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Happy 5th birthday, Jamie Brodie!

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Photo credit: By Cekli829 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself, “Huh? Jamie’s in his 30s!” You are correct. Jamie, the fictional character, just turned 37 on May 17th. However – the idea of Jamie was born back in June 2012.

It began, appropriately enough, as a conversation around the reference desk. I was chatting with my friend and fellow librarian, Dustin. I don’t even remember how we got on the topic – but we decided that it would be cool to write about a librarian who solves mysteries. Nothing to do with magic or museums or mummies, just an everyday academic librarian, like us, with access to vast depths of information that the police didn’t have. Solving crimes with research. The kernel of an idea.

I suggested to Dustin that a plot would be helpful, and with his input, I sketched out a very rough and very short outline centered around the idea of academic plagiarism leading to murder.

But who would star in this show?

Like most writers, I was an inventive kid. I didn’t just have an imaginary friend – I had a whole town. I’d spend hours on my swing set in the back yard, dreaming up adventures for my characters. Over the years, as I grew up and plunged into school, work and life, I mostly stopped making up new stories. Occasionally, in an idle moment of daydreaming, I’d revisit my “friends,” having fun with assigning them jobs and adult personalities.

The Brodie family gradually evolved out of those childhood stories.

I wrote the beginning of what would become Cited to Death, then wisely signed up for an eight-week continuing education class on writing mystery novels through the University of Central Florida. $89 well spent, I tell you! My initial thought for Jamie would be that he and Ethan would be happily partnered, settled into their academic careers. Then the instructor in my class said that wouldn’t do; Jamie had to have conflict in his life.

Goodbye, Ethan. Enter Pete Ferguson.

Over the next six months I hammered out the rest of Cited to Death with the help of both my writing group and other friends who read and critiqued. (I have Dustin to thank for the title; I had a terrible time coming up with something that sounded right.) Then I called my friend Stephanie about creating a cover. Then I launched my first book into space.

I had no idea if anyone would buy it. If anyone did buy it, I had no idea if they’d like it. I wasn’t a trained writer; I really didn’t know what I was doing. I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had never sold a copy.

But it did, and some of you fell in love with Jamie.

And the rest is history.

I am eternally grateful to all of you for continuing to love Jamie.

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Promoted to Death featured today!

Author Jon Michaelsen has featured Promoted to Death on his blog today, with an exclusive first-look excerpt. Thank you, Jon!! You can read the excerpt here: http://www.jonmichaelsen.net/?p=2943

I still don’t have a solid date for the release of Promoted to Death, but I’m predicting that it’ll be around Memorial Day. As soon as I have links, I will post them here and on my FB page.

And tune in next weekend, when I’m guest hosting on Josh Lanyon’s fan page for her release of The Monet Murders! More about that later in the week.

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What I’m reading now: Jonathan Kellerman

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Of all the mystery writers who crank out a book a year, Jonathan Kellerman is one of my favorites. I’ve read his entire Alex Delaware series and enjoyed them all. I’ve tried to get into the other wildly famous mystery writers – but the only ones I continue to read are those who write series. Because, in the end, it’s about the characters for me. (Probably why I write a series, huh?) Sue Grafton, Robert Crais, and Louise Penny: it’s Kinsey Millhone, Elvis Cole, and Armand Gamache who keep me coming back.

Anyway. Alex Delaware is a child psychologist (as was Kellerman, originally) who consults with the LAPD on the psychological aspect of crimes. He gets to question witnesses, go to crime scenes and autopsies, and sit behind the one-way mirror during interviews, which removes any concern on my part that Jamie Brodie’s consulting with the police is unrealistic. His homicide detective best friend is Lt. Milo Sturgis, a gay cop, who has the best solve rate in the LAPD.

But for me these days, the BEST thing about the Alex Delaware series is that it takes place in West LA. Yes, Lt. Sturgis works out of the West LA Division of the LAPD – as do Kevin Brodie and Jon Eckhoff. I’ve learned all kinds of useful things about West LA by reading Kellerman’s books. Here’s an example, from his latest books, Breakdown:

“The other detectives at West LA work out of a big room with lockers and coffee machines, a clamorous environment that bustles with work ethic and frustration and gallows humor.”

Exactly as I’d pictured it.

The West LA Division, like the rest of LAPD, hasn’t always had the best reputation. Back in 1994 there was an investigation into widespread sexual harassment there. The LA Times said, “LAPD’s West Los Angeles station… has a long-held but hotly disputed reputation for hostility toward women” (http://articles.latimes.com/1994-02-18/news/mn-24464_1_sexual-harassment). Also, Nicole Brown Simpson was murdered in West LA territory, and the detectives that handled the case – including Mark Fuhrman, remember him? – were partly blamed for mishandling and possibly planting evidence, all of which helped exonerate OJ Simpson. That was 1995.

Since then, from what I can tell, things have improved at West LA Division. Their captains are a white woman and an Asian man. Their rating on Google Reviews is 4.2/5.

Jonathan Kellerman is, of course, a famous, award-winning writer, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s been inside the station and knows officers there. He does live in LA part-time as well. That’s why I search his books for clues as to what Kevin and Jon’s work might be like. If you want to read more about crime in the West LA area, check out the Alex Delaware series.

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Sneak Peek: Trapped to Death

In honor of the first day of the semester at my own college, here is the first unedited page-ish of Trapped to Death. Unfortunately, there is a Thanksgiving scene at the end of the book, and therefore I can’t publish until Thanksgiving – and the election – have come and gone.

This takes place on Jamie’s first day of the fall quarter at UCLA. Since they’re on the quarter system, they start far later than we do. (Lucky.)

Trapped to Death

Thursday, September 22, 2016

“When you’re researching the history of science, your results will be more relevant if you don’t use the science databases.” I pointed to the screen. “We have databases for history and biography. For this class, it’s best to use these…”

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By Tulane Public Relations (Student in Class Uploaded by AlbertHerring) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

As I spoke, my audience gazed back at me, passive as a herd of sheep. In the front row of the classroom, a guy in a Star Trek t-shirt was writing down every word I said. In the back row, a couple of guys were passing their phones back and forth. The rest of the class – nearly forty of them – were either slouched in their seats or propping their heads on their hands. A couple of female students were smiling coyly.

Terrific. I sighed inwardly and plowed on. “The most frequent barrier to success when searching the databases is choosing the wrong keywords.” I tapped the search box at the top of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography landing page. “Don’t use too many words, and don’t type in an entire thesis statement. Use the two or three best words – the key words – that describe your topic. If you’re searching for a person’s name, surround it with quotation marks.”

It was the first day of fall quarter. Yesterday I’d received a panicked call from the instructor, Sam Herzog, an adjunct hired the day before, asking me to do a library presentation for this History of Science class. I’d asked him what his relevant assignments would be; he’d laughed and said, “Dude, I’m still writing the syllabus.”

Dude. I switched the screen to the History of Science research guide. “Everything you need – lists of appropriate databases, websites that we’ve chosen for their reliability and validity, tutorials on using the library website – is here. If you have a question, search here first for the answer. If you need more help, you can email me.” I tapped on the profile box containing my smiling visage and my email address. “My office is in the Young Research Library, and my hours are 8:30 to 5:00 Monday through Friday. If you have any questions once you dive into your research, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.”

Sam Herzog stood up. “Thanks, Dr. Brodie. Students, I hope you paid attention, because at the beginning of class on Tuesday, you’ll have a quiz on the material that Dr. Brodie covered today.”

There were a few audible groans. The guy in the Star Trek t-shirt smirked. The guys in the back sat up straighter and stared at Herzog, their mouths open.

Heh. Served them right, the little assholes. Herzog said, “I’ll see you all Tuesday.”

The class scattered. I logged out of the computer and turned off the projector. Herzog said, “Thanks again. I appreciate this.”

“You’re welcome.” Just doing my job. The suckiest aspect of my job.

He grinned at me. “You’re a history guy, not a science guy, right?”

“Right. Coming to the science building is like visiting Mars for me.”

“Ha! I hear ya.” He shook hands with me. “Thanks. You’re free to return to Earth.”

As I left the classroom a young woman pushed away from the opposite wall. She’d been in Herzog’s class; I recognized her hair – a headful of tiny blond braids that hung down to her waist. She gave me a dazzling smile. “Dr. Brodie?”

I stopped. “Yes?”

“I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your presentation.” She moved within a couple of feet and tipped her head slightly. “I’m glad to know that I can come to you whenever I need assistance.”

Uh huh. “Whenever you need research assistance, I’ll be pleased to help.” I held up my left hand. “But I might be able to save you some time. A, I’m married; B, My husband and I are very happy.”

“Well, dayum.” She grinned and stepped back a couple of feet. “Can’t blame a girl for trying.”

“No, I can’t. What’s your name?”

“Ashley. Ashley Bennett.”

I shook hands with her. “Pleased to meet you, Ashley Bennett. A word of advice?”

“Sure.”

“Visit the science library.”

She laughed. “I will. Thanks.”

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Simplified searching for stories

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Tag. By Tubezone at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

At the request of one faithful reader, I’ve made it easier to find the short stories on the blog. I created a new category, Short Stories, and tagged each story with its title. Now, if you want to find Best Men, for example, you can search for it by title and it will appear.

I did discover (actually I knew this, and had forgotten) that not all of the stories were published here on the blog. Three of them (Hearts, High Desert and Low Country) only appear within the books – both print and electronic version.

I’ll publish those three on the blog over the next few months, just for consistency’s sake. (Hearts will come first, since it’s the one that generated the request.)

Let me know if this system doesn’t work. And thank you for keeping me on my toes! 😀

 

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Filmed to Death now at Smashwords!

Filmed to Death, Jamie Brodie Mystery #12 (and the latest novel), is now available at Smashwords. In another day or two it should be available at all of the other e-book outlets. Here’s the link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/657734

FYI, from now on I’m going to publish for Kindle and through Smashwords simultaneously. I’m done with Kindle Select – it’s a terrible deal for authors. So now those of you who read through iBooks, Kobo, Nook, etc. won’t have to wait! 😀

Filmed cover

Jamie Brodie Mystery #12

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Coming tomorrow: Free short story!

As promised! Beginning tomorrow, you’ll find the serialized short story There Goes the Neighborhood. It will run over six days – through the weekend.

Encountered to Death

Jamie Brodie Mystery #5

This is a flashback. The story takes place in September 2013, immediately after Encountered to Death and just before Psyched to Death. Jamie and Pete have been together a little over a year, and Jamie’s dad has just begun to date children’s librarian Barbara Simmons.

The story introduces you to Pete and Jamie’s next-door neighbors, Rich and Renee Carter, who use their townhouse as a vacation home. We’ll be seeing more of the Carters and their house in Deceived to Death, the next Jamie Brodie Mystery, coming in November of this year.

Enjoy!

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