A blog where Stephanie M. Belser test-drives her fictional stories.
Expect the occasional
"stall, spin, crash & burn".

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Family Affair

I am not a professional writer, in that I don't sell my writings directly to make a living. The closest thing to a professional writer in my family is my sister, Ann. She's a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The PG has a feature called the Saturday Diary. Among the entries that Ann has written there, she has an ongoing tale about the Christmas village that she builds on top of the fireplace mantle each year. These are her columns about it for `08, `09 and `10. I've been told that one is in the pipeline for this season, as well.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Blood On the Snow

I showed it to two people. While they each had different comments, they agreed on one thing: The ending sucked.

I reread it and agreed. So I scrapped the ending and took it in a different direction. Seems to be better.

82K words. At one point, I was concerned that I might not be able to have enough material for a novel-length.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Blood On the Snow

And the first draft is done!

I basically wrote 68,000 words in less than five weeks. This last week, I felt as though I was just smoking the keyboard.

Now to let it rest for a few days, then reread and begin editing.

(And some sleep)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Blood On the Snow

I have been trying to write a chapter a day. Most days I've been able to do that. Possibly one or two days a week, I don't. I've passed on a number of flash fiction challenges, as they cut into my production time.

With luck, a first draft will be done by the middle of next month, allowing for non-productive days.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I, Monster

(Flash fiction)

Hi, Doctor. Thanks for seeing me. I only need this one session. I’ll sit in a chair, thanks.

Don’t worry about my name. You can call me Mr. Monster. I don’t mind. It’s how I think of myself.

Oh, you wouldn’t know I’m a monster, not if you passed me on the street. But I am.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Blood On the Snow

When I began writing this story, I was faced with a problem. I wanted to set it outside of the northeast US. But I have lived a good chunk of my life there. And I don't have the funds to go somewhere else for a few months to soak up local color.

So I began to make everything up. That meant that I had to start making a map in order to make sure that, as the story progresses, I could keep the geography consistent. It's a bit more work to create a reality than I had thought. When you deal with a real place, you can at least buy a map to it.

Anyway, I think I'm going to stop posting chapters here, for the reason I had a fictional newspaper publisher explain here. What you have been able to read will end up being somewhere between 20 to 25% of the story and that should be enough for a free sample. There are others who disagree and who post entire first drafts, but I don't know how you can persuade a potential reader to cough up for a revised version when they can go read the first draft. Sure, it's probably nowhere near as good, but the price is right.-- free. And I don't see how one can hope to persuade a publisher to print a book where there is a free version floating around the Internet.

So that's it, folks.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Blood On the Snow, Chapter 12

Chapter 12

Lena got up about an hour after she first went to bed. She opened her closet door, pushed aside some clothes, then opened her gun safe. After a little thought, she pulled out a Mossberg 20-gauge shotgun. Inside a box next to the safe, she found a mostly full box of No.2 buckshot loads. She slid five shells into the magazine and made sure that the safety was off. the shotgun went next to her bed. If she had to, all she had to do was rack the slide and it was rock-and-roll time. She slept better.

Bucko had her awake at 6:30 the following morning. It was still well before sunrise, but it was twilight. It was windy and snowing, maybe two inches had fallen. Lena cursed. Two inches of snow barely qualified as a “dusting” in these parts, but it would be enough to cover any tracks or other sign from the shooter. Without a hint of where the shooter had been, there was no reasonable way to search for the bullet he had fired. As far as the evidence was concerned, there was nothing to show that anything at all had happened last night. If she didn’t have relatives in the sheriff’s department, the whole episode would probably be filed as a report by a hysterical female with an overactive imagination.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Blood On the Snow, Chapter 11

NB: Names used in this chapter will not be consistent with earlier chapters. That'll be fixed in the full-length draft (which will eventually be available as an e-book).
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Chapter 11

Lena waited until the following morning to set up her email program to receive and send emails from the State Police email server, though the first thing she did was, as Betty advised, was to log in through the web-based server and change her password. After doing that, she downloaded the emails. Crap, she thought, there were something like twenty of them. No way could she bill the Johnsons for doing any of this, she’d have to eat the time. Working for free tended to make her cranky.

One of the first emails that she read contained a link to a state software server and a suggestion that she download the encryption program contained on the site. She did that. The software was for a public/private key encryption scheme; it contained a severe warning to not forget one’s password, as the passwords were not recoverable. Lena doubted that, she didn’t believe that any government agency would buy an encryption program that did not have a “back door”. But maybe the state was too cheap to pay for such a feature. She made a mental note not to get too chummy or chatty in any emails on the state’s system.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blood On the Snow, Chapter 10

NB: Early on, it was my intention that the protagonist would be a detective who had been a lawyer. But that ran into a problem, for she lives in a small town that is in a rural area, unlike, say, V. I. Warshawski. Unlike Kate Shugak, our hero does not live in a place where she can eke out a subsistence living if need be.

So she has to have another job, one that allows her the freedom to do detectifying when she needs to. So that is why in the latter chapters, there are details about her practicing law.
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Chapter 10

It was Lena’s intention to sleep in the next morning. That actually happened, Bucko didn’t pester her for food. She had tried to ensure that by leaving food out for him overnight, which she normally did not. Cats being what they are, that trick didn’t always work. It did this time. She skipped her morning exercise, though she felt guilty about it because she hadn’t had the time yesterday. Too bad. She also skipped having breakfast at the diner, opting instead for some yogurt and cold cereal.

Her answering machine was blinking when she made it into her office. It was from Betty McDougall, she left a number and asked Lena to call her back. Lena picked up the phone and called the number.

Blood On the Snow, Chapter 9

On the appointed morning, Lena up early. She changed the litter in Bucko’s litter box and left him extra food. He had originally been an indoor-outdoor cat, but there were too many coy-dogs in the area. Lena was not at all interested in them making a meal of her cat, so she kept him inside. That had been a rather rough transition, but he was older now and seemed more interested in the life of ease of an indoor cat.

She was on the road by 7AM. Lena had created a summary of what she knew, which didn’t take up a lot of paper. While she didn’t think that Ed would stick with the ten minutes that she had been given, she couldn’t take the chance otherwise. Between pleasantries and the like, she guessed that she had five minutes at most to make her pitch. She took her digital recorder with her, as she needed to try to dictate a few letters during the drive. The software was maybe 98 to 99% accurate, but that still meant a maddening number of errors. Yet it was better than typing the whole bloody thing out.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Blood On the Snow, Chapter 8

NB: I am going back from time to time to review and revise what came before. The chapters that are posted will reflect those revisions of the earlier story line, but I will not be uploading the revisions. So if you read a chapter that doesn't quite hang with the earlier ones posted here, that is why.
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Chapter 8

Lena had created a small spreadsheet so that she could keep track of the FOIS letters she had sent out and the response received. Most of the state and local government agencies had made their peace with the requirements for freedom of information and disclosures and complied. Those that didn’t eventually came around because the statute granted the requesting party the right to have their attorney’s fees paid by the losing government body if the requesting party sued. After the fourth or fifth county found themselves paying a couple hundred thousand dollars for both sets of lawyers, word got around.

Soon, Lena began sending out follow-up letters to the agencies that had not responded. Those letters quoted the FOIS, reminded the agencies of the “you lose, you pay” provision and included a copy of the original letter. That pried responses out of almost every agency left, until the only agency who had not responded was the state forestry service. That told Lena something, but she didn’t know what.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Blood On the Snow, Chapter 7

I should have explained this earlier: What you are reading is a first draft, as in I might not have even bothered to spell-check it. You won't see revisions and trust me on this, stuff is getting revised. For that, you'll have to buy the final copy (if it ever is published). So without further ado:

Chapter 7

Bucko let Lena sleep in a little the following morning, letting her sleep until 6:30. She fed him and then got in some exercise. She put Uncle Sasha’s revolver in her safe and considered what her choices were. Her problem was that while she had a few pistols, none were very suitable. There was a Union Switch and Signal .45 that her grandfather had brought home from the Army, a Smith & Wesson Model 19 .357 that her father had carried when he was a deputy sheriff, a S&W K-22 Masterpiece and a S&W Model 29. All of the revolvers, other than Uncle Sasha’s, had six inch barrels, the .45 weighed a ton to carry.

None of them were really suitable for Lena’s job, not that she thought that she needed a handgun for her work. Like a lot of people around her location, she had a rifle in the trunk of her car. It was a beat-up .30-30 Marlin 336 and she was by no means the original owner of that rifle. She made a mental note to do what Cousin Sam suggested and stop by Frank’s Guns and Bait on the way into town. After Lena took a shower, she called Benny’s Lock & Safe to talk to Benny. Benny agreed to meet her at her office around eleven; he promised to call if he was going to be late.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Blood On the Snow, Chapter 6

Lena went into the office and began compiling and organizing her notes of the trip to Jonesboro the next morning. She wrote down the details from the files and reproduced, as best she could, her conversation with Deputy Wilson. She then went down to the building’s basement, where each tenant had a lockable storage space, and brought up her white board. It was heavier than it looked, nearly the size of a sheet of plywood. Then she returned to the basement and brought up a sturdy easel.

The white board was her trial preparation board. When she was preparing for a trial, she would graph out the facts, the witnesses, the parties and the various stories. When she was done, it sometimes appeared as though someone had thrown handfuls of multi-colored spaghetti on the board. It helped her see patterns and relationships that were not always evident from transcripts and notes. The heaviness of the board was partially due to a thin sheet of steel that was laminated under the white surface. That allowed her to use magnets to hold papers and photos to the board.

It didn’t take Lena very long to put the facts that she had on the board, a depressingly little amount of time. She sighed and sat down at her computer to compose a FOIS request letter to law enforcement agencies. The letter referenced the freedom of information statute and asked for information regarding any hunting accident that involved the use of rifles within the last fifteen years. She sent the letter to every county sheriff, state police barracks, Fish & Game regional headquarters and rural town which had its own police department within the northern half of the state. While she hated the idea of the cost, she sent the letters by certified mail, in the hope that somebody would take note of them.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Gracie's Gun

(FF challenge, again)

It was a tough neighborhood in a lousy town. Gracie probably was stupid to buy a house there. But a two-bedroom bungalow for $20,000 in cash was hard to pass up, when similar houses two towns over went for ten times that much. She probably sunk almost that much again as much into security upgrades: Doors that couldn’t be battered down. Lexan windows in heavy frames. Heavy steel fencing that looked pretty, offered no concealment and was very pointy at the top. Steel garage door with no windows. Complete video camera coverage. Motion sensors. It’d take damn near an army to break into her home and they weren't going to be able to come in quiet. Gracie counted on the fact that criminals were, when you got right down to it, lazy. Her house didn’t have to be thug-proof, just stronger than any others. It was.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Under Construction

(A FF challenge)

The astronomers were puzzled. Stars were disappearing. They were not proceeding to either brown dwarfs or blowing up. They were fading away and then just winking out, with barely some faint infrared signature remaining. It wasn’t random, there seemed to be a pattern. The stars were not that far away, at most 100 light years. They were largely in a single direction from Earth.

Nobody was too concerned. Not until the satellites that were observing the Sun began to detect a very faint decrease in solar output. It was barely detectable, but a small drop in the Sun’s output could cause an ice age. A larger drop could result in the “Goldilocks Zone” shrinking in, placing the Earth in the “too cold” region.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gumshoes

When I was young, my father liked to read mysteries. His favorite writers were Mickey Spillane, John D. MacDonald and Ross Macdonald (Kenneth Millar). I probably read "A Deadly Shade of Gold" half-a-dozen times. Those books formed my concepts of what a fictional detective is like and how he or she should act. To this day, I can't stand wimpy PIs and the English cozies leave me cold.

Millar and MacDonald died in the 1980s. Spillane died in 2006.

The one thing I didn't care for were the last few Spillane "Mike Hammer" novels. Max Allan Collins collaborated/finished up three of Spillane's manuscripts (so far). I read them over the weekend. The only clinker of the three was the "Goliath Bone". The book is set in the last decade.

Collins or Spillane rewrote the back story for Hammer, because they had to, I guess. If you read the `40s-`50s books, you know that Hammer and Pat Chambers, Hammer's friend, were cops together on the NYPD. Hammer was a NYPD sergeant who went into the military after Pearl Harbor. Chambers stayed in the NYPD and rose to be a captain of homicide detectives.

The problem is, though, that in the "Goliath Bone", Chambers is still on the job, which would make him probably the only 90 year old cop in the NYPD. Collins changed Hammer's back story so that he went into the Army underage, then spent two years on the NYPD after he got out before he became a private investigator. That change maybe took a decade off Hammer's age, but he would still be either pushing 80 or past it, when he is running around Manhattan, getting into fights with bad guys. And the change in the back story leaves hanging the question of how a rookie beat cop would then become buds with a homicide captain. (Not to mention that the ending truly sucks.)

The other two, "The Big Bang" and "Kiss Her Goodbye" were set in the 1960s and 1970s, respectively, and they work better. "The Big Bang" has two glaring anachronisms, but you can determine them for yourself.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Grand Finale

(Yes, another challenge)

Each year, the city held a Fourth of July fireworks display along the riverfront. At one time, local merchants paid for it. Nowadays, the fireworks were paid for by one of the local casinos. Maybe the local tribe wanted to buy some goodwill for the wave of petty crime and embezzlements that had been taking place since the casino opened. Maybe they wanted to mollify the families who had lost their savings and homes when one of the so-called adults had gambled them all away.

I didn’t know. I didn’t care. I had a job to do.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Robbery

(Flash fiction challenge)
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Frank sat in the car in a parking lot that was on the opposite side of the street and a hundred feet or so down the street from the target. The car was a nondescript silver Chevy sedan. Frank would have preferred a darker colored car, but even he had to admit that with every third car on the street being painted silver, the reasoning behind choosing this car was sound.

“Why we hitting this place?” The question came from Evan, the wheelman.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Blood On the Snow, Chapter 5

Lena thought that, snow be damned, it would have been nice to have gassed up her Cessna after the flight to Grover City. If there was one thing that she had learned from flying, though, it was that regrets fixed nothing. She went out to the airport and pulled the Cessna from its hangar. She borrowed her hangar neighbor’s tow tractor to tow the Cessna to the gas pumps. She filled the tanks, towed it back, pulled it into the T-hangar, plugged in the pre-heater and set the timer, then went home.

She had e-mailed the airport operator in Jonesboro to reserve a rental car. Not too many small airports did it that way, but she had been there before and knew that the airport operator was trying to drag his operation into the 1990s. That wasn’t her major concern, though. The weather was.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dusting

Crack.

Katie woke up when she heard that sound. She knew, without leaving her bedroom, what it was. Someone had forced open the sliding glass door to her balcony.

Her apartment was on the fifth floor. The balcony was not connected to any others. She wasn't wealthy, she could make ends meet is all. Her television was a twelve-year old tube model. The furniture came from discount places that sold overstocks and end-of-run clearance stuff. There was nothing in her apartment worth the effort to climb up four stories of the exterior of a building faced with rain-slicked smooth concrete.

Friday, April 15, 2011

This Ain't No Disco

Another flash fiction challenge. For this one, a word generator coughed up five random words, which had to be incorporated into the story.
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My cell phone buzzed with a text from one of the spotters: “TG N ANDR-53 E-S SOLO”.    Pretty simple: Our target was heading north on Anderson Avenue, at 53rd Street.  Target was on the east side and alone.

The sun had set ten minutes ago.  It was still fairly light, but dusk would soon be here.  The target never came out before sundown and she was back in her apartment before sunrise.

She had to be, she was a vampire.  She worked at night.  So did we.  I sang softly: “Heard of a van, loaded with weapons, packed up and ready to go.”  My spotter looked at me askance.  Oh, well, back to work.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

W00T!!

I'm not a writer. Oh, I've written stuff, mostly for my own amusement. Wrote a mystery novel, once. I even had an agent for that one, but no dice, chum. So awhile back, I just threw it up on Amazon Kindle's list just for shits and grins.

I'm horrible at selling myself. It just doesn't feel right to me. I can go argue a client's position and I'm pretty good at that. But when it comes to bragging on myself, I suck. Not like "Dirt Devil" suck, or even "Dyson" suck, but in "open up the air lock on Galactica" suck. During job interviews, when I'm asked "why should I hire you", I have to really restrain myself from shrugging and saying "you could do worse."

Did I tell you that I suck at selling myself?

So anyway, I was doing my bank statement when I saw that Amazon sent me just a skosh over ten bucks. Royalty payments. For that book. Which works out to a wage of, what, two cents an hour for writing it? (300 years ago, that'd be good money, I bet.)

But still, I'm a little bit tickled about it.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Zombie

A flash fiction challenge, based on the name of a cocktail.
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Sarah broke down her favorite rifle and began cleaning it.  It was a 5.45mm with a built-in suppressor. The bullets had steel penetrators inside.

She didn’t know what started the Zombie Apocalypse four months ago.  It didn’t matter.  What she did know was that the legends were right, the only way to stop those fuckers was to bust open the braincase.  The penetrators worked.  She also knew that the zombies came to the sound of guns.  If you didn’t want to fight a horde, you kept it quiet.  Zombies made a sound that was not a scream, not a moan, but if one made it, the others came.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Blood On the Snow, Chapter 4

The sun had gone down by the time Lena touched down at Petersburg Field.  She was hungry, a little bit tired and it was getting cold, too cold and too late to be mucking around at the self-service fuel pumps.  She put the Cessna back into the hangar and went home.  There was some hot chocolate mix at home calling her name.  That would go nice with a bit of vodka.

The next morning was spent writing up her notes and observations from the day before.  she used Acme Mapper to determine the distance from where Jasper had been shot to the tree line of the next set of hills.  It was 1,200 yards.  Hell of a shot from a bench rest, let alone in the field.  

She noted the name of the pathologist who had done the autopsy. Lena’s law school had offered a course to acquaint lawyers in the reality of autopsies and scientific protocols.  She had taken the course, it had been taught by the same medical examiner who did Jasper’s autopsy.  So Lena called the doc, who remembered Lena and who was also free for a late lunch, say two-ish.  Lena said that was fine.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Import-Export

(Flash-fiction challenge)

Our ship winked out into normal space.  I didn’t barf this time around.  Sometimes I do.  My partner wasn’t so lucky.

I raised Port Control at Garmain Central.  They had no record of a flight plan for us and would have scrambled what passes for their defensive systems if I hadn’t sent them the verification codes.  The alarms were probably going out everywhere, not that it would do any good.  The techs on the Intel Deck had tapped into their comm grids well before they knew we were there.  Port Control said that it would be two hours before they were ready to receive us and they added some choice words about showing up in the middle of the night, local time.

I didn’t acknowledge any of that.  What I did do was tell the duty pilot to start down right the fuck now and to put the defensive systems on quick-react.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Blood on the Snow, Chapter 3

    Lena told the boys that it was all right to go there, but they had to be back in a couple of hours.  Jason and Kyle went to put their snowmobile suits on and get the machines ready. 

    She then went into the kitchen and asked if she could take the reports with her for copying.  Mrs. Johnson smiled.  “I thought you might want a set.,” she said as she opened up a cupboard and pulled out a large manila envelope and handed it to Lena.  “You can just leave the other copies on the table.”

    Lena thanked her.  She gathered up her stuff, went to the mudroom and put on her outer clothes. The boys were pushing the snowmobiles out of a barn as she walked to her airplane.  She put her stuff back into the airplane, but she kept her camera.  After a few seconds thought, she took the GPS from the docking station in the panel.  Both the camera and the GPS went into inner pockets to keep them warm, As she closed the door, she heard one, then the second snowmobile start.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Project

(Another flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig)


The Project

    The hotel was an old brick building, nine stories tall.  It looked like something that could have been built in Stalingrad in the 1930s. It took up a quarter of a block of prime real estate on Lakeside Avenue.  The last guest had checked out during the Kucinich Administration.   To my knowledge, nobody went near the hotel building.  The building was untouched by graffiti artists and taggers. Not even a window had been broken.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Irregular Creatures

(Answering this challenge)

    I caught the call at 7PM, three hours before I was to go off shift.  “Dead body, possible murder” was all that Dispatch told me. 

    Great.  I pulled my SigSauer from my desk, got up, holstered the piece, grabbed my “go kit,” put on my coat and headed out.  No partner, budget cutbacks took care of that.  The only time you roll nowadays with another badge is when it is a heavy takedown or ESU is coming along.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Blood on the Snow, Chapter 2

    Five days later, Lena called the Johnson’s ranch to let them know that she was going to come out to visit.  Mrs. Johnson said that was fine, that Jason was at home, but that they had had a foot of snow the day before, that the roads were not plowed and that the only two ways to the ranch were by snowmobile or by an airplane with skis.  Lena said that was fine and Mrs. Johnson told her the state designation for the airstrip, adding that it was only 200 feet from the airstrip to the house.  Lena said that if the weather cleared, she’d be out tomorrow.  The forecast was good, so she put together her research kit.  It contained a laptop, a digital camera, a hand-held scanner (you draw it down a page), a steno pad, a little leather case that held a small selection of office supplies, a sketchbook, a tape measure and some pens and pencils.

    The next day was bright clear and cold.  Lena was at the local airport just after sunrise with her research kit, an overnight bag in case the weather soured, and her emergency kit.  The electrical engine and cabin heaters had been switched on hours earlier to heat the airplane. Lena did her preflight and then pulled the airplane, a well-kept Cessna 170, from its hangar.  She was soon on her way.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Blood on the Snow, Chapter 1

Note: This is very much a work in progress. None of the locations exist in real life, not even the state where the story is set.

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Lena stopped at the diner down the street from her office. She sat down at the counter and ignored the menus. The waitress behind the counter poured a cup of coffee without asking if that was what Lena wanted. “The usual, hon,” she asked.

Lena nodded. She pulled a paperback book from her laptop case and opened it to the bookmarker page. In a few minutes, the waitress slid a plate with one egg and two slices of whole-wheat toast next to the book. In keeping with Lena’s preferences, she slid a check, face down, next to the plate.

She ate her breakfast as though the meal was an obligation to be endured, rather than a break in the day to be enjoyed. Many of the other diners were also reading, but they seemed to be using some variant of an electronic device to do so. Maybe they were more efficient, but how does one make notes in the margin, she wondered. How does one give someone an autographed copy of an e-book? She had a few books in her home library that were purchased by her great-grandfather when he was a student before the First World War; will anyone ever pass down an e-book from one generation to the next? She doubted that very much.

Face it, Lena mused, you’re part Luddite. Not that there is anything wrong with technology, but there are times that the old ways and methods were better. She still used film cameras for much of her work, because negatives were a lot more difficult to forge. She had gone into mourning when Kodachrome was discontinued. Digital was too easy; she knew of at least one cop who had done prison time for perjury when the defense attorney was able to prove that both the digital image had been manipulated and that it had been shot a month before the cop had testified it had been taken.

Lena finished her breakfast and put down the payment without waiting for the check. If they had raised the price, she’d make good on that tomorrow or the next time she was in. She put on her coat and gloves. It was rather cold outside, the temperature had climbed just over the zero (F) mark Snow was piled along the curb in berms that were about five feet high. It made pulling out of parking lots a bit of a gamble. There was a street behind the diner’s parking lot that Lena used to get back to the main road. She drove an older Subaru Legacy, all-wheel drive, or four-wheel drive, was almost a requirement this time of year. Subarus were almost the official car of local residents who didn’t want to drive SUVs or pickup trucks.

She made it back to the main road, although she was almost clipped by a big-ass SUV in the parking lot. That bozo’s Escalade’s windows were almost completely obscured by snow and ice. She wondered if he had a scraper in his $50,000 egomobile, probably not as the SUV bore Alabama plates. What the hell was some cracker from Alabama doing this far north, she briefly wondered. It’s not as though there was any good skiing around here and the SUV did not have a ski rack. It was really none of her business.

Hidden Witness

This is a completed work, you can find a link to buy it on the right side of this blog. I'm posting the first chapter as a teaser.

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Chapter 1

The house was in a ritzy area of McLean, Virginia. It was a townhouse, but that word doesn't begin to describe a place that costs ten times or more than mine. Toss in the wall around the place, the gate with an armed guard, and the private police patrols; you have a place that might be called "Money!" instead of the pseudo-French name that it carried. The guard didn't jump to attention when I drove up, but he didn't open fire, either. Being invited has its advantages.

The invitation was delivered by a uniformed messenger, but he didn't refuse the tip I offered. The invitation itself rode in a buff-colored envelope. It read: Mrs. Frederick Soweby respectfully requests your presence at eleven AM tomorrow. Keeping the invitation company was a set of directions and ten one hundred dollar bills that looked as if they had come directly from the presses. I wasn't overly thrilled to see the messenger, he came damn early and I had a hangover. The sight of all that green cheered me right up.

Greetings

I am starting this blog as a place where I can post stories as I complete segments of them. I tend to gravitate towards mysteries of the hard-boiled genre. So expect that there will be moments of blood.

Pretty much everything that I post will suffer from a lack of proofreading and editing. So this is very much a work in progress. It may also be that I lose interest in a story and drop it for awhile, if not forever.