Weasel’s Demise

I know that many authors use newsletters to communicate with their readers and send them special bonus features and details of upcoming events. I don’t have a newsletter and use my blog to keep in touch instead. And once in a while, authors write special short stories to share with their readers as a bonus thank you, so I decided to write a short mystery for you. If you like it, I hope you’ll share it on twitter, and even if you don’t share it, I hope you enjoy it.

Weasel’s Demise

by

Judi Lynn

The alarm went off.  Speed had to work this Saturday.  Part of being an EMT.  Not like paralegals.  She worked in Judge Hershel’s office, arranging court dates, calling lawyers, arranging crime scene pictures and evidence, a nine-to-five job with an hour lunch.  She and Herschel, known for being a tough female judge, clicked, working seamlessly together.

She started to lift her head to glance at the clock and groaned.  She should have stopped at one bottle of wine last night.  Speed had to help her to bed.  He was good like that.  She might even love him.  Did he love her?  Maybe.  Whatever.  They made a good team.  She reached behind her to nudge him.  “It’s five-thirty.  The alarm went off.  Get up.”

Naked, he pushed out of bed and started to the bathroom.  Worth opening an eyeball to see.  Great ass, skinny legs, but his shoulders were broad.  His thick, wavy, black hair fell over his forehead.  She stretched out an arm to turn off the alarm.  Never safe to do until one of them was up and moving or they’d fall back to sleep.  They might indulge in bad habits—she liked her wine and he liked his pot—but they never missed work.

When he came back out, he quickly dressed, bent to kiss her cheek, and started for the door.

“Have a good day.” 

He stopped and turned, frowning down at her.  “What do you want?”  She never sent him away with a sappy saying.

“You could bring home pizza when you’re done for the day.”

He raised a dark eyebrow.  “A small or big bottle of wine?”

“With pizza?  What do you think?”

“I’ll buy a cheap red, but you’d better not get mouthy after you drink it.  Red does that to you.”

She zipped her lips, and he shook his head.  “Right.”  Then he was out the door.

She slid her legs on his side of the bed, enjoying the extra space, and went back to sleep.  It was eleven when she finally got up.  First thing, aspirin, then the bathroom.  Leaning heavily on her cane, she wandered out to the kitchen for coffee.  White Chinese cartons littered the coffee table.  Styrofoam containers were scattered across the countertops.  They needed a larger apartment so she didn’t have to toss the trash so often.  As it was, she had to drag a large garbage bag around the one large room every few days, or they’d be buried in take-out crap.

The good news?  They never had to clean the stove top.  Neither of them liked to cook, but she did love to bake.  Speed fancied himself king of a grill and invited friends over once in a while for burgers and brats.  She frowned.  One of his get-togethers was coming up soon.  They’d have to hit the store for real food.

Cleaning could wait.  With a cup of coffee in her left hand, her cane in the right, she headed to the sectional that took up most of their living area.  She stretched out on it, easing some of the ache from the top of her tibia, just under the knee, which had been turned to rubble when the drunk driver crushed that side of her car.  Ironic really, since the woman had had imbibed too much wine.  But Noira never drove when she drank.  That’s why God created Ubers. 

Physical therapy had helped her heal so she could do almost everything she had before, but the leg still ached when she overdid.  She and Speed had walked most of Promenade Park last night.  Fun, but she could feel it today.  Then they’d come home with take-out from Don Chavez.  Fresh air and chimichangas.  Life was good.

She flipped on the TV and started watching White Chapel on Prime.  She was still binging when Speed walked in the apartment with wine and pizza.  He looked around the apartment and shrugged.  “We can clean tomorrow.  You needed a day off.”

One of the reasons she loved him.  He moved the last empty pizza box aside and opened the new one. 

“Any excitement today?” she asked, reaching for a slice of the goat cheese and prosciutto specialty he favored.  It was his turn to pick.

He swallowed a bite and washed it down with a sip of beer.  “An odd thing happened.  Ditto and I got called to a heart attack run, but when we got to the house, it was boarded up.  The condemned sign on the door had been there a while.”

She frowned.  “Someone gave you the wrong address?”

“We thought maybe it was a neighbor who got the numbers wrong, so we knocked on a few doors, but no one had called us.  We had the dispatcher call back the number on her screen, but no one picked up.”

“Was it a prank?”

“Not a funny one.  Husky and Weasel got called to a truck that overturned and had to cover it on their own.”

Noira knew all of the EMT drivers Speed worked with, and their nicknames suited them.  Ditto always agreed with whatever anyone said.  Husky was a big boy with a heavy build, looked like a linebacker.  And Weasel had a narrow face, pointed features, and beady little eyes.    

“Do the dispatchers save numbers like that so they can’t prank you again?”

Speed nodded.  “Like the boy who called wolf.  If that person calls again and needs help, he’s out of luck.”

“Serves him right.”  She held up her new slice of pizza and they toasted each other. 

###

Four days later, Speed called Noira at work.  “Can you come home?”

Something was up.  Neither of them ever interfered with each other’s jobs.  “Give me half an hour.”  With a quick knock, she stuck her head in the judge’s office.  “Speed needs me at home.  I have to leave early today.”

“Go.  Will you be back in the office tomorrow?  I’m in court on Friday.”

“Should be.  If I can’t, I’ll call you right away.”

Herschel nodded.  Friday’s case was a guy she’d seen a few times too many.  This time, it wasn’t just burglary.  He’d had a gun.  If all went well, she wouldn’t see him again for years.

Noira grabbed her purse and headed home.  When she and Speed had first moved in together, she’d been disappointed that they couldn’t get a second-floor apartment with a balcony.  Now, with her leg, she was grateful she didn’t have to maneuver any stairs.  And Speed loved their patio with his grill.

She found him on the patio, nursing a beer and looking upset.  He glanced up at her.  “Thanks for coming.  I didn’t want to be alone.”

Oh, God.  What had happened?  She went to get a glass of wine and sat across from him at the small, round table.  “How bad is it?”

“Someone called that she saw a guy lying in an alley with blood seeping out from underneath him.  He was breathing.  She thought maybe he’d been shot.  Ditto and I were delivering a woman to the hospital, so Weasel and Husky had to make the run.  They got to the alley but no body.  They wondered if he came to and tried to crawl away, so got out of the vehicle to search for a blood trail to follow.”

He paused to take a long gulp of beer.  She braced herself for something bad.

He inhaled a long breath.  “When they stepped between two garages, someone shot Weasel in the chest.  Husky said the shot came from behind a nearby house.  He didn’t see anybody.”

“Did they try to shoot Husky?”

Speed shook his head.  “There was just the one gunshot.  Husky didn’t run after whoever did it.  He was trying to stay low and working to save Weasel, but he bled out.”

“Weasel’s dead?”  What a stupid statement!  He bled out.  But it was hard for Noira to wrap her head around the fact that Weasel was gone.

“The calls weren’t pranks,” Speed said.  “They were set-ups.  Someone must hate EMTs.”

Goosebumps covered her arms.  She was cold.  What if the shooter had aimed at Speed?  She didn’t want to lose him.  But then she frowned, remembering the time he and Ditto had sped to a condemned house.  They’d left their vehicle, too, looking for a heart attack victim.  “Were there more than the two prank calls?  Did other drivers go on wild goose chases?”

He pulled his gaze from his empty beer bottle to her face.  He had beautiful, milk-chocolate brown eyes.  “Yeah, Roly and Stringbean got called to a used car lot that was closed, and Red and Irish ended up at a barn on some country road.”

“The shooter doesn’t hate EMTs,” Noira said.  “He wanted to kill Weasel.”

Speed snorted, unconvinced.  “Why not kill at home?  It would be easier.  Why on the job?”

She shrugged.  “No witnesses?  Weasel lives. . .”  She winced and corrected herself.  “. . .lived in an apartment complex, like we do.  Too many people around.  He hardly goes anywhere—mostly to work and home—and he only hangs out with other EMTs.”

“Exactly, so who’d want to kill him?”

She pushed to her feet for another glass of wine and leaned more on her cane than usual.  Her knee was acting up.  “I didn’t know him well enough to even guess.  His girlfriend?”

“Baby Cakes?”  Speed shook his head.  “They’d been together four years.  You’ve met her.  Who else would want her?”

Noira had been with Speed six years.  If she was going to kill him, it would have been in the first one, not the fourth.  Little things drove her nuts.  He never rinsed his whiskers out of the bathroom sink.  He left the toilet seat up.  He cut his toenails and left them on the floor.  If they survived what friends called the seven-year itch, they’d probably be together forever.  She filled her wine glass.  “Baby Cakes never came to any of your grill parties.  Have you met her?”

“I got the impression she’s sort of a loner, not very social.”

“Is she planning his funeral?”

“Nah, he planned his own last year.  Said he watched too many people die, leaving everything for their families to deal with.  If it was up to his family, though, he said they’d throw his body in a wooden box and bury him in a pauper’s graveyard to get more of his money.”

Noira lifted her eyebrows in surprise.  “Did Weasel have money?”

“Beats me.  He might.  He sure didn’t like to spend any.  You had to pry a nickel out of his fingers.”

She smiled, remembering.  “Yeah, when you grilled for everyone, some of the guys pitched in on the beer.  Never Weasel.”

“And he’s the one who drank the most.  If it was free, it tasted better.”  A laugh started, then stuck in his throat.  “He was sort of a jerk, but I’m gonna miss him.”

Noira reached to pat his hand.  “Let’s go out tonight.  The Club Room has great food and good music.  Or we could get sushi.  That’s one of your favorites.”

“After one more beer.”  He went to the kitchen and came back out with fresh drinks for both of them.  He raised his bottle to clink her glass.  “To Weasel.”

“Rest in peace.”  They drank, then got ready to leave.

###

Two days later, Noira was surprised to see Weasel’s case file tossed on her desk.  Judge Hershel was going to preside over his case.  Hunter, a detective Noira worked with occasionally, had arrested Grifter for killing him. 

Noira read the evidence.  Two homeowners had seen Grifter in the alley before Weasel was shot.  Hunter checked his cellphone.  He hadn’t made a call for an EMT, but the techs had found a burner phone in a trashcan nearby, and it had the call on it.  No fingerprints, but Hunter hadn’t expected to find any.

“Any calls on his phone at the time Weasel died?”

“One from an unknown number the night before to score some crack.  The deal was supposed to go down in that alley that morning.”

“He was set up.”

“Or else,” Hunter argued, “Grifter thought Weasel saw the deal go down and would turn him in, so he shot him first.”

She shook her head.  “I’m not buying it.  Grifter’s a small-time drug dealer.  You told me he wasn’t even worth picking up.” 

“He was there,” Hunter said.  “Opportunity.”

“And motive?”

“Husky told us that Weasel tracked Grifter down a month ago, angry because some kid almost overdosed on heroin he sold him.  Told Grifter that if he didn’t clean up his act, he’d make sure he was behind bars.”

Noira stared.  “Weasel?  I never thought he cared that much about anything.  I got the feeling he just wanted a paycheck.”

Hunter snorted.  “He had special motivation.  The kid’s mom cleans rooms at the hospital.  He met her delivering a patient there.  They struck up a conversation and got a little cozy.  He liked what he saw and was trying to get in good with her.”

“But he lives with Baby Cakes.”

Hunter rolled his eyes.  “And men never cheat?”

“I didn’t think he could.  Why would any woman be interested in him?”

“You know better than that.  Anyone, even the worst-looking stripper, can attract someone.  It’s a matter of knowing what your options are.  Guys like Weasel don’t expect to snag a debutant.”

Something still didn’t feel right.  Grifter would never bother to buy one burner phone after another, and he’d never lure Weasel to different locations to kill him.  She was going to go home and think through everything Hunter had told her.  After he left, a memory niggled.  She pulled Grifter’s file, and she’d remembered correctly.  He’d been beat up a year ago.  He had a gun but couldn’t make himself use it, only carried it to scare people away.  When a cop had asked him about it, he’d said that guns scared him.    

She called Hunter to share what she’d found, but he was unimpressed.  “Things change.  After the pounding he got, maybe Grifter decided he’d rather pull the trigger than spend time in the hospital again.”

She was still fussing when she got home that night.  Speed listened to her with more sympathy when she told him about Grifter. 

“Weasel bragged about giving him a scare,” he said.  “But it was mostly a grandiose gesture, and both he and Grifter knew it.  It impressed the kid’s mom, though.”

“So he wouldn’t hunt down Weasel to kill him?”  Noira flipped through her cellphone to decide what to order for supper. 

Speed went to stretch out on the sectional and flip on the TV.  It was his turn to pick what they watched.  He settled on an old repeat of Survivor.  When he picked their shows, she picked their meal.  “I’m guessing Grifter’s heard more serious threats than Weasel’s.  He doesn’t deal with the nicest people.”

Noira called in an order for fries and buffalo chicken wings.  When she went to sit beside Speed before leaving to pick up the food, she said, “If Grifter didn’t kill him, who did?”

Speed reached out to tousle her chestnut curls.  Her hair was more unruly than his.  “Babe, neither of us are detectives.  I don’t have a clue.”

With a sigh, she admitted defeat.  She’d have to console herself with an order of cheesy garlic bread.

###

Speed set the day for his grill party and decided to dedicate it to Weasel.  He invited Baby Cakes to come, too, telling her, “The guys and I have raised some money instead of sending flowers.  We thought you might be short until Weasel’s finances are settled.”

The morning of the barbecue, Noira dragged her garbage bag around the apartment, tossing all of the empty cartons and containers inside it.  She helped him set up card tables and chairs outside, and she filled an aluminum trough with ice, then beer and wine.

Speed was grilling burgers and brats when Husky and his wife arrived.  Noira had made cole slaw and bought tons of chips and dips.  She’d baked a chocolate sheet cake, too.  Juanita helped her set them out on a long, portable table.  Little by little, the rest of the crew trickled in, grabbing drinks and settling in to yak.

It was a perfect day for an outdoor gathering.  Late summer sunshine shone in a robin egg-blue sky, and the temperature hovered in the low eighties.  Husky raised his beer bottle in a salute.  “To Weasel!”   

Everyone joined in, and he said, “Juanita made chicken enchiladas to take to Baby Cakes after Weasel died.  Thought it was the right thing to do.  Boy, did she get an earful.”

He motioned for Juanita to tell the story.  She was a small, slender woman with a warm smile.  “Baby Cakes was furious that Weasel planned his funeral ahead, said he ordered the most expensive of everything.”

Ditto paused his beer bottle midway to his lips.  “But he prepaid for it.  She doesn’t have to worry about spending a penny.”

Juanita glanced at Husky.  “That’s what he said, too, but Baby Cakes said it left less money for her to survive on.  She and her sister went to talk to the funeral director about it. She told him that Weasel had changed his mind in the last few months.  He told her that he didn’t want his body to lie in a coffin indefinitely.  He wanted to be cremated.”

Roly ran a finger around his shirt collar.  He was always too warm and unbuttoned his top button.  “Maybe that was her way of getting even with him.  I stopped by his place a month ago to return a post hole digger he loaned me.  The two of them were in the middle of a row, and he told her to pack her bags, because her days were numbered.”

Ditto shook his head in disbelief.  “He was going to break up with her?”

“He said she spent more time with her sister than with him, wouldn’t even watch TV in the same room he was in, and he’d met someone new who actually liked him.”

Speed went inside and returned with a tray that held buns and condiments.  “Did she get to change Weasel’s wishes?  He told me he wanted to be laid out in a blue casket with doves on it.”

The men looked at each other and shrugged.  Noira and Speed had been watching for an announcement of Weasel’s funeral but hadn’t seen one.  Speed checked the meat on the grill and announced, “Everything’s ready.  Come and get it.”

People stood in line to load their plates.  Baby Cakes showed up just when everyone was settling at the tables, and she brought someone with her.

“This is my sister,” she told them.  “I didn’t want to come alone.”  She walked to Husky’s card table and plopped an urn on it.  “Thought I’d bring Weasel, too.  He never missed one of your get-togethers.”

A shiver raced up Noira’s spine.  This gathering was to honor the man, but she hadn’t expected to have his ashes here.  Everyone glanced at the urn uneasily.

“When was the funeral?” Speed asked.  “We wanted to come to it.”

“I decided to keep it private.”  Baby Cakes gave her sister a look and nodded slightly to the tray where the fat envelope was propped, then said, “It was nice of you to think about how broke we’re going to be a for while.”

We’re?  The sister must have moved into Weasel’s small house.  Noira was surprised by how rough-looking both women were.  Too thin.  Tattoos on their necks, arms, and legs.  And neither looked overly upset by Weasel’s death. 

Speed went to get the envelope to hand to her.  “We’re sorry for your loss.”

Baby Cakes shrugged and stuffed the envelope into her purse.  “Well, it was great meeting you all.  We have things to do so can’t stay.  I wanted to drop off Weasel, though.  You can keep him.”

Everyone stared as the two women turned to leave.  The nerve!  Noira reached for Speed’s phone and dialed the number he’d used to invite Baby Cakes.  Baby Cakes stopped to dig her phone out of her purse to see who was calling.  Then she frowned and glared at Noira. “What’s the deal?  What do you want?”

What did she want?  She wasn’t sure.  She just felt that something wasn’t right.  “We meant for this to be a memorial service for Weasel.  We were hoping you could stay and tell us some special moments you had with him.”  As she talked, she stood, moving closer to the two women.

“Special moments?”  Baby Cakes sneered.  “You’ve got to be kidding.”

“You lived with him four years.  Surely, there’s something you can share.”

With a huff, Baby Cakes started to turn away. 

“Wait!”  Noira moved to follow her, then purposely slipped, going down on one knee.  Her bad knee.  It hurt like crazy.  Her cane slid out from under her, tripping the other woman.  As Baby Cakes threw out her hands to break the fall, her cellphone flew to Noira.  She picked it up, scanning the screen.  Then she looked at Baby Cakes with a raised eyebrow. 

“Give me that!”  Baby Cakes lunged for it, but Noira tossed the phone to Speed.  “Detective Hunter will be interested in why you called Grifter the night before Weasel was shot.”

“I like a little lift now and then.  So what?”

“You set up both men—Grifter and Weasel.”

“You can’t prove that.”

Speed punched numbers into his phone.  “We can’t, but I bet Hunter can.”

The EMTs moved forward to block both women before they could leave.  They held them there until Hunter came for them.  The rest of the barbecue was filled with talking and hashing over the events that had just happened.

###

Grifter was back on the streets a week later.  Hunter rested a hip against Noira’s desk, explaining, “Weasel and Baby Cakes were together four years.  He left everything he had to her, including a hefty life insurance policy, but if they broke up, all that would end.  She bought a gun a few weeks ago, used her sister’s name.  The two of them were planning on selling the house and moving to one of the Carolinas together.”

“Baby Cakes told you that?” Noira asked.

Hunter shook his head.  “No, the sister.  When we asked to see her gun and told her she’d be an accomplice for murder, she spilled everything in exchange for us dropping the charges.”

“So, she knew what Baby Cakes had planned?”

“Oh, she knew.  Said he deserved it after living with her sister for years and then dropping her when someone younger looked his way.”

“Did Baby Cakes really spend more time with her sister than him, though?”

“She barely tolerated him.”

“But she thought he’d stay with her?”

Hunter crossed his arms over his beefy chest.  “I never said Baby Cakes was a genius.  And Grifter asked me to give you a message.  If you ever need anything from him, it’s on the house.” 

“No way.”  The less they had to do with Grifter, the better.

Judge Hershel came out of her office.  “Case closed.  If you two want to solve anything else for me, be my guest.”

Hunter put up his hands in surrender.  “No thanks, I’ll just stick with the ones that land on my desk.”

She raised her gray eyebrows at Noira. 

“Count me out.”  She was looking forward to going home tonight, opening a bottle of wine, and eating coney dogs with Speed while they watched The Great British Baking Show.  As much stress as she wanted to handle.

Setting and Tone Match

I just finished reading MURDER IN CHIANTI. When I first started reading it, it reminded me so much of an older style of writing , I went back to look at when it was published. 2020. So it was new. But the language was more formal than most books I read. So was the dialogue. And the pacing was relaxed for a mystery. And then I realized that instead of matching the tone of the book to a genre, the tone –every part of it–made me feel like I was in Italy, (And I’ve never been there, but it had the same vibe as one of my favorite movies–UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN). Which fits, since the story takes place there.

There’s something enchanting about a mystery where the constables are so polite. The protagonist, Nico Doyle, is an ex-homicide detective from New York, who moved to Italy to be close to his wife’s only remaining family after she dies. The man adored his Rita and tries to cook some of the foods that she cooked for him. He plants a garden. He finds and adopts a stray dog that he names OneWag, because the dog has an abundance of pride and will only wag his tail once when someone is unexpectedly nice to him. It’s new to him, and he doesn’t trust it to last.

At first, it caught me off guard when POVs shifted from one person to another and even to the dog. There’s a poignant scene when the dog digs up a rosebush and Nico tells him, “Out of the garden!” He hangs his head, prepared to run before Nico can kick him or hit him with a branch, and instead Nico picks him up and hugs him to him to stop his trembling.

I grew attached to the characters in the story, even minor ones. Gogol quotes Dante and isn’t always in the real world, but Nico is kind to him. So are many others. The mystery advances along with the backstories of several characters, and the tension is never nail-biting, but it’s leisurely and steady, and that was fine with me. It was a nice change from thrillers and cozies. I’ll visit Tuscany again with Nico when I want a change of pace.

Finally

I finally finished the first draft of my straight mystery, and my critique partner/friend has already given me back her notes on it. I’m waiting on my daughter, Holly, to give me her feedback, but she’s so swamped right now, she might not get to it. If not, I’ll do rewrites with just Julia Donner/M.L. Rigdon’s red ink suggestions. We trade manuscripts, and we trust each other. We’re also each other’s biggest fans. Not just because we’re friends. Because I think she’s that good. She caught two big trip ups in my story, but they’re both easy fixes. Hopefully, the rewrites will go pretty fast.

Also, I just finished the first draft of the Muddy River novella I’m trying for Vella. It’s going to come in at about 28,000 words. I’ve done a lot of rewrites as I go so that I can put up one chapter at a time. Soon, I should have the entire story available there. And then I’ll see how it does, but so far, nada. Nothing. No luck with Vella.

But now I can get to the wonderful news. Once I polish both manuscripts, I can start work on my 8th Jazzi and Ansel. And it’s going to feel like going home. Like being in the heart of a family, surrounded by people you love. This time, I want to have Jazzi, Ansel, and Jerod take an old barn and turn it into a house. When I was in high school, I borrowed my mom’s Grace Livingston Hill novels to read. LOL. I’d read one of those and then Germaine Greer or Betty Friedan and throw in Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, along with Agatha Christie. Quite a contrast, but it was all interesting to me. Anyway, one of Hill’s books was titled The Enchanted Barn. I don’t remember a lot about it except that a girl who was mostly broke got an old barn and made it into her home. That fascinated me. Of course, there was a romance with an HEA involved, too. I’ve seen a few barns in our area get converted into studios or homes. I thought that would be a fun project for my fixer-uppers.

I’m featuring Jerod’s dad, the mechanic, for the mystery part of the story. A few books ago, he hired an ex-con to work for him, and Jarrett’s doing his best to stay clean. But when one of the guys in the shop is found stuffed in a trunk, the cops immediately focus on him, even though Eli insists he’s innocent and Jerod asks Jazzi and Ansel to help prove it.

More added fun, for me, in this book is that Ansel gets good news that makes him a happy man. And I’m guessing many of you can guess what that news is:)

I have part of the book plotted already, but I have more plotting to go. And it’s going to feel good to be back flipping houses and cooking big family meals on Sundays. It usually takes at least three months to finish a first draft of a cozy. It will be three months of being with old friends. I’m so ready.

Mystery Musings

I read ISLAND OF BONES by P.J. Parrish, and I’ve fallen even more in love with the Louis Kincaid mystery series. This book’s set in Florida, and the heat and water, mosquitoes and mangroves are an intricate part of the story. What I think I like best about Parrish’s writing, though, is that characters reveal themselves to me a little at a time. One layer opens up to reveal a deeper one, like peeling an onion. I especially loved the character development of Landeta, a cop Louis is forced to work with. What a beautiful unfolding. And Emma’s reveal near the end of the book broke my heart.

The crimes committed keep morphing into unexpected territory. And the ending felt realistic. Life isn’t black and white, and with Louis Kincaid, there’s a lot of gray area. What is justice anyway? Good isn’t always rewarded, and bad isn’t always what it seems.

Most of the book is told from Kincaid’s POV, but occasionally, the author jarred me when she went into someone else’s viewpont. It worked, but it did throw me for a minute. I’m used to the back and forth of multiple POVs, but she chose not to worry about the usual rules and do it her way. Effective, but not expected.

I can’t recommend P.J. Parrish highly enough. She’s an author who inspires me. Her pacing ticks away by constantly throwing me off balance. She feeds me just enough information to make me feel like I know where the story’s going, but then I don’t. Her characters feel real, and this particular mystery was like opening a can of worms. Unusual and messy. I loved it!

Tooting My Horn

I’ve been waiting a LONG time, and I’ve been patient (for me), but I can finally announce that my new Lux mystery, HEIRLOOMS TO DIE FOR, is available for pre-order on Amazon and will be out officially on November 9th. Lux is more impulsive than Jazzi, so she’s a fun contrast to write about. In book two, she’s happy because her beloved Cook, who was always there for her when she was growing up, is moving to Summit City to live close to her. Cook’s bringing her older sister with her to help care for her. Even better, Cook’s following the moving truck from Chicago to the storage units Lux has rented in town, bringing the items and furniture Lux wanted to keep after her parents died. A double win. One of her favorite people will be back in her life, and her cherished keepsakes will be available to decorate her house. Except, nothing’s that easy in a mystery. So, of course, when Lux goes to look through her things, she finds a dead body in the unit, too.

I know this cover is a little out of the ordinary, but for me, it fits the story. I didn’t want it to look very serious. Lux, to me, is fun. And I wanted her covers to have a different feel from the Jazzi or Muddy River covers. So I hope you like it.

To bring a little more interest to the new Lux 2, I’m making the first Lux, BAD HABITS, free on Amazon from Nov. 8 – 12. Book one is where we meet the Johnson family and learn why Lux loves them so much.

My wait is finally over. Lux is about to drive her yellow Bentley into a new mystery. I hope you check her out.

Interruptions and Research..For supernaturals?

I’m over halfway through the free supernatural mystery I’ve been writing for my webpage.  I was flying through pages until this week.  And then everything slowed to a snail’s pace.  Part of it was because of interruptions.  Now, mind you, I usually welcome these.  If left to my own devises, I’m all too happy to plop my fanny in my writing chair and only come up for air to eat lunch (my husband usually puts that together from leftovers or he makes sandwiches–he’s amazingly good at those) or when I glance at the clock and I have to hustle to make supper.  (He expects something solid for that, and he’s a bit picky).  That’s why I make out menus for meals.  BUT, this week, I got stopped a lot more often that.  I don’t know if it was because of the bitter cold weather or because we were going to change months, but I had one phone call after another.  I AM NOT COMPLAINING, because I remind myself All The Time that I love it when my kids or grandkids still think of us and give us a call.

Add to that, I added a chapter to my story where the demon enforcer and his deputized witch drive to a nearby Druid community to search for the plant, wood betony.  Now, when I started this book, I never realized that I’d need to come up with some plausible plants to make magical pouches and protection potions.  Silly me.  But when I thought of that as a fun plot twist, the question became–what in the heck would you dry to grind for a spell like that?  My old, falling apart book, COUNTRY SCRAPBOOK–All About Country Lore and Life, by Jerry Mack Johnson–came to the rescue.  I had no desire to find out if there actually WAS such a spell.  My witches are fantacized, but I wanted the ingredients to sound FEASIBLE, so I spent more than a little time reading that the ancients believed that wood betony protected journeymen by night from all harm, including witchcraft.  People gathered its leaves and flowers to brew tea to help heal ulcers and wounds, too, among other things.  Yellow gentian rendered poisons ineffectual.  A few seeds of fennel placed in keyholes kept ghosts at bay.  You get the idea…

By the time I came up with a recipe to put in a fabric pouch to wear around your neck, I was pretty happy with myself.  And then I wrote that witches wouldn’t grow wood betony in a witch garden, because it might bring them harm, but SOMEONE had used it…on purpose…and Hester and Raven decided that person might have gotten it from the Druids who live close by.   Another fun idea.  Except…I had no idea how I wanted to distinguish a Druid’s magic from a witch’s, and I wanted their settlement to be different, too.  Which meant…more research.

And boy, I’m glad I took the time.  Because Druids weren’t even close to the brown robed priests TV often show them as.  Did you know it took twenty years for someone to train to be a Druid?  That most knew three languages–Latin, Greek, and Etruscan.  And that they were so respected for their wisdom and honesty, other countries hired them to be judges and lawyers in important cases?  Or that women could be judges and lawyers, too?  I sure didn’t.  I’m still no expert on Druids, but I found the right flavor for my Druid community and hopefully, it gives the right impression.

Anyway, between fun phone calls and looking for answers for ideas to make my story more believable–even though it’s fantasy–I spent a lot of time at my writing desk NOT writing.  But it’s all part of getting words on paper, isn’t it?  I’m back to pounding away on keys now, and I’m making progress again.

For your week, I wish you Happy Writing!  Or whatever makes your story better.

A mongrel

Our Chihuahua has enough Pomeranian in him, he loves to snap at my Dear John’s feet–and I’ve been told that’s a Pomeranian trait.  Our cat’s a stray.  And the new story that I started for my webpage isn’t a purebred either.   Just like our pets, it’s a mongrel.

My husband loves it that I’m a writer.  Not enough to read any of the books I write, but he loves the IDEA of my being a writer.  The only exception is that occasionally, he’ll read stories that I put on my webpage, and he ALWAYS read every Babet and Prosper novella I wrote.  He had a thing about Babet and Prosper.  So did some of my friends.  Come to think of it, so did I.  And I miss them once in a while.

I also missed writing mysteries when I wrote urban fantasies.  I’m an Agatha Christie/puzzle solver at heart.  And that’s why I decided to combine the two–supernatural and mystery.  I don’t have any delusions that would sell.  Writing cross-genre books isn’t for anyone who studies markets.  It’s possible to find success if your stars are aligned and a light from heaven beams on your computer, but that hasn’t happened to me yet.  But…that’s what my webpage is for.  It’s for ME.  To write whatever tickles my fancy at the moment.

So, I didn’t want to write a different mystery series right now.  I did that with Chintz and Callum.  And even though I had a ball writing about a caterer and a cop, I yearned to write about witches and demons with a few vampires, Fae, and shape shifters thrown in.  So I decided to write Muddy River Mystery.  It’s sort of a post-as-you-go moment.  I don’t have many chapters written ahead.  But damn, I’m having fun!  And every once in a while, as much as I love meeting deadlines and developing series’ characters, I like to kick up my heels and do something different.

So, my webpage is the big blank page where I get to play.  And that’s exactly what I’m doing.  Enjoying myself.  My wish for you:  that whatever you’re working on now, I hope you enjoy it.  And I hope the words flow for you in 2019.

Book Cover Reveal

I’m so lucky, because I get to share in the joy of Mae Clair’s book cover reveal.  END OF DAY is the second book in her Hode’s Hill series.  I read the first book, CUSP OF NIGHT, and loved it.  The blurb for this one sounds even eerier.  Here’s the cover:

EndofDay_Mae Clair's cover reveal Sept. 10

Awesome, isn’t it?  And here’s the blurb:

Release Date: January 15, 2019
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Supernatural Thriller
Publisher:  Kensington Publishing • Lyrical Underground Imprint

BLURB:
The past is never truly buried…

Generations of Jillian Cley’s family have been tasked with a strange duty—tending the burial plot of Gabriel Vane, whose body was the first to be interred in the Hode’s Hill cemetery. Jillian faithfully continues the long-standing tradition—until one October night, Vane’s body is stolen from its resting place. Is it a Halloween prank? Or something more sinister?

As the descendants of those buried in the church yard begin to experience bizarre “accidents,” Jillian tries to uncover the cause. Deeply empathic, she does not make friends easily, or lightly. But to fend off the terror taking over her town, she must join forces with artist Dante DeLuca, whose sensitivity to the spirit world has been both a blessing and a curse. The two soon realize Jillian’s murky family history is entwined in a tragic legacy tracing back to the founding of Hode’s Hill. In order to set matters right, an ancient wrong must be avenged…or Jillian, Dante, and everyone in town will forever be at the mercy of a vengeful spirit.

End of Day can be read as a stand alone novel or as a follow-up to book one of the Hode’s Hill series, Cusp of Night.

End of Day is available for pre-order through this link
and available to add to your Goodreads to-be-read list here.

Connect with Mae Clair at BOOKBUB and the following haunts:

Amazon | BookBub | Newsletter Sign-Up  
Website & Blog | Twitter | Goodreads | All Social Media

Bio Box for Mae Clair--Sept. 10

 

 

 

A First for me!

If you belong to Goodreads, my publisher–Kensington–is offering The Body in the Attic in a giveaway from Aug. 30-Sept. 13 and will give away 100 FREE e-copies to winners.  You can sign up here: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/283871-the-body-in-the-attic

I’ve belonged to Goodreads for a long time.  I’ve even worked with the wonderful Tana from Making Connections and given away 10 free copies of my self-published urban fantasies before.  But I’ve never given away 100 copies.  And Kensington has never promoted my books this way before.  It’s a first for me, and I love it!  So, if you’re a member, and you like mysteries, I hope you give it a shot.  And good luck!

The Body in the Attic ebook

Tension

Okay, I just read a blog post by James Scott Bell, and he explained very well what I’ve always felt, but in a vague–somewhat nonverbal–way.  And he made it SO clear.  Every book has to have tension, or no one would turn the pages.  It’s easy to point to the tension in a thriller or suspense novel.  The bad guy might kill someone or lots of someones if the hero doesn’t stop him.  Same for horror, only who knows who or what the villain might be.  In a mystery, a hero is trying to solve a crime and restore justice.  But what’s the tension in a romance?  Or a literary novel?

Bell says that conflict is best if there are “death stakes” for the protagonist/s.  But he divides death stakes into physical death, professional death, or psychological.  That makes so much sense!  In a romance, every time the hero and heroine can’t work things out, it builds tension.  If they can’t get together at the end of the book, they suffer psychological death–the death of happiness:  http://writershelpingwriters.net/2017/03/conflict-and-suspense-belong-in-every-kind-of-novel/?utm_content=buffer7ce91&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Conflict drives a story, moves it forward.   And the stakes have to keep getting higher every time the reader turns a page.  That’s why there’s the old adage:  Things can always get worse.  They have to, or your story stalls.  During the set up, the author says what the protagonist wants, and he spends the rest of the book making sure he has to work harder and harder to get it.  Here’s a good link by Samantha Stone to build conflict:  http://www.creativewritingsoftware101.com/articles/how-to-create-conflict-in-your-story.php

I used different types of tension in my romances than I’ll need for my cozy mystery, but I still want a romance subplot, and I want to work hard at developing characters readers will care about.  I enjoyed writing Babet and Prosper so much for urban fantasy that I’d like to do something similar for my River Bluffs novels.  I want my characters and setting to be as fully formed as the mystery.  We’ll see how that goes:)

At my writers’ group last week, one of our members tried to decide what each of us needed to do to write a bestseller.  I give him credit.  He believes in all of us, bless him.  And I think we’re all good writers, too, but I have less faith in finding the “secret” that makes a book sell.  Lots of advice says that you need to write a “big” book.  The higher the stakes, the more readers you’ll attract.  That might be true.  I don’t know.  I think the heavens have to align and there’s a lot of luck involved.  And I found this article that sort of agrees with me.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-winkler/how-to-write-a-bestseller-formula_b_1542587.html

In the meantime, happy writing!

 

My webpage:  (a free snippet from SPICING THINGS UP–our March 21–and a free short mystery):  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/

twitter:  @judypost