I'm a writer. There, I've admitted it. I wonder if there's a 12-Step program for folks like me...

Most of this blog will be about writing for a living. Or maybe about trying to earn a living as a writer. Or maybe about trying to have a life while you write.

And maybe I'll be able to avoid the driving temptation to write about politics. But I'm not very good around temptation, so all I can promise is that I'll try to avoid writing about politics.

But I will write about the software I use, and the software I try out, and what I think about it. I actually spent lots of years in software testing - as a tester and as a manager of testing departments. I actually started work in software development in 1971, so I have a bit of experience with computers to back up what I have to say on this subject.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Morgen Bailey


Morgen Bailey, located in Northampton, England,  has recently set up a new ‘Author’s Interview’s’ blog and reposted (and updated) an interview I did with her a few month’s back. Don’t let her address on the other side of the pond put you off. Her work and her blog posts are read all over the world:


But this post (this one, right here) is not so much about about that interview with me (though it does have a lot of new info in it) as it is about Morgen and what she’s up to.

If you are a writer, or you love writers and what they do, or don’t give a fig about writers just so long as you have something interesting to read (or if you’re so desperate for something to read you’re back to reading the labels on soup cans), Morgen has something to offer you.

In her own words:

“Also I’ve since had a story published in a new charity anthology and four of my free (debut) eBook short stories, a writer’s block workbook and an anthology of short stories went live on Smashwords and Amazon and I’d be ever so grateful if you know of anyone who might be interested… more (novels) to follow shortly.”

Here are a few links to get you started:

Morgen with an ‘e’

http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com and http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/morgenbailey

Now a new forum at http://morgenbailey.freeforums.org

And please, for my sake do repost my previous blog about the giveaway of the Kindle version of “The Big Bend”. It runs from 2 May through 4 May, and I would love to give away several thousand copies of that novel. It’s not only the first in the Terry Rankin series, it’s also the best selling of the lot ( it is a well-written tale and my personal favorite).

Here’s the link to the book page on Amazon:


Friday, April 27, 2012

Free Download of “The Big Bend” for the Kindle Reader




I have had such great response to the Kindle Free Promotion program for my novels that I am going to offer another. This time, "The Big Bend", my best seller (and the first in the Terry Rankin series), will be FREE to all from 12:00 am on 2 May through 11:59 pm on 4 May. That's Pacific Standard Time, by the way, and the start and end times are approximate.

Again, you do not need to own a Kindle to enjoy FREE Kindle books. There are plenty of Kindle Reader apps for the PC, the Mac and all sorts of hand-held devices. Here’s the link to the Kindle Free Reading Apps page on Amazon:


Please note: be sure to verify that the 'Buy' price for the novel is listed as $0.00 when you go to purchase the book!!!

This is the "The Big Bend" Kindle book page at Amazon. The FREE download offer for the  “The Big Bend” will run from 02 May through 04 May (3 days):

I would be tickled pink to see several thousand copies of “The Big Bend” downloaded and read. Especially if this results (as it usually does) in new readers coming back to purchase my other novels and posting reviews all over the place.

So, please, take the time to share this information with your friends through your social media pages, Tweet the info and repost this for readers of your blogs.

I wish you all the very best life has to offer.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dreams vs Harsh Reality…

… or, “Be careful what you wish for”

I suppose this post is mostly for  writers in the early stages of their chosen career. I’ve written on this subject before, and in those posts I have made a very honest attempt to avoid sugar-coating what every budding writer will have to face in the first few years.

I don’t do this to scare away new authors – far from it. The more the merrier, in my opinion. Dashing into the fray without any forethought is a time-honored (if somewhat foolhardy) pastime of the young and optimistic among us.

But you do need to know what lies ahead of you. Writing that first (or second, or third) novel was tough enough, but how do you sell it, to whom do you sell it, and what exactly are you selling, and how much can you get for it?

What? You have no idea? Well, golly gee, Louise, why in the heck not?

Risk-taking is a very big part of getting ahead, and without risk takers the human race would never have gotten ahead of the lemurs on the evolutionary path. So go for it. Take risks. Get your manuscripts out there.

Contact literary agents, submit your writing directly to publishing houses. Pump out your press releases. Stay optimistic, even in the face of hundreds of rejection letters. Keep writing and don’t ever give up on yourself.

But don’t ever quit learning, either. Study the industry. Just make sure you study the readership, as well, since they are the ones who will buy your work. Please your readers, and don’t give much of a tinker’s damn about the literary agents or the publishing houses. They don’t buy your work, and hardly ever take the time to read and enjoy what you write. They will take your money, though. If you let them.

I wouldn’t. I’ve never paid a literary agent or a publishing house a single penny of my royalties, and never will. There was a time in the publishing industry when a writer had no choice but to submit their work – and their livelihood, and their dreams – to the whims of agents and publishers, but that day is happily done and over with, thank heaven.

You have options, and I strongly suggest that you consider them very carefully before you waste a single penny on postage or printing for your query letters and submission packages to agencies or publishing houses.

Research the industry. Join writer’s groups in your area. Join online writer’s groups and become current on industry trends. Study the trends among readers in your genre. Take responsibility for your own future as a writer. Don’t ever depend on a literary agent to take care of you – for the most part they are way too busy taking care of themselves to spend any time at all in looking out for your own best interest.

As I have mentioned before, writers are prey animals in the publishing world. Everybody wants a piece of you and what you earn.

You can’t even begin to learn to protect yourself until you understand that one single fact.

You can’t survive, much less get ahead, until you do. And yes, it is that important.  You are entering into a strange (in some ways very strange) new world when you complete your first novel, and you have no idea of what lies ahead of you.

Every time you sell a copy of your novel, or history, or collected works of poetry/short stories, you are taking money from a reader who just might –might – have given me his money instead. You compete with every writer in your genre for the money in your reader’s pockets.

But here’s the really odd thing about writers. We seem to like each other. It may have something to do with the herd mentality; we know we are prey animals, so we stick together. Yes, we compete for readers, but we also protect each other from the predators as best we can.

Every time your literary agent takes his 10 % or 15% out of your royalty check before sending the balance on to you, he is taking money out of your pocket and putting it into his. Ask yourself why? What has he done for you in the last six months?

You and you alone are responsible for promoting your book (s). You and you alone have to invest your time and money in getting your work into bookstores and getting to and from book signings and promotional events. So just why are you giving so much as a single penny to an agent or a publishing house? Explain that to me again, please?

In case you haven’t noticed, I am an independent sort of guy. Nobody’s the boss of me. And while I am as easily snowed as the next guy on occasion, I will wake up sooner or later (okay, sometimes much later), and get the situation straightened out in my favor. I LIKE my independence; I like being the only one responsible for my success or my failure, and I see no reason why I should pay anyone a single dime if I don’t have to. Mostly because I know damn good and well that nobody is going to work as hard for me as I do.

I also know that the publishing industry is and has been in a downward spiral for the last fifty (or maybe it’s a hundred) years and there is no sign of it recovering any time soon. There is not a single publishing house in business today with enough cash on hand to spend a dime on promoting a new author, including a paying Publisher’s Weekly for so much as a small box ad on the back page about the first release of that author’s novel.

And no literary agent will ever spend a single penny on a publicist to arrange a television talk show or nationwide radio station tour for you. John Grisham might get that sort of treatment, but most of us are not John Grisham.

Book marketing is a very specialized segment of the marketing industry. Study it, and study the people involved very, very carefully. They, too are predators. There are some incredibly professional, honest and very hard-working individuals in the business, but you have to keep in mind that they are in business to make a living, and they make that living off of your skill as a writer.

You are on your own. It’s you against the entire publishing industry. Do your research.  Do lots and lots of research. You won’t regret it.

Your comments are always very welcome.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Linksys RE1000 Hardware Review


I have worked in and around computers since 1971. And yes, we did have computers back then. Just to put things in perspective, the Romans had opened the Coliseum only a few years before that, and Chuck Yeager was beginning to think he wanted to learn how to fly.  The Wright Brothers were still stealing apples and kicking cans down the road, and dreaming of owning their own bicycle.

1971 was a long time ago. I worked first for Control Data Corporation in Atlanta as an entry-level database programmer, and then with a bit of experience under my belt I got a job with the State of Georgia Mental health Department. Neither job paid very well – I would have seen a better paycheck as a gardener, but at least the work was inside, with air conditioning.

After working up a flow chart and writing some code (In COBOL), I had to punch my own cards on a keypunch machine, stack them neatly (and in order, of course) in a shoe box and run them across town  to the data processing center where the guys in white lab coats would load the cards into the hopper on the card reader and push the big red Go button to wake up the room-sized (really large room, too, with all of the cables run under the floor) IBM 360, which would, in about .3 of a second, spit out my cards almost before it had a chance to read them. Then I would take my stack of cards back across town to my cubbyhole-sized office and try to figure out why my app didn’t work.


I have always had a love-hate relationship with computers. And they know that.

Office politics put an end to my job about half way through the  project and I quite happily went back to work as a gardener.  The pay was much better, I didn’t have to freeze mu butt off in the air conditioning, and there was no interoffice bickering, either.

I’ve been around computers a lot in my life – I’ve gotten away from programming over the years, though I did work in Fortran, IBM Assembler, Perl and some of the ‘C’ language variations and even Unix, and worked as a Novel Sys Admin back in the day. I’ve taught DOS and Windows classes to newbies, repaired and upgraded PC’s and spent years in software QA ( testing) and hardware testing. My last two jobs in the industry saw me with my own software QA lab with over a million dollars worth of servers and over thirty employees in my department.

So I know something about hardware and software and how they’re supposed to work together to make our lives a little easier.

Actually, they don’t. But that’s a rant we’re not going to go into here (and probably shouldn’t, ever. The computers will know, and that will make them very angry with me).

So here I am in Deland, Florida, almost a year before I intended to be anywhere near Daytona, where I plan to locate the next Terry Rankin novel. Since I don’t have a fixed domicile (and don’t want one), I am renting a room in my nephew’s home while I wrap up a writing project and begin to do the research on that novel I just mentioned.

There were three computers in this home, and when I arrived only two of them had internet access via a 2-wire DSL connection provided by ATT. Basically a 1200 baud modem connection (though it was DSL, it was painfully slow). The modem and the router were installed on my nephew’s computer in their bedroom at the back of the house, and my computer was in my bedroom about 50 feet away at the front. I used a Linksys N1000 Wi-Fi adapter to connect to the 2-wire DSL router.

For the first few months I could barely load a web page in my browser, and checking my email was enough to put me into a rage.

I offered to cover the cost of broadband cable internet, and that offer was quickly accepted before I could change my mind. So I contacted Brighthouse and ordered the service. They showed up the next day and a few hours later we were up and running. My Linksys N1000 adapter was retired and I was given an Ethernet connection direct to the router.

For the first few days things went swimmingly, until my nephew’s wife began to complain about how slow her Wi-Fi connection was (via an old Belkin Wi-Fi adapter). She couldn't play her internet based game – the action in the game was choppy, and my nephew said it took way too long for his email to load…

Golly, gee, why did that sound so familiar???

Our computers are set at opposite ends of the house, and there is one concrete block wall and a few wood and sheetrock walls between them. I discussed the issue with my nephew and told him we needed a Wi-Fi Extender and he agreed to pay half the cost. I drove over to the Best Buy store in Daytona and picked up the Linksys (Cisco) RE 1000 Wi-Fi Extender. It cost $79.00.

The next day I finally had time to set it up. The box contained the Extender, an Ethernet cable (unnecessary), a power cord and  an install CD. Everything you need, other than a bit of common sense and/or someone who knows what he’s doing.

The instructions on the CD are very clear, and very short, and not very helpful if things don’t work the way they should the first time ‘round. They didn’t.

Before you connect the Extender to anything, you slip the CD into the reader and it does a search for the Wi-Fi signal. Then it tells you to plug the Extender into an electrical outlet close to your computer. You are also told that if your computer is not using an adapter to connect to the Wi-Fi signal to move to a computer that does use an adapter, or to disconnect the Ethernet cable between your computer and the router and make an adapter-based connection.

I had an Ethernet cable connection with the router and saw no need to change that (silly me, but I didn’t know that at the time, did I?).

So I moved to my nephew’s computer at the other end of the house and tried to set things up there. Four hours later I gave up. I was able to set up the Extender, but it could not access the router (no, it didn’t make any sense to me, either), so there was no internet connectivity, and that was the point of the exercise, wasn’t it?

I reset the Extender to its default settings and carried all the bits and pieces back to my computer, where I disconnected my Ethernet cable from the back of my computer and reconnected my Linksys adapter. Then, being somewhat impatient I slipped the install CD back into the reader and proceeded to screw things up once again. An hour later I realized that I hadn’t rebooted my computer after reconnecting the Linksys adapter.

So it was still trying to read data via the Ethernet cable. Which was no longer connected to my computer.

I rebooted. Once the system was back up it took about two minutes for the installation to complete. The Extender was working, but I still didn’t have an internet connection.

So I called tech support at Brighthouse and after a few minutes that problem was solved (somehow the settings for the IP and DNS servers had been changed to FIXED instead of Obtain – and no, I have NO idea why this was changed or what forced the change) and my internet connection was up and running.

Once the Extender is connected properly and you know everything works, you can unplug it from the power source and move it to a more central location in the house, and even turn it this way and that until you find an optimal location – one that provides the maximal signal strength to the most distant computer.

So the Linksys RE 1000 Wi-Fi Extender works, the install CD is easy to follow as long as everything goes swimmingly the first time and persistence and a few phone calls can usually handle any problems that may come up due to a lack of information or a wish to avoid what seems at first glance to be unnecessary labor.

So everybody’s happy. Except for my nephew’s son, who still needs a Wi-Fi adapter for his computer, along with a computer table. And I still need a grounded 3-wire outlet so I can connect my expensive UPS into the wall. The house is all 2-wire electrical service and the UPS refuses to accept power from an ungrounded supply. But I have an electrician due on Monday to price that for me.

Oh, well.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

On the Pursuit of Filthy Lucre, and other Worthwhile Endeavors


Let’s face it; unless you are independently wealthy, or at least supported in the style to which you have become accustomed by someone else, you need to earn enough money to keep body and soul together. And maybe pay the rent, utilities and insurance, buy a bit of food every now and then and maybe even put a bit of gas in your car/truck/van/Bugatti or at least fill your bicycle tires with air.

But you’re a writer; by trade, avocation, inclination or even out of sheer desperation (just like yours, truly) because your last your last job went away and nobody wants to or can afford to hire you.

If you write for pleasure, lucky you; you can ignore the rest of what I have to say and just toddle off down the garden path and sniff a few roses, chase a butterfly and pet your cat. But if you hope to or simply have to earn your living through writing, here’s the nitty-gritty, down-to-earth rude and crude truth about what’s involved.

Most folks who produce material on earning a living as a writer will write an entire book on the subject, and give you lots of information on a particular segment of the writing industry, even giving you a list of contacts for submitting to agents/publishers. Check your local bookstore.

But you didn’t need me to tell you that; you probably have one or two such books on your shelf now. I’m not going to waste your time - and mine - doing your research for you. That’s your job and you will learn a great deal if you invest some time and effort in it.

I’m much more interested in discussing how you turn a talent into a skill, and how you convert that into a product you can sell into your chosen market. So let’s assume for the moment that you do have a fluency with words; you know how to organize your thinking and how to put words on paper so they will mean something to a reader.

That’s a great starting point. I really don’t care if you’re a poet at heart, or a short-story writer, a novelist or you derive great pleasure from writing travel articles or fly-fishing stories. You have a talent for expressing yourself and a marketable skill.

Or at least you think you do. Join a writer’s group. There are scads of writer’s groups, both on-line and in your area. Look into Yahoo Groups, join LinkedIn, join your local library and inquire about writer’s groups. Nobody cares what you write, only that you do.

And then submit your stuff for some constructive (if occasionally harsh) criticism. You and your writing both need and deserve criticism. Tough it out. It’s good for you and for your writing. That sort of criticism will help you to grow as a writer; until you do this, you really are working in a vacuum.

You need a plan. A marketing plan. You need to treat your manuscript as a ‘Product’, because it is. In the same way a furniture maker builds cabinets or chairs or rocking horses to sell, you write stuff. In the same way he or she has a feel for what will sell in his chosen market, so do you.

Or at least you should. There’s no sense investing time and effort in writing something that won’t sell; not if your goal is to make a living as a writer.

And you can’t convince the market to buy your stuff just because you like it. Oh, readers might invest in one of your stories/articles/novels/whatever, but if they feel disappointed in your work for whatever reason  they will never, ever buy another piece from you.

And there goes your market. You can wave bye-bye now. See you.

Get to know what’s selling in your genre today, and figure out how to forecast what will sell by the time your manuscript is ready for the printer. That may be six weeks or six months from now. Or a year or two years, depending on your productivity.

You write for a specific market, whether you know that or not.

So get to know your readers, and what they want to read. It really does not work the other way ‘round. Or at least it does not work very well. The first law of writing for a living is that you have to write something your customers want to read. If you want to sell lots and lots of books/articles/collected poems, you have to write what lots and lots of readers want to read.

It’s really rather simple, if somewhat harsh on the ego; nobody cares what you want to write. They only care that you write what they want to read.

You have to become accustomed to looking at your writing as a business. Marketing – orienting your sales toward a market, and Promoting yourself and your products – getting the right eyes on your products and convincing them to invest in your writing, is the most important part of writing for a living. If “Content is King”, as many people say, “Marketing is the Emperor”.

All the content in the world isn’t worth spit if nobody knows it’s there, and if nobody sees any value in that content for themselves, your sales will be, well, minimal.

And THAT is the key to selling your work.

You have to add value to your work. You – your name, your biography, your skill as a writer, has to become your major marketing tool. Everybody knows of John Grisham, John D. Macdonald, Carl Hiaasen, Agatha Christie, and so on. Most of those same people could not name more than one or two novels written by any of those authors, but they do know their names.

They know their names, and they trust those authors to write what they want to read. In other words, their very names add value to their work in the eyes of their readers.

You sell yourself to your market. Then your market buys your books. It’s that simple, and that important.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Write What you Know, Not what you Think


Just the facts, Ma’am.  Let’s preface a discussion of character description and development with a short digression on facts and the writer’s Life experience (or staggering lack thereof).

In fact (so to speak), this is one of my major gripes about some authors and what must be a pathological hatred for research (or  perhaps it’s due to a very sheltered life). I really enjoy ‘boaty’ stories; so much so that I will  do just about anything to include one or more ‘boaty’ scenes in everything I write. Admittedly, I have (so far) avoided small plastic boats floating in a bathtub, but I am tempted to slip that into my next novel. Somehow.

But some writers will go to amazing lengths to avoid researching terminology when writing about stuff they don’t know. In a rush to complete a scene they will throw terms around without any regard for proper usage, when all it would take is a brief phone call to  a friend in a relevant trade or industry to verify proper terms to describe what the author wants to include in a scene. It’s not difficult, folks. Don’t be lazy.

Readers will become so upset over improper usage of terms (nautical or otherwise) they will throw your “Great American Novel” directly into the garbage. Certainly, if they do not trash the author to their friends they will never, ever recommend him or her to anyone.

Research is King, boys and girls. Don’t assume you know what you’re writing about; KNOW it. Don’t assume that because you are you that you have all of the facts at your fingertips – you do not. If you don’t handle firearms every day or every week, don’t write about them without some serious research. If you don’t own a boat, or go boating with friends, or build boats, go speak with someone who does before you write a novel with a boatbuilder or boat owner or whatever. If you don’t know about aircraft or flying, don’t write about it.

Research is KING. Research – or the embarrassing lack thereof – will make you or break you as an author. Period.

So now we can deal with character description and character development. Believe it or not, this is very much related to my little diatribe above.

Some authors are plot-driven writers. They come up with these intricate, twisted plots and just have to put them down on paper. They become so wrapped up in their plots they have no time or interest – or space on the paper, for that matter – for their characters. As a result of this concentration on plotting, their characters appear as cardboard cutouts of human beings.

They wind up with totally one-dimensional, and intolerably uninteresting characters. Everything in the story is all about the ‘Plot’ and little or no attention is paid to the characters or their interaction with one another outside of the plot line. The reader gets the idea that the author is completely lacking in human understanding.

People are complex critters; they are driven by fear, desire, inadequacy, unthinking lust, addiction, loneliness, hopes and dreams, desperation, you name it. And all at the same time. Perhaps a little introspection is in order. Perhaps a bit of observation of the behaviour of others.

Again; write about what you know, not about what you think you know. If you don’t know about people and what drives them to make the decisions they do, or say the things they do, or the way they say those things, don’t write about people. Write tour guides, or advertising copy.

That may be a  bit harsh, but write about what you know. And if you don’t know how one of your characters should react in a scene, ask someone. Ask two or three people – of any sex – how they would react in that situation, and ask them to be honest when they tell you. I certainly am not suggesting you take any course in psychology or sociology; heaven forbid.

But don’t be afraid to reveal your characters as real human beings facing real situations. Even if your novel is set aboard a starship in the Crab Nebula (lovely place – lots to see and do there), they are still human beings (well, some of them are, anyway).

People want to read about people. You do yourself and your tale and your reader a disservice if you fail to provide enough information about your characters for the reader to see them as human beings.

I do not recommend that you describe each character in complete detail at the beginning of your tale – fifteen pages of character description is a bit much for any reader. But do provide a brief physical description, a brief revelation of what they do and where they come from (background). Just enough for the reader to build an image of that person, and that will convince them to become invested in your tale.

The reader comes to know your characters as people, and that helps him or her to ‘suspend his disbelief’. And through the course of the story, reveal – through the characters actions and dialogue – who he or she is and what drives them.

“Show, don’t tell,” is the key to interesting writing. Show, through action and dialogue what is going on, who is doing what to whom, and why. Write actively – not passively. Stay away from the ‘have had’s’  and ‘had done’s’ and ‘had been’s’. Forget passive anything in your writing.

And the same holds true with your characters. Reveal them through their actions and their speech patterns. You don’t need multiple paragraphs filled with a narrative about why someone is doing something or ‘had done’ something. Historical narrative is guaranteed to put your reader into a coma. Keep it active – keep your writing here and now. That will keep your reader involved in your characters and your tale.

Friday, April 13, 2012

“Lonesome Cove” is now available for purchase


Here’s the URL for the book page on Amazon:


My fourth novel, fully two years’ worth of research, writing, editing and rewriting, is now available for purchase for the Kindle. It is a tale about the search for a missing woman, the granddaughter of a Mob hit man released after serving twenty-five years in prison for a double murder. It’s also about a dirty cop, Latino gangs, and revenge. And three tons of gold, stolen off a ship in the Port of Miami back in the early 80’s. It’s still missing, you see…


Here’s the back text:

Terry Rankin isn’t so sure about his new client, Gianni Lupo. Gianni is an old man, just released from prison after serving the full twenty-five years of a Life sentence for a double murder in Miami. But Terry figures the man’s paid for his crime and now he’ll spend his declining years tottering around his home on Sanibel Island. Terry isn’t sure why Lupo feels the need for armed bodyguards, but what can go wrong? After all, it’s been twenty-five years.

And three tons of gold is still missing…


And here is the URL (again) for the book page on Amazon:


Thursday, April 12, 2012

A woman I have yet to meet is one of my best friends ever


But I am going to make a point of meeting her in the next short while.

Keep in mind that no writer works in a vacuum. You might sit in your garret room with the wallpaper peeling off, the plaster dropping from the ceiling in great sheets and the cold rain blowing in through the broken windows while you sharpen your goose quills and grind your powdered ink. You might do all you can to avoid walking down those three flights of rickety stairs to face the storm outside during the short walk to your corner bistro for a half-loaf of day old bread, but you still do not write in a vacuum.

People – real, living, breathing (we hope) human beings actually read your stuff (again, we hope). And they talk to each other, and send emails to one another about what you’ve put down on paper (or perhaps parchment or strips of birch bark).

Many years ago while I lived in Israel I published several articles and essays on Israeli politics and terror groups. That stuff is still floating out there on the web, and I still get emails from readers. No, I won’t go into details about what they say. That’s not the point here.  Good comments or bad, people read your stuff, and they occasionally (not nearly often enough) take the time to write and let you know what they think about your work.

It’s called criticism, and much more often than not it is constructive criticism. And that is a very good thing for you as a writer. Welcome it. Beg, if you have to, but make certain sure your readers understand that you really, honestly, truly want and need to hear from them.

Because you do. Unheated, damp garret rooms are very lonely places. And day old bread does not a healthy diet make.

Several weeks ago I received an email from an author I know and admire. His wife was reading one of my novels and wanted him to ask if I would mind a list of corrections, since, as she put it, ‘He writes a great story, but he really needs an editor’.

It took me less than thirty seconds to get a reply off to him. A few days later his wife sent me that list; about two pages, single-spaced, with the edits identified by page line in the novel.

Wowie-zowie! I went through her edits in about twenty minutes and republished the Kindle version within the hour. And then sent off a very impassioned thank you to the both of them.

The other day I got another email with a Word doc attached with edits for my second novel. Again, it took me about half an hour to make the corrections and  republish the Kindle version and again I sent a very warm thank you right back.

The three of us will be having dinner together in a few weeks.

Keep in mind that I use “Beta Readers” once a manuscript is complete. Several readers participate and send their corrections to me, and each keeps that copy of the MS and receives an acknowledgement in the preface to the published novel (along with a signed copy of the paperback version). What a wonderful group that is, too.

Yes, I am very much aware that no amount of beta readers can ever take the place of a professional editor, but when you’re living in that garret and looking forward to your next half-loaf of day old bread, a professional editor is the very last thing on your shopping list; way down there below paying rent, covering your utility bill and that short and very damp walk to the corner bistro for your half-loaf.

Been there, and done that. Still am, in fact. My fourth novel, “Lonesome Cove” will have the great good fortune to experience the contributions of a professional editor for the paperback version (right after the last of my beta readers’ comments are dealt with). But the Kindle version, since it costs nothing to publish, will have to make do with the tender ministrations of my beta readers and the very welcome comments from the folks who pay their hard-earned $3.00 + applicable state and federal taxes to read it.

And I will welcome comments and corrections from everybody, thank them from the very depths of my heart, swear life-long love and friendship (meaning every word of it) and make those corrections to the manuscript and republish it just as quick as a little bunny.

Because I know damn good and well that I do not write in a vacuum.

I will be the first to admit that my work is not perfect; but it is ‘good enough’ to sell, and follow-on comments from readers allows me to improve the editing and re-publish a matter of hours. As I mentioned earlier, a professional editor would catch much of what I and my beta readers miss and make a ‘good enough’ manuscript into a truly publishable work. And “Lonesome Cove” will be the first of my published novels to have the luxury of a professional editor’s attention.

Let’s be honest here. I know that I am not the only published writer facing an inadequacy of income when it comes to getting my work published. Editing costs just about as much as the actual publishing of a novel. In fact, prices for professional editors run around  $5.00 – $7.00 a page. If a Print-On-Demand publishing house charges $1300.00 to publish your novel and the editors want another $700.00 – $1000.00 to edit your manuscript and you have saved up most of that $1300.00 after months of scrimping on your half-loaf of day-old bread, what are you gonna do – not publish for manuscript for another year just to get it edited first? You’ve just spent the last two years of your life writing the damn thing and another six months rewriting after your beta readers have gone through it with a few fine-toothed combs and you surely have a use for the several dollars’ increase in your treasury selling the paperback copies will generate at your local community events and even on-line.

And you know, too, that you have a lifetime’s worth of promotion and marketing to do to sell yourself as an author, and you can’t even get started on that until you have at least one novel/biography/history/chemistry text book in the marketplace. So it’s perfect. It is damn near, and that is ‘good enough’ to get started with.

You bet it is.

Purists may disagree. Just so you know, those purists can afford to pay a professional editor. You probably can’t. So do the best you can with what you’ve got, and be damn sure that every work you publish is better than the last. Pretty soon, now - meaning in a few years – you’ll be one of those purists, too. But when that day comes, just keep in mind what it took you to get to that point. Encourage new writers; don’t put stumbling blocks in their paths. Better to light the way for them.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Another Excerpt from “Lonesome Cove”


Terry Rankin is in Miami, looking for information on Gianni Lupo’s grandaughter, Nikki. He finds a lot more than he bargained for. But not much solid information:


I paid the bill and left a nice tip, then headed for my hotel a few blocks away. There wasn’t anything left to do until Petty called with some answers. South Miami is a nice place; everything is close by, the weather is nice, the people are nice. The staff in the hotels are nice. It’s all so damn nice.

On the surface, anyway. Just like most parts of the civilized world, folks are polite. It helps to keep people from killing each other over the little things. Most times, anyway. There are exceptions.

Hal Petty called while I was in the shower. So did Cathy. I called Petty, first.

“Got some interesting stuff for you. Don’t like it a lot, and I’m sure you won’t, either. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, but then there’s a whole lot in life that doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

I laughed. “You’re not making much sense either, right now.”

“Okay, this is what I got. Tammy O’Shea, aged eighteen. Died in a car accident on 23 December, 2000. Sound familiar?”

Oh, crap, yes, it did. “Who else was in the car, Hal?”

“Rosa and Angelo Gianuzzi.”

“Where was their daughter, Nicola?”

“No mention of her in the newspaper report. Got a call in to the police department in Trenton who responded to the accident. No call back from them, yet.”

“What else?”

“Tammy O’Shea, of Trenton, New Jersey, has a Florida driver’s license. No violations, no wants or warrants out on her, no ‘Also Known As’ listed. She’s had the license for nine years. Clean as a whistle. Registration and insurance on the Corvette is in her name, with the address I gave you earlier.”

“Hal, you have to get me some information on Nicola Gianuzzi.”

“I’m working on it,” he said with a bit of asperity in his tone. “I’ll get what I can from the Trenton PD and the local obituary columns and work from there. Your girl would have been way too young to strike out on her own. She had to live with someone until she was old enough to join the army. If she’s using the O’Shea ID to cover herself she had to have professional help setting it up. I’ll see what I can learn.”

Gianni Lupo didn’t know that a third person had died in the accident that took the lives of his daughter and her husband. I wondered how he learned of the accident. I wondered if it was an accident. I wondered where Nicola Gianuzzi was, and why she was masquerading as Tammy O’Shea.

Then I called Cathy. I did not tell her what Hal Petty had learned, or about my thoughts. I wasn’t about to drop that on her over the phone. That was going to be a face-to-face conversation. After we said our hellos, I asked, “Did your dad stop by today?”

“Yes, in fact he’s going to stay over tonight. We’ve been all over the boat, looking at what Rolf and his crew did. Dad loves the instrumentation in the wheelhouse. Now that he’s had a good look at Nina R, he’s thinking of getting some new gear for his Riviera.”

“He’s got a real pretty boat, Honey.” Calling a forty-five foot Riviera pretty is a major understatement. Try beautiful.

“What’s new on your end?”

I told her some of what I’d learned, but not all. “I’ll tell you the rest when I get back tomorrow evening. Everything I thought I knew has been changed in just a few hours today. No idea where this thing will go tomorrow.” Oh, boy, was I right about that.

“Well, you take good care of yourself. Spike’s trying to grab the phone to say hello,” she giggled.

“Hello, Spike,” I laughed. “Cathy, tell your dad I said hi, will you? I’ll see you tomorrow night.”

Ten minutes later, things changed again, when someone knocked on my door.

I cursed myself then, for flying to Miami. If I had driven as I first thought to do I would have a weapon with me. I wasn’t expecting anyone, and a knock on the door in the middle of the night is always cause for concern. I moved to stand with my back against the wall of the bathroom and faced the closet on the opposite wall. That placed the entry door on my right side.

“Who is it?”

“FBI, Mr. Rankin,” a familiar though not quite welcome feminine voice replied. I breathed a sigh of relief, flipped the deadbolt and opened the door for her.

“I never caught your name,” I said as she and her young male companion entered. I first met her in the parking lot of the apartment hotel late one night last month. She came with a message from my government asking for my cooperation in ending the life of a very unpleasant and dangerous man.

Then after it was all over she and her gofer came to bring me a gift from my government. A gift that I quickly dropped into the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, unopened, where I hoped no one would ever find it.

She was a pleasant woman, easy to look at and obviously a very capable agent, but not entirely welcome right then.

“And how can I help you and my government this evening?” I asked as the young man with her closed and locked the door.

She brushed her shoulder length blond hair off her face and said, “Did you wonder why Mr. Lupo settled on your company to provide his protection?”

“No, it never entered my mind,” I replied as I pulled a soda out of the mini bar. It should have, though. But I’ve never been one to check the dentition of gift horses.

“I visited him while he was still in prison and recommended you.”

That caught my attention. “Why?”

Another knock on the door interrupted us. As I began to move toward the door she put out a hand to stop me. “Paul, give me your backup piece,” she said as she pushed me into the room and around the corner, out of the line of sight from the entrance. She handed me Paul’s Springfield Arms .40 semi-auto. I slipped the safety off and racked the slide to load a round into the chamber as she said to me, “Stay there.”

She took up a position with her back to the wall, her weapon in a two handed grip, with the barrel toward the ceiling. She signaled to her companion, saying, “Get your weapon ready. Stand beside the door. Ask who it is.”

The young man held his pistol parallel to the floor and pointing at the entry as he called, “Who is it?”

The burst of rounds that answered his question blew right through him, pulling a red mist in its wake and catching the woman through the sheetrock wall she thought would shield her. It didn’t. It never does.

Time slowed to a crawl.

As she dropped to the floor, cursing the pain, I moved to stand against the opposite wall where the pistol in my right hand could point more naturally down the short hall. The door eased open on its hinges; the rounds from the automatic weapon had destroyed the locks holding it shut.

Two men entered. I took one step into the hall and pulled the trigger four times, dropping them both. The second man tried to stand and bring his pistol to bear, but a fifth round put him down for good.

I stood there, staring at the mess that was once Paul. I’d never learned his last name, but he’d died doing his job in my hotel room.

Screaming from the other patrons on the floor assured me that at least one person had already called the front desk and probably the cops, as well. I pulled the pillows off the bed, stripped the cases off and moved to kneel beside the woman, where I did what I could to stop the bleeding. Two rounds struck her in the back; one through her right shoulder blade and the second lower down, blowing out through her stomach.

She was alive, in extreme agony and cursing a blue streak. Anger, frustration, and sadness mixed in her words. “That kid wanted to be an agent his whole life. He’s been with me since he got out of the Academy. I was his field training officer. My bosses thought I’d keep him out of trouble. And I just used the poor bastard as a speed bump.” There was more like that. She never lost consciousness; the agony of a round in your gut is indescribably painful.

The paramedics had her on a gurney in a matter of a few minutes. I spent the rest of the night answering questions.

It would be another week before I learned her name, or why she’d come to visit. Once the cops had me at the station I called Cathy to let her know I was okay and then my attorney, Allison Saunders, just in case.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough answers for them, though I told the story as I knew it from beginning to end half a dozen times and answered all of their questions as thoroughly as I could. The officers who interviewed me asked questions and demanded answers, but they wouldn’t tell me a damn thing.

I was a witness, a victim if you prefer, but I was treated as I had treated perpetrators through all my years in law enforcement.

It is never pleasant to be on the receiving end of an interrogation.

They released me around mid-day on Sunday. I returned to the hotel to find they had moved me to another room. I showered and shaved, packed my bags, paid the bill and drove to the airport. After turning in my rental car I checked in at the airline desk. Then I found a restaurant, had a decent meal and drank coffee until my flight was called.

I didn’t read the newspaper. I didn’t even look at it.

I’d be back in Miami, right after Gianni Lupo and I had a long and probably very unpleasant conversation.

Cathy was waiting for me when I stepped aboard Nina R Sunday night. I wasn’t hungry, but my stomach was roiling from all the coffee I’d drunk, so we put a few potatoes in the oven to bake, assembled a garden salad and steamed a few salmon steaks. The night had turned chilly so we ate at the galley table. I told her the whole story about what I’d learned on Saturday. She took copious notes, and like the investigator she is, she asked lots of questions.

“Somebody is gaming you, Rankin.”

“That’s my take, too. I’m planning to have a long talk with Lupo tomorrow.”

“You think he’s behind this? That man spent the last twenty-five years in prison.”

“And he pointed me toward Miami, don’t forget.”

“What about the Corvette nobody can find? Who made it disappear? Gianni Lupo? Even if he was the Don of Dons he couldn’t pull that off.”

“Somebody set his granddaughter up with a cover identity, Cathy, and that same somebody is protecting her, or at least working hard to make sure nobody gets past the cover to see what’s behind it.”

Cathy grimaced. “You believe that kid behind the pharmacy about the drugs he claims he sold her?”

“Two questions about that; first, if he was on the level and things went as he says they did, maybe Nikki Gianuzzi was buying drugs from him as part of a sting operation. Second, if things went as he claims, maybe she was buying them to use herself. Some people do consume illegal drugs, though it’s unlikely any DEA agent would be that stupid. Third-”

“You said two things. I get to say something now.”

I shrugged and let her continue.

“Let’s say he was on the level and told you what he thought to be true. Never mind if what he said was a hundred percent valid; he thought it was. He sold her illicit drugs and assumed she was using them.”

“No law enforcement agency in the world would put a jerk like that on the street, and nobody is that good an actor. I’m taking him as real, right along with the hairdresser and the guy in the karate school.”

“So you believe what they had to say?”

“They all reported basically the same thing, with sufficient differences to allow me to build a fairly accurate appraisal of Tammy O’Shea/Nikki Gianuzzi.”

“But the hairdresser thinks she’s a high-priced call girl, the kid at the pharmacy thinks she’s a drug user, and the karate guy thinks she’s a nice rich lady with a healthy body,” Cathy retorted.

“They saw what Nikki wanted them to see. None of them saw her.”

Cathy shrugged. “So what’s third?”

I had to think about that for a second. “Ah, the third point I wanted to make. She bought the drugs as a part of her cover. The ‘flash’ car, the party girl and the drugs, and the proven martial arts expertise all paint a picture of a single woman with big bucks and a big lifestyle. That’s what she wants the world to see.”


“No idea. But it has to do with where she parked the car she didn’t drive on the Tamiami Trail the day she disappeared. The car she drove when she actually went into that apartment in that upscale complex. It has a lot to do with whoever she works for, or with, and what they’re doing.”

Cathy leaned back and stretched. “And what great insights do you have on who sent those two men to kill you last night?”

I shrugged again. “Great insights? I don’t have so much as an itty-bitty inkling.”

Sunday, April 8, 2012

On ‘Color’ in Writing


My last little snippet on the elements in writing dealt with “Voice’. Today I want to spend a bit of time on ‘color’. Let’s give Voice a short review, first.

Voice can best be described as how you present your story – it includes your attitude about the tale you tell, the point of view from which you tell the tale and your approach to your writing. It’s more than just your style – it’s you, as the writer, telling the tale.

‘Color’ in music refers to  the variety of tones used in a piece of music – it refers to the complexity of tones the composer selects for a piece. What key (how many flat or sharp notes) he or she prefers to provide the overall tone of the piece, which cords (majors, dimunitives, minors etc) are used, and so on. In other words, is the piece going to be a simple folk tune, a 1950’s romantic such as “More” (from Fellini’s movie “Mondo Cane”) or a complex classic such as Pachelbel’s Cannon in D Major, or one of Beethoven's symphonies?

You’ve heard the term,  Noir (Black), used to describe a classic detective novel, I’m sure. You know right away it’s going to be a dark tale, morbid and slightly depressing. And you’ve certainly read enough blurbs on the back’s of novels where the tale within is described as a “warm and loving family story”. Warm in this sense gives you the tone of the story.

Well, that’s ‘Color’. You as the writer set the tone of each scene long before you begin to write it. You know well in advance if it has to portray a warm and intimate scene between two people, or a caring and loving scene between a mother and daughter or a dark and forbidding scene where the hero confronts the bad guy in an alley.

You need to keep that color, that tone, in mind throughout the scene or risk confusing your reader. Once the scene is over you can transition to another tone as the characters relax or reflect or shift into another activity, but to maintain the reader’s ‘suspension of disbelief’,  keep the color of the scene clear.

The overall color (or tone) of the tale you tell will go a long way toward selling it to your readers. Many readers will never purchase a noir story simply because they choose not to be depressed by what they read. For the same reason they will choose to only read ‘A warm and loving tale of a family struggling to survive in the face of adversity’ tale.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Free download of "Twisted Key" for your Kindle!


Here’s a present for your Easter and Passover enjoyment!

“Lonesome Cove” will be out for the Kindle some time this month. In the meantime, I am giving away – for today and tomorrow only, copies of my third novel, “Twisted Key” for the Kindle.


Be sure the ‘Buy’ price is $0.00 before you click on the ‘Buy’ button…

Please 'Share' this link on your social media sites and email it to your friends who own Kindles!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sorry to crowd your day with another post…


I’ve been posting stuff all week long, and today I am posting twice. I hope this does not bore any of you to tears.

Especially because I seem to have gained a few readers with my post this morning on finding your “Voice” as a writer. You will see more such short and pithy posts from me in the weeks to come. Please let me know if you find them useful or not. In either case, I welcome you all aboard!

So what’s so all-fired important I have to post twice today? Well, tomorrow’s Friday and I figure most people have lives away from their computers on Friday, and I have a few announcements I hope to pass along before your lives interfere with your computer time.

So here’s the first bit. On the 7th and 8th of April – that’s this Saturday and Sunday – I will be giving away the Kindle version of my third novel, “Twisted Key”.

Here’s a short blurb for the novel and the cover art:

clip_image002 Terry Rankin has a new client; Fatima al Natsche, a Muslim woman living under a sentence of death for her work on behalf of women suffering under Islamic law. Terry’s a businessman – he’ll protect just about anyone who can pay the freight. In fact, he admires Ms. Al Natsche and the sacrifices she’s made to get her message out.

But then her daughter flies over from Norway and gets snatched off the street in front of her mother’s home, and all of the masks come off and all of the dirty little secrets come out to play in the Florida sun.

Go to: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_2_14?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=gary+showalter&sprefix=gary+showalter%2Caps%2C644

Look for “Twisted Key”, and before you click the ‘Buy’ button, be sure that the ‘to buy’ price states $0.00. Otherwise you will wind up paying for the book…

You don’t need a Kindle hand-held to take advantage of this. There are today versions of the Kindle reader for the PC, the Mac and all sorts of hand-held devices (smart phones and tablet readers). I have heard from several people who have read my novels on smart phones and they seem to enjoy the experience. You can get these free apps here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=sa_menu_karl3?ie=UTF8&docId=1000493771

And here’s the next bit. My fourth novel, “Lonesome Cove”, should be available for the Kindle later this month, and I will advertise that event as soon as I have a fixed date. I am waiting for a final round of edits and as soon as I get it and make the changes I will publish it for the Kindle. The paperback version should be available some time in the fall.

Here’s the cover art and a short blurb:

clip_image004 Terry Rankin isn’t so sure about his new client, Gianni Lupo. Gianni is an old man, just released from prison after serving the full twenty-five years of a Life sentence for a double murder in Miami. But Terry figures the man’s paid for his crime and now he’ll spend his declining years tottering around his home on Sanibel Island, maybe walk the beach in the morning and collect a few seashells. Terry isn’t sure why Lupo feels the need for armed bodyguards, but what can go wrong? After all, it’s been twenty-five years…

And another bit of news:

On the 14th of April I will be at the “Author Expo” in the Marion County Public Library on Silver Springs Blvd in Ocala Florida. This is going to be a “Big Thing”, folks, with lots of authors, some speakers and all sorts of stuff going on. The event will be on that Saturday between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. If you’re in the area, please stop by and say hello.

“Voice?” What’s in a voice, and how do you find it?


I was speaking with my second son, Yoni, yesterday. He, along with my other three children, live in Israel and I’m in Florida. He’s studying in the Wingate Institute in Netanya, with the intention of teaching physical Education. He’s also getting married in June and had a few questions for me.

Out of the blue, he began talking about my second novel, “Hog Valley”. “It’s as if you were sitting with me and telling me the story, Dad,” he said. “Like you were right there beside me. But not everyone who read’s your books will have that feeling. Maybe if they were with you they might feel that, but what about everyone else? What do they feel?”

Beats me. I really didn’t have an answer for him, but I think he gets ‘It’. And then so did I. My “Voice” in the Terry Rankin novels is me, in a very big way. I don’t pull any punches when I write those stories. I don’t pretend to be anyone else but me. Terry Rankin tells the story of his life through me (or perhaps it’s the other way ‘round). I will admit there is a lot of me and my attitudes in Terry. Me, and some other men I have known, anyway.

Your “Voice” is what sets you apart from other writers telling pretty much the same sorts of stories as you do. Your “Voice” is the reason readers will come back to buy YOUR stories time and time again over other authors. It’s HOW you tell your tale that counts, even over and above whatever plots you come up with or characters you create out of whole cloth.

So relax, and tell your tale, and put yourself into your work. Be a storyteller. Be you, and let the chips fall where they may.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

On gerunds and other new writer’s gaffs–and an announcement


Louis L’Amour was a great natural storyteller, but he was not what you’d call a sophisticated or even a polished writer. But because he was such a marvelous storyteller, he was able to get away with his somewhat ‘untutored’ prose.

And I will be the very first to say that I enjoy reading his stories. But gerunds really tick me off. So do repeated phrases and throwaway phrases.

Starting with gerunds, let’s get right down to it. Thinking about how to start another sentence, let’s get focused on our subject. Strapping on my hog-leg, I’ll mosey over to the word barn and see if we can sort out a few ‘issues’ with composition.

Rising to the occasion, let’s get focused on what we’re talking about.

I really, really hate gerunds.

I downloaded a free book to my Kindle the other day – it’s a military thriller by a former Marine who must have a life-long love affair with Louis L’Amour westerns, because every paragraph and nearly every sentence in that novel of his starts with, of course, a damn gerund.

Don’t get me wrong; gerunds can be useful. But laziness does not equate to professionalism, and the use of a gerund at the beginning of every paragraph is nothing but downright laziness. It demonstrates to one and all that you cannot be bothered with thinking about your craft; you as a writer see no reason to waste any time thinking about what you need to put down on paper or how to keep the flow of the tale moving along nicely. You have no consideration for your reader.

Throwaway phrases and over-used words (such as “I”) and repetitive blocking-out also display a lazy approach to writing. Having your characters drink coffee in every scene because you cannot be bothered thinking of something else for them to do should embarrass you as a writer. Remember, while ‘Creative Writing’ is only about 5% of the effort involved in writing, you still have to be somewhat ‘Creative’.

Throwaway phrases such as, “Trust me on this”, and “Hey, Baby” and “You got it” or any other such that you find yourself using in dialogue or in narrative are sure signs of a lazy – and therefore uninteresting – writer. Vary your phrasing, for crying out loud. Do yourself a favor and actually be creative in how you write. That’s why G-d invented the thesaurus.

One of the hardest things to do when writing from the first-person perspective is avoiding the use of the word ‘I’:

I got up and opened the door. Sheryl was standing there, wrapped in a long coat. But I could tell there was nothing under that coat but woman, and I knew that woman well. I smiled and opened the door all the way. I stood aside and said, “I love you, Baby,” and then I turned and followed her into my living room. When she turned, smiling, she had a pistol in her hand, and slowly raised it until the barrel was pointed right between my eyes.

“Funny thing about that, Harry,” she said as I began to shake, “I hate your guts, you cheap weasel,”

Potentially an interesting scene, but everything seems to be I, I, I, I, I etc. Rephrase it. Rewrite, it for pity’s sake. Don’t be lazy. You’re a creative writer, so be creative. Get someone – not your wife, husband or mother – to read what you write and point out gerunds and repeated words and phrases. You can’t see them yourself, I promise you, but once someone does show you these things you will catch on, though the first few minutes might well see you blushing with embarrassment. But you’ll get over it and become a much better writer than you ever thought possible.

You have to stay flexible and you have to be able to identify repeated phrases and other such things in your own writing as you continue to write. Welcome such criticism and learn from it. That’s how you grow as a writer. Study the way other writer’s work in their novels – don’t just read them, but study them to learn how they phrase things, good and bad. You’ll begin to see the good and the bad very quickly.


On 14 April, I will be in Ocala, Florida, at the Marion County Public Library on Silver Springs Blvd for the Author Expo. Lots of local and out-of-town authors to meet and greet, and lots of lovely books to buy (and get signed0. The Expo runs between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m on that Saturday. Stop by and say hello!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Free Kindle download of “Twisted Key” and a new “Lonesome Cove” excerpt


Good morning, everyone! Please pass on to your friends and neighbors with Kindles that my third novel, "Twisted Key", will be available for Free download on 7 and 8 April. Here's the product page link on Amazon:


Be sure to check that the 'Kindle Purchase Price' states $0.00 before clicking the 'Buy' button!

And here’s another excerpt from “Lonesome Cove” for you. This, my fourth novel, should be available for the Kindle some time in April ( yes, I know this is April. It will be available some time soon).

This scene is again near the beginning of the novel. It features Mike Banks, Cathy’s boss at the Orlando Police Department and Spike, of course. I used this scene to wrap up “Twisted Key”:

I hadn’t stopped for breakfast on the way in to work and my stomach was growling. Cathy said she was wrapped up in an investigation, so I tried her boss, my old friend Mike Banks. He said yes, provided we met at the steak house on I-Drive in an hour.

I spent most of that hour in heavy cross-town traffic.

When we were finally seated, I asked, “You hear anything about Fatima al Natsche? The DA hasn’t contacted me about my testimony.” Fatima al Natsche and her daughter plotted her ex-husband’s murder, preferably at my hands. In the end his daughter convinced three of his bodyguards to kill him.

“Won’t be a trial, son,” Mike replied. “She pled guilty and accepted a life sentence. Since she was responsible for several murders and the sentences will run consecutively, she’ll never see the light of day.” Those murder convictions resulted from a conspiracy between her and her daughter. Under the law she is held to be guilty of each murder as if she committed them herself.

“Good riddance. I’m glad it’s over.” That woman cost me plenty, including the life of my business partner and operations manager, Charley Weeks, who died on the orders of Samir al Qadari, al Natsche’s ex-husband. Not to mention all of the man-hours I would probably have to cover out of my own pocket, unless my attorney could convince the Court to issue an order of payment out of al Natsche’s bank account.

Fat chance of that happening. Her lawyer would fight that tooth and nail. That money was his.

“Cathy says you might have stepped into it again, yesterday,” Mike said with a smile. “What is it this time?”

“She didn’t give you the juicy details?”

“Don’t think she had any.”

So I told him Gianni Lupo’s story about his granddaughter and what he wanted from me.

When I finished, Mike just shrugged and said, “I know you do all right as far as an income goes, but you’d be able to keep more of it in your pocket if you opened a pizza shop. I hope you realize that.”

I smiled and shook my head. “Not all my clients are blood-thirsty murderers.”

“No,” he laughed. “But some of them are.”

I thought of Gianni Lupo’s history. He’d been sentenced for two murders only because he was never found guilty of any of the other murders he was suspected of committing during his years as a mob enforcer. Mike’s humor hit all too close to home.

I got back to the marina around nine that night. Cathy was below decks on the couch in the salon, watching TV with Spike on her lap. His fur was suspiciously shiny, and he was sporting a brand new flea collar. As I leaned over to give Cathy a kiss, he glared at me.

“What’s his problem?” I asked.

Cathy’s hand was laid protectively over Spike’s back as she said, “The poor baby went to the vet this afternoon. He had a bath, a check up, got his ears cleaned and his claws trimmed and got his shots.” She lifted up his head to show Spike’s shiny new ID tag dangling from his collar. “He’s legal now. All shiny and clean and healthy and legal.”

“And humiliated,” I quipped.

Cathy giggled. “That, too, but he’ll get over it. I bought him some fresh calves’ liver on the way home and fried it up for him when we got back.” She stroked his fur as she said, “He got over his grumps in a hurry when he smelled it cooking. He put on quite a song and dance for me until I had it all cut up and in his bowl. Just like a guy; feed him well and he’ll do anything you want.”

I had no trouble imagining that particular scene. I didn’t tell her that Spike would do the same for a Vienna sausage right out of the can.

After a quick shower and shave I joined them and spent the evening spacing out in front of the idiot box.