Category Archives: Books

Horoscopes!

Beit_Alpha

By Unknown – NASA website: http://www-spof.gsfc.nasa.gov/stargaze/Sjewcale.htm, Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Maksim., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=629170

From a practical standpoint, I’m not much of a believer in horoscopes. It’s hard to balance the concept of star signs with the fact that the light we’re seeing from the stars that supposedly guide us was emitted millions of years ago. The stars in that constellation I was born under might have gone supernova by the time I came along, and we won’t know it for another thousand years.

But that doesn’t mean that horoscopes aren’t fun! Cloistered to Death ends on Jamie’s 38th birthday, which got me thinking about birthdays and horoscopes. I thought it might be entertaining to see how well Jamie and his family’s personalities fit their signs.

All of the below quotes come from https://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/horoscopes-astrology/

Jamie was born May 17, so he is a Taurus. “Tauruses born on May 17 enjoy the pursuit of excellence. They are intelligent though not showy about what they know; for this reason they may not be perceived as especially brilliant by others. And that’s fine, since they are not concerned with how their actions are perceived by others. Because they have considerable leadership potential, May 17 individuals are likely to surround themselves with more “followers” than equals. They are so strong-minded that to be with other people like themselves can create conflict. In love and romance, they are discerning partners. They know what they want in a mate and will not settle for anything less. They often marry later in life.”

Sounds about right, huh?

Kevin, born March 24, is an Aries. “Aries individuals are willful, positive, and independent. People born under this sign have amazing stamina and a potent drive to succeed…Even if he isn’t handsome — though he usually is — he’s the one noticed by everybody when he walks into a room…Key characteristic: Leadership.”

Nailed it.

Pete, born July 3, is a Cancer. “Cancer individuals are intelligent, organized, generous, home-loving, and tenacious. They are also devoted to family members and provide enormous emotional support…With their gentle and caring spirit, Cancerians are the ones to whom others turn with problems, worries, and life-choice concerns. Despite their ability to support and nurture their pals, they do not make friends easily. This may be because they take friendship seriously and don’t bother to indulge superficial associations…With their talent for introspection and self-study, July 3 individuals make fine counselors, therapists, and psychologists.”

Heh. I swear I did not consult astrology before I assigned these guys their birthdays.

Dave Brodie is a Sagittarius, December 16. “A December 16 Sagittarius is extraordinary. They have a disciplined nature and can live on little, as long as they can express their inner fire…They have much wisdom…They have an intense love nature and may prefer abstinence if no one special is in their lives…With Jupiter as the ruling planet, people born under this sign are considered to be understanding and principled…The typical Sagittarian man is well-traveled and well-read. He has boundless enthusiasm. Sagittarian men need to love their work. Career concerns often take them away from family life, but they aren’t as driven as other fire-signs. They are philosophical and a bit old-fashioned.”

Jeff’s birthday is January 28, which makes him an Aquarius. (Full disclosure: I’m an Aquarius too.) “Aquarius individuals are intelligent, progressive and independent. With Uranus as the ruling planet, people born under this sign are free-thinking and unconventional. They will fight avidly for the rights of others…They [Aquarius men] care about a number of issues — politics, the environment, the economy — and believe they can make a difference…They have the common sense to be as tolerant and forgiving of their own faults as those of others…They have an affinity for math, science, and music and may find a rewarding career in these fields.”

I haven’t assigned specific dates for birthdays for the other characters. I’ll get around to that one of these days.

 

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Now for something completely meta…

Interview_logo

By Interview (http://www.interviewmagazine.com/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s pretend, for a moment, that a portal opens between the real and the fictional. If I could visit Pete and Jamie at home, how would that conversation go?

(Full disclosure: I totally stole this idea from Josh Lanyon.)

Enjoy!

*********

It’s a gorgeous spring evening in Southern California. Blue sky, a light breeze. My Lyft driver drops me at the gate leading to Pete Ferguson and Jamie Brodie’s front gate, and I ring the bell.

The first sound I hear is a deep “woof.” Ammo. Then I spot Pete, who studies me curiously as he approaches. I say, “Hey, I’m Meg.”

He almost hides his surprise, but isn’t entirely successful. “Hi. I’m Pete. But you know that.”

I laugh as he unlocks the door. “Yep. I’d know you anywhere.”

Jamie is on his feet, by a wrought iron table with three chairs. “Hey, Ms. Perry. I’m Jamie.”

I shake his hand. “You have to call me Meg, okay? And no ma’am-ing me, either.”

He grins. “I’ll do my best.”

Pete asks, “What would you like to drink? Coke?”

“Oh, no thanks, not this late in the day. Water’s fine.”

He cocks his head. “Beer?”

I hesitate, and Jamie says, “You’re not driving.”

“True. Okay, beer sounds great.”

Pete disappears into the house, and I take the opportunity to say hello to Ammo. “Hey, big guy. What a beautiful boy.”

Ammo wriggles with delight. Jamie says, “Did you have Labs?”

“Yup, two of them. One was named Ralphie.”

“Ohhh.”

Pete returns with a bottle of Carlsberg, and we sit. I ask Pete, “You looked surprised when you saw me. What was that about?”

“Oh.” He blushes. “You’re – um – older than I thought you’d be.”

“I’m almost as old as both of your dads. Why did you think I’d be younger?”

He shrugged, sheepishly. “Um – because we’re younger?”

I waggle my bottle of beer at him. “Isn’t that kinda ageist, Dr. Ferguson?”

“I didn’t mean it that way.” Now he’s flustered.

“I’m teasing. It’s fine. My editor is younger than both of you. He keeps me from making old-lady mistakes.” I look around the front garden. “This is a terrific setting.”

Jamie says, “Yeah, thanks for this. It’s one of our favorite spots.”

I fortify myself with another drink. “You know… You live in the wrong location.”

They speak in stereo. “Huh?”

“I modeled your house after a place that I found on Trulia, back when I started researching the books, but I forgot to write down the address. I thought the model was here, but it’s actually on the other side of Wilshire.”

They’re both eyeing me with a combination of fascination and horror. Jamie says, “Which building?”

“The one with blue trim. Several buildings back from the bagel place.”

Pete is laughing now. “How’d you figure out the mistake?”

“I came here last summer, looking for your house. The building that sits here in real life is nothing like I had pictured. But I knew you were somewhere on 17th near Wilshire, so we searched until we found it.”

Jamie is grinning. “What else have you gotten wrong?”

“Your library. I thought there were two public entrances.” I shrug. “Oops. And I have no idea where the reference desk is, and I don’t think that there actually are any offices on the second floor. It’s hard to tell from the floor plans.”

“Where did you place the reference desk?”

“Sort of vaguely down the hall from the front door…”

He laughs. “I’m not gonna tell you where it is, you know.”

“Yeah, I know.” I sip my Carlsberg. “So. You two must have questions for me.”

Pete asks, “What have you got against moms?”

Not the question that I was expecting. “What? Nothing. I can’t tell you why Jamie’s mom had that car accident, or why your mom was such a bitch. It’s just something that I knew, same as I knew that you both were gay. It’s almost like you told me yourselves.”

Jamie is frowning. “That’s weird.”

“Try writing fiction sometime. Weird shit happens. For example.” The beer is warming me to my subject. “Jon Eckhoff. When I first put him on paper, I had no idea he’d turn out to be a major character. I didn’t know that he and Liz would be an item until he walked up to the reference desk.”

Jamie says, “Seriously? That’s amazing.”

“Like I said. Weird shit. Don’t tell Jon. What else do you want to know?”

They exchange a glance, and Jamie crosses his arms. “What’s this we hear about you closing out the series?”

“Twenty is a nice, round number. I like round numbers. Aren’t you sick of stumbling over bodies?”

He can’t deny it. “There is that.”

“I’ll check in on you from time to time. Promise.”

Pete says, “You’re not gonna kill us off, are you?”

“Of course not. These are cozy mysteries. Main characters don’t die.”

Jamie asks, “But secondary characters might? Is that what you’re saying?”

I sigh. “I’d be violating the Prime Directive if I said more.”

Pete snorts. Jamie laughs. “Yeah, okay. Which of us librarians is modeled after you?”

“Good question! I’ve spread myself out amongst you, to some extent. You and I share opinions on almost everything. When you react to something, you’re usually speaking – or swearing – with my mouth.”

That gets another snort from Pete. Jamie asks, “Who else?”

“Sheila Meadows is basically me. West Virginia native, Florida State alumnus, close in age, and I have an MBA from the University of Central Florida, same as she does.”

“Ah.” Jamie grins. “What about Kristen?”

“I wish I was like Kristen! She’s one of my favorite characters.”

Pete says, “I hope we’re your favorites…”

“Well, of course, you two are my favorites. You’re my stars.”

Jamie asks, “What about Liz?”

“I adore Liz. One of my friends in my writing group said once, ‘Liz is Jamie’s id.’ She’s right.”

That gets both of them laughing. Pete notes my nearly empty bottle. “Another?”

“Sure, why not?”

He goes inside. I lean closer to Jamie and lower my voice. “Listen, I’m sorry about the sexual incompatibility. How’s that…going?”

He instantly sobers. “I hate this phrase, but it is what it is, right? We’ve settled into a comfortable compromise. It’s the best I can do.”

“I apologize again. You know, initially I was going to leave you with Ethan.”

His eyes widen. “What??

“Yeah. The life you were planning with Ethan? The original idea was for you to have it. But a writing coach told me that you needed conflict in your life.” I nod at the door. “He’s your conflict.”

Jamie stares at me. “You are shitting me…”

Pete comes back through the door and hands me a second bottle, glancing back and forth at us. “You have the strangest looks on your faces. What were you talking about?”

Jamie seems at a loss for words. I say, “Conflict. The spice of life.”

Pete looks skeptical, but doesn’t pursue it. “Which of us did you create first?”

“Neither.”

That breaks Jamie out of his stunned state. “What?”

“Kevin was first.”

They both sit back, regarding me with interest. Their facial expressions are so alike that it’s funny. Pete says, “No kidding.”

“It’s true. Kevin is the character whose head I can’t quite get into, but he was the first character I had.”

Pete smiles. “Kev will enjoy knowing that.”

“What, that I can’t get into his head?”

Jamie laughs. “Yeah, that too. So, tell us about your Scottish roots. You must have them.”

I say, “Remember Blue Tartan Tours?”

Pete groans, and Jamie snickers. “Don’t tell me you’re an Elliot.”

“Guilty as charged. Also Armstrong and Williamson. All Lowlanders, as far as I know.”

“Scots-Irish?”

“My Armstrongs were, yes. My Williamsons came directly from Fife.”

“Have you been to Brodie Castle?”

“Oh, yes. You’re going back this summer.”

Pete frowns. “The fact that you know that suggests that we’re gonna have trouble there.”

I wave my bottle airily. “Don’t worry. Your vacation will be nearly hitch-free.”

“It’s that word nearly that I don’t care for.”

“Seriously, there’s nothing to worry about.”

“Uh huh.”

Seriously.” I’m feeling more buzzed than I should, and check the time. “I’d better get back to the hotel. I’m catching the ferry to Catalina in the morning.”

Jamie says, “Why don’t you let me drive you to the hotel?”

“Oh, no, you don’t have to do that, I’ll summon Lyft…”

“It’s no trouble.” He stands up and gestures for me to follow him into the house.

“Well…”

Pete says, “It’s the least we can do. For, you know, creating us and all.”

He has a point.

Shortly thereafter, Jamie and I are in the CR-V, headed for Del Mar. I say, “You had an ulterior motive for offering to drive me.”

He slides a sideways glance at me. “Not ulterior. Just a side benefit.”

I mimic Pete’s dry tone. “Uh huh.”

He grins. “What’s in Catalina?”

“Meeting up with a group of friends. Several of them are huge fans of yours.”

“That’s so weird.”

“You have a faithful following. My readers love you.”

“Do you make much money off of us?”

“Nope.”

“Thanks for the inheritance, by the way.” We’re at a stoplight, and he smiles at me. He does have a gorgeous smile. “I mean, that whole thing was a mess, with Gavin and Alexandra, and Belinda…”

“I know. Do you see much of Drew Jemison?”

“Yeah, actually, we get together a couple of times a month. And we’ll be seeing a lot more of him soon.”

“Why?”

“You don’t know?”

“I don’t know everything you get up to in between cases.”

“Good. Anyway, Drew is buying the townhouse next to us.”

“No kidding! The one where Ashley Bennett…”

He grimaces. “Yeah, don’t remind me. Drew knows, and he doesn’t care. The house has been empty for a while and he’s tired of renting.”

“And he can afford it.”

“Thanks to you.”

We drive in silence for a few minutes. Jamie is clearly itching to ask me something. I finally say, “Okay. Out with it.”

“Secondary characters dying.” He grips the wheel more tightly. “Pete will forget that you mentioned it.”

“Listen. Sometimes, things change as I’m writing, so I can’t always predict what’s going to happen to whom. But you have nothing to worry about.”

“How many?”

I sigh. “Right now, there are two. One expected, one not. And I am not going to tell you anything else.”

He grumbles. “Okay, fine.”

We arrive at my hotel. He parks, escorts me to the door, and waits while I unlock it and turn on the lights. I turn to him. “Thanks for the ride and the beer. I’ve totally enjoyed this evening.”

“Thank you. For everything.” There’s that brilliant smile again. “Especially my dad.”

I grin. “Best dad on the planet.”

Damn straight.” He hugs me – he’s a wonderful hugger – then says, “Am I gonna wake up tomorrow morning and think that I dreamed all of this?”

“Entirely possible.”

He laughs. “You are a hoot, Ms. Perry. Maybe I’ll see you again sometime. Ma’am.”

I laugh too. “Maybe you will.”

He goes back to his car and drives away, waving. I wave back until he turns onto the street and is gone.

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Marking the passage of time

I’ve spent most of my life moving to the rhythms of the academic calendar. That’s why today, the first day that our students are back in class, feels like New Year’s Day – not that day two weeks ago with the football games. 😀 Of course, the new year really begins in August. There’s an excitement to the start of a new academic year, with the fall semester/term/quarter, that isn’t the same in spring.

Fall term says, “Let’s go! It’ll be great!”

Spring term says, “Ugh. Let’s trudge through this. Spring break is only two months away.”

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The Janss Steps on UCLA’s campus, looking up from Wilson Plaza

I’ve never attended or worked for a school that operates on the quarter system, like UCLA does. Their quarters are 10 weeks long, so fall term doesn’t begin until late September. Nice! But they pay for it. Winter quarter runs from early January through late March, and spring quarter runs from late March through mid-June. And they don’t even get a real spring break between; they get a three-day weekend, around Cesar Chavez holiday.

It would be difficult to move from semesters to quarters. I wouldn’t want to try.

Jamie Brodie would have gotten used to a type of quarter system at Oxford while he was studying there. If you want to see a weird academic calendar, check this out. Jamie’s never complained to me about the quarter system – 😀 😀 😀 – so I guess he’s used to it.

This spring , he’ll have plenty to keep him occupied. The entire story of Cloistered to Death fits into UCLA’s spring quarter.

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And we have a winner!

As you can see from the widget to the right, I have once again “won” National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. I’ve written the first draft of several of the Jamie Brodie Mysteries this way.

Image_of_a_ghost,_produced_by_double_exposure_in_1899 (1)

By The National Archives UK (Ghostly sighting?) [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

This year I tackled book #17, Haunted to Death, which will be published late next year. It’s the first time that I’ve managed to keep myself from editing as I wrote, which is a bad habit of mine. Even so, I ran out of story at about 47,000 words, and had to supplement it with a couple of new short stories (coming within the next year) and some scenes from Cloistered to Death, the next book in the series, due this spring. (I figure if I wrote it in November, it counts, right?)

Anyway, I am not crazy about Haunted to Death in its current first-draft form, but I guess that’s to be expected. It’s great to know that I can depend on my writing group to fix its flaws eventually.

And I am so glad that November is over.

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A snippet from Published to Death

Published to Death, Jamie Brodie Mystery #15, is coming Wednesday! If you haven’t pre-ordered, you can do so here for Amazon and here for Smashwords. If you already have, thank you so much! The print version will be out a few days after the e-book; I’ll post here when it’s ready.

To whet your appetite, here’s a scene from the first chapter of Published to Death. Enjoy!

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Jamie Brodie Mystery #15

Dr. Loomis called the meeting to order just as our University Librarian, Dr. Laura Madorsky, entered the room. Dr. Madorsky didn’t typically attend our meetings. Something must be up.

Dr. Loomis said, “First order of business is to welcome Jamie back into the fold. Your sabbatical was productive, I take it?”

“Yes, ma’am. The second draft of the book is finished and the editor has it now. It should be published in about six months.”

Everyone applauded, and I responded with the royal wave, which produced laughter. Dr. Loomis smiled and said, “Wonderful. Our second order of business will be explained by Dr. Madorsky.”

Dr. Madorsky pushed away from the wall where she’d been leaning. “You’ve probably seen flyers around campus announcing this… Beginning tomorrow and running through the end of the week, UCLA is hosting a convention of self-published authors on campus. The primary meetings will be at Carnesale Commons, but there will be sessions scattered throughout different buildings and the exhibit hall is in the Wooden Center. When you’re out and about over the coming days and see a lost conventioneer, please guide them to their destination.”

We all murmured agreement. Dr. Madorsky said, “Thank you. This is a convention of writers, so naturally it involves books. The self-publishing field is expanding rapidly, and it’s an area in which academic libraries have had minimal impact. I’d like to change that. It’s critical that we’re aware of what’s happening in all areas of publishing. Gina Marsh from Powell and Karen Lewis from the biomedical library are attending the conference, but I’d like to send one or two of you from YRL as well.”

We all glanced at each other. Lola, the scholar of classical literature, looked horrified. Dr. Madorsky continued. “Much of self-publishing is in e-book format, and much of the marketing occurs through social media. Kristen, unless you have a compelling reason that you can’t, I’d like you to attend. See what’s trending in the world of book-related social media.”

Kristen Beach – fellow librarian and my brother Kevin’s girlfriend – was our communications and digital humanities specialist. Dr. Madorsky’s request made sense. Kristen said, “I’d enjoy that. Thank you.”

Dr. Madorsky smiled. “Thank you.”

Kristen said, “I think Jamie should go, too. Since he’s currently immersed in the publishing process.”

What?? I said, “Uh…”

Dr. Madorsky raised an eyebrow. “Excellent idea. Jamie?”

Liz was smirking. Frank Villareal and Katrina Johnson were hiding smiles. I said weakly, “Sure. That’d be great.”

“Wonderful.” Dr. Madorsky handed Dr. Loomis a folder, which she passed down the table to us. “The conference schedule is in that packet. I’ll look forward to your report. Madeline, thank you.”

Dr. Loomis saw Dr. Madorsky out, then turned to us. “Kristen? Jamie? Do you have everything prepared for the new quarter?”

Unfortunately, I did. I’d combed through all of my research guides last week. I should have waited. I said, “Yes, ma’am.”

Kristen said, “I do.”

“All right.” Dr. Loomis gave me an amused smile. “Looks like you’re going to a convention. Now, third order of business…”

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Published to Death is ready for pre-order!

Whew! I am so happy to have this done before Thanksgiving! You can now order the e-book of Published to Death at either Amazon or Smashwords. The Smashwords affiliates sites (Kobo, etc.) should be available in a couple of days. The book will be released on Wednesday, November 29. Happy Thanksgiving!

Mercedes Moran is one of the stars of the self-publishing world, a romance author who’s made millions by selling 99 cent romance novels through all of the ebook platforms. Her fan base is enormous – but Mercedes is a horrible person, and she’s made plenty of enemies, too.

The Association of Self-Publishing is holding its annual conference on UCLA’s campus, and Mercedes is the keynote speaker. When Jamie Brodie and Kristen Beach attend the keynote at the encouragement of their supervisors, they get an earful from other conference-goers about Mercedes. But it’s nothing to do with them.

Until Mercedes turns up dead in the back of the exhibit hall.

Kevin Brodie and Jon Eckhoff are on the case, and they enlist Jamie’s and Kristen’s help with navigating the world of self-published authors. But the case takes a turn for the weird when Kevin and Jon are joined by a lieutenant from Internal Affairs, who claims to be brushing up on his investigative skills – and who only speaks in clichés.

Who killed Mercedes? Why is a desk jockey from Internal Affairs dogging Kevin and Jon’s every step? And why do so many covers of male-male romance novels feature headless torsos??

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Jamie Brodie Mystery #15

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Once more into the breach…

Image_of_a_ghost,_produced_by_double_exposure_in_1899 (1)

By The National Archives UK (Ghostly sighting?) [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Happy Halloween! Truth is, I’m not a huge fan. I’m far more interested in what comes after – November 2, All Souls Day, the day in the Christian faith that we set aside to honor the dead. That’s not a “thing” in America. I think that’s unfortunate.

But there’s another reason that the beginning of November is exciting. Yes, once again, I am “competing” in National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo, or NaNo for short. It’s not much of a competition, really; everyone can win, as long as you write at least 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November.

I’ve written the first drafts of several of the Jamie Brodie Mysteries during NaNo. Researched to Death, Psyched to Death, Talked to Death, and Trapped to Death all began their lives during NaNo. This year, I’m tackling the book that will be JBM #17: Haunted to Death.

Haunted will take place in late summer of 2018. (It won’t be published until next November.) The entire Brodie clan is headed to Scotland on holiday, to stay in Brodie Castle and attend a clan gathering in Forres, the nearby town. Brodie Castle in reality isn’t haunted, but there was a tragic death there in the 1700s – and that will form the basis of a ghost story involving spontaneous human combustion, a vast conspiracy, old feuds, and a local constable who knows more than he’s telling.

I’m excited to start writing tomorrow! You can follow my progress with the widget to the right of this page.

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