Thursday, December 7, 2017

NECESSARY ENDS Sneak Preview!

CHAPTER ONE

The closet was narrow and dusty, with barely enough room for me to stand. Dead insects crunched under my sneakers, and spider webs glued themselves to my ponytail. Though empty of appliances and devoid of air conditioning, the foreclosed duplex was crammed with beat-up sofas and ratty mattresses, and it smelled like sawdust and old shoes. Faux suburban meth-dealer chic.

Trey handed me a weapon. "Do you remember the plan?"

I wrapped my hands around the gun, a semi-auto designed to shoot projectiles, not bullets. My palms were slick with sweat, and I had to concentrate to keep the thing from thudding to the floor.

"Surrender," I said.

"Because?"

"This scenario is designed to practice surrender protocol."

"And you are not to?"

"Fight. Not even a little bit." I wiped my hands on my jeans one at a time. "What are their chances of getting past you?"

"Not very good. These particular trainees haven't yet grasped the concept of three-sixty periphery."

"But they will after they tangle with you."

A ghost of a smile flickered at the edge of Trey's mouth. "Yes."

He knelt and adjusted my protective vest. He was dressed for special ops—his black BDU pants paired with a long-sleeved tee, also black, plus his old service boots, the ones he'd shoved into storage almost four years ago. His orange-tipped training weapon was a ridiculous contrast, but it was the only thing keeping me in the moment. Otherwise it would have been easy to get pulled back in time into his SWAT days, and to believe that the Trey on his knees in front of me was the Trey I'd never met, the man who'd existed before the car accident, before the frontal lobe damage, the Trey who really was a cop and not just volunteering at a training session.

I brushed a stray cobweb from his dark hair. "If any of them do make it past you, I'm going to get pocked with paintballs."

Trey stood and double-checked my body camera, wiped a smudge from my eye protection with his sleeve. "If you surrender and drop your weapon, you're supposed to come out unharmed. That's the protocol."

I sneezed. He produced a bottle of allergy medicine from some hidden pocket, and I swallowed two tablets dry.

"Does this really help?" I said.

"For the dust, yes. The pigeons, however—"

"Not the pills, these scenarios. Deliberately wading into a simulation where people come after you. Does it really make the nightmares better?"

Trey stopped messing with my gear, his blue eyes serious in the slanted light. "Yes. It does."

When my brother the psychologist had suggested moving Trey back into simulations training, I hadn't been convinced. I still wasn't. But I knew he needed something, some way to work out the part of him that sometimes sizzled like an overloaded circuit. There was only so much aggression he could exorcise through running, after all, and smothering it with routine and structure hadn't worked either. He needed an outlet, and this one—one without actual bullets and bad guys—seemed a safe alternative.

I adjusted my goggles and felt for the spare ammo on my belt. Training rounds, the SWAT version of paintballs. Each pellet contained a harmless green dye, though for actual combat, they came as capsaicin-filled pepperballs. Trey had assured me that the hot shots were banned for this scenario. Only green boxes on the training ground, only orange-marked weapons. It was an elaborately structured game of cops and robbers, and I was a robber. So was Trey.

He gave me a searching evaluation. "Are you sure you're okay?"

"I'm sure."

He watched my mouth to make sure I was telling the truth. I was. Mostly.

"Okay," he said. "But remember, you can leave at any time. Tell the sentry you're vacating the scenario." He lowered his head to look me in the eye. "You're not trapped here, Tai. Not at all."

It was the right thing to say. "Ten-four. I'm good. Let's go."

Trey gave me one final looking-over. Then he closed the closet door, and I was alone in the darkness.

I listened to his retreating footsteps, the sudden silence of his absence. Despite my best efforts, the first prickle of panic rose, and with it, the memories. The suffocating heat of the trunk. The gators bellowing on the banks. The green dot of the laser sight centered on my heart.

I tilted my head back and closed my eyes. It's just a simulation, I told myself. Nothing but fake guns and fake bad guys. The chemicals surging in my veins were real, though, and my body responded as if the threat were real too. That was the point, I knew, to stir up the adrenaline spike and then deconstruct it. Rewire the experience, my brother had explained, rewire the response.

I wasn't sure I was buying his theory.

I heard it then, the light susurration of combat gear sliding against ripstop fabric, the unmistakable thump of police boots on the wooden floor. Not from the back, though, where the team was supposed to enter, but from the front. The sentry abandoning his post.

I frowned. This wasn't how things were supposed to play out.

I could feel the slosh of my pulse, and as I wrapped my hands around the butt of the weapon, the nervousness peaked and swelled into…something else. Something darker. I recognized that sharp clean jolt, red at the edges. Red like my nightmares, like kill or be killed. And in my dreams, I killed. I slashed and screamed and bit and...

I pushed out of the closet, unable to take the confinement a second longer.

The trainee stood in the door, fully turned out in riot gear, his eyes wide and bright behind the plastic visor. He switched his gun my way. "Hands up! Weapon down!"

My vision narrowed to the barrel of the weapon, pointed straight at me, and I remembered in a flash all of the other times I'd stared down the wrong end of a firearm. My hands shook, and my finger itched to squeeze the trigger, but I forced myself to place the gun on the counter, orange muzzle pointing at the wall.

I raised my hands to shoulder height. "I surrender."

The trainee came around the counter, rifle aimed at my heart, and the fight instinct sang in hot spiked surges. He tried to grab my arm, but I snatched it away. He cursed and popped two paintballs into my chest.

The thud against the vest hurt like hell at that close proximity, and I gasped, partly from pain and partly from astonishment. "I just surrendered, you moron!"

"You're down. So get down."

"Screw you."

"I said—"

"Touch me again, and I will rip your arm off!"

I heard the opening of the back door at the other end of the house, the boots, the hushed voices. The covert entry team. And I could feel the panic rising. I was trapped, again, with a man with a gun, again. And I remembered what I was supposed to do—breathe and ground—but suddenly all I wanted to do was get out of there before I lost it, and in my mind, losing it looked like kicking the trainee's kneecaps into jelly.

Behind him, I saw movement at the door. Not Trey. This man wore the same clothes but was shorter, with red hair. Garrity. I was surprised to see him—as the supervisor of this particular training, he was supposed to be evaluating, not participating. He stayed in the threshold, orange-tipped carbine rifle in hand.

The trainee was sharper than I expected, though, and he caught the motion too. He whirled around and aimed his weapon at Garrity, a satisfied smirk on his face. "Got you, sir. Nice try, sir."

Garrity pointed to the green splotches on my vest, the gun on the counter. "You shot an unarmed suspect."

The recruit had the decency to color red. "She was non-compliant, sir."

"Like hell. I watched the whole thing through her camera."

"But—"

"There are no buts here. You had your orders. What were they?"

The recruit swallowed hard. "Post up outside, guard the secondary entry point. Sir."

"Right. Which you did not do. You waited for sixty seconds and then started clearing rooms, alone. I could ambush your team right now, and they wouldn't know what hit them because they think you've got the door."

The recruit clenched his teeth. He was wrong, and he knew it, and he blamed me. I could feel him wanting to shoot me again.

"And then you fire on an unarmed subject!" Garrity said. "How will your wife feel when she sees that on the news?"

The recruit straightened his spine. "Husband. Sir."

Garrity stared at him for two seconds. "Let me rephrase. How will it feel when your husband is visiting you in prison because you shot and killed an unarmed surrendering suspect with her goddamn hands in the air, and so help me, that's where I would send you if you pulled such a fuck-up on my watch."

Then all hell broke loose in the back room. A cacophony of voices, a scuffle, a volley of gunfire.

Garrity leaned backward slightly and stuck his head into the hallway "Seaver!"

"Yes, sir!"

"The count, please."

"Three down and one…make that four down, sir."

Garrity sighed. "They never look up." He returned his attention to the trainee. "And there goes the rest of your team. Y'all some sad ass police today. Now get outta here before I really lose my temper."

The trainee filed past Garrity, not even brushing shoulders, and Garrity focused his attention on me. Suddenly he wasn't Special Agent in Charge anymore. He was my friend, his eyes tight with concern.

He stepped closer. "Hey? You okay?"

I nodded, but my hands were trembling. Not from fear. From pure thwarted anger. I wanted to hurt somebody, preferably the somebody who'd shot me in the chest, and I wanted it so bad I couldn't stop shaking. Garrity knew the difference. He saw it clearly.

"Ride it out, Tai. Breathe it down." He folded his arms. "Whose idea was it to bring you here today, Trey's?"

I put my elbows to my knees and breathed, trying to get the blood back to my head. "Mine. I read it in one of those books my brother gave him. He said it worked for him. I thought it might work for me."

"Did it?"

I unclenched my fists. There were half-moon indentions where my nails had cut into my skin, and my vision was still red at the edges. "I don't think so."


Sunday, August 20, 2017

It's Not A Bird Or A Plane And You Shouldn't Be Looking At It Regardless!

In case you haven't heard, there's an eclipse today! But of course you’ve heard—how could you miss it in this day of the 24/7 news cycle? Every channel and every social media feed has been counting down to it breathlessly. Our clockwork universe has its cycles and seasons, and those who watch the skies have known this was coming (just like the know when the next one will be, and the next).

The science of it is very simple. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon appears to completely cover the sun. Of course the sun is larger than the moon, but because the moon is much closer to Earth—around 239,000 miles as opposed to the sun’s 93,000,000 miles—it is just the right distance away to line up every eighteen months or so in a way that blocks the sun’s face, either completely or partially, and we are suddenly standing in its shadow.

The upcoming eclipse is getting an especially large media presence because here in the US, it is making itself know from coast to coast. The “path of totality” includes a 70-mile-wide swath of territory cutting across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina. An early twilight will descend. Temperatures will fall. Streaks of light called a corona will appear around the sun. People just outside of the totality zone will experience a partial eclipse, which should still be an awesome sight.

If you’re interested in checking out how close you’ll be to the path of totality, NASA has provided a handy map at its website: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov 

The site also includes viewing information—like the fact that you should never look at a solar eclipse with the naked eye, not even for a second—and other interesting scientific and historical facts about the event.

Some other sites to help you out during this, the day of the Great American Eclipse:

Another prediction pretty much guaranteed to come true? There will be lots of traffic. Get the scoop of the state of your route with Google’s handy traffic density predictor covering the entire path of totality. 

Can’t get outside to see it? NASA has you covered. They’ll be live streaming it from twelve locations, including some cameras on planes and hot air balloons, so you’re guaranteed to get a front row seat. https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/eclipse-live-stream 

Not sure what the event will look like in your neck of the woods? TIME magazine has created a simulator that allows you to punch in your zip code and glimpse what the event will look like second by second from where you’re standing. http://time.com/4882923/total-solar-eclipse-map-places-view/ 

Forgot to get eclipse-viewing glasses? Don’t care to look directly at a flaming ball of gas that could blind you? NASA also explains how to make a simple viewing device that creates a pretty cool effect all on its own. https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/learn/project/how-to-make-a-pinhole-camera/ 

And if you still manage to miss it somehow, take heart—there will be another one coming soon. Here’s a list: https://www.greatamericaneclipse.com/future/ 

Regardless of how the eclipse fits into your day, do take some time to appreciate the science and storytelling happening around this astrological event. Fingers crossed I’ll be seeing some of you in the shadow of the moon.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Trouble Has a New Cover!

“Trouble Like A Freight Train Coming” is a prequel to the Tai Randolph series. It's set in Savannah several years prior to the inheritance of her Atlanta gun shop and her first encounter with security agent Trey Seaver, who ultimately becomes her partner in both romance and crime solving. For readers familiar with the rest of Tai’s adventures, this story is a chance to watch her develop her sleuthing chops. For those meeting Tai for the first time...welcome to her slightly reckless, somewhat hungover, not-quite-respectable world.

Tai is accustomed to murder and mayhem . . . of the fictional variety. As a tour guide in Savannah, Georgia, she’s learned the tips are better when she seasons her stories with a little blood here, a little depravity there. She’s less experienced in real life criminality, however, preferring to spend her days sleeping late and her nights hitting the bars. But when she gets the news that her trouble-making cousin has keeled over while running a marathon, Tai finds herself in a hot mess of treachery and dirty dealings. Worst of all, the clues lead her straight into the moonshine-soaked territory of the most infamous smuggler in Chatham County—her Uncle Boone.
 

"Trouble" is available as a part of Lowcountry Crime: Four Novellas in both print and e-book, but it is also available as a standalone in Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Google Play, and Kobo. So check it out!

You can read more about the story's Bonaventure Cemetery settingand sneak at peek at the opening sceneat Writers Who Kill.

LOWCOUNTRY CRIME Now Available in Nook, Kobo, Google Play, and iBooks!

The entire LOWCOUNTRY CRIME: FOUR NOVELLAS anthology is now available not just on Amazon, but also on Nook, iBooks, Google Play and Kobo.

LOWCOUNTRY: That portion of the Southeastern United States characterized by low country, generally flat—whether barrier island, tidal marsh, tidal river valleys, swamps, piney forests, or great cities like Charleston and Savannah.

CRIME: An act, forbidden by a public law, that makes the offender liable to punishment by that law.

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.

Each novella can be read in a single hour to hour-and-a-half sitting or enjoyed at a more leisurely pace, stopping at white space along the way. Within the broad range of the crime genre, these tales fit “north of cozy” and “south of noir.”

“Trouble Like A Freight Train Coming” by Tina Whittle is a prequel to her Tai Randolph Mysteries. Tai is accustomed to murder and mayhem . . . of the fictional variety. As a tour guide in Savannah, Georgia, she’s learned the tips are better when she seasons her stories with a little blood here, a little depravity there. She’s less experienced in real life criminality, however, preferring to spend her days sleeping late and her nights hitting the bars. But when she gets the news that her trouble-making cousin has keeled over while running a marathon, Tai finds herself in a hot mess of treachery and dirty dealings. Worst of all, the clues lead her straight into the moonshine-soaked territory of the most infamous smuggler in Chatham County—her Uncle Boone.

The novella is set in Savannah several years prior to the inheritance of her Atlanta gun shop and her first encounter with security agent Trey Seaver, who ultimately becomes her partner in both romance and crime solving. For readers familiar with the rest of Tai’s adventures, this story is a chance to watch her develop her sleuthing chops. For those meeting Tai for the first time...welcome to her slightly reckless, somewhat hungover, not-quite-respectable world.

In “Last Heist” by Polly Iyer, Paul Swan travels the world buying exotic automobiles for wealthy clients, but underneath his believable cover is a first-class, never-been-caught diamond thief.

When he sees a picture in the Charleston newspaper of a magnificent diamond necklace on the wife of a visiting South American strongman, he can’t resist the temptation to steal it. Paul doesn’t anticipate what he finds in the hotel room’s safe besides the jewels. Now he has to figure out how to stop a political catastrophe without exposing himself as the thief who stole the diamonds, and he has three people complicating his effort: a sexy TV reporter angling for a story, a suspicious cop eager for an arrest, and a rogue mercenary bent on ending his life.

“Blue Nude,” by Jonathan M. Bryant introduces us to Brad Sharpe, who has problems. Not just the problems you would expect resulting from traumatic injury and a destructive divorce. His ex-wife has gone missing and a priceless Picasso has been stolen. The cops have pegged Brad as a person of interest in both cases. Worse, a violent sociopath might want Brad dead. Only with the help of friends and his knowledge of the Georgia Lowcountry can Brad fight to clear his name and resolve the case of the Blue Nude.

In “Low Tide at Tybee,” James M. Jackson brings three of his Seamus McCree series characters (Seamus, his darts-throwing mother, and his now six-year-old granddaughter, Megan) to Tybee Island, Georgia to vacation and escape winter up north. Megan spots a thief going through their beach bags, after which their vacation unravels with a series of twists and turns that will leave you guessing until the end, trying to figure out who done what.



Monday, April 10, 2017

How to Catch A Wild Idea: Links and Freebies

Links to the Free Kindle Stories:

"Zero to Sixty"
 

Tai's been hankering to get behind the wheel since The Dangerous Edge of Things. But when your boyfriend has control issues, sometimes the best laid plans take years to come to fruition.

In this, the epilogue to Reckoning and Ruin, Tai's patience is rewarded and she finally gets her hands on Trey's Ferrari. And it's just as zoom-zoom as you might imagine.


   "Not Even Past"
A lush Victorian B&B, chilled champagne for two, and a top-of-the-line metal detector—Tai Randolph is ready for Valentine's Day. Unfortunately, Trey Seaver—her sexy if somewhat challenging boyfriend—is not cooperating. He rightly suspects that Tai's got more than romance on her mind, and he's determined to uncover her agenda before setting one foot in the bedroom. Tai has one night to convince him that love and sleuthing really do mix, even in a mysterious inn filled with history and stories and maybe even hidden treasure.


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Links for Further Exploration

Matt Cardin's Course in Demonic Creativity: A Writer's Guide to Inner Genius (a FREE e-book available for download as a pdf)

The Chauvet Cave (a.k.a Caverne du Pont d'arc): A website with links to the cave, plus a photographic gallery


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Guest Post from Kathleen Kaska: Greyhound Research

Research for my books takes me to all sorts of unique places, most of which I enjoy. For my Sydney Lockhart series, set in the 1950s, I visited historic hotels where the stories take place. Before that, when I was a staff writer for a health and fitness magazine in Austin, I cycled, hiked, and climbed in some of the best parks in Texas. And I’ve canoed, floated, snorkeled, and scuba dived all over Texas and the Caribbean for other travel articles.

But the research for Run Dog Run sent me to a few places I wasn’t thrilled to visit.

A knot formed in my stomach the day I drove up to a greyhound racetrack outside of Houston. I wasn’t sure what to except, but if I wanted to write a book about greyhound racing, I needed to watch the dogs run. I spoke to the staff about what happens before and after races, where the dogs are kept when they are not racing, how much of their lives are spent running, and how to bet on the dogs. Even though I was there on a weekend, there wasn’t a huge crowd of spectators, and to tell the truth, most of them seemed to have a languid attitude.

I also toured a greyhound adoption facility where the dogs were well taken care of. The only problem is that I wanted to take all of them home. In my book, I included a character who operates an adoption facility as part of my quest to bring about awareness of the adoption of retired racers.

I read several books and articles about dog racing, some in support of the sport and some against it. The latter group painted a disturbing picture of what those dogs experience. After completion of my first draft, my then-agent told me I editorialized too much. He was right. A lot of it was zealous and too preachy. So I toned it down and gave just enough information to keep readers interested and not overwhelm them with my personal opinions.

 *          *          *          *          *
Kathleen Kaska is a writer of mysteries, nonfiction, travel articles, and stage plays. When she is not writing, she spends much of her time with her husband traveling the back roads and byways around the country, looking for new venues for her mysteries and bird watching along the Texas coast and beyond. Kathleen also writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mystery series set in the 1950s. Her first two mysteries, Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queen Book Group, the largest book group in the country. Her latest Sydney Lockhart mystery, set in Austin, Texas, is Murder at the Driskill.


Books are available through Black Opal Books, Kathleen’s website, and Amazon.



Excerpt from Run Dog Run:

She’d been foolish and gone off alone, now she might have to pay the ultimate price…

The rocks along the bottom of the creek bed seemed to disappear. Kate felt the ropy, gnarl of tree roots instead.

The cedar break. She was approaching the road and soon the water would pass through the culvert. She knew that she would not make it through the narrow tunnel alive. Her lungs screamed for air. With one final attempt, she grabbed hold of a long cedar root growing along the side of the creek bank and hung on. Miraculously, it held. She wedged her foot under the tangled growth and anchored herself against the current. Inching her way upward, she thrust her head above water and gulped for air. But debris in the current slapped her in the face, and leaves and twigs filled her mouth, choking her. Dizziness overcame her ability to think—exhaustion prevented her from pulling herself higher.

She must not give in. Fighting unconsciousness, Kate inched her way up a little farther, and at last was able to take a clear breath. Her right arm hung loosely by her side, the back of the shaft had broken off in the tumble through the current, but the arrow was lodged in her arm. Numb from cold water and exhaustion, she lay on the bank as the water swept over her, and then, as quickly as it had arrived, the flow subsided and the current slowed. If she could hang on a few moments longer, survival looked promising. As thoughts of hope entered her mind, Kate feared that her pursuer might not have given up the chase. Perfect, Kate Caraway, just perfect. You screwed up again, she chided herself as the lights went out.

Run Dog Run is first mystery in my new Kate Caraway animal rights series.

After five years in Africa, researching the decline of elephant populations, Kate Caraway’s project comes to a screeching halt when she shoots a poacher and is forced to leave the country. Animal rights activist Kate Caraway travels to a friend’s ranch in Texas for a much-needed rest. But before she has a chance to unpack, her friend’s daughter pleads for Kate’s assistance. The young woman has become entangled in the ugly world of greyhound abuse and believes Kate is the only one with the experience and tenacity to expose the crime and find out who is responsible. On the case for only a few hours, Kate discovers a body, complicating the investigation by adding murder to the puzzle. Now, she’s in a race against time to find the killer before she becomes the next victim.


Friday, March 3, 2017

"Trouble Like a Freight Train Coming" Available as a Standalone

“Trouble Like a Freight Train Coming” is a prequel to the Tai Randolph mysteries. It's set in Savannah several years prior to the inheritance of her Atlanta gun shop and her first encounter with security agent Trey Seaver, who ultimately becomes her partner in both romance and crime solving.

For readers familiar with the rest of Tai’s adventures, this story is a chance to watch her develop her sleuthing chops. For those meeting Tai for the first time...welcome to her slightly reckless, somewhat hungover, not-quite-respectable world.

"Trouble" is available as a part of Lowcountry Crime: Four Novellas in both print and e-book, but it is also available as a standalone in Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Google Play, and Kobo. So check it out!

You can read more about the story's Bonaventure Cemetery settingand sneak at peek at the opening sceneat Writers Who Kill.