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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On location

Three weeks ago today, I left for two weeks of vacation. I spent most of it in northern England, walking the path that runs along Hadrian’s Wall. The Roman Emperor Hadrian, in 122 AD, decided to build a defensive wall at what was then the northern edge of the Roman Empire. The finished wall was about 80 miles long. Today the path that (mostly) runs along the course of the wall – or where the wall stood – is frequented by hikers. I went with a couple of friends from work, and we had a great time.

One of my intentions on the trip was to post here as I went, as the trip was also part of my research for the next book in the Jamie Brodie series, Stoned to Death. Alas, wi-fi connections in northern England are notoriously spotty, and I was lucky to be able to access email, much less to download pictures or write blog posts.

I didn’t get much writing done, either, as I took my ChromeBook – and it only works in the cloud. No wi-fi, no cloud. I learned my lesson! I actually bought a spiral notebook and wrote about ten pages by hand, I got so frustrated.

But now I’m back, and after a week of playing catch-up at work, I’m settling into my writing routine again.

Here is one of the pictures I would have posted:

Saddle quern

That is a saddle quern. It was used in Neolithic times to grind grain between the two stones.

It might – just might – have at one time or another made a pretty effective murder weapon.

Just sayin’. :D

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Good ideas??

First, a quick progress update. Stacked to Death, Jamie Brodie #7, is finished, in that the story is entirely written, but now it’s being edited. Things have been moving slowly right now because my readers and editors all work at the same place I do, and we’re all feverishly getting ready for fall semester, which begins in four weeks.

I’m getting ready to go on location, in a way – I’m going to be walking the 80-mile-long Hadrian’s Wall Path in England over the next two weeks, and while there I’m going to be using a friend’s archaeological expertise to write a big chunk of Stoned to Death, Jamie Brodie #8. 

In November I’m going to use NaNoWriMo again to write #9, Talked to Death.

#10 will be called Filmed to Death, and #11 will be Played to Death.

Beyond that…

People keep giving me ideas for Jamie Brodie mysteries. Sometimes it’s just a title and I have no idea how I’d make it work. Sometimes it’s a one-line synopsis.

Here are some of the other ideas I have. I’d love to know what you all think of these!

Rehabilitated to Death – this was actually the title of a blog post I saw, about deaths at a Chinese camp for people addicted to the internet. I don’t think that’s the scenario I would use. Maybe something to do with “pray away the gay” camps?

Framed to Death – a student or young professor kills someone, and uses social media to frame her ex-boyfriend, a much older man, either a professor or retired.

Surveyed to Death – this idea was born when several of us at work were talking about the number of dumb surveys we get in our email that the administration wants us to complete. This could tie back into Elliott Conklin’s research on survey design.

Promoted to Death – intrigue and murder related to academic promotion. I’m the chair of our college’s faculty promotion committee this year, so this one should be easy.

Accounted to Death – something involving shady business practices that can involve the business librarians at UCLA.

Launched to Death – Jamie, Pete and Steve go to Florida for a rocket launch and get involved with a body found on site.

Forgiven to Death – the man who caused the auto accident that killed Jamie’s mother is released from prison, then found murdered.

Other potential ideas for which I do not have titles:

  • A story involving Jamie’s old boyfriend Eric, the paramedic – something medical.
  • A story involving Jamie’s brother Jeff and either animals or farming

What do you think? Any suggestions out there?


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