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Books, music, fun July 27 in Boulder (authors, too!)

Put it on your calendar and I’ll see you on the patio!

Carnival of the Indies Book Sale, July 27: A day of books, stories, music and fun hosted by the Boulder County Indie Authors on Trident Books’ shady back patio. Our wide variety of books includes young adult, crime fiction, historical fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, memoir, satire, poetry and more!

Meet authors (including yours truly), buy signed books, support local lit and imbibe tasty beverages at this beloved book shop and cafe, 940 Pearl St. in Boulder, Colorado.

Read on, my friends. Read on.

B.J.

U.S. women athletes not “feminine” enough?

My first reaction when I saw the headline on this piece was to laugh.

Writing like a male chauvinist

Some throwback male chauvinist pig, I thought, yearning for the good old days when women knew their place, barefoot-pregnant-in-kitchen, etc.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered the writer is actually a female chauvinist, someone who believes in her own inferiority. The nerve of her, evolving so far as to think she can write like a man.

Turns out there’s nothing to laugh about here.

Book sale on Smashwords!

Just in case you haven’t heard, my Detective Red Shaw novels are half-off this month on Smashwords! Here’s the link: Dead men don’t text people.

Detective Red Shaw in North of Grand.

Read on, my friends. Read on.

B.J.

On reading to an audience

My legs shook as I stood in front of the others in my 6th grade class to deliver a mandatory speech, every bit as hard as they shook the first time I stepped onto the high diving board at a swimming pool in West Des Moines.

At Beaverdale Books in Des Moines, Iowa

The sheer terror of being in front of an audience somehow evolved – slowly, so slowly – into nervous excitement at the prospect of talking about something I love to do. The debilitating fear of heights is now a healthy respect for the law of gravity that keeps me a safe distance from sheer mountain cliffs and other high places.

Lately I’ve found myself actually going out of my way to get in front of people as an author, to do some readings and even sell and sign a few books. Three more events scheduled! Details sometime soon.

I’m surprised at how much fun it can be.

How about you? Are you comfortable in front of an audience or not so much?

Writing what you know – from experience

Writing advice is easy to come by. What to do with it can be a mystery.

Take a look around the internet and you’ll find plenty of free advice, and more than enough takes on this bit, which is frequently attributed to Mark Twain:

Write what you know.

Some people write about themselves because that’s what they know best. Others write about rock climbing, or travel, or science, or whatever subject they know well.

The concept is complicated when it comes to writing fiction, as this piece on Literary Hub illustrates.

I think I’ve led an interesting life so far, but I wouldn’t expect anyone to buy a book about it. Most of my writing has been nonfiction based on research and interviews on various topics. Still, I’ve made use of what I know from experience in my Detective Red Shaw novels. The following excerpt from North of Grand is one example, which draws on my love of bicycling as well as other lived experience. It’s my favorite way of writing what I know.


In which Detective Red Shaw visits a bike shop…

…while investigating the murder of a cyclist.

Half an hour later he was parked outside the place watching a middle-aged couple load two new bicycles on a brand-new rack on the back of a shiny, black SUV. They chatted with a young blonde woman who he guessed had just made the sale. The scene took him back to the time he and Sally bought new bicycles at a discount store and rode them three times one summer. He wasn’t sure where they’d ended up.

Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

Inside the store he took a few minutes to browse, inspecting the lines of sleek, pricey road bikes and rugged, shock-equipped mountain bikes. He wondered how many of them ever actually saw a mountain. Assorted helmets hung on one wall near displays of water bottles and gloves and seat bags and other paraphernalia. There were hard, narrow saddles that weighed nothing or close to it. He could buy balm and padded shorts for his butt to ward off pain and chafing, then spend more bucks on tight, techno-wonder jerseys to keep him cool as he sped down some road in the sun. He picked up a coffee-can-size container of powder from a nearby display. The label claimed it would keep his electrolytes in balance and help him stave off dehydration if only he would mix it properly and drink the proper amount every hour during a long ride, then mix and drink more later to make sure he’d gotten enough.

The only employee in sight was adjusting the brakes on a bicycle in the shop area. A surly type with long, graying hair, he looked over once then turned back to the brake job without saying a word. He seemed to assume that Shaw wasn’t going to buy anything. He was right.

“Can I help you with something, sir?” The young woman from the parking lot appeared beside him. Up close, he guessed she’d be in her thirties, a little older than she looked outside. Attractive and obviously fit. Tess, her ID tag said.

“Thanks, but I’m just kind of looking around. Some people I work with swear that riding a bike has been all kinds of good for their health, mental and otherwise.”

She smiled at that. “I’m sure it has. It’s a great way to spend some time, get some exercise, get to work, whatever. I ride here every day, eight miles each way, unless there’s snow and ice.”

“You’re kidding,” Shaw said. “That’s a long way, isn’t it?”

“Not really,” she said. “If I wasn’t working I’d be out with my club for about fifty miles, and we’re doing a metric century tomorrow.”

“A metric century?”

“A hundred kilometers. Sixty-two miles or so.”

Shaw grimaced. “That doesn’t sound like all that much fun.”

Continue reading “Writing what you know – from experience”

Mini-mystery in a phone call

Last week at a Meet the Author event, I read some excerpts from North of Grand, my second Detective Red Shaw novel. What follows is one of my favorites, in which Shaw gets a phone call that ends in a little extra mystery.


The sun was still up but Shaw turned in early after dining on what remained of a four-day-old pepperoni pizza and downing a Leinenkugel. He lay awake in bed for an hour, appreciating the AC, replaying the day in his mind, then trying to shut his brain down so he could sleep. The phone rang. Cheryl. Again already? He answered.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

“Hello, Detective,” she said. Her voice was a bit deeper, sexier than in her voicemail or how she had sounded in person.

“Hello, Ms. Massey.”

“Cheryl, please.”

“Okay, hello, Cheryl. What can I do for you?”

“Can I call you Ed?”

Shaw hesitated. “Is this about police business?”

“No … I hope not.”

“Well I hope not, too. Ed is fine, please.”

“How about Red?” Her voice was lighter, playful. He had to laugh.

“You can call me whatever you like.”

When she didn’t respond, he tried to wait her out, as he had with countless suspects. He broke first, and quickly. “I’ve thought about calling you.”

“So why didn’t you?”

“Well, I guess I assumed you’re married or otherwise involved, and I didn’t have your number … until a few hours ago.”

“The detective couldn’t find my phone number?”

“Well, I suppose I could have, but I hadn’t yet. Besides, there’s that thing about not knowing if you were married … or otherwise involved.”

She laughed, and he imagined her reaching out to touch his arm.

“You’re funny,” she said. “I like that. Otherwise involved.”

“It covers a lot of possibilities,” Shaw said. Again, she fell silent. He broke, again. “So … which is it, Cheryl?”

He heard a voice, faint in the background.

“Otherwise involved,” she said. “I have to go, Red.”

And then she was gone.


Read the book on Kindle or Nook!