Points of view

I am fortunate to work in the same building as several other fiction writers. We have a discussion group that meets once a week, where we critique each other’s work. I’m presenting a section of Stacked to Death to them this afternoon.

One of the other members is the director of our college writing center. She writes urban fantasy – her first book was about vampires; now she’s writing about dragons, with a few vampires thrown in. She asked me a question the other day that got me thinking – do I know things about my story that my main character doesn’t? Her reason for asking was her concern about plot holes. If there is information that the reader needs, but the main character doesn’t know it, how do you tell the reader, if you write in first person POV (like I do) or third person limited POV (like she does)?

My answer to her: if it’s information that the reader needs to know, otherwise there will be a plot hole, then a character that does know the information has to tell the main character, or she has to discover it somehow. It may be awkward to create a conversation with another character to get that information to the reader, but it has to be done.

Our talk made me think about what my protagonist, Jamie, knows. Jamie isn’t omniscient. He only knows what he learns or sees himself, or what others tell him. This is especially true of off-page characters. An example – a character that was mentioned briefly at the end of Psyched to Death, Robbie Harrison’s wife. Jamie doesn’t know her, never met her. The only source of information he has about her is Robbie, who at the moment is very angry with her for having him followed – he calls her a bitch. Jamie tells him that’s not nice – but he doesn’t know the woman. For all he knows, maybe she is a bitch.

But she’s not. I know her – I created her, right? Ashley Harrison, a beautiful blonde, stay-at-home mom to her two girls. I based her on someone I used to know, a woman married to an insurance company executive – a great mom, loved to entertain, was very generous, but was hell on wheels when she was angry. Ashley is a great mom, but she’s not perfect. Her marriage hasn’t been good for a while, but she hasn’t done anything about it, because she likes not having to work and she likes the well-to-do friends she’s made as a result of Robbie’s profession. She likes her big house in a wealthy neighborhood and she likes spending Robbie’s money. She thought Robbie was having an affair with a woman, and the discovery that he’s been seeing a man has sent her temporarily off the deep end.

But there is no way for Jamie to know any of that, because Robbie doesn’t tell him. Ashley’s character is not germane to the plot, and I’m not going to put the brakes on what is the climax of the story for Jamie to ask Robbie to please tell him all of Ashley’s good points.

I got accused of misogyny by a reviewer because Robbie called Ashley a bitch. The reviewer even said that it was Jamie that called her a bitch, which of course it wasn’t. Jamie was raised better than that. :D

I guess there are two morals to this story. First – as a reader, remember that first person POV means that Jamie doesn’t know anything more than you do. Because you only see things from his point of view, you only have what he sees and hears.

Second, if you want to accuse a writer of a particularly egregious trait, don’t base your accusation on such a minor character. Take a look at the characters that are fully drawn. The characters that Jamie knows well and interacts with himself. In this case, Liz, Ali, Mel, Dr. Bibbins, Dr. Loomis, Valerie, Abby, Barb, Connie…etc.

And remember – if Jamie’s getting misled, so are you. :D


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Authors: There’s a Thief in Your House, and Here’s How To Narc on Them.


Please read, and don’t buy books from these sites!

Originally posted on The Amazon Iowan:

Huge, mammoth hat tip to Bree and Donna for teaching me the magic that is Whois. And for translating it because I still don’t understand. Now, let me tell you a scary story, then hand you a machete.

This site is selling works without permission. So is this one, but Devin on twitter says they have similar stuff in the guts or something computer-ish that I don’t understand, which boils down to they’re probably the same joint. Except they seem to have different hosts, so maybe they’re twin assholes.

If you’re a reader and you’re going HEY CHEAP BOOKS, please know this is worse than piracy. This is someone illegally selling works they have no rights to. For that measly $1.90, I will receive nothing, ever, nor will my publisher, and thieving jerks will receive everything. These people will also have all your contact information, and your credit card…

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Details, details

Now that the next book in the Jamie Brodie Mystery series, Stacked to Death, is with the beta-readers, I’m working out the plot lines for the book after that, Stoned to Death. Jamie and Pete go to the UK for their month-long vacation, to investigate the disappearance of Pete’s great-great-grandfather in 1915. The investigation will take them from Oxford, England, up to the Orkney islands at the very top of Scotland. Stoned to Death will include a lot of relationship stuff between Pete and Jamie, too.

The setting includes a lot of places that I’ve been myself – Oxford, Orkney, Iona, Edinburgh, Fort William, and more. I’ll be writing part of it while I’m actually in England, walking across the country on the Hadrian’s Wall Path. I have the opportunity to include a lot of local color and detail about what the boys are seeing on their travels.

But how much detail? Some readers like details about what Jamie is seeing and doing; some hate them. It’s a balancing act, keeping enough description without going overboard.

How much detail about setting and character movements do you like?


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Researched to Death: Free for two days!

Speaking of old boyfriends…On Saturday, 6/28, and Sunday, 6/29, Researched to Death will be free at Amazon: http://goo.gl/ei5oMJ

“Was it National Old Boyfriends Week, and I’d missed the memo?” 
Librarian Jamie Brodie is looking forward to a week of vacation in Oxford, England, his first trip back in seven years. Before he’s even packed, though, a couple of complications arise. 
The first complication is Jamie’s ex, Ethan Williams, who shows up at Jamie’s office with his new boyfriend and a request. Ethan’s going to Oxford too, and he needs Jamie’s help to find a rare 15th century book in the Bodleian Library. When Jamie tells his boyfriend Pete that he and Ethan will be in Oxford at the same time, Pete doesn’t react well. To say the least. 
The second complication is Pete’s ex, Luke Brenner, who shows up at Pete and Jamie’s house. He lets Jamie know that he’s in town to get Pete back – but Pete doesn’t think Luke will try anything. 
He’s proven spectacularly wrong, in one horrible moment. 
Jamie leaves for Oxford, not sure where he stands with Pete, not looking forward to seeing Ethan. When he requests the book that Ethan needs, he learns that it’s been missing for three weeks – and the man who likely stole it is dead. 
Then two more men die, and Ethan goes missing as well. Is he in danger? Or is he a killer? And what could be in an obscure medieval manuscript that’s worth killing for?


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The Ex Files: Scott

And so we come to Scott. We first heard of Scott at the very beginning of Cited to Death, when Jamie tells of his latest boyfriend breaking up with him in the hospital. Not a good first impression! Scott gets mentioned by someone or another in nearly every book, and we’ll finally meet him – and get to know him very well – in Played to Death, which is Jamie Brodie Mystery #10. Without further ado…say hello to Scott Deering.

Looks: 6’0”, blond, blue eyes. Slender but strong – he doesn’t work out, but a cello is heavy.

Born: 1978, Bryn Mawr, PA

Parents: old money Main Line Philadelphia. Father a banker, mother a socialite. Scott’s parents divorced when he was twelve but shared custody. Both parents pushed Scott to practice in lieu of any other activities, and he didn’t have a lot of friends growing up. They also trotted him out for command performances when they were hosting parties – he particularly hated this. Scott’s parents were unsurprised when he came out to them but also mostly indifferent. Like Ethan, Scott misses the relationship he had with Jamie’s dad (although it was never as close as Ethan’s relationship with Dave).

Siblings: none.

Education: The Shipley School (private K-12), 1996

Juilliard, Bachelor of Music in Cello, 2000

Eastman School of Music, Master of Music in Performance and Literature, Cello, 2002

Employment: Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, 2002-7

Los Angeles Philharmonic, 2007-present

Relationship with Jamie: Jamie met Scott in late 2010 at an AIDS Project Los Angeles benefit at which Scott’s string quartet was playing. They began dating in early 2011 and were together for over a year. During that time Jamie had a lot of trouble with his asthma, necessitating several trips to the emergency room. Finally he was hospitalized and that’s when Scott broke up with him, two weeks before Cited to Death begins. They haven’t seen each other since, although Ali and Mel occasionally run into Scott at gay bars around town. Scott formed Jamie into a classical music fan. Liz and Scott were friends; Scott also became friends with Kristen Beach, another UCLA librarian.

Personality: Scott began music lessons at age three and from that time forward his life was defined by lessons, practice and performance. Like many child prodigies, Scott had some difficulty finding his footing in the real world, but a couple of his orchestra mates in Jacksonville took him under their wings and helped him grow up a good bit. He pretends disdain for Los Angeles when it’s fashionable to do so, but in reality loves Southern California and hopes he never has to leave. Scott is not as shallow or self-centered as he comes across – as Jamie’s friends all think he is. He was terrified by Jamie’s unstable asthma and felt helpless to do anything about it, so he turned away instead.

And there you have it, everything I know about Jamie’s ex-boyfriends. I’m not going to bother with Dan Christensen, because he’s dead, and I refuse to speak any further about Luke, Pete’s ex, because he’s such a lowlife. :D


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The Ex Files: Alex and Eric

After Nick split up with Jamie, Pete was also single, and he and Jamie dated for about eight months. As we know now, Pete’s ex, Luke, began campaigning for Pete to take him back very shortly after Pete and Jamie began dating. Pete was also the caretaker for his great-uncle Arthur, whose health was failing, and was in the middle of his Ph.D. program. It was a stressful time for Pete. It was a stressful time for Jamie also – newly minted as a librarian, trying to get off to a good start in his new job – and Abby had just moved in with Jamie and Kevin, complicating his life somewhat.

When Luke finally wore Pete down, Pete split with Jamie. Kevin and Pete had a falling out as a result, and neither Jamie nor Kevin saw Pete for a while. Jamie began dating again…

Alex Schuncke

Looks: 5’10”, light brown hair, blue eyes, wears glasses, average looking.

Born: Anaheim, California, 1984

Parents: Father a doctor, mother a nurse

Siblings: one sister

Education: Oxford Academy (high school), Cypress, CA; graduated 2002

UCLA; B.A. in Linguistics and French, 2006. He is also fluent in German, thanks to a year spent there in high school, and in Spanish.

UCLA; MLIS, 2008

Employment: UC-Irvine Libraries

Relationship with Jamie: Jamie and Alex were classmates throughout library school and became friends. Alex was still dating his college sweetheart through library school, but in early 2008, they split up – at the same time Pete broke up with Jamie. Alex and Jamie were both disillusioned with relationships; they commiserated, and one thing led to another. They decided to try dating but only lasted about six months because of basic personality differences and not enjoying many of the same activities. They remain friends, though.

Personality: If you look in the dictionary for the definition of “bookworm,” there’s Alex’s picture. He is the ultimate voracious reader. He’d rather read than do almost anything else. (Almost.) He made straight A’s from grade school through grad school except for B’s in phys ed. He never played a sport and doesn’t care for outdoors activities.

Current relationship: dating a resident in neurology at UC-Irvine Medical Center. This boyfriend works long hours, so Alex has plenty of time to read.


Pete never met Alex. By the time Pete and Kevin were speaking to each other again, Jamie was dating Eric.


Eric Padilla

Looks: 6’0”, dark brown hair and eyes. Lifts weights, in shape.

Born: Los Angeles, 1977

Parents: Owned a restaurant. Three uncles were firefighters.

Siblings: Eric is the fourth of five children.

Education: Garfield HS, Los Angeles, graduated 1995

EMT training at East Los Angeles College 1996

LAFD Fire Academy 1999

UCLA paramedic program 2001

Employment: LAC-USC Medical Center ER as an EMT; LAFD as a firefighter since 2000 and a firefighter/paramedic since 2002

Relationship with Jamie: Jamie met Eric in 2009 while standing in line at the Mystery Bookstore in Westwood (now closed). In addition to mysteries they also both enjoyed sports and the outdoors. Eric, however, was needy and clingy, texting Jamie several times an hour when they weren’t together. Jamie stayed with Eric for about a year because they did have a lot in common, their work schedules kept them apart a good bit so that Jamie didn’t have to deal with the neediness in person very much, and Eric lived just a couple of blocks away – it was very convenient. Another issue was that Eric wasn’t out to his family or at work. Jamie didn’t like having to hide. They both finally got tired of each other; Eric was the one who pulled the plug but Jamie would have eventually.


We met Alex in Burdened to Death, when Jamie sought his advice about Pete’s idea for an open relationship. We haven’t met Eric yet but will soon.

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The Ex Files: Nick

After graduating from Oxford, Jamie moved to L.A. to attend library school. He had a brief (three month) fling with Dan Christensen, who I’m not going to detail here. If you want to know about Dan, read Cited to Death. :D

After Dan, Jamie met Nick Taggart, a graduate student in cinematography at UCLA. We haven’t met Nick yet, but we will. Jamie was dating Nick when Pete broke up with Luke the first time. Pete liked Nick, or in his words, “at least as much as I liked any of the guys you dated.”

Without further ado, meet Nick Taggart.

Looks: 5’11”, slender, brown hair, brown eyes; wears his hair long, in a braid that goes about halfway down his back. Nick has Native American heritage.

Born: Laramie, Wyoming, 1976.

Parents: Father a veterinarian who taught at University of Wyoming; mother a homemaker. Nick was raised Mormon but left the church when he left home for college. His parents keep hoping he’ll return to the faith, in spite of Nick’s assurances that it will never happen.

Siblings: one older brother, one younger sister.

Education: Laramie High School, graduated 1994

UCLA, 1994-8; BA in photography

UCLA, 2006-8; MFA in cinematography

Between his bachelor’s degree and getting his MFA, he worked as a bartender in West Hollywood and a wedding photographer; built a reputation as an LGBT wedding photographer

Employment: now works as freelance cinematographer; makes his own short films with a couple of friends; still tends bar and does weddings.

Personality: Friendly, open, creative, environmentalist, enjoys the outdoors. Jamie told Pete that he learned to communicate as a couple from Nick.

Current relationship: Nick is now married to Mac Burnham, the guy who’d caught his eye when he and Jamie broke up. They’ve been together for six years. Mac is a voice-over actor, a few years older than NIck.

Fun fact: Nick and Kevin’s girlfriend Abby are friendly acquaintances.

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