Stacked to Death: Who is the Stacks Strangler?

Stacked to Death is published! If you’ve already downloaded it, thank you! If you haven’t, you can get it here.

Here’s an excerpt to entice you. :)

I went to circulation for a book cart, wheeled it to the elevator and rode up to the third floor. The books on my list were toward the far corner of the room.

I rounded the corner of the DS shelf and nearly tripped over something.

Someone’s foot.

I jumped back a step, startled, then looked closer. The foot was attached to a body, clothed in tight white pants and a lime green shirt.

Austin Sharp.

He was sprawled on his back, a couple of books scattered at his side. I leaned toward him as far as I could without moving my feet any further. “Austin?” I kicked at his foot a little. “Austin. Wake up.”

He didn’t move. He wasn’t breathing. His face was blue-purple, his eyes were bulging and his tongue, also purple, was poking out between his lips.

He’d been strangled.

Oh God. There was a sound in my head like a distant swarm of bees. Shit. Fainting would be bad.

I heard footsteps behind me and turned to see Andy from circulation coming up behind me. “Jamie? What’s-” He stopped and gasped. “Fuck. Is that Austin?”


“Did you call 911?”

“No.” I patted my pockets. “I don’t have my phone.” Where was my phone? Oh, yeah – it was locked in my office. I never brought it with me into the stacks.

“I’ll do it.” Andy pulled his phone out and dialed.

I backed against the wall for support and thought about not fainting. At one point Andy knelt by Austin’s ankle, touched him, and said, “He’s cool to the touch. I don’t feel a pulse. Okay.” He hung up as the stairwell door banged open and the cops arrived.


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New-to-me gay mystery: The Nick Hoffman Mysteries

I belong to a gay mystery group on Facebook. I get the best recommendations from them, and introductions to authors that I wasn’t aware of. The most recent is Lev Raphael, author of (among other work) the Nick Hoffman Mysteries. The first is called Let’s Get Criminal. There are seven or eight in the series, I think.

Nick Hoffman is an assistant professor of English and composition at the State University of Michigan, a poorly disguised version of Michigan State University. His partner, Stefan, is a successful novelist who is the writer-in-residence at the university; Nick got his job because he was Stefan’s partner. He doesn’t have tenure, and his position in the department is somewhat precarious as a result.

Nick keeps stumbling across dead bodies – the victims are usually connected to his department – and gets dragged into the investigations in spite of his reluctance. The mysteries themselves are entertaining, but what I enjoy most about the books is the academic setting. Raphael’s descriptions of college and departmental politics are right on the nose. He also makes a lot of literary references, which I like. For non-academics it might be too much, but not for me.

The other reason I like these is that Nick and Stefan have been together 15 years. There have been bumps along the way, but I love the depiction of a well-established gay couple who still can’t get enough of each other.

It gives me hope for Pete and Jamie. :D


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The pre-order experiment: results

When Amazon decided to allow independent authors the choice of offering their books for pre-order, I decided I’d try it with Stacked to Death. Why not, right? :) I didn’t realize until I signed up that I’d have to have the final version of my book uploaded ten full days before the publication date, or that I’d have to upload a complete rough draft at the time I signed up.

No problem, right? I pushed the date out far enough and signed up.

I just uploaded the final version, ready for publishing, this morning, six days ahead of schedule. BUT it was a nerve-wracking experience. First, my editor’s laptop developed issues which Macs are not supposed to have. On top of that, my own laptop is an elderly Toshiba that runs Vista, and doesn’t reliably recognize the wireless signal in my house.


So the book is uploaded and ready to go. If you pre-ordered it, it will appear on schedule on 10/15 in your Kindles or apps.

But I’m not sure I’ll do this again. Too many things can go wrong with technology! It’s advantageous to me, because the book has the potential to make the Top 100 Gay Mystery list twice – once at the time of pre-order (which it did, getting to number 7, thank you!!) and once at the time of actual purchase.

But I don’t enjoy having my nerves wracked. :D

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Bonus content!

It’s crazy. Our enrollment at the college is down somewhat, but I’m busier than ever. How does that happen?? :D

Stacked to Death is on its way; the publishing date is October 15. If you haven’t pre-ordered it, you can do that here.

And, Stacked to Death will come with a bonus! A short story that takes place right after Stacked to Death, on Christmas Eve. Sort of a “Christmas coda” for Pete and Jamie. It’s called High Desert.

Here’s a snippet:

“What are you doing in there? We’re not meeting the president.”

Pete wasn’t normally a bathroom hog, but this morning he’d been in front of the mirror for a good fifteen minutes. He mumbled something back, but I couldn’t catch what he said through the closed door. “What?”

He opened the door and glared at me. “I said no, we’re meeting someone way more important.”

We were driving up to Pete’s dad’s place in Lancaster for Christmas Eve. Pete’s brother Steve would be there.

And so would Pete’s nieces, whom he’d be meeting for the first time.

Pete’s sister, Christine, had contacted him back in the fall for the first time in twenty-four years. Their mother had been in hospice and had requested that the children gather at her bedside. Pete hadn’t gone. The last time he’d seen his mother, when he was fourteen, he’d told her that he was being sexually abused by their parish priest and she’d called him a liar. Pete’s dad had taken his sons to live with him, and neither Pete nor Steve had ever seen their mother again.

Christine had sided with her mother at the time, but a few years later she’d met her husband, a third-generation Mexican-American, and the mother had turned her away as well. Christine had two teenage daughters. Stephanie was fifteen, a violinist in her school orchestra and a math whiz. Samantha was fourteen, a soccer star and aspiring writer. And Samantha was gay.

Steve and Christine had gone to see their mother, with predictably poor results. But now she was dead, and there seemed to be some potential for healing in the family. I was hoping that the spirit of Christmas would help mend some of the damage done.

Christine’s husband had come with her and the girls. I was looking forward to meeting him as well. But Pete was nervous for some reason.

“What are you nervous about?” I asked.

“What if they don’t like me? I don’t know anything about teenage girls.”

“You don’t have to know anything about teenage girls. Try thinking of them as people. You get along fine with Colin and Gabe.” My nephews were eleven and nine.

“Yeah, but they’re younger.”

“I know teenagers are tough, but they are still people. And your nieces sound delightful.” Steve had been spending some time with Christine and her family. He and the nieces were getting along well. Pete’s dad had met his granddaughters once, when he visited Steve back in the fall. Pete was the only one left.

“Yeah.” Pete sighed. “I’m sure it’ll be fine. I don’t know why I feel like this.”

“You told me once you can’t help how you feel. Be yourself. They’ll love you.”

“Yeah, okay.”

“Good. Now can I get in the bathroom?”

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What does cozy mystery mean to you?

One of the groups I belong to on Facebook put the question out there recently – any recommendations for “cozy” gay mystery? The best suggestion was Charlie Cochrane’s Lessons series, which I enjoy very much – but I never thought of as cozy.

I’ve also had reviewers refer to the Jamie Brodie books as cozy – but I never thought of them as cozy either.

Here’s the Wikipedia definition: “Cozy mysteries, also referred to simply as “cozies”, are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.”

Okay – I do downplay the sex in the Jamie books. But there is violence, especially at the end of Psyched to Death. And I’d hardly call Los Angeles or UCLA a small, socially intimate community.

“The detectives in such stories are nearly always amateurs” (yes) “and frequently women” (obviously not). 

They do list “librarian” as one of the often-held jobs of the amateur detective in the cozy mystery, and the protagonist has a contact on the police force. Jamie has Kevin, so that fits.

“The murderers in cozies are neither psychopaths nor serial killers.” Um – not to give too much away, but Stacked to Death does not meet that criterion.

“The supporting characters are broadly drawn and used as comic relief.” Not usually.

“Cat-lovers are well represented among the ranks of cozy-mystery detectives.” Jamie’s allergic. You will never see a cat in his books.

My cat Wesley. I love cats. Jamie doesn't.

My cat Wesley. I love cats. Jamie doesn’t.

“Avoidance of explicit sex and violence, emphasis on puzzle-solving over suspense, a small-town setting, and a focus on a hobby or occupation are all frequent elements of cozy mysteries.” 

Okay – I can see the reviewers’ points. And, no less an expert than Josh Lanyon himself says that the Jamie stories are cozies – so cozies they are!

I guess I had an instinctive objection to Jamie’s stories being referred to as “cozy” because, as a rule, I don’t like cozies. There are exceptions – but a little small-town eccentricity goes a very long way with me.

What do you think? 

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Stacked to Death preorder!

I’m going to try this pre-order thing and see how it works. :D Stacked to Death will be published on October 15, but you can pre-order it here:


Library work-study student Austin Sharp upset a lot of people. When Jamie Brodie finds Austin dead, strangled to death in the library stacks, the police have plenty of suspects. When another library work-study student is found strangled, the focus of the investigation shifts – both students were from the same hometown. Then a third student is found dead. A serial killer is on the loose, and the police send in detectives from the elite Homicide Special unit.
And their favorite suspect is Jamie. 

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The cover for Stacked to Death

The cover art is finished! Here it is:

Stacked cover 2

I intended it to convey a sense of menace – I think Stephanie (my graphic artist) achieved that!


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