Read a book – free on me!

I’m like a lot of people who have some extra time on their hands these days. Instead of taking the bus to work and back, I walk downstairs to work remotely and walk back up later. With all that commute time saved, I’ve been poking around and moping around here at The Smith Compound.

ebook cover

Today after work I Zoomed a friend to wish him happy birthday and catch up a little over a remote beer. His birthday was yesterday and a surprise party got canceled, like almost everything else. We adjust.

Anyhow, while I was poking (and moping) around earlier, I came across some free ebooks that I’ve been meaning to offer to whoever is interested. I have giveaway links for four (4) Detective Red Shaw novels, one for each of the next four readers who join my mailing list.

Which reminds me I haven’t actually sent anything to the fine folks on my list in quite a while. I did promise not to overdo it, but now I’ve got an idea for something that might work.

We shall see.

Read on, my friends, and keep your social distance.

B.J.

A private conversation

Keira looked at what he was typing even though she knew better.

“It’s like eavesdropping on a private conversation,” he said, snapping the laptop lid shut.

“A private conversation with yourself?” She smiled at him.

He snorted. “I guess you could say that.”

“I just did say that.”

He snorted again and turned away. “I have to get out of this stupid airplane seat and find the men’s room. If you read what I’ve been writing, I will know you did it.”

Keira watched as he stepped into the aisle, set the computer on his empty seat, and disappeared toward the back of the darkened cabin. She didn’t need his password because she’d read everything before he noticed.

“Keira looked at what he was typing even though she knew better.”

Backlit keyboard

Book sale on Smashwords!

Just in case you haven’t heard, my Detective Red Shaw novels are half-off through July 31 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.

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”

See you soon, Des Moines!

Mrs. Smith and I don’t often get back to our former stomping grounds in Iowa’s capital city, but we’ll be there Saturday, June 8. It’s a multi-purpose trip, including a “Meet the Author” event the nice folks at Beaverdale Books so generously arranged on rather short notice.

If you’ve read some previous posts (like this one), you already know that both my fictional detective, Edward “Red” Shaw, and I are from Des Moines. Some of the action in North of Grand even takes place in Beaverdale at a taproom/bike shop I made up out of thin air.

Really looking forward to this trip. Join us at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 8, at Beaverdale Books if you’re in the area: 2629 Beaver Avenue.

Read on,

B.J.

It’s inevitable

What to write next?

Deciding what to write or edit or otherwise work on next has been a simple matter throughout my day-job career. As a general assignment reporter for daily newspapers, of course, there were daily assignments and clear deadlines and, when I filled in on the police or courthouse beats, I had other stories to chase down and photos to shoot.

Pixabay image. Some may recognize this as a typewriter.
Pixabay image. Some may recognize this as a typewriter.

Deadlines these days are more flexible and often self-imposed if they exist at all, but the priorities are usually pretty obvious.

Writing on my own time is quite different. Deciding what to write next, what work of crime fiction or other story to tell over the next several weeks and months, has been a mystery lately. My first two crime novels were done in fits and starts and stops and restarts over a longer time than I care to admit. Since sending the second one out into the world not long ago, I’ve been lost, without creative purpose.

Now I know I have to start something new. Not writing is not an option. Many other writers will relate to that.

Some people have asked if there will be another book in the Detective Red Shaw series. I honestly don’t know. It won’t be what I write next, but in the past few days I did decide what the next thing will be.

I will let you know when it’s done.

Read on,

B.J.