The Long Haul (first fourth done)

I finished writing the first fourth of the latest Jazzi Zanders cozy I’m working on (book 6).  Which means, the set-up of the book is in place.  The set-up always introduces the main character (Jazzi), and since this is a series, hopefully most readers have met her before.  But, again hopefully, some readers might be new to the series, so I try to introduce her in the middle of doing something with her husband, Ansel, to show their relationship and what they’re up to this time around without boring people who already know them.  Just enough information for new readers but not so much it’s repetitive from past books.  A balancing act.

Jazzi comes with a decent-sized cast of characters:  her mom and dad, her sister Olivia and her husband Thane, her cousin Jerod, whom she and Ansel work with flipping houses, and his wife Franny and their kids, along with Ansel’s brother Radley and his girlfriend Elspeth, Jerod’s mom and dad, and friends Walker and Didi and kids.  And then there’s Gran–with the gift of “sight” and her friend Samantha.  I know–a lot, so I try to introduce them a little at a time.  Impossible at the Sunday meal that Jazzi hosts every week to help keep her family in touch with each other.  They all play into the storylines of each book.  In this one, Olivia becomes a major player.  She owns a beauty shop with her mom, and when she bullies Jazzi into coming to the shop before it opens to get her hair cut and shaped, they find the shop’s new employee working on an early customer, even though no one’s given her a key to get inside.   Things go downhill from there, as I’m sure you can guess from my working title:  The Body in the Beauty Shop.

In the first few chapters of each book, I also try to introduce the new house project they’re working on for their flip.  This time, they’ve chosen a grand brick Colonial home in Wildwood Park, a pocket of distinguished old houses surrounded by busy streets.  It’s widow’s walk needs replaced, as does the railing on the balcony over the solarium.  And as usual, the kitchen and bathrooms need gutted and updated.  But other than that, it will be a quick fix.  I’ve started buying more home magazines and looking up pictures of rooms on Pinterest to get new ideas.

And then there’s the matter of a murder or two.  And in this book, I struggled to decide between two different cases and caved by going with both of them.  I’ve never done that before, but I wanted to bring Jazzi’s ex-fiancée back into the stories, AND I wanted to focus on Olivia.  So I have Jazzi trying to help two friends clear their names instead of one.  She just didn’t have enough to do getting ready for her family’s big Easter celebration, and a protagonist at loose ends is a sorry thing to read.

Anyway, the set-up for a new book is always fun to write.  It’s introducing characters, setting,  the story’s big question, and any minor characters we need to know.  It’s all things new.  But once I start on the second fourth of the book, which is now, where subplots start twisting around each other, people lie when asked questions, and everything gets complicated, the writing gets trickier.  And before I know it, I’ve reached the morass of the middle muddle.  Before I wade to the last fourth of the book when things start moving again, I usually end up mired in doubt and positive another book sounds lots more interesting.  But that’s all part of the writing process.  It’s just a matter of putting one word in front of another until I hit solid ground again.  But for now, I’m celebrating.  One-fourth of the book is done!

Yay! Tattoos & Portents is up!

I’m doing a happy dance around the house.  My chihuahua’s staring at me like I’m nuts.  My husband joined the conga line, and my cat’s unimpressed.  But then, it’s hard to impress Dutchy.

Muddy River 4 came from an idea my husband had and kept pestering me with.  He looked at images of tattoos online and could picture them moving to “talk” to each other.  He mentioned it so many times, I decided to use it in my book.  I already had Druids near Muddy River whose tattoos writhed and could stretch to grab someone.  I just needed to come up with a new twist for this story.  And I had a lot of fun having people leave Muddy River and return with a tattoo staining their right arm and incessant dreams that repeated themselves over and over again.

When Festus, a friend of Hester and Raven’s, leaves on a business trip, he returns with a tattoo he can’t remember getting and dreams that make him lose so much sleep, he can hardly function.  When he asks Hester for help, she realizes the tattoo was placed on his arm by a witch who’s imprisoned in a voodoo priest’s basement, and the dreams are cries for help.  But where is the witch?  And how do they find her?  Soon, they discover there are more people with tattoos, and each one holds one piece of the witch’s story.  To fit them together, Hester must touch each tattoo and let the vision it contains open up for them to watch, sort of like looking into a crystal ball.

And that’s how I got the idea for the cover of the book.  I wanted a background that would give a dream-like feel, and a Celt tattoo like the ones the witch implanted on peoples’ arms.  And I wanted something to suggest that Hester was seeing visions of the scenes the witch sent them.  And this is what I ended up.  Hope you like it.

 

 

Mystery Musings

Today, I’m offering praise to just plain old ENTERTAINMENT.  HH and I are meeting another couple at the Arena Dinner Theater tonight to see the play Who’s In Bed with the Butler?–a farce.  I’m not looking for any deep meaning, any social message or tension or drama.  I’m looking for FUN.  And sometimes, that’s all I want from a book, too.

I’m halfway through a paranormal mystery, DARK, WITCH, AND CREAMY (book one in the Bewitched by Chocolate series by H.Y. Hannah), and at the end of the day, I can’t wait to sit down to read it.  Because it’s funny and surprising, a page turner because I never know what’s going to happen next, and whatever worries I had through the day go away.  Books like that are hard to come by.

Sometimes, I read an author because of her eloquence or use of language.  Elizabeth George, Alice Hoffman, Sarah Addison Allen, and Mae Clair come immediately to mind.  Sometimes I read because of complicated, complex characters, rich settings, and intricate plotting.  Then I reach for William Kent Krueger, P.J. Parrish, Anna Lee Huber, and J.D. Robb.  And sometimes, I just read for fun, so I’ll scroll through new titles for Lynn Cahoon, H.Y. Hanna, Molly MacRae, and C.S. Boyack.  When I need a kick-ass character, battles, and tension, my go-to is Ilona Andrews.  But every once in a while, nothing will do but a Regency.  Then I download Julia Donner, Darcie Wilde, T.E. Kensey, or C.S. Harris (along with Anna Lee Huber again).  And then, every once in a while, all I want is a witch.

I have to confess, and I refuse to analyze this overly much, that for some reason, I’m drawn to witches as protagonists.  Maybe that’s why I’m still writing the Muddy River series.  The idea of magic intrigues me.  I’ve read and written about other supernaturals, but vampires are a little too bloodthirsty for me, even though they featured prominently in the Fallen Angels series I wrote as Judith Post.  I avoid zombies completely.  They gross me out.  I’m pretty fond of shifters, like the ones in Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series.  Most of my family and friends shy completely away from all things paranormal, but not me.  I’ve been fascinated by witches since I met the three hags stirring the cauldron in Macbeth.  Which means, of course, that I’ve read a variety of books with witches as protagonists, and I’ve enjoyed most of them.  H.Y. Hanna’s Bespelled by Chocolate series features a witch who’s caught up in a murder mystery, so there’s a double dose of happiness for me, since I love a good mystery.  Amanda M. Lee’s Spells Angels books combine witches, shifters, and mysteries, too.  A great mix.  And like H.Y. Hanna’s books, they’re just plain fun.  Sometimes, that’s more than enough to make them a win for me.

How do you pick the books you read?  What do you look for?

Character Archetypes: The Mentor

Some of you are writers, and this series of blogs that C.S. Boyack is writing for Story Empire is a great study on different characters to use in your stories.

Story Empire

Hi gang, Craig with you today. This is post number two in the character archetypes series. In the Hero’s Journey, there are some common characters that are likely to show up in all stories. This doesn’t mean each archetype shows up in every story, and aside from the hero, the rest are kind of optional. Almost every story will have an assortment of them.

This series is to introduce you to them. Once you’re aware of them, you can decide if they can benefit the story you’re writing.

Let’s meet one of the more fun ones.

The Mentor:

Heroes should start off as being capable. These aren’t completely inept characters, and you want your readers to believe they can succeed against the big odds they’re about to face. But early in the story, they aren’t quite ready yet.

Think of the hero at this stage as a beautiful prime rib…

View original post 974 more words

TATTOOS & PORTENTS–The End

This is the last chapter of Muddy River 4.  I hope you’ve enjoyed it.  I’ll get it ready and publish it on Amazon soon.  I hope the cover gives the feel of dreams, Celtic tattoos, and visions, even though they’re not in a crystal ball:)

TATTOOS AND PORTENTS Hester cover

 

Chapter 22

We left early in the morning. Cein, Boaz, and the young witch, Lucia, rode with Brown and Meda. We loaded Claws in the very back of our SUV to make room for Drago’s witch, Astra, along with Flint and Laurel. Flurries of snow and wind buffeted our vehicles, but Raven still drove faster than I thought safe. My fire demon didn’t know how to go under fifty miles an hour.

We headed north and west, which took us close to the Wabash River. A hawk circled over an open field at the edge of a tiny group of houses. I was glad to see a man shoveling his sidewalk and lights on in several homes. The priest hadn’t sent his undead here.

“Is everyone wearing their pouches?” I asked.

Flint raised a hand to touch his, and the two witches nodded.

“And you remember how to kill the undead?” Raven glanced in the rearview mirror to see their nods.

“If I blast magic at their heads, will that kill them?” Astra asked.

“If your blasts are strong enough.” I concentrated on her magic and nodded. “You’re powerful enough. Flint and Laurel will have to work together. She can stun them, so that Flint can slice off their heads with his claws.”

Laurel grimaced. “I’ve never battled before. I hope I’m brave enough.”

Astra raised an eyebrow, and energy rose around her. “Just remember being in that cage and having the priest come to drain you.”

I smiled. Astra had said the right thing to motivate her. Laurel’s energy rose, too.

Astra glanced out the window at miles of uninhabited land. “I know you have an area in mind where you think the priest’s settlement is, but how will we find it? This feels like the middle of nowhere.”

“I’m guessing there’ll be a bog or stagnant pond,” Raven said. “He lived on one before, and Jamila’s village is on one, too.”

“So it’s a voodoo thing?” Laurel asked.

“Looks that way, but we’ll feel his magic when we get close enough,” I added. “He wants us to find him this time. He won’t hide from us.”

And sure enough, after we reached the X on Raven and Brown’s map, dark energy hovered in the air. “Can you follow it?” Raven asked.

“Take the next road that turns away from the river,” I said.

He did, then drove for another hour before the terrain changed to lower land with water sitting in shallow pools. Finally, we came to another boggy area surrounded by barracks-type buildings. A house on stilts sat in the center of the murky water.

Raven grimaced. “Do you think he stocked the bog with more of his pets?”

“Pets?” Astra studied the bog’s muddy banks and the stumps of trees jutting from the water.

“He likes things with tentacles or sharp teeth,” I said.

Laurel looked surprised. “Will we have to fight them to reach the priest?”

Raven shook his head. “This time, I’m guessing he’ll come to us. He’s brought us here for a reason. He thinks he can win this time.”

Flint swallowed hard, looking uncomfortable. “If he kills us, will we be part of his undead army?”

“Probably, but that’s better than being stuck in a cage and drained for our powers,” I said.

Raven shook his head. “He’s not strong enough to hold us, and he knows it. We’d be too high of a risk.”

“You two would.” Laurel reached for Flint’s hand. “He already captured me once.”

Raven pulled to the side of the rutted road and turned off the SUV’s engine. “We should go the rest of the way on foot, so we can get organized before we start battling.”

Brown pulled in behind us, and the rest of our friends came to join us. Cein scowled at how many barracks there were. “You can torch whole groups of undead, Raven, but the rest of us have to slice and dice our way through them. There’s a lot more than before. The priest has numbers on his side.”

Boaz nodded. “He’ll have more witches working for him, too. And voodoo priestesses.”

“And spirits.” Lucia shivered.

“Spirits can’t hurt you,” I reminded her. “If you call for a strong wind, it will blow them away. And they can’t pass protective shields. If worse comes to worst, you can always run for the vehicles. Meda and I have warded both of them. No enemy can harm you in either of them.”

“And leave the rest of you to fight my battle?” She raised her chin.

“We’d rather keep you alive. Have you ever fought in a battle before?”

Her gaze slid to the ground. “Our town didn’t have a school for witches. I don’t have any training.”

Raven nodded. “The important thing, always, is not to panic. And there’s no shame if you do. Just run for the vehicles and stay safe.”

Astra inhaled a long breath and squared her shoulders. “We’ll follow your lead, do what you do. Where do we start?”

We spread out in a line with Meda, Astra, and me scattered through the others to throw up shields. Claws padded along beside me to battle our foes. I wanted to keep Lucia and Laurel close. They could call on shields, too, but theirs weren’t as strong. Then we started toward the camp.

We were halfway there when the priest walked toward us with a witch on either side of him and two dozen undead in front of him, protected by three more witches scattered among them. He’d learned the undead were easy for Raven to defeat, so he was relying on the witches to shield them. He stopped to motion for two voodoo priestesses to step into place beside the witches guarding him in back.

My heart lurched when I saw Spellyr’s body in the front row. I knew it was only the shell of our old friend, but it still hurt to see him there. And it would be hard to blast him, but I’d be doing him a favor. His spirit had asked us to keep his body from inflicting harm.

Raven took a deep breath, inhaling our enemies’ scent. “The two witches with the priest are powerful. The three in front, medium strength.”

Meda glanced at me. “Can you tell what magicks they use?”

I concentrated on each one in turn. “The back two are earth witches. The witch across from Raven in the front line is a fire witch.” I grinned. “He plans to fight fire with fire.”

Flames simmered over Raven’s skin. “We’ll see about that.”

“The witch across from you, Meda, is an air witch, like you.”

Astra grunted. “He’s trying to match our powers.”

“Is she stronger than I am?” Meda asked.

I grinned. “No.” Meda was nearly as powerful as I was and just as old.

“And the witch across from you?” Brown sniffed, too, but shook his head. “I can smell her magic, but not what kind.”

“A water witch. The bog is close enough, she can use it.”

Astra wrinkled her nose. “That water’s disgusting. I’m throwing up a shield. I don’t want any of it touching me.”

Their front line started toward us, and I raised my palms. Might as well see what we were dealing with. I blasted energy at them, and the priest’s three witches called up shields. My energy bounced away. Raven threw flames, but the shields held.

“He’s recruited stronger help this time.” Cein pointed toward the water witch. “The long, stringy hag with the gray hair reminds me of a witch I battled in France. Looks a lot like her.”

“Could it be her?” Boaz asked.

“No, I killed her, but maybe this one’s a sister or relative.”

Boaz frowned at her. “Her scent’s strong. How did you kill her?”

“Like this.” A lasso of energy burst from Cein’s finger and burrowed under ground straight toward the witch. I stared, surprised. I’d forgotten Cein was half warlock, too. The witch watched the ground heave and race toward her and dropped her hands to aim at it. The minute her shield lowered, Cein zapped her. She fell and didn’t get back up.

“Stupid,” Meda muttered, covering him quickly with her magic. “Even under ground, the shield would have stopped it.”

Cein grinned. “But the element of surprise can catch enemies off guard. She’s never seen that trick before.”

Neither had I. I was impressed. I could move earth but had never seen energy tunnel through it before.

The fire witch across from Raven cursed and blasted a fire ball toward Cein. It wasn’t safe to panic in a battle, but it wasn’t smart to lose your temper either. She couldn’t hold a shield and battle at the same time, so while Cein called for a shield of his own, Meda dropped her. They made a great team. Our Phoenix was well schooled in magic.

The last witch couldn’t create a shield large enough to protect the entire line of undead, so Raven blasted fire again, and this time Spellyr and a dozen others turned to ashes. We’d kept our promise to Donella and our friend.

The witch in front regrouped, stretching a half dozen undead on each side of her. While she held our attention, the priest sent a flurry of spirits barreling toward us.

“They can’t harm you! Hold your shields steady,” I yelled, but Lucia gave a short scream, turned and ran. I tried to stretch my shield, but she didn’t stop. “Run behind us,” I cried. But she ran sideways, and the second she stepped past our protection, the witch beside the priest shot energy at her. It hit square in the middle of her back. A cry of pain split the air, then Lucia crumpled. I could feel her life energy leave her.

“Is she. . . .?” Laurel couldn’t finish her question.

“Dead.” My skin felt cold. I hadn’t lost anyone in battle for a long time. I thought I could keep her safe. “I shouldn’t have let her come. I never thought about her running.”

Raven heard the pain in my voice. “You told her to run behind us. You can’t blame yourself. We all have to fight a first battle, and sometimes, it’s just luck that we survive it.”

But she should have survived. We were here to help her.

Astra glanced at Lucia again, then screeched in fury. Energy pulsed around her. I shook my head. “Keep your cool. You won’t help anyone if you get killed, too.” But she wasn’t listening.

She poised to attack, and the priest’s witches would be ready to take advantage of that. I called for a thick fog to settle between us and our enemies, then waved my hands to buckle the earth to distract them. A torrent of energy shot from Astra, and I motioned for Raven to yank her aside when a zap flew toward her. It whizzed past her, flying to where she’d been standing before Raven moved her. Then Meda and I stretched our shields to protect our friends. When the fog lifted, though, Cein and Boaz had disappeared.

Sweet Hecate! They were going to attack from behind. Before anyone else could realize they were gone, I called for more fog, then Meda and I dropped to our knees and held out our hands to shoot sprays of electricity from our fingertips. A distraction. Hopefully, it would work.

As we’d expected, blasts flew over our heads, doing no harm, but we heard a yelp of pain from the other side of the field. The witch in the front line had been peppered with small bursts. She put out a hand to catch herself as she stumbled, and Astra fired so much magic at her, it lifted her off the ground and threw her behind the priest. At the same time, Boaz landed behind the witch on one side of him, sinking his fangs deep into her neck. Cein plummeted from the sky to take the other witch’s head in his strong talons and snap it. Before the priest could react, his witches’ bodies fell at his feet, and our friends took off, returning to us. As he looked up, hoping to stop them, Raven shot an inferno of fire at the rest of the undead, destroying all of them.

No more witches. And no more walking dead. We were about to combine our energies when a whirlwind sped toward us and we had to throw up shields again to keep from being blown away. When the wind settled, a new witch strode toward us, leading every undead in the entire settlement. Hordes of them.

I focused on her power and shook my head. “She’s stronger than all the others.”

There were so many undead, even if we burned and blasted, we’d have to work our way through them all. And as usual, the priest remained behind them. When they were in place, though, he and his two priestesses smiled and pulled three voodoo dolls toward us and held them high in one hand while brandishing long, sharp hat pins with the other.

I frowned, straining to see the dolls better. The first one had dark hair and was dressed like Raven. The second was meant to look like me. And the third, like Meda. Then they pulled out three more. These looked to have real strands of hair and resembled the three witches the priest had held captive. He must have cut their hair after he drained them to use for this magic.

With an evil grin, the priest stacked two of the dolls together, raised his hand, and drove the hat pin through the hearts of the dolls. Astra and Laurel pressed hands to their chests, bracing for the pain. Raven raised a dark brow, waiting to see what happened. His priestesses followed his example, jamming their pins down at the same time. I held my breath. I thought I’d found a spell to protect us, but I’d never tested it. How could I? Then the priest smirked, waiting for us to die.

We looked back and forth at each other. No one fell. My spell worked. I shook my head. “It’s nice to know I put the right ingredients in our pouches.”

Raven laughed. “You were worried, and that worried me.”

Meda let out a sigh of relief.

The priest stared, then he raised the pin and stabbed the dolls over and over again. When nothing happened, he threw them down, furious. He chanted, and dark magic swirled around him.

“All together now. Everyone aim at the witch,” I cried.

She threw up a shield, but Meda, Laurel, Astra, and I sent a steady stream of power toward her at the same time Raven threw an inferno of flames. Cein shot bursts of energy that pounded her. Her shield cracked. The crack grew wider until there was a space big enough for me to shoot a spear of energy straight at her torso.

When she fell, I yelled, “Now the priest.”

The undead started toward us, but Boaz whirled into a tornado of sharp talons, buzzing through the front row. Brown shifted into a hulking form of sharp teeth and claws and Flint followed his example to give us time to concentrate on the priest. Claws slashed his way through more of them. The priest tried to pull magic around him to protect himself but he wasn’t fast enough. He was thrown backward before bursting into ashes.

As he fell, so did every undead. The two priestesses turned to run but Astra finished them. And then we stopped to stare. The ground was littered with bodies.

“We did it,” Laurel said. She looked at Flint and shook her head. “We beat them.”

Flint gave a shaky laugh and pulled her into his arms.

Raven grimaced at all of the corpses. “We can’t leave them to rot. I might as well get busy.”

Flint stepped in front of him to stop him. “What about their families? Shouldn’t we try to return the bodies to them to bury?”

Raven gave him a look. “And how are you going to explain what happened to them? They’re mortals. Are you going to tell people a priest made them into an undead army?”

Flint winced. “That would only make things worse, wouldn’t it?”

“They’d come after us next.” When Flint nodded understanding, Raven went from person to person, burning their remains. “While I take care of these, why don’t the rest of you clean out the bog?”

Cein glanced at the murky water then did a double take when a fin slithered through it. “And how do we do that?”

“Hester will take care of it if you guys want to check out the barracks and make sure we didn’t miss anyone.”

We all got busy, and when we’d finished our jobs, Raven burned down all of the buildings and the priest’s hut on stilts. Once the fires burned down, Meda and I called for rain to put out every last ember, then we called for winds to blow away any traces that the priest had ever existed.

Before we left, Astra walked to Lucia’s body—the only one Raven hadn’t cremated. She blinked back tears when she looked down at the young witch. “What should we do with her?”

“I called Oren before we started clean up,” Raven said. “He’s an enforcer for the Ohio River area. He knows Lucia’s family, and he’s sending someone to get her. He’ll be here soon. She’ll have a proper burial.”

That made me feel better, knowing that she’d be remembered. Raven came to wrap an arm around my waist. “We’ll wait until he gets here.”

It didn’t take long. After we watched the man pull away with Lucia, we returned to our own vehicles and started the drive home.

Raven glanced at me as we sped down back country roads. “Do you want to take some time before you reschedule Yule Eve and Yule? Fighting the priest has been more grueling than usual.”

After I thought about it, though, I shook my head. “Everything’s ready for Yule Eve. All I have to do is reheat things. And I need something to finish this holiday on a happy note.”

“Will you able to do that? Enjoy the celebration?”

I nodded. “It will be a little bittersweet this year, but that happens, doesn’t it? And I want to put the priest behind us.”

He grinned. “Good, because I’m ready to celebrate with a coven of witches. I’ve never done it before. And there’ll be lots and lots of food. And cookies.”

He was trying to cheer me up, and it was working. This wouldn’t be a holiday to remember fondly, but gathering with longtime friends made everything better. Tomorrow night, our house would be full of my witches and their families, and the day after that, we’d feast with people we held dear. Then, in a few days, school would start again, and I’d be busy teaching young witches. Our lives would settle back into a routine I enjoyed.   And a new year would lie before Raven and me. A year full of possibilities.

Can Antagonists be as powerful as Villains?

I recently finished reading Dead of Winter by P.J. Parrish and wrote a review for it on BookBub and Goodreads.  I’d write one for Amazon, but they take down so many of the reviews I write, I don’t even bother anymore.  https://www.bookbub.com/authors/judi-lynn?list=reviews&review_step=search  I really liked this thriller, and when I thought about it, it’s because the “good guys” scared me lots more than the killer.

I’m warning you now that there will be spoilers in this blog, so if you’re planning to read the book, you might not want to read on.   But Louis Kincaid is a black cop who’s hired in Loon Lake, Michigan, and it SEEMS like he’s going to be accepted by most of the whites in a white town and police department.  Some of the cops make a point of welcoming him, and then he learns that the last black cop who worked with them was killed inside his house, near his front door, by a shotgun blast.  As he investigates the murder, though, he realizes Pryce’s murder had nothing to do with race.  The evidence points to it being a vendetta, pay back for an old case that happened before he joined the force.  The more he learns, he’s convinced that two teenagers were killed in a standoff with the cops, and their father holds the police who were there responsible.  When a retired cop, who’d been at the scene, is found under the ice of the frozen lake with a playing card with a skull and bones on it, similar to the card at Pryce’s body, and the man’s squad call number is scrawled across it, he’s sure of his theory.

This is where things get interesting.  Lacey, the father, is ex-military and was dropped behind enemy lines often during Vietnam.  He knows how to elude anyone looking for him.  He’s an expert shot, and he intends to kill every single Loon Lake cop he can, especially the ones he holds responsible for killing his son and daughter.  Readers know he’s a serious threat, and we don’t want him to succeed the more pages we spend with Louis and his fellow cops.   We like them.  We don’t want them to die.

BUT, in the cabin Louis rents near the lake, he meets a mysterious woman who loves to run and is an artist.  She rents a cabin across the lake from him, and they start a relationship.  She tells him that her name is Zoe.  Louis is new to town.  There’s no way for him to know that she’s his chief’s wife.  Once the chief finds out he’s having an affair with her, though, he does everything in his power to make Louis’s life so miserable, he’ll quit the force.  In front of one of their early morning meetings, in front of every other cop, he calls Louis a pussy and slaps and mocks him.  And it gets worse from there.

Gibralter, the police chief, is so clever, so vindictive, and possibly a little bit crazy, that Lacey killing people pales in comparison to what he does.  I tried to think of an adversary that scared me more, and I came up blank.  He demands total loyalty, and if someone missteps or questions him, he punishes them.  Brutally.  When he’s in a scene with a “good” cop who might disagree with the way he’s handling things, I found myself holding my breath.  What would Gibralter do?  How bad would it be?

P.J. Parrish–two sisters who write as a team–made every character in the novel flawed.  Louis made his share of mistakes.  And the mystery interested me.  But what kept me turning pages were the bad guys–the killer and the police chief.  This book made me think about how effective a serious, in-your-face antagonist can be.  I don’t write those often.  They’re a little over the top for cozies.  But this book made me realize that antagonists serve as much a purpose in stories as villains.  They’re worth thinking about.

It’s almost February, friends.  Have a good one, and happy writing!

Wednesday’s Shameless Plug

My fourth Jazzi Zanders cozy mystery is available for pre-order now and is due out March 17, two days after the Ides of March, so you don’t have to beware:)  https://www.kensingtonbooks.com/book.aspx/39309

It’s also available from NetGalley for review right now.  And you can win two POD copies of it on a Goodreads giveaway if you enter fast enough. https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/302087-the-body-in-the-apartment

In this story, Ansel and Jazzi are helping his brother, Radley, move into his first apartment in the same building where his work supervisor lives.  Radley and Donovan are friends who often get together on Saturday nights to play poker.  While they’re loading more of Radley’s things into their van to take to his apartment, Ansel’s oldest brother, Bain, comes to tell Radley he has to come back to Wisconsin to work on their family’s dairy farm.  Tempers flare, and Bain goes to the apartment with them to continue arguing with Radley.  When Donovan supports Radley’s decision to stay, Bain blows up at him before storming out of the building.  A short time later, Donovan returns to his own apartment, and then a gun shot is heard.  When Ansel and Jazzi run to the second floor, they watch Donovan stagger into the hallway, blood saturating his shirt.  Bain is the main suspect in the shooting, and as before, Jazzi joins detective Gaff to try to prove Bain’s innocence.

TheBodyInTheApartment_ COVER