Pneumonia

I hit early March on a roll. My latest novel, The Speaker, was in final edits. I’d gotten a good jump on the start of the fourth  book in the series with ten-thousand words already written. My publishing house, Hydra Publications, had two books hitting the formatting stage of the process and would soon see publication. Then it happened.

Monday, March 13th, I got a barking cough from deep in my chest. Normally, I get a cough on the tail end of a sinus infection, which I’ve dealt with since I was a child. But this time I felt great otherwise. I texted my wife, who was out of town on business, I must be getting a cold. When she got home the following day, she found me in bed, buried under three blankets, freezing. I’d come down with a fever.

I gave it a couple of days, hoping it would pass, but by late Wednesday, I felt even worse. I made a doctors appointment the next day and got the diagnosis: pneumonia. I started on antibiotics that day, but it would be another week before I felt anything close to normal. It’s easy to see how this illness would kill people in the days before antibiotics. I felt like a giant had picked me up and slammed me down, several times over.

Needless to say, nothing in the world of books got done over the last few weeks. I believe tomorrow I will be able to crank up the word processor and begin to once again jump into the world of Victor McCain and the rest of the Scooby Gang. And I should be able to finally get the two latest Hydra Publication titles ready for Prime Time.

Thanks to everyone who helped cover over the last few weeks. Now my wife is dealing with the same illness. Say a few prayers, if you will, that the Twins don’t catch it.

Indianapolis Wizard World

I spent this past weekend selling books at the Indianapolis Wizard World Con at the Indiana Convention Center, Indianapolis, Indiana. I shared a table with Violet Patterson and her son, Chris Brown, his wonderful wife, Michelle and two of their sons, and Stuart Thaman. The four of us had a blast. I got to do a bit of driving, coming home on Friday to go to a Father Daughter Dance with my twin girls and on Saturday to go see The Kingsmen with my wife and neighbors. The folks at Wizard World did a fantastic job running the con, the first time Wizard World was held in Indy.

The booths around us were staffed by wonderful people, including Kristin, who ran the T-shirt booth next to us. She had her booth set up wonderfully, until her boss wanted it changed and *bam* his proposed changes didn’t work out. With help from Stu, Chris and myself, we helped get her up and running. Sorta.

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And you can’t attend a con without cos play pictures. Without further ado…

 

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Ask an Author

Today I will be on the Ask an Author forum answering questions on small press publishing from 1:30-1:50 pm. Tomorrow morning, I will be on the forum from 10:40 until 11:30 am discussing my writing, movies, who I’d like to have at my ultimate poker game and anything else you guys can think up. If you have questions about The Hand of God, The Watchers, or my upcoming novel, The Speaker, drop by and ask away.

The Speaker, Chapter 1

I am close to finishing The Speaker, the third book in the Victor McCain series, and I wanted to share Chapter 1 for your reading pleasure. Let me know what you think in the comments section.

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Chapter 1

 

Eduardo kept watch out the front window while Congressman Owen Grenville committed suicide. True, the congressman was not doing so willingly, but in the end it would be suicide, nonetheless.

Outside all was quiet in this upscale section of Georgetown, not far from the university. A row of town homes  crouched on each side of the street, occasionally illuminated by the light from a street lamp. It was a bit before ten p.m. at the end of July, the night warm and pleasant. Activity was starting to wind down, the sidewalks now mostly empty as residents settled in for the night.

Eduardo turned from the Norman Rockwell view out the window to take in the macabre scene inside this particular town house: Congressman Grenville stood on a dining room chair, a hangman’s noose fit snuggly around his neck with the other end tied to the wooden balcony railing above his head, while tears cut a path down the wrinkled folds of his aging cheeks.

Standing in front of him was a woman holding in one hand an iPad, turned in such a way that the congressman could watch what was on the screen, and in the other hand she held a gun down at her side. About five and a half feet tall, with a ballerina’s build and long black hair cascading down the small of her back, the woman was the picture of beauty.

Deadly beauty, Eduardo thought. For six years they were partners in death, hired assassins known for pulling off the perfect murders, the ones people never suspected were murderers at all. They charged exorbitant amounts of money for their services, but those in need paid. There was no one better than them.

He called her Donut because they could not pass a Krispy Kreme donut shop without stopping to buy a dozen for her to eat. It was her one and only vice, as far he knew. How she kept her figure, Eduardo had no clue, but keep it she did. From time to time they spent evenings in bed together and he knew her body was flawless.

She was the one who gave him the name Eduardo, saying his olive complexion reminded her of a Latin lover from her past she was forced to kill after he became too clingy. Neither knew the other’s real name, nor likely ever would.

His reverie was broken when he heard the congressman plead, “Please, don’t do this. You can’t do this to me. You can’t.”

A pudgy man with only a hint of hair circling a bald head covered in sweat, the congressman cut a pitiful figure as he begged for his life. Known as a party firebrand, he would stand for hours in the well of the House of Representatives, taking on any and all who stood in his way as he climbed the ladder of the party hierarchy.

Eduardo was sure, never in his wildest dreams, did he ever picture his life ending in anything but personal glory and power. Life could sure be a kick in the teeth.

“Congressman, you’ve seen what both my partner and I look like,” Donut said, “and either way, in the next five minutes, you will be dead. The only question is will your wife and daughter join you.”

The congressman’s eyes darted back to the iPad where a video feed showed a view of his wife and teenaged daughter sitting on a couch watching television. The camera doing the filming had a clear shot through a patio door in their suburban South Carolina home.

“The man operating the camera also has a high-powered rifle. It’s five minutes to ten and if I haven’t called to tell him to stand down by ten o’clock, he will put a bullet through the head of your daughter first, and then your wife. Kick the chair out of the way and your wife and daughter live. Don’t, and they die and we kill you another way. It’s all up to you.”

Donut turned the iPad off and tossed it on a nearby couch, waiting. Eduardo knew from experience she hoped the congressman missed the ten p.m. deadline. Donut loved killing people. She got off on the mayhem and destruction it caused in the lives of the victim’s families.

As for himself, he was in it for the money. And the challenge. Killing people in ways which went undetected was the highest form of high for Eduardo. He considered the two of them artists. They didn’t paint on a canvass or work with clay to make beautiful statues. Their art came in the form of murders which required great creativity. Tonight, a suicide was preferable, but the client wanted him dead, in whatever way accomplished.

The congressman swallowed hard a couple of times, his Adams apple bobbing against the tightness of the noose. “I’m in line to become the next Speaker of the House. I have very powerful friends. If you do this, there is no place you will be able to hide.”

“And you have very powerful enemies, it seems, hence why we are here. Tick-tock, tick-tock.” She pulled a phone from her pocket and waved it at the congressman.

His shoulders slumped in defeat. “You swear you will let them live?”

“I swear it,” said Donut. She glanced at the phone’s screen and said, “Three minutes, congressman.”

The Congressman straightened and hate filled his gaze. Eduardo had to hand it to the little man, he finally looked like the man who struck fear into the hearts of this rivals in the House. “I’ll see you in Hell, bitch.”

And with a kick of his foot, he knocked the chair backwards to the ground. The fall was only a few feet, but gravity did the rest, with the congressman’s feet kicking back and forth mere inches from the ground as the noose strangled him to death. Fingers scrabbled for purchase, as he tried to loosen the rope, but without success.

Donut smiled, waved the phone at Grenville, then slipped it back into her pocket. Grenville reached out towards her in what might have been a pleading gesture, but Eduardo couldn’t be sure.

Soon his efforts grew feeble, then stopped all together as the noose cut off the blood flow to his carotid artery. Eduardo knew it would take another ten to twenty minutes for the congressman to die and they would wait until they knew for sure the job was completed.

Donut picked up the iPad from the couch, walked over to stand next to him, dropping the iPad into a bag on the floor near the window, her disgust evident. “O.K. You win the bet. I thought for sure he wouldn’t kill himself to save his family.”

Eduardo laughed. “No biggie. I had a fifty-fifty shot at winning. But it does mean you get to do the driving tonight. The dumb-ass died not even knowing the iPad video was shot two nights ago. The power of suggestion. That was cruel, though, waving the phone at him like that.”

“Perception is reality,” she agreed. “I didn’t like him. He was the one who lead the effort to kill the Equal Pay bill for women in the last Congress. Besides, he earned those last few minutes of torture when he called me a bitch.”

When they were sure Grenville was dead, Eduardo pulled out a phone, took a picture of the congressman to send to their client later that night, assuring the rest of their fee would be placed into an offshore account for them the next morning.

He picked up the bag and they left the congressman’s town home, leaving no trace of their visit behind. They quickly walked the three blocks to their car, with Donut sliding in behind the wheel, while he tossed the bag in the back, hopped in the passenger seat and hit the recline button.

She pulled slowly down the darkened street, while he closed his eyes and tried get some sleep. They would be on the road for many hours as they drove to their next job and he wanted to be well-rested so he could watch the news coverage the next day.

The suicide of Congressman Grenville would be national news. And while the next murder wouldn’t be as newsworthy, in the end, it would be the one to bring a nation to its knees.

 

Favorite TV Characters

Over the years, there are several TV shows I consider to be my favorites. In this post, I thought I would take it a bit further and list my top 5 all time favorite TV characters. I love them for different reasons, but when I’m flipping through channels and I see them on, I stop and watch.

Number 5:

Jim Rockford, The Rockford Files

The Rockford Files debuted in 1974 when I was 11 years old. I became quickly enamored with the tough talking, private detective played by James Garner, Jim Rockford. As an adult, I love thrillers and hard boiled crime noir and I can trace my love of the genre back to this show. Funny, tough and flawed, he made me want to tune in each week to catch the action.

Number 4:

Captain Kirk, Star Trek

Star Trek debuted in 1966, but like most people, I became a fan during the 70s when it was a staple Sunday morning rerun. Much like Jim Rockford, Cpt. Kirk, played by William Shatner, was a fast talking tough guy. There was never a situation he couldn’t handle. Just ask him. My imagination took flight with Star Trek and I spent many a fantasy pretending I was Jim Kirk.

 

Number 3:

Jack McCoy, Law and Order

Jack McCoy showed up on Law and Order in 1994, replacing Michael Moriarity’s Ben Stone as assistant district attorney for New York City. Played Sam Watterson, McCoy pushed boundaries, broke rules and did what ever it took to put the bad guys behind bars. He also slept with several of his junior assistants, but we can’t all be perfect. Law and Order is my favorite cop lawyer show and when you think of Law and Order, you think of Jack.

Number 2:

Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock

There was a time when I thought there would never be a better Sherlock Holmes than Jeremy Britt. Turns out I was wrong. Benedict Cumberbatch blows away all the other Sherlocks out of the water. Quirky and full of energy he plays Holmes like the sociopath he is in the books.  There is no current series which I wait with more anticipation than I do Sherlock.

Number 1:

Josh Lyman, The West Wing

I love politics, so it should come as no surprise that my all time favorite show is The West Wing. There are many wonderful characters to choose from, but I would have to choose Josh Lyman, played by Bradley Whitford, as the soul of the show. Smart, funny and often driven, he also has flaws, as any great character should possess. When the show went off the air, I went through heavy separation anxiety. Now, thanks to Netflix, I am blowing through all 7 seasons.  From his long burning love for Donna Moss, to his recovery from being shot during an assassination attempt on the president, Josh has many great moments.

Honorable mention: Casket (Richard Castle and Kate Becket from Castle) Both characters are two halves of the same coin. Love’em. And lastly, Luther from Luther. A brilliantly flawed character, as smart as Sherlock Holmes and as angry as Captain Ahab chasing his whale.

 

Holiday Memories: 16 Trucks

Back in my wicked youth, I worked for Toys R Us. When it got close to Christmas, we seemed to get one truck after another and I was on the crew which unloaded them. We would get about ten guys and form a line and toss the toys down the line, from the back of the truck to our storage area. After a moment I took up singing my own version of 16 Tons, the song made famous by Tennessee Ernie Ford. The altered lyrics went something like this:

When we see them coming, can’t step aside. The boss man says they got toys inside. Said we gotta get the toys out on the toy floor, so keep on goin’ till there ain’t no more.

Unloaded sixteen trucks and what did I get? Another day older and deeper in debt. St. Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go. I owe my soul to the Toys R Us store.

I would make up a line and then all the other guys started chiming in on the chorus. We had a lot of fun, until the manager came to the back and made us quit. We were so loud the customers in the front of the store could hear us and were laughing. The boss didn’t care for the “sold our souls to the Toys R Us Store” line. Seems like the “man” is always putting down the workers, don’t it?

Here’s the original for your viewing pleasure: