Saturday, November 18, 2017

Persuaded By The Reflections, now available for pre-order!

The day we've waited for is here--the day Persuaded By The Reflections: A Thriller, my 27th novel, is available for pre-order. Let the balloons and streamers fly!

But seriously...

I'm incredibly proud of how this book came out. Between David's striking cover--I've gotten plenty of comments of how it has drawn readers in--and the work my team and I have done to make this book tight, this might be my best work to date. (Well, until Scouring Agent comes out in February. But we're just arguing semantics here, aren't we?)

Now: I've been rather vague about what this book is about. That ends today.

The blurb:

Det. Ricky Madison is back in this pulse-quickening, gritty sequel!

Now suffering from PTSD following the events at the end of THE LONG CRIMSON LINE, Ricky returns to Worcester, Mass., the city where he was once a police detective; he’s undergoing therapy in both solo and group settings, and in his first session, he meets a young lady struggling to cope with her love life’s tribulations—she’s a cutter, and he offers her his ear whenever she needs it.

When elements of past crimes he had investigated creep back into the present, Ricky is brought back into the fold of Worcester Police to help link the crimes together—even though the one in charge of the investigation isn’t thrilled about his presence.

Together, the two comb through the facts and similarities of the respective cases until Ricky discovers the one responsible for everything.

Just screams bestseller, doesn't it?

So it's available now for pre-order, and I want you to pre-order this wonderful book as it's only 99 cents from now until Christmas Day (consider it my Christmas gift to you). Release Day is Dec. 26, so on that day, the price goes up to $2.99, its usual price. You're getting a steal and a half here!

Here's where you can pick up your copy:

Remember that those who have Kindle get the book at 8 p.m. on Christmas Night. So after the kids are asleep, you can fire up your Kindle, sync it up, and Persuaded By The Reflections: A Thriller will be at the top of your reading list!

And a reminder of the cover:

If you haven't read The Long Crimson Line: A Thriller before now, you don't have to read it to know what's going on. Persuaded is its own story; I do reference material that occurred in TLCL. So read it anyway, and the links to buy are in my bookstore.

Christmas is coming.... and so are Ricky's demons.

I can't wait to show you the book.

Monday, October 30, 2017

A First Look (Kind of): Cover reveals for Persuaded and Scouring

One of the things I promise readers who sign up for my newsletter is a first look at everything--and that includes cover reveals.

Earlier today, I sent out three.

Wait, what?! Three?! What do you mean by three!

Yup, three. 

In continuing the story of Det. Ricky Madison in Persuaded By The Reflections, which is coming soon and if you're on the mailing list, you'll be among the first to know that it's available, I would need to update the cover to his first book, The Long Crimson Line. That'll brand any future Ricky story (and quite possibly there will be a third), and will give David a template with which to work.

So without further ado, here are the covers to Persuaded and TLCL:

The hope is that I'll get everything--the new cover, ebook and wraparound for the TLCL trade paperback, as well as Persuaded's ebook and trade paperback--uploaded by Thanksgiving. And just so you know, you'll see Facebook ads from me in the next two weeks giving away The Long Crimson Line in .mobi and .epub format in an attempt to grow my newsletter coffers.

Of course, if you want to buy it, I wouldn't be offended.

And that brings us to the third cover reveal for Scouring Agent, the next Jaclyn Johnson thriller. The plan is to release Scouring in the first quarter of 2018. It's at third draft right now, and it's a tight novel. 

So... who's ready for some releases?! They are coming soon.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

1,000 MODELs

Earlier this week, I hit an important milestone.

MODEL AGENT: A THRILLER, the first Jaclyn Johnson novel, finally made it to 1,000 sales.

Of course, it's not really a big deal (internal monologue: of course it is). I've hit 1,000 books sold on three previous occasions: my first 1,000, as well as for ROGUE AGENT and DOUBLE AGENT. The fact it finally happened for a six-and-a-half-year-old book.... one that I gave away well over 105,000 Kindle and iBook copies of it to get eyes on the series... well, I'm happy to finally hit it.

Backhanded compliment time: I'm happy because--and I believe I've said it before--I don't believe the writing in MODEL is as strong as the rest of the series (my opinion; you may have a differing opinion). Yes, it's a good story and there are parts where I'm using my fastball, but it's not the way it could have been. It could have been better. Remember that I published it one month after I finished writing the first draft, doing so on a dare. I didn't give the book the requisite three months that I usually give my work. Now here we are, six and a half years later, with the book in print and the audiobook already done, I'm not going back and making wholesale changes like I did with OBLOERON.

I did, however, strengthen the start of the book last year. To go through the entirety of the book would have sent me to the hospital with alcohol poisoning. True story.

Still, MODEL is a good first book. It introduces the protagonist and what she can do. Yes, some scenes are comic book-ish--and that's okay, because she is a comic book character within the realm of a fast-paced thriller novel. The readers who understand that love the story. The ones who don't, don't. I'm not going to twist their arms and convince them otherwise.

But it could have been better!

(Maybe not. Who knows?)

And looking ahead, there are a few milestones approaching. ROGUE AGENT is 53 copies from 3,000 sold. DOUBLE AGENT is approaching 2,300 copies sold (32 copies away). FEDERAL AGENT, the fourth novel, still has a ways to go before hitting 1,000 (188 copies away). And it goes from there. Yes, I am ecstatic with those numbers, and I cherish each reader who has paid upward of $3 of their hard-earned dollars for the digital copy/$13 for the print.

Would I love for the readers who downloaded MODEL for free to continue on with the series? Of course I do. The series is eight books long, with the ninth coming in early 2018. If readers can get by the first book and enjoy the second, I'm sure they will love the remainder of the series.

Because it only gets better from there.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

What I Read This Summer

Every summer, I make a promise to myself: cut into the large stack of books, whether ink-and-paper or digital, that I have amassed. And every summer, that promise fails to truly materialize--at least that has been the case since 2013.

But with some time over the course of the last three months, I did some serious, serious reading, and managed to slice my way through the reading pile--as well as dust off a few of my old favorites.

In all of 2017, I've now read 23 books--but starting May 16, I began my summer reading. From that date until just a little while ago today, I managed to read 19 books.

Here's a list:

The Harry Potter collection

It had been well over five-plus years since I last read J.K. Rowling's fantastic series, and I had yet to read the new Cursed Child screenplay. Reading these books swept me away, like it did over a decade ago.

So that's eight books, right there.

Abigail, by L.L. Craft

A pulse-quickener that isn't exactly for the faint of heart. Eagerly awaiting the sequel.

Goodman's Bad Day, by Michael Crane

Mikey finally wrote himself a novel, and it's as I expected: a solid tale derived from his slice of life stories and expanded.

The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel #2, by Bruce A. Sarte

I thought I had read this years ago, but apparently, I hadn't. Bruce is very good at bringing Philadelphia to life, just like I am with Boston or Worcester.

The Interstellar Cargo series (2 books and a novella), by Matthew Verish

A solid sci-fi series, and I'm waiting for the third book to arrive.

The Burning Room, Harry Bosch #19, and The Wrong Side of Goodbye, Harry Bosch #21, by Michael Connelly

I love Connelly. I love Bosch.

A Catskill Eagle, Spenser #12, by Robert B. Parker

One of my literary heroes, Parker.

Star Wars Aftermath and Star Wars Aftermath: Life Debt, by Chuck Wendig

Being the Star Wars nut that I am, I've wanted to read these as the rumor had it that Snoke is in it as another character. Didn't find him in the first two; still have to read Empire's End.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Negative Reactions Toward New Time Lady Simple-Minded, Not Shocking

Like many people around the world, I waited for news about the 13th incarnation of The Doctor, the protagonist in the long-running--54 full years on Nov. 23!--British sci-fi television show Doctor Who. Being in the United States, I didn't get to watch the announcement live on the BBC; I would have thought BBC America had it, but I guess not. Even so, I learned the identity of the new Doctor--Jodie Whittaker--around 12:30 p.m. while walking around the grocery store; I had to make a quick stop on my way home from a radio appearance in my hometown.

Doctor Bae.

My first reaction to Miss Whittaker was a resounding YES. I have never seen Broadchurch, another BBC show on which she appears as a series regular, nor any of her other work, so I don't know exactly her acting chops--I presume her acting is on another level in order to land this iconic role. My emphatic YES is over the fact that a change in The Doctor's gender was acknowledging what was becoming a mere formality at this point:

John Simms' Master: "Is the future going to be all-girl?"
12th Doctor: "We can only hope."

There were other signs, too, beyond 10th Series dialogue: the fact The Master became The Mistress--and seriously, how fucking fantastic is Michelle Gomez as an actress?--and the General from the Time War regenerated into female form for what was to be his/her final regeneration of this cycle. And don't forget the minisode that preceded the 50th Anniversary special, where the Sisterhood of Karn gave Paul McGann's 8th Doctor the option of choosing his next incarnation: "Time Lord science is elevated here on Karn; the change doesn't have to be random. Fat or thin? Young or old? Man..... or woman?"

Plain and simple, this was HAPPENING, like it or not; from a storytelling perspective, it sends the narrative into interesting directions. And yes, there have been plenty of criticism about it from the Small Penis Brigade.

I haven't seen the angry responses to Jodie Whittaker signing on as the newest Time Lady; if I'm being honest, I really don't care to see them. I know some of my friends have seen them.

Of course, it's typical anti-feminist bullshit. These are the same people who bitched about the potential relationship between Rey and Finn--or because Finn is a black stormtrooper?--in Star Wars. Perhaps these people never realized there have been Time Ladies in the past, such as the Rani, or Romana. Or... River Song? Ever hear about her?

Oh yes--the Doctor's wife. One of the best Time Ladies to ever wield a sonic screwdriver, who also blew kissy noises into her microphone Sunday when she found out Whittaker is the new Doctor. A return for River to find out her husband is now a drop dead gorgeous blonde--not ginger, my only complaint--Time Lady between now and 2021? My pulse is pounding simply thinking of THAT particular scenario.

Hello, Sweetie? Hellooooooo, Sweetie!

Doctor Who is not going to be ruined by this welcome change. If you think so, you have every right not to turn on the television every Saturday. Honestly, I think you're going to miss out--and it will be your loss, not ours.

Doctor Who as a woman? Doctor Why Not?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Recipe Wednesday: Chicken Parm on the Grill

A year and a half ago, you may recall that I posted a simple baked chicken parm recipe. We like our poultry here at the Farm, and probably have chicken twice a week along with pasta and sauce, steaks, fish, and pork chops. We never starve, even though I'm technically a starving artist. Take that as you will.

In that post, I mentioned that I've done chicken parm on the ol' grill, putting foil on the grate and letting Jen do up the fixings on the chicken; mainly tenderizing and dipping the chicken in beaten egg and coating it with bread crumbs. Seven minutes a side on high, and it's cooked through in a third of an hour.

About two weeks ago, I discovered a different way on Facebook (perhaps you've seen the video), and I decided to give it a try.

In a word, it's delish.

I started with two pieces of Pam-drenched foil before I cut and arranged summer squash slices; I would have used sliced zucchini, but I don't have any ready from the garden, and I used the zucchini I had bought on the Fourth of July with steak. I seasoned the squash with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little Italian seasoning to give it a little kick.

After that, I opened my chicken breasts. We've been using the Purdue Perfect Portions lately, so I don't even have to tenderize or trim it. Place the chicken atop the squash, then apply salt and pepper.

Then you add your marinara on top of that.

You can use whatever sauce you want. If you want to use store bought sauce out of a jar, have at it. I prefer to make my own, as I have said before. I ladle the thick gravy onto the chicken, then top it with cheese. I didn't have any provolone on hand, so I just used shredded mozzarella. Then I wrap it all up and set it aside.

I'll then prep my pasta. On this particular day, I just used spaghetti, but I'm sure this will work with angel hair, penne, farfalle, or rigatoni. Your choice. I only made half a pound for the two of us, and that may have been too much. I salt my water to get it boiling faster.

While the water is heating up, I light the grill and wait five minutes to allow it time to heat up. Once ready, I turn the heat to its absolute lowest--you don't want to scorch the squash!--and toss the chicken parm packets on.

With this particular recipe, I don't flip the packets. I keep it on the squash side for 18-20 minutes, and in that time, the chicken will be cooked through. Remove from the heat and let it rest; those foil packets will be hot.

And obviously stir your pasta. Drain, and serve as close to immediately as you can. If you need to wait, drizzle olive oil over it and stir it in.

We added a little grated parmesan and romano cheese to ours, and tucked right in.

Jen loved it, so I have permission to make this again. I definitely will, and will use zucchini.

Bon appetit.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Come on Seany, Finish What Ya Started--And I Did!

You may recall that in early May 2016, I took a little time away from the first draft of Ticket Agent in order to do the first bit of yard work for the year; we had just finished a mild winter, with the exception of late March/early April, and since I had been sick in mid-March and had lost too much time writing due to that illness, I didn't do anything outside during the month of April in order to catch up on the writing. I took about four days after Mother's Day to get a lot of yard work and the first real mow of the year completed, ignoring Jaclyn's calls to let my fingers dance.

One of the yard work projects was a long-term one that, at times, required my full attention. As I explained last May, our house abuts a man-made pond. Over the years, little had been done with the maintenance near it: Jen and I had tried to slash through the brush maybe four years ago, but we didn't get far, and it eventually returned. It returned to the point that our view of the pond from our living room grew marred with brush.

There's also another reason why we stopped: we didn't have a proper, working push lawnmower in order to keep that area maintained and under control. We only had a riding mower, and that section slopes down to the pond. I would mow up to the slope's beginnings with the ride-on, even as I felt gravity pulling me toward the left, and that was it. So yes, it was rather overgrown.

In August 2015, our riding mower had an issue with starting; it's an old riding mower, probably from the 1980's, and it's owned by Jen's uncle, our landlord. After being unable to start the thing and not wanting to bother him with it, I went down to Lowe's and bought a brand new Toro push lawnmower for about $100, and I managed to get the lawns cut in a few hours. I even got to dig a little deeper into the pondside's slope, eating the brush away a little at a time--but it was still too dense to completely mow it down.

By spring 2016, I had made the decision: with our still relatively brand-new push lawnmower, I would get the project underway at some point. I also decided that I would document my progress with photos... because, Facebook.

Taken April 23, 2016. Two weeks before the start of the project. Take note of the red brick near Jen's perennial garden.
Then Mother's Day rolled around. I got a little antsy after a week's work of rain, and after getting the fixed ride-on mower off the back porch and pulling the push mower out of the cellar, and with the sun breaking through early in the afternoon, I got outside while the Momma of my horses and cats took a little nap.

After the first hour or so of work. A little less overgrown.
Two days later, I had made some progress in clearing it.

And May 11, after some guidance from my bride regarding what was a perennial and what was crap that needed clearing, I made some more.

Definitely looking better...
The next day, I finished stage one of the clearing.

As you can see, in just four days, about five hours of work, I managed to get that area pretty much clear. The green spot right in the middle are a patch of daffodils, and if I hit those, Jen would have been pissed at me (she moved them out of there this past April). Closer to the rock are plants; daylillies by the tree to the left-hand side.

Here's another view:

Nice and clear. My skin, though, was a different story: as a result of this, I contracted a rather nasty case of poison ivy, from my collarbone to my waist. I was absolutely covered in it, and I was rather uncomfortable for about three weeks.

Now, I could have just as easily laid down a fresh layer of topsoil right then and seeded it and called it a day... but I didn't. A lot of what I had cut out still had anchors in the ground, i.e. stumps. I had to cut those out in order to make sure the brush didn't return. Alas, I managed to cut out a few in June after I returned to Ticket Agent's first draft for a few weeks and after getting the vegetable garden planted, and letting the poison ivy rash vanish; some of those stumps were too close to the pond's edge, and I weedwhack those area now instead of digging the damn things out.

Those stumps were stubborn bastards, let me tell you!

Here's one of them:

This one was dead center of the slope. I dug and dug and dug, trying to pry it loose. In the end, I managed to move enough soil to clip the thing out, then filled the hole with the remaining dirt, as well as some composted horse manure. I would take the other one out a few days later. I could have seeded then... but we hadn't had any rain for quite some time, and we were in the start of a drought; last summer was an incredibly hot one! I made sure that when I did mow, I went over to the pondside area and mowed down anything that came up.

By October, I still hadn't done anything else to pondside, seeing as I was deep into Persuaded By The Reflections' first draft; September was uber busy, between writing, game coverage, and family obligations on consecutive weekends. With Halloween approaching, it was too late to do anything else to it, seeing as the growing season had come to a close.

Winter came next.

Pondside is in the direct center of this panorama I took in February.
As spring approached, I told Jen, "I'm going to finish the pondside project. That's top of the agenda." And in order to do that, I had to make sure that there was a barrier between my grass and her perennial garden. We dug a small trench which wound around the perennials, the borders an old brick shaped with a bend.

We did that on April 23, one year to the day that I took that first photo and decided that I was going to do something about it:

You will also notice a little darker soil near the border to the perennials: I also laid down two bags of topsoil in an attempt to make that area a little more level. I kind of succeeded, but not quite. I also contracted a second case of poison ivy this day, but as I'm thinking about it, I believe that was from doing some work on the top lawn, not pondside.

Then I finally laid down the seed that day, and Jen and I put down some light mulch (hay) in order to keep in moisture. With the rainy spring we had, I only had to stretch the hose twice: once on the 23rd, and probably four or five days later to make sure it had enough water.

Nine days later....


On May 16, we had enough grass in order to give it its first haircut.

You will also notice the line of leaves at the top of the slope that really never got mulched up enough by any of the mowers. About a week or so after this, I raked all of that up, then raked up the dirt to stir it up and prepare it for a second seeding. I seeded it in the middle of June, laid down some more hay in order for the seed to retain moisture, and watered it a few times.

And now.....

Ta-da! Pondside is complete!

After 14 months of on and off work, I can safely say that the pondside project is finally done. There is very little I can do to add to it; I could seed right down to the water's edge, and I might do that this fall, but I have to acknowledge the mower will only go so far, and remember that there are a few leftover stumps in that section. There is another section to the left of the above tree (you'll see it in the last picture) that I could clear and risk a third case of poison ivy, but now is not the time for long sleeves and long pants.

There is another project that I want to accomplish this fall, and it entails getting rid of the thin trees and brush from the other side of pondside headed toward the rear corner of the property. That will allow me the ability to get the push mower in to keep the grass--and more importantly, ticks--away. That'll involve a lot of cutting, and a lot of raking. I also have to complete the perennial garden border on the other slope, then re-seed the newly-created bare spots. Will I have the strength to do three massive landscaping projects this fall, plus writing fiction, keeping up my fitness, and covering games? Probably not, but we'll see.

But not only was this a nice exercise in improving the property value-slash-curb appeal, I also see it as an allegory to writing. One of the lessons I've learned is "You can edit crap. You can fix broken sentences."

Consider the first picture as a crappy page. I massaged it and cut out the loose crap, and eventually got to clip out a hard phrase, erm, stump. Then I finally polished it up and laid down grass seed.

And now, it's done... and published.

Another work of art.