire, even that the grass apron is wide and long enough for Luis to pick me up here. But if I were Bluefish, this spot due east of the lodge is exactly where I would station one of my details.

I check the time on my cell phone. Notice how everything’s mine now, not Gianni’s. That’s because I just lugged this bag and its contents through an insurgent-held neighborhood of the Pine Barrens.

I’ve earned this stuff.

The digital phone tells me four-fifty-four. Good. I still have over an hour before Luis said he’d be here.

The stench of gasoline exhaust chokes my throat as I grip the chain link fence. I throw my right leg atop the five-foot barrier and use toes and arms to hoist myself over.

That wasn’t so bad. I’ve had worse trouble mounting women.

I stumble when I land, though, capsizing onto wet grass. My thick jacket cushions the blow, but a sharp rock stabs my shoulder as I roll away from the landing. Ouch. Those military TV shows make everything look so safe and easy. Who knew you could get hurt hopping a fence?

A single star shines between drizzling clouds. And then, through the same hole in the fading storm, the moon grins at me from an eerie angle, a twisted curve reminiscent of Creeper as jack-o-lantern. The breeze, suddenly colder, chills my gut.

(To read the opening scenes of BIG MONEY, click on top headline. Or check out the archives for ALL previous chapters.)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Susan's Latest Fling

Of all the writers coming out of Writers Retreat Workshop lately, the one who seems most likely to follow in the footsteps of bestseller Janet Chapman is Susan Goodwill. Susan's debut last year, BRIGADOOM: A KATE LONDON MYSTERY, is still growing by word-of-mouth, and the sequel, LITTLE SHOP OF MURDERS, is racking up impressive early returns. In short, TFA's pal Susan is a big hit.

In the new one, Kate and Aunt Kitty are at the bank depositing their hard-earned fundraiser proceeds when Walter, a bathrobe-clad octogenarian, robs the bank using a banana. Kate and Kitty speed off in Kitty’s mammoth white 1974 Eldorado convertible to retrieve their funds, but find a dead body instead. Handsome Sheriff Ben arrives, but not until AFTER the murderers have come calling.

Things get stickier when the Treasury Department and a biker gang - the Devil’s Cheerleaders - get involved, too. Despite continuous misadventures - from Sausage Festival pandemonium to unsympathetic law enforcement officials in unattractive shoes to a malfunctioning giant man-eating plant from Splotski’s Theatre Rentals - Kate and Kitty are determined that the show must go on.

Sexy, sassy, and hilarious, it's easy to see why readers are taking to Kate London in droves. Click on the headline SUSAN'S LATEST FLING to find her website.

Here's a stock blurb on our gal: Susan Goodwill, who lives in Michigan, has been involved in community theatre for years. She is a graduate of the Writers Retreat Workshop and a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Little Shop Of Murders is her second novel.

Here's the real skinny: The woman has a shoe fetish.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Craft of Fiction

Since The Famous Author discovered that commercial fiction used techniques unassociated with newspaper writing--this after thirty years and eight unpublished novels--my boss has been a student of the craft. Or at least he's collected a lot of books on the subject.

Yesterday we heard of a must new addition, MANUSCRIPT MAKEOVER by one of TFA's mentors, Elizabeth Lyon. The book is subtitled, Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore, but don't think you need to HAVE a manuscript before you can use Elizabeth's wisdom. Any fiction writer can learn from what's inside this puppy:

* Stand-out style techniques, from accessing an authentic voice, “wordsmithing” that transforms prose

* Techniques to guarantee depth, dimensionality, and originality of characterization

* Strategies to strengthen story beginnings and endings

* Methods for increasing plot stakes, creating movement, and adjusting pace for maximum suspense

* Rules for grammar, punctuation, spelling, and format

* Model queries and tips for securing literary agent and editor attention

* Detailed revision checklists at every chapter’s end for easy reference

* Exemplary excerpts drawn from nearly every genre of writing and for every age level of reader, and representing contemporary and classic literature to show exactly how to revise well.

That last item reminds me of my duties. From the full disclosure department, located right next door to the 'splaining department: Among the 100 excerpts, MANUSCRIPT MAKEOVER just happens to have exemplary models of craft from authors Susan Baker, Jennifer Cruse, JACK GETZE (AKA-TFA), Chris Goff, Susan Goodwill, Trish MacGregor, and Gary Provost, all of Writers Retreat Workshop.

MANUSCRIPT MAKEOVER (Perigee Trade Paperback; April 1, 2008; $14.95) gives writers 368 pages of instruction on creating stories to stand out from the competition and attract the eyes of agents and editors.

The blurb is true, you writers out there. Under years of Elizabeth's mentoring, including one memorable, four-writer trip to Mexico, TFA finally discovered his "voice." Namely me. My boss owes Elizabeth plenty, for sure, but I think Ms. Lyon helped bring me to life. And while TFA is still a little pissed over that Don Quixote statue Elizabeth gave him in Mexico, I think personally it helped motivate him. Rock on, Elizabeth. Every would-be novelist should have you among their mentors.

Clicking on today's headline, THE CRAFT OF FICTION, takes you to where you can learn more about, or order, Elizabeth Lyon's book from online booksellers.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Redhead of the Week

M.J. Rose is a bestselling author, a leading blogger in the world of publishing, a remarkably successful business woman, and--of course--a strawberry blonde. Her latest thriller, THE REINCARNATIONIST, is MJ's ninth novel and a major hit. Her top-ranked blog, BUZZ, BALLS & HYPE, is saved on thousands of internet browsers. She has more small businesses (primarily for authors) than the Collinswood Auction. And--ahem!--her writing fans claim she delivers incredible sex scenes.

You can click on REDHEAD OF THE WEEK and go to MJ's website, but unfortunately, The World's Greatest Woman is married.

The Famous Author and I met MJ over the internet last year when TFA was heavily into promoting BIG NUMBERS, his debut novel featuring yours truly. And last month, MJ went out of her way to help TFA through a serious promotional crisis which we will not describe in public forums. That's the way MJ asked my boss to pay her back. Tell no one!

I know what you wicked people are thinking. This is not the case. We have never been in the physical presence of MJ, nor do we ever expect to. Well, unless she invites us to one of her booksignings or something. No, the favor she did for TFA involved promotion for our second adventure, BIG MONEY.

Thanks, MJ. And congrats on the new bestseller.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

TFA Thinks BIG MONEY* Got Published

Regular readers are no doubt sick of our new book cover, and for you loyalists, I have wonderful news. This is it, probably the last time you'll see BIG MONEY's smiling red face in my posting space. Oh, I might figure a way to stick it over on the right somewhere, with BIG NUMBERS, but Austin Carr's Second Mystery will no longer be a subject of anticipation.

"I think we got published," The Famous Author said last night. "I got an email from Liz Clifford who told me she'd posted a review on Amazon. I went and checked, and sure enough, we're up there."

"How about BookSense, Powell's, and Barnes & Noble?"

"Not yet. But it's in the Ingram system."

*The tradepaper ISBN is 1-59133-239-7, the hardback 1-59133-238-9, and if you click on this blog's headline, you will be magically translinked to the Amazon page where you can purchase BIG MONEY. TFA and I prefer that you purchase all your books at independent booksellers, or the half dozen Border's outlets that stock BIG NUMBERS. But since nobody has the new one yet, feel free to support my continued existance online.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Barking Dog Update

We lost our shirt on OEGY (Open Energy Corp.), selling out at just over 36 cents a share when we'd paid 66 cents. An ugly, crippling blow to our fledging trading portfolio. A classic case of poor planning. By not establishing parameters for exit at the time of purchase, we sat back and watched our assets fade away, helplessly torn between fear and greed.

The GOOD news: We got out at 36 cents. OEGY closed Friday at 24 cents. Looks like we dodged a bullet getting out of Open Energy. Even better, the hot tip we bought with our proceeds, DISK (Image Entertainment), is up a few pennies, to $2.18 a share from the $2.15 we paid. Our source says hang on, a new merger deal to replace the recent failed one is forthcoming.

We'll hang on a while longer with DISK. I like the way it acted in last week's volatile market. But if Image Entertainment drops below $1.75, we're out. In the immortal words of Dirty Harry (Apologies to the writer who scripted him), "A man has to know his limitations."

So do traders.

Here's a chart of OEGY

And one of DISK

Both charts courtesty of ETrade.

Friday, March 21, 2008

BIG MONEY, Chapter 33

I stumble on an embedded pine cone and knock my shoulder against the denuded limb of an otherwise-yellowish evergreen. Must be two-hundred billion bad-ass ugly trees in New Jersey’s pine barrens. And half of them are staring back at me, blocking my course. I feel like a tick, fighting his way through dog hair.

My progress is slow and increasingly less steady through, around, and under these nasty scrub pine trees. Underline slow. Adding to my inevitable immobility, Gianni’s bug-out bag tows behind me like a dead horse.

Although there is a lot of good shit in here.

Checking the enclosed compass, for instance, I know I’m hiking due east. This is strategically important because I can’t negotiate two steps without tripping over a cone, make two yards without ducking under a snapped limb. I’ve suffered tougher getting a bathroom stall at Giant Stadium, true, but keeping my direction would be impossible for this backwoods tenderfoot were it not for Gianni’s unusual compass.

Inside a black plastic hexagon, a bubble lens magnifies a tightly bunched field of art--the N,S,E and W on the background of a lurid, psychedelic nude woman.

She’s fun to hold.

I’m not stopping to listen for Creeper anymore. I figure he either came right after me, in contempt, or he decided to make a call for backup. If he came after me, he’d be here by now. At the very least, I figure I should hear trees falling.

No, a Bluefish-sponsored posse of sweat suit-clad gunman and young tattooed bikers probably now hunts me, not just Creeper. I’d guess no more than fifteen, twenty minutes behind me, too. I try to think of that when my leg muscles tell me to rest. If I could accomplish the task without getting wet, I wouldn’t stop to pee.

Twice I catch sight of the paved road I traveled with Mama Bones, Gianni, and Thomas last night, glimpses that tell me I’m definitely on a right course. Eventually I have to hit the Parkway. Five miles. Ten miles. I don’t know how far it was, nor how fast I can negotiate this scrub pine and fall-red poison oak, but I’m going in the right direction.

I decide against using Gianni’s prepaid cell phone. At least not just yet. I’m not much of a multitasker, and for now, moving as quickly, efficiently, and quietly through this forest deserves no less than one-hundred percent of my attention.

I’d equate the situation with parachute-jumping. Throw yourself out of an airplane, it’s probably a smart idea to focus on the rip cord.

Around noon, with a windy cloudy sky announcing the arrival of darker weather, I realize I have to rest. My heart and lungs can’t spread enough oxygen to counteract the exhaustion cramping my legs and back. Plus I’m already lying down.

Taking the first of an intended parade of slow, deep breaths, I notice bloody scratches now mark the backs of both my hands. Reminds me of the last time I tried to touch Susan’s breasts.

My blood still screams for oxygen but I hold my breath when I hear people whispering. Two, maybe three voices. Very close. Why didn’t I hear their footsteps?

Should I run for it? Or hide? Or piss my pants?

The wind picked up half an hour ago. The sky turned to charcoal over the last fifteen minutes. And now, although I guess it could be my stomach, to the south I hear a garbage-truck rumble of thunder.

Run or hide? A cloudburst makes the decision for me.

It’s midnight under Gianni’s black plastic. An undiluted kind of eerie darkness that makes me dizzy, uncertain of my direction or status. Kinda like waking up on Sunday with a naked stranger.

The wind pushes rain through the pines in a steady, unsettling loud hiss. Water splashes hard against the tarp that covers me. I smell pine resin and a sticky, fearful odor I finally connect to my own perspiration. I’m sweating like it’s the last day of the month and my commissions don’t match my bar tab.

Two sets of soft feet creep toward me across the wet, needle covered forest floor. My heart beat quickens, and the thumping is so intense, I worry the noise will give me away. Like Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart.”

The gentle footsteps glide past, the searchers apparently seeing only black shadow beneath fallen pine trees, one stubby trunk leaning atop the other. I’d rather be in my apartment, sure, my bed in particular, but I am kinda proud of this hiding spot. Like when I was ten and built a cool fort.

Lightning cracks the air. When my ears stop ringing, the footsteps are gone.

It’s an hour or so later. The rain comes only in gusts now, peaking when the wind surges, beating like a hundred tom-toms against the dead wood and plastic over my head. The air inside my makeshift tent smells only of pine resin, not my stinky sweat.

I think my glands are empty.

My fingers grip another of Gianni’s gifts, that prepaid cell phone. I’m going to take a calculated risk and make one call. The calculation being, if I don’t make this call, I’m most likely going to die today or tomorrow among these sap-oozing pine trees.

I give the hospital operator Luis’s room number.


“Luis. How’s your head?”

“Austin? It is difficult to understand you. Is this perhaps a bad connection?”

“I’m whispering. I asked about the condition of your cabeza.”

“Oh. Si. Well...still attached to my neck, I am told. In fact I am being discharged as we speak. It is fortunate for me that you have called. Perhaps you could drive to the hospital and pick me up?”

I cough. “Uh...actually, Luis, I was kinda hoping you could pick me up.”

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wall Street Wipe Out

So if anybody needs a lesson on the difference between stocks and bonds, events of the past few days easily illustrate. While the STOCKholders of government-bond-dealer-gone-south Bear Stearns (the company's owners) have almost been wiped out, the BONDholders (lenders to the company) have taken a mild beating, and--if and when the buyout by J.P.Morgan takes place--will eventually be made whole.

Customers of Bear Stearns are fine, as is always the case with these Wall Street takeovers. Most will never know Bear Stearns was even in the news, unless J.P.Morgan eventually folds BS into its own retail unit. The saddest stories are the long-time Bear Stearns employees who held stock in their company. Many future homes, retirements, and childrens' educations have been wiped out.

Today's lessons: (1) STOCKS equal ownership, or equity, and greater risk vs. reward. BONDS equal lender status, a holder of debt against the company's assets. Less risk, less reward, too. (2) Never put all your eggs in one basket, even if it's your company and they make regular investment very attractive.

STOCKS (you own the company)

BONDS (you loaned the company money)

Okay, this second chart is actually of a preferred stock that trades on the NYSE, not a bond, but it shows the relative stability of debt vs. equity. I couldn't find a bond to chart.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Redheaded Alien Fighter

Ok, I was pretty much a kid when her series was running, but Gillian Anderson was the best thing about The X-Files. You just can't beat a reluctant redhead for fueling my passion.

From the Official Gillian Anderson Website:

Gillian Anderson is an award-winning film, television, and theatre actress whose credits include the roles of Special Agent Dana Scully in FOX Television's long-running and critically-acclaimed drama series, "The X-Files", ill-fated socialite Lily Bart in Terence Davies' masterpiece "The House of Mirth" (2000), and Lady Dedlock in the very successful BBC production of Charles Dickens' "Bleak House".

In 2003, she won the Theatregoers’ Choice Best Actress Award for her West End debut in Michael Weller's two-hander "What the Night Is For". The following year, she starred in Rebecca Gilman's play "The Sweetest Swing in Baseball" which ran at London's Royal Court Theatre from March 25 through May 15, 2004.

I dunno. Offhand, I'd say Gillian might have peaked as an alien fighter.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Future Stars

Jason just finished his novel, and now calmly works on a new one. Soon, the telephone will ring. Fame and fortune will be his.

So says The Famous Author, once again touting his St. Pete Beach team of writers that gathered last January 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, Brenda, and Kim.

We don't know much about Jason's novel. TFA read parts of it years and year ago. All he remembers is a corn field. But we know Jason can deal words like a card shark. He and TFA have been pals since 1998 when they started Writers Retreat Workshop together. Now Jason runs the joint.

Will he still have time for us when he makes The Bigtime?

Yup. That's Jason.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Our Favorite Books

STICK is classic Elmore Leonard, The Famous Author's favorite author. The good guy isn't really so good, just better than the bad guys trying to kill him. Best scene in the book is the best scene in the movie, too.

Here's the blurb: After serving time for armed robbery, Ernest "Stick" Stickley is back on the outside and trying to stay legit. But it's tough staying straight in a crooked town -- and Miami is a pirate's paradise, where investment fat cats and lowlife drug dealers hold hands and dance. And when a crazed player chooses Stick at random to die for another man's sins, the struggling ex-con is left with no choice but to dive right back into the game. Besides, Stick knows a good thing when he sees it -- and a golden opportunity to run a very profitable sweet revenge scam seems much too tasty to pass up.

That best scene? When a huge, mean ex-bodyguard wants his job back, and Stick's the guy who took it. It happens at a big fancy party, and Stick's new boss--and the crowd of hotshots--want to see what Stick can do with a guy twice his size. Stick uses a can of lighter fluid and a match to send the big man packing.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Special Swimsuit Issue

So I was looking at the calendar today, and guess what? Spring is less than a week away. The days have been getting longer for three months, and as of next Friday, the sun shines on us a majority of the time. This is good. In New Jersey, we miss the sun. And although it's not quite warm enough here to visit the beach, I figured it wasn't too early to dream.

I figured there's something here for everybody.

BIG MONEY, Chapter 32

My heart skips two beats while my brain accepts one disturbing image: Gianni’s brother Thomas and a Vin Diesel Wannabe fill the basement stairway, both of them pointing assault rifles at me.

Reminds me of the last time new-issue stocks were hot. Clients get angry when you can’t get them shares they know are going to triple. One has yet to show up with an AK-47, but I think it’s only a matter of time.

“I’m on your side,” I say. I’m talking to Gianni, but my gaze stays on Creeper. A little voice tells me my life depends on it.

“For the moment we’re on the same side,” Thomas says. “So do your new pal a favor and put the gun down.”

The basement floor chills my knuckles as I lay the Smith & Wesson beside Gianni’s shoulder. The sound clicks too loudly in the still basement air. Maybe I’m hyperventilating. My stomach says I definitely won’t be eating for a week.

Under the artful direction of Thomas, his tattooed, shaved-head sidekick, and their straight-from-Baghdad assault rifles, Creeper and I load Gianni into the back of the same white Escalade I rode in last night. Hope Gianni’s story turns out happier than Tony’s. Now that I think about it, guess Gianni’s already doing better.

The closeness of Creeper’s mountainous mass keeps my nerves on a sharp blade. It’s like walking beside a leashed and trained grizzly bear. Everything’s cool--as long as this thing on a leash doesn’t change its feelings about closely monitored captivity.

Thomas motions with the muzzle of his automatic rifle for Creeper to move away, toward the lodge’s pine board porch. Creeper obeys, I’m sure because his mother raised him to be polite, and perhaps also because Thomas’s weapon can deliver large-caliber bullets like water through a hose.

I figure I’m in. Thomas didn’t send me over to the steps. But when I reach for the Caddy’s door handle, Thomas’s bald friend stiff-arms my chest.

“You’re not coming,” Thomas says.

“You’re leaving me here with Creeper?”

“Ha. Good name for him. And yeah, you stay because we’ve had enough of this fight. I want Max to know it. I want him to tell Bluefish.”

That doesn’t sound like good news. For me, anyway. And my stomach was just returning to normal. Wonder if that bug-out bag has any Alka Selzer?

“You hear that Max?” Thomas says. He turns to face Bluefish’s henchman. “I’m taking my brother back, that’s all. I don’t care what you did to him. This little war was all a mistake, and is now over. You can have Carr as a peace offering.”

My head does a full-boat neck swivel, a slow search for escape routes. Hmm. Too bad I can’t fly. Looks like this stockbroker will soon be hightailing it into the woods.

“Don’t worry,” Thomas says to me. “You’ve got Bluefish’s Town Car there, plus my brother’s bug-out bag. When I leave, I’ll toss your gun back.”

I feel so much better.

“Or at least, “ Thomas says, “I’ll toss it closest to you.”

Does knowing someone’s planning to kill you give you license to kill that person first? Aiming the Smith & Wesson at Creeper’s garage door of a chest, I decide yes, it probably does. But I’m still not going to shoot him.

Not yet, anyway.

“Give me the keys to the Lincoln,” I say.

Thomas and his hairless friend left fifteen seconds ago. I can still hear the car’s engine. The film of dust the tires kicked up just now floats into the space between me and Creeper. The fog of war. Think maybe I’m being a little dramatic?

Luckily, I did in fact beat Creeper to the gun. Despite enjoying a good ball bust, Thomas must have appreciated my interest in Gianni. I did make Creeper take Gianni’s feet out of the smoker.

I walk closer, less than eight-feet away from this huge monster of a man who threatened my children. Slowly, I aim the gun at Creeper’s nose. This worked before. I like precedent.

“Only one more time I say this, Max. Give me the keys.”

Creeper grins. His teeth look like a recently thinned forest. Lots of dark empty spaces and broken, snapped-off stumps.

I pressure the trigger.

Creeper digs into his pocket, eases out a baseball-size gob of brass and chrome keys. His huge fingers work on the tiny pieces of metal like a silversmith, quickly separating a gold-colored one.

Creeper knows I’m not bluffing.

The big man shows me the gold key he’s removed from the key chain, pointing at the logo so I know it’s for a Ford product, then stuffs the puppy in his mouth and swallows.


Bastard’s not as dumb as those teeth make him look. What I mean, Creeper can tell by looking at me I won’t shoot him unless I absolutely have to. But how does a guy learn to trust instincts like that? Bigger than ballsy, if you ask me. Like a guy who’d wrestle two bears at the same time.

“You going to shoot me?” Creeper says.

God, I hate that grin on his face. does seem like I’m out of options. Waiting around for Creeper to pass the key through his system sure isn’t an alternative I’d like to explore. Can you imagine what his...

“Okay, smart ass,” I say. “I’m going to disappear into these woods. If I hear you following me, I’ll stop, hide, and shoot you on sight.”

Creeper’s grin stretches into a long, twisted smile. It’s an ugly thing, like the winner of a most-frightening jack-o-lantern contest. Halloween eyes and dagger teeth from Hell.

The look on him sucks my breath away.

Makes me wonder if a bullet to the brain would even kill him.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Down $18 Million on a $20 Million Investment

This is a chart for Thornburg Mortgage Inc., a mortgage lender whose stock has...well, look at it. Taken a tumble doesn't quite name the beast. TMA closed yesterday at $1.50, down from $26.50 just this past July. Ouch.

If there's a bigger loser in TMA over the last nine months than TMA's namesake and founder, Garrett H. Thornburg, Jr., I'd like to meet him. Mr. T bought 224,000 shares of TMA on July 25 for $26.72 each, another 200,000 shares at $23.42 on August 6, and rounded up another $9.5 million in cash last October to buy 1,000,000 shares at $9.50 each.

He spent roughly $20 million to buy stock now worth $2 million.

The man believed in his company. The man knew that, despite the so-called "mortgage crisis," the loans TMA made were solid--every one of them triple-A credits. What Mr. T didn't know was that fear would get so bad, even good loans would lose value, thus giving his frightened moneybackers--the guys who package loans into securities--excuse to pass on losses back to Thornburg.

Let's call it a put option. Kinda of like the man on TV who offers you a lifetime, money-back guarantee. It never happens, right? 99% of the time, people either like the product or don't bother mailing it back for a refund.

Not so in this mortgage crisis. Everybody who can wants their money back.

Thornburg has a shot to survive--if they can raise more capital. But at $1.50 a share, you'd have to say the consensus looks bad. Then again, the day before, TMA stock was 87 cents. A company official--not Mr. T--says they are talking to lenders about raising enough money.

Good luck, TMA and Mr. T. Leave us a comment if you're in the mood. Love to hear how it feels being down $18 million.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Redhead of the Week

Although she's a Toon, not mortal, most guys I know still like to stare at Jessica Rabbit, wife of the lead character in the 1988 film, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"

The thing that most turns us on about Jessica, besides having Kathleen Turner's speaking voice, Amy Irving's for singing, and a body that doesn't exist on real women? In Roger Rabbit's world, Toons like Jessica live alongside humans but are unbound by the laws of physics--as long as the result is funny.

What a great milieu.

What an interesting date.

Topping $70 million, Roger Rabbit was one of the most expensive films of its time, but earned double that in just North America. The film featured characters from competing animation studios, including one of the last appearances by Golden Age voice artist Mel Blanc. The film won four Oscars in 1989.

Thanks Jessica, writer Gary K. Wolf, and the incomparable Mel Blanc.

What's up, Doc?

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Ladies of LCC Tell All

Coming back from Denver today, they gate-checked The Famous Author's computer case with me inside. I had to hold my breath at minus twenty degrees for three hours. My brain is fried. See if you can guess the circle this tale will take.

The Famous Author met Christine L. Goff at Writer's Retreat Workshop way back in the ninties. I didn't make that trip, as TFA had abandoned me at that time, a lonely place and time in my life I'd rather not talk about.

Actually, it was a drawer. TFA stuck me in the bottom drawer of an old rolltop desk that no one ever opened. It was dark. Hot in the summer. Cold in the winter. Stuffy and frightening, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year. I don't ever want to go back. I might kill myself first.

Anyway, so yeah, TFA met Christine at WRW, where she talked to the students about her experience getting published--how she became author of Berkeley Crime's Birdwatcher's Mystery Series. TFA says Chris's story topped fascinating.

TFA introduced me to Chris at Left Coast Crime in Denver this past week. He had to. As like co-producer of the whole sebang (her co-partner, Susanne Proulx, also has interesting stories to tell), Chris searched TFA's computer case during the Mystery Trivia Championship:

"Who's that?" Chris said.

"My main character, Austin Carr."

"He can't talk, can he?" Chris said. "Like help you answer questions?"

Obviously she hasn't been reading my blog.

"Look at him. Do you think a thing like that could talk?" TFA said.

"Right. But I'm zipping up the bag anyway."

TFA wanted me to talk about what a great job Chris and Suzanne did running Left Coast Crime this year. I know he's being accurate when he says it was his most successful convention ever. But I want to close the circle...

While looking for one of Chris's Birdwatcher's Mystery Series, Death Takes a Gander, shown above, I stumbled across this anthology with Chris's original story in it, the one TFA told me from the ninties, how Chris got published. The book's worth picking up just for Chris's tale of serendipity, but besides our Lady of Winged Mystery, Christine L. Goff, contributors include Christopher Moore, Clive Cussler, J.A. Jance, Gayle Lynds, JA Konrath, John Lescroart, David Morrell, Kathi Kamen Goldmark, Stephen White, Hallie Ephron, Stephen Coonts, Sue Ann Jaffarian, Dave Barry, MJ Rose, Jerry B. Jenkins, and dozens of other published authors.

There's also special stuff in there for pre-published authors. Ten big rules, or something.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

TFA's Trivia Team at LCC Championship

The Semifinal mystery trivia match at Left Coast Crime turned on luck, as The Famous Author and his ace partner, author and Chicago-area police sargeant, Michael A. Black, got hit with stuff they just didn't know, and the easy questions seemed to fall on the opposite side. At least early. Down six points to zero after the first round, Mike then nabbed a few startlers, TFA chipped in one or two convenient queries, and our boys caught them at the finish in round six. The ref called sudden death. TFA and the other contestants were told to shout out, first right answer wins.

"Some first names are very common among mystery fiction authors," said the moderator. "Which first name do the following authors share? Barnard... Fate..."

"Robert," said TFA.

"Team One, Jack and Mike, you're the winners."

Wow. What luck. Robert Fate and TFA were introduced a year ago, are well acquainted, maybe chat when they see each other on the mystery convention circuit. Bob's first book, BABY SHARK, is on his TBR pile because TFA knows him.

So Mike and TFA now sneak upstairs and strategize for the finals. He's going to check out the competition in their semifinal. TFA is going to study the program, where a lot of questions seem to come from--mystery authors at the LCC convention and their books, subject matter, and characters.

Two hours later, Mike and TFA meet minutes before the Championship. I'm along for the ride, in TFA's computer case, but Mike says I can't help with the answers. No cheating.

"We've got our work cut out," Mike says. "The other team is two librarians, including this year's Mystery Fan of the Year."

No problem. TFA has Mike.

I'm not going to drag this out. TFA and Mike couldn't answer the first couple of questions, the librarians didn't miss. In fact, they only missed four questions during the match, including second-guessing Mike and TFA's screw-ups. Our boys didn't catch up this time. Never had a shot. They got crushed.

They lost Left Coast Crime's Superbowl of Mystery Trivia.

TFA says to plug Mike's book because he carried the team. The book isn't out yet, so we can't say we've read it, but Mike is a swell guy and here's what I found on Amazon by way of description:

From Publishers Weekly
Police officer and short story writer Michael A. Black likewise brings authenticity to A Killing Frost: A Ron Shade Novel. A search for a missing fiance, who turns up floating dead in a canal, leads Chicago PI Ron Shade into far more trouble than he bargained for in this assured debut in the classic hard-boiled tradition, which boasts blurbs from Sara Paretsky and Andrew Vachss.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal
This intriguing first mystery by a police officer features Ron Shade, a Chicago-area tough-guy P.I. and martial arts aficionado. Looking for Carlos, an illegal immigrant gone missing, Ron hears conflicting stories from his shifty-eyed bosses and the other illegal immigrants with whom Carlos toils at dangerous tasks. The scene predictably shifts to murder, complicating Ron's employment, training for a kick-boxing match, and romantic agendas. Black's steadily engaging narrative and frequent action make this essential for fans of hard-boiled detective fiction.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

So We Walked Into The Room...

Trying to pass some time yesterday afternoon, The Famous Author dragged me into a back room at Left Coast Crime and we sat in the audience to hear two teams battle in a mystery trivia contest. I didn't want to go, but I'm kind stuck with TFA, as he won't let me leave the computer case.

Anyway, the event seemed lightly attended, and even one of the teams didn't show. Guess who got picked from the audience to constitute a new team? Right. TFA. He got teamed with a very nice policeman from Chicago named Mike Black, who as it turns out, is the genius mystery trivia player of all time. Wow. Mike knew everything.

I mean, TFA knew which six colors are represented by player markers in a game of clue. Red, white, blue, green, yellow, and purple. He helped a little. But Mike knew things like, who is Rockford's scummy sidekick (Angel), and a dozen other questions from TV, Movie, and book mysteries.

Mike and TFA are now in the semi-finals. I hope Mike got a goodnight's sleep. We're on at 9:45 am.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Our First Review of BIG MONEY

Connie Anderson of Armchair Interviews is the first to review our second adventure, BIG MONEY. We don't have any books yet, and no one can buy it, but hey, why quibble. Here's what Connie thought:

BIG MONEY by Jack Getze
Reviewed by Connie Anderson

For the main character in this book, we need a new genre: Bumbling Idiot. Boy, do bumbling idiots make for good storytelling.

I met stockbroker Austin Carr in Getze’s first book, Big Numbers. Carr is perpetually a down-on-his-luck divorced dad of two. Somehow he is always in the midst of getting the stuffing beat out of him.

Author Getze can really “turn a phrase,” and I found myself writing down almost 20 of those great one liners. In talking about a beautiful woman he lusted after, Carr said, “She might be too drunk… even stockbrokers have some pride.

Austin Carr is managing a New Jersey stockbroker firm in the absence of the vacationing owner, Mr. Vick. And on top of that, Vick wants him to keep an eye on both his daughter, who is divorcing the former manager of this firm–and his mother, Mama Bones. (That name should tell you she isn’t your typical mom!)

The firm is being investigated for some highly illegal “co-mingling of funds.” Carr is caught between so many different people who want something (he isn’t always sure what) and will hurt anyone who gets in their way–including his kids. The mob is all over this story–actually two different “families” are trying to hurt Carr. But why, and who can he trust?

Tough guys with guns and no consciences, and tough women with great bodies and “unique pasts,” jump in and out of the story. The good guys/gals aren’t always who they say they are, and this makes for some great guessing.

This is another of those books where I negotiate with myself for just 15 minutes more to read the next chapter. I just had to know… .

Getze is a writer to watch. Stories in New Jersey are rare. Stories with stockbrokers (at least fiction) are rare. His bumbling idiot hero Austin Carr always ends up on top of the heap, but he drags you along on his many trials and tribulations to get there.

Armchair Interviews says: Grab this book and get into your comfy armchair a good read.

Landing the Fish

When you've got one minute to tell a room full of people about your book, the words that come from your mouth must be carefully thought out. You must to say something that makes people want to read your book.

One of the best pitches we heard this morning (New Author Breakfast, see below) came from debut author Sharon Rowse. We don't know her, never met her, and had little interest in something called THE SILK TRAIN MURDER. But in less than one minute, Sharon made us want to buy the book. She talked about how silk came into America in the 1800s, and how valuable it was, and how special trains were put together to ship the silk from Vancouver to the East Coast, and how robbers and villains lined every mile of the track trying to stop and rob those trains.

Another good pitch came from Beth Groundwater, author of A REAL BASKET CASE, who laid out her mystery's puzzle perfectly. She told us of the crime and the impossible circumstances, and we all wondered, how in the heck is that murder going to be solved?

The Famous Author did pretty good. He stuck with my advice about the tuna and how the reader has to figure out who Mr. Blabbermouth is. He forgot to mention that chapbooks were available at a nearby table, but despite that oversight, we saw more than half a dozen chapbooks disappear after the event. Not bad, TFA, but not as good as some others.

A lesson for all authors: Learn that hook until you can recite it in your sleep.

New Author Breakfast

The Famous Author and I have an hour to shower, shave, and get dressed for TFA's "one minute pitch" this morning at Left Coast Crime's New Author Breakfast. "Give readers one unique thing to remember about your novel."

Oh, gee. One thing, huh? I hope TFA doesn't mention breasts again. I'm thinking the tuna--a guy getting murdered by a 600-pound live tuna.

Other "new" authors spouting pitches include: C.J. Lyons, Michelle Gagnon, J.T. Ellison, Barbara Graham, Beth Groundwater (nominated for a Lefty), Rosemary Harris, Ken Isaacson, Marc Louis Lecard, and a dozen others.

I'll report later on who wowed the audience. There's no wifi in the meeting room, so I can't go live.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

When Will He Learn?

We were doing so well. The Famous Author started out great answering questions on the Left Coast Crime panel, "Dying is Easy, Laughs are Hard." He was lively, witty, and did a nice job of talking about our book. Of course he was. I was there with him, feeding him lines from the computer case. About 50 mystery fans packed the small hotel meeting room to hear TFA, Jess Loury, Mario Acevedo, and the real star, Marc Lecard, author of the much acclaimed VINNY'S HEAD.

So everything is fine, going great, and then TFA gets it in his brain that I'm bothering him, that my interjections and prompts are distracting. Much to my amazement, TFA shuts the computer case and goes it alone.

Need I say more? Can you guess what disasters followed. Maybe if I just give you one sample:

Question from the floor: "What are your character's main interests?"

TFA says: "Well, Austin likes women's breasts a lot."

True, TFA, but not exactly what you want to say to a room full of middle aged women.

LCC Update--Breakfast with Neil

The LCC registration desk wasn't open yet, so we had breakfast with another mystery writer we know, Neil Plakcy, and his character, Kimo Kanapaka. We mentioned Neil's Mahu series in an earlier post, and it turns out his third, Mahu Fure, is set for publication April 1. Kimo told us about the new story while the authors bitched and moaned about how tough the business is.

Here's what Kimo told me:

Six months have passed since Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapaka'a's return to Honolulu from his undercover assignment on the North Shore. He's becoming more comfortable with his visibility as Honolulu's only openly gay cop, including mentoring a group of gay teens.

Kimo, his family and friends are attending a local charity event in support of gay marriage when a bomb disrupts the gala. Kimo is determined to find out who feels strongly enough against the issue to kill-- but it's possible that his high profile will stand in his way.

With hunky fireman Mike Riccardi at his side—day and night—Kimo digs through the ashes to find that not only is heat dangerous for the heart, but that fire can burn through the hottest of motives.

Denver in the Morning

It's Thursday, March 6, so we must be in Denver.

We're at the Adam's Mark Hotel on Court Street. It's still a little early for the convention to get started--about 7 am--so I thought I'd just jump on here and tell you what I am planning.

Gee, who's that in the extra bed?

I'm thinking, why should you guys wait for nightly updates? Why not broadcast live? Why not give my readers a running exposition and commentary on this event AS IT TAKES PLACE? Huh? Why not? I can't cover everything, of course. So much is happening at the same time. But as long as there's wireless in the convention rooms, I should be able to give you a real taste and feel for Left Coast Crime 2008, Murder on the Rocks.

It's an experiment. Let's see what happens. The Famous Author and I have our first panel this afternoon, but I'll be back online before then and review this morning's activities.

See you later!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Look Out Left Coast

Here we come! The Famous Author told me last night I'm going with him to Denver, leaving today as a matter of fact, weather permitting. TFA is off to hunt new readers at Left Coast Crime, one of Mysterydom's top annual conventions. Unlike some of the places TFA takes me, LCC attracts hundreds of avid mystery readers. And of course, with so much at stake, TFA wants me close at his side.

TFA appearances include a Thursday panel on humorous mysteries, an impromtu Friday panel, and a quick one-minute stint in front of a crowd, a special for rookies. Something called the New Authors Breakfast.

As I pack my bag, however, lightning and thunder and shake the office where TFA keeps me. Wind blows the rain sideways outside my one small window.

Better call the hotel and check the airline.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Redhead of the Week

Kate Pierson is a lead singer and founding member of the alternative rock band, the B-52s. She's also from Weehawken, New Jersey, and thus our second or third Redhead of the Week to come from the Garden State. Besides her unique voice, which has subbed for numerous film cartoon characters over the years, Kate plays keyboard and guitar.

1989's "Love Shack" was the band's first song to hit the US Top 40, and went on to peak at #3.

Kate was born April 27, 1948. She'll be turning 60 this spring.

You still look good to me, babe. Rock on.