Two words that make a writer’s day: “Great read!”

Woke up to this on Monday morning…

NORTH OF GRAND: New Detective Red Shaw novel now on Amazon

A man turns up dead in a bicycle storage locker on a muggy August morning and Detective Red Shaw takes the heat.

bicycle-2462199-enhancedShaw has just outsmarted a murderous sociopath who almost killed him. Now he has another homicide to investigate—while he’s hobbled by a sore knee, distracted by a steamy new romance, and dodging accusations of coercing a confession in an old case.

Shaw and his partner probe the sometimes toxic, competitive world of amateur bicycle racing, where they find a web of cryptic social media messaging, stolen property, drug trafficking, and murder.

Get it now on Amazon!

If you somehow missed the first Red Shaw novel, called a “compelling, gut-wrenching thriller” by one reviewer, you can get that on Amazon, too: BLOOD SOLUTIONS.

The case of the cat and the bicycle

A good editor is like a good detective. Both take note of the obvious, and both notice the things that slip by others.

Here are two examples to think about.


Some guy tweeted this the other day:


The same guy put a bicycle in the header of his new Twitter page.

Go ahead. Take a look. Be curious.

Why a cat and why a bicycle?

A casual reader or distracted digital passerby might not ask why. It’s just a cat and just a bicycle. An experienced editor, like a good detective, wonders about the choices and the writer’s or the suspect’s reasoning.

Are the cat and the bicycle just eye-catching visuals or is there some deeper significance? Were the selections deliberate or careless?

Why those images?

In this case, a reader familiar with the writer’s work might recall the fate and symbolism of a yellow-eyed cat. The reader might also begin to wonder if the bicycle foreshadows something not yet revealed.

A skilled detective might begin to poke around.

What do you think?


On a lighter note…and a darker background

Hello. Yeah, it’s been a while. ⓘ

Please forgive the somewhat darker keyboard image. It may seem a little moody, but it’s simply providing more contrast with the verbiage that runs across the middle in front of it. Some day I’ll find a WordPress theme that I don’t feel compelled to fiddle with.

Two other things

  1. I have a new Twitter account that you’re more than welcome to follow if you are so inclined. It’s going to focus on writing and written stuff. There may be an element of grouchiness at times, witness the pinned tweet about writer’s block.
  2. I’m on track to have my next crime novel available as an ebook by the end of July. Here’s to not being derailed yet again! Join my email list and you just might get a free copy. (You will for sure if you’re among the next 10 to join the list).

Write on.


The stories readers leave behind

books-1481403_1920Some used books, even non-mysteries, present mysteries of their own.

This summer I’ve read several. I bought two when I visited a local used book store that now carries new, unused copies of my crime novel. Several others were gifts, a nice little stack that will keep me busy for some time.

A used (pre-owned? pre-experienced?) book of fiction delivers two stories. The one that everyone reads appears in type, the same story in every bound copy. 

The readers who first consume those words create other stories and leave them behind, each one unique, in flashes and fragments of non-fiction.



A fly crushed between pages 89 and 90.

Blood on a credit card receipt.

An author’s autograph, once treasured then given away or sold for pennies on the dollar.

A phone number on the back of an envelope.

Then there are the notes. In some I see my son’s cryptic hand, in the secret language of academia. Ideas for the new syllabus, a paper, or next week’s class now months or years gone by?

Another reader checkmarks paragraphs here and there, wraps seemingly random sentences in parentheses. Yet another underlines words and phrases.

Why those words, that sentence, this paragraph? What did she mean by that? Why was that important to him?

Each reader changes the story, preparing a new experience for whoever comes next.


This is now The America Compound

The other day I renamed the protagonist of my first crime novel Detective America, and I will use the new name, Blood Solutions: A Detective America Novel, for marketing purposes until after Election Day in November.

I was going to replace just his last name, Shaw, and go with Blood Solutions: A Red America Novel, but that didn’t feel quite right.

In fact, I am so inspired by America, and the beer formerly known as Budweiser, that I’m going to change my last name until after Election Day. I think you should, too.


B.J. America

B.J. lives in Longmont, Colorado, U.S. of America, with his wife, Susan America, and their American cat and dog, Sophie and Red.

Des Moines is cool now? Art, food, politics and crime fiction

So Des Moines started getting cool a few short years after the Smiths moved to the starkly less cool Cedar Rapids? Sheer coincidence.

For what it’s worth, I thought my home town was always pretty cool, if not as slick as those snooty Twin Cities we supposedly looked up to back in the day.

Politico’s new story of how Des Moines went from “totally dysfunctional” to cool is an interesting read anyway. I haven’t thought about scooping the loop in years and had no idea that it was considered “a menace to society,” as columnist Rekha Basu says in the story.

I thought the menace was Roosevelt H.S. guys wanting to beat me up at the bus stop, or the guy on an inner-city street corner who wanted to kill me and a friend on our way to Dowling one morning. (We talked him out of it and walked away.)

Des Moines (4)Des Moines was also cool enough that it inspired me to write what has been called “a compelling, gut-wrenching thriller,” which takes place on those formerly mean, now-cool streets.

In one of my favorite parts of the story, Detective Red Shaw meets another key character in a sculpture park that wasn’t even there when we last lived in Des Moines.

Another takes place where caucus-covering reporters used to stay, and I suppose some still do:

“The Savery Hotel had been the Harrises’ favorite hangout since the days when its bar was crowded with reporters from across the country who were covering the Iowa caucuses. The newer Coda and BOS were OK, but Maura missed the old atmosphere.”

Sometimes I miss it a little, too, and it’s fun to visit family and friends in Iowa when we get the chance. Even Cedar Rapids is getting pretty cool, a trend that actually started before the Smiths went west.