New Release Mondays: The Art of Vanishing by Cynthia Kuhn

Author Name: Cynthia Kuhn

Book Title: The Art of Vanishing

Book Genre: academic mystery, campus cozy, amateur sleuth

Release Date: February 28, 2017

Synopsis: When Professor Lila Maclean is sent to interview celebrated author and notorious cad Damon Von Tussel, he disappears before her very eyes. The English department is thrown into chaos by the news, as Damon is supposed to headline Stonedale University’s upcoming Arts Week.

The chancellor makes it clear that he expects Lila to locate the writer and set events back on track immediately. But someone appears to have a different plan: strange warnings are received, valuable items go missing, and a series of dangerous incidents threaten the lives of Stonedale’s guests. After her beloved mother, who happens to be Damon’s ex, rushes onto campus and into harm’s way, Lila has even more reason to bring the culprit to light before anything—or anyone—else vanishes.

Excerpt: Francisco looked thoughtful. “Would you ask your mother to speak to him on our behalf? Make our case?”

“Wouldn’t it be better coming from the chancellor?” I ventured hopefully, not daring to look at the chancellor when I said it.

“Look,” Francisco said, not giving him an opportunity to respond. “Damon is extremely difficult to track down in the best of circumstances. If your mother knows how to contact him directly, we should go that route.”

I became aware of a strange energy in the room, like people were holding their breaths waiting for a response. Their heads swiveled between Francisco and me as if they were watching a fast-paced tennis match. Although he was an assistant professor, on the lowest rung of the hierarchy like I was, he already exuded an unmistakable aura of power. I wasn’t sure where it came from. Perhaps he was naturally confident. Or just plain arrogant. In any case, I wasn’t about to let him boss me around.

As I was deciding how to respond, the chancellor spoke. “The university would be most grateful, Dr. Maclean.”

Well, that clinched it.

“I would be happy to ask her,” I lied, the very picture of the cooperative tenure-track candidate.

Across the table, Simone smirked, clearly pleased I’d been obligated to do something I didn’t want to do, while Francisco glared, apparently annoyed that I was a few degrees of separation closer to “his” author than he was.

Ah, colleagues.

About the author: Cynthia Kuhn writes the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series, which includes The Semester of Our Discontent and The Art of Vanishing. Her work has appeared in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Literary Mama, Copper Nickel, Prick of the Spindle, Mama PhD, and other publications. She teaches English at Metropolitan State University of Denver and serves as president of Sisters in Crime-Colorado. For more information, please visit cynthiakuhn.net.

 

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Before They Were Authors: Geoffrey Wells on Writing & The Analysis of Change

A South African farm left Geoffrey Wells with a writer’s imagination. Piano and drum kits and Mozambique led to his first thriller. Advertising art direction led to the American Film Institute, and Information Technology to vice president for two US broadcasting networks. Wells has written an award-winning animated film, visited elephant reserves, and climbed Kilimanjaro. He swims the open water and runs a video and design company on Long Island.

Here’s Geoffrey’s story:

The job I had before publishing my first thriller was Vice President and Chief Information Officer (CIO)—though I had no intension of going down the IT (information technology) road. I was aiming to work in the movie business, after a career as Art Director in Advertising, which tempted me with filmmaking. After graduating from The American Film Institute (while working the graveyard shift at a Beverly Hills hotel, where I provided room service for famous and infamous actors and rock stars), I did work in Hollywood: I shoveled shit under freeways, plastered ceilings, scouted locations, produced small movies, and worked as a director’s assistant as a “reader” evaluating screenplays submitted by his agent. Not what I thought it would be.

A temp research job at Disney in television syndication had some promise. However, they hired me for admin and technical duties—making sure executives got their show ratings, 9 a.m. Monday to Friday. The blossoming job was making sure that the disparate data sources used in the systems were “normalized” for data integrity. It was a problem, and I set about solving it. To make my case I studied structured system analysis—an approach to identifying only the “true” and essential activities required for a system. The literary equivalent is developmental editing, but I didn’t know that then. This attention to integrity endures in my writing.

This knowledge landed me a permanent position and catapulted me to manager, then director in charge of application development and then Vice President of IT. The years slid by. The pattern that emerged was that my steadily-improving methodology led to disruptive projects. I felt justified in modeling a system’s essence. I still do, in the stories I write. I found obsolete remnants that had been in place for years. In some cases decades. Management got on board seeing the value over the long-term and started calling me “the velvet fist.”

Stakeholders did not. They called me other names, like the anti-Christ. Yes, that happened! It hurt, and my white South African liberal skin grew thicker still—but the job paid well. After all, it wasn’t a popularity contest. End users of systems fought me, which is why I can kill my literary babies, torture my characters and edit ruthlessly. I don’t mind when readers say they don’t like a protagonist’s choices. For me the truth of the story must always prevail.

The hardest part of change wasn’t technology, it was the people who operated it. My success in persuading them to accept change lay in asking them to imagine a way of working that not only befitted them, but also the business. I under-promised and over-delivered hope to everyone from the end-user to the CEO. You’ll find that value proposition of hope in my writing. My projects grew in budget and in ambition. I had become a Chief Information Officer (CIO) for a major broadcasting company.

And then, new technologies started to change too quickly for me to implement them. By the time a system was replaced, there was a better technology waiting to be implemented. What Thomas Friedman calls, “the age of accelerations” in his book, Thank You for Being Late, had begun. Suddenly I knew what I did, could not keep up.

I wanted to be back in control. I started to write—mornings at 4 a.m. A short story turned into a novel. By habit, I applied systems analysis to my story and it became tight, acquired pace and turned into a thriller.

The writing (pun intended) was on the wall. Corporate IT departments, and broadcasting itself was—and still is—being swallowed by Internet services in the Cloud. It was time for me to make a change. I published that first novel independently because I did not want to trade one hamster wheel for another. A year later I left the corporate world.

My wife and I, two dogs and cat moved to the North Fork of Long Island where I write, and we run a video and graphics studio. And the change management disciplines I learned get applied to time management, careful plotting and the elimination of the non-essential remnants—of a different story.

 

Find out more about Geoffrey and his books on his website.

 

 

New Release Mondays: Lowcountry Crime: Four Novellas

Authors Names: Jonathan M. Bryant, Polly Iyer, James M. Jackson & Tina Whittle

Book Title: Lowcountry Crime: Four Novellas

Book Genre: Mystery (north of cozy, south of noir)

Release Date: February 7, 2017

Synopsis: These four novellas capture the unique aspects of the Lowcountry with stories incorporating Charleston high life and Savannah low life, island vacations and life on a boat. You’ll be treated to thieves doing good and rapscallions doing bad, loves won and loves lost, family relations providing wonderful support and life after divorce.

Excerpts:

From “Trouble Like a Freight Train Coming” – Tina Whittle

I jogged over to Rico. “What are you doing here?”

Rico looked nervous, like something was sneaking up on him. He didn’t enjoy cemeteries—his Geechee great-grandmother had seen to that. Thanks to her, he wouldn’t eat red food cooked by a stranger or give shoes to any guy he was dating. And he didn’t truck with the dead.

“Your boss has been trying to get you. He said you’re not answering your cell.”

I folded my arms. “The battery died, so I left the damn thing back on the bus to recharge. Just because he’s too cheap to upgrade—”

“Tai.”

There was something in his voice. “Uh oh. What’s happened?”

“It’s your cousin Derrick. He’s in the hospital.”

“You mean Derrick Burns?”

“Yeah. He’s in the ICU. And you have to go.”

I was a little dumbfounded. Derrick “Bolt” Burns was a distant cousin in some way I couldn’t track thanks to my mother’s pruning of the family tree. I hadn’t seen him in years, but I read the papers. He’d had trouble recently, the kind that ended in handcuffs, though I also knew the charges had been dropped. None of this explained why Rico was standing in front of me talking about hospitals.

I shook my head. “That doesn’t make any sense. Why me?”

“Apparently you’re his emergency contact, so it being an emergency, they tried to contact you. At the tour shop. And you weren’t there, so your boss called your cell, but you didn’t answer, so he called your roommate, what’s her name—”

“Hope.”

“Yeah. That girl is unstable. You need to ditch her and find a new roommate, like yesterday.”

“Rico. Focus.”

He glowered. “The misnamed Hope woke me up and yelled at me to go find you, like it was my fault you were unreachable.”

Rico and Hope had gotten along like struck matches and gasoline. This was entirely unsurprising. But I suddenly had a bigger problem.

From “The Last Heist” – Polly Iyer

He ordered a Sam Adams with the Friday special—meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans—then picked up the Post and Courier someone had left on the table. The photo of South American president Carlos Ramirez at a gala last night in New York covered the front page. But it was his wife’s diamond necklace that caught Paul’s attention. The center stone had to be close to twenty carats, and the surrounding diamonds were nothing to sneeze at. He’d seen photos of the exquisite gems before, but now they’d be in Charleston.

Diamonds were easily transportable, consistently valuable, and highly saleable if you knew how to steal them and where to sell them. Paul did.

What he wouldn’t give to get his hands on those stones.

He’d have them plucked from the setting and sold as soon as they cooled down.

Ramirez was coming to the city for a trade conference with state and local leadership. Politics sure made strange bedfellows. No surprise there. Paul read further. What a nerve. The guy was passing himself off as the savior of his country.

Savior, my foot.

Paul was basically apolitical, but it didn’t take a political junkie to know that Ramirez had padded his pockets with the profits from cocaine and oil production. His police forces—or gestapo might be a better word—suppressed any opposition at the many protests around his country. In recent weeks, scores had been hurt or killed.

Ramirez’s itinerary left little time to breathe. He and his party would arrive tomorrow morning for a two-day stay at the Oceanview Inn, the most exclusive hotel in the city. The agenda began with a twelve-thirty lunch at his country’s consulate, the conference at three, and in the evening, Charleston’s Chamber of Commerce was hosting a formal dinner at the Mills House. Sunday, some big business types had arranged a tour of the area with informal talks to discuss mutual trade opportunities. Clearly, it was okay to do business with tyrants these days.

A shiver of excitement passed through Paul. He’d never pulled any jewel heists locally or in the state, confining his activities mainly to Europe. But these diamonds were worth the risk of breaking his rules. Nothing like the thought of a heist to get the adrenaline surging.

From “Blue Nude” – Jonathan M. Bryant

He sat down and yanked off his cap, worried it in his hands.

“Can I buy you a beer?”

“Brad,” he said. “The police came by the marina.”

The waitress brought my next beer, and I pushed it over to Sam.

If he’d driven all the way down here, he must be worried. “You look like you need that,” I slapped him on the back to lighten the mood. “I can recommend a good lawyer, if you need one. What nonsense did you get yourself into now?”

“Listen, this is serious stuff.” He lifted the beer and took a sip, appraising me over the lip of the mug. “You’ve heard about Judy?”

“Judy? Police? What are you talking about?”

“She’s missing, Brad. Judy’s just plain missing, been gone since March. Almost four weeks. The police asked me all kinds of questions about her and you. Did you two still see each other? Did she cheat on you? Did you cheat on her? They especially wanted to know if you held any grudges.”

“Grudges?” I said. “Hell, every divorced man holds grudges against his ex-wife.”

“Yeah, but they were talking like you’d done something to her. You know, asking me if you were violent, did you own a gun, had I ever seen you lose your temper, ever known you to steal? Stuff like that.”

“Four weeks missing,” I mused. “That’s just about when I saw you last.”

“I’m sorry. I told them that before I knew what they were after. They asked where you were now. All I told ’em was you lived on a sailboat, and that your boat could be anywhere along the coast. You came and went, didn’t have a cell phone. You might even be in the Bahamas, I said. As soon as I could, I drove down to find you.”

From “Low Tide at Tybee” – James M. Jackson

The day we saw the thief was a Monday. Because it was March, Tybee wasn’t crowded even on a cloudless day with temperatures well into the seventies. Water temperature was still fifteen degrees cooler: not a problem for a kid Megan’s age, a month and a half past her sixth birthday, but darn nippy for an old fart like me. Megan and I had been wading for more than an hour through pools of water left behind after the tide pulled the ocean away from the shore. My feet had become so cold they were numb.

While Megan chased a group of sanderlings across the flats, mimicking both their frenetic steps and their halts to probe the sand for treasures, I used binoculars to spy on a dozen brown pelicans settled on a sandbar south of us. As though an unseen coach blew his whistle, they sprang into the air and glided north in a line, remaining no more than two feet above the water. An occasional lazy wingbeat propelled their glide.

Megan tugged at my shorts. I leaned down and caught the unique scent of suntan lotion.

“Grampa Seamus? I need to tinkle.”

I smiled at the lilt in her voice that put a question mark after my name. As a youngster, she had struggled to say it correctly, pronouncing it Say-mus. Now her perfect Shay-mus would make any Irishman proud, especially one like me, born and bred in Boston.

It had only been fifteen minutes since the last time she “really had to go,” and we were to meet my mother at the car in twenty minutes. If I could convince Megan to use a blue porta potty we’d pass on the way to the car, I could leave the cold water and warm my feet on the beach sand. “It’s time to leave anyway. Can you hold it until we walk back to the car, or—”

She vehemently shook her head and pointed to the ocean. “Now!” She dramatically crossed her legs to prove how desperate the situation was and contorted her face into a pout.

About the authors: 

Jonathan M. Bryant is an award-winning historian of American law. His most recent book, Dark Places of the Earth: The Voyage of the Slave Ship Antelope, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times book prize. For more than forty years, Dr. Bryant has been fascinated by and enjoyed the Georgia coast. He lives near Savannah, Ga. Check out his work at jonathanmbryant.com

Polly Iyer is the Amazon bestselling author of eight books of suspense. A former illustrator, importer, and storeowner, she embarked on her fourth, and last, career as an author, giving her carte blanche to spin her fantasies into novels of excitement and romance. Her novels include Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, Kindle Scout winner Indiscretion, and three books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series: Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, and Backlash, with a fourth book coming in 2017. Visit Polly’s website at http://PollyIyer.com, and you can read her blogs monthly on  The Blood Red Pencil

James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree series: Ant Farm, Bad Policy, Cabin Fever, Doubtful Relations, and Empty Promises (2017). Jim has also published an acclaimed book on contract bridge, One Trick at a Time: How to start winning at bridge, as well as numerous short stories and essays. He splits his time between the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the open spaces of Georgia’s Lowcountry. You can find more information about Jim and his writing, read his blog My Two Cents Worth (Before Inflation), or sign up for his newsletter, at http://jamesmjackson.com.

Tina Whittle’s Tai Randolph/Trey Seaver mysteries—featuring intrepid gunshop owner Tai and her corporate security agent partner Trey—have garnered starred reviews in Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal. Published by Poisoned Pen Press, this Atlanta-based series debuted with The Dangerous Edge of Things in 2011; the fifth book—Reckoning and Ruin—was released in April 2016. A two-time nominee for Georgia Author of the Year, Tina enjoys boxing, sushi, tarot cards, and spending time with her family (one husband, one daughter, one neurotic Maltese and two bossy chickens). She is a proud member of Sisters in Crime and serves as both a chapter officer and national board member. Visit her website to follow her on social media, sign up for her newsletter, or read additional scenes and short stories.

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My Publishing Journey: Becoming a Professional Writer

Agatha Christie, 1949

“There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.” Agatha Christie.

I spent the better part of my teen years and early twenties devouring Agatha Christie books, until I’d read every one, though my preference leaned heavily to stories featuring Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. I even went so far as to read Christie’s six romance novels, penned as Mary Westmacott.

My fascination with Christie fueled my desire to write murder mysteries. But like Christie, for many years I was an amateur. Actually, amateur is overstating it. I was more of a “want-to be” writer. You know the type: the person who says they’re going to write a book “one day.”

For me, “one day” took about three decades from the time I put down Curtain, Hercule Poirot’s final mystery. In between, I worked as a Credit & Collections Manager, a Sales and Marketing Coordinator, and over the past thirteen years, a freelance writer and editor. It wasn’t my fault, you see. I was waiting for the muse to show up. I knew once the muse made an appearance I’d be ready to write that book.

Except the muse never came for a visit. Not even after I bought some shiny new writing software for my computer. [Here’s a head’s up for those of you who don’t know: you still have to WRITE the story!]

Barry Dempster

Sometime in the early 2000s, I decided to take a creative writing class taught by Barry Dempster, an award-winning Canadian author and poet. It was Barry who told me, “The muse will never come unless you let her know you’re going to be there. Make time to write every day, even if it’s only for thirty minutes, even if all you’re doing is sitting there, staring at a blank page. One day, the words will come.”

They did. Faced with ten days off of all my freelance gigs, I started writing my first book, The Hanged Man’s Noose, on Christmas Eve 2011. I wrote every day, including Christmas and New Year’s Day. By the end of that ten-day period, I had a few chapters written. It never got easy…but it did get easier, and by February 2013, I’d finished writing and revising the book. Then I tried to find an agent, and when that didn’t work out, I went to work looking for a publisher.

I knew how elusive that muse could be, and I knew I should start another book, but I couldn’t bear to write the sequel to a book I hadn’t sold. I started Skeletons in the Attic, determined to make it as different from Noose as I could: Noose is written in third person, with multiple (primarily two) POVs. Skeletons, on the other hand, is written in first person, and entirely from the POV of the protagonist, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable. But this time, the Christie quote actually applied to me. Somewhere along the line, I’d stopped waiting for the muse to show up and graduated from want-to be writer to amateur writer to professional.

Some days, the muse is slow to appear, but that doesn’t stop me any more. To quote Agatha Christie once again, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

New Release Mondays: Border Run and Other Stories by Jennifer Leeper

Author Name: Jennifer Leeper

Book Title: Border Run and Other Stories

Book Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Release Date: February 7th, 2017

Synopsis: This collection of 14 stories dives headfirst into self-exploration through varying degrees of loss, from two sisters, one widowed, once divorced, who must find their way off a mountain South Korea at night as well as out of the darkness of their relationship with one another, to a boy who has lost his abuela and takes her final request to carefully distribute her house-sized hoard of shoes more seriously than the rest of his family.

Excerpt:  Wolf had grown up along Fremont, shepherded by the pimps, prostitutes and casino bosses who were the unorthodox clan of his mother, who in those days was the highest paid, bauble-eared and breasted, sequin-gowned call girl in all of Vegas, her doll-blank face above a sequined gown that barely contained her breasts. Her long hair was nearly black and her eyes flowering violets. She was tall, like her only child. At nearly six feet she was a pronounced exclamation of beauty and seduction. But this kind of beauty makes beasts of some men. Wolf’s father, Harper Grint, occasional Vegas interloper from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, was found next to Camille in her apartment, with their brains scattered by two bullets propelled by Harper’s jealousy.

A seventeen-year-old Wolf discovered his parents on a particularly bitter January afternoon. After that he was on-and-off the streets, in-and-out of prison, guilty of petty crimes unworthy of mention.

Wolf came to know every crease and contour of the city spat up by Beelzebub; where more than sixty years ago, Wolf Grint cut his baby teeth on the compressed clay of casino chips.

He was more knowledgeable than the pawn merchants, concierges, taxi drivers, and the savant-like hustlers who had cracked the code of every card table. Wolf walked down Fremont Street and saw the rarest of all Nevada desert creatures, the retired mobster who had survived to see an earthly afterlife of hardened arteries and bland food.

About the author: Jennifer Leeper is an award-winning fiction author who’s publications credits include Independent Ink Magazine, Notes Magazine, The Stone Hobo, Poiesis, Every Day Fiction, Aphelion Webzine, Heater magazine, Cowboy Jamboree, The New Engagement, and The Liguorian. She has had works published by J. Burrage Publications, Hen House Press, Alternating Current Press, Barking Rain Press, Whispering Prairie Press, and Spider Road Press. Find out more about Jennifer on her website.

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Before They Were Authors: Sybil Johnson (from software development to crime fiction)

Today on BEFORE THEY WERE AUTHORS, we have Sybil Johnson, who worked in software development for twenty years before turning to a life of crime writing. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she now resides in Southern California where she writes the Aurora Anderson Mystery series (FATAL BRUSHSTROKE, PAINT THE TOWN DEAD and the recently released, A PALETTE FOR MURDER) featuring computer programmer and tole painting enthusiast Aurora (Rory) Anderson. To find out more about Sybil, visit www.authorsybiljohnson.com.

 Judy: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers with day jobs? 

Sybil: Persistence, persistence, persistence! The life of a writer is filled with rejection. It’s hard not to take it personally. But, just because one editor or agent rejects a story, that doesn’t mean they all will. Sure, sometimes it needs to be rewritten, but not always. Most of the short stories I’ve sent out were rejected multiple times before finding a home. The same goes for novels. It took me many years and many drafts before my first book was published.

The other piece of advice: keep on writing. The more you write the better you’ll become. Write the kind of stories that you want to read. If it’s a novel, you’re going to spend a heck of a lot of time with the story so you should like it. If you’re bored with the story, that will come across in your writing.

Judy:  What made you decide to become a writer?

Sybil: I’ve loved reading, particularly mysteries, since I was a kid but never thought of myself as a writer. Then, sometime in my early 40s, I woke up one morning with the image of a young woman finding the body of her painting teacher in her garden. That image stuck with me for days. I was coming to the end of a programming contract and was looking for a new challenge so I decided to dive in and give writing a mystery a try. Many years and lots of trial and error later, that idea became my first published book, FATAL BRUSHSTROKE, the first book in the Aurora Anderson Mystery series published by Henery Press.

Judy: What was the best job (besides being a writer) that you ever had, and how has it influenced your writing?

Sybil: I started studying Computer Science before the IBM PC came out, when FORTRAN was king and a time share system was state of the art. For twenty years, I worked in software development in a lot of different roles: programming, designing software, managing programmers and projects.

In many ways, it prepared me to be a writer. The most obvious – I was used to sitting in front of a computer screen by myself for long periods. Writing and programming are both fairly solitary activities, though since I worked on large projects that required many programmers, I had more interaction on a day-to-day basis with people when I was programming than I do now.

Cover of The Fortran Automatic Coding System for the IBM 704 EDPM, said to be the first book about Fortran.

One of my favorite things to do was designing software, figuring out the overall structure of the code. The process is similar to outlining a story—deciding on the crime, the victim, the setting, the general plot points. As you might have guessed, that’s my favorite part of writing.

Software development also taught me the importance of creating intermediate deadlines. As a programmer, you have a code completion deadline to work toward, but you often have to create your own deadlines in between to make sure you get everything done on time. Same goes with writing, especially if you have a book contract. You have to break down the tasks and figure out what needs to be done when in order to meet that date.

It’s a pretty exciting thing creating something from nothing, whether it’s a piece of software or a novel. An elegant piece of code is a beautiful thing, to my mind just as beautiful as finely crafted prose.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story, Sybil.

New Release Mondays: A Short Time to Die by Susan Alice Bickford

Author Name: Susan Alice Bickford

Book Title: A SHORT TIME TO DIE

Book Genre: Crime / Suspense

Release Date: January 31, 2017

Synopsis: Walking home on a foggy night, Marly Shaw stops in the glare of approaching headlights. Two men step out of a pickup truck. One of them is her stepfather. A sudden, desperate chase erupts in gunshots. Both men are left dead. And a terrified girl is on the run—for the rest of her life . . .

Excerpt: Marly Shaw peered into the night fog that crept in and settled around the Rock. She could see no sign of her stepfather’s truck in the parking lot.

Charon Springs might be a tiny town, but as the only drinking establishment within ten or more miles in any direction, the Rock easily qualified as its most thriving business. Pickled from the inside out by beer, booze, and nicotine, the sagging two-story structure oozed a sour stench that permeated the car, even with the windows closed.

“What do you want to do?” Claire asked.

Marly studied the mist outside, tinged alternating shades of red and blue by the blinking neon lights.

“I should drop you home,” Claire said with a sheepish glance at her passenger. “But we’re already late. I’m supposed to be home by ten thirty and it’s after eleven already. Straight to the dance, straight home.”

And no detours into Harris territory. In this town, nice people like Claire’s family avoided Marly’s family as much as possible.

“Not to worry,” Marly said. “Let me out down the road. It’s Friday night, so the bar is packed. He might have parked in the woods. If he’s not there, I can walk home. It’s not cold. Hard to believe it’s the end of October. Maybe global warming is a good thing for Central New York.”

“Yeah. A couple of times I had to trick-or-treat in a parka.”

“Kids these days have it easy,” Marly said. They both chuckled.

Marly rummaged in her large bag and pulled out a small flashlight and her tattered running shoes. She always came prepared to tramp across fields and down dirt roads, day or night.

“Great dance tonight,” Claire said. “I can’t believe we’ll never go to another Halloween Gala. Next year we’ll be in college.”

“Some of us will be.”

“You’re a really good student and everyone says you’ll do great. You might even get into one of the good New York state schools. That’s what my mom says.”

“Sure. Well, I hope so.”

About the author: Susan Alice Bickford was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and grew up in Central New York. After she discovered computer graphics and animation her passion for technology pulled her to Silicon Valley, where she became an executive at a leading technology company. She now works as an independent consultant, and continues to be fascinated by all things high tech. She splits her time between Silicon Valley and Vermont. A Short Time to Die is her first novel. Find out more about Susan at www.susanalicebickford.com

Find A SHORT TIME TO DIE at all the usual suspects, including Amazon

 

 

The Fine Art of Procrastination

I’m going to let you in on a secret: I procrastinate, even when I have a deadline looming large—or perhaps because I do and suddenly it all begins to feel a bit overwhelming. Here are my top 5 ways to fritter away the time I should spend writing:

Pinterest: Don’t get me wrong, I love Pinterest. If I’m looking for a recipe, or how-to build a wood shed, Pinterest is the first place I look. I have 26 boards relating to movies, books, TV shows, running, golf—the list goes on—and because my profile is linked to my author website, occasionally Pinterest will bring me some traffic. But Pinterest can also be a place where I spend way too much time pinning pins instead of spinning a yarn.

Facebook: The original time suck! I used to have an author page only, so I could justify the time spent finding and scheduling posts. In February 2015, Facebook changed the rules and everyone with an author page had to have it linked to a personal page. Now I’m able to double the time I spend on Facebook…of course, on the plus side, I’ve made a lot of new friends!

Googling Under the Guise of Research: Research is as much a part of writing as the actual writing; some might even argue it’s more important. After all, one wrong fact and you’ve lost the trust of your reader. It’s when I start googling things like “was there a full moon on May 1, 1980, when my protagonist, Callie Barnstable was born?” That might be important to know if I was writing a vampire series. I’m not.

Gaius Charles as Brian “Smash” Williams in Friday Night Lights

Who was that actor in that TV show I watched last night and why can’t I remember what he/she was in before?: The ultimate mind niggle that won’t let go. It happened to me recently, when I was marathon watching the excellent series, Friday Night Lights (I don’t know how I missed it originally). There’s an actor, Gaius Charles, who played Brian “Smash” Williams, and I’m thinking…where do I know him from? I’m running the shows I regularly watch in my mind, and saying, nope, nope, nope, when suddenly I remember: Grey’s Anatomy. He was Dr. Shane Ross. This of course, leads me to do another google. You never know when Gaius Charles trivia can come in handy.

Office Cleanup: Cleaning up my desk drawer, sorting my paperclips by color (because what self-respecting author would have those plain metal paperclips), tidying up my bookshelf, typing up labels for my file folders using a different font…

Do you have a favorite way to procrastinate? I’d love to hear about it!