The sense of an ending

Over the weekend I finished reading the last of the Cut and Run m/m series, featuring FBI agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett. The series was begun by Abigail Roux and Madeline Urban, and continued (and concluded) by Roux when Urban stopped writing. I’ve read the series from the beginning, and although it had some weak spots along the way, it finished quite well, going out with a BANG! with Crash and Burn.

I hope, when the time comes, I can finish as well.

It’s a question that every series writer must consider – when do you finish? I was discussing that last week with a couple of people from my writing group. One of them is finishing his project, all of the scripts for a TV series, which he’s been writing for nine years. Another is just starting his. It made me consider where I wanted to end the Jamie Brodie series – and I think I know. (Don’t worry – it’s not for a while.)

But the time comes – it has to – when the story is told. Your characters have made it to wherever they were headed, and it’s time to put the thing to bed. Readers don’t always approve! People are still begging poor Josh Lanyon for more Adrien and Jake, when it’s clear to me that their story is finished. Sure, we can see snippets of their lives now in Josh’s Christmas codas, but in terms of the overall arc of the story – the relationship – they made it.

The last thing any author wants to do is this:

I’m going to do my best to stay off the waterskis.

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New-to-me cozy mystery series: Simon Kirby-Jones Mysteries

A couple of weeks ago I saw a recommendation in a Goodreads group for a mystery called Posted to Death. Naturally, the title made me sit up and take notice! The book is the first in a series, the Simon Kirby-Jones Mysteries. Simon is a gay vampire from Mississippi, a bestselling writer, who has moved to a picturesque village in rural England. In the first book the nasty, blackmailing town postmistress is murdered, and nearly everyone in the village is a suspect. It’s a fun read – a pure cozy mystery.

The author, Dean James, also writes other cozy series under other names. One of them is the Cat in the Stacks mysteries, in which the protagonist is a semi-retired librarian with a Maine Coon cat. A friend had recently loaned me the first of those, and I thought it was refreshing that the protagonist was male. That’s so rarely seen in cozy mysteries. (I’m still not convinced that my Jamie Brodie books are cozies. Los Angeles is many things, but it’s not a picturesque village.)

The copyright on Posted to Death is 2002, so I think the books were just released for Kindle. When I was searching to make sure that I wasn’t copying anyone else’s title when I wrote Cited to Death, I found no mention of Posted to Death or the others in that series. Fortunately, I haven’t used any of the titles that James did, and the series seems to have stopped after four books. Repeating a title isn’t wrong in any way, but it might create confusion. The “to Death” part of his titles and mine have the potential to create some confusion, I suppose, but the stories and settings are so different, readers would immediately know the difference.

If you like gay cozy mysteries, you should check out the Simon Kirby-Jones series. I’ve only read the first, but it made me want to read the rest. If you don’t like vampires, don’t let that stop you – there’s hardly any vampire action in the first book. There’s hardly any gay action, either, just flirting – so if you’re looking for m/m, you won’t find it here. At least not in the first book.

I’m hoping that will change as the series goes on. :)

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There’s a new page in town…

I love working in academia – last week was my spring break. Aaahhhhhh. A lovely week of R&R.

This week has been hectic! Lots of issues to sort out on the job. But now it’s Friday, the issues are sorted – whew.

I’ve created a new page for the blog. If you look at the headings, you’ll see it – The Jamie Brodie Mysteries. I’ve listed each book in order with a picture of the cover, the blurb for the book, and links to the Amazon (and where available, Smashwords) pages.

Encountered to Death will be available on Smashwords soon, probably within the next couple of weeks.

The final draft of Talked to Death, the next book in the series (#9), is now in the hands of my editor. He’s working on a deadline for his own writing, but our goal is to have Talked to Death published by May 1st.

The blurb for the new book is already on the Jamie Brodie Mysteries page, though I don’t have the cover for it yet. Take a look! Talked to Death will also include a short story immediately following, called Hearts.

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How Jamie met Pete

This will also give you a sneak peek at the opening of Played to Death, the book which will be out September-ish. Talked to Death is still on schedule for May, but I thought you might enjoy this bit. :)

August 2006

“Jamie. Get up.”

I grunted and swatted at my brother Kevin’s hand. He had me by the shoulder, shaking vigorously. “Come on. We leave in an hour. Don’t you want to shower and eat before we go?”

“Mmph. Fine. Okay. Stop.” I rolled over and squinted at the clock. “It’s only six.”

“We leave at seven. Come on.” Kevin grabbed a pillow and swatted me on the butt with it. “I made breakfast.”

“What, you got the raisin bran out of the cabinet?”

“Yeah, so?”

I swung my legs over the bed and sat up, waiting for the head rush to clear. This was only my second night in this bed. Kevin and I had moved into this apartment three days ago. He’d brought some furniture from his old place, including a bed frame for me, but I’d had to buy a new mattress set. I was still getting used to it.

We were going hiking. Apparently this was Kevin’s usual weekend activity. We were being joined by Kevin’s partner on the police force, a guy named Pete Ferguson. Kevin had been Pete’s partner for four years, but this would be their last year together. Kevin was taking the detective’s exam soon, and Pete was finishing his masters degree in psychology with the intent of getting his Ph.D. A doctoral program was a full-time job, so he’d be leaving the force.

Pete was gay. I’d accused Kevin of trying to play matchmaker, but he’d said that Pete had a boyfriend. Kevin didn’t like the boyfriend much, but they’d been together for a while, so there wasn’t much chance of dislodging him.

Fine with me. I wasn’t in the market for a boyfriend. A year ago my boyfriend of seven years, Ethan Williams, had broken up with me and moved to Connecticut with another guy. I hadn’t recovered. I’d graduated from Oxford with my doctorate and crawled home to my dad. Kevin had finalized his divorce at about the same time. A friend had talked me into going to library school, since my dream of teaching history at the college level had been so closely connected to my life with Ethan. I’d applied to UCLA and been accepted, and Kevin and I had moved in together.

I was washing out my cereal bowl when there was a knock at the door. Kevin went to answer and I heard him say, “Hey.”

A slightly deeper voice said, “Hey. You ready to go?”

I rounded the kitchen bar and stopped short. The guy standing in the doorway was flat-out gorgeous. His body type was almost identical to Kevin’s – about 6’4″, muscular but not bulky – an athlete’s build. A baseball player’s build. He had brown hair and eyes – beautiful eyes. He turned to me and smiled, and I was nearly blinded by the brilliance of that smile.

No wonder this guy had a boyfriend. He could have anyone he wanted.

He held his hand out to me. “You must be Jamie. I’m Pete Ferguson.”

I shook his hand. “Hi, Pete. It’s good to meet you.”

“You too.” He held my hand just a moment longer than most people would have then released it. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“Oh, great.” I could just imagine what Kevin had told his partner about me.

He laughed. He had a nice laugh. “Nah, it was all good.”

Kevin poked me. “Sure it was. Would I say anything bad about you?”

I rolled my eyes. “I’ve got to brush my teeth.”

 

Pete drove a slightly battered Jeep Cherokee that looked like it had spent some time off-road. I climbed into the back seat and folded my legs in the least uncomfortable manner. Pete glanced back at me. “Sorry. Jeeps aren’t known for their back-seat leg room.”

“It’s okay. We’re not going far, right?”

“Right.”

Even though I knew where Topanga Canyon was on the map, it was still surprising to me to find this kind of wilderness so close to Westwood. We climbed out into the parking lot and put on our backpacks. Kevin relaced his boots and straightened. “Ready?”

“Yep.”

Kevin led us up the trail. The initial climb wasn’t steep. It was a beautiful day. The air quality in the basin hadn’t been too good, but out here it was clear. It didn’t take long to get to the first stopping point. There was a series of caves, then a big outcropping over them. Kevin patted it. “Welcome to Eagle Rock.”

We climbed onto the rock and I looked out over Malibu and the ocean. The view was breathtaking. The layer of haze over the basin obscured the view across LA somewhat, but I could still make out the downtown towers. I took a drink of water and considered my recent history. I hadn’t been sure that this move to LA was the right thing to do.

Right now, though, I was feeling a little better about it.

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What I’m working on now

By User:Orderinchaos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By User:Orderinchaos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In short, I’m working on Talked to Death. The second draft is done, and has been sent off to my critique crew; they’re in the process of reading it.

Talked to Death is a little unique, in that it takes place over just 48 hours, at a library conference. Jamie, Liz, and Jon are presenting together in Oakland, unfamiliar territory; Pete has come along for the ride.

Given that the action is so condensed, there isn’t much relationship stuff in this one. BUT Talked to Death will also include a following short story, called Hearts, that only deals with relationship and family issues.

I still anticipate that Talked to Death will be out by mid-May. That’s the end of our semester here at the college, and it’s a good time to wrap up projects of all kinds.

The next book after Talked to Death will be Avenged to Death, in early fall. Before that, though, we’ll be having a sort of Christmas in July – another short story, which I’ll be serializing here on the blog, that fills in some detail that needs to come out before Avenged to Death. There’s not enough for a standalone book, and Avenged to Death is going to be plenty long itself without adding a story to it.

So y’all get a gift – Christmas in July! :-)

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Forensics questions answered!

By Dioptaz (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dioptaz (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 When I signed up for the online Forensic Science class, I was hoping to get a few questions answered, in addition to learning some cool stuff. The instructors in the class held three live Q and A sessions during the course, through Google Hangout, where we could join in to ask questions.

Unfortunately, the live chats were held during my shift at the reference desk at work. No way to participate.

So, I turned to the textbook that they recommended as a supplement to the course – and I’m glad I did. That’s where I found the answers to the specific questions that I had for upcoming books.

Question 1: Is it possible to lift fingerprints from human skin? They did it once on CSI but I had no idea if that was actually possible.

It IS possible, but as the book says, “success has been limited.” It also says that human fingerprints last for about 1 1/2 hours on living skin – so they have to be collected from the deceased as quickly as possible.

Question 2: How would the police identify a Jane Doe through a missing persons database? Turns out there is a national database, NamUs, that links missing persons reports with unidentified remains. Kevin and Jon will be using that in an upcoming book.

Question 3: Is it possible to link ballistics findings across jurisdictions? If a gun is used in a murder in Los Angeles, can it be linked to an armed robbery in San Diego? Yes. The database is called NIBIN and is maintained by the ATF. It allows investigators to connect ballistics evidence across apparently unrelated crimes.

Question 4 was a question I didn’t know I had. What marks are produced on a victim’s neck during a strangulation by hand? The book has a whole paragraph describing the physical findings. That will allow me to make an upcoming strangulation much more realistic.

The book is called Techniques of Crime Scene Investigation, 8th Edition, by Barry Fisher and David Fisher. I got a used copy on Amazon. It’s going to be a great reference for me.

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How Kevin met Abby

I was looking for something else in my Google Drive files this morning, and came across this piece. I don’t even remember when I wrote it! It doesn’t fit into any of the upcoming stories, and it’s not long – so I figured, why not publish it here?

The setting: a baseball game, LAPD Centurions vs. LA County Sheriff’s Department. The date: July 2007.

 

“Batting next, Kevin Brodie, West LA.”

I nudged Pete Ferguson in the ribs with an elbow. “Kevin’s batting.”

“Hm?” Pete looked up from the book he was reading and gave me a weak smile. “Sorry.”

Pete was Kevin’s partner, but only for another two months. In September he’d leave LAPD and begin full-time study for a Ph.D. in criminal psychology at UCLA. He seemed to be getting a head start by reading every scholarly tome ever published on the subject. Pete himself had played for the LAPD Centurions for several years, but he’d left the team after last season.

The pitcher threw a curveball, low and outside. It didn’t fool Kevin. Ball one. On the other side of me my boyfriend, Nick Taggart, applauded and whistled. “Way to watch, Brodie!”

I grinned. Nick had just finished his MFA in cinematography. I hadn’t expected him to be a sports fan when I met him, but I’d been pleasantly surprised.

The pitcher wound up and threw a fastball, which Kevin smacked into deep left field. The two players on second and third scored, and Kevin ended up on second base with a stand up double.

The crowd went wild.

 

After the game we loitered around the stadium exit, waiting for Kevin. He walked out with a second player, a guy I recognized as being a K-9 officer from Pacific Division. There were a couple of girls waiting closer to the gate, and Kevin and K-9 stopped to talk to them. One of the girls wrapped an arm around K-9’s waist. The other was being introduced to Kevin. She shook his hand, and I saw Kevin grin.

I elbowed Pete again. “Kevin’s getting introduced to a girl.”

“Yeah?” Pete glanced up. “She’s cute.”

Nick squinted at the girl. “She looks familiar.”

I said, “Where do you know her from?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe work.”

The girl was cute. She was tall, at least 5’10”, and had auburn hair pulled into a French braid. She was wearing jeans and a sweater, but it looked like she had a nice shape.

Kevin could use a girlfriend. He’d been divorced for a year now and hadn’t dated much. He was getting snarly. A girlfriend might un-snarl him.

 

Abby Glenn had not wanted to come to this game. There was an armoire that needed an application of tung oil waiting for her at her sister’s house. But Carrie had insisted. “You need a girl’s night out, Abby. And there are lots of hot guys on the LAPD team. I bet Joe will introduce you to one.”

Carrie had been dating Joe, an LAPD K-9 officer, for about three months. Abby didn’t know about cops. All the ones she’d dealt with in the past, when she was married to Sean, had been assholes. But then Sean had been a scumbag coke head in their eyes. No wonder they’d been assholes.

So Abby had reluctantly agreed to come with Carrie. It hadn’t been bad. Abby liked baseball. Her dad had taken her and her sisters to Dodgers games faithfully when they were kids. And there were hot guys. The game wasn’t very good – LAPD beat the sheriff’s team 8-2. But Carrie had been right. It was nice to have a night out.

After the game Carrie stood. “Come on. We’ll meet up with Joe at the stadium exit.”

Abby followed Carrie out of the stadium. It took about twenty minutes, but finally two guys approached them from the stadium tunnel. Abby didn’t know which was Carrie’s boyfriend. One of them was sort of a stereotypical cop, with the bulked-up shoulders and the buzz cut. The other was a big blond guy with slightly longer hair that Abby recognized as having been the Centurions’ catcher. Abby didn’t remember his name, but she didn’t think it had been Joe.

The guys stopped, and the buzz cut wrapped an arm around Carrie. “Hey, babe.”

Abby cringed a little. She hated the word “babe.” But Carrie preened like an egret. “Hi, sweetie. Good game.”

Abby stifled a snort. Joe hadn’t had a good game – an error in the field, and 0 for 3 at the plate. She thought she was maintaining a pleasantly neutral facial expression, but the big blond guy was looking at her with a twinkle in his eye. Hm. She cleared her throat, and Carrie said, “Oh, honey, this is my friend Abby.”

Joe gave Abby a near-leer. Ugh. She said, “Hi, Joe.”

The big blond guy held out his hand. “Hi, Abby. I’m Kevin Brodie.”

Abby shook his hand. “Abby Glenn.”

Kevin’s smile blossomed into a brilliant grin. “I’m glad to meet you, Abby.”

Abby grinned back. “Likewise.”

 

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