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Free, new Jamie Brodie short story!

Introducing the first new short story since the release of Dirty Laundry! Jamie’s sabbatical has just ended, and he’ll be heading back to work after twelve weeks away. The story takes place (in real time) over last weekend, 9/23 and 9/24.

The next book in the Jamie series, Published to Death, begins on Jamie’s first day back at work – in other words, immediately after this story – but it won’t be released until November. Because reasons. Anyway. Without further ado, allow me to present It’s A Whole New Ball Game. Enjoy.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Home Sweet Home

At last.

Pete maneuvered the CR-V into the parking spot behind our townhouse and cut the engine. In the back seat our yellow Lab, Ammo, scrambled to his feet and tugged on his car harness, panting happily, his tail whacking the back of my headrest.

We were home.

We’d spent eight weeks in the UK and four in New Mexico. My sabbatical was over. The second draft of the book I’d written was with my editor, and I was due back at work on Monday.

We didn’t have much time to regroup. Pete’s 18-year-old niece, Samantha Fernandez, would arrive tomorrow evening with her parents, Christine and Andy, to move into student housing at UCLA. Pete was already four weeks into his new career as an adjunct instructor in Arizona State’s online psychology program, and his students’ initial papers were coming due. I had three months’ worth of email to plow through, and classes commenced on Thursday.

The coming week promised to be a whirlwind.

We unloaded the car and walked the dog. Back in the house, Ammo undertook an olfactory survey of each room, seeking scents that didn’t belong. Pete and I stood in the center of the living room and looked at each other. Now what?

I said, “Do you want to get groceries?”

“No. I don’t want to get back in the car until tomorrow. Do you want to unpack?”

“No. I’m not up for laundry tonight. Do you want to go through the mail?”

“No. I’m too tired to read it. Do you want to get something to eat?”

I wasn’t terribly hungry, but… “I guess. But not Indian food.” We’d eaten our fill of curry while in the UK.

Garnelen_im_Verkauf_fcm

By Frank C. Müller (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“Agreed. Seafood?”

“Sure.” We’d been without seafood for four weeks. There wasn’t much to be had in Alamogordo.

We headed west on Wilshire toward the seafood market. Pete surveyed the businesses on either side of the street. “It’s like we never left.”

“It’s only been three months.”

“I know.” He kicked at a pebble and sent it skittering into the street. “Monday’s gonna be weird.”

I glanced at him. “Weird how?”

“Staying home. It’s the first day that you’ll go off to work and I won’t.”

“Are you having second thoughts?” Pete’s decision to leave his faculty position at Santa Monica College had been made under somewhat hasty conditions.

“Not at all. It’s just…” He shrugged. “Standing at the door, waving as you walk to the bus, saying, ‘Bye, dear, have a nice day…’ It all feels awfully housewifely.”

“Heteronormative, in other words?”

“Yeah. Except the roles that I anticipated before I knew better are entirely flipped now. You’re the breadwinner, marching to the office every day, and I’m the stay-at-home.” He frowned. “I never considered that it might feel like this.”

After five years of living with Pete, I knew better than to attempt an application of logic to his feelings. “Okay, what can we do to make it feel different to you? I’m not really the breadwinner; you will be working, after all. Earning your own money. How can we emphasize that?”

We stopped to wait at a crosswalk, and he gave me a sideways grin. “You are such a man of action.”

I laughed. “Yeah, right. I’m serious.”

“And it’s an excellent idea. I guess I could fiddle with the arrangement for my workspace. Maybe I can make it seem less like I’m at home.”

“There you go. And no slumming in your skivvies on the sofa. You have to get dressed and work in the office.”

The Walk signal appeared, and we crossed the street. Pete said, “I should draw up a schedule. Decide when I’m going to start and stop working every day.”

“Yes. I bet we could find a time clock app for you, if that would help.”

“It might. And I want to pay for my COBRA out of my own account.”

“Sure.” We maintained a joint bank account for joint expenses, and individual accounts for what we officially referred to as “other stuff.” I wasn’t able to add Pete to my own insurance until January.

We reached the restaurant, and Pete opened the door for me. “After you, sir.”

I grinned. Maybe holding the door for me would help Pete’s emotional state as well. “As you wish.”

 

Sunday, September 24

In A Whole Different League

After a lengthy trip to the grocery store, I spent the rest of Sunday morning unpacking and doing laundry. Pete switched his office chair to the opposite side of our desk, so he’d sit facing his bookshelves rather than the oh-so-comfy sofa bed. I located and downloaded an app to his phone that would allow him to clock in and out.

I was folding t-shirts when Pete came downstairs. “I’m not sure I care for the new desk arrangement. Maybe it’s the ex-cop in me, but sitting with my back to the room feels uncomfortable.”

“You can always switch it back.”

“True.” He took a bottle of water from the fridge and cracked it open. “I had another idea. Whichever of us packs your lunch for the coming day should pack one for me, too.”

“Ah, that’s smart. Eating out of plastic containers will make you feel as if you’re not at home.”

“Yeah. Now I just have to discipline myself to stay out of the garden while I’m supposed to be working.”

I smiled at that. “Hey, if your work is done? Clock out and go home. So to speak.”

“Thank you for working this out with me.”

“You’re welcome.” I hefted a tall stack of shirts and underwear. “You can repay me by carrying those to the bedroom.”

He grinned and accepted the armful of clothing. “I hope you don’t expect me to do laundry, since I’m gonna be home all day.”

“Ha! You’d better not. The laundry is mine.”

 

Having been out of the country all summer, Pete and I had missed a lot of baseball – and the season was coming to a close. My brother Kevin had tickets to the Dodgers-Padres game this afternoon, and Dad and my nephew Gabe were driving up from Oceanside to

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

By No machine-readable author provided. Imageman~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

join us.

Pete and I met the others at Dodger Stadium and hit the concession stands. We loaded up with Dodger Dogs and beer – soda for Gabe, of course – and climbed to our seats.

Dad went in first, followed by me, Pete, Gabe, Kristen and Kevin. The seats on the other side of Dad were occupied by four middle-aged ladies, all wearing Dodgers gear of various sorts. The one closest to Dad had a program open to the scorekeeping page and a pen in her hand.

As we sorted our food and drink, the woman on the other side of the scorekeeper raised her beer to us, spotting Dad’s Padres cap. “Hi there! Don’t tell me you’re Padres fans.”

Dad grinned. “Only half of us.”

The woman on the far side of the one who’d spoken said flirtatiously, “Which half?”

Dad laughed and pointed to Kevin. “Half of him,” – he pointed to me – “half of him, and all of my grandson and me.”

The woman with the scorecard said to me, “How do you get to be half of a Padres fan?”

I said, “We grew up in San Diego but have lived here for years.”

“Ah. Exactly the opposite of me.” She smiled. “I grew up here but have lived in San Diego for years.”

Dad asked, “And you’re not half a Padres fan?”

She chuckled. “I’ll root for the Padres when it won’t hurt the Dodgers.” She held out her hand. “I’m Claudia.”

Dad shook her hand. “Pleased to meet you, Claudia. I’m Dave.”

I took a closer look at Claudia. She was wearing a Dodgers cap over a blunt haircut – straight strands of strawberry blond hair, probably dyed, fell about an inch below the bottom of the cap. She had blue eyes with laugh lines in the corners, and just enough tan to look healthy. She was wearing a tank top and Bermuda shorts, and her arms and legs were toned. I stole a quick glance at her feet: socks and sneakers. Practical and comfortable.

Hm.

Gabe was chattering to Kristen about school; Pete was busy eating. I pretended to concentrate on my hot dog but continued to eavesdrop on Dad’s conversation with Claudia. He asked her, “What part of San Diego?”

“Carlsbad. What part of LA?”

“Oh, I live in Oceanside. My sons live here, in Westwood and Santa Monica.”

Claudia peered around Dad at me, just as I stuffed a bite of hot dog into my face. She grinned. “I certainly see the resemblance. Are you the dad of yonder grandson?”

I shook my head and tried to chew faster. Dad said, “No, yonder grandson’s dad is my oldest son. He didn’t come with us. Jamie’s my youngest, and Kevin, down on the end, is my middle boy.”

I snuck a surreptitious glance at Claudia’s ring finger. Empty. Claudia asked me, “How did you end up in LA?”

“I came to UCLA for library school and decided to stay. How did you end up in Carlsbad?”

“I spent the second half of my career in San Diego and decided to stay. What do you do?”

“I’m a librarian at UCLA.” I thought, I’ll ask the questions so Dad won’t have to. “Are you retired, then?”

“Yes, for two years. I was a pharmacist first, but when my husband died I needed more income. So I became a pharmaceutical rep, and San Diego was my assigned territory.” She held up her hands in mock surrender. “Don’t judge me.”

Widowed, not divorced. That was a plus. Dad said, “Hey, you do what you have to, right? My niece is a pharmacist.” My cousin Carly.

Stone mortar

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

Claudia said, “Oh, nearby?”

“No, she’s in Wilmington, North Carolina.”

I asked, “How do you like retirement?”

“I love it.”

The first batter walked to home plate and the crowd began to cheer. Dad nodded at Claudia’s scorecard. “Do you keep score?”

“Yeah.” Claudia grinned at Dad. “I guess I’d better pay attention.”

Dad grinned back. “I guess you’d better.”

Pete had finished his first hot dog. He leaned over to me and whispered, “What’s going on over there?”

“Flirting.”

Excellent.”

For the next couple of hours I kept one ear on the ball game and one on Dad and Claudia. They mostly stuck to the topic of baseball. Claudia was very knowledgeable. Her parents had begun taking her to Dodgers games before she was born, and she was an encyclopedia of Dodgers history.

They didn’t talk exclusively about baseball, however. They exchanged last names – Claudia’s was Stratton. The women with her – Nancy, Kathy and Deb – had been her best friends since high school.

Claudia had two standard poodles. She lived in the southern half of Carlsbad. She had a vegetable garden, enjoyed travel and, after retiring, had taken up windsurfing.

During the fifth inning Pete leaned over and whispered, “How’s it going over there?”

“So far so good.”

After the sixth inning Dad excused himself and went to the men’s room. Claudia looked across his seat at me and smiled. “Your name is Jamie?”

“Yes, ma’am. It’s Jeremy, actually, but my oldest brother couldn’t pronounce that as a toddler, and his version stuck.”

She chuckled. “Are you married?”

“Yes, ma’am.” I steeled myself – this might wreck Dad’s chances – and pointed at Pete. “To this guy.”

I needn’t have worried. Claudia was delighted. “Oh, that’s wonderful. Congratulations.”

“Thank you.” I nudged Pete. “Pete, this is Claudia.”

Pete reached across me to shake hands. “Pete Ferguson. I’m glad to meet you.”

“Claudia Stratton. My pleasure.” She nodded at Kevin. “Is your brother down there married?”

I said, “No, ma’am. That’s his girlfriend, Kristen. May I ask – are you Dr. Stratton?”

She nodded. “I have a Pharm.D. Gone are the days when you can work as a pharmacist with only a master’s degree.”

“What kind of pharmaceuticals did you represent?”

“Anesthetics and IV pain meds. My customers were hospitals and outpatient clinics.”

“Glad to hear you weren’t pushing the overuse of antibiotics.”

She grimaced. “No way. Do you have a healthcare background?”

“No, no. I dated a paramedic years ago. And my oldest brother – Gabe’s dad – is a veterinarian.”

“In Oceanside?”

“Yes, ma’am. He’s the large animal vet at Miracosta Animal Hospital.”

Dad came back with popcorn and another soda for Gabe. “Did I miss anything?”

Claudia showed him the scorecard. “A walk and a strikeout so far.”

“Good.” Dad settled into his seat, giving me a sideways grin as he did.

Uh huh.

By the end of the game Dad and Claudia had exchanged phone numbers and arranged to meet for lunch on Wednesday. Claudia was the designated driver for her group; Nancy, Kathy and Deb were milling around the aisle somewhat drunkenly. Claudia shook her head, laughing. “I’d better corral these three before they cause an incident. Jamie, Pete, it was great to meet you. Dave – I’m looking forward to Wednesday.”

“Me too.”

Dad and Claudia shook hands, and she hustled her friends up the steps toward the exit. Dad watched them go; at the top of the steps, Claudia turned and waved. Dad waved back.

I said, “That went well.”

“It did, didn’t it?” Dad grinned. “We’ll see what happens Wednesday.”

Kevin said, “What’s happening Wednesday?”

I said, “Dad has a lunch date with the woman he was sitting beside.”

Kristen said, “I thought there was some getting-to-know-you going on down there.”

Kevin was astounded. “What? Who is this woman?”

I said, “Claudia Stratton, widow, retired pharmacist, lives in Carlsbad, windsurfs, knows how to keep score. I like her.”

Kevin shook his head like a dog shaking water from its fur. “What?

Pete said, “Claudia from Carlsbad. Try to keep up.”

Dad just laughed.

 

A couple of hours after we got home Dad texted me. Home safe, talk to you soon.

About an hour after that, Jeff texted me. Busy?

No.

My phone rang. I said, “Hi there.”

Jeff said, “So, Gabe is reporting that Dad has a new girlfriend.”

“Ha! Hardly.” I explained. “They never stopped talking through the entire game, and they’re having lunch on Wednesday. Signs are favorable, but it was only one afternoon.”

“How does she compare to Barb?” Dad’s last girlfriend, with whom he’d broken up a year and a half ago.

I didn’t even have to think about that. “She doesn’t. Claudia is in a whole different league, and she has dogs. But it’s way too early to speculate.”

Jeff sounded skeptical. “Hm. Okay.”

I laughed. “Relax. It’s probably won’t go anywhere.”

Jeff said, “Uh huh.”

When I hung up Pete said, “You don’t believe what you said.”

“I don’t believe what?”

“That Dave and Claudia won’t go anywhere.”

I crossed my arms. “You don’t believe in gut feelings, do you?”

“No.” Pete grinned. “But in this case, I’d say the evidence so far supports your gut.”

The buzzer sounded on the dryer, saving me from having to examine my guts any further. I said, “We’ll see.”

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It’s short story release day!

dirty laundry

Dirty Laundry, the Jamie Brodie short story anthology, is released today! If you pre-ordered, you should already have it on your reading device. If you didn’t, you can buy it now! Here are the links for Smashwords and Amazon.

I’m not releasing this one in paperback. It would cost way too much. When I publish through CreateSpace, they set the minimum price based on the number of pages. This is over 300 pages and would probably be nearly twenty bucks. Too much.

Anyway. I hope you enjoy the stories!

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Pre-order and cover reveal!

It’s here! Dirty Laundry, the first volume of Jamie Brodie short stories, is available for pre-order! This is a collection of all the stories that have been previously published, both here on the blog and with books, and a BUNCH (more than half of the 32 stories) of new stories. They span the years 1974-2017 and tell of first meetings, first loves, family history, and more.

The book will be published on August 31. It’s 107,000 words, and most of it is new – so I’m charging a bit more for it than my usual 45K – 55K novels. Fair warning.

Here’s the link for Amazon pre-order. Let me warn you – Amazon wouldn’t allow me to assign the number 14.5 for this book within the series. So I assigned it #0. (I know I’ve seen series books with decimal points; maybe they just stopped allowing that.) So it’s Jamie Brodie Mysteries, #0.

Here’s the link for Smashwords pre-order. Unlike Amazon, Smashwords automatically assigned #15 to the story collection, which is going to mess up my numbering for the rest of the series… sigh.

And here’s the cover!

dirty laundry

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Something fun!

As promised, the anthology of Jamie Brodie short stories will be published at the end of August on both Amazon and Smashwords. I’ve sent the cover photo to my graphic artist and hope to have the book up for pre-order within the next couple of weeks.

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier. By aprillynn77 – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=431421

There are 32 stories in total, 20 of them brand new material. The rest are those you’ve read here on the blog, or that have been included with some of the books. Now, there are no new mysteries in these stories. The only story with a mystery for Jamie to solve is There Goes the Neighborhood. So if you read the books mostly for the mysteries and don’t care that much about the rest of Jamie’s life, be warned that the short stores are all about the rest of Jamie’s life.

The anthology is called Dirty Laundry: The Jamie Brodie Short Stories, Vol. 1. (There will be a Vol. 2 eventually, as I write more short stories.)

If you follow my Facebook page, you know that I produce a soundtrack for each book. I’ve done the same for the anthology. But, instead of releasing the soundtrack after the book is published, I’m going to release this one before! Beginning this Sunday (7/31) and running through 8/31, I’ll post the title of one of the stories and the song that I chose to illustrate it. Here comes the fun part – you can try to figure out what/who the story is about based on the title and song. Some of them are glaringly obvious; some you may remember from before. Some of them, I think, will be tricky.

I can’t wait to see if you can figure them all out. 😀 See you on Facebook!

 

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What’s going ON!

The picture to the left is the library at Trinity College, Dublin. I got to see the Book of Kells but no photos are allowed. It’s bigger than I expected.

 

 

 

Holy cow, this summer is flying by! I spent two weeks in Ireland in June – SO GORGEOUS – and still feel somewhat discombobulated in terms of being organized. Or, in my case, DISorganized. My office is a mess, my house is a mess… Yikes!

But I have not been entirely idle! I haven’t been doing a TON of writing, but I’ve been doing little things which all have to take place eventually. Such as:

  • I’m grinding out the nitty-gritty changes that need to be made to the next book, Published to Death, with my writing group, and also writing a short story which will be included at the end of that book. It’s still on track for November publication.
  • The short story anthology is complete! It’s titled Dirty Laundry, and will be available at the end of August. Warning: the anthology is 107,000 words, so I’m going to charge a little extra for it. There is plenty of new content, plus all of the old short stories that you’ve seen in books or here on the blog. It’s been a lot of fun to put together.
  • The first week of August, I’m going to Los Angeles for a couple of days! I plan to visit UCLA’s campus and Jamie’s library, and see how badly I’ve messed up the placement of the reference desk. 😀 I also want to eat at some of the boys’ favorite restaurants, and walk down their block in Santa Monica. I promise lots of photos!

Speaking of photos – here’s another from Ireland. The Dingle Peninsula, the southwesternmost section of the country.

 

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Clueless

Tomorrow, here on the blog, you’ll be treated (or subjected) to the first publication of the year, a short story called Great Expectations. I mentioned this in my New Year’s post. In this story, Stephen Atcheson, nemesis of the single women on staff at Jamie’s library, goes speed dating.

I don’t want you to think that the story is mean-spirited. Stephen is one of those people who is truly clueless about how he comes across to other people and in society. This is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days, but Stephen is a true misogynist – and truly believes that he is not. He really does think that he’s a chick magnet, and that any woman would be grateful for his attentions. He oozes self-confidence. No inferiority complexes in this guy.

This story was prompted by a night out with friends at a wine bar. We happened to stumble into Speed Dating night. The women were all dressed to the nines and the men, with one exception, were in jeans and had their shirttails hanging out. There were a lot of guys there who could have been Stephen in the flesh.

That got the old creative juices stirring.

So don’t feel sorry for Stephen. He deserves this night. It’s his own fault for not doing his due diligence.

The story ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, which will be resolved in Promoted to Death. (Scheduled for release in early May.)

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Inside Pete Ferguson’s Head

I’ve been assembling the short stories for the anthology which will be published next

male_brain

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

summer. I’ve also been writing some new stories for inclusion, so the collection will include plenty of new material.

One of the new stories describes how Pete and Kevin became friends and partners. Obviously it had to be told from the point of view of one or the other of them. I’ve thought about it several times, and I just don’t believe I can write as Kevin. So Pete it is.

I wasn’t sure I could write as Pete either. I’d been hesitant to try. But for this story, it worked. Not that I’m going to start writing in Pete’s voice a lot. I may never do it again.

I think it helped that the time period covered was before Pete met Jamie. Maybe that’s the problem – Jamie has scrambled Pete’s brain for good. 🙂 The pre-Jamie Pete was less complicated in some ways.

Anyway, the story is called Partners, and it will appear in the anthology, still scheduled for August. I think you’ll like it.

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